When asked where he was from, he replied simply: "The Ocean".
We chuckled delicately and waited or him to finish, thinking that he was making a joke. It's always hard to tell if some one is trying to be funny when you speak different languages, so we kept our laughs respectable just in case. He never did finish and he was not - as us Americans so enjoy - being "ironic". His very French accent led us to speculate that he was probably born in France, or somewhere near France, but it as it was, he wasn't telling.
Such was our introduction to Jacques*, our sly-eyed boat neighbor at Nanny Cay Marina, where we stayed for a few days of R&R after our offshore passage.
He was of average height, the color of caramel, and had the muscular and sinewy body of a yoga practitioner. His mousey brown hair was shoulder-length, wavy and streaked with blonde highlights. It was always in tangles and pulled up in messy a pony tail, sometimes at the very top of his head, sometimes at the nape of his neck, but always with a thick, brightly colored hair band which he wore around his wrist like bracelets. His face was taut and chiseled, and never without a mischievous little smirk. It goes without saying that this guy was a single-hander.
His boat was made of steel and fully equipped for offshore sailing. A custom paint job made it so the boom, mast and hull all matched a kelly green/navy blue color scheme and a basic canvas awning hung over the open cockpit to provide shade. It was a rugged, ocean going vessel - there was no question about that. The Top 40 Pop music that he would blast from 8 a.m to 8 p.m every day? Not so rugged. But hey, I enjoy a man who can groove to Beyonce.
Jacques, obviously, was a character. He was a man of few words (English not being his native tongue) but friendly, and eventually - over the course of a few days - we discovered in little niblets that he was actually Swiss, had a seven year old son, and had not been home in many years. At some point, he gave us this little bit of advice: "If I am low on funds, I simply stay out at sea. I spend no money there. The sea is free." He then turned away, sipped his beer and gazed off into the horizon with glassy eyes and that signature smirk. That's how it was talking to him. A couple of sentences followed by an awkward pause and finally the realization that a) he was not joking and b) the conversation was over.
"Interesting guy" we would say politely, "wonder what's his story is?" We could only speculate, because it was obvious he wasn't going to fill us in. One morning I apologized for being up so early; making ruckus with a baby at 6:30 a.m and what not...and he replied that it was not a problem at all, that he actually woke up at 3 a.m every morning. This, he further explained, was why he was at the bar by 8 a.m. Who was this interesting/strange fellow/possible alcoholic who called himself "Jacques" and came from the sea?
We saw him at the little beach bar every day, sometimes a couple times each day. He'd suddenly appear, as if out of nowhere, grab a seat next to us, say nothing and smile in his gentle way. We might offer up a few words, a simple "hello, how are you?" or maybe a "how's that beer?" but we'd never really engage, so we'd talk amongst ourselves and, as randomly as he appeared, he'd leave. We grew to enjoy his awkwardness. His presence over the course of two and a half days, while a tad unnerving, was welcome. We considered him a funny kind of friend. The kind you don't talk to much and know nothing about.
There was a giant size Jenga game at the beach bar made up of stacked up pieces of two by fours. While we knew our friend erred on the side of weird, he took it to a whole new level when he started gliding over to the tower of blocks, gently placing random objects on the top, and walking away. One time it was a Pringles can, another it was small toy car, and I'm sure there were others. When our friend found a pink hair band on ground, he asked if it was mine. I recognized it as one of Jacques, so he took it over to him.
"Wow" Andy said as he came back to my side, "He was, like, really, really grateful." I laughed, because this struck me as funny. Then Andy looked at me straight in the eyes and said without a hint of humor, "No...he aas, like, unusually grateful." It was only a hair band. He did have about fifty others on his wrist...Once again, Jacques continued to mystify us.
So I guess it came as no surprise when we heard from our friends who live at the marina that Jacques was taken away in handcuffs last week. The details are fuzzy and came through the grapevine, but apparently he had thrown his cushions and a bunch of rags - all of which were covered in oil - out of the boat in a frenzy and began raking - yes, raking - his deck while making very bizarre noises and talking to himself. Naturally, people got freaked out. The cops were called and he was taken away. The rumor mill whispered the culprit was psilocybin mushrooms (they are legal here) which makes a whole lot of sense. "THAT explains the random objects and over-zealous hair band appreciation!" I thought to myself excitedly, nodding as I reflected on the bizarre behavior I had witnessed like a mystery had been solved. We heard he returned the next day and then left on his boat shortly after.
We'll never know his full story. But I'll bet the Ocean does.
Au revoir and fair winds Jacques!
So... where would you say Jacques fits on my list of Types of Cruisers? Or is he in a category all on his own?
* Name changed