Two Women Cross the Planet, in a Fight for their Love and Freedom


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29 - Tomorrow You Die!

It was like someone dropped a load of industrial wind chimes in the cockpit. "Ah hi, mites!" Harvey squawked. What a way to start the day!

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. Pressed my face to a porthole into the cockpit. Elena whipped the comforter over her head so violently, I had fabric burns for a week.

A pile of scrap metal rolled around on the cockpit floor. Two old feet with silver toenail polish stomped and kicked through the metal junk in flip-flops. Harvey, of course.

"Ach hem, what is all that?" I managed to croak over the din.

"Wind vane!" Harvey said.

"A wind vane!? Oh man... we don't need a bloody wind vane." Could there be anything tackier on a yacht? On a barn, maybe -- a country cottage, sure -- who wouldn't enjoy looking out at a brass rooster, rustically pointing into the breeze. "There's already a plastic wind pointer thing up there. A wind vane is just going to rust, get hit by lightning, look totally stupid. Please, take it away. Let me get some sleep."

"Nope! It is on your equipment list. You okayed it, lady. You're paying for it!"

Elena Ivanova studying at the table
Elena studies sailing, geography, and meteorology.

* * *

I was sure a guy on a unicycle was coming right at us. It was actually Jon, riding 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 whined. "Like wind chimes. Our Aussie surveyor dumped the pieces of one into the cockpit at some ungodly hour. Looks like a pipe organ blew up in there. Jon, do we really need wind chimes? Am I getting sold a bill of goods?"

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

"Funny." I said. "This weather vane contraption is 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, pulling a steel cricket bat from the pile of scrap metal, "what you have here isn't a wind chime, or a weather vane, it's a windvane."

"It's a rusty pile of junk I don't want on top of the mast."

"A windvane doesn't go on the mast. It goes on the transom." He looked at the back of our boat. "Which might be a problem. You don't really have a transom. You have 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 looked at me for any sign of comprehension. "It's a good thing to have. It steers the boat according to the wind."

"I thought the rudder did that."

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

"But we have an autopilot... I think."

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 break down. 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, and delivered 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 about the same to install it, give-or-take. So, like five grand."

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

"Euros. But get this, 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 skrieeked 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, and I waited with bated breath for his verdict.

"You need a bigger boat for all this stuff." 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. I have to pay Harvey his finder's fee and labor, then I suppose he'll install them." I explained the whole scheme. Jon looked disgusted. "I hope you have receipts for everything..." I didn't. "And that you check your Visa account. This Harvey sounds like a con-man."

complete fail amateur radar arch
Harvey's 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." Ending the call, I might have shed a tear or two of relief.

A lorry inched along the seawall toward us. On its flat deck, a spindly, vaguely rhomboidal frame wobbled precariously.

"That's the template, right?" I asked.

Harvey was beaming with pride. No response.

"A mock-up for getting the measurements just right?" Still nothing. Louder, "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, dingbat!"

Elena was gone. No ghosting that time. She vaulted below deck, yelling, "Meg, I do not want that awful thing on our boat."

Harvey was full of assurances. "It doesn't look like other arches because it is better than them. Look, I am a professional. You'll be the envy of the boating world!" It sounded like, "The ein-vee of the biting world."

"Oh yeah, this seriously bites!" I said, then to a couple of really self-conscious men in goofy hats, "Can you please, please, please not put that thing on our boat. Pleeeeeeez!" They were trying to maneuver the arch off the lorry. Not an easy task, seeing as it was threatening to fold up under its own weight.

They stopped, stared at Harvey. Harvey yelled at them to carry on. To me, he cooed, "It needs a few more welds, some reinforcing, that's all. I know what I am doing, don't worry about a thing."

"Lenna will kill me. Can't they just take it away? I'll pay for everything. No hard feelings. Give me the solar panels and the stuff I already bought. Let's just call it, 'done,' and go our merry ways."

"Don't screw with me! I'm finishing the job. If you don't like it, you can yank it off. I don't care. But relax, Meggy, if you don't let me finish, you're not getting out of Turkey on time. Your Sheila's going right back to Mother Russia. You think about that before screwing 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.

* * *

It didn't fit. How could it? Harvey overlooked some seriously important, boaty features; like the rails, the rigging and the way a boat bulges out toward the middle and isn't a perfect rectangle. The Turks in the goofy hats tried twisting, stretching, pounding and cursing the contraption into place. None of that worked. Harvey was an embarrassing lunatic, putting us and our boat center stage, yet again.

Down below, consoling Elena, I heard Harvey yelling at his steel guys to, "Cut the damned thing!" Then the unmistakable pop of a cutting torch lighting up.

Molten steel hissed and sizzled into the water. Globs of it left cigarette burns in the decorative barn-wood finish. The arch's mounting plates were severed, bisected, slammed down wherever they fit. Holes were re-drilled with a Nightmare on Elm Street kind of power tool. Our deck was turning into Swiss cheese.

The foot plates were bolted down haphazardly. The wobbly struts needed reattaching. That's what welding is for, right? Maybe, but not when the metal plates getting welded are bolted to a flammable, plastic and decorative, barn-wood deck.

The funny hatted Turks welded one spindly strut at a time. When the smoke billowing from the deck became alarmingly dense, they left it to cool, and moved onto the next weld. Good idea, until the deck burst into flame.

A flurry of hat waving, Turkish cursing and the discharge of a fire extinguisher put the fire out. Maybe... A carcinogenic stench and ominous crackling from under the plates wasn't encouraging. I wanted Harvey's concoction 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 -- was extinguished.

The Turks in the funny hats knew exactly what I wanted but refused to budge. Harvey was nowhere to be seen. 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.

"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 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 sorry about the damage to your boat, but they are not welders and did what Harvey told them to do."

Sock drawers were rifled. The chart table was ransacked. 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. 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 have a penchant for screwing each other blind and 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 comprehension. There was nothing, she assured us, that she couldn't accomplish in the few weeks we had left.

First things first, she dug a phone from the debris covering her desk, hit speed dial, and a kid with a couple of silver platters dangling from a shoulder yoke showed up. Tea is an essential service in Turkey. Unlike water, electricity and mail delivery, tea never fails. Nothing gets done without tea. Transacting business; welding steel; playing backgammon; 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, embarrassed by Harvey's epic design fail, helped hide it in the bushes behind the emergency generator shed at Netsel Marina in Marmaris.

"We need all your equipment that Harvey has. Get it or tell us where we can pick it up. By the way, how much did you pay for that windvane?" Nadia looked at my glossy, printed list.

I told her. Sinem laughed herself into a snorting fit. Nadia managed to restrain herself, telling me, "You have been cheated my friend." Then she picked up the phone and called the yacht immolators about the solar panels. "Not good. Harvey came and got them when you fired him."

"Fired him!? Whatever. 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, hmmm, helpful."

Elena and I showed up at Harvey's gulet, looking for some kind of amicable compromise and our equipment. A Russian gameshow blared on a big-screen TV. His girlfriend didn't move from her sofa slouch and glared menacingly at Elena.

"You and your Turkish friends think you can screw me!" Harvey started. "Think again. I am a highly respected consultant in the marine industry. Shipyards, big shipyards come to me to consult on huge projects." Maybe he knew a certain captain in Odessa?

Elena backed away from Harvey's girlfriend. She crept closer to the gangplank, making some room between herself and the heavyset Russian. I tried to defuse things. "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.

* * *

It was thousands of dollars worth of gear. Nadia thought she could re-source it. Harvey lied about his special import business being the only way to get stuff. It was going to take mind numbingly quantum headroom on my Visa. I logged into my account to check the balance. Fuck! It was totally maxed! I stared in shock at numerous purchases I knew nothing about. All of them took place after the unfortunate conflagration on deck.

Elena Ivanova at the Marmaris police station
Elena loiters outside the Marmaris police station.

* * *

It was hotter and stuffier inside the air-conditioned police station than out. The teeny-weeny reception vestibule -- in front of a desk sergeant behind bars -- was sardine can crammed. When we finally got to the English-challenged desk sergeant, his lightning fast response was mind blowing.

Okay, I know this now -- with hindsight being twenty-twenty and all -- certain keywords: marina, big old gulet, eccentric Australian, and Russian girlfriend piqued the cops' 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 showed up.

Someone -- I'm guessing a big shishka by his impressively decorated uniform -- sat behind the lawyer. A couple of regular officers flanked him on either side. I was having a panic attack over what the lawyer was going to cost. When tea was done, one of the officers spoke 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, blood chilling recognition. 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. That's 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 like scared rabbits below deck. The lawyer called a few minutes earlier asking, "Was Harvey on the gulet?" We'd seen him pacing on deck, so, yes. "Was he armed?" We didn't think so. "Was his girlfriend there?" How in hell could we know? Then again, we'd never seen her outside the gulet. After some muffled Turkish dialog with someone on the lawyer's end, he told us to stay down below deck and out of sight.

Several police cars and a van blazed along the seawall and took 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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