Friday, April 25, 2014

Dirty Laundry On A Plane

Many years ago I helped deliver sailboats from Myrtle Beach, SC to the British Virgin Islands. Sometimes the weather was kind to us, sometimes it hated us. On one trip, it despised us.

It usually took about a week to sail to the island of Tortola in the BVI. This time, it took thirteen days. And on every one of those days it rained. On most days, it not only rained but it stormed. I was lucky to be sailing with an experienced captain, who was my boyfriend at the time, and a crew member who was also a good friend and an excellent sailor.

We were going in tandem with another boat. We soon lost sight of them, but we were still in contact with the VHS radio. The stoves on the boats were on gimbals, meaning that the stove could tilt to accommodate the tilting of the boat and would always remain upright. Well, their stove was not installed correctly and would not tilt, meaning that they could not cook. When you are cold and wet, at least a cup of coffee is a small consolation and a hot meal is a blessing.

I know it was in February because on the morning of Valentine's Day I was on watch in the morning when I got a special delivery. A group of balloons, most likely from a cruise ship, floated by us. When I told the captain of the other boat about it he joked that they were from him and that there was a chocolate bar attached to the bouquet.

Once we arrived at Tortola the weather was fine. It was sunny and warm. The islands really are beautiful. But we had used all the clothing we had brought with us. Nearly every stitch was wet and salty from the rain and the waves that had come crashing over the bow of the boat. Since we were only there for two days before we had to catch the plane home, my boyfriend and I decided not to spend a day doing laundry. All the wet clothes were put into one big green army surplus duffel bag.

Our luggage consisted of his bag, my bag, the duffel with the dirty laundry, and a large metallic trunk full of tools and replacement bits that he brought on every voyage. Even though this was before the tragedy that occurred on 9-11 we were used to getting pulled aside to be searched in the airport about every fourth voyage.

Of course, this was one of those times. We opened our bags and the trunk for the couple of men from customs and security. That was when the younger man reached for the green dirty laundry bag. As he started to undo the strap on top I told him, "You can open that if you want, of course, but it has two weeks of wet, salty, moldy clothes in it so don't have your face close to it when you open it.". I will never forget the look on his face. He was thinking,"Are you serious?". He looked back and forth from me to his fellow officer and back to me. Then he, very carefully, handed the bag back to me and said, "Um, that's okay. I believe you.".

I often think of that young man's face when I hear of people having trouble with the TSA now. I know that it would never have happened that way in today's world and I am glad that it happened before things changed. I can just imagine going through all the nasty clothes, and I shudder.

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