Monday, June 25, 2012

Life on Karen Lee, my sailboat, was pretty good.

It cost me about ten bucks per foot per year in slip rent and that was only $250 bucks a year for a pretty good place to live.

It wasn't really legal because there was a rule against living aboard so I had a friend of mine rent me his couch for a buck a year and therefore I had a legal residence ashore. The truth is, the law was selectively enforced and was really on the books so the harbormaster had a tool to work with to keep troublemakers away from the docks. He really did like having good people on the docks because we could keep an eye on things and if we saw anything it was 'call in and observe'.

They monitored the marine VHF 24/7/365 so getting a harbor cop there was a snap.

The harbormaster at the time was a pretty easygoing kind and it was not known to many, but the harbor patrol were armed to the teeth but under orders they kept their arsenal covered up per the Harbormaster's orders. While I lived aboard I managed to be considered one of the good guys and because I was handy with tools every now and then I'd fix some little thing here and there and as a reward I got to use the shower in the harbormaster's office after I fixed it up and for keeping it clean. It was a secret and I never told anyone about it.

The harbor cops were a motley crew, ranging from younger guys in their twenties and a retired Coastie in his late 50s and there were a couple of female harbor cops. They were in a position with the local police department that is pretty unusual. In general the police let the harbor cops take care of everything and stayed well clear of the docks unless they were called.

The only time I ever heard of the local police storming aboard a vessel without the harbor cops was when a couple of them decided to make a drug bust on one of the boats. The policemen actually wound up being thrown over the side by the fishermen and the boat steamed off and shortly after was boardedby the Coast Guard who found nothing whatsoever, not even a single rolling paper.

The skipper and crew were promptly arrested by the local police department when they tied up later and they were charged with everything in the book and then some. The trial lasted just a few minutes because the skipper stood up and respectfully asked the judge if she had the authority to try the case and pointed out that the two poolicemen had boarded the vessel after the lines were thrown off.

Instant half-hour recess. The judge came back and said the whole thing was a federal beef and she could not try the case.

Thirty minutes later the entire thing was thrown out because the boat was a US documented vessel and when underway could only be boarded by the Fish and Game people or the Coast Guard. The judge suggested that the local police get with the Feds and see if they could do sommething that way. I later heard that the local cops could have been charged with unlawful boarding so the whole incident went away.

WHat is really sad about it is that the police could have found out it the boat was deaing drugs simply by asking the harbor cops because they knew everything that was going on.

Anyway, I was pretty much on their good boy list and that was good.

There were all sorts of liveaboards in the harbor and most of them were characters with different dreams and plans in their lives. It was pretty much a collection of people that were taking the road less traveled and looking back on it it was a truly dynamic community where everyone looked out for each other.

Life was a series of trades as the barter system was in full swing and while little money changed hands, it seemed that an awful lot of good did. I swear the first requirement to being a liveaboard is the inability to walk past a dumpster without looking in to see what is in it. We were all scroungers and dumpster divers.

I remember seeing two or three skates of halibut groundline in one and instinctively snapping it up and simply tossing it on the slip next to some guy's boat and walking off. Two or three days later I found a six-pack of Rainier in my cockpit so I suppose he had figured out where the groundline had come from.

Once I came home to find a parachute, complete with shrouds stuffed into a bag in my cockpit. I scouted around for about a day to see where that came from and one of the guys told me he had scored it and figured that maybe I could use it to make some sort of sail with.

I took it straight to the local bar and with the OK from the bartender I snapped a few chalk lines on the floor and laid out an improvised spinnaker and then took it to a friend's house and she ran a couple of quick seams for me and using the 550 cord shroud lines I managed to make sort of a purse type spinnaker that served me well even though it looked kind of funky.

I later entered the boat in a race and on the downwind leg I popped the homemade 'chute and an awful lot of people looked at me and wondeed what the hell kind of spinnaker it was but when it was over and done with even the mose dubious admitted that it seemed to work pretty well.

Once in a while I would come home and find a duck, some fish or maybe or some venison in my cooler, and often some beer and once in a whiile if I was lucky a bottle of pretty good scotch if I had done something special for someone.

There were also a number of 'community jobs' that we would share. Swamping out one of the local bars was a pretty good deal. The owner was generous and paid a pretty good little chunk of change for an hour or so's worth of work and if there was a beer delivery, it paid a lot more than that.

The bar owner once said to me that while he never knew which one of us would show up, he knew that someone would.

One of the canneries sometimes would call the harbormaster's office and the harbormaster would either send word out on the VHF that the cannery needed a few people that day and sometimes he would send one of the officers to look around and find one of us if they cannery simply needed a watchman.

It is getting late and maybe I'll continue later.

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