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A Birthday Aboard Flyer: Bon Anniversaire a Toi

It’s time for a celebration—or is it?

June 17, 2014
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Xabi Lastapis
In freshening wind, crewmate Xabi Lastapis takes a turn at the helm of Flyer and clocks a boat speed of 12.1 knots. Elaine Lembo

I usually take orders from the top; in other words, from the captain. But on this particular occasion, mid-Atlantic aboard the Swan 57 Flyer, my orders came from the youngest crew member.

In no way whatsoever, mate Xabi Lastapis said, was I to make a fuss over his 38th birthday on June 15, 2014. Sure, I could make note of it in whatever I write, but no parties, no special cakes, no nothing – rien, as the French say.

Notwithstanding my desire to break up the onboard routine a bit with a celebration, I could appreciate the reason for his protestations. You have a party, people worry about what to wear, what to bring, what kind of gifts to buy, the wine, the food — it’s endless. Then there’s the guest list: You start with your friends, then somebody wants to invite a stranger, then another, and on it goes. Then after it’s over comes the worry about throwing a birthday party for others in the social circle. Well, if you threw one for so-and-so, then you have to throw another one for such-and-such and … clearly Xabi had experienced the frustrations of land-based social rituals and wanted none of it at sea.

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“I get it,” I said. “When I turned 50, all I wanted was a quiet weekend away, and a friend insisted on throwing a 50th birthday party for me. I dug my heels in. I realized that some people insist on throwing parties because they want them; they really don’t care about the person having the birthday.”

“You should have told that friend,” Xabi stated with a hint of devilry in his eye, “that she was not your friend!”

And on that sobering note I went about my onboard chores, standing watch, doing the dishes, watching the route, course, and cross-track error, and noting the log when each crew member came off watch.

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I mulled it over and of course silently over-ruled his protest. We’re at sea — 38 55N, 38 55W — for goodness sakes, it’s his first transatlantic crossing, there’s no one else we could possibly invite — except the dolphins, who tend to be fickle on showing up when you want them to, and the chances that we’ll run into our new French friends again are pretty slim after this adventure.

Scrubba wash bag
Inside a Scrubba wash bag (I tried it out to wash a few items to great success) we tossed a few treats and scribbled out a Bon Anniversaire on Flyer stationery. Elaine Lembo

And so, in collusion with the captain, Rick Martell, we pooled our resources and came up with a grab bag of gifts.

He graciously accepted the gifts with thanks, and whether or not he’ll forgive me for the fuss is a matter I consign to the gods and goddesses of the sea. I resumed my chores, and noticed this remark Xabi scribbled in the log book when he came off his watch: “Four dolphins told me ‘Bon Anniversaire!’ ”

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Ca c’est bon!

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