Nemo and the Mermaid Board Poseidon – Part 2

Editor’s Note: Poseidon is host to many friends and characters alike. This past Memorial Day weekend was no exception, as she was boarded by two characters called Nemo and the Mermaid. This is the continuation of their journey. We left them last at a Memorial Day barbecue, with Nemo seeking to appreciate the small things in life and the Mermaid missing her dolphin cousins, a situation that will soon be remedied.


Memorial Day? An acknowledgement of supreme sacrifice celebrated by something approaching self-indulgence?

Lighten up, Nemo. If you were to meet death in battle, what better cause than the preservation of the freedom to enjoy these gifts of life? Therefore, this day must celebrate freedom, life, sheer pleasures and the opportunities to enjoy them. Everyone fortunate enough to celebrate Memorial day must give thanks for those who won those opportunities.

After the burgers, Poseidon glides up the coast to Pelican, big anchor digging itself into the small bay’s fine holding. The master and commander takes the crew on a dinghy ride, in and out of some of the island’s beautiful coves and caves. He’s a polymath with a fine, articulate and entertaining turn of phrase. His discourses on the history and geology of Santa Cruz hold the crew in thrall, until the outboard sucks a yard of kelp and the spell is temporarily broken.

It’s on this short jaunt that the crew realizes the cooking show they’re developing absolutely has to incorporate the multiple stories of the places Poseidon visits into the cook’s compelling narrative. [Editors Note: Nemo makes reference to a cooking series that Poseidon’s cook and master are working on; a release on the web or on air is planned.] They’re too modest to acknowledge it and, sometimes, even to see it, but the cook and the master and commander have truly unusual, if not unique abilities and personalities. To see them aboard their home, a magnificent but attainable boat which they designed specifically so that they could share with family and friends their passions for food, wine, the sea and the islands, the harbors and anchorages they visit, is to understand that this is an all encompassing, embracing and heart-lifting experience. It’s sensual and sybaritic but it is never selfish or self-satisfied. It reaches out. It’s open. It is not exclusive. It’s kind and positive and does not stoop to artificial drama. The food, the wine, the people, the places Poseidon visits – they’re all real and authentic. That, the crew realizes, is what they have to capture in Poseidon Cooks!

Now the dinghy is once more floating off Poseidon’s stern and the shrimp, the skirt steak and green onions are on the grill. The peppers are roasted and skinned. All the makings for the poblanos are in place. Once made, and bitten into, Nemo sees the light. He’s a born again Mexican.

Later, digestifs in the cockpit and the underwater lights reveal some strange mucous in the usually perfect waters. The crew will soon learn its source.

The next day, the Mermaid and Nemo take to the kayaks and explore the caves and inlets, the nooks and crannies that make Santa Cruz an infinite pleasure and potentially a lifetime of exploration, sea lions barking, gliding, watching with wary eyes. Are these intruders part of the tribe that shoots to kill in defense of its fish catches, or do they come in peace?

Then, suddenly, cook and master and commander are there in the tender. Whales sited and they have the footage to show! Not just blow-spume or a distant hump, but a clear and present fluking … maybe twenty yards off the bow!

It’s a truism and a cliché that there can be a mystical connexion between sea mammals and man, and none more awe-inspiring than between man and whale. Is it anything to do with their common birthplace, the sea? Is there a collective memory of the dangers of past whaling and the brutalities which more modern killing techniques brought to the sea-borne interaction of man and whale? Or is it simply a matter of spectacle – that there is nothing more majestic than seeing a 40-, 60-, 80-ft gliding through the sea with a truly miraculous economy of motion?

Whatever it is, most people respond even to the sight of a distant blow, and some whale watchers never see one of these imposing creatures closer than a hundred yards. Today, Poseidon’s crew is blessed. Several whales begin to cruise the area, blowing and fluking so close and so frequently that the crew almost becomes blasé. These creatures are the source of last night’s strange mucous.

For hour after hour, Poseidon’s crew watches the whales and when the cook, the master and Nemo retreat to the saloon for a long-postponed discussion about the cooking show, the Mermaid takes off on a kayak.

Not long after, they hear her shouting. Turn and see her paddling like a crazed Olympian. Two humpbacks have surfaced within feet of her. Close enough to fear capsize – and certainly close enough to be nearly overwhelmed by the stale cauliflower stench of the breath.

“I smelled them! I smelled them!” she screams as she paddles toward Poseidon, fast enough to tow a water-skier.

She maneuvers to a point just off Poseidon’s bow where the cook, on the anchor platform, has the camera ready for the whales’ next star turn. The hope is to get kayak and whale in frame together, to recreate the closeness of the Mermaid’s earlier encounter, but the whales behave like any star, refusing to cooperate with the camera operator. Perhaps they’re saving their better profile. (There’s a wonderful story about Lauren Bacall, one of the 20th century’s great beauties, and Edward G. Robertson, one its ugliest men. In a close two shot, Eddie was acting up, being a jerk, but finally persuaded by an exasperated director, to say what his problem was. They were shooting his weaker profile, he said.)

Tantalizingly, the whales circle the area, almost within reach but never quite as near as the Mermaid’s earlier experience. It’s a unique moment for the entire crew. None of them has been this close, this long, to this many whales. Long after the light fails, they can hear them blowing, long, explosive sighs, and if that isn’t enough, a huge school of what are probably white sea bass masses beneath the anchor platform, ghostly torpedoes flashing through the reflected moonlight.

Poseidon’s leaving the island early the next morning and so, reluctantly, the crew lets go of these wonderful, present moments. They’ll slide into the depths of memory just as the cew, too, slides into sleep, lulled by gentle waves and images they’ll never forget.

Nemo – aboard Poseidon, Memorial Weekend 2010