Sharing a “Christmas Afloat” Captain Fatty Goodlander Yarn

Posted By on December 14, 2009

allatseayarnscover With the republishing of a Christmas article on Facebook from sailing author Gary “Fatty” Goodlander, I’ve been re-thinking my vow to avoid this social networking site. Facebook being my kids preferred peer-to-peer (no geek humor intended) communications medium, I’ve avoided it not wanted to look like ahelicopter parent. So far, its not been all that difficult to avoid it an its associated links, but Fattys’ stories are almost too entertaining for me to pass up. Perhaps I should try to convince him to publish them on another site … or maybe I should tinker a bit more with Facebook – BTW, I’m not from the stone age and do have a Facebook account.

For now, I’ll include Fatty’s “Christmas Afloat” story re-post below, and will also add a link to his current book (on my Amazon Wishlist … hint, hint family), as well as a bit of audio from a couple summers ago: Captain Fatty Goodlander: Sailing in the slow lane.

Christmas Afloat with Cap’n Scrooge

Every December, my wife and daughter use the Christmas season as an excuse to reduce my vessel to a complete shambles.

They begin this gut-wrenching process just before the Thanksgiving Day holidays—so that they can achieve the maximum amount of irritation over the longest amount of time.

First off, they “decorate” my boat. They begin by draping silver tinsel everywhere belowdecks. It only takes them about three short minutes to fling more tinsel around the boat than I’ll be able to clean up in three long months. The tinsel, of course, doesn’t stay put. It immediately begins its implacable migration toward my bilge pump strainers.

This “annual family tinsel toss” is quickly followed by the ceremonial “stringing of the Christmas garlands.” These garlands are brightly-colored decorative strings in silver, red, and green, and continuously shed their tiny plastic slivers quite prettily.
My girls intertwine these garlands around my overhead handrails (so I have nothing to grip), across the galley (so the plastic garland melts onto my interior varnish when the oven is on), and near the companionway ladder (so it catches on my sheath knife each time I exit).

Then they thoroughly spray, both inside and outside, my cabin windows and port lights with fake snow from an aerosol can. The solvent and/or propellant in the fake snow momentarily melts the plastic in the windows, and the whole mess must eventually be laboriously chipped off with a dull welding chisel. This leaves more than a couple of scratches in the plastic, I’ll tell ya!

Back belowdecks again, they hang long strands of festive popcorn near the bookshelves—just to make sure that our shipboard roaches get plenty to eat during the holiday season.

Each Christmas card we receive gets Scotch-taped somewhere belowdecks. But they must dip the Scotch-tape in West epoxy first, because it adheres to my boat stronger and longer than any super-glue I’ve ever used.

They don’t stop merely at passive decoration, however. Nooooooo Sirrrreeeeeeee!

I’ve not mentioned the strings of 12-volt blinking Christmas lights along the lifelines, the illuminated Santa lashed to my stern rail, the glowing Rudolph perched on my boom, or the spreader-light illuminated Santa’s sleigh on my foredeck.

Both of my shipboard battery banks last about 15 minutes after sunset during December. If I complain, I’m labeled “Cap’n Scrooge!” and “Cap’n Bligh!” and “Stingy, stingy, stingy!”

I refuse to encourage them by buying a Christmas tree. So they have a “Goodlander family Christmas tradition” of stealing them, branch by branch, from our shoreside friends.

It is so embarrassing to be invited into someone’s living room, and when they leave for an instant to get the traditional eggnog and cookies…have your wife break off a large branch of their Christmas tree, slip a few fragile ornaments down her billowing blouse, and stash a couple of medium-sized candy canes under her commodious armpits, while your kid silently attempts to lasso the sacred angel off the top of their tree.

As Christmas approaches, my wife and daughter quickly escalate the abuse. “Let’s bake some cookies, pies, and other horribly messy food-stuffs!” they gleefully sing out to each other as they start dumping cans of flour, sugar, and Crisco onto my pristine navigation table.

Even our ship’s cat, which is appropriately named Joker, gets into Christmas—mostly by eating his holiday share of the “forbidden foods,” such as tinsel and wrapping ribbons. He vomits up the ribbons and, at least partially, passes the tinsel. “Oh, gross!” screams my daughter, as Joker streaks past her with a little Christmas tinsel gaily trailing behind him.

By the time Christmas Day actually arrives, my boat is a (barely) floating disaster area. The bilge pumps are clogged, the batteries are as flat as my bank account, and the lenses of my port lights are about as clear as my conscious.
To signal the glorious occasion, my wife wakes up at dawn and puts on some Christmas “Steel Pan” music on the stereo. It sounds like an angry young man, pissed off about being forever mired in abject poverty, beating on a garbage can under the hot tropical sun—which is probably what it is.

Each year, I give both my girls something I know they will endlessly enjoy and truly treasure—an enlarged color photograph of myself.

This year, my wife gave me a large magnifying mirror so that I can better gaze upon my noble countenance without straining my aging eyes. My daughter gave me a review of one of my books with all the negative comments cut out. (Okay, so there wasn’t much left of the book review, but that’s not the point. It’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?)
Since my writing income doesn’t allow us to, er, overeat, my Italiano wife often requests food stuffs from her Sicilian parents in Chicago. This year they sent her some Italian sausage, a bag of spicy meatballs, and some angel hair pasta.

It was, alas, kinda messy to eat with our bare hands. And the tomato juices kept dripping on the wrapping paper. But I couldn’t complain too much because my family sent me a fruitcake. This caused both my girls to shout out gleefully, “How appropriate! They’re all fruitcakes on your side of the family, aren’t they?”

In the midst of all this, I had to sail my vessel to our annual Christmas raft up; where about a hundred people got to see that we really do live like slobs aboard our boat and that I really don’t make up all these horrible things about my family—and that these lifestyle stories aren’t sick exaggerations, but merely wretchedly truthful recitals of the dementedly demonic details of our dreary daily existence.

At the stroke of midnight on Christmas, I began cleaning up my vessel— attempting to get her back into “shipshape and Bristol fashion.”

I used a machete on the tinsel and garlands, a shovel on the debris on the cabin sole, and a fire hose on the (highly sticky) galley carolyn_fatty_goodlander_tongaarea.

By dawn I was almost done, and at the end of my physical, mental, and moral rope.
As both my girls awoke, I hoped for a little genuine sympathy. But it was not to be. Instead, they giggled at my disheveled appearance, high-fived each other proudly, and sang out loudly in unison, “Let’s decorate the boat for New Year’s!!

This appeared in All At Sea Magazine in the mid 80’s


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  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
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