By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
Disclaimer: The healing power of the Mandarin oranges noted in this article are not substantiated by any medical authority aside from a surly retired oral surgeon and a novice yacht chef.
I could hear his laughter as he came down the dock so I was a little less anxious. This was one of my first professional jobs as a yacht chef and I was eager to make this boat owner happy. I had heard stories about him –a retired oral surgeon, nearly 80 years old who snow-skied, played tennis and yacht raced better than men half his age. Dr. “K” had the reputation of being aloof, thrifty and more than a little hard on the crew. I was confident I could win him over. Back then, what I lacked in brains, I made up in false confidence.
As he stepped on the boat, I chuckled to myself, “I got this.” He looked like Bjorn Borg (circa 1977) was his wardrobe stylist. Cream colored tennis shorts (that were just that much too short for a man of dangling participle age) and a white tennis shirt topped with a tattered FILA sweater vest. I couldn’t help notice that his Aspen Mountain backpack weighed more than he. What was so scary about this toothpick of a man? This was going to be a piece of cake. I’d wine and dine this old bastard and have him eating out of the palm of my racket hand…boy was I ever wrong. In the week we spent on the boat he never said a word to me. Actually going out of his way to not look me in the eyes and a couple of times even pushed me out of his way. On our last day offshore and just when I thought my ego couldn’t take any more punishment, the seas around us started getting rough and I was feeling queasy. I came up on deck and walked past the rest of the crew to the aft of the boat and promptly threw up over the side. As my spinning head hung over the life lines, I got a gentle tap on the shoulder. Dr “K” was standing there with a concerned look on his face and a Mandarin orange in his hand. “Here, eat this Libbie and keep your eye on the horizon.” I can’t say if it was the orange, horizon or just knowing that the good doctor knew my name, but somehow I was cured.