Two dark eyes peered up at me from the deck of Tiki Schooner before a broad smile broke the tension. I had just met Edge. I was on the island of Bequai, with a visa about to expire, and signed on as a Tiki crew member so that I could avoid deportation. Over the next few months we shared some surprising adventures and he became one of my best friends.
Edge was an engineer from Pennsylvania who dropped out after a spell in the U.S. military during the Vietnam era. He’d spent a few years in Europe cruising on a Triumph motor bike until he landed in Morocco. He turned hippy, bought a van, immersed himself in native culture, always wore a babushka on his head, smoked a lot of hashish and smuggled kilos hidden in antique furniture across the Sahara desert to norther countries.
He eventually ended up in Svendborg, Denmark; half dead. Charlie and Inge took him aboard their newly purchased boat Karin and, after he got his health back, he helped them fix it up and eventually sailed down to the Caribbean with them. When we met on Tiki he’d perch on deck at sunset playing his well worn wooden recorder then modestly relate a story or two about his life’s adventures. He was mild mannered and never bragged.
One day while scrubbing the decks together we watched a delegation of men in dark suits come aboard and talk with the captain. It turned out that one of them was the son of the Colombian President brokering a dope deal. He chartered the Tiki to pick up a thirty ton load of maryjane offloaded from a Columbian freighter and sail it north to the coast of North Carolina.
The captain offered Edge and me a place on the crew and a chance to earn $125,000 for the six week expedition. It was a temptation we couldn’t refuse and we worked our butts off preparing for the big day to come. News arrived that the transshipment was happening on the island of St. Vincent at the home of the Minister of Justice. “Okay, sweet.” we all thought, “how dangerous could that be.” A couple us went over to prepare for the landing.
After dark one evening a sleek white Swan sailboat swept alongside our anchored schooner and we learned there’d been a bust. Apparently the small island police chief decided he wasn’t getting a fair cut out of the deal, set an ambush and raided the delivery at the Minister’s home. There was a bit of a shoot out and he confiscated all fifty bales of green gold. Our golden egg was gone!
Tiki schooner and crew were heavily implicated and at risk so we scrambled around the rest of the night preparing our exit, pulled up anchor before dawn and split. We sailed immediately for a secluded cove and painted a new name on our boat. As soon as the sun set again we hightailed it north as fast as the wind would carry us away from the scene of disaster and the risk of arrest.
A few days later we crept into an isolated bay on the island of Dominica and laid low. Our industrious captain was smart. He secured us a cargo of exotic tropical hardwood recovered after a hurricane had destroyed some ancient trees. We loaded up and set sail again looking like a very legitimate island trader as we cruised north through the Virgins. We sailed up the east coast in fine weather and phosphorescent seas landing a month later at Cape Fear, North Carolina with our very legal load.
It was June 1980, Edge and I had landed in the U.S. with virtually empty pockets. The payment for crewing a shipment of wood was nothing compared to the reward we had anticipated for a cargo of illicit weed. “Oh well” at least we were free men. We headed for New York to dance in Studio 54 and then to the Rainbow Gathering in West Virginia where we did the love and peace dance with thousands of our hippy brothers and sisters. No-one there cared a damn about money.
While I wended and wove my way back to Canada, then to the Caribbean and eventually started a new life in Hawaii, Edge went gold digging deep in the forests of Brazil. Hell bent on finally making his fortune he took a job as a crew boss at a remote mining claim where no other sane white man would dare to live. After two years of packing a pistol, fighting off tropical diseases and becoming home to a number of nameless parasites he ended up nearly dying in a primitive hospital. He managed to return to the U.S. once again alive, but penniless, with just a worthless promise of payment from his employer.
Edge came to visit me in Hawaii and the lure of cheap land and hippy style living hooked him. Over the next two decades Edge went back and forth spending winters in Hawaii and summers working as a waiter in a posh Italian restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard. He loved meeting celebrities and getting those c-note tips. He was always moving – making various stops on his annual migration – in Pennsylvania to visit his family, Port Townsend to visit Charlie and Inge and Las Vegas to visit the casinos. Edge was a consummate gambler.
Being a man of extremes, in Hawaii he traded his job as a high end waiter to work tirelessly as a heavy equipment operator and car mechanic and to build his own home.
Edge always had some new get rich scheme which often cost him dearly. He shipped large buckets of my macademia nut butter to friends on the East Coast concealing well wrapped pakalolo in the sticky mud-like-goo. Some arrived and some got confiscated. He went to Texas and picked up fifteen keys of Mexican weed but as he crossed the State border his sweet smelling duffle bag got searched and he got busted. That deal cost him $15,000 in lawyers fees and fines and another $15,000 for the weed. Following that incident, whenever he accumulated any earnings, he gambled on the stock market and sadly that proved to be just as unlucky for Edge.
In the mid ’90’s Edge met me in Seattle and we decided to go on a camping road trip together. We had no specific destination and after a couple of days meandering though some north west coast primeval forests and getting lost on logging roads we found ourselves in Nighthawk. Sitting in a cafe Edge discovered that we were only a mile from the least-used U.S./Canada border crossing. The Cascade Mountains station is in the most remote part of the northern U.S. border and only sees a few cars a day. Edge wanted to see how easy it would be to use it as a smuggling route.
I was not real happy about going anywhere near U.S. immigration since it was only a few weeks prior that I’d managed to slip from their grasp after being detained at the border in Victoria, B.C. So, while Edge drove up to inspect the border post I slipped out of the car and hid in a desert gulley about half a mile away. When he returned he picked me up and we cruised comfortably until a flashing red light patrol car pulled us over. It was a customs officer who said electronic surveillance had spotted some suspicious behaviour on the road and he wanted to see our I.D.’s. He was obviously hoping to find an illegal immigrant and while my heart rate soared I prayed he wouldn’t notice my red guilt-ridden face.
Luckily Edge was driving and I handed him my Hawaii driving licence. The officer peered in to look at my face while Edge did all the talking. I kept totally silent not wanting him to notice my proper english accent and realise that the illegal alien he sought was not a Mexican sweatback but a bit of a British bloke. After a few breathless minutes and my visions of imminant deportation he let us go. We hit the next town as quick as possible because I was sure they would run a check and discover I was an immigration fugitive. I had to sit privately in silence to mull over my latest unnecessary brush with border authorities and gave thanks to my angels for protecting me once again. We left after dark heading south from the border as fast as the speed limit allowed.
Always seeking his fortune Edge tried legal businesses too. He fished in Alaska, organised clam bakes for doctors in the south, bought and sold cars and traded on the stock market. He always made time for the good times too – and there were many.
Edge and I had quite a few more adventures together in Hawaii and he was a regular visitor and supporter of our community at Bellyacres. He loved a good party and made a huge deal booking Paulo’s Tuscan restaurant in Pahao and inviting a couple of dozen friends to celebrate his 60th Birthday – except we learned later he was really 63. He became deflated over the next four years, made some bad car deals, lost his shirt on the 2008 stock market crash and got really depressed. I tried and tried to help my old friend but it was apparently impossible. I sadly discovered that no amount of loving rational support can save or cure someone suffering from his state of mental instability.
At 6 a.m. on the morning we had arranged to take a crew over to clean up his shack and land and to start building Edge a decent house he called and asked me to come alone. I arrived to find a bag of his valuables outside his door with a note for me. Inside he was dead, hanging from the flimsy rafters. My dear renegade friend of almost forty years was gone but will never ever be forgotten.
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