Kingfisher's Tale

by Howard Faxon

Copyright© 2012 by Howard Faxon

: I retired after a hard life as an electrical contractor. I had two desires--to sail upon the seas and to run a bar. Surprisingly, it came together.

Caution: This contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Ma/ft   Consensual   Shemale   Fiction   .

Hi. I'm John Noble. I used to own Noble Electrical Supply out of Schenectady, New York. I'd expanded what my father left me until the banks and the economy combined to make me realize that my days of running a quiet little profitable business were numbered. I'd expanded to six shops, employing quite a few people. I sold the whole thing to one of my competitors, Beard's Electric out of Albany for a very nice figure--more than what I'd expected, quite frankly. I was well-educated. I had my degree in electrical engineering as well as my union certs as master electrician. I learned Russian and German in college and had picked up enough 'contractors Spanish' to get along on a multi-lingual job site. I wished that I'd picked up some Asian languages back down the road but it never happened. I had a couple Polish foremen that used to go out drinking with me. They taught me how to really flame someone in Polish. They were good guys.

At thirty seven I was too young to retire. Besides, I'd spent my entire life working and I'd go nuts with nothing to do. I'd thought long and hard about what to do with myself. I'd always wanted to try on a barkeep's apron. However I'd always liked being on the ocean as well, or least on the water. I thought about how to integrate the two desires.

At first, the idea seemed simple--a floating bar! The trouble was, I wanted to scoot about as well, so a floating scow just wouldn't do it for me. I wanted something with a little flair, that would attract customers who wouldn't set foot into a 'dive'. I used the Internet to look at newer offerings from all over the world. There was a shipyard out of New Zealand that was building huge catamarans. I mean, really big catamarans. That got me on the track. Then I spotted the news about a Taiwan Navy jet boat that was a screamer. Hmm. Two hulls, two jets, two engines. That was settled in my mind, I headed down to Boston. There was an antiques dealer there that specialized in old bars from all over the world. There I found a quarter sawn oak 1880's bar and back-bar that had made it around the cape to California before being set up in a resort town. It had been stripped and re-finished. I purchased both parts and had a new bar surface installed, made of thick end-grain joined maple stock and surfaced with a very tough synthetic varnish that poured on like honey.

I'd been on vacation to England and Ireland. I visited a few pubs that had used foot pumps to tap their beer. It didn't super-carbonate the brew like American beers seemed to demand. Their beer was slightly flat in comparison but the flavor came through nicely. I thought that it was a more pleasant drink. I thought about all those hoses that wouldn't need cleaning and the beer wasted from purging the hoses every morning. I was convinced that a foot pump was the way to go.

Altogether the bar weighed about twenty two hundred pounds. Whoof! I'd have to find an architect that could figure out how to counterbalance that load. Perhaps move the water tank? At seven pounds per gallon we'd need a three hundred and fifteen gallon water tank! The bar was a static load, so that was only a partial answer.

The more traditional British and Irish pubs that I'd liked only had the 'telly' on during games, and juke boxes were unheard of. Oh, a live player was seen occasionally. The newer pubs had all the noise you could ask for and more. Darts were dead out, though.

I found a Chelsea Ship's Bell Chronometer to sit in a cut-out above the bar and ring out the watches. I contacted a local millwright that had loads of oak paneling available. My interior was taking shape. I yet had to get the paneling and the bar itself treated to make them as fireproof as possible.

I found a designing ship's architect, paid him a retainer and contracted for his services. We started with the model of a car ferry. I liked that a lot, so we then started scaling things. I liked the idea of a sixty to sixty-five foot long ship with a beam of twenty five feet or so. Those proportions would allow me access to most harbors and moorings. My design called for eight foot overheads. I wanted a low maintenance hull so he suggested rustproof stainless steel topped by an aluminum superstructure and stainless steel decks. The original plan looked pretty boxy so I suggested a covered walkway around the ship. That brought our beam to thirty three feet with four foot wide passageways. I thought that it looked better with a four foot tall bulwark as a deck rail, with oval scuppers at the level of the deck to allow for drainage.

He reserved a place for the life boat on top of the main cabin on rotating davits, but easy access was stumping us. He hit on long ramps from the stern to the bow. They were narrower at the bottom so a person could still access the bow of the ship using the peripheral passageways without using the ship's central run. I thought that was acceptable. Then we put the model through some dynamic tests. The wheelhouse windshields were constantly awash. That would make visibility hence manual navigation nearly impossible. He suggested raising the wheelhouse to the second story, which would also add more space to the salon. Brilliant! A set of stairs were installed along the port side of the salon, giving access to the wheel house and a hatch leading out onto the upper deck. Between the rear of the wheel house and the life raft lay a space that we made use of by installing an electrically operated bimini that anchored off the rear of the wheel house. Supports were installed to carry a half dozen hammocks. A locker was installed to hold the hammocks immediately off the wheelhouse. Instant patio. The ramps and upper deck were protected by stainless steel railings. He said we'd never get the thing warped into a port without bow thrusters so those were added as well. Hamilton Pump out of New Zealand had a wide range of water jet thrusters that would accommodate our main propulsion requirements no matter where we came in on the curve.

Now the question came as to how the interior was to be broken up. We started with a central passageway from the bow to the stern. I told the architect about the oak sheeting that I'd signed for. The interior bulkheads and hatches had to be fire stops, so wood sheathing was the best we could do. The bar was twenty-two feet long. It was positioned in a centerline recess to drop the center of gravity. Since the bow no longer was blocked by the wheel house we laid in a hatch on the ship's center line to give the place an emergency exit. (This is necessary for any public place by U.S. law) At the rear of the salon sat a U-shaped galley area, 10' wide by 8' deep. Astern from that lay a storage, laundry and prep compartment which was across the passageway from the head. Astern from those two lay the owner's stateroom mirrored by two smaller staterooms for the crew. The passageway led out to the rear deck and the gangway to the dock. Between the staterooms and the rear bulkhead lay the engine rooms at roughly fourteen feet across and eight feet long. I demanded that the designer soundproof the piss out of them.

The hulls were designed to carry tanks, transfer pipes and wiring harnesses, period. Each hull was insulated with a good quality spray-on foam before anything went into the raw structure. The ship was wired in both 12 volts and 110 volts. The port engine room held the water maker and spares while the starboard engine room held the genset, spare genset and battery farm. Cat diesels were selected to be the main engines. We had to have a spare genset. If we lost electricity we'd lose the helm. The battery farms were divided into helm control, engine start and passenger space domains.

Accessible from the rear deck were two lockers, one was vented and designed to hold the propane tanks while the other was used for cleaning supplies, including a power washer. On the other side was a small head, much like a porta-san for the bar patrons. It was heated and cooled, so it wasn't that much of a hardship.

At the heel of the stern deck I had a rather large propane grill mounted to one side. There was room enough for an eight-foot-long synthetic picnic table too. This gave me three entertainment areas--one inside and two outside.

The architect began pumping the specifications into Autocad and designing the runs for power, signal and the various pipe runs. The hulls had to be made taller to accommodate crawl spaces with all the runs involved. The proportions we were looking at seemed a bit squashed, so we changed the footprint to seventy feet long. This was the time that we locked down the locations for the dishwasher, glass washer, sink, ice maker and cold box behind the bar. He designed the power runs to give us access points behind a prep table in the stores compartment, and the same for the washer and dryer in the same area.

We talked about swapping the head with the stores room so that the head's black water feed was fed directly into the tank, removing the need for a macerator pump. That skewed the weight budget all to hell. We finalized the layout of the head, with a six-foot square tub that had a shower head above it. All the power plugs and switches had to be placed and runs to operate them planned as well. The galley received a big propane-fed wolf stove with six burners and a grill. The model I selected had two ovens at knee level. A medium-sized refrigerator in the galley was backed up by a larger refrigerator and a freezer in the stores compartment. I had an electric chiller plate installed in the top of a counter area to use as a pastry table. It made working with cold doughs such as pie crusts, scones and biscuits a dream. For mixing I bought a Bakemax 20 quart floor mount mixer, also to be kept in the stores cabin. That gave us all we needed to work as a hot shop with a full prep area.

When the first deck went on I marvelled at the size of it. Then the bulkheads went up. Insulation went everywhere. All the external glass was 3/4 inch tempered. The contractor bought tanks of a compound and a sprayer to fireproof all the wood. He pre-treated all the wood before gluing it to the bulkheads, hatches and overheads. Then everything got varnished. Nobody could work on the ship for a couple of days until the fumes dissipated. Once I saw how everything looked I bought two good red leather couches for either side of the salon. There wasn't much eating space so I had the galley counter extended to make a sort of a breakfast bar, eight feet long. Three could comfortably be served a meal there. About eight could eat at the bar. I had the millwright cut and finish doors in the bar back to accommodate two quarter barrels and the chillers for them. Then I had him work with the contractor to obtain, fireproof, cut and place oak trim in deep box shapes about a foot square covering the overhead of the salon, then varnish them to match the rest of the oak. All the decks were given a heavy epoxy paint finish with grit embedded in it. There was still some room beneath the wheel house so I added a table and four captain's chairs. The stools I bought all resembled captain's chairs, with short arms and comfortable, supportive backs.

The powered shelf in the stores compartment was designed to take a load off of the main stove. I bought two turkey ovens, four crock pots and four electric pressure cookers. I had a large modular slide-in professional oven built into the over-head across from the stove. It worked as a proofing oven, pizzaoven and to keep the dinner rolls or croissants coming. It had a water mist feature for humidity control to facilitate its use as a proofing oven. To pander to everybody's craving for fried foods (while docked, only!) I had an electric two-well commercial fryer installed. It sure didn't leave much room for anything else in the galley. We had to keep the flatware and napkins behind the bar.

To keep us from going crazy trying to cope with oddball orders I had a chalk board mounted above the bar. There the cook could write whatever he was willing to prepare that day and whatever soup was on. At one end of the galley counter nearest the passageway room was left for a rolling cart with a high lip and big air-filled tires. This was used to safely transport foods from the prep room to the galley, from the dock side to the stores or bar and to take garbage out to the dock. It was bought with the width of the gangway in mind, and the gangway had raised edges to keep the cart from suiciding off the side. We also could use it to take supplies back to the grill and bring them up to the salon, or to take prepared food and drinks back to the picnic table.

I had full size beds installed in each stateroom. Mine also had a desk in it to hold my computer and give me a space to do the books. It accommodated my printer and supplies as well. The bulkheads and overhead in my stateroom looked so plain that I had the millwright come back and apply box trim to my overhead as well. I added a couple of smaller wool Persian rugs to the deck and called it home. Oh, it needed a few things like bedding, a bedside stand and a clock-radio, but most of that came from my house when I sold it. All of that had been in storage while the ship was being designed and constructed. At that point I looked forward to getting my computer back. I'd had to shift to a laptop, but I had a useable external screen that worked well with it.

I'd hit on Sysco for supplying the ship long before. They sold to restaurants, the military and anyone else that could afford their prices. They had several grades of stores including some rather tasty stock, and many meats in fresh and IQF packaging. I sent away for their catalogs and a price list. I was told that I had to speak with a 'representative' first. Hah. They were going to start talking price point versus volume, just watch!

The ship was finished enough to move into it. However, there was no power or any other services so I stayed in the residence inn for the time being. I wasn't desparate enough to bathe with a spray bottle of 409 and paper towels. They were still working on the engines. The architect had hit on using removable insulated bulkhead panels to facilitate moving the big stuff in and out of the bays directly into the passageway with the aid of overhead cranes. The main jets were already in place as they were drop-in units powered and controlled entirely by hydraulics. The radar, instrumentation and controls in the wheel house were taking shape as well. I gave our millwright more work by having him build LED lights into the bar. They were all controlled by one switch and only took up one outlet. On testing them I thought that they looked fantastic.

I started negotiations with the local government. I wanted a slip immediately adjacent to a car park so my customers wouldn't have to walk far, and I needed both a dumpster and a grease disposal. I was able to secure a restaurant license but only a beer and wine permit for the time being. They had a six month trial period before they'd sell me a full liquor license as a "character check". Next I went to talk to a liquor distributor. They were willing to deliver pony kegs to me and whatever wine I selected by the case on a semi-daily basis. I took a restaurant sanitation course to make my license legal and posted my signed cert near the cash register, as per law.

I went hiring next. I had my back end prepped, a source for supplies and most of my front end ready to go. I still had to buy china, flatware and glassware. I bought Corelle china and went with Sysco commercial for the glassware and flatware. Oh yeah, I got in touch with their rep. He was an oily, obsequious, oleaginous bastard of a salesman. In other words, par for the course. There wasn't a professional bone in his body. I offered him a glass of good whiskey which he was glad to accept and offered no thanks whatsoever. With his finger prints on the glass secured I hired a professional security house to run his ID and do a criminal background check on him. He came up with half a dozen bingos. I let the Sysco HR department know what a sleaze they'd hired and let slip through their checks. I let them know that I'd be running a background check on any rep from them that I did business with, since they didn't seem to care.

Jeremy hired on as my cook. He was a demon in the kitchen! He was sharp as a razor and fast on his feet. He had endurance, too. He'd made his chops in a large restaurant. He was ready and willing to shift to a smaller venue where he could stretch his wings and experiment with menus. Fred was a retired seaman and needed a little extra income. He became our bartender, took orders and ran the dishwasher. I spelled him as bartender. We both did cleanup. I hired 'em both on at fifty thousand a year with room and board. I ran them as contractors with 1099s. They carried their own insurance. (That was why I paid them as much as I did. Insurance is bloody expensive.)

With all the nooks and crannies comprising the back-bar we were able to stock over a dozen cases of wine and several cases of liquor. Instead of buying into a 'wunder bar' soft drink dispenser that used CO2 and a spider of lines we bought two liter jugs of soda. It made for less to keep clean, though it was more expensive and ate up a lot of cubic. As I said, we went to the foot pump system with quarter barrels. Dab beer held up to it wonderfully, as did some of the Sam Adams brews. Miller Brewing didn't want anything to do with us, so we went for Stroh's out of Detroit. They'd ship to us anywhere. We stayed away from bottled beers as we didn't have the space to store either the full stock or the empties.

There were choices to be made in systems that I needed to install anyway, which would make the bar more attractive. One of which was the ship's heating system. I had a drum-shaped propane unit installed with a visible flame like a small fireplace, ducted to cover the ship and distributed with 12V pusher fans. I put up a row of wood clothes pegs near the bow hatch with a catch tray below. On rainy, blustery or downright nasty days we had a loyal following of customers, mostly older fishermen or sea captains. I kept game sets behind the bar for checkers, chess, cribbage and backgammon. A few odd decks of cards weren't difficult to keep on hand, either. We sold a lot of Irish coffee and hot buttered rum once we secured the license for it. (and a few before, as well!)

Those were the days that we tried new recipes. If they worked, great! If not, we took our beatings and went back to the kitchen dragging our tails. We didn't fail too often, though. The customer's taste is fickle, unless you deep-fry it or wrap it in pastry!

The city of Boston decided that it needed more income, and the dockside was where it cast its avaricious eye. Our slip rental went up dramatically and the leased services did, too. I said to hell with it and moved us lock, stock and barrel up to Portland Maine where I had to negotiate for permits and licenses all over again.

That was the first time I took the Kingfisher out after her sea trials. To say I was hesitant would be a laughable understatement. I was damned near hyperventilating as I took us out of our slip and out into the ocean. I'd specified a Furuno navigation stack even though it was expensive as hell, and it paid off in spades. I had everything I needed to know at my fingertips. I was not exactly legal, as I'd read all the books to qualify for a captain's seat but hadn't taken any of the certification tests. By the second day I'd come to enjoy the task. I relaxed into the night watch at the helm. I can honestly say that I learned to drive by the seat of my pants. I could feel the motion of the ship and changes in its behavior as we hit deep water. Now, attempting this in rough seas would be another thing...

My newfound confidence served me well as I used the joystick to control the bow thrusters to bring us into our assigned slip. I actually looked professional! Well, at least I didn't fuck anything up enough to draw comment. I realized that the next time a stray current or a random gust of wind could totally screw me up. I resolved to stay on top of my game.

I informed the local Sysco representative that if I considered him dirty I would do a background check on him and publish the findings in the New York Times. It was over a hundred miles from Boston but, over time, we saw a few familiar faces. Word of mouth accompanied us and we didn't suffer for custom.

I had a sign painter design a weatherproofed panel to mount above our gangway and had it lit so the traffic could see it. We were Kingfisher's. We did a bit of advertising. I got together with Jeremy and set up a couple weekend specials. We advertised them along with our unspectacular but perfectly drinkable wine list.

I had a midi-enhanced electric piano put in that played several different recorded sets throughout the week and weekend. I bought a small Toyota pickup and traded off early morning visits to the fish market with Jeremy for fresh fish, shrimp and lobster. We had to make it there by four thirty A.M. because by six it was picked over. Some days we went, some we didn't.

Come summertime we opened up the picnic table and the grill. We advertised burger and sangria events. Often we had to turn parties away such as the Lion's, Rotary and Elk's because we didn't have the capacity to meet their requirements.

We occasionally did morning business meetings with breakfast for the varous local benevolent societies. We went balls to the bulkheads tapas at least once a month and hosted enough people to make the fire marshal nervous. Jeremy liked to stretch once in a while and this was a way of doing it.

Jeremy had this deep abiding need to cook French provincial occasionally. If you combined that with great big slabs of Julia Child and healthy portions of the Les Halles cookbook you'd get an idea as to what we did. We didn't knock 'em dead, but we had a happy well-fed following. I thought it was all a bit too specialized, so I trotted out a nice moist Reuben or a New York strip on a French roll with grilled onions occasionally to keep from losing that market share. Eventually he came back to a more pedestrian menu that the locals accepted without hesitation. I talked it over with Jeremy and we scheduled a bistro month during the summer when the fresh garden produce came in, and one month during the fall when the stock was butchered and offal meats were cheap and plentiful. We advertised these to bring in fans of these types of food.

Fred was easy to get along with. The customers loved him. I learned one hell of a lot from him too. He wasn't the most expressive guy I've ever met, but once you broke through he'd tell stories about working aboard commercial freighters that would curl your hair and make your ass pucker up for days. His stories about incompetent cooks were hilarious. His stories about incompetent captains were harrowing. It was his stories that made me admit that I was playing a shell game. I needed the captaincy courses to get my certifications. The guys could manage the ship and bar for six months while I went back to Boston to get my chops.

Lord, but they stood me up, sat me down, spun me around and slapped me silly. I have to admit that having taken the hot seat for a while made some of what they taught much more real and applicable. The fire control courses scared the living shit out of me. The anti-piracy section also scared the shit out of me. I'd had no idea of what I was getting into. I vowed to hang the proper number of life preservers beneath the ramps for our maximum load and checked out our life craft to see if it had enough seats. I had a fire control console mounted in the wheel house and relays installed in the ductwork to drop shutters in case of a fire alarm, thereby isolating cabins reporting fires. I had the fire suppression gear dramatically enhanced. Smoke and CO sensors were mounted everywhere. I turned my ship from a dangerous joke into something survivable in case of an outbreak of fire when we were on the water and dependent on ourselves for survival.

I found out that old Fred was still qualified as a ship's medic. I turned him loose to purchase supplies. He turned me on to telemedicine, where, with a contracted service, local devices could transmit findings to a remote doctor that would diagnose and suggest treatment, even going so far as to right-seat with an on-site person during an emergency surgery, given the supplies to support same were available. I bought into it to the tune of sixty thousand bucks. Fred grinned, slapped my back and shook my hand. It made me feel ten feet tall. We added a military field surgery pack to that then enhanced that with some first responder gear and some specialized stuff like fire trauma blankets that were covered in a gel.

I bought a few weapons, such as a Glock pistol and a couple stainless marine shotguns. One shotgun was left on the bridge and one in my cabin. I made it a policy to carry a pistol from then on.

I had Jeremy go back to school for pastry school. Naah, not the cake decorator's school, the baker's and pie-maker's school. When he came back, I went to pie-making and baking school. What the hell, I was interested. I found out that all those years I'd been doing it wrong. I bought a good scale. Baking should be done by weight. I bought a cased, refrigerated half-rack normally used in the catering trade, elevated screens and two dozen half sheet-pans. It could heat or cool. With that we could set up for heavy nights with much less stress.

A few months later I re-read my texts from my captaincy courses, for a familiarization. I came once more upon the anti-piracy section. Jesus. It scared the shit out of me. I wondered what I could do to prepare for such a thing.

I took a further course on ship's defenses. The heart and core was a firing director. A computer could compensate for the swell and pitch of a ship as well as that of the ship's target, and the shifting angle of two bodies under propulsion ... A firing director didn't just slew the weapon around to the predicted direction and azimuth, it had to compensate for the mass and mechanical drag of the weapon and its carrier in question, the power of the servos during a slew, the predicted position of the target when the shell actually got there and the time required to fire the weapon. It had to be integrated with the ship's radar for its 'eyes'.

Rather than solving a rather vicious third-order differential equation and dropping the solution into the system, I preferred to let the system do all the work. I loved sending off critical work to contractors.

Once you've got the controlling end of things in hand, then you need the hardware to back it up. It was traditional to mount your weapons at the bow and stern but our ship's salt wash when underway would quickly turn a weapon into a useless rusted hulk. Instead I proposed mounting something on the wheel house roof. If it had a low profile it wouldn't interfere with the radar returns and that position would give any weapon installed there a wider index--roughly two hundred and seventy degrees, plus a bit. I didn't want any bullet holes in my rescue craft or radar mast, now did I?

I wanted something with a kick that didn't consume mass quantities of ammunition. I'd seen a 20mm Vulcan canon in operation once. It was mind bending how much firepower they packed into a unit that size. However, it ate ammo like a weasel going through chickens. I wanted the same size round in a single shot weapon. Anzio Foundry made a 20mm box-fed rifle, but it only held three rounds. Nobody was willing to design and build a belt feeder for it and guarantee any success. While filling out the forms for a Class III firearms license (anything that fires a 20mm round is considered a destructive device and requires a very expensive license in the U.S.) I looked at various weapons that fired a 20x102mm round. I hit on a weapon that came out roughly the same time as the Vulcan electric Gatling gun did. It was called the M39. It was either gas or electric powered and used a belt feed.

Nope, nope, nope. Not for that price! I had passed one hundred thousand dollars for the full installation without even slowing down or pausing for air. It looked like my two mile protective envelope just shrank.

I called the Furuno factory and asked if they could suggest an inexpensive fire director that would interface with their consoles and radar. I told them what I had. I was told that they'd get back to me. I didn't hold my breath.

Upon investigating the physics involved I found that the navigation radar didn't have the granularity or data acquisition rate necessary to be used as input to a fire director when dealing with anything flying through the air at combat speeds. Anything the Navy made was (a) too heavy, (b) too expensive, © too complicated or (d) too prone to failure without regular maintenance by trained professionals. It looked like I was back to a manual system once again.

I refused to accept defeat. I offered a twenty thousand dollar bounty for a Linux-based fire director that would interface with the ethernet bus of a Furono C&C stack and output commands to a standardized servo platform designed to control, direct and fire a weapon up to 50 caliber. It was a pity that there was no user programmable mode built into the Furono system. A separate console and keyboard were necessary to input the system parameters, calibrate and command the weapon. I bought the servo platform and had it mounted above the wheel house. A pair of pipe runs down to the helm console provided protected a channel for the wiring harness and power. I had a decently powerful computer installed with an ethernet port plugged into the Furuno bus and a CAMAC card plugged into a servo bus. I had a twelve inch touch-screen console installed in the console with a decent keyboard below it. For the time being it was but a promise of things to come.

In the summer time we hired high-school and college girls to waitress for us. They were young, sexy, ambitious and ready to experiment. I saw Jeremy disappear into the prep kitchen with one of the girls for extended periods. I had a few young women (they aren't ladies when they act like that!) that expressed an interest in calisthenics aboard ship. Even old Fred had his fan club. They were all cute and enthusiastic little minxes. I didn't know about the other guys, but it sure put a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

I really enjoyed life as a barkeep. However, I felt kind of bad docked in one place with a ship that could make thirty-six knots at flank speed, thirty at cruise. Those big Cat V-12's sure sucked up the diesel, though.

Late one afternoon during a sangria with fish 'n chips day a group of four young guys came aboard grinning from ear to ear. They had an external hard drive and a hefty thumb drive, each of which had their final program for a target acquisition and fire control system. I began to grin like the village idiot, but then settled down. We needed to load the thing and see if it acted to spec.

The turret was mounted at the base of the antenna stack so parallax issues were minimized. I had a five watt laser mounted in the turret with three hundred pounds of lead to emulate a weapon and ammunition. A relay was set up to 'fire' the laser. The radar image came up on the alternate screen and several potential targets were highlighted in yellow. I touched two birds, which flashed red. I then touched the big red 'commit' square on the screen. I heard the servos whine and watched two geese plummet to their watery graves. Cool! We made sure that the turret was constrained not to traverse or fire upon the arc comprising the life boat or antenna mast. We had a goddamned solution! I paid the group fifty thousand dollars in cash. For that amount they were glad to sign over the source code and the licensing rights, the fools. I was going to make millions off their product in a very short period of time.

I paid off a lawyer to keep his big mouth shut, then showed him what I had. He had no idea what we were talking about. He called in an associate of his with maritime experience. We got him to sign a non-disclosure agreement. When I said that I had licensing rights to a weapons fire control system that I'd sell for thirty thousand per installation he called me an idiot. I grinned at him and told him that I was going to be a very wealthy idiot. We filed for copyright and started marketing it. It cost me about twenty-one hundred for the hardware, then I added a read-only digital disk drive to hold the software masters. That was another two hundred dollars. The thing was simplistic, in that it would never be able to program and fire a missile. It didn't care about local vertical or the pitch/yaw of the deck. It used the radar to identify potential targets, then calculate a shortest approach vector to the targets, then added lead for the weapon's time-to-target It used a rather standard vector prediction algorithm to hit the target over time at a vector. I bought a 50 caliber M2 machine gun and a half dozen cans of ammunition. With proper relay control I got it down to roughly sixty rounds per burst. It worked out to about a mile and a quarter for my protective umbrella. The thing had a problem with fine control at a distance and had no feedback mechanism to correct for such things as wind deflection. I solved that by having a contractor give me two modes for my bow jets, fast and slow. Under slow control I could use the joystick to walk the rounds into the target by gently slewing the ship. From my days owning a company that was too large for one person to handle I knew enough to hire an accounting firm. We negotiated a contract for services including investment and income tax preparation. That took a load off my mind.

The Furuno people quietly purchased the rights to ten thousand installations. They realized that they had a hole in their C&C offering and this plugged it nicely. Over the next two years my company sold about twenty-six thousand installations that had the computer, program, interfaces and list of ancillary equipment needed to turn their purchase into a working system. That came out to thirty-six thousand installations at thirty-thousand dollars each. I don't know about you but I got one billion, eighty million dollars in gross revenue. The hardware cost me seventy nine million two hundred bucks. Then I had to pay taxes. So I wasn't a billionaire. Tough. That was only the income from the first two years. I'll tell you though, piracy in the Med and off the north coast of Africa and the coast of India sure took a hit. I stopped hearing about ships disappearing in the Indonesian basin after a few years.

I decided to take us out on the sea. I wanted to circumnavigate the globe. Before-hand I set up a web site noting our GPS position every morning and evening. I bought into a satellite phone/data transceiver. We needed two phones per person. One for shore use and one at sea. The price-per-minute ratios were roughly thirty-eight to one. I wasn't afraid to use the satellite phone as the monthly cost had a certain number of air minutes and megabytes of data built in per the contract. I bought a six-pack of FRS radios for use as walk-talkies where there was no cell service or our phones wouldn't synch up, such as the far East where they used different frequency bands for cell service.

We took the path newly built WWII aircraft took from the U.S. to the European theater--the North Atlantic route. I insisted that we wait until summer, after the storm season had passed. With all three of us taking four hour shifts we got eight hours of sleep per 24 hours. We neglected the housekeeping and the cooking. We scavenged sandwiches and baked bread as it was needed.

The first time I was rolled out of my bunk and landed on my ass I realized that I'd forgotten something. I rigged a strap around the mattress to hold me in. By the time we made it to Aberdeen in the U. K. we were ready for a break. I hired a company to scrub the ship inside and out while we took hotel rooms with nearly unlimited hot water for showers. Once we got back aboard I was surprised as shit to find a sailboat tied up to our port-side davits. The owner was knocking at our door, requesting dinner and drink. I laughed and let him in. Regrettably this set a precedent. No matter where we tied up, no matter the country or nation we had customers tie up looking for a good time. We damned near shot a few of them that came up on us without radioing ahead. I found a carpenter willing to do a bit of work aboard ship. I had box beds built with raised edges. I learned to hang on in my sleep.

I begged a temporary publican's license. After a wide-eyed visit by a local queen's agent we got our permits. Every few weeks we moved from port to port. Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Black pool, Liverpool, Dublin (more paperwork), Portsmouth and Southend-on-Sea.

I'd always wanted to see Amsterdam. We couldn't get a pub license so we just played tourist.

We made it up the coast to Esbjerg. Wow! What a different culture. It was a long trip around the peninsula to Aarhus. After a couple of weeks of shopping and talking to people we headed out again. We found ourselves at Malmo, another international shipping port. Good lord, that was a busy port city.

Stockholm had more culture and was much less frantic for business. I really considered settling down and living there the rest of my life.

I wanted to visit the country of the crazy Finns so we tied up in Helsinki. When they saw the bar sign on the ship we were inundated in customers, license or no! Somebody must have spread the word that we had a floating English pub because they drank us dry in less than forty-eight hours. I was lucky enough to find a liquor distributor that took mercy on me. He stocked Dab so I bought six quarter-barrels from him. He had a line on some Australian wines at a good price so I stocked up on two-buck Chuck equivalents. I paid good money for Jamieson's whiskey and Bacardi dark rum for hot buttered rum and Irish coffee. They were our trademark drinks and I was loathe to neglect them. I refused to travel without my bourbon and water as well.

We finally made it to St. Petersburg. The local politicians came to visit and damned near ate us out of house and home. We were reduced to fish 'n chips and beer. Still they kept coming. I suppose that anything different was an instant hit when your winter lasted three-fourths of the year. Anyway, we pleased one hell of a lot of people. If we ever came back in that direction I knew to stock a quarter ton of smoked fish, plenty of black bread, onions and fish sauce. I could have sold over a ton of the stuff and still be left wanting.

We stopped in Gdansk Poland to re-stock. We spent a week there as it was one of the more friendly cities we'd seen.

We made our way out of the Baltic through Denmark. We travelled south past France and to Portugal. I wanted to hit Porto. Woah! It was an old, old city. Next came Lisbon which over shaded Porto. Catholicism flavored much of the city's personality.

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