Being so busy on charter with guests coming week after week, it’s easy to forget what time, day, or even month it is. Everything just slowly rolls into one and there comes a point where all that matters is that you’re up in time for your duties and are doing a good job at making your guests happy. If you’ve got that right, who actually cares what day it is?!
A classic example of this was late in my winter season when running a charter catamaran down in the Caribbean a few years ago. A small boat in the grand scheme of yachting, we were just three crew who catered for eight guests on a 58ft sailing catamaran. Three crew meant we all did everything – although my official title was Chef/Stew. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) was the Captain/Engineer and our third was a Deckhand/Watersports/Joker extraordinaire. One of the best (and worst!) things about this boat was how close the quarters were, which meant that the guests arrived as guests and left as friends. The main deck was an open plan galley/salon, so whilst cooking I often had an audience or at least was still able to socialize.
It was midweek of a charter with an exceptionally lovely family of six from Alabama. I was running on nothing but adrenaline as a long season was drawing to a close, but the likeability of these particular guests kept us all going. Since day one, we had a running motto with these guests “just rub some bacon on it” as they devoured pounds of bacon every morning and half-jokingly requested more with every meal.
Greeted one by one with a cheery “good morning ma’am”, I was busy crisping up their small pieces of bacon for breakfast, just how I’d learnt they like it. I dipped slices of brioche in an egg mixture and fried them off to serve up a breakfast of French toast with fresh berries and, of course, a mound of bacon, making sure to leave extra in the galley for the crew. The mother of the family was trying out a new diet, so I baked her a separate loaf of gluten-free coconut bread that consisted of mainly coconut flour and eggs.
Barely done with his last bite of bacon, the younger son got up from the table on the aft deck and slid open the doors into the salon and slumped onto the couch, holding his stomach. Worriedly, I asked if he was okay to a typical teenage grunt: a noticeable change to his cheery self. I carried on washing the dishes when the elder of the two daughters walked through and stumbled down to her cabin. Meanwhile, I popped my head outside to see the father at the head of the table with his head on his placemat. By now, I was confused as the youngest daughter had disappeared and our deckhand wasn’t in sight either. Almost at that very instant, I heard sounds from the flybridge and before I could go to investigate, I heard the gut-wrenching sound of somebody hurling and then, the splash of what could only be vomit into the ocean.
What was going on? Why was everybody acting so weirdly, and why did everybody appear to be sick all of a sudden?
I asked the mother what was going on, but she said she felt absolutely fine and had asked me if the eggs in the “eggy bread” were fresh. Were they blaming me? As I reached for the first aid kit in a desperate search of something to settle their stomachs, I thought long and hard about the ingredients I had used for breakfast. I asked Cheryl if she’d eaten any bacon and yes, she had so it couldn’t be that. It also couldn’t be the eggs as her bread had more eggs in it than the French toast. Although I knew that food poisoning doesn’t have an instant effect like this, I was starting to stress. I then turned around and saw my Captain slouched on the swim platform with the oldest son, who both had wet backs and appeared to be drenched in sweat. Everybody on the boat except myself and Cheryl were completely man down. I felt awful, but surely it wasn’t my food?
After about half an hour of brainstorming, fretting and genuine concern for everybody’s well-being, they had all congregated in a communal dire state in the salon to “soak up the AC”. I offered to make a large pot of ginger tea in an attempt to cure this inexplicable ailment. It was then that Cheryl turned to her husband looking out at the beautiful surroundings and said, “honey, what day is it?” and he mumbled something that resembled “I’m too sick, ask Lauren”. At this point, anything they wanted, so I checked on my phone.
It was April 1st.
Every chef’s worst nightmare right there, in the shape of the ultimate April Fool.