The Legend Of Jumping John Flash
The events in this story are true. No names have been changed.
There was a time in the late eighties when Chicago John was also known as Jumping John Flash. It could have taken place around 1990, as all legends go sometimes time gets lost. To fully understand this story, you will need a brief history lesson.
The key players in this legendary tale are Captain Dave, Captain Charles, Captain Bill, Jerome, and of course Chicago John. I was known as Captain Bill at all times. It did not depend on whether or not I was actually the Captain or a crewmember. We always let the Captain be the person that owned the boat we were sailing that day. We were all good sailors except for Jerome who just happened to be a friend of Captain Dave's. The noble title of Jumping John Flash came from two separate incidents that both took place aboard sailboats on the San Francisco Bay.
On that fateful day, we had been sailing on Captain Dave's 40 foot sailboat around Alcatraz Island. As the sun began to set, we headed up the Oakland Estuary (waterway) to dock at a Mexican Restaurant. A large part of sailing involves survival skills such as Dehydration Exercises. You know--drinking---mostly beer. That day, we were determined to be good sailors so we worked on this particular skill like all good sailors do when they are far away at sea.
When it is time to dock a boat, each person is assigned a task by the Captain. I had the honor of setting out the fenders, Captain Dave had the helm, John had the bowline, and Jerome watched. As bowline boy, John's duty was to secure the boat to the dock and ensure that we didn't plow into any other boats or the dock. This particular evening, there were a lot of other boats so docking was a little tricky.
As we approached , John shouted to Captain Dave. "Hey! You are coming too fast Dave!" Dave replied, "Hey its my boat! I know what I'm doing!" The actual transcript of this conversation has been lost over time, but suffice to say they disagreed. There are two major problems with coming in too fast. First, it looks really bad to hit the dock. Secondly, it might hurt the boat. We are still unsure to this day if John's actions were to save the boat or to look good.
As we came very close to the dock, John suddenly leaped off the bow of the boat to the dock. Unfortunately, he miscalculated the distance and plunged into the murky, cold waters of the Bay. Was it the darkness? Was it the beer? Was it a heroic attempt to place himself between the boat and the dock to save face? To this day, the answer remains a mystery. Well, as you may imagine, we had a great laugh at John's expense.
We proceeded to the bar of the restaurant. John was soaking wet and wore no shoes. At the bar sat Captain Ralph. I suspected that he had slept with my girlfriend so we all ordered drinks and naturally put it on his bill. Jerome kept riding John about "jumping" into the Bay. John began to get a little pissed. Jerome, however, kept it up and said to John, "How cold was that water?" John responded by dumping his drink on Jerome's head and saying, "About that cold!" John was then asked by the management to leave. He did so and as he left we all sang NANANANA.....as they escorted him out. See we couldn't leave because Captain Ralph was buying!
On the sail back to the marina, Chicago John became known as Jumping John. The 'Flash' in Jumping John was to follow aboard Captain Charles's boat a few weeks or months later.
It was a foggy night on the Bay that evening. Captain Charles was visiting our marina with his sailboat. It was a really nice boat- very clean and well cared for. When I say it was foggy, I mean you could probably see about 100 yards at the most. However, the fog plays a minor role in the tale of the 'Flash' in Jumping John Flash.
That evening, we were practicing our Dehydration Skills again and swapping lies. At some point, Captain Charles mentioned he had some expired flares that needed to be discarded. Discarding a flare means shooting it off with a flare gun. Suffice to say - we were jacked! Fourth of July in the fog - too cool! We managed to convince Captain Charles that we were such good sailors and that we could cross the Bay and discard the flares in the fog with no problems. Of course, none of us sailors had ever sailed in the fog before, but I don't think we mentioned that to him.
The plan was to sail to the middle of the bay, discard the flares, and then navigate Captain Charles's boat back to the safety of his marina. It was a great plan. None of us would suffer from dehydration sickness and we would get to see the flare in the fog! Fog on the bay, by the way, is very cold. Anyhow, we headed out with Captain Charles at the helm steering the compass course we had agreed upon. John was helping him and Captain Dave and I were playing chess in the warm interior of the boat. Having calculated precisely one half hour to the middle of the bay, there was no need for Dave or I to be on deck. Besides the flare gun was below deck so we were not going to miss the show.
About 25 minutes had passed when John came below to fetch the flare gun for Captain Charles. Dave and I looked up briefly from our chess game to see what was up. "We gonna shoot that flare off now?" I asked with anticipation. "Real soon," John replied. Those words still echo in my head. See in my mind, 'real soon' meant as soon as we were all on deck and the Captain gave the all clear to shoot the flare. How wrong I was!
I returned my attention the chess game as did Captain Dave. From the corner of my eye, I saw a bright flash! I looked up and saw the cabin of the boat was filling with smoke!! I could hear Captain Charles above. Panic was in his voice, "What's going on? Where's that smoke coming from?" It took a few seconds to realize that "Jumping John" had shot off the flare gun inside the boat!!!!! We had to think really fast. If the boat burned we would all drown and/or freeze! So at the very risk of becoming dehydrated, we doused the fire with beer managing to save not only the boat but our very lives too.
The rest of the sail was uneventful for me. Captain Dave made fun of John. Captain Charles was somewhat upset with John. John was kinda quiet. We made it to the marina like we were Magellan Navigators Extraordinaire! From that day on, all over the Bay Area, Chicago John became known as "Jumping John Flash."
Your buddy, Bill
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