Old (and we do mean old) ex-sailmaker Keith Lorence has written a good book about his adventures from back in the day. Here is an excerpt from Back When Sailing Was Fun.
I once sold a set of sails to a guy who lived 30 miles north of Seattle. He sent in the deposit, we delivered the sails and went out for a test sail. Because he didn’t have his checkbook with him and was a known local sailor, I thought I could trust him and said that I would bill him. That was my first mistake. This was back in the innocent days of business. Back when sailmaking was fun.
After a year with no payment received, I was getting a bit ticked off, naturally. It was about $5,000 and my fledgling business needed the money. I would call him at 3 a.m. and say “I can’t sleep because I can’t pay my bills. If I can’t sleep, neither should you.”
One night, after a Wednesday night race while sitting in a Seattle restaurant, three friends and I decided that this had gone on long enough. We decided to go and repossess the sails off the boat. We drove 30 miles and got to the marina around midnight. We jumped out exuberantly and leapt over the gated marina fence to get to the boat. We had been thinking clearly enough to bring a tire iron to break the lock. So that’s what we did. The four of us grabbed MY sails and one extra for good measure, and walked back up the dock to the car.
When we exited the gate with the sails over our shoulders, we saw the police car. Parked right behind our borrowed van. Our van had Idaho license plates and the cops were curious. One of our party of four turned back, dropped his sail and jumped into the 48 degree winter water. We never did find out how he got back to Seattle.
The police had stopped for their dinner doughnuts in the marina and thought it unusual for an Idaho state van to be there in the marina with its side door open and they decided to wait and see why. Well, here we came with our booty. They stepped out of their car and said, “Well boys, what are you doing?” “Well,” says I, “I own these sails and am picking them up for repair.” “Yea right,” they said and made us take the sails back to the boat, which had all the signs of breaking and entering.
There was no way of talking our way out of this one, so we spent the night with the real criminals in the Everett jail. The next morning we called one of our wives to come up and get us. Begrudgingly she did, and we all went for ice creams after our night in the pokey.
On the way home, the three of us criminals decided that buying Lasers would be a good idea. So we did. I lucked into a Laser with the hull number 69069. One of my friends named it “Lickety Split” for me. He said it was a no brainer.
Our court dates were set, and our attorneys were ready. But I had to go and sail in Europe and couldn’t make the court date. “No problem,” said my attorney, “when will you be back?” I gave her a date and she fixed it. Little did I know I almost wouldn’t make it back due to extreme weather in England.
When I returned home, I found that my two fellow captives had been given one year probation and a $600 fine. Not too bad. But my attorney informed me that I had a different judge. And he was the hanging judge, and not lenient at all. This made me a bit nervous to say the least. Would I get jail time?
I went to the judge to plead my case with my attorney and explained the situation; with fear of the hanging judge in my heart.
I needn’t have feared; it turned out the judge was a sailor. He knew the person who stole the sails from me. He said that he knew that this person had done this before. This guy was a crook and the judge really couldn’t blame me for wanting MY sails back but, never the less, breaking and entering is still against the law. The judge told me that because my other two compatriots had been fined and put on probation, the law said he had to do something. He gave me half the fine and half the probation and said that if it were not for the previous judge’s decision, he would have let me off clean.
Lucky for me that the hanging judge was a sailor!