Slowly but surely, we are losing some of the icons of our boomer generation. This time, it’s the man who made Easy Rider an easy lifestyle for some of us. Novelist Michael E. Petrie of Laguna Niguel, California, had a chance meeting with him a long time ago, but still remembers.
Actor Peter Fonda, a major icon of the Boomer Generation, has passed.
The death of the Easy Rider star is very sad, for sure. Another piece of our youth is gone.
I met Peter Fonda once. It was the late 1970s and I had sailed on a 31-foot sailboat from California to Hawaii with my buddy David and two girls we knew, Connie and Mary. We’d been cruising around the Hawaiian Islands about a month or so on our little ketch named Azulao, winding up at Ala Wai Marina in Honolulu.
Here’s what I wrote in my journal about meeting Fonda:
A few slips over from us was a spectacular eighty-plus-foot ketch named Tatoosh that absolutely dwarfed our own ketch. Classic lines, it was an older wooden boat, beautifully maintained. A solitary figure seated on her deck with a drink in his hand looked very familiar.
“Is that who I think it is?” I asked David.
Dave gave a long hard look in Tatoosh’s direction.
“Looks a lot like that actor from Easy Rider,” Dave replied.
“Peter Fonda?” Mary came rushing up excitedly from the galley below, Connie close behind. But the lone sailor disappeared into Tatoosh’s cabin before the ladies could see him.
“Seriously, Peter Fonda?” Connie asked David.
David shrugged. Connie looked to me for an answer.
“Dunno,” I said. “Kinda looked like him though.”
The next morning the girls were eager to begin exploring the tourist sights of Oahu, but I preferred to sleep in a bit longer. So, David and the girls walked over to a coffee shop located a few blocks away called Wailana’s for breakfast. I promised to shower and join them soon.
A half-hour later, heading back to Azulao from the onshore showers, I found myself walking past Tatoosh. The same lone sailor was back out on deck, sipping coffee.
“Howdy,” the sailor said, raising his mug in greeting as I approached.
Holy shit! It actually is Peter Fonda, the little voice in my head shouted silently. “Good morning,” I managed to reply.
“I’m guessing from the looks of your boat that you folks did the transpac?” Fonda asked.
I just nodded, speechless, feeling a bit stunned to be standing on a boat dock conversing with Peter Fonda.
“Where’d you sail from?” Fonda asked.
“California,” I replied. “L.A., Marina del Rey.”
“Me too. I mean that’s where I sailed from too, a few years ago,” the actor/sailor told me.
“We sailed to Lahaina first, then cruised around and ended up here,” I said.
“Ah, Lahaina. That was my first landfall too, back when I made the crossing the first time. Jesus, don’t you just love Lahaina? Fell in love with the place first time I set eyes on her. Lived there awhile, on this boat. Never wanted to leave. But eventually did. Miss those times.”
“That’s a lot of boat. She’s beautiful,” I said, admiringly.
“Thanks. I don’t really get to sail her much anymore. First time I’ve been on her in ages. Thinking maybe about selling her. I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Well, if you ever need crew, I’m available,” I told him, mostly joking.
“I’ve got some boys over at the Hawaii Yacht Club that take care of her for me when I’m not here. Which is most of the time. They might let you tag along sometime if you’re all that interested. Here, I’ll give you their phone number. Give ‘em a call, set something up.”
Handing me a slip of paper with the number written on it, he said, “Well, I need to make tracks. Flying back home in a couple hours. Nice talking with ya.” Then he slipped below into the boat’s cabin, once again disappearing.
Joining David and the girls at Wailana’s, the first words I spoke were, “Boy, have I got a story to tell you!”
Mike’s mystery novel is, You’re the Only One I Can Trust.