Sometimes I look at the things that happen to me and the absurd opportunities I occasionally fall into, and wonder, “Is this real life?” I’m not exaggerating, I literally ask myself. Three months ago we were flown to LA by Rolling Rock, put up in The Standard, given all the free beer and cool stuff you could imagine and thrown a personal concert. All because I tagged them in a photo??? Whaaaaat??? Now we’re living on a pirate ship, restoring it, and sailing it to Nicaragua. I feel it’s important to tell you this because whether you believe it or not, if you’re open, flexible, driven, and game to do cool stuff and document it in an exciting way, similar things can happen to you too. Let it be clear: I’m NOT the ultimate-already-made-it sponsored adventurer. I’m just a guy who likes to do fun stuff and share it with the world, is willing to learn and work hard to do it, and is open to just about anything.
I am telling you this because yet again, it is that same sentiment that has some how landed me as an apprentice to a former NASA pilot and aerospace mechanic, who I’ll refer to as Mr Nasa. It’s no exaggeration that he is nearly the only reason I’m able to continue pushing forward on my current project aboard The Pirate Ship.
When I first arrived in San Diego in Spring of 2014, I was coming with the intention of learning how to sail so I could take Kels and some family out on a boat that had been unused for over a decade. I had the intention of replacing the lines (fancy-pants sailing word for ropes), sanding a whole lot of wood, and tackling any other small projects that arose. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS GETTING MYSELF INTO.
I had been on the boat maybe ten minutes and was already filled with all the excitement and determination that drives any great adventurer. I was also incredibly naïve and ignorant to what was ahead. After some organizing, I kicked back to soak in the moment on the stern (fancy pants sailing word for back of the boat), when a voice from a boat in the slip across the channel boomed.
“Holy shit, I thought I was seeing a ghost! I’ve never, EVER, seen anyone on that boat. Thought maybe you were Captain Jack Sparrow here to steal her.”
“Maybe I am.” I replied with a sarcastic grin.
The man was a presence. Even from across the water I could see he was well over 6 feet, had a voice like a cannon, and was barrel chested. After a little small talk he invited me over to his boat. Many would correct me that it was not just a boat, but a yacht. I find this is nothing more than a rich guys way of stroking his ego, cause at the end of the day, it’s still just a damn boat: So I call them boats and watch the uptight cringe.
Mr NASA was an exception. First thing I discovered upon entering his boat, was it was not a toy, it was a home. He’s retired, and lives permanently aboard. Second thing I learned was he was a straight shooter and a man who spoke his mind.
In his words, “No point in bullshitting people.” And he didn’t. Within two minutes of telling him of my plans for the boat, he looked me dead in the eyes, and said, “You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
He had bought his boat in a similarly dilapidated state, and gone on to completely rebuild and trick this thing out in more ways than you can imagine. You can give Mr NASA anything, and I mean anything, and he’ll tell you how it works, why it works, and how to fix it if it’s broken. And if he can’t, he’ll head home, research, and learn how. I’ve been around brilliant people in my life, but more in the creative fields of academia and wild adventurers, but never such practical brilliance. It was awesome.
I learned quickly that not only could he fix anything, but he had been EVERYWHERE. In his time flying a large number of planes for NASA, on several projects that were top secret, he had circumnavigated the entire planet; from South Pole to North, and everything in between. We’ll often swap stories on the back of his boat- him taking me back to his days of flying jets and raising hell in bars all over the planet, and me telling him about scaling sharp snowy peaks around the globe. He enjoys it, cause it’s as close as he’ll ever get, as he HATES the cold.
There will be much more on Mr NASA, but to be brief, he took me under his wing, and took me step-by-step through the massive project ahead to make the boat seaworthy. For the record, my mechanical background is near zero, but in the past week I’ve completely disassembled a massive diesel engine. I hear the line “Now don’t be a dumbass” often, but for the most part, I think he enjoys my incessant amount of questions, ignorant enthusiasm, desire to learn, and willingness to listen.
Had Mr NASA not have decided to teach me, the cost of the project would have skyrocketed with marine mechanic fees, but what’s worse, I would have learned nothing. We can always grow if we’re willing to sometimes look like a “dumbass”, and be open to meet anyone at any time.
Signing off from The Pirate Ship.