local knowledge

poetic justice

SA’er Clove Hitch shares a less-than-satisfactory story of the ‘folks who keep us safe.’

The Friday evening of Memorial Day weekend, my buddy and I headed out on our little shitbox modest yacht in the Chesapeake. It was steady 14 with gusts to 21 and building; we were under a no. 3 job and a reefed main but still overpowered. We headed north  to the Bay Bridge, warming up a bowl of chili I’d made the night before. It was the kind of glorious nighttime sailing I’d so missed: Clear skies, bright stars, big wind, and other than us, no one around.

Except, of course, the US Coast Guard; and here’s a poem about what happened.

On a moonless night with faded stars
10 billion candle power seen from afar,
throbbing white, flashing blue, red, green and bright
the Coast Guard approaches with search lights.

They boarded with a bash or two and a bonk,
muscle-bound youths tatted with nautical-themed sleeves,
more ink than had my Grandpa that served on the Gleaves.
We lingered in irons while they sniffed about

and put their boots in chili they had spilled,
cabin sole covered, aluminum bracket killed,
paint torn off, though they gave us a touch of theirs.
You mariners on the whale-road beware:
your knowledge, gear and skill are no shield
to the Coasties you must always yield

when they come in the night blazing ignorance.
They came up to leeward and there was on audible “crunch” when they bashed into our transom/side, while two guys scampered on. One coastie had more badass ink than I’d ever seen: His name in signal flags, anchors, and so on, and all of 22 years old. His buddy plops down in the cockpit with his check list, slapping the seat with his hand.  “This is wood, right?”

I’ve heard people say the CG doesn’t know much about boats, but I never really believed it until then. We told him it was fiberglass. Next, he asks about our auxiliary power. “We have a 6 horse,” my buddy says.

“You have twin sixes?”

Uh, no. Sure don’t.

I dug around and we got through their little safety check. They were polite, but seriously ignorant, and seriously damaging. The next morning we noticed that they took off some of our shiny new paint, giving us some of their own as is to say, “Our bad, have some of our paint since we took some of yours’.  They had also crunched an aluminum bracket on the transom that holds on the rub rail/hull-deck joint cover.

UntitledNow, some might say, “It’s fine to talk shit about the Coasties, but they are out there saving lives, so have some respect, and STFU.” To this, I offer a humble retort: When I was an ambulance crew chief, if we ever damaged stuff on our way to a call we’d catch all kinds of shit. Hell, even blazing lights and sirens on our way to a sick infant, some townsfolk complained that we were being bullies on the road and our chief had to give us some grief. Now, just imagine if we were playing bumper cars because there was somebody sick? Would that fly?

All I can say to my fellow sailors is that if the CG is going to board you, spring into action. They may or may not wait for you to get your main sail down, they may or may not wait for you to get fenders rigged. But if you do have time to deploy fenders, put every fucking one you have out.