Sam is a forty something stock broker who is tired of his job. For years he has dreamed of sailing off to the tropics and has been preparing his sailboat for just such an escape. His dream includes a woman, but he has been divorced for years and has no girlfriend or prospects. So he puts an ad in an online boating magazine for a female sailing partner and agrees to meet the first woman to respond. She is a former model and beyond his wildest dreams. But she is gay. Not only that, she has four gay women friends who also want to go sailing with him. Reluctantly, he agrees to meet with him and soon finds that he likes them very much. One straight man in a small sailboat in tropical waters with six gay women who are all former models? This was definitely not his dream. After a considerable amount of convincing, he eventually agrees to take them on his journey. Before they leave they meet an eleven year old girl who is sailing with her alcoholic parents to the same destination, and the two boats set sail together for the South Seas. So begins an action filled adventure with unexpected dangers, surprises and a deadly mystery that unfolds when they reach American Samoa.
"What do I say?” asked Sam, staring at the screen.
“You’re going sailing and want someone to go with you,” said Jenny, peering over Sam’s shoulder.
“I know, but how do I say it so someone will actually reply?”
“OK, well, this isn’t a dating site, it’s a sailing mag for people looking for someone to sail with them, so words are at a premium.”
“I know, I have to be brief.”
“How about: I have a forty foot seaworthy sailboat and am planning to depart for the South Pacific. Seeking a gorgeous deck bunny to go along.”
“Deck bunny….right. And it’s forty five feet by the way.”
“All right, so what are you looking for in a woman. For example, a non-smoker, non-drinker, religion? And don’t they have to be in fairly good physical condition if you’re going offshore in a sailboat?”
“Well, of course. But like you said, it has to be in a few words.”
“Pretend it’s a text message.”
“What do you mean?”
“For example, you are slimSWM40, which stands for slim, single, white, male, forty.
“I don’t like the initials,” he said. “Maybe it could be a little less robotic, like: single experienced male sailor with forty five foot sailboat, departing for the
South Seas. Seeking female sailing partner in good physical
“OK….that’s good…. so what about money?”
“You mean, do I want her to contribute?”
“Uhhh….yes. I guess I’m not looking to subsidize someone.”
“OK, so it’s not a free sailing adventure for sex and companionship.”
“Crude but true.
“So add: must contribute financially.”
“OK, then what?”
“Well, it’s not that simple, Sam. First of all, this will take time. Maybe a lot of time. You’ll have to meet her in person, but not until you exchange a few emails or phone calls. The initial meeting will be for coffee at a neutral location. Then, after more conversations and coffee clutches, you will go on some kind of date in order to get to know her. And if you expect her to sail away with you, you’ll likely have to sleep with her a few times. That could be weeks or even months before that happens. You have to find someone you can live with in tight quarters. I don’t think ‘love at first sight’ applies here.”
“I don’t have that kind of time…. I just thought that I could…”
“You can’t just jump in your boat and sail off with someone you just met. That might work in the movies, but not in real life.”
“Could be longer.”
“Longer?….no, I have to leave… like in a month.”
“In a month? Wow. Look, you don’t want to get out there on the ocean blue with the wrong person. That could be a nightmare.”
“I know, but….”
“It could take some time.”
“Other people do this….I know, I’ve read about them.”
“Maybe so, but I’m a bit skeptical about this whole thing,” said Jenny.
“You never know who I might find,” he shrugged.
“I suppose it’s possible,” said Jenny, sitting back for a moment in contemplation and shaking her head at him.
“I’m putting my phone number in along with my email address.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t include your phone number,” said Jenny.
“I don’t really want to exchange a lot of emails. I’d rather
talk with a voice.”
“You might be sorry…there are a lot of weird women out there.”
“Look, I’m leaving this job and this town soon and will leave my phone
“You might find that it takes longer than you think to find someone suitable.”
“Here’s the deal….if I’m going to the South Pacific, I have to leave soon so I’ll have time to get there and then get through during their winter months that begin next month. There are tropical storms that visit there in the summer and I need to miss them. Remember, this is the southern hemisphere and their summer season ends in a month. It takes a month to get there and four or five to get through, so I need to leave soon.”
“It takes that long to get through the South Pacific?”
“Well, no, but it’s also a destination that one needs to savor. So yes, I want to take four or five months enjoying it as I pass through.”
“Why can’t you wait another year and do this right?”
“Jenny, I’m burned out, and another year is unthinkable.”
“Maybe you should have planned ahead in choosing a sailing mate if you wanted to leave this year.”
“I know I should have, but my plans changed. I made the decision to pull the plug last month. I’ve finally had it with this routine. Once you decide to bail you start shutting down your old life and begin planning your new one. I gave notice last week.”
“You didn’t even tell me? We’ve been friends for years and you always tell me important things.”
“I know, I didn’t mean to offend you, but I asked for it to be kept confidential. I was going to tell you eventually. This is not like a little vacation, or buying a new car or house. It’s a life changing decision. You won’t tell anyone will you?”
“No…. but if you think you’re going to leave here without a farewell party, you have another think coming.”
“But not right away please.”
“I knew you had talked about sailing off into the sunset, but I never thought it would be for good. I thought it might be for a month or so.”
“No, this is relatively permanent.”
“So we won’t even see you for a long time.”
“That’s true and I guess I’ll miss my friends, like you. But I just have to get away.”
“All right, I guess I understand….sort of….well….OK…. you’re clearly committed to this….so you’ll just have to go ahead with this ad and see what you get.”
“You never know, I might get lucky.”
“Keep me informed.”
“I will, and thanks, Jenny, I appreciate your input.”
“I want you to fill me in on Monday if you get any replies,” said Jenny.
Sam nodded, then clicked the ‘send’ button, shut down the computer and made his way out of his office and down the hall toward the elevator. Jenny stood at his office door and watched him leave, shaking her head in disbelief at what he was doing. A few minutes later he swung out through a glass door onto the sidewalk and walked toward the parking garage.
We’ll just have to see what happens, he thought to himself as he walked along. Somehow he felt hopeful that someone would reply and she would be perfect. He had to get away, and he now had the means and the vehicle for doing that. He also knew he would not go alone. It had to be with another person and that person had to be a woman. Surely there was one out there with the right attitude, the right temperament and the right kindness. He had dreamed about this someone. She had to be out there.
As he ambled along the sidewalk, his mind faded into the peaceful music of a faraway place. He could feel a soft, warm, fragrant breeze on his face as he sat in the shade of the palms on a white beach that stretched out forever. The azure water of a lagoon calmly lapped baby waves at the shore. The invigorating smell of salt water was in the air. There was the bright song of a bird from somewhere in the dark green jungle behind him. His sailboat was anchored peacefully not far away and his red dinghy sat on the beach in front of him. Sitting next to him was a scantily clad woman whose arm was around him, her warm body touching his bare skin.
He blinked as he entered the garage and a few minutes later he was on the street. After a short drive, he could see the Bay. In his mind he could see the murky green-brown water, with a Styrofoam cup and a condom floating next to some oily debris. Not like the crystal clear water in his dream. As he sat at a stop light, he turned to look at the glass facades of the city, his place of work. He took a deep breath and leaned back in his seat, his mind returning once again to the sweetness of that tropical dream. The dream that kept him going. The dream he would soon be living. A horn honked behind him and he drove on.
It was Saturday morning. Sam went to his laptop and opened his email to find several messages from unfamiliar addresses. There were three replies and he would have been pleased to have had even one reply he thought as he stared at the screen with a curious smile. The ad had only been posted since yesterday. He wondered who these women were and tried to imagine what they looked like. As he moved the cursor over the first email, the phone rang.
"Hello," said Sam expectantly.
"Hello, are you Sam?" came a woman's voice.
“Yes, this is Sam.”
"My name is Adelle."
"OK, hi," he said.
“I’m calling about your ad in the online sailing magazine.”
Yes! he thought to himself as he tried to calm down enough to speak intelligently. “You like to sail?" he asked…. his mind instantaneously flashing on why he had asked that question, and how stupid it was.
"Well, yes, actually, I do," came the voice after a moment's pause.
“That’s good,” he almost mumbled, followed by a long pause.
"These things are brief so I’m interested in knowing more,” she continued.
"Sure, of course," said Sam, trying to sound normal and focusing on not saying something stupid again. "You mean what kind of person I'm looking for? And also the kind of person I am."
"Both really," said Adelle warmly. "First, what kind of person ARE you looking for Sam?"
"Well,” he sighed. “Company," he replied, now feeling somewhat more relaxed and confident. "Someone I could get along with."
"So you don't really care what the person looks like?"
"Well, I didn’t say that. I don't know, do you care what I look like?"
"Sure, I might."
"OK, I might too," he agreed, his mind flashing again on his dream of the woman sitting next to him in the tropics.
"You mentioned physical condition," she said.
"Well, of course she would have to be nimble enough to stand on her feet when the floor sometimes becomes the wall, and small enough to fit through hatches that aren't much more than a foot wide. In rolly seas, she would have to be in good enough shape to withstand the jostling when the seas are pounding the boat. Oh, and not prone to severe seasickness."
"I hadn’t thought about all of that,” she laughed. “Hopefully it’s not like that a lot. Is it?”
“No, but there are times when it can be.”
“That’s an honest assessment of sailing the high seas, and it does narrow it down quite a bit for sure," she said. “So, the person has to be both mentally and physically fit enough to handle the rigors of an offshore trip in a small boat."
"I think that’s a good summary….but also, someone I can talk with and relate to," he added.
"Someone knowledgeable about things that are of interest to you?"
"To talk with you about what for example?"
"I don't know exactly. Just someone I would feel comfortable talking with about anything."
"I know what you mean," said Adelle with a little laugh. “But let's get back to physical appearance. What if the woman isn't very attractive?"
"OK, I’ve thought about that," said Sam, hesitating, wanting to say something intelligent and at the same time sensitive. Also, by her question, he was beginning to think Adelle was not a very attractive woman. Otherwise, why would she pose the question?
"And….it may or may not matter," he almost mumbled, still thinking about the girl in his fantasy and knowing that it did matter, but he was not at all sure just how much it mattered once he got to know someone. He liked Adelle’s voice, maybe her appearance wasn’t that critical.
"So you'd have to meet and look each other over before you could say?" she prompted.
"Well, yes, we would have to look each other over," he agreed.
"But you wouldn’t just reject someone after looking her over..... you know, like 'oops, sorry, you're too ugly.' "
"No, no… of course not, but you do have to feel some physical attraction toward a person, don’t you?" he replied, trying to visualize a face and body to go with the voice at the other end of the line. At the same time he was liking the voice more and more.
"That’s true, and of course she might reject YOU because she isn’t attracted to you.”
"I know, I’ve thought of that," he said, nodding to himself. He had felt the pain of rejection before and knew that deep inside he really wouldn't choose someone based solely on her looks. The woman he would get along best with may not be the ideal image of beauty. He knew that, and yet there was the pretty-woman image he had in his mind.....like in the movies or in magazines….like in his tropical dream.
"Look, knowing all of that, why don't we just meet somewhere in person, like for coffee," said Adelle.
"Oh….well, I guess," he sputtered with some hesitation. Even though he had a good feeling about the voice on the other end of the line, he had not opened any of the responses in his email. Should he wait? But Adelle had called. They hadn’t.
"So what about tomorrow?" she asked warmly, his uncertainly tugging slightly at his shirttail.
"Tomorrow?" he swallowed, his shyness trying to hold him back. “Well, sure, why not?” He breathed out as if released from his alter ego.
"Starbucks, tomorrow?" she pressed.
"Uh, well, there's a McDonalds downtown on Park, not far from where I work," he found himself offering.
"Park? Just off A?"
"That’s the one."
"O.K. What time?"
"How about lunch if that works for you. Let’s say high noon?"
"OK, high noon tomorrow at Micky-Ds," she said.
"Tell me what you might be wearing or what to look for because it can be a little crowded there at noon .”
“Oh sure, I’ll wear a Padres cap, white slacks and bright red blouse."
"All right, and I'll wear a white hat and a red shirt to match your red blouse."
"This is just to look each other over," she added. “And chat a bit.”
"Oh yes, definitely….just to look each other over," he agreed. “And chat.”
"High noon then...tomorrow... see you then Sam."
"Right, Adelle, see you," he replied as he flipped his phone shut. He then sat back in his chair and stared at the names in his email, wondering if he should open them. He symbolically shut the lid on the laptop as if he had already made a decision. One at a time. If this encounter tomorrow went south he would go back to the email. Besides, she had called him. Jenny had cautioned against putting his phone number in the ad, but he did anyway. The thought of responding to each person by email and then exchanging email after email until he actually met them was daunting. It would be like a series of preliminary cyber interviews punctuated by coffee clutches. That could take months. This way he had a ‘date’ immediately. Adelle's voice was ringing in his ear. Her very pleasant voice. His mind fantasized again about what she might look like and how old she was. Also, what type of person she was and whether they had a lot in common or nothing in common. More importantly, whether they were comfortable together.
He got up the next morning and went for a long walk, then returned to his apartment and watched the clock, his mind wandering to his lunch rendezvous with Adelle. What would she be like? His mind flashed from Hollywood starlets to Bowery bag ladies. Would she turn out to be someone he could be with over a long period of time at sea in a space no bigger than a very small apartment? How long would they have to know each other before they were comfortable going off together for months, perhaps years? He couldn't just jump onto the boat with someone and take off the next day. How long would it take? He had no idea. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all? Maybe he should just forget it and go alone. He was getting nervous. As the noon hour approached, he felt queasy and his palms were wet. He had tried to rehearse several clever lines but every time he tried to repeat them, they sounded both trite and rehearsed. He finally decided to just relax and be himself. No lines. If she didn't like him, fine. If he didn’t like her, fine. Besides, he couldn't put on an act and be someone he wasn’t for an indefinite period of time. So why fake it? Although, on the other hand, he didn't want to scare her away with his shyness. This wasn't going to be easy.
At a quarter to twelve Sam went down to the basement garage and drove to the McDonalds parking lot. As he pulled in he began looking around for a woman in a blue baseball cap, white slacks and red blouse. Seeing no one matching that description, he stood near the entrance with his arms folded, looking across at the park, his white hat pulled down. His bright red short sleeved shirt fluttered in the breeze. He felt a gentle tapping on his shoulder from behind.
"Sam?" came a woman's voice.
"Yes," said Sam, turning around to see a tall blonde woman with a blue baseball cap cocked backwards on her head. She removed her sunglasses, revealing large blue eyes. She was strikingly beautiful and impeccably dressed, as if she had stepped from the cover of a designer magazine. Sam was momentarily speechless.
"Adelle," she said, extending her soft shapely hand toward him.
"Sam," he half mumbled, reaching out to grasp her hand while removing his hat with the other and squinting at her in the sunlight. "You're….well…you’re a cover girl.”
"Actually, I was once a model," she nodded, a beguiling smile on her full lips.
"Wow," he laughed as he waved her inside with his hat, holding the door for her. She nodded with a smile as she brushed past him to go inside.
"You're not so bad looking yourself," she said over her shoulder.
"Well…compared to you….," he shrugged modestly.
"No, really, I can see that you’re a good looking man under that facial hair," she said as she settled at a table near the door.
"Thank you," he declared, sitting down across from her. “Ummm, aren’t you kind of young?”
"Thirty nine," she said, leaning back to look at him.
"No way," he said, opening his eyes in genuine surprise.
"Oh, but you look much younger," he said. “And I’m not just saying that to impress you.”
"Tell that to the fashion industry," she replied, shaking her head.
"Oh, yeah, right," he nodded. “I understand.”
"But that’s another story," she said, getting up. "Look, why don't we get a bite to eat and talk about what you're up to." He nodded and they went to the counter and returned a short time later with their lunches.
"Before we get too far," said Adelle, pausing to make sure he was looking at her. "I want to be completely honest with you."
Sam hesitated as he looked into her eyes, then gave a slight nod with a tiny grin on the corner of his lips.
"You want this to be platonic," he said as if completing her thought. “Assuming you even decided to go sailing with me.”
"Well, actually that's true," she said, waiting for him to look up again at her. "But not for the reason you think."
"Not the reason….OK…..what reason then?" he asked.
"I'm a lesbian," she said, searching for a reaction. When she saw only a smile, she continued. "And I have four friends."
"And they're all lesbians," he completed, looking up suddenly with raised eyebrows.
"Yes," she affirmed, wrinkling her nose and opening her mouth in surprise at his correct guess.
"And all five of you want to go with me on my boat?" he guessed again, then stuffed his mouth with French fries as he shook his head.
"Right," she nodded with a huge smile, handing him a napkin as a trail of ketchup drooped from the corner of his mouth onto his beard. He took it while holding his mouth tightly shut, his cheeks bulging, and stared back into her eyes.
"And they’re all former models," he continued after a moment of chewing, with one raised eyebrow.
"They are," she admitted.
"All righty then," Sam sighed, rolling his head back and shutting his eyes for a second. "And you think a heterosexual man would want to get himself locked up in a small enclosure in tropical climates where clothes are optional with five women who were former models and who like girls and not guys?"
"I don't know," she shrugged, now studying her hamburger in anticipation of his full response to the bizarre scenario.
"That's not exactly the situation I had in mind when I went online."
"Oh, I know it isn't," she almost laughed, then cut it short and squinted at him innocently. "You would prefer one straight woman.”
"Well, yeah, that’s sort of what I was aiming for.”
"You could meet straight women in different ports."
"Meet….uh….right," he grimaced timidly, trying to visualize such a scenario. “Meet them in different ports,” he repeated.
"We're really an entertaining bunch," she said, pulling the bill of her baseball cap down to shield her eyes from the sun.
"Sounds like you really need to get out of this place," said Sam after a moment's hesitation. He leaned forward on the table and placed his chin on his fists as his mind raced with thoughts of how this may actually work.
"We would expect to pay our fair share, of course," she continued, leaning forward on her elbows and looking at him from the short distance across the table. "We've each saved up. We're really ready to get out of here. Sailing off into the sunset sounded so appealing to us. But we don't know how to sail, don't have a boat, and couldn't afford to hire someone to take us."
"Do you think I'm the type who'd make a spur of the moment decision like this, especially in this kind of, let’s say unusual, scenario?" he asked, sitting upright.
"I know, it’s a bit off the charts isn’t it?" she replied, replicating his move.
"Way off the charts,” said Sam, still in a pensive pose. “However, maybe I should at least meet your other friends. Not saying I think this is a good idea you understand. Actually, it’s kind of on a distant planet from what I was thinking about doing. It might even be beyond the planets….at least as far as Pluto."
"No, I understand….but you'll at least meet with them and then think about it?" asked Adelle, smiling and cocking her head a little sideways in a very feminine gesture.
"I’ll meet with them," he said, turning his head to stare out into the street to escape the gesture, then folding his arms and looking back at her. “It’s not even close to what I had in mind, but…..yeah….OK…. I’ll think about it.”
"I know you’ll like my friends," she said, leaning forward and inadvertently exposing her cleavage.
"Uhhh," Sam moaned, glancing down at her breasts, then shutting his eyes and shaking his head as he pointed.
"Oh, sorry," she said, realizing what he was reacting to and then quickly sitting upright and folding her arms to cover herself. He nodded and smiled at her, then shook his head and closed his eyes.
"You can't hide what you have," said Sam. "It's what you came into this world with…and it’s what attracts men whether you want to attract them or not."
"So, essentially, you think you’d be just one of the guys out there?" he asked, looking back at her and scratching his head, then holding his neck with his hand in contemplation.
"Yeah, just one of the guys," she laughed.
"And your friends?" he asked.
"Just more guys."
"Are they as open about this as you are?"
"I think so, but you should meet them and judge for yourself. I know you'll like them. I think you'd fit in with us even if you are a man..... I mean....you know what I mean."
"I suppose I actually do know what you mean….in some strange way," he said, still holding his hand on his neck. “I suppose we’re all people first, then guys or girls. But, uh…well….”
"Look, this might work,” she shrugged.
Sam shook his head and held his hands over his face to hide the smile. "It’s possible," he mumbled through his fingers. “ONLY possible you understand…..that’s it.”
"I suppose that seeing us each day in scant clothing wouldn’t be easy for you."
"That would be an understatement," he agreed.
"People in nudist camps get used to seeing the human body in its natural state without having it unduly interfere with other things."
"Other things…right….other things….”
"All I ask is that you consider it,” she said with her eyebrows raised in anticipation. “Now, shall I set up lunch with you and the five of us?”
"OK, but just to meet your friends....that’s all."
"I know, just to meet them….that’s all.”
"So make sure you tell them this is just to meet them."
"I know, I will."
"Because right now I have no idea who you or any of your friends are or why you're interested in taking off like this.....or anything else about you."
"Nor do we know anything about you," she replied. “Except that in this very brief encounter, I both like you and trust you.”
“I guess I have the same feeling about you….but don’t take that as a yes or even a maybe….so….uh…. when would this lunch with your friends be?”
“Can we make it tomorrow?” asked Adelle.
“Tomorrow works for me.”
“Tomorrow it is. Here?”
"Sure," he nodded as he stared at her, suddenly swept by the enormity of having to find out enough about someone else to feel safe. To trust a person, literally with your life. It was clear, as he sat staring at this woman that he had not really thought this aspect through very carefully. He may, in fact, be stumbling down a very troubled road into unknown difficulties. Yet, in a strange way, he somehow didn't feel that it was wrong. It was as if this woman in front of him was someone he already knew.
Adelle nodded quietly as she stared back, trying to read this strange man whom she had almost instantly trusted and felt comfortable with. A feeling she did not often have when she first met someone.
"Same place, same time, tomorrow?" she asked, shoving the last bite of hamburger into her mouth, her cheeks bulging as she tried to smile.
He nodded, sitting back with his arms folded in guarded agreement, smiling back at her. She sat back with her mouth still stuffed and struck the same pose and they watched each other for a moment. She got up and gave a little wave with her fingers, then walked out to the gazes of several young men who were at another table. A little chorus of whoops went up from their table as she disappeared out the door. One of the men stared curiously at Sam as if wondering what relationship he might have with her. Sam looked back at him, smiled and raised one eyebrow twice as if responding to the guy’s curiosity, then got up and left.
I truly enjoyed this book, I couldn't put it down. Everything from great characters who felt real to the setting and pacing.
I was kept on my toes to the very end. I was invested in both the story as a whole as well as each and every character. There were surprises along the way that had me gasping out loud.
This is a novel that will leave you wanting more from the author.
Mr. Smith retired early and went sailing in the Pacific by himself. He lived on the sailboat for nearly ten years while sailing along the West Coast from Seattle to central Mexico. During that time he wrote a number of novels while in anchorages or marinas. The books remained untouched for years on disc. Last year his wife discovered them and after reading one insisted that he publish it. After considerable editing, he published Baker’s Dozen through his daughter’s publishing company, Red Frog Publishing. Since then, he has published three others, including Only in a Dream.
He has two daughters who live in Los Angeles. His wife of five years is the primary editor of his books. She has a son who lives in Las Vegas. They live in the Phoenix area in the winter and spend summers at their cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona or on the road in their motor home. They have two small dogs.