Helmut is the grouchiest man on earth besides Kirby at Transpac Marine in Santa Barbara. He lives alone on his 30-foot, sun beaten sloop, ‘Einhorn’ moored just outside the boatyard. The old man comes out of his boat ‘cave’ at dawn and dusk. His little tin rowboat is already ashore when I wake up. Then at dusk, he emerges again to row one giant lap around the bay with two fishing lines in tow.
Without fail, rain or shine, Helmut goes rowing every evening. At times when I wanted to give up on my boat projects, I’d watch him methodically stroking across the bay, and feel re-inspired to keep working.
I was curious about this old fellow. One evening last year, on my way back from a surf, I tried to stop and chat with him. Assuming he was French, I put on my best French accent and said, “Bon soir.”
“Your French is terrible.” He replied with a German accent. “Speak English.”
After that evening, I would often pass his boat and leave a piece of fruit. But I’d never really spoken with Helmut until the day before the cyclone had hit. His was the only boat left in the bay. I couldn’t help but wonder why he was still out there and if he needed a hand, so before I pulled my dinghy out of the water, I went out to the ‘Einhorn’ and knocked on the hull.
to be continued…