Back on Board (Doree Days - Part 6)

After a hiatus up north, it was time to head back to the boat in the harbor by Newport Beach. I caught a ride with my friend to Elk Grove in the early morning, south of Sacramento. From there I started hitchhiking, first a short ride from a guy going to work who'd picked me up once before some time ago who recognized me before I recognized him. Next was a treasure hunter who swore he'd cracked a Spanish code and was saving up for his next hunt. A short ride from an older man next, then a guy excited to talk about the Panama Canal when I mentioned the boat I was heading to, then finally the golden ride - a woman heading down to Long Beach.

She also had another hitchhiker in the car she'd just picked up, a self-proclaimed pirate named Bill who was heading to a rainbow gathering in New Mexico. He jumped out down the road a truck stop shy of the next junction, and I kept cruising with the girl. I was relieved to have gotten the ride, as Southern California can be a mess, had she been stopping short anywhere else I'd likely have been stuck in the dark for the night somewhere in the LA streets. Instead I was dropped off at a local bus stop just cheap short ride back to Newport Beach.

I hopped out, down the hill, over the little bridge and across Balboa Island to the Coral dock where the little dinghy was. It took me a second, but I got it ripping and headed across the dark waters to the big old Doree boat, glancing both ways on the look out for harbor patrol. As mentioned previously, the little dinghy was supposed to be registered as well as equipped with lights at night, neither of these things were in place and we'd already had warnings about it.

The boat was quiet and it seemed like not much had changed since I'd left. Considering I was gone for a couple of weeks, this was somewhat disturbing to see no progress. Jake had apparently just flew back up to Seattle to tie up some loose ends or some such. Benny likely hadn't come down at all since Jake left, he wasn't all that handy with direction and would be useless left on his own.

Mitch, the owner, came in the next day. Around sunset, after a day of toiling with this and that on the boat, I took him back to shore. Growing antsy after having just had another taste of the road I loved so much, I inquired about what he thought would be our ship date. "December 1", he said would be the "soonest". The end of October had been the original timeline, there we were the day before Halloween.

I had plenty of time with my thoughts alone on the boat, I think I knew this boat thing was sunk, but I was riding it out anyway. It would be a month before Jake got back (which was longer than I knew or expected), a character himself, but probably the most qualified compared to myself and especially Benny. Mitch was obviously the leader, but he was tied up with his sick dog and a girlfriend up in Hollywood, plus everything else on land. He never spent a night on the boat, so even though it was his baby, his mindshare was significantly divided.

It became my boat for the next while, I was often alone floating out there, tinkering with different boat related projects or sipping a beer listening to Lakers games or writing, sometimes just sitting in thought. Mitch would drop in three or four days a week, Benny would too and sometimes spend a night. I'd escape down south for a day or two at a time to visit my brother, on Halloween and other weekends brewing beer and keeping my sanity.

After the first weekend down at my brother's I returned to the boat to find a few sea lions that had taken over the back deck of the Doree, barking and shitting like baboons. I'd scrape their shit and piss in a haze of wonderment after barking at them myself. Once I'd woken up to find one back there and hissed at him, he jumped at me with his weight, but I lunged a nearby board at him and scared him back in the water. Another time I was coming back from shore in a thick misty night and rolled right up to one only seeing him at last moment, luckily I'd startled him more than myself and he dove in the water rather than getting the jump on me. It was always a battle.

The days were generally getting colder and rain was coming here and there, mirroring the state of affairs as I saw them. It hadn't rained in the first month, now I was discovering leaks and other things I hadn't thought of.

The harbor patrol situation also peaking. One night I'd taken Benny and Mitch to shore, once at the dock Mitch realized he'd forgotten a mask he needed and had me buzz back to the Doree to get it. On the way back I spotlighted and red and blued by the harbor patrol. My only saving grace was a casual Jedi attitude and some officers I hadn't seen before. They gave the same story, "We've been having problems with the Doree and stopped this dinghy before", with my reaction of, "ah really? OK, well I'll let the captain know then, I guess I should be using the row boat then" or thereabouts.

They turned me around back to the Doree, I never got Mitch his mask and he drove back to Hollywood. I still had to get Benny back to the boat that night, so hopped in the dinky little row boat we also had and rowed a while back to shore. We took his car over to the peninsula for plenty of beer and the like before rowing once again back to the boat. From that point on I wouldn't use the dinghy unless absolutely needed, I was tired of this cat and mouse game. Mitch didn't seem to want to bother with the row boat, but everyone kept and even more watchful eye after that when using the little motor dinghy.

The very next night, after Mitch had split again for the day, Benny was antsy, wanting to head to the peninsula for drinks and unknown. I was content listening to the Lakers game and freshly paranoid about using the dinghy and not considering the the effort and time it would take to use the row boat round trip. He didn't seem to care and soon compromised in a sort of way by leaving himself to go pick up a bottle of rum to at least have some drinks on the boat.

Well sure as shit rum does what it does, after he returned and we were both several swigs in he convinced me to head to shore under my prescribed conditions that he drive the dinghy and got me a shot of tequila and a rum and coke upon entry to dive bar we intended to go to, as well as any other drinks we got. He agreed and off we went.

Rum bottle swigs on the way, tequila and rum and coke upon entry, beers thereafter and billiards straight away. We played with some other people, more beers, a haze kicked in. Next thing I knew, Benny was getting booted by the bouncer and I hadn't seen what happened. Now I was arguing with the bouncer and too drunk to remember what about or the exact goings on even, it would be weeks before the details were revealed under other circumstances.

Anyhow, I do remember running to the dock with Benny as if we were being chased in a Bond movie. I hopped on first, then him. As we agreed he was the driver, but in the rush Benny started the dinghy in gear, jerking the whole thing as he flew out the back splashing into the water. In his panic he reached for the propeller a way to pull himself out of the water, pulling his knee up to the whirling blade and cutting himself open. I pulled the engine off all in the same motion and reached down into the water pulling him up before he tried to sink again. The drunkenness dulled his gash that neither of knew about quite yet and he managed to get the motor going again and we gunned it full speed, weaving through boats in the late late night, to hell with scanning for harbor patrol, buzzed all the way back to the sanctuary of the Doree.

It was there we saw the little gash in his knee as he hobbled down into the galley. More rum was sipped on while I berated in a surprising coherent and thoughtful way, for both his recent action and a vent of built up annoyances from his lack of work ethic and so forth. He took it all in just as thoughtfully.

We both eventually took to passing out. I'd wake up some time around noon hungover and hazed to find Benny in the galley. He'd been up for a couple hours, cleaning and making water runs, but had been waiting for me to wake up.

"I need to go to the hospital", he said. I took another look at his wound, it was definitely something in need of stitches, I doubt the harbor salt water had done him any good either. His phone was also a spectacle, bent and shattered like I'd never seen before, it probably saved him by acting like body armor when he pulled himself into the propeller.

"You saved my life", he told me once we got to his car, after another risky dinghy ride across the harbor gauntlet. "You pulled me out of the water, I would have drowned", he continued as we recalled the night, filling in each other's hazy memory gaps. This token was the reason he'd been so receptive to my verbal berating once we'd gotten back to the boat, we now understood each other, everything was out there.

At the emergency room we waited, got inside and soon got him sewed and drugged up. I took him to get a new phone after that and didn't get back to the boat until dark. Luckily Mitch wasn't coming in that day, I'd have some time before sharing the story with him. Benny wouldn't be back for a while after that, he'd have a week or so of walking with a limp and generally being gimpy.

Several days later I had to row to the harbor office to make a mooring payment for Mitch who'd forgotten, they were charging fifteen bucks a day. While I was in there I was asking the woman some questions out of curiosity, like how many days in advance people could pay and if anyone could buy a mooring outright. These questions she couldn't all answer and went to the side room and got the harbor patrol leader of sorts, a sheriff if you will.

He answered my questions, but also saw that I was with the Doree and took the opportunity to reiterate our Dennis The Menace relationship.

"You're with the Doree, right? That boat has been here since last year... no tags on the dinghy, noise complaints, the hull getting sanded when it should be in dry dock, always problems. I know you're not the owner, but you could just as easily suffer the consequences for some of the infractions taking place. We just got another complaint several nights ago about a dinghy blazing through other boats in the middle of the night, you know anything about that?"

I played dumb, I was just a guy doing a favor paying a bill as far as I related. I left knowing it was all too clear, we were a target, a blemish on this wealthy harbor, they were keyed in on us and just waiting for a slip up they could boot us on.

At this point I'd already had a growing sense of stagnancy from waking up in the same place for weeks at a time after more than five years of a go go go every day lifestyle on the road. On top of that I'd become unconvinced that we were actually going anywhere anytime soon, now there was definite sense of paranoia in not only any work that was done on the boat in the open being examined by the harbor patrol, but also any coming and goings from the boat because of Mitch being too cheap or lazy about getting the dinghy registered.

"Panama", I thought, "The Sea of Cortez". Central American girls I couldn't quite picture (which made it that much better), nights drunk on foreign liquors running, escaping and ducking away passionately. Everything I could think of to justify continuing, what should have been coming that I somehow knew inevitably would not come, just tuck that knowing away. "Who knows anything", delay with that thought.

Thanksgiving came and went, I spent it with my brother and a slew of his people in a fine feast and fine beer filled event. It was back to the boat after that and things seemed to be rolling, I wanted to think so anyway. The hatches had arrived, windows were being built, the portholes were close to being installed and other cosmetic things were boosting my morale. On top of that Mitch was considering my ideas for the designs of the bunks in cabins and a folding table in the gallery, which was making the boat feel more like mine, like a I had a piece in it anyway.

Jake would be getting back from Seattle now, my roommate would be back. With this I figured more would be getting done and the days and nights would become more interesting. All the same I still had it on my mind, "December 1st will be the soonest ship date", we were at the end of November and the tone was generally the same as a month earlier when Mitch had uttered that prediction. December seemed impossible, but hopefully change would come soon enough to satisfy.

October 29, 2012 to November 27, 2012