Captain Animal

By ALEXI VENICE-

There are a few nicknames that should give you pause before you consider a relationship with a person. For an extra-marital affair, consider whether his/her nickname might foreshadow a certain vibe. Likewise, when chartering a boat into beautiful blue waters, be wary of your captain’s nickname. There’s always time to turn around before you take the plunge. Learn from my mistakes and pay attention to your gut instinct.

Trump allegedly had an affair with Stormy Daniels in 2006. “Stormy” is the stage name she uses in adult movies, and a prime example of a portentous nickname. If you’re going to have an affair with Stormy, I can guarantee you that it won’t be low key, calm, and serene with smooth sailing ahead. It’s gonna be full of drama and end like Hurricane Katrina. If you want tranquility, sleep with “Lotus Blossom.”

Likewise, ladies, if you’re thinking of entering into a relationship with “David Dennison,” you should know “DD” is an alias for Donald Trump. Unfortunately, DD is the President of the United States, and Stormy is a porn star. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The only moral of that story is to remember that nicknames mean something.

Bill and I learned what’s behind a nickname when we were in our late 20’s. It was a dangerous lesson. We were on the island of St. Thomas at a conference when we ran into Cindy and Hal. I knew Cindy from waaay back in my teenage years. She’s a little older than I am, but you’d never know it because she’s availed herself of modern technological advances in plastic surgery—everywhere. She has a hot bod and she wants to keep it that way.

The thing about Cindy and Hal is that they’re rich, flamboyant and WILD! I mean, REALLY WILD! Beyond the wild of our raucous youth. I don’t think Cindy actually exited her youth. She’s a perpetual 20-year-old-I’m-having-fun-flashing-my-tits-at-you-wild. While in St. Thomas, they invited us on a day-cruise with a chartered skipper. We grabbed our snorkel masks and expected to boat around the reefs eating, drinking and enjoying the sun and sea.

Pursuant to the charter company’s instructions, we arrived at the pier and found the specific slip where a Boston Whaler with twin outboards was waiting for us. In black cursive writing on the stern was the boat’s name—Eat Ship & Dive. We saw our captain stretched out on a white padded bench in his board shorts and tank top, snoring. His red beard was sticking out from underneath the ball cap covering his face. Hal woke him up by pouring a bottle of cold water on his face. The captain coughed, spit, and sat up, staring wildly at us. After rubbing his eyes and replacing his cap, the newly awakened ape informed us that we could address him as “Captain Animal.”

This is the point in the conversation where we should have turned around in our flip-flops and walked back to the charter office to request another captain. I should’ve listened to my gut instinct, which was screaming, “Don’t go on a snorkel trip with Captain Animal and Cindy-the-tits-and-ass-flasher. Dangerous chemical reaction ahead.”

Against my better judgment, we loaded our cooler and gear onto the boat and shoved off toward the nearest coral reef. Not a snorkeler herself, Cindy didn’t waste any time by cracking open a bottle of rum for mixed drinks with Captain Animal while Bill, Hal and I explored nature in the water.

We were only a few hours into our adventure when Captain Animal suggested we violate international law by crossing the nautical border into the British Virgin Islands. Everyone agreed this sounded like a good idea because the snorkeling was better over there. Again, we should’ve stopped. In the wise words of my daughter when she heard this story, “The trouble with trouble is that it starts out as fun.”

We crossed into British territory going 50 mph without looking back. Captain Animal drove us to an island named Jost Van Dyke (20 miles from our port) to secure “day passes” that we could use to visit the BVI, including Virgin Gorda, almost 40 miles from our port.

When we motored up to the dock at Jost Van Dyke, we were met by a man in army fatigues with an assault rifle. He escorted ashore to Foxy’s Tamarind Bar, where Animal told us to stay put and drink while he accompanied the soldier to a nearby thatched-roofed hut. He told us he planned to bribe British Customs into issuing us day passes because we didn’t have our passports. What did he tell us he was using for the bribe? Several boxes of pens and pencils that he shook in our faces. Really? Pens and pencils? And, we believed him? It was obviously lost on us that he had a game plan for the entire gig, bringing something in those boxes—that may or may not have writing instruments—to give to unseen individuals in the privacy of the hut. Here’s a clue: when a hut is being guarded by several men with assault rifles, there are more than pens and pencils being traded inside.

Anyway, we didn’t want to know the details. After a few minutes, Animal returned with day passes and we motored out of the suspicious little bay, on our way to pristine reefs. We snorkeled some more while Animal and Cindy polished off the bottle of rum. (I have no idea what they were doing on the boat while my face was under water.)

At some point, we decided we were hungry, so we visited a half-sunken ship that was turned into a restaurant and bar. The food was pub grub, as one might expect, and the atmosphere was festive and sunny. While Hal, Bill and I ate above-deck, Cindy and Animal were below-deck doing shots at the bar. At one point, Hal went in search of her and found her in a small room behind the bar—known as The Brigantine—doing God knows what with Animal. Hal seemed to like playing the game of chase with his wife, as he bought a round of shots for everyone at the bar after he rescued her from the curious paws of Animal.

The number of men in the sunken ship bar far outnumbered the women—Cindy’s favorite mix—and before we knew it, she was shaking her Beyoncé in their faces while dancing on the bar in her bikini thong. Men were drooling and growling. It was at this juncture that Bill and I discovered we might be in over our heads on this excursion.

Bill took Hal aside, had a few words with him, and they convinced Animal—who was looking wild-eyed at Cindy—that it was time to leave the bar. Cindy was out of control, dancing and teasing, so Hal man-handled her back onto the boat. As we motored away, we watched a horny young man jump from the upper deck of the restaurant into the blue waters behind our boat. He actually tried to jump onto our boat for Cindy but missed by a mile, which saved everyone the hassle of potential rape, assault, battery and manslaughter.

Cpt. Animal oriented Bill to the boat and our coordinates as we pressed on toward Virgin Gorda. Not long after that, he gave up the helm to Bill so he, Cpt. Animal, could return to partying with Cindy and Hal. Bill and I decided to lay off the booze in light of the situation—foreign country, illegal entry, drunk captain, crazy passengers and unfamiliar waters.

We briefly visited Virgin Gorda to say we’d been there, taking in a few sights and watching the others consume more alcohol. By the time we made it back to the boat, it was waaay too late in the day for a 40-mile journey back to St. Thomas. Animal apparently thought so, too, because he promptly passed out on the floor in the small galley. Uh-oh. Captain Bill was now in charge of chasing the sun back to St. Thomas while dodging dangerous coral reefs. We had a flimsy laminated map that was actually a placemat—not to scale, my friends—that I was studying as we made haste at 50 mph.

I’d been around boats and water quite a bit, but that was on Minnesota lakes, not the ocean—at dusk, in another country illegally. Shit. Shit. Shit.

Of no assistance, Cindy and Hal bobbled in their seats like happy-go-lucky teenagers in the back of a limo on prom night. While Bill drove, I remember being so scared that we would hit a coral reef and crash, sending us to a grisly death by hungry sharks. The beauty of the calm sea, warm wind and sunset were all lost on me.

After a few hours, we made Pillsbury Sound at dusk, and it was black as night can be when we tied off the Eat Ship & Dive to the pier. Animal was still horizontal on the floor, but the owner of the charter company was standing on the pier looking daggers at us. Bill handed the keys to him and said, “Your captain hit the rum pretty hard. He’s passed out on the galley floor. Everything else is in good shape.” Needless to say, we didn’t leave a tip for Animal.

We walked up the pier to the marina bar where Hal abruptly went to the men’s restroom and vomited. Bill and I ordered a burger and a beer as a reward for returning us to safety. Cindy went to the bar to flirt with a dozen or so men. Not much time passed until Animal appeared, his eyes sparkling like the Devil when he spotted Cindy. Hal was in puke-and-rally-mode, so those three started up again. Bill and I called it a night and took a taxi home.

In sum, I should’ve listened to my gut and turned the other direction. On the other hand, if I had walked away, I wouldn’t have had this entertaining story to tell. May you learn from my mistakes and pay attention to nicknames!

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