Spin us a yarn, Skipper.
For a number of years, right around this time of year, I’d be fortunate to receive a phone call from a wonderful woman named Maureen Chant, the executive assistant to businessman Jimmy Pattison. The reason for the call? An invitation to an evening dinner cruise aboard Jimmy Pattison’s yacht, the Nova Spirit. Now, I wasn’t the only person invited on the dinner cruise. There were usually about 2 dozen others invited aboard his 150-foot luxury vessel on various nights throughout the summer. Jimmy and his lovely wife, Mary have hosted countless dinner cruises over the years, and the guest list is always an amazingly eclectic gathering of people. On any given cruise, our fellow guests have included bank executives, former politicians, car salesmen, newspaper workers, mining executives, and people from all walks of life. You just never knew who was going to be invited, but it was always an interesting and entertaining mix of people.
Here is how the cruise begins. You’re welcomed aboard by Jimmy and Mary, as well as the skipper of the ship, and the crew. You’re made to feel very comfortable and given free reign of the yacht to mix, mingle and have a look around their luxurious home on the water. Once all the invited guests are aboard, and you better not be late, you sail out of the inner harbour, and under the Lions Gate Bridge, enjoying a cocktail and conversation with the other guests. Jimmy and Mary get around to everyone for a welcoming chat.
The few years that my wife and I were guests, the plan was to cruise out of the harbour, and around the far side of Bowen Island, drop anchor, and have a wonderful buffet dinner. It was all very casual, sit wherever you like, inside the stateroom, or outside on the many decks.
Just before dinner was served, and while we enjoyed the scenery, Jimmy came by and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “After dinner, we’re going to have some people get up and tell a little 5-minute story that the rest of the guests might find interesting. I’d like it if you’d say a few words.” Gulp! Now, 5 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but believe me, coming up with a 5-minute story that might interest the people on board is a daunting task! What was I going to talk about for 5 minutes? I wished I had been given a little more notice, like a week or two! I didn’t have that luxury, I had the time it took to eat dinner to come up with something. Yikes!
I gave it some thought and came up with the idea that maybe the story of my trip to Brazil. I went there to see some of the work being done by World Vision. I was to co-host a telethon for World Vision and they thought it was a good idea if I could witness firsthand some of the projects they had in place. Yeah, that’s the ticket, the story about my trip to Brazil. I might even sound “worldly!”
Jimmy had tapped about a dozen of the guests to tell a 5-minute story, and after each story, Jimmy had some questions which is one of the things I’ve always noticed about Jimmy, he’s always curious about what people do, and what they have to say.
After a few people had given their stories, it was my turn, and away I went on my 5-minute story about my trip to Brazil. As I was halfway through telling the story about what I had seen in Brazil which included the poverty, little children with obvious malnutrition living in garbage dumps, and shanties with dirt floors and tin roofs, I got a sense that it might not have been the best story to tell following a magnificent meal on a luxury yacht! It was when some of the guests were dabbing tears from their eyes that I was certain this was not the right story for this particular moment and I realized I had to come up with a more positive spin! Something to try and save what was becoming an after-dinner story to end all after-dinner stories! So in closing, I switched gears and said how thankful and fortunate we were to live in this part of the world and to be guests on Jimmy’s yacht, and enjoy such a wonderful meal. Time was up and I sat down thinking, well, that was the last time I’d be invited to dinner on Jimmy’s dinner cruise.
But to my amazement, it wasn’t! The following summer we were invited back for yet another marvellous evening on the water. And once again our host tapped me on the shoulder for a 5-minute after-dinner story. Oh, no! This time though, I didn’t make the same mistake. I was very upfront and told the dinner guests about my Brazilian story faux pas of the previous year, and that I wasn’t going to do that again, and instead told the story of Jimmy Pattison joining me on one of my BCTV News Hour weather broadcasts. It’s the funny story of a Billionaire and an 8-cent ballpoint pen. It brought laughs from not only the guests but Jimmy himself. What is that story? Well, there’s not enough room on the page this week, but that’ll be a tale for another “Word.”
Maybe, next week...
Jeri, Wayne, Jimmy, Mary - aboard the Nova Spirit
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White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2