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A True Story of Love, Survival and Freedom

Chapter 29

Tomorrow You Die!

Pictures are on their way! We're getting em up, as soon as they're back from the jungle photomat.

Pipes were falling from the sky, or we'd been hit by an oil rig. Or, Harvey was thrashing around in the cockpit, squawking, "Ah hi, mites!" Some people have alarm clocks, or wake gently to the pastoral crowing of roosters -- why us? We were in for a rude awakening, the likes of, we never could have imagined.

Meg Stone at an ATM in Marmaris Turkey

Meg at an automated teller, keeping up the cash outflow. Netsel Marina, Marmaris, Turkey

I sat bolt upright, stuck my face into the little porthole-hatch.

Elena whipped the comforter over her head with such vehemence, I had fabric burns for a week.

From our cabin's porthole, I peered into the cockpit at a pile of scrap metal, some of it rolling around on the floor. Amongst the debris, two old feet in flip-flops, with silver varnished toenails, stomped and kicked through the debris. Yeah, it was Harvey.

I slid the companionway open and tried to croak, "Ach hem, what is all that?" over the din of clattering junk.

"Wind vane!" Harvey snapped.

"A wind vane!? We don't need one." I was thinking there couldn't be a tackier adornment for a sailboat. A barn, maybe -- a country cottage, sure -- who wouldn't enjoy looking out at a brass cock, rustically pointing into the breeze. "There's already a plastic wind indicator up there, even a sensor. A wind vane is just going to rust, get hit by lightning, look totally stupid."

"Too bad. It is on your equipment list. You okayed it. You're paying for it!"

Elena Ivanova studying at the table

Elena studies sailing, geography, and meteorology.

It looked like a guy on a unicycle coming right at us. It's a weird first impression, I get that, but marinas tend to be freak-show-circuses, so give me a break. It was actually Jon, on an itty-bitty, teeny-weeny, folding bicycle -- popular among boat dwellers, and better conversation starters than leashed, exotic pets.

"Still planning to be gone by end of June?" He asked.

"Touchy subject. Let's talk about something else." I whinged. "Like wind chimes. Our Aussie surveyor dumped the pieces of one on us at some undogly hour. Looks like a plumber went berserk in our cockpit. Oh man, do we need this crap, or am I getting sold a bill of goods?"

"Depends on how much you want to piss off your neighbors."

"No neighbors at sea." I said. "And this contraption was apparently on his list of essential equipment."

"Equipment list? Mind if I come and take a look?"

"Thought you would never ask!"

Meg Stone with Visa card

Meg wields the Visa card with practiced skill. A powerful WMD (Way into Massive Debt), but will it get them home?

"First off," Jon said, extracting a steel, cricket bat from the pile of scrap metal, "what you have here isn't a wind chime, it's a wind vane."

"Same diff. It's a rusty pile of junk that I have to pay for, and -- if that's not bad enough -- I really don't want that monstrosity on top of the mast."

"A wind vane doesn't go on the mast. It goes on the transom." He looked at the back of our boat. "Which might be a problem, seeing as you don't really have a transom, but a swim platform." Jon pulled off his baseball cap, scratched his head. "I've got a wind vane on my boat, most of the cruisers do." He caught my gobsmacked look, explained -- without the typical, you-stupid-twit-in-a-man's-world preamble -- "It's a good thing to have. It steers the boat according to the wind."

"I thought the rudder did that." I argued, stalling for time. Trying to get my brain around actually needing that objet d'art.

"It does, but a wind vane turns the wheel to keep the boat and the sails at a preset angle to the wind. It is really called a 'wind vane self steering system.' It is like an autopilot, but it works with mechanical energy, instead of electricity."

"But we have an autopilot." At least, I thought we did.

Jon handed me the steel cricket bat, then took a quick inventory of the instruments on the helm. "Yup, you've got an autopilot, but autopilots use a lot of electricity, and they fail. Personally, I think a wind vane is essential for what you two are doing. I don't know about this one." He picked up pieces of short, bent, steel tubing, ran his finger around the insides. Shook out dirt and rust, pointed out some sizable barnacles inside the steel tubes. "Looks kind of like it came off a wreck, got polished up, and given to you."

"Sold to me. It was on our yacht consultant's list."

"Consultant? Uh huh... what's he charging you for this relic?"

"Twenty-five-hundred, and then about the same to install it, give-or-take."

"Dollars!?" It was the first time I'd heard Jon raise his voice.

"Euros. Actually, I cut a deal. He wanted pounds."

"I bet he did." Jon looked at me the way one does, telling a kid his puppy went to live on a farm forever. "Mind if I take a look at your consultant's list?"

"Let's go below. I've taken my lifetime's share of ultraviolet, and Harvey took our sunshade. His arch builders needed it. Oh yeah, and those solar panels you recommended, he took those to do some measuring."

One by one, the marker Jon wielded skrieked through list items. Pages flipped. Jon groaned, slapped his forehead a couple of times. Finally, he flipped the pages back over and read through Harvey's entire yacht conversion proposal a second time. Elena slurped tea, Ukrainian style, and I sat, waiting with bated breath for his verdict.

"You need a bigger boat." Is how Jon told us that we had way too much stuff on the list. He noticed a number of items I had already circled and checked off. "I suppose, you've gotten these things already?"

"Ordered and paid for, but haven't gotten. Not until I pay Harvey his finder's fee, and for the installation." I explained the whole scheme. Jon looked disgusted. "I hope you have receipts for everything..." Of course, I didn't. "And that you check your Visa account. This Harvey sounds like a bit of a con-man."

complete fail amateur radar arch

Harvey's marvel of Erector Set engineering, the radar arch. A complete fail and a stunning setback for Elena and Meg.

"The arch is here. Lenna, it's here! Harvey's arc de triomphe. Can you believe it!? Maybe it's all going to be okay after all." I may even have shed a tear of relief after his phone call.

The boat was brought up against the main access way. That's a good sign, I thought, the thing is so big and strong they need a flatbed and crane to get it onto the boat's deck. Instead, on the flatbed trundling toward us, was a spindly, wobbling outline of vaguely rhomboidal space with protrusions: an Erector Set special.

"That's the template, right?" I asked a proudly beaming Harvey. No response. "A mock-up for getting the measurements just right?" Still nothing. He must have been enraptured in his moment of glory. Louder, I suggested, "The scaffolding! I get it. That's the frame you hold the structural components in place with while assembling the arch... right?"

"It is your arch!" He wasn't catatonic after all.

Elena was gone. Oh shit! No ghosting that time, she'd pole vaulted below deck. "Meg, I don't want that awful thing on our boat." She took her sailing lessons seriously. Developed a real affinity for the yacht and getting the most out of it.

Harvey was full of assurances. "It doesn't look like other arches because it is better than them. I'm a professional. You'll be the envy of the boating world!" Actually, what he said was, "The envy of the biting world."

If there was anyone about to start biting, it was me and Elena. "Please, please, please don't put that thing on our boat." I begged two really self conscious men in goofy hats -- the builders, I assumed -- trying to maneuver the arch off the truck. Not easy, with the so-called arch threatening to fold under its own weight.

Harvey yelled at them to carry on, then to me, "It needs a few more welds, some reinforcing, that's all. I know what I am doing, let me do it, lady!"

"Lenna's gonna kill me. Can't they just take it away? We'll call it even? No hard feelings. Give me the solar panels and stuff I've already paid for. Say it's done?"

"Neigh why! Dined scry with mye." It's hard to write in a decent, down-under accent. You have to do your own, from here on in. "I'm finishing the job, if you don't like it, you can yank it off, I don't care. But relax, Meggy, it's going to be great. And if you don't let me finish, no way you're getting out of Turkey on time, and your pretty, little Sheila's going right back to Mother Russia. You might think about that before you screw with me."

Meg Stone suggests cross bracing the radar arch total fail

Meg (hands in the air, burgundy top, bizarre hat) explains to the professionals, and startled bystanders, how cross bracing might be a good idea.

Of course, it didn't fit. How could it? The professional designing the thing, overlooked certain boaty features, like the rails, the rigging, and the way it bulges toward the middle, unlike a perfect rectangle. The Turks in the goofy hats tried twisting, stretching, pounding and cursing the contraption into place. All of it was ineffective, except for maybe the cursing. Harvey was an embarrassing lunatic, getting us center-ring in the marina circus, yet again.

Down below, consoling Elena -- and safe from thrown stones and airborne fruit and veg -- I heard Harvey yelling at his steel guys to, "Cut the damned thing!" Punctuated by the unmistakable pop of a cutting torch lighting up.

Molten steel hissed and sizzled into the water when I was lucky. When I wasn't, it burned scoot tracks and pits into the deck's decorative, barn-wood finish. The arch's mounting plates were severed, bisected, slammed down wherever they fit, and re-drilled with a Nightmare on Elm Street sort of power tool. Our deck was turning into Swiss cheese.

The foot plates were drilled and bolted down, randomly -- it seemed -- and still, the wire cage they'd come off of, had yet to be reattached. That's what welding is for, right? Maybe, but not when the metal plates getting welded are bolted to a flammable, plastic and barn-wood deck.

The funny hatted Turks welded one spindly strut at a time to the deck mounted plates. When the smoke billowing from the deck in that particular spot became alarmingly dense, they left it to cool and moved onto the next weld. I suppose that was working, until, that is, the deck burst into flame.

A flurry of hat waving -- Turkish words translated as, "bleep, bleeeep, bleeeep!" and the discharge of a fire extinguisher, had the fire out. Maybe... The carcinogenic stench and ominous crackling from under the plates wasn't encouraging. I wanted Harvey's erection off the boat. In the very least, I wanted to make sure that anything smoldering under it -- like my uncle's sofa did, for days, before bursting into flame and nearly killing everyone in the house -- was extinguished.

The Turks in the funny hats knew exactly what I wanted, but refused to budge. Harvey was nowhere to be found. Elena, sensing an incendiary situation in the offing, ran to get Erdem.

In Turkish, he conferred with the stainless-steel-guys, then told me they hadn't been paid for the materials. They wouldn't leave until I paid them, either.

"What do you mean, they haven't been paid? I've given Harvey thousands... in cash. Then, these welders set our boat on fire, and now, they refuse to let me make sure it is out!"

More Turkish, this time with erratic gesturing toward the musty, old gulet. "No, they have been paid for nothing." Erdem filled me in. "They got the steel from a relation, with the understanding that they will pay for it when you paid to them."

Erdem and the guys exchanged more Turkish. "I believe, we may all have been cheated. These men are not crooks. I know their families. They are honest and hard-working, and they trusted Harvey. They are very sorry about the damage to your boat, but are not welders and did what Harvey told them to do."

Wow! To tell you how I was feeling right about then, plunges this narrative into heartfelt memoir territory -- and that is so totally not me! -- Suffice it to say, until then, I'd thought of Harvey, like my own Scottish grandfather. Suck it up, Meg!

Sock drawers were rifled, the chart table was ransacked, and wallets were purged. We scraped together just enough cash for the Turks to pay their relatives for the steel. Man, were they relieved! Turns out, they were also really embarrassed by that piece of crap on the back of our boat, and anyone knowing they had anything to do with it. We combined forces to remove the thing and hide it in the bushes behind the emergency generator.

Radar arch epic fail

Harvey's epic, radar-arch fail puts Meg (burgundy top, weird hat, right) and their boat, center-ring in the marina circus, yet again.

Sinem wasn't surprised. She wasn't happy: having cottoned onto the idea of us just maybe, possibly, making it to the other side of the planet alive. Mostly though, she wasn't surprised. Westerners in Turkey had a penchant for screwing each other blind, and then, blaming the Turks. It's why she introduced us to her best friend, Nadia.

Nadia ran a marine technical service -- which is short for: doing everything and anything to do with boats. From a cluttered desk in that deserted mall, she appeared to have a network of friends, relatives, connections and favors that defied human compression. There was nothing -- she assured us -- on our night-sweats-inducing list of things we needed done, that she couldn't accomplish in the few weeks we had left.

First things first, she dug a phone from the debris, hit speed dial, and a kid with a couple of silver platters dangling from a yolk across his shoulders, showed up. Tea is an essential service in Turkey, and unlike water, electricity, and mail delivery, never fails. Nothing gets done without tea. Transacting business; welding steel; playing backgammon under a tree; putting a yacht together at warp speed, one phones or calls out and almost instantly, a young kid arrives with tea, sugar, spoons and tiny, glass cups on swinging, silver trays.

epic radar arch fail

The builders too embarrassed by Harvey's epic design fail to have it seen, helped hide it in the bushes behind the emergency generator shed at Netsel Marina in Marmaris, Turkey. A colossal waste of money, and major setback for Elena and Meg.

"We need all the equipment you have already ordered. Either get it from Harvey, or tell us where we can pick it up. We'll need it right away. By the way, how much did you pay for that wind vane?" Nadia asked, looking at my glossy, printed list.

I told her. Sinem snorted with laughter. Nadia managed to restrain herself, but offered the usual refrain: "You have been cheated my friend." Then she picked up the phone, and called the yacht immolators for the solar panels. "Not good. Harvey came and got them when you fired him."

"Fired him!? I just questioned that joke of a radar arch, and now he's holding our solar panels hostage?"

"Maybe more than that. Maybe everything of yours. You need to try to get it. The police might be necessary."

Elena and I showed up at Harvey's gulet, looking for some kind of amicable compromise and our equipment. In the background, a Russian gameshow blared on a large screen TV. His girlfriend didn't move from her sofa slouch, but made the effort to glare menacingly at Elena.

"You and your Turkish friends think you can screw me!" Harvey held nothing back. "Think again. My time isn't cheap. I am a highly respected consultant in the marine industry. Shipyards, big shipyards come to me to consult on huge projects."

Elena was backing away from Harvey's girlfriend, creeping closer to the gangplank. I tried to defuse the situation. "Harv, buddy... Come on, this is Meggy you're talking to. I know you're the best. We just need to get going here. You're talent's wasted on our piddly, little boat. The shipyards need you, man. Tell you what, keep everything I've paid you, you've done enough, and we'll call it square, if you can just let me have the stuff I've already paid for..."

"Fuck you, lady! Just try to get any of that equipment. It's mine, in lieu of payment for my time and expertise. Nobody fucks with me, bitch. Nobody!"

pile of money and laptop

Some of the thousands of dollars Harvey hoovered up, that didn't quite make it to the suppliers and builders it was intended for.

It was thousands of dollars worth of equipment I'd need to replace. Nadia thought she could get it; Harvey had been lying about it being available only via his special import business. It was going to take mind numbingly quantum headroom on my Visa. Logging into my account to see what kind of balance I had, was how I found out, it was totally maxed! I stared in shock, and shame, at a number of payments to suppliers I knew nothing about. All of them had happened since the unfortunate conflagration on deck.

Elena Ivanova at the Marmaris police station

Elena loiters outside the Marmaris police station.

It was hot. Real hot. Even hotter and stuffier inside the police station than out. The teeny-weeny reception vestibule -- in front of a desk sergeant, behind bars -- was sardine can crammed. Let's just say, we didn't quite fit in. When we finally got to the English-challenged desk sergeant, his lightning fast response blew my mind.

Okay, I know this now -- with hindsight being twenty-twenty and all -- certain keywords: marina, big old gulet, eccentric Australian, and Russian girlfriend, must have piqued his interest in us. We were whisked from the packed waiting area, into a dingy meeting room. Tea was served, and an English speaking lawyer with dark eyes and fiery red hair was brought in.

Someone, I guessed was the chief -- given his impeccable and highly decorated uniform -- sat behind the lawyer. A couple of regular officers on either side flanked him. The officers sat around, sipping tea, casually chatting with each other, while I wondered what the lawyer was going to cost. Finally, the tea was gone, and one of the officers started speaking to the lawyer in Turkish. He translated and the questioning began.

They showed us photos of Harvey's gulet and maps of the marina. We pointed out its location. My questions about getting equipment back were ignored. We were shown more pictures of people. Most of them were rough looking types that neither of us recognized. The cops flipped through their special albums until they got to Harvey's girlfriend. Instant, and blood chilling, recognition ensued. They were prison mug shots. The info slate with her name and vitals was in Russian. The chick had done hard time.

Binders slapped shut and we were left sitting there with the red-headed lawyer. In the back of the room, the officers convened a sometimes heated debate. I didn't understand anything but hand gestures. The lawyer, not part of the coven, used his own hand gestures to tell us to be quiet and wait. It dragged on. The lawyer loosened his tie. The stuffy room stank of cigarette smoke and sweat. What felt like an eternity later, the officers walked out. One stayed behind to talk to the lawyer in Turkish.

Ceremoniously buttoning his suit jacket, the lawyer explained that I would get my possessions back in a few hours, and that we were free to go.

planting onions in Marmaris

With not a lot else to do while Harvey fritters away precious time, Meg plants onions.

We cowered below, like scared rabbits. The lawyer had called a few minutes earlier. "Was Harvey on the gulet?" We'd seen him pacing on deck, so, yes. "Was he armed?" We didn't think so. Although his gulet was fifty meters from our boat, and we had a clear line of sight, he was rarely outside. "Was his girlfriend there?" How in hell could we know? She was never seen, although a steady procession of male, Russian visitors betrayed her presence on board. Then the lawyer had some kind of muffled, Turkish dialog with someone at his end. He then told us to stay down and below deck.

Several police cars and a van came blazing along the seawall to take up positions around the gulet. Elena -- with her head out a hatch, of course -- heard Harvey screaming that he was the captain and to get off his ship. Probably the wrong thing to say, given the way the cops swarmed aboard after that.

From then on, everything was unnaturally quiet. Until, surrounded by police, and being led out in handcuffs, Harvey's girlfriend raised her head, locked eyes with Elena and screamed, "Zavtra tebya neh zheet!" Tomorrow you die!

Elena Ivanova and Meg Stone aboard their boat

Elena and Meg, making it work, one way or another.

 


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