Boat Life Begins with Bottles and Sanding (Doree Days - Part 2)

Bottles of booze, chipped paint, cigars and nights on fire - so began my days on the boat.

I'd just arrived on the Doree, a big sailboat who's new owner, Mitch, had enlisted myself and two other guys, Jake and Benny, to help him get it ready to sail to Panama, for starters. This first morning I woke up floating in the harbor by Newport Beach, seeing it all in the daylight for the first time.

We were surrounded by other boats in their moorings, on the shores were nice homes lined up evenly. One of the boats closest to us had been taken over by the sea lions, as many as ten of them barking and crapping the day away, rocking it to the point you thought it could capsize at any time.

Jake made breakfast, we were the only two on the boat at the moment. Mitch was living with his girlfriend in Hollywood while Benny was still living at his parents house in Santa Barbara. Southern California is stuffed so tightly and vastly with cities that have little to no geographic separation, causing commutes of two and three hours, one way, to seem reasonable. To some.

The first task and larger project on this eighty foot steel vessel was scraping the non-skid floor material off the deck, which we'd eventually replace. This was a very tedious chore, sitting on the hot deck with a little paint scraper and chipping away. The tedious nature was initially offset by the surrounding beauty and newness of the situation.

Before getting too far along of this, Jake and I decided to go take a look at our new surroundings. We hopped in the dinghy and headed up the harbor to a public dock on the peninsula. Nearby was a giant catamaran owned by Google and Virgin that help a little deep sea vessel that looked like a space ship, apparently the only ship of it's kind, able to go to the deepest depths of the ocean to explore.

Anyhow, we got on shore and walked around the little town, of which there was not terribly too much action, but a quick walk though it ends at the nice beach. Some splashing around and checking out the pier, then we were back to the dinghy. This tiny little part of the peninsula would be our stomping grounds for some time.

We rode the dinghy back to the boat and then back to the other side of the harbor, Balboa Island (a tiny island attached to the mainland via a short bridge, essentially it was the mainland itself), we picked up Mitch who'd arrived with some supplies and several Hollywood sort of girls.

Back on the boat I got back to scraping, also cutting out some siding for the bathroom wall. One of the girls was Mitch's girlfriend, they were all doing a short film shoot on the boat for her reel. Closer to sunset another couple arrived, Jake's friends from Seattle, soon I traded my paint scraper for a beer and relaxed with them all on deck.

Benny came the next day and joined in the scraping, he was gone by night and only Jake and I remained. We decided to head to the peninsula to get a feel for it at night, except this time we took the longer walk to the northern end where there's many more bars and action. A stout at the brewery was the extent of it, then a bottle of rum picked up for the walk back to the dinghy, this time along the boardwalk which proved to be a little more entertaining.

Neither of us had much for cash, yet this bottle of rum and the many bottles to come somehow always found a way. We weren't getting paid for fixing up the boat, other than the food and the place to stay.

The next day set would establish our pattern and method of boat days and drunk nights. Benny arrived somewhere in the early afternoon, our scraping continued and now the sanding began. After the non-skid was scraped up we needed to sand down the paint as well, also a tedious task, even with the use of the electric sander which would prove to have it's own story of issues to come.

As sunset got closer Benny was ready to go, I buzzed him back to the Balboa Island dock and dropped him off, making a stop on shore myself to grab a cheap whiskey bottle.

Swigs back on the boat with Jake and then buzzing to the peninsula. Two attractive blondes our age were giggling into a cab, before they were gone we managed to get their advice on what was worth doing in this more quiet end of the peninsula, they suggested going to the 47er, one of the three bars down there.

We walked into a small quiet bar with a couple pool tables. Not much going on, but we decided to grab a couple beers and play a round of pool. A couple other guys soon challenged us and we kept playing. Suddenly a huge crowd burst in of young 20 somethings and most likely some under agers. The girls were California-done-up and the guys were beach bro equivalent. We kept our pool game up, now with something to flirt with, also getting free drinks from the apparently wealthy duo who had challenged us.

We ran over to the other bar in town, Cabo Cantina, where apparently everyone else was flocking to ready to take advantage of happy hour. Jake and I had enough for a beer a piece, but soon found ourselves without drink in hand and without much money in pocket, also realizing we were hungry. We ran out to the dock and buzzed back to the boat, quickly making up sandwiches and swigging on the bottle, then buzzing back to the peninsula, now with bottle in tow.

We stopped at the 47er first, but it was a dead zone once again. Not to be defeated, we decided sipping the bottle on the beach would be better than just heading back to the boat. On the walk over we passed an open shop door, glancing in seeing a poker game going on in the back. We didn't have anything to put up at the moment, but we decided to step in just to see what the score was, perhaps for a time in the future where we had money to play.

At the counter up front was a guy and a girl, each with a cigar in hand, it was evident we were in a cigar shop and lounge. The guy owned the place, "Take a seat!", he told us. We inquired about the poker game, apparently it went on around once a week, just whenever they could get people interested.

"Once we have money we'll actually play one of these days", Jake commented.

Noticing their drinks in hand, Jake asked if we could sip on our bottle while in there.

"Of course!", said Anthony, the owner. We told them about the boat we were living on and our potential adventures ahead of us, right away we were all swapping stories and making fast friends.

"You think I could have a drag of that?", Jake said to the girl of her cigar.

"Here, have the rest", she offered, it was all but done anyhow.

Thinking better could be done, Anthony stood up and chimed in, "Come on, how about a full one?", he disappeared for a moment in the humidor and returned with a cigar for the two of us to smoke. We thanked him, Jake once again reiterating the fact that we had no money and now swearing we'd be back as soon as we did and buy cigars for everyone on the boat.

"It's nothing, really", Anthony said, "You guys are cool, drinking that bottle and on this adventure, it's awesome!". We all kept talking, soon we finished the cigar and were ready to move on. We thanked Anthony again and headed for the beach.

Our bottle was empty, but this was soon remedied. We saw four girls sitting around a fire pit on the beach and Jake lead the way straight to them, quickly interrupting them by introducing himself and then me and sitting down as he asked if we could do so. They seemed a bit perplexed, but not pushing us away, soon we were all talking and laughing, they even made up some mixed drinks for Jake and I.

I'd cornered away with one girl talking, still by the fire, she was inquisitive about the boat and more so about my stories of hitchhiking and the like. We chatted for a good while until the four had to leave, she left me with a phone number and a suggestion of meeting up later that week.

Still full of booze and energy, we weren't ready to head back to the boat quite yet, so like moths to a flame we stumbled on over to the only other glowing fire pit left on the beach. A small group there welcomed us just as easily, sharing their booze as well as we all got talking.

The girls in this group did seem a bit colder though, my attention drifted to a group hanging on the lifeguard tower that seemed a bit more energetic. I decided I'd try to recruit them to join our fire and ran on over with my cup. A minute of flirting and a pass of my cup to the blonde girl for a sip, she instead slammed it all leaving me on empty.

"Join us by the fire, we have more!", I said. Some in the group seemed skeptical, but the blonde and one other girl grabbed my hands and ran over. This did not last long, as in fact the vodka by the fire was empty. With the booze empty and the fire dwindling, Jake and I finally decided it was time to be boat bound. We'd made the blanket statement several times while around the fire, "Join us on the boat if you want", but only the cold girls and some guys remained and there didn't seem to be the interest.

We got across the field and into the streets, then sure enough, one of the guys from the fire emerged chasing us with his shoes still in hand, wanting to check out the boat. Jake and I gave each other a look, he wasn't really who the invitation was intended for, but oh well, we had made the offer.

The three of us hopped on the dinghy, "This is the biggest boat I've ever been on", said the nervous guy gripping the side tightly.

"This isn't the boat...", Jake said, I was laughing, "This is the dinghy we use to get to the boat".

We arrived back on the boat and gave him the quick tour, also showing him where he could crash out for the night. Jake got to cooking what would come to be know as "second dinner", our late night usually buzz induced sloppily satisfying meal.

I was hanging out on the top of the boat, then coming towards the back to see Jake and the guy breaking an embrace, Jake laughing saying, "No no no, sorry man", this was followed by a pretty candid discussion of the guy talking about his dipping into homosexuality, or at least at a point where he was finally ready to. Jake, admittedly bi himself, although not to this guy to avoid any more awkwardness than was needed, entertained the conversation for a bit until it was clear that all that was left to do was buzz the guy back to shore.

Jake came back and we munched down second dinner, laughing about the situation.

"He asked if he could feel my abs", Jake said, "So I said 'sure'. I guess he took that as an invitation to try and kiss me".

"Well, yeah, dude", I laughed, "Were you surprised?"

We woke up reasonably hungover the next day, Jake splashed in the water for a lap around the boat, I made up some chili and eggs, then it was off to the beach. We alternated between splashing in the waves and flirting with a couple beach girls.

After some back rubs and more swimming around we headed back to the boat where I grabbed my pack and had Jake drop me back on shore. My brother lived just a short distance down the coast, so I was happy that I'd be able to spend some more time with him while staying on the boat.

I spent the night there, sampling three of our home brews from months prior when I'd dropped in, two of which I was trying for the first time. They were awesome, it was also clear that we'd be doing as much brewing as possible while I was still in southern California.

In the morning I headed back to the boat. Our pattern continued, the next week was full of scraping and sanding by day, heading to the peninsula by night.

The deck was well on it's way to being totally stripped down, despite issues with padding falling off the sander and the start of it's slow death.

Our nights typically started with buzzing to the peninsula and dropping in on Anthony where he'd occasionally give us another cigar or just shoot the shit for a bit. After that we'd head to the beach and climb the dune to scan for any active fire pits, there was usually just one and we'd flock to it. One night was a Mormon party which we didn't stay at for long, another night was some 18 year olds which Jake berated somewhat comically (I mentioned his ageism), and another night was a group having a birthday party. Sometime we got some liquor and good conversation out of the fires, sometimes not as much, but it was always a kick.

By the weekend I was down at my brother's again, him and his roommates were having a party while we brewed a couple pumpkin beers, one a lager and the other a stout. Late night I found myself at a bar with a drink in hand and no one familiar in sight, not my brother, not his roommates or anyone else from the party. A miscommunication with a regular at the bar lead to him throwing a punch, not one that landed with any significance, but it was time for me to wander the hilly streets and find my way back. I'd said something about not being able to afford a beer, which he interpreted as me not being able to afford the beer I was already drinking (which someone else had bought for me), so his thinking that I was planning on skipping on a tab at his local bar lead to the scuffle.

Anyhow, I made it back to the house in time to get a pinch of sleep before the morning, heading back to the Doree. This day would feel like the subtle beginning of the ultimate undoing, which was still a ways off.

I arrived to the Coral dock on Balboa Island, I called Benny and he had Jake come pick me up in the dinghy. He was clearly hungover, glazed and wiped. He told me last night's peninsula story, the typical drunken debauchery, but this ended a little more poorly than usual.

"I fell into the drink", he told me, "Getting back onto the dinghy at the dock, my iPhone is fucked".

Benny would later tell me the stumbling story as well of Jake jumping down on to the dock and in a flash he was swimming. Back on the boat his phone sat in a pathetic pile of instant rice, it didn't have a chance. The stove was trashed with ramen noodles slopped from what I knew had to be their drunken second dinner. Jake was grumpy and Benny was quiet, looking hungover himself and likely avoiding rubbing Jake the wrong way.

By the Mitch arrived Benny and I were sanding, Jake had been in the galley all day under the ruse of working on the plumbing, but I knew he was doing more sitting around and nursing his hangover, sulking over his loss.

Before Mitch left he gave us a "gather 'round" pissed off talking to, about the filth of the boat, the ramen caked stove being the bigger sticking point. I didn't tell him I'd been gone down south at my brother's, I just stood there with the other two hearing him out as he reiterated his OCD nature while using phrases like "pet peeve".

Jake and I rowed him and Benny to shore before heading to the harbor showers. Mitch was going home, Benny was "sick of the camping food" we were eating on the boat, being that he had a bank roll of his own he could afford to hit up some restaurant on shore.

After we showered I waited for his phone call back on the boat to go pick him up. The phone call came and a minute later so came the realization that the dinghy was out of gas. Luckily we had a row boat as well, a dinky one, I rowed in the dark, over shot the dock, came and picked him up, then slowly rowed back, some twenty times longer than it would have taken with the dinghy. Benny had waited until we got back to eat his Thai, munching it down as Jake and I cooked up some ramen.

The next day we did a huge clean of the boat to overly appease Mitch, he eventually showed up, gas can in tow for the dinghy, by then we were back to finishing up on scraping and sanding, once again.

Sunset approached, once again we were dropping Mitch off and showering off the day. Tonight would start off slightly different than others, through I'd found out about a pot luck going on fairly close by in Newport Beach. Benny, who was on his way back to Santa Barbara, gave Jake and I a ride to the apartment complex where the gathering was and dropped us off.

I wasn't sure what to expect, perhaps several people, but as it turned out there were several dozen people, loads of beers and food and deserts, locals and travelers both coming to enjoy the night.

I roamed about the crowd, chatting here, flirting there, running into Jake midway through his story of the boat we were on. The boat seemed like the easy thing, "We're living on this boat in the harbor, we're heading to Panama", one sentence was the only spark needed.

I'd been flirting a bit with one girl from Spain, a model by trade, temporarily living in Orange County. Of course I'd mentioned the boat and offered to have her come back, Jake and I had basically put the offer out to anyone. As the party dwindled, mostly due to the apartment complex quiet hours approaching, Neva along with Chris, the guy who'd given her a ride to the party, were both up for coming back to the boat with us.

The four of us hopped in his car, pausing just for a beer run, then heading down to the Coral dock where we buzzed the dinghy back to the Doree. We gave them the quick tour and chatted on the boat for a good while until we decided a fire on the beach was in order, we had a ton of scrap wood Mitch wanted us to get rid of anyway.

We buzzed to the peninsula and hauled the wood across to the beach where we got our fire going. I had more energy and passion in me than what I was exerting by the fire in conversation, it seemed Neva was on the level too, she wanted to run up the dune with me, jump in the ocean.

The big dune was a wind break wall between the ocean and the fire pits, we stripped down to underwear and ran up it, each foot sinking in more than the previous, momentum was key. Laughing and jumping we did the same leaping on the way down where we were finally met by the splashing of the surf, there was no need to swim, just getting smacked by the waves was enough.

We chased around in it all, finally taking a breather and talking, still standing in the mix. She started telling me more about her modeling career, both in Europe and now her pursuits in California.

"Right now I'm twelve pounds overweight", she said matter of factly.

Even though this was the most professionally and specifically any girl has ever told me she was overweight, as in she wasn't fishing for compliments, I didn't see the twelve extra pounds. I responded how any reasonable person would to a beautiful woman in her underwear who just told you she thinks she needs to lose weight, all while getting splashed by the Pacific Ocean under the star lit sky, "I think you look amazing", obviously, seeing her smile I continued, "In fact, I wanna kiss you right now".

She smiled again and leaned in, "OK".

After some time we headed back over the dune where Chris and Jake remained in conversation around the dwindling fire. Neva and I dried by the last of it before getting our clothes back on, soon we all back in the dinghy, dropping Chris and Neva off on the other side of the harbor by the Coral dock to get to their car. Back on the boat Jake and I killed off what was rest of the beer, enjoying a second dinner before floating into another night's sleep.

The rest of the week sailed by, more of the never ending sanding and scraping, as well as the beginning of wire brushing the rust off the cables going up the mast. This was fun just because it involved getting harnessed in and raised up, getting a great view of the whole harbor and even across the peninsula to the ocean.

Friday came, Mitch came for just a short time, a case of beer along with him which was much appreciated. He also left us with twenty bucks worth of "have fun" money when he took off for the weekend, Jake got a bottle immediately.

We swigged on the bottle while cooking up dinner, then it was over to the peninsula, first stop was the cigar shop. We caught up with Anthony and also talked with Gary, a regular there who was telling me about a tequila company he'd started up.

After a while we decided to make our run over to the beach, but there wasn't a fire pit blazing to be found, so we decided we'd head to the 47er. Gary was there when we go there, straight away he ordered us a shot each of the tequila, followed my mixed drinks with his tequila.

After that drink went down he was ready to head to the Balboa Saloon, the third of the three bars in this area. He ordered up a shot each for Jake and I, informing us and the bartender that we were welcome to drink as much as we wanted, given it was his brand of tequila. We'd already been hitting our bottle pretty heavy, Jake slid his full shot over to me, "I'm gonna sleep in the dinghy", he told me.

I wasn't ready to quit quite yet, down went the shot, up with a drink and the night continued. I found myself playing pool with some people, roaming about, a couple more drinks, then outside to join someone while they smoked.

When I tried to get back in the bouncer was telling me something about a cover, I explained I'd already been in there and was pointing to some people I knew, but he wasn't having it. We went back and forth for a bit until he started getting pissed with threats of calling the cops and the like.

That was the end of that, I headed back to the dinghy and for some reason thought I was being followed, chased, so I ran down the dock and jumped in, this pissed a drunk/hungover sleeping Jake off, but we sped away quickly, weaving through the boats and back to the Doree.

The next day hungover slowly, but sure enough we were back on the beach by late afternoon joining a small party we'd heard about, just a little BBQ. After some time on the beach the party moved to the guy's house nearby, a conversation about home brewing broke out, next thing a guy was running back to his house and returning with a bottle of home brewed blueberry mead that had been aging for fifteen years.

We paused for some beers at Cabo Cantina, then a big group of us headed back to the boat to briefly show it off, then back to Cabo and finally ending up at the 47er for last call. Jake remained in the parking lot, he didn't have his ID with him. The last call drink went quick, Jake was in an argument with some girl when we came out. It came and went pretty quick, but the night in town was clearly done with.

Back on the Doree we had a quick meal and Jake went to sleep, it was late. I discovered the bottle of blueberry mead, what was left of it, had been left on the boat. I sat on the back deck sipping it down, reflecting on the night and the past couple weeks. The boat was coming along, the nights entertaining and the opportunities to see my brother and brew were great.

All the same, I was sensing the pattern, the beginning of blending days, my feet were getting itchy. I knew the coming weeks would help though, soon a girl was flying in to visit me, Marilyn, and shortly after that I'd be making a run up to the Northern California harvest for a break from these Doree days. Soon after that, I thought, we'd finally be setting sail.

September 5, 2012 to September 23, 2012