Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Captain Samaritan

I promised myself that I would never forget his name, and now I have - and it bothers me a lot. He was a man I met just once, briefly, about 35 years ago, but the meeting left such an impression that I have never forgotten it, but I want to remember his name.

It was a holiday weekend, Labor Day maybe, and we had just set out on the last day of a 3 day sailing trip from Freeport to Belfast, where my parents lived. The first two days had been miserable, wet and cold, but this day promised to be perfect - sunny and warm, with enough breeze to ensure a brisk sail up Penobscot bay to our destination. We rounded Owl's Head and pointed off toward Isleboro and it was a glorious sail until something quite unexpected happened - the tiller broke clean off at the base. A sail boat is difficult to steer with no tiller but somehow, with just the right combination of skill and good luck, I managed to get the boat pointed toward the mainland and we limped into Camden harbor.

I tied up to a dock at one of the marinas there, but their repair services were closed for the holiday. It was Sunday morning and the prospects for completing the trip before Tuesday were looking dim - until somebody helpfully suggested that I check with Captain Samaritan (which is what I'll call him until I remember his name), and gave me directions to his house, which was just a short walk up the hill from the harbor.

When we arrived uninvited and unexpected at the door, Mrs. Samaritan was very gracious and told us the Captain was not home, but he probably could be found on a particular dock back at the harbor so we headed back down the hill to the side of the harbor opposite the one where Deja Blue was tied up, and that's where we found him. We introduced ourselves and explained our situation, and Captain Samaritan without any hesitation at all replied that there was absolutely nothing he would rather do than help a couple of sailors who were in a fix. He told us to bring the boat over to the dock and he would see what he could do.

As soon as he got a look at the broken tiller and the fittings that secured it to the rudder post he knew exactly what was required. He took us into a workshop that I don't think he owned but he clearly had full access to it and its contents, and he rummaged around for a minute or two looking at old boards and pieces of wood. He settled on an oak board, a 2x6 I think, that clearly had been laying around for quite a while (years, maybe decades) and out of that he fashioned a perfectly functional new tiller, beautiful in its simplicity and elegant in its sturdiness.

We mounted the new equipment without difficulty - it fit perfectly as he knew it would - and within a couple of hours of our arrival in Camden, we were ready to set sail and leave. We offered to pay the Captain for his services but he firmly declined, saying that he wanted nothing for his time and allowing that it wouldn't be fair for him to charge for the oak board since it wasn't his to begin with. He did allow us to buy some flowers for his wife, since it was she that directed us to him. And with that we resumed our journey, feeling sure that we had just met a very special man.

I just wish that I could remember his name.

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