“Be careful,” the old sea captain said. “There are octopus out there big enough to kill a man.”
This is a longstanding joke used by several charter captains when trying to get the attention of young sailors or anglers. Kids have always watched and listened more carefully to the boating rules when they hear something unexpected. Scary and outrageous is sometimes the best scenario for children that arrive wild and disruptive.
Every captain has a story. There are stories about stormy weather, octopi that bite, stingrays that sting, and other boaters that are obnoxious. Finally, there are the unforgettable tales about wild and horrible kids and their phone absorbed parents who care nothing for whatever happens no matter how outrageous.
Working on the beach for decades has provided many tales of supernatural children and their abilities to go far beyond what any work of fiction could produce. The following is one of those Marco Beach Boys’ stories.
October and November are some of the best months in our islands. The weather is perfect; the slanting sun is on that wonderful glide path to the south where everything looks golden and extra special.
This was the setting on one noontime charter when six passengers arrived and the dangerous warning signs began. Octopuses have eight tentacles. The creatures’ reaching arms can search out in any direction and seemingly—independent of each other—work toward a common goal outlined and directed by a diabolical mastermind.
Four children—two boys and two girls—all between 8 and 10-years-old also have collectively eight arms. In the world of boating charters, the US Coast Guard has decided that boats that carry only six passengers need only have one crew. This would be the captain, and a captain with only two arms can never be a match for the calculating apparatus that is the eight legs and eight arms or four children under 10.
Before I fully understood the threat I was about to face, the four hungry octopus kids slipped aboard when I was distracted by talking to the two mothers who had delivered their offspring for a feeding session on the water.
“Yeah,” the alpha mother explained between the chomping noises created by her chewing gum. “We understand everything. You are going to drive the boat and we are going to relax. In the bags we have lunch for the kids.” When my instructions for captaining the boat were over, the gum-chewing mom looked at her sister.
Both women were on the younger side of 40. They were both towering over the docks at Rose Marina wearing stiletto high heels, sheer cover-ups over designer bathing suits, and enough makeup, hairspray, jewelry and cosmetic surgery to be starring in any New York or Los Angeles reality show.
“Oh yeah,” the gum chomping mom looked over to the front of the catamaran. “It looks like the kids are already settled so let’s get started.” The gum-chewing never stopped. “Mona,” the alpha looked to her sister and the gum popped again, “what are you waiting for? Give the man the bags and let’s get relaxed.”
After tearing my eyes away from the skill-set that enabled the mothers of the offspring to step aboard wearing the high heels and carrying baggage and multiple Styrofoam food containers, I turned to the octopus’ kids who were now trying to out–jump each other. All four were jumping at once —higher and higher—on the forward canvas deck area that would never ever again be referred to as a trampoline.
As I tried to begin explaining about no jumping, life jackets, and other boating basics, the two sisters were already spreading out about two dozen beach towels on the trampoline area after they had driven their offspring back toward me at the steering station on the back of the boat.
“Yeah,” the gum snapped. “Forget about it. You don’t need to tell us anything. We know everything. We been on boats before.”
As we backed out of the docks and came about to get underway, the octopus’ arms were already reaching and I was forced to multitask. “No, Johnny,” I said as a set of arms tightly grabbed the tiller and the steering. “No, Susie. Don’t do that,” I continued as little Susie decided she was hot and her tentacles opened the boat cooler for another towel that she began dipping into the icy water to wash her octopus face. “No, Sam, please don’t try to climb the mast.”
While I was busy with the three other nightmares, I neglected to noticed little Freddy had disappeared down into the cabin but was now coming out with his finger on the trigger of a fire extinguisher he had taken from a holding bracket.
After about an hour of herding the combined arms and legs and wondering if these human octopus–kids were going to kill me, I saw a raised hand with diamond rings and perfect nail polish gesturing from the center of the big towel nest on the front of the boat.
“Yeah,” I could hear the gum snapping over the wind and the waves. “It’s time to feed the kids. There are chilidogs, french-fries and ketchup, and ice cream for dessert. Just pass out the boxes and the kids will feed themselves.”
The other sister piped up, “Yeah,” her gum–snapping was equally impressive. “Don’t forget to give them the Cokes. All that chili is going to be tough to wash down.”
Before and after lunch, every one of the octopus kids had to use the bathroom. In our catamarans, the “Heads” are marine flush toilets, with plenty of toilet paper, and enough hand sanitizer to make everything down in the little cabin slippery, sticky, and perfect for any slimy creatures moving back and forth over the same terrain marking their territory.
When the bathroom expeditions were over, and the mast-climbing contest lost its luster, and the misplaced fire extinguisher was resting by my side, the Styrofoam boxes began to open and the chili dogs went equally onto the decks, onto the hands that had to touch everything, and then onward into the mouths that continued to talk non-stop with every mouthful.
About the time we were about two hours into the trip, we were passing the Snook Inn and there was Chili, ketchup, and melted ice cream smeared everywhere except on the giant towel nest where the mothers of the offspring were relaxed, barricaded, and focusing on their I-phones.
“Yeah,” one of the bejeweled hands with the perfect nail polish beckoned. The unforgettable voice was calling out, loud enough to be heard over the flock of seagulls that were now shrieking and diving down on the decks. With a bird’s eye view, the gulls had spotted the massive mess on the topsides were competing for stray bits of hotdog, smeared chili beans, and ketchup dipped french fries. “Yeah,” the bejeweled hand signaled again as the gum–snapping continued. “This would have been cheaper for us if you had WiFi.”
When we were passing the Snook and heading into Marco Bay, there must have been 50 seagulls following the boat. Screeching, diving, biting and trying to escape the eight octopus hands that were trying to do them harm. This is a true story.
Tom Williams is a Marco Islander. He is the author of two books. “Lost and Found” and “Surrounded by Thunder—the Story of Darrell Loan and the Rocket Men.” Both books are available on Kindle and Nook.