This is the story, in verse and vingette of my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey- he described himself as “A poet and professional fig picker”. Always blithe with money, yet paying his way. I found this poem in his “Urban Pentimento” journal, on a laboring job, Godfrey had given the okay for the on site “Port-A- John” be strapped shut, hoisted onto a truck, and driven away, not knowing the boss man was sitting inside…he indeed was adrift, seeking a new job.   

Tonight, I hurried for home in a spring shower, weighted down with sundries. I grabbed a quick coffee to enjoy as the rain eased, leaning on the harbor wall for that first, hot sip. Water had pooled cup’s lid rim, tasting both sweet and cool before the hot, bitter richness…now I knew what Godfrey meant when he muttered about craving rainwater coffee…and watching ships head out. If you dislike coffee, any other hot beverage will do..

Godfrey writes-  Still cold and dark mid April morning. And here I am, adrift in the city. In line at a cafe’ came a sailor clad for foul weather, he spoke softly- said “I can tell by the cuffs of your coat that you come from away”. Indeed so, I replied, are you bound for warmer shores this rainy day?”

When I bid him farewell cup in hand I returned to the street. The first sip I took was of rainwater coffee, I was wet chilled through as the good brew  warmed me …recalled from lost youth a vivid memory.

Rainwater coffee, kneeling in the sand, fire coaxed from damp drift wood, scrape the last grounds out, bottom of the tin. Great, fat rain on hissing twigs, fog bound the sheltered bay I camp in.

Lonely,  concrete  tub entombed city tree, at the bus stop crows perch, check me out with unfiltered cheek, crow curiosity.  Spring rain pours from the nebulous roof, of a decrepit shelter, where sodden religious literature has been scattered, it sweetens the rim of my paper cup of coffee. My coat cuffs worn and tattered in the wearing. I drink rainwater coffee mid the bitter eyed, waiting, shift workers swearing.

My ship, the #50 bus, lurches from the curb, bow on into the storm it pulls away. I close my eyes as we set sail, remember the line squalls, recall the Southern sky at night, and the taste of rainwater coffee in the gale…



I need ask, why are all skippers of near derelict boats, such as the “Loch-Ard” named Verne?. And when, at what age and in the name of wisdom, will I ever learn?

In writing his story, I may have given the impression, that I trusted my friend Godfrey  without question, mostly I can report that this was true, when one summer he showed up, all excited, “Worzel dear, he cried, “I have planned a lovely Sunday outing for you’. He was an odd young man who disliked the common beet, but would talk of anything else, talk to anyone he would meet.

“I have met a fine chap, said Godfrey, with a sailboat who will take us for a ramble out to sea, there will be seal viewing, and a luncheon buffet,  and if we bring beer we do not have to pay”. (My husband, a cowboy disliked waves and spray, we left him mind the luggage shop this day).

It was fine summer, hot and clear, I packed Cordial for Godfrey, and 12 tins of beer. Verne was our age, jolly around as his plump, scruffy boat, tufts of grey hair grew through gaps in the long under wear Verne wore neath coveralls. More underwear hung high, in the rigging with care, whispered Godfrey, “his winter pair”.

Feet bare, Verne happily showed me about, I tried not to look at his greasy bunk crammed in the stern, or his galley of crusty cereal bowls, or all the dead flies, proud of the old “Loch-Ard’ was Verne.

Off down the harbor, past the scenic, towering scrap yard, puttered the sturdy  “Loch-Ard”. Godfrey steering, out of hearing, the Skipper drank beer, and gave his tourist spiel. “Oh the old “Loch-Ard”, built her myself, welded from “Baggy- Wrinkle” down to keel, 15 years since we set out from Glascow, meandering where and how we go”.

” Indeed, it was hot, I drained beer number three, I needed to wee, found no toilet on the listing old tub, that crawled at the pace of a snail, no bog, no head, no loo, not so much below as even a pail”.  Crackers, cheese and Spam were our luncheon buffet, I had to go in the worst way”.

“After the seal rocks, we cruised up the wide estuary. To net some flounder in the mud flats, Verne informed me, for our tea. We had to wait out the tide, he put tinny music on, “Ragtime Jazz”, I curled up among engine parts I pushed off the boat’s deck to one side”.

I had to go, as “Loch- Ard” bobbed in the swell, every time I tried to squat in the scupper, Verne would toss me up a flounder for our supper. I implored Godfrey, “use your kilt as a drape of privacy”, he did, and at the worst moment, came the laughter of a boat load of passing families, waving to me.”  I gave up, and prepared for my bladder to burst, thus ending my misery”.

It got much worse, but I will skip the sad verse, more waves from old men as we passed neath the cliffs below a golf course. So bad I near cried, when Godfrey, in his gentle way, offered to toss me over the side. “Pretend to fall overboard so you can pee, no one will see, Verne is now deep into the Sherry”. “So I did, Godfrey was not wrong, Verne was singing, did not even notice I was gone.”

Verne sang, “Oh I married a fine girl from Isle of Man, that makes us Manganese.’ “I bought her a silk dress and a donkey cart, the two of us do as we please. 

I bought her a fine set of fishing gear, built her a cottage of stone, with a big strong privy round the back. She goes there to be alone…. 

The singing was awful, the timing all wrong, Godfrey pulled me out by the scruff of my pants, and insisted on singing along.   Homeward we finally sailed, Verne now passed out, Godfrey steering by the first evening star, I was still soaking wet, and a Pelican or more, had shat all over the car.

“Couples passed, enjoying romantic strolls, two nuns laughed, holding fishing poles, Godfrey reminded me, of “The Wisdom Inherent Of Not Drinking Beer At Sea”. “I lectured him back on Boats Without Toilets And The Folly Of Thinking A Day Out On One For Free”.

“It’s the closest we ever came to a quarrel, as with tufts of grass, scraped Pelican shice from the windshield glass”. “The Pelican crap was sun baked on, with no hose to spray it down, Godfrey hung out the window as I drove, directing us slowly through town”. “Even he was quiet that night, sun and wind burnt we were, smelly is Pelican shite.

“I fumed the nasty drive home, sulked in the bath till the water was cold, declined the stuffed Flounder brought to me in the tub, with a rose on the tray”.   “But I’d take it all back, the time wasted, angry and moping, for a chance to reclaim laughter lost, a chance to relive that day”…

“Summers are just that, and soon like this one, like all do it wafted away”.   As did the “Loch-Ard”, Verne was reported heard singing, heading out, harbor down, southbound”.   “long may the sea you love tickle your stern, may you always be free, “Loch-Ard’ and Verne. “And if , by chance one day return if you do…I only hope you have installed a ship’s loo. “I envision the “Loch-Ard”, snug at anchor in a sweet, sheltered bay, grimy old Verne singing, fixing her up as he goes on his way..

SAILOR’S REST- from Godfrey

  The harbor this weekend, was full of Classic Wooden Boats on display, it brought back memories bitter sweet, for all that Godfrey loved horses, disliked beets and the pompous, he adored wooden boats, and if he were visiting during the Festival, always went. He would look for a particular yacht, ask after Alex, the hard drinking old  single-hander, who had taught him to sail. “I spent a lot of time heaving, to Alex’s glee, recalled Godfrey… 

Cicadas and dust, a loud, steady hum in the bush, as slowly I left the roadway for steep track. I could see cross the bay to Russell town, looking backward as I climbed, and down. “Be still, gallant heart, you will soon scent the tea tree, North Island green on the horizon, bay blue..the vast sea, the hard ships will all be behind you.

Was early in the New Year, 74′, we meandered about these fair islands their snug golden coves I recall..the sparks of beach fire, the cold damp of mornings on board, how she fetched the breeze to her, battered yet sturdy old ship, the “White Squall”.

Some town folks say she was sold, a loner, years ago bought her. I asked at The Stone Store, the bars down the docks, have all gone to the tourist, but one old chap reckoned, she was wrecked years ago on the jagged “Black Rocks”.

Two inches of free-board in the dinghy I rowed, Alex drunk, singing, his crates of beer safely stowed. Neath the stars we circled, he flicked gems at me, from the trail of phosphorescence, the emerald path my oars churned from the sea.

Be still, gallant heart, wherever you be, I heaved over the side, as you laughed at me. your life’s dream was to fix up your boat and head west, I seek your name, midst the buccaneers, fishers, the poets, the reckless ones, and those high on this sunny hill top they call “Sailor’s Rest”