After the first week Salty’s office became his residence also; a bunk pressed against the back wall. Rich walked back and forth to The Odyssey. From work site, The Odyssey docked in view.
Occasionally Salty asked Benjamin to give advise on some particular aspect of the construction. Benjamin explained methodically and in detail.
“Why do you ask me?” Benjamin said. “You know vastly more than me about boats.”
“We say things a certain way in Maine,” Salty said. “I want to know how you say it here.”
Patrick regularly visited the site. He offered kind words of encouragement and thankfulness. At times they sat and talked over ice tea. Rich heard them talk when he had occasion to visit the office. They were friends. It was evident. At times Rich heard Salty say, “Yes, now I remember that.”
One night Rich laid in his bunk. He thought deeply about Salty. “We are growing apart. It is not by disagreement, envy, or over familiarity, nor is it because of being consumed by the task. He found something. Maybe it’s meaning or purpose. Salty is five years younger than he was two months ago.”
Three weeks into the project a plump white man dressed in a white suit full of arrogance and pomp marched onto the work site with two uniformed officers.
Rich approached him. “Good day gentlemen, can I help you, sir?”
In a very British accent he said, “Who is in charge here?”
Rich made a quick study and looked at him with equal smugness and disdain. “It would be Abernathy Collingsworth. He’s sitting over there at his desk. Allow me to announce you. Who may I say is visiting?”
The man along with the two uniformed men marched past Rich and to Salty’s desk. “Are you in charge?”
“Yep,” Salty said. “Thanks for stopping by, but we already have plenty of help.”
“I’m Latimer Wright, chief maritime inspector for the British Crown in the Caribbean.”
“Well what can we do for you, sir,” Salty said. “You ain’t royalty or anything ‘cause if I’m supposed to call you lordship or something let me know now.”
“I’m here to stop any further construction of this vessel,” Wright said.
“It ain’t a vessel until it goes over there in that there ocean,” Salty said motioning with his head.
“You cannot just slap some wood together and have it carry passengers back and forth over the seas without proper inspections,” Wright said.
“The point is this, Sir Wright…”
“I am not royalty and it is improper to call me sir along with my name,” Wright said.
“I’m sorry,” Salty said, “I was just so overtaken by your stature that I automatically called you sir. So the point is, as soon as this was completed I was going to sail it to Antigua for a full inspection under load. I think according to your laws that anything under 30 meters does not have to be inspected until construction is complete.”
“This hardly looks like it will ever be seaworthy,” Wright said.
“And this comes from the country that built the Titanic,” Salty said.
“I resent you impertinence,” Wright said.
“And, Mr Wright, I resent your pompousness and raise you one snobbery and a buffoonery.”
“I know ships,” Wright said, “and that is not a ship.”
“If is so that you know ships, Mr. Wright, we are kindred spirits,” Salty said. “We just know them in different ways. Now that ole man sittin’ on a pile of lumber probably knows more instinctively than you know academically. If you wish to take a gander at my drawings and calculations, go right ahead.” Salty motioned for Wright to examine his prints.
Wright stood beside Salty and looked at the prints with amusement. He leaned closer and removed his glasses from his lapel pocket and put them on.
“Get Mr. Wright a chair,” Salty said to Thomas.
Wright sat and leaned over the drawings. Salty pointed to three areas on the drawings and then opened up a stenographers tablet. “These are the calculations.”
Wright picked up a pencil as if he wanted to mark mistakes. He rolled the top set of drawings and inspected the one beneath. Salty handed him another tablet.
“Where did you learn shipbuilding?” Wright said.
“My father and grandfather built boats,” Salty said. “I had big dreams of building big boats. I worked at the Bath Iron Works during the war. I became one of the chief engineers. I couldn’t wait till the war was over. When it was, I went back to Rockland and worked in a boatyard. I never got much satisfaction building destroyers and steel mammoths. There is nothing more beautiful than an artfully built skiff whose curves are in proportion to the entire mass.”
Wright turned to Salty and looked at him curiously. His eyes dropped away to the drawings.
“When you are done and if it floats to Antigua I will be the one to inspect it,” Wright said. He stood and walked around the boat giving it a cursory inspection.
Salty sat at his desk and returned to the drawings.
After Wright’s goaround he strolled back to Salty. “Your work on paper is is – well I’ve yet to see its equal.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Salty said.
“My job is to fail boats not hand out compliments,” Wright said.
“Only when deserved, I’m sure,” Salty said.
“See you soon,” Wright said. He turned away sharply and walked away with the two uniformed men.
Rich sat in the chair that Wright sat. “Wow, Salty, do you think the boat will pass?”
“His mind is made up already,” Salty said. “It will pass.”