A tugboat captain walks into a bar . . .
The Shagwong Tavern in Montauk, to be exact.
And the tugboat captain? None other than Richard Bates . . . the person who taught my husband Josh how to be a tugboat captain in the 1990s. Richie Bates is a legend in my house, and more than a few scenes in THE WHEELHOUSE CAFÉ , my novel with a soundtrack, were inspired by Josh’s “life at sea with Richie Bates” stories.
I was in Montauk for a marathon reading session, hoping that my most recent rewrite was more cohesive than chaotic. Captain Bates, in town to fish with friends, was at the Shagwong to watch the Knicks take on the Heat in an NBA playoff game. He happened to sit down next to Jay Schneiderman, a friend of mine who walked Richie over for an introduction after figuring out our Josh connection.
It felt like serendipity had saddled up next to me, and I had no doubt that sitting at the Shagwong bar on May 6, 2012 was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I’d just been reflecting on my meaningful but melancholy morning experience of pulling into a Montauk gas station and hearing that a tugboat captain who’d been lost at sea 11 days earlier was found by a fishing boat. I was deeply saddened for the captain’s family and friends. I was also chilled because one of my characters is a tugboat captain who vanishes before his watch, and some of my technical edits involved the search protocol when someone is lost at sea.
As the Sunday night crowd ebbed and flowed, Captain Richie Bates and I drank bourbon and talked about what you talk about when you meet someone you’ve known through stories . . . everything, nothing and all the good stuff in between. I have no doubt that two of THE WHEELHOUSE CAFÉ’s strongest anchors are that serendipitous Shagwong encounter and what I gleaned from listening in on conversations between two seaman the next day, when Richie and Josh were reunited after almost a decade. Priceless.