It was Labor Day weekend in Honolulu, and the pier was busy.
Gilligan had taken the job because he’d always wanted to go to Hawaii. And in a way, these guided tours were a respite from the harsh, unforgiving fishing vessels he’d spent most of his time on the past two years. And no matter what, there was nowhere he felt more at home than the ocean. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to actually enjoy the sights and sounds of this amazing, mystical place without worrying about what lecture would be waiting for him at the Minnow about something he’d inevitably done wrong the day before.
They’d done over three dozen tours since he’d arrived in July. Two a day, Wednesday through Saturday. One at ten and one at three, and still he somehow always managed to screw up something. It wasn’t because he didn’t care. No, he did, sometimes too much.
Two weeks earlier he’d almost quit. He’d neglected to check the weather and the promised three hour had turned into a half an hour. The drenched tourists had all angrily demanded refunds. Once they’d left, the Skipper had really let Gilligan have it. This was going to be a terrible loss for them. How could he possibly have forgotten to check the weather?
He walked back to his rented room in the pouring rain, determined to quit before he could be fired. He’d called his brother that night, who talked him out of it.
“It’s a mistake,” he said. “They happen.”
“Yeah, but the Skipper yelled at me real bad. I’m no good. He’s going to fire me, just watch.”
“I don’t think so,” said his brother. “You’ve known him for how long and he keeps asking you back. Go in tomorrow, apologize, and move on with it. He wouldn’t have flown you all the way to Hawaii if he didn’t believe in you.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Gilligan responded.
“Did you take my red shirt with you?”
Gilligan hung up the phone.
The next morning the Skipper apologized for getting so angry. “I know I’m hard on you, but it’s only because I know you can do it,” he’d said. “You’re always trying your best, and that’s the important thing. I can’t imagine doing these without you, little buddy.”
The next two weeks had passed without much fanfare. As it turned out, the passengers loved him. “Your first mate is a hoot,” he’d heard one tell the Skipper at their lunch back at the pier. Another time a rich woman had given him a $50 tip. “Take care of yourself, sweetheart,” she’d said.
That day had started like any other. He’d woken late, scarfed down a banana and barely made to the docks by 9 o’clock. It was a perfect sunny day. The work they needed to do to prep the boat for the 10am tour was negligible, and the Skipper had brought coffee and donuts for the two of them.
“Gee, thanks Skipper, I’m starving,” Gilligan said, before finding a quiet spot to enjoy it. As he ate his breakfast and looked out onto the pier, he felt content. Things could be better. He could learn how to not make so many mistakes so one day could be promoted to something more significant. He could have a woman he loved and children to go home to and share all of this with. But he was in Hawaii, doing what he loved, getting to share the ocean with people who wouldn’t have gotten to experience it otherwise. The salty sea air sure was a cure for a lot of things.
“Gilligan!” The Skipper’s voice shook Gilligan from his daydream. What now?
Gilligan turned around and saw the Skipper gesturing to a young woman on the docks who looked lost. She held a suitcase in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. He checked his watch. The passengers were told to be there by no later than 9:45 so they could sail at 10. It was 9:23. If this woman was one of theirs, she was early.
“Go see if she needs help.”
“Yes sir,” he said. He got a closer look at her and saw that she was very pretty. She was well dressed in a gingham dress and a blue sunhat, but something about her felt different from the wealthy tourists he was used to seeing. Gilligan climbed down to the dock and met her gaze.
“Hi, ma'am,” he said.
“Is the S.S. Minnow?” she asked.
“That’s us,” he replied.
She smiled. “Great.” She smiled as she set down her suitcase and handed Gilligan her ticket. “I’m on the 10am tour. I know I’m a little early. I’m Mary Ann.”
“Miss, you’re free to board,” he said. “We’ll be sailing shortly.”
He took her bag as he led her onto the boat. “Look at me,” she said. “I was so worried about being late I’m the first one here.”
She took her seat next to Gilligan as he finished his breakfast. “Will anyone else be joining you?” He asked. It seemed strange that someone as pretty as her would be alone.
“Where are you from, Mary Ann?”
The two smiled at one another, which again was cut by the Skipper’s shout. “Gilligan!”
He looked at the Skipper, watching them from the front of the boat. Someone else was there. Why was everyone so early today? Gilligan started down to the dock when the Skipper stopped him again. “Stay there until we leave.”
Gilligan went down to greet the next passenger, a salt and pepper haired Ivy League type. This man seemed like he probably didn’t have much of a sense of humor, so Gilligan stood up straight and put on his best face to greet him.
“Here for the tour,” the man said.
Gilligan took his ticket. “How are you today, sir?”
“Just fine,” the man replied with a forced smile as he boarded the boat.
“I’m Gilligan. I’ll be your first mate today.”
The man smiled.
Unlike Mary Ann, he only had a small knapsack with him. He didn’t seem like the type that would be much in the mood for conversation, as he took out a book and began to read it. Mary Ann was looking around the pier, trying to take in as much of it as she could.
As Gilligan continued to wait for the rest of the passengers, he heard the Skipper conversing with the other two.
“You folks are in for a real treat,” he said. “We’re the only guided tour that takes you around the whole island. And we’ll have the best seafood lunch in Honolulu waiting for us.”
“It’ll kind of be a shame to go back home,” said the salt and pepper haired man.
“What is it you do, sir?” Asked the Skipper.
“I teach high school science,” he said. “First day on Tuesday.”
“That sounds exciting,” Mary Ann said.
“Try getting fourteen and fifteen year olds to care about chemistry,” he said with a laugh. Maybe this guy wasn’t such a stiff after all.
Gilligan saw the couple before they saw him. He hoped they weren’t there for the Minnow. They had a ridiculous amount of bags, and were bickering about something that Gilligan couldn’t fully understand.
“It’s right here,” said the husband, pointing in Gilligan’s direction.
They approached Gilligan, the wife clinging close to the husband. They exchanged pleasantries and Gilligan took their bags. He kept telling Gilligan about how he was a very important person back in New York. Thurston Howell III. “And this is Mrs. Howell,” he said, pointing to his wife. He babbled on about how they’d just returned from a trip to Tahiti but didn’t enjoy it because they’d gotten too much sun and the food was less than good. Gilligan nodded. He was used to these kinds of people.
They had at least three bags, probably more. Who brought this many bags on a three hour tour?
The Howells boarded. The Skipper told him they were waiting on one more. Gilligan checked his watch. 9:39. Whoever was missing had six minutes to show up.
This happened a lot too. People were late or they just didn’t show up. The tickets weren’t cheap, and Gilligan couldn’t imagine not having to worry about that kind of money. The passengers began to chat amongst themselves. He heard Mary Ann mentioned she’d won the entire trip in a sweepstakes that she’d seen in the paper. Because of it, she was traveling alone. Gilligan thought that he’d love for something like that to happen to him.
9:45 ended up coming and going with no sign of their fifth passenger, whoever he or she was. The Skipper was getting impatient, and eventually told Gilligan to join him on the boat so that they could prepare to leave port. Mary Ann and the science professor were talking.
“I never got good grades in science,” she said. “It was always so complicated to me.”
“Well, it’s not really.”
The Howells were babbling about their multiple companies, and Gilligan let himself fall back into a daydream again. Usually the groups weren’t so chatty until the afternoon. Most of the time, they kept to themselves. But even if they were more talkative, it only lasted for the length of the tour, after which they’d all go their separate ways, never to see each other again.
“Thank you to the rest of you for being on time,” said the Skipper. “I say fifteen minutes before for a reason.”
Their fifth passenger ended up arriving at 9:49. She was tall, her red hair nearly coiffed, and she was wearing an evening gown for some reason. Like Mary Ann, she had one bag with her. She ran towards the boat.
“Am I late?” she asked, flashing a wide, perfect white smile.
The Skipper bit his lip, holding in his frustration. “Ma’am,” he said.
Gilligan helped her on board, and then they were seven.
“Oh, this is lovely,” she said, taking a seat between the Professor and Mary Ann. “Hi,” she said to him. The Professor gave a wry smile. He, and everyone else, realized she was drunk. “A three hour tour, isn’t it exciting.”
The Skipper said nothing. As odd as this woman was, she was a paying customer.
“I can’t wait to tell everyone in Hollywood all about this trip,” she said. “They’ll be so jealous.”
“Hollywood?” asked the Professor.
“Oh, sure,” she said. “Don’t you know who I am? I’m Ginger Grant.”
No one said anything. They didn’t recognize the name, but weren’t about to engage with her now.
“All right, everyone,” said the Skipper. Gilligan stood next to him. “My name is Jonas Grumby, your captain. Or Skipper if you prefer. Gilligan here is your first mate. We’ll be your eyes, ears and most of all, your crew, in your tour of Oahu today. We’ll return to port at 1PM sharp, and we’ll have lunch. Before we leave port we need to give you a quick safety demonstration in the unlikely event of an emergency.”
They gave the safety demonstration. They had to show them how to put on a life vest. Talk about what to do if they had to abandon ship. It was a script every crew member of any guided tour had to learn. A product of the laws had been passed after the Titanic sank, and their least favorite part of every day. A slow pleasure cruise like theirs was one of the safest things they could do out on sea. Sometimes the sea could get choppy, but that was all.
They finished the demonstration and prepared to leave port. Everyone could feel the sun shining brightly. “It’s a beautiful day,” the Professor said.
“A perfect day to be at sea,” said the Skipper. He was a thirty year veterran on the navy, and had spent more of his time on boats then off them. As Gilligan went to untie the boat, he inhaled the salty sea air. This was going to be a good group. He had a feeling.
The Skipper turned to the rest of the passengers. “We’re going to see a lot of things today, and sit back, relax, and enjoy.”
Gilligan joined the Skipper at the helm, and they were off. The gray clouds weren’t yet visible on the horizon.
AN: This story is just my little tribute to a great show with great characters. Check out the awesome theme song and watch the show on Amazon Prime.