Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It wasn't all depression, suicide and illness

for the winter I lived aboard my sailboat in Kodiak.

There was a lot of fun and sometimes we used a little imagination to get things done.

The harbor at Dog bay had a gangway leading up to Near Island and as a result, a lot of stray dogs would amble down the docks with the resulting mess that animals make. Robbie's cheerful Lab, Babe was often blamed, but we all knew that was just a crock as Robbie had the dog trained to hang his tail over the side of the pier before taking care of business.

Yup, the dog was dog trained, and probably a whole lot better than a lot of people that I met. I remember sticking up for Babe a couple of times when accusations were made.

The animal mess was getting out of hand in early October and the freeze hadn't set in. It was terrible. If you didn't pay very close attention you would step in it. I had automatically gotten in the habit of taking my shoes off before I entered my sailboat and leaving them in the cockpit. I had even put a plastic box in the cockpit to keep my shoes dry in the rain.

The twelve of us liveaboards would have occasional meetings which were generally nothing more than an excuse to drink a little beer and swap gossip and rumors. It was illegal, actually, to be a liveaboard, but it was generally overlooked selectively as the harbor patrol knew that they would have a hand from any one of us if they needed it.

Of course, if you were a jerk, you'd have the full force of the law move your sorry ass ashore MOST rikki-tik.

Anyway, a couple of us had suggested to the harbormaster that he install a dog gate to keep the dogs off the docks and I guess it wasn't in the budget until spring. It was wryly explained to us that the mess was designed to help us control our drinking. Because of the mess, we were wary about getting falling-down drunk.

He did have a point. Because of the messes I had curbed my drinking carefully so as not to get so plastered as to not be able to watch my step unless I was safely on board.

The subject of the harbor not being able to afford a sheet of three-quarter inch plywood and a couple of spring hinges sounded a little dubious to us and we found out that the real reason for not doing t was that such a gate would look like hell. They had plans for a commercial grade one come spring.

The next day five or six of us dutifully cleaned off 'E' float, where we all lived. Nobody had asked us to; we did it for our own convenience and safety.

I think someone over Tony's Bar owed me a case of beer and I collected it and made the mistake of being seen carrying it to my boat which meant there would be a liveaboard meeting on my boat that night.

There was a meeting and of the guys also supplied a bottle of pretty good scotch, to boot. Of course, good scotch was wasted on Phillistines like some of us, but there were a couple of us that enjoyed a decent grade of booze.

When we griped about having spent part of the day cleaning up the dock, Cowboy Williams came up with a pretty astute idea that blew our minds, coming from him.

Now Cowboy Williams wasn't hiding from being drafted by NASA to help out with the space shuttle by any means. He was a shy, slow sort of person that probably had a touch of Down's syndrome. We were always looking out for him because he really wasn't too bright and quite often he was doing things that would qualify him as a pretty hot contender for a Darwin Award. Thank God Cowboy didn't drink. I couldn't begin to fathom what kind of a mess that would have been. Thirty-plus years later I still cringe at the thought of Cowboy Williams likkered up.

To put it bluntly, Cowboy Williams was a simpleton.

"Let's put toilet paper on the doggy-doo and make everyone think it's people pooping on the docks," he suggested, followed by his wheezy childlike laugh.

We laughed for quite a while and then Dan spoke up, "That might get their attention," he said.

"Yeah," I said. "Just stick a roll in your day pack and when you see a fresh one, add a little TP to it and make it look like there's a phantom crapper running around."

More laughter.

Cowboy Williams, the simpleton had just shamed us all with his simple mind. The again, when you think about it, it's generally the simple ideas that get thigs done. I had watched a fisherman with an engineering degree busting his ass to pump fuel to a stove on his boat. Cowboy had been with me. He and I watched the engineer. When he was done, Cowboy asked him whay he just didn't take the small tank required for the stove and bolt it to the roof and just let the fuel run down the pipe to the stove.

Talk about watching someone feel foolish! The fisherman turned purple whe he realized he had spent a couple of days and a chunk of money doing something he could have done a whole lot easier and for free.

We brainstormed the idea into the night until we ran out of beer and continued until the bourbon was gone. We knew if any of us were seen, we'd be ratted out to the harbormaster and although he probably wouldn't give us all the boot, you can bet that there would be trouble. We had to be cagey.

For the next several days we put bathroom tissue on every fresh animal mess we could find until the fishermen started griping to the harbormaster that there was a phantom crapper running around on Dog Bay. To avoid getting caught we set up a pretty good system of lookouts and we had a man posted to keep a weather eye out for the harbor patrol's skiff. The bridge to Near Island was still under construction, so they sent their patrols over by boat at that time. We knew the schedule by heart, but were aware that sometimes there was an unscheduled run.

The dropping of a steel cylinder one of the guys had rang like a bell and could be heard throughout the entire harbor, yet the noise was unremarkkable as it blended into the sound of a working harbor.

The biggest problem was making sure that any fishermen working on their boats didn't spot us and say something that would get us caught. That was a simple quick fix. The fishermen were tired of the dog messes, too. We simply let them know what we were up to and they stayed quiet about it, grateful that someone was at least trying to solve the problem. Actually most of them laughed like hell when we told them.

We did avoid a certain few, though. There are always a couple stodgy frumps with a stick up their ass that would self-rightously rat anyone out for anything. Cowboy Willams was good for this job. His simple nature and curiosity was known throughout the bay and although he was considered to be a mild pain it the ass, nobody was cruel enough to tell him to go away. Cowboy would visit these boats during operations and keep the stodgy old jerks busy.

The best part about the stodgy old jerks is that they would be the first ones to report the existance of a phantom crapper. They did.

The harbor police stepped up patrols for few days, yet the phantom crapper kept striking. They found it somewhat frustrating. Every time they turned around it appeared that the phantom crapper had struck again.

It took few days before some sharp-eyed harbor cop saw paper on an animal mess that he had seen earlier with no paper attached.

It didn't take long for him to figure out that skullduggery of a most foul nature was going on.

Nobody questioned us, probably because they knew if they did that they would look like fools. We also knew there would be no retaliation because it would be an admission that they had been fooled. Truth is, I'm sure more than one harbor cop had figured the whole thing out but kept his mouth shut out of respect and admiration for the little plan. They were no different than anyone else. They had a sense of humor.

Besides, we kept a pretty good thing on things in Dog Bay. Thefts were down and so was a lot of stupidity. We had notified them several times of suspicious behavior and they didn't want that to go away. It would if we got booted out.

The next day two harbor cops showed up with plywood and springs and installed a dog door.

They also turned the fire mains on and let us wash down the entire pier. We did, of course. We even drained the fire system after we were done, too, so as to prevent a winter freeze upThe entire harbor got a good hosing off and for the rest of the winter it was safe for us to get falling-down drunk without having to worry about falling into doggy-do.

I even stopped leaving my shoes outside.

my other blog is: http://officerpiccolo.blogspot.com/ http://piccolosbutler.blogspot.com/

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