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Right off, referring to a team of electricians who were attempting to fix a faulty slide projector with little success, Jones told the audience, "No wonder the America's Cup is in Australia. Frankly, I'm relieved, not because America has lost the Cup, but because it has left that dusty shelf in the New York Yacht Club and ended 132 years of unfair, ungentlemanly behavior that is notorious throughout the sailing world."
The broadside drew a round of applause that quickly escalated into a cheering, foot-stomping ovation. These were Jones's kind of people. And just as well they were, for the slide presentation by Jones, the self-proclaimed—and definitely undisputed—"world's worst photographer," might have been titled Waterlogged. Murky, lopsided and stained by algae, many of the slides looked as though they had been taken by Nelson, the one-eyed dog, after one too many beers.
"I thought this would cheer you up," Jones said of one fuzzy shot. "It's a photograph of some birds on an island, but I can't remember where or what's happening." Of another scene that looked suspiciously like the Dead Sea—or downtown Cleveland—sideways, he explained, "I took it like this because I didn't want the Arabs to know what we were doing."
Jones's audience knew what he was doing, and they loved every overexposed, understated minute of it. Best of all, the duller the slide, it seemed, the more diverting the string of yarns it unraveled, beginning with such titillating lines as "I once went to deliver an Arab dhow to an insane English colonel in Malta," and concluding with an account of teaching a primitive Amazon tribe how to fish because "they were starving to death, and all around them were the biggest catfish in the world, 15 feet long."
Talk of the Amazon inspired Jones to show a slide of a herd of cattle corralled on a Jesuit river settlement—"the only ones I know of that are rustled by sail," he said. The native rustlers, he explained, sail the cattle downriver and trade them for whiskey, which they then sell to the Jesuits for a tidy profit. "My kind of economics," he said.
Asked the whereabouts of his earlier boats, Jones noted that Barbara "turned up out of the blue about a year ago. Her name had been changed, and a gentleman in New Jersey bought her without realizing she was the Barbara until he lowered the mast and saw painted on top in block letters: TRISTAN JONES. AMMA, ISRAEL. BUGGER THE ARABS.
Finally, while commenting on the motivations of ocean voyagers, Jones touched on the Ulysses factor—"a mysterious drive, a power which drags us sometimes even against our will, back to the sea," he said of the one force that seems dominant in his life and in the realization of Outward Leg. "With me, it's as if my body, not me but my body, remembers a time when humanity belonged in the sea, and as if the sea, like a mother whom I have abandoned, is drawing me to her with arms strong and implacable."
As D day neared, the growing number of workers drawn to Outward Leg—the carpenters, sailmakers, electricians, mechanics—seemed to be responding to the same siren song. When an admirer approached Jones in a restaurant for an autograph one day, he complied, but only on the condition that she and her husband show up at the jetty the next morning to help with the painting, which they most enthusiastically did. Other volunteers helped load such basics as 600 pounds of food, mostly dried, and oddments, like a parachute for experimental use as a sea anchor.
At night Jones pecked away at his typewriter in the forward cabin, working on a book he has been commissioned to write about the voyage, to be titled A Star To Steer Her By. "That would be the star of hope, of course," he says.
Jones's hope is that he can steer clear of the naval pensioners' home in Greenwich, England. "I'm entitled to end up there," he says, "to wear a blue serge suit with big silver buttons and a red stripe down the side of my pants. And I get an allowance of two pints of beer a day and two ounces of tobacco a week. Then I can hobble into the nearest pub, wait for the first tourist to come in from New York and say, 'How ya doin', mate? How's the Bowery these days?' " But long before he's beached for good, Jones plans to undertake still another adventure as the result of an official letter from the Soviet government, inviting him to make a voyage around the Caspian Sea.