Disco, the coolest cat in the yard
Perhaps Jess put it best, “he’s just such a decent guy.” Which is somehow a better compliment than saying “he’s such a good guy”, or a “great guy”.
Disco is a legit Rastafarian - he eats vegetarian, smokes weed all day (albeit a toned-down blend of tobacco and local outdoor weed), and I don’t think he’s shaved since the 70’s. His sharp eyes betray his intelligence despite his quiet, stoic demeanour, and he’s been my best friend down here in the Caribbean for the last month and a half.
This man has a hell of a story. His friends started calling him Disco back in the 70’s when he would sneak out of the house to dance at the disco clubs every night. Sometimes his dad would catch him, and (being a strict Christian father) Disco would catch a beating, but he kept sneaking out to dance to the music that he loved.
These days he mostly listens to reggae and local political talk radio, and he can be found working in the boatyard. Disco fixes up and maintainins beautiful sailboats both old and new, and boy can he do it all. He repairs engines, electrical systems, restores fine teak woodwork, and he can captain a sailboat to boot - which gets him major bonus points in my book!
I met Disco in the yard working on the boat next to mine, where he was restoring an old Island Packet to prepare it for sale. We worked on our respective boats day in, day out. Initially I would ask him for a bit of advice on things like what grit sandpaper to use for a given task, how best to remove barnacle scaling, and whether I needed to drop my rudder to change the propeller shaft bearing. Next thing I knew we were chatting all through the day.
I would tell him about my life back home, he would tell me about his life in Antigua. Eventually we were talking history, politics, and philosophy until the work day was done, and it didn’t take long before he was hopping over to the cockpit of my boat after work for an evening beer or two.
He told me in excruciating detail how when Hurricane Irma came through a month before, flattening almost every building in Barbuda, he lost his baby granddaughter. She was the sole casualty of the hurricane in the country, and it was a heartbreaking tale. Life has a way, however, of bringing joy and hope when it’s most needed, so I also got to hear about how his wife was imminently expecting. A few days later Disco showed up to work with an extra big toothless grin, showing me pictures of his beautiful baby daughter. After such a terrible family tragedy, Disco’s new daughter was a welcome gift for his family to focus their attention on.
Disco helped Jess & I in countless ways, offering an endless stream of advice on projects we were struggling with, and even helping us scramble all morning to get the boat ready for launch on the day we splashed it. I like to think I helped him too - I hired him to do some work on my boat when I was unable to, and Jess & I gave him a lot of boat parts as we cleaned out all the storage lockers - but with how invaluable he was in helping us prepare for our big adventure, and what a good friend he was, I can’t help but feel indebted to him.
It only took a few short days to become unlikely fast friends - me a young Canadian kid with a few wispy facial hairs, and him a dreadlock-bearded Rasta with a background so different from mine, but I like to think that good people can be found everywhere, if you’re open to it. I’m really glad I got to know Disco, however briefly. He really is the coolest cat in the yard.