Captain Fatty: A Private Party On The High Seas

All summer, Captain Fatty Goodlander has been sending Weekend Edition Sunday stories from his travels on board his boat, The Wild Card. In this report, Goodlander talks about throwing a party for his wife.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This summer we've been receiving communiques from Captain Fatty Goodlander, the editor-at-large of Cruising World magazine. Here he is again as he continues to sail his boat, the Wild Card, across the seas.

Captain FATTY GOODLANDER (Editor-at-Large, Cruising World Magazine): Ahoy! You know, after 38 years of marriage aboard on a small sailboat, my wife and I are still completely infatuated with each other. But this doesn't just happen. It takes work. So we're both constantly attempting to surprise each other with special treats and silly events which we know will delight the other. And so that's how I recently found myself at a shore-side printing company having one copy of an expensive invitation printed up, an invitation to a mid-ocean halfway party.

Of course, I had to keep the date and the exact longitude blank to be filled in later. Once that I managed to get the invitation printed, I purchased all the small easily concealed party stuff that I could: hats, banners, streamers, balloons, horns, foil garlands, even a cake - chocolate cake mix, Betty Crocker cake mix. And I stashed them in various places aboard Wild Card where Carolyn wouldn't easily stumble upon them.

Then I secretly contacted her family and her friends, and I stressed that the gifts and mementos that I wanted them to send me had to be tiny because I had to hide them from her for a number of months aboard our small floating home, Wild Card. Next I waited for almost a quarter of a year until we were 14 days out of the Galapagos, almost exactly halfway between French Polynesia and South America, and I gave her the gold embossed invitation which read, "Carolyn, you're invited to a halfway party aboard the sloop Wild Card in mid-Pacific Ocean, tomorrow at noon. RSVP. Dress: sea gypsy casual."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Captain GOODLANDER: I mean, why not? Why not have a party in mid-ocean for just the two of us? Aren't we lovers, best friends, partners, fellow sailors, ocean rovers? Oh, I don't know, Fatty, Carolyn said vaguely as she bit her lip. I don't have anything to wear. Besides, I was planning to re-varnish the head tomorrow. Darn it, I thought to myself. Just like a woman. I mean, I'm the only game in town, and still she gets well coy. But I played along. I said, hey, just pencil me in, babe. Try to make it, OK?

Decorating the boat wasn't easy. We were really rocking and rolling down those large Pacific swells, and the baking of the chocolate cake came out a complete disaster. Because of our angle of heel, far to port, the cake burnt on its thin edge and was undercooked where it was too thick. After our cake and our champagne, she opened the presents and the mementos I'd collected for her. Grandma sent a baby picture. A friend from Gage Park High School sent Carolyn back a silly poem she had written in his yearbook years ago. Her best friend, Trish Capillano(ph), gave Carolyn some racy French underwear and a heartfelt note on how much she admired her.

Suddenly I realized that Carolyn was quiet. There was an awkward moment of silence aboard Wild Card. We continued to corkscrew down the face of those large Pacific swells with almost 1,500 miles of empty ocean left to go. Frigate birds flew overhead. The sun was shining through a towering bank of cumulus clouds. Flying fish scattered as we rushed down the face of the seas westward. And I looked at Carolyn's face, and there were tears streaming down it. Hey, you OK? I ask her. She said nothing. So I ask her, Carolyn, are you OK? Fine, she said, and smiled. Absolutely fine. For National Public Radio, I'm Captain Fatty Goodlander reminding you to mind the rudder or meet the rock.

HANSEN: Captain Fatty Goodlander. You can track his progress on the Wild Card and hear more essays at our Web site, npr.org.

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Captain Fatty Lives the High Life on the High Seas

This summer, Weekend Edition Sunday follows Captain Fatty Goodlander as he sails through Southeast Asia and talks about his life at sea and his philosophy of freedom and discovery.

Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, on the bow of the Wild Card. i

Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, on the bow of the Wild Card in the turquoise waters off Vava'u, Tonga. Jim Sublett hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Sublett
Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, on the bow of the Wild Card.

Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, on the bow of the Wild Card in the turquoise waters off Vava'u, Tonga.

Jim Sublett
Captain Fatty and Carolyn on the Wild Card, anchored in Vava'u, Tonga. i

The couple on their 38-foot cutter, anchored in Vava'u. Jim Sublett hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Sublett
Captain Fatty and Carolyn on the Wild Card, anchored in Vava'u, Tonga.

The couple on their 38-foot cutter, anchored in Vava'u.

Jim Sublett

Find Captain Fatty

To locate Wild Card's current position, enter Fatty's ham call sign of W2FAT.

Captain Fatty Goodlander is an original sea gypsy. The 56-year-old sailor has lived aboard boats for 48 years sailing the world's seas and circumnavigating the globe.

Goodlander and his wife, Carolyn, have sailed more than 100,000 miles on their 38-foot cutter, Wild Card, raised a family and scraped together a modest living from their floating home.

This summer, Goodlander, who is editor-at-large of Cruising World magazine, will send regular dispatches from his boat to Weekend Edition Sunday as he explores Southeast Asia.

"Sailing to me isn't just about boats and it isn't about the destination," Goodlander says. "It's about freedom, it's about passion, it's about lust, it's about life."

Wild Card operates around the clock, often sailing for a month at a time out of the sight of land. On some days, the boat travels only 50 miles, a pace that Goodlander takes in stride. He and his wife work together to captain the boat, taking turns keeping watch when the other is working or sleeping. The couple is constantly aware of their surroundings, he says.

"If you're careful and considerate of that environment, you can sail around the world numerous times," Goodlander says. "I feel like I'm a lot safer than if I lived in Chicago or Boston."

Goodlander, a journalist for 30 years, admits that living full-time aboard a small boat isn't the most lucrative job in the world, but he finds joy in touching others through his articles in Cruising World and through books he's written. The sailing life is something Goodlander says he'll never get out of his system.

"Freedom is my drug," he says. "Freedom is my God, and I mainline this drug. I want to be the man most capable of doing things on a whim."

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