A Few Words with Ed Teja

Interview by Joel Van Valin

WS: The Legend of Ron Añejo is centered around the island of Kayakoo. I couldn't find the island in my world atlas—is it based on a real island?

ET: Yes it is. I even described it accurately. You won't find it in an Atlas, but if you were a reader of, say, Chris Doyle's "Sailor's Guide To The Windward Islands" I don't think it would take you long to find either Kayakoo or St. Voracious. In fact the course I gave from Kayakoo to St Voracious defines two similarly named islands. No one in the region is fooled by my thin disguises. Still, it is fun to leave unraveling the mystery as an exercise for the reader.

WS: Many of the episodes, such as the smuggling fiasco, have a very real-life feel about them. Did they actually happen?

ET: Most of the episodes did happen. They are quite fictionalized and happened to an odd assortment of people that I call friends, but they happened.

WS: In the book, the narrator enters the Caribbean world of Ron Añejo when he buys a boat with a small inheritance and the boat breaks down during his journey. How did the real life Ed Teja wind up in the Caribbean?

ET: The real life Ed Teja was living on a rented junk in Hong Kong and decided that living on a boat was way cool. I was on a three year contract and decided to go live on a boat when it was up. I couldn’t afford a boat above the level of fixer upper and wanted one in a warm place. The boat we found was in the West Indies, so that's where we went. And we proved the adage that the best way to cruise the Caribbean with a little money is to start cruising the Caribbean with a lot of money. So the narrator is a different spin on a story common to a lot of folks. One basic difference is that the narrator had a little sailboat, and I was on a WWII Harbour Defence Motor Launch (HDML 1001) that the royal Navy retired in 1948. Our friends called her Leaking Lena, which was cruel, if reasonably accurate.

WS: I understand you are living in New Mexico currently. Do you plan to move back to the West Indies at some point?

ET: I've learned to stop planning and thereby avoid the frustration of not having plans come true. I am working on a CD (music being my other job) called Caribbean Dreaming (with Steve McPhail in Toronto) so that might provide a clue to my thoughts. Also, Pirate Mike has his boat in The Abacos and keeps emailing me about sailing with him to Cuba. Unfortunately, my agent and creditors prefer that I stay home and write.

WS: The Legend of Ron Añejo quite different from our typical seafaring fiction. What inspired you to write it?

ET: I was trying to write more about the marginalized characters called boat bums than to write seafaring fiction as such. The way they/we lived really defined the book, as you have to approach that life with a sense of humor. I have a rather off kilter sense of what the good life is anyway. The book was a vehicle for exploring some thoughts along that line. It came about as a kind of retrospective. The southern Caribbean is a small place for sailors, and you keep meeting the same people, and others of the same ilk.

WS: Any last remarks?

ET: I'd like to clear up one point that readers seem to get a bit wrong. The characters in the book are not larger than life—this book is humorous realism. They really are this nuts and I must be just as crazy to love their company. Now, in the next book (as yet unfinished) you'll start to meet the really strange ones—the guys like Captain Nemo and Captain John Smith, who, by comparison, make Ron seem as sedate as an insurance salesman in Des Moines.