Birth of a Sea Gypsy
When Fatty passes Wild Card’s tiller to her new owner, he discovers that his trusty vessel has fallen into just the right set of hands.
Handing over Wild Card to her new owner felt more like a new-age adoption proceeding than a boat sale. Even I couldn’t believe some of the sappy things coming out of my mouth.
“Will you tell Wild Card,” I found myself saying, “when you leave her for any extended period, that you love her and that you’ll return soon to care for her?”
“I will,” said Robin Krejci sincerely.
“And will you promise to always keep an eye on the bilge?” my wife, Carolyn, added.
“She’s never leaked a drop, but, you know, for 23 years we checked it daily and, well—you never know!”
“Now, now, dear,” I said gently as I consoled her. “Robin will take good care of her. She’s going to a good home.”
It’s odd selling a boat that you’ve sailed twice around the world. But I needed a new suit of sails and a new engine for our 43-foot ketch, Ganesh, and I couldn’t own two boats while sailing one around the world. So selling Wild Card was logical and sensible and utterly right—and very, very painful.
“OK!” I said and threw my hands up in the air. “She’s yours, Captain Robin. May she bring you as much pleasure and good fortune as she has us.”
Yes, it was odd. My image of myself is a reflection of the vessel I sail and love. Sailors are like that—utterly practical on one hand, totally romantic on the other. I’ve always thought that I’ve been blessed throughout my life with my boats and my woman—that each that I touch forever changes me, as I change them. The same is true of my friends. I have thousands of acquaintances, but how many true friends? Not many.
One reason for this is because I treasure oddness and nonconformity almost as much as hard work. In a sense, my friends are my private heroes, my betters.
As we handed over Wild Card, I told Carolyn, “Don’t be too sad. We’re losing a boat, but we’re gaining Robin!”
She smiled. We both looked Robin in the eye. He smiled back.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I am a tortoise. I learn slowly, but I learn well. My girlfriend and I will adapt one step at a time. We are honored to own Wild Card. We will take good care of your beloved baby.”
Looking in Robin’s eyes is an amazing experience. They are, appropriately, robin-egg blue. They’re also intelligent. And they’re sincere. And they’re fathomless.
“At first, I couldn’t figure Robin out,” his girlfriend, Heather Drost, told us later. “I couldn’t figure out what his angle was. Then I realized that there was none. He’s the most straight-ahead, clear-thinking person I’ve ever met. He’s just remarkable! He says the truth and means it. His word is his bond. We never argue because he never fights back. He’s too wise. And I feel ever so lucky!”
Robin’s story begins 36 years earlier in Czechoslovakia, where his Gypsy mother meets a tall, well-built Swedish man and sparks fly. Her caravan soon leaves, and not that long after, her clan has a stocky, blond-headed boy running wild amid the trailers and vans and wagons.