“This is Andy on the sailing vessel Star Dancer, Delta Echo Bravo eight three six niner, for the Westbound Net. Calling any emergency, priority or medical traffic, come now.”
This wasn’t exactly emergency or medical traffic, but I’d decided it qualified as priority, so I keyed my mike.
“Sailing vessel Lucky Lady, Charlie Foxtrot Golf seven three six nine, how copy?”
“I have you five by five, Lucky Lady. Come again.”
I slowly and clearly explained the situation with the wreck of the Major Tom and gave our position and course to the guy running net control. His name was Andy Winer, and while I’d never met him, we’d spoken on the radio countless numbers of times. He was an ex-navy seaman and still had a lot of buddies in the service. Better yet, he’d swallowed the anchor years ago and lived aboard his old ketch in the relative civilization of La Paz. These days he volunteered to relay weather and other info to those of us at sea without ready access to email and a phone.
By the time the regular roll call was over, Andy told me that a nearby US Navy boat was en route to intercept us. He guessed their ETA would be about twelve hours.
“I’m sorry to be taking you so far off course,” Ribald said, now more comfortable in the cockpit.
“No problem,” I answered. “So it adds a day to the trip, big deal. It’s not really about getting there for me anyway, you know?” He nodded. “Besides, when am I ever going to get the chance to hang out with a real life spaceman again?”
He laughed. “To tell you the truth,” he said, “I feel like a bit of a dilettante, crashing like that on my first solo run.”
“Everybody crashes sometimes,” I said, tidying the lines in the cockpit. I sat on the port side, and scanned the horizon. Still nothing to see for miles.
“You ever been in a shipwreck?” he asked.
“No,” I said, knocking on the shiny varnished wood of the companionway hatch. “But I’ve crashed the Lady into more docks than I’d like to admit,” I said. He laughed. “I think they’re all the same,” I said. “Sailing ships, airships, spaceships. Landing is the hardest part.”
He smiled, and another hour went by.
“So,” I asked, between bites of bread, “what’s it like up there?”
Ribald swallowed his own bit of roll, and said, “It’s hard to describe without sounding dumb.”
“So, sound dumb.”
“Well,” he said. “It’s full of stars.” I laughed, and he grinned. “I know, I told you it sounds dumb, but I can’t explain how full. I mean everywhere you look there’s a blanket of them. It’s amazing.”
“So, what do you do up there?” I asked.
“This trip I went to the moon and back. It was just a practice run.”
“Just to the moon and back,” I echoed, laughing. “A nice little Sunday drive.”
“Yup,” he said. “Just like your quick three week jaunt across an ocean.”
“Fair enough,” I said, and took a bite. “You see the construction site?” I asked after I’d swallowed.
“Branson’s hotel?” he asked, and I nodded. “Sure. It’s coming along, but it’s behind schedule, big time. But that’s the way of construction anywhere. It’ll be ready in a few years, I’m sure.” He took another bite of his roll. “You got a reservation?” he asked as he chewed.
“Ha,” I laughed. “I can’t even afford the Howard Johnson’s in Crescent City. No, I’m just another curious planetlubber.”
He nodded and we finished lunch in companionable silence.