Some people would say "Magic" had the best job in the world. Magic, however, would probably tell you he had the worst.
Magic's job was to sail, ostensibly. Basically, he simply had to sit in a small yacht and ensure it made its way safely between the islands around Corfu, in Greece. Sounds terrible, right?
Life would have been so good for Magic had he only been responsible for that one vessel. The issue complicating our man's life was that he was also in charge of five other yachts that travelled with him in a flotilla, and that were usually piloted by drunk or hungover Australians and Kiwis with little or no sailing experience and a complete lack of care for the boat they'd been assigned.
I don't do a lot of cruising, but I've cruised with Magic before. This is his story.
Magic was Polish, and was dubbed "Magic" many years ago by someone who clearly couldn't handle the random mix of Cs, Zs and Ys that make up a typical Polish first name.
Things were happening. Bad things, usually.
How Magic went from normal Polish person to Greek yachting god charged with the care of a bunch of Australian backpackers I was never sure. Why he put up with it, I was even less certain.
Magic's yachting charters were paired with the Europe-based tour company I was working for back in the noughties, meaning that for five days out of every fortnight his comfortable little world would be invaded by, well, us.
"Us" was a group of usually 30 or so tour passengers who'd spent the past few weeks getting to know each other, and were now ready to party hard on their five-day-long Greek sailing adventure. "Us" also included three crew members who should have been working but would inevitably spend the next five days lying on the deck of Magic's boat and pretending nothing was happening.
But things were happening. Bad things, usually.
Magic's main downfall as a sailing guide was that he wasn't a very good sailing guide. Maybe deep down he was actually a very skilled seaman, but he didn't seem capable of passing this knowledge on to his occasionally sober Antipodean charges.
He would select skippers while we were on the Greek mainland - five unfortunate volunteers with supposedly more sailing experience than the other people on their yacht. This experience could amount to playing with a rubber ducky in the bath - as long as they sounded confident, they'd get the gig.
Magic would yell instructions at his skippers for half an hour or so, then we'd all board the boats, cast off our moorings and head out into the high seas. Trouble is, of course, that there weren't often high seas - or the seas would be too high - meaning much of the passengers' sailing adventure would be spent with the sail wrapped firmly around the boom. Engines only.
Magic was very passionate - about coffee. He loved his coffee, obsessed over it. While not all of the crew members I worked with endeared themselves to Magic, if you said nice things about his coffee then you had a friend for life.
That was the best thing about sailing with Magic: the smell of fresh coffee brewing every morning. Couple that with sea salt in the air, and the gentle rocking of a boat at anchor, and you'd agree that life wasn't bad.
But then you'd get up on deck and remember what was going to happen today. We'd set sail for another island - maybe Paxos or Antipaxos - and we'd have to make sure our motley crew of five skippers and their layabout deckies and their little yachts made it, too.
On the first, and sadly only, trip I did under Magic's special tutelage, four of the five yachts in our flotilla ran into some sort of trouble. The first happened in the harbour about five minutes after the trip had begun, when one of our carefully chosen skippers ploughed his boat into a rock wall.
Cue a bit of screaming from Magic, a quick check to make sure there was no serious damage, and the continuance of our journey.
Magic then scanned the horizon like a seasoned old salt, checked the wind direction, assessed the wisdom of raising the sails, decided against it, yelled at everyone, then got back to flirting with the nearest female crew member on his boat.
Our five trailing yachts, having little to no idea what they were supposed to be doing, gradually wound up in all sorts of mischief on that trip, from a broken keel to a head-on collision. The passengers had an absolute ball - Magic just about had apoplexy.
Ah, Magic. He's apparently still in Greece to this day, working on the boats. He's no longer in charge of drunken Australians though - these days Magic has moved on to a more refined brand of clientele. They probably don't appreciate his sailings skills, but I hope they're impressed with his coffee.