Friday, January 11, 2013
I Was Doin' Jest' Fine, Dadgummit!
Well 'feller sailors, I'll have y'all know that I was doing jest' fine getting on with my new landlubber life but that was only up until I just so happened to stumble upon a new TV program on The Weather Channel.
And I'll also have y'all know that after stumbling upon that new program, I unexpectedly found myself dwelling upon a few impressionable moments that in retrospect have been a source of lingering consternation.
For ya' see, my somewhat recent "vagrant-on-a-boat" cruising experience had only just started to subside in earnest now that I've been off the boat for the past few months.
But that all changed in but an instant upon me recognizing a familiar face on a new program featuring the US Coast Guard in South Florida of all things.
'Cause featured in that one particular episode was none other than a young Coast Guard rescuer cheerfully explaining how he and the rest of his helicopter crew mates rescued two scuba divers who had somehow separated from their dive boat and were now lost out at sea somewhere off of Key West.
Yep... that Coast Guard corpsman, all geared up and being lowered by cable from a helicopter into open waters to rescue two wayward divers was none other than the same fellow whom I'd previously prepared a free, promotional, Federal Tax return for this past tax season.
I'll also have y'll know that it wasn't his name or even so much as his face that first drew my attention to him but rather the sound of his southern, melodious, Virginia drawl not that any of this matters one way or another.
Just hearing and watching that fellow on the TV immediately set me to recalling a bit of unwelcomed interaction I had encountered after being engaged by a US Coast Guard vessel in the Key West Channel late one evening. It was an engagement that I am convinced precipitated a subsequent "visit" by a vessel from the Department of Homeland Security but a few days later.
And I'll certainly have y'll know that it was late one evening towards the end of tax season last April, when after putting in a number of hours preparing tax returns for disgruntled clients, and after later indulging in a few cold ones at one of the many dockside bars, (okay, maybe more than just a few brews... but who's counting?) that I eventually resigned myself to calling it an evening and reluctantly head on back to my boat.
I'll also be the first to admit that I had indeed procrastinated the inevitable wet dinghy ride on back to my boat that evening after furtively hoping in vain that one of the many boisterous, attractive, come-hither, ladies at that bar might perhaps take more that just a casual interest in me and graciously invite me on over to her place for a little "cuddling".
'Cause like I said, I really wasn't keen on dinghying on out to my boat in crappy weather at that late hour of the evening.
And when I say cuddling, I do very much mean it in a guy sort of way 'cause ya' certainly don't need for me to repeat what Dr. Phil already done explained to y'all and 'dat be that women perceive cuddling to be jest' dat' as apart from guys who correctly comprehend that cuddling is but a euphemism of tantalizing things to come.
Whats' can I say other than I be jest' keepin' it real 'cause y'all know dat' I do speak from da' bottom of my heart and elsewhere fer' that matter.
But alas, it wasn't to be that evening in spite of all my beseeching assurances to the ladies that I was quite skilled at cooking up a scrumptious breakfast omelet and of brewing an even better pot of coffee in the morning.
Nope, my gracious offer found no takers and unfortunately for me there wasn't to be any late night cuddlin' going on in a real bed that evening... at least not for me there weren't any.
'Cause like I saids before, among the last things that I wanted to do that evening was dinghy on out about a mile or so in open six foot swells and in gail force gusting winds. (Okay, perhaps less den' dat' but y'll knows what I mean. Besides, I jest' can't quites help but "stretch da' truth" once in a whiles to quote 'sum feller by the name of Mark Twain.)
In any event, after trekking on over to the dinghy docks and after zipping my windbreaker all the way up, and after discretely taking a leak into the water, I ever so cautiously lowered myself into my dinghy and proceeded to give my two-stroke outboard starter-cord a good yank. And with the motor sputtering out of a sound sleep, I uncleated the painter and gave that dock a good shove.
In but a moment I've pulled away from what is usually a cluster-f*ck of dinghys all haphazardly strewn about at the Turtle Krawls dinghy dock. But only this time it just so happens to be late in the evening with but a handful of dinghys to be seen at that late hour of the night.
Soon afterwards I'm underway and motoring on out to my boat which now happens to be out on a hook somewhere off of the west end of Flemming Key. She is no longer tied off to a mooring ball as she had been just days earlier in the Garrison Bight Mooring Field.
For ya see, I had relocated my boat in anticipation of tax season soon becoming but a thing of the past and that I'd be free to set sail on out of Key West. And just as importantly I simply didn't want to incur the cost of leasing a mooring ball for another full month 'cause unfortunately for me, paying a pro-rated fee wasn't a permissible option per marina policy.
But it was while I was diligently motoring on out to my boat when crap gradually started to happen. No sooner had I motored on past the adjacent US Coast Guard station, when a moored vessel at that station flickered its spot light on and off in my direction.
And without so much as an afterthought, I readily convinced myself that that spotlight emanating from that moored CG vessel, simply didn't have a damned thing to do with me. Surely they had better things to do than to come pay me a visit on a crappy night. And rescuing a distressed sailor out at sea or sumptin' of the like was the first thing that happened to cross to my mind.
And when I say crappy, I mean crappy in every which way... crappy as in lousy weather but even more distressingly for me, crappy as in there wasn't to be any "cuddling" for me that evening after I'd furtively run up yet another bar tab.
In any event it couldn't have been but a minute or so later when my dinghy was suddenly and most unexpectedly engulfed in a flood of bright light. And there for a brief moment it felt as if I were somehow in Guantanamo, Cuba undergoing an intensive interrogation with none other than former Vice-President Dick Cheney towering over me and solemnly contemplating whether or not I should be subjected to a bit of water-boarding.
Fortunately for me however, I snapped out of it rather quickly and collected my thoughts all the while thinking to myself, "I ain't done nothing wrong... not lately anyways... So why in the heck are you harassing me for on this late, crappy, no-pootie-for-me hour?"
And yep, the source of that bright light was coming from none other than the same US Coast Guard vessel that I'd only dismissed but a few minutes earlier. Only this time that vessel had somehow managed to stealthily sneak up on my ass without me ever having suspected a thing.
And just as suddenly I could hear orders being barked out at me. I'm emphatically told to stop my dinghy while they come alongsides. I'm also instructed to furnish some personal identification along with my proof of boater registration.
"Hey captain... this is the US Coast Guard... vessel number such and such out of sector Key West, we're coming alongsides. I need to see some identification and your boat registration please.
Only that I ain't certain whether or not there had indeed been a "please" inserted somewhere in those instructions 'cause in hindsight those barked instructions sounded more like a "do as you're told, you P.O.S. vagrant-on-a-boat", and not as a polite, gentle request.
And after purposely fishing out and forking over both my Texas Driver's License and Boat Registration to that CG officer, I'm told to sit tight and wait a minute.(yeah right, as if I had any choice in the matter...)
The officer then proceeds to key in my personal data into his laptop computer presumably checking in with government authorities up in Quantico, Virginia to see whether or not there might be a file on my sorry ass.
Yet for all I know, he could have just as well been checking in with any number of CIA operatives operating out of Guantanamo, Cuba.
A number of awkward minutes pass by while the rest of the crew members silently scrutinize every movement I make. My dinghy is still brightly lit up with a spotlight and I'm now wondering whether or not that young recruit holding up a bright spotlight on my ass is someone whom I might have prepared a free, promotional Federal Tax Return for just days earlier in the week.
But that's when the officer in charge returns to address me. He emphatically proceeds to ask, "Have you ever been arrested before?" and just as suddenly I'm feeling as if I'd been just slammed on the side of the head by an errant boom, except that I ain't under sail or anything of the like when he emphatically barks out his inquiry.
And trust me on this one, feller sailers', getting slammed on the side of the head by an errant boom while under sail do indeed hurts. And I's also got's to tell 'ya 'dat gettin' struck on the noggin' can indeed make fer' the brain to occasionally malfunction as evidenced by all the foolishness 'dat I done in da past and not 'cause I happen to have a bit of Puertorican heritage in me as 'sum folks, including my lady-friend are somehow inclined to believe.
Any ways, with my eyes now wide open and with my eye-lids a blinking away, I respond with what must have sounded like a beseeching "NOooOOoo...", as if pleading, don't start now, as in huh? as in, you got's to be kiddin' me... as in, me arrested???, No Way Jose!... as in, C'mon Man!!, what you be talkin' 'bout!!?? ... as in, oh no!... not the water-boarding!
The officer in charge then proceeds to inform me that I am in violation of operating a dinghy at night without a light where upon I in turn, against my better judgement, hold up my dimly lit bicycle light that I'd brought along with me to double up and serve as a dinghy light.
His no nonsense response was succinct and to the point, "That's not gonna' cut it, you're gonna need a lot more candle light power than that" before endlessly carrying on about the late night collisions that do occasionally occur out in the Key West Channel and with all invariably having dire consequences.
I briefly consider interrupting that officer's diatribe to explain that it wasn't all my fault for having to dinghy on out to my boat at that late hour of the night without a decent dinghy light.
I'm tempted to explain that if any one of those boisterous, attractive, come-hither ladies that I'd been furtively hittin' on earlier that evening, had taken me up on my offer of a sumptuous breakfast omelet, then surely I wouldn't have been in the predicament that I now found myself to be in.
I nevertheless do think better of it and prudently elect not to explain my no-pootie-for-me misfortunes after somehow sensing that he couldn't have cared any less one way or another.
That officer then proceeds to emphatically growl at me and announce that the dinghy I'm operating isn't registered in my name and that it happens to be registered to some deceased fellows' estate up in Ft. Myers.
And with my throat suddenly tightening, I feebly respond that I had indeed previously attempted to secure clear title on multiple occasions but without any success. (okay, perhaps one half-ass, feeble attempt if y'll insist dat' I don't "stretch da' truth" any.)
I further explain that dealing with the Department of Florida Licensing is an epic ordeal and that I'd originally purchased my dinghy from some fellow off of Craig's List who in turn had previously purchased a sailing vessel along with the dinghy from the estate in question without knowing that in the State of Florida, one needs to secure separate titles for each of the two vessels.
I nervously continue rambling on that the dinghy only later became available for sale after the fellow's sailing vessel had burned all the way down to the water line while under sail one day and that it all happened but a split second after him lighting up a cigarette while at the helm.
I'm tempted to further explain that the poor fellow didn't get a chance to finish smoking his cigarette and that the ensuing billowing smoke and fire could be seen from miles away and that within minutes, a US Coast Guard vessel along with a rescue helicopter were on the scene to save his sorry ass.
Nevertheless I once again prudently elect not to tell him the full story upon sensing that he had already heard enough out of my sorry ass.
Besides that, I certainly didn't want that officer to suddenly start suspecting that I might have perhaps indulged in more than just a few brewskies earlier that evening while furtively seeking out an attractive young lady to cuddle up with for the night and then some.
So yeah, I did the prudent thing and stopped my yapping and didn't start a whining 'bout not scoring any pootie earlier that evening. 'Cause like I saids before, I don't think for a moment dat' that officer would have cared any.
Besides that, it goes without saying 'dat any Puerto Rican having but a smidgen of "la mancha de platano', will tell ya' dat' "en boca cerrada, no entran moscas"...
And just as suddenly that officer proceeded to ask, "What kind of work do you do?", while making it sound as if I didn't have a day job to speak of and that in all likelihood I happened to earn my living by fishing for the square grouper in crappy, foul weather and without a proper dinghy light to boot.
Yet upon responding that I worked for a Tax Preparation franchise preparing Federal Tax Returns for Individuals, he kind-sorta softened up a tad while explaining yet again that I needed proper lights on the dinghy and that I needed to get my registration taken care of if I intended to operate it with a motor mounted on the transom.
And just like that I was let off the proverbial hook with but a warning and allowed to continue on my merry way out to my boat at anchor. And I'll also have y'll know dat' it be a good thing that I'd left my anchor light on all day for otherwise I jest' might not have found the dang thing at that late hour of the night.
It later occurred to me that just maybe, that officer had reasonably concluded that I had been diligently preparing tax returns all day after squinting at a computer screen for hours on end and thus had a very logical explanation for my bloodshot, blurry eyes at that late hour of the evening.
It was either that or he had yet to file his own tax return while perhaps thinking that he just might need my services to save his ass from the Tax Man.
In any event, I did indeed eventually motor on out to my boat that evening without further incident. Yet somehow I knew in the back of my mind that I was now on some one's radar screen and that my comings and goings in that channel would now be monitored. Not closely monitored mind ya' but monitored none the less.
Intuition furthermore told me that I shouldn't be surprised in the least if the US Coast Guard were to then advise some other maritime law enforcement agency to seek me out for a subsequent visit once the weather laid down.
Prophetic words for sure for that is what indeed happened but a few days later...
And I'll also have y'll know yet again dat' I was doing jest' fine gettin' on with my new landlubber life and all up until the other day when I just so happened to pause the TV clicker on the Weather Channel.
All of which kinda-sorta brings to mind a story dat' my lady-friend done told me awhiles' back after she and a medical doctor had successfully resuscitated a patient who had flat-lined while in the hospital emergency room.
She further goes on to say and that the dude, who for all intents and purposes, had been deader than a door nail, suddenly regains consciousness along with a heartbeat, and then proceeds to berate her and the doctor while belligerently hollering, "Gawd Dammit!!, I was doing just fine!! Why in the hell did you bring me back for!!??"
Yippers.... like I done already tolds' ya'.... I was doin' jest' fine dadgummit!