The Live Aboard StoryA true story about my wealthy Miami Beach Live Abroad Friend.
Written 05/2013 and rewritten 10/2015 unedited
In 1980, I was in the automotive and marine electrical parts business located in Miami Florida. My company was called Automotive Parts Industries, and our specialty was rebuilding starters and alternators for the wholesale automotive and marine market.
On occasion, a retail customer would contact us, and although dealing with the public was not our type of business, I still always managed to try helping people solve their problems.
I have always felt that when a person has an automotive or marine electrical problem, even though to us, it may seem like it was just a minor thing, it was probably the most important thing on that person’s mind at the time. So I always believed in treating people as I would want to be treated myself, had I been in their position.
Because our company only sold wholesale, we were located at 4500 NW 36 Avenue in Miami, which is an industrial neighborhood, and unless you had a car and knew where you were going, finding us would be pretty difficult.
One morning, as I passed our parts counter, I noticed a strange gentleman standing there. He was hard to miss as he was tall, thin, and dressed almost totally in white except for a small yellow and red feather he had in the band of a white Fedora. He also had on a Mariners style belt with all the colorful marine flags on it. I had to stop for a moment just to look at him, as he had white slacks, white shirt, and a white sports jacket, and of course the white hat and the expensive belt with the flags on it. He looked to me very much like the kind of wealthy retired guy you would see sitting at the bar in a yacht club.
The other thing that was unusual about him, was that he had a hand carry type cooler that he had placed on my counter. It was a small white plastic cooler with a tall handle, it had the Coca Cola logo on both sides. I recognized it right away, it was the kind that you took to the beach, and it probably held about six cans of soda.
As I sort of studied the guy, I also looked out the front door of my building and out into the parking lot, I didn’t see any cars there, so I wondered how the hell this guy ever got to our place. So I assumed that someone had probably either dropped him off, or he had come by a taxi cab, which would have been extremely unusual, or possibly he had walked to our company, which would be even more unusual, because walking to our company just wasn’t practical, there were no bus stops anywhere near us.
So besides from being dressed in all white clothing, he appeared to be about 40 years old and his face was a bit gaunt looking, as if he had hefted a few too many scotch and sodas in his time, but other than that he was clean shaven, and his clothes were spotlessly clean and nicely pressed.
He reached over the counter and shook my hand, and he said, “Hello”, I just came from Miami Beach Marina, I heard that your company tests alternators here.” Yes, I said we do that kind of work.
The fellow then opened the Coke cooler and took out a small marine style alternator, made by the Motorola Company. I thought that was strange for two reasons, I had never seen anyone carrying an alternator in a coca cola cooler before, also, the alternator was rather unusual because instead of using a pulley to turn it, it had a propeller on it.
I had heard about this type of alternator before but I had never actually seen one, it was an item usually put together like a kit by the owner of a sailboat. And it was installed by attaching it to one of the cables that held up the mast, and as the wind turned the propeller the alternator put out enough electricity charge a battery or to run some minor electrical appliance. So, I immediately assumed that this fellow was a wealthy sailboat owner from Miami Beach, I knew there were lots of sailboats on Miami Beach, and there were lots of eccentric wealthy people there also.
So, once I saw what he had, I told him that the type of test equipment we had in our factory only worked with alternators that had pulleys on them, to turn them. I had no way to test his alternator with a propeller.
He appeared very dismayed, and I felt bad for him. I could see by his contorted facial expressions that he was becoming distressed. Then I had an idea, I told him that I had a friend around the corner that had a smaller electrical rebuilding shop, and I would call him up, perhaps he had a way to test the propeller driven alternator. So I did just that, I called my friend Eddie who had a business located about three blocks away.
Eddie said, that I should send the fellow right over, he would be happy to help him. So when I told the fellow what Eddie had said and gave him directions, he was elated. He put his alternator back into his Coca Cola cooler, lifted it off the counter and walked out of our building carrying it, and that’s when I assumed that I had seen the last of him.
Incidentally, I saw that he was wearing expensive white boating shoes and no socks.
As I had given him Eddies address, it appeared the guy was going to walk the three blocks to get there. Now, I thought that so much walking was kind of strange, but I knew that in the sailboat industry there were a lot of strange, eccentric people. So the fact that this guy was walking everywhere, made me think that he was probably more than a little eccentric, perhaps he was a little crazy.
About three in the afternoon, I saw that the same fellow was back at my parts counter. I had thought I would never see him again, but apparently he had walked all the way back from my friends shop. He said, “I just want to thank you for sending me to your friend, he tested my alternator and said it was working fine and he didn’t charge me anything to do it.”
By now, I was thinking that for sure this guy was little off his rocker, so I asked him, are you sure you came here all the way from Miami Beach Marina, that’s miles away. “Yes,” he said, “I live aboard a sailboat there at the Marina.” Well that explained the nice clothes, hat, belt and shoes, this guy was a live aboard and probably did have a sailing yacht at the Miami Beach Marina.
So naturally I had to ask him, tell me, how big is your sailboat?
“Twelve feet,” he replied. I didn’t know if he was joking, you live aboard a twelve foot sailboat, I said, I couldn’t believe he was serious, but he was. “Yes, I have a built in bed and a little shelf where I keep some salami and some cheese.
“Thanks for your help.” he said, I’m heading back to the Marina now, and he turned around and walked out my door carrying his alternator in his Coca Cola cooler.