The End of The Boat and Banned From Nevada (Doree Days - Part 7)

Fitting that my days aboard the Doree and my Las Vegas adventures would all come to a halt at the same time. Both of them were about upside - the allure of explosive potential, the mere mention of either bring excitement and controversy: "I'm sailing around the world", and simply "Vegas". Both rarely turned out as planned.

Starting with the boat, I'd arrived in early September, 2012 after getting connected with a captain via an online sailing forum somewhat unexpectedly. The pitch: "I have an 80 foot sailboat in Newport Beach, California that's going to Panama, for starters. I'd like you to come help get it into shape and we'll be cruising out by late October".

Now we were in late November. I was one of three guys that Mitch, the owner, had recruited. Jake, a young 20's guy from Seattle who'd done a stint in the Navy who was living on the boat with me, then Benny, fresh out of film school who lived in Santa Barabara and would spend some weeknights on the boat as we worked on different boat projects, his weekends spent delivering pizza and whatever else up north.

My doubts were in shifting balance with my excitement of the possibilities. I'd spent the last five years or more hitchhiking around, rarely spending a week in one spot, always throwing myself to wind against all circumstance, favoring the unknown over even the best of times. This situation was certainly different for me.

Back to it, Jake had been up in Seattle tying up loose ends and gathering money. I'd been mostly alone on the boat after coming back from the harvest. Mitch would come to chip in and drop off food, Benny had come to help out some days until his accident of hugging the propeller and mildly gimping up his leg.

I had a bottle of rum ready when Jake got back. Mitch picked him up from the airport, we all caught up briefly and Mitch headed back to Hollywood where he was staying with his girlfriend. We soon got to the rum and stories. I showed Jake around the boat, showing him the plans for bunks we'd be building, the progress on the galley and everything else we'd be doing. I threw a box of weed at his I'd brought back, spoils from the harvest, this made him happy. I wasn't much of a smoker, I picked my spots, but Jake took whatever altering he could get and was thrilled.

It was decided we get right back to it, to the peninsula we went, as was our usual. We headed to the 47er, a little dive bar which I was at first a bit tentative to do for a couple reasons. The first being the increasing attention we were getting from the harbor patrol from illegally driving our dinghy without registration. The second being that Benny and I had been kicked out some days ago, and although I couldn't remember the details as of why, I wasn't sure I should test it.

Jake agreed on driving the dinghy, which was no miracle, he loved to motor that thing. He'd evaded the harbor patrol on the sly many a time and even once explicitly got spotted by them and weaved his way through boats to evade them. As per the second hangup of being nixed from the bar, I figured I'd just go face the music.

We got there, the bartender gave us a couple beers without question or a knowing look. Jake and I began catching up more, then from the door I saw the vaguely familiar face of the bouncer appear. Our eyes met immediately, his eyes with much less vaugary than mine. He smiled that "you dumbass" smile, had his greeting with the bartender, then came straight over to us.

He recognized my half-recognition, "Do you remember what happened the other night?", he smiled.

"Ah man, I was just telling him about that", I said looking towards Jake, "I remember my friend getting kicked out and some sort of something, but really it's... kinda hazy, things got nuts eventually", he seemed chill as I said this, "So... what exactly happened?", I was relieved that this was a conversation and not a confrontation.

"Oh man.", he started, "So your friend was being an asshole, demanding to get his debit card back when she'd already given it back", talking about the bartender, "so he kept getting mouthy and I had to give him the boot. Then you got confused as to what had happened and wouldn't listen when I explained, so you left spewing all kinds of things, then you started pounding on the windows outside the bar. Then you mooned me from across the street and the two of you took off running like a couple kids".

"Ah...", I smiled, "Some of that sounds just about right... I'm not so sure I would have mooned you, but I do remember running", I then explained how Benny had started the dinghy in gear, cut up his knee and wound up getting stitches the next day.

We had a laugh about it, he shook his head and that was that. I was glad not to be banned from the only decent little dive bar in range of the boat.

For the rest of the week Jake got settled back in and we fiddled with various projects on the boat. Finally the day came to go fill up the water tanks now that we'd got the plumbing mostly working. This was particularly exciting since neither Jake, Benny or myself had seen this boat move yet.

Mitch arrived and started checking things out while we got everything set, getting things out of the way and ready to motor on over to the dock and fill up. I got up front on the deck of the boat with various ropes I had to keep track of and so forth, Benny was in the back, Mitch was in the cockpit and Jake was roaming about.

The motor revved and we went nowhere.

"Jesus fucking Christ Benny! What the fuck is wrong with you!?", shouted Mitch, as loud and angry as I'd ever heard him. Benny hadn't untied the boat from the mooring when we had tried to start cruising, which could have potentially whipped us into one of the nearby big and very expensive boats, among other things.

"I didn't know!", pleaded Benny, who's own anger for getting reprimanded was just slightly less than his embarrassment.

"Jake, take care of this!", Mitch yelled as Benny went to the side.

We tried it again, this time getting moving, squeezing through a couple boats into the main channel. We made our way over to the dock, I was already loving it. Despite the tense moment earlier I was thrilled that the boat was actually moving, if only the short distance to the far dock.

Once at the dock we leapt off, throwing out bumpers and easing the boat up gently. For the next little while we filled up the tanks and took advantage of the hoses to also spray some things down.

An older guy in a small boat next to the dock struck up a conversation with me, he'd been living out of his boat for some years now and sailing around the coast and beyond. "Where are you guys going?", he asked me.

"We're heading down to the Sea of Cortez for a while, then down to Panama and who knows from there", I told him.

"When are you heading out?", he asked.

I wish I had a real answer, "Not so sure, there's still some things that need to be done, but hopefully soon, and I'm not so sure what the weather windows will be".

"Well", he started, "If there's one thing I've learned, it's that sometimes you just have to go, or you'll never go. There's always something that needs to be done, a boat's never finished. If you wait for everything to get done, you'll never go anywhere."

We finished filling up the tanks and got tied off and back on board. I was on the top deck up front, everyone else was in the cockpit. Next thing I knew we were pointing out to sea, rather than back to our spot in the harbor. We started heading out down the channel, the smile on my face growing bigger as the wind picked up and we finally got into the waves of the ocean.

I couldn't communicate with the rest of the guys, but I think we all had the same notion at once that there were some portholes still not installed and these waves could be splashing though. Not enough to cause a scene, but enough to be considered. The boat turned back around and we headed back to our mooring where we got all tied back up again.

"I forgot about the portholes", laughed Mitch. We were all buzzing pretty good just to have been mobile, to have tasted the ocean if even just for a few minutes. The adventure seemed real again.

A couple days later Marilyn flew in from Indiana to pay me another visit for a few days. We visited several good Southern California breweries between the boat and seeing my brother down south.

After some real good times over the days we parted ways at the dock once again after coming back to Balboa Island, her heading to the airport, me at the dock waiting on Mitch and Jake to pick me up in the dinghy to ride back to the boat.

Ten or fifteen minutes after getting back to the boat is when we realized the dinghy was gone, forgotten to be tied up. I quickly hopped in the row boat and got to searching, following the current. I headed halfway down the channel towards the ocean first, asking passing boats along the way if they'd seen it. I looped back, looking under docks and everywhere. More than an hour later I passed by the harbor patrol dock where I saw it tied up, thinking they must've found it free floating. I slipped in quickly, not knowing if there was some sort of official procedure or something to reclaim the boat. Instead I quickly untied it and towed it back to the Doree without being seen or hassled.

By the time I got back Mitch was ready to be shuttled back to shore so he could go home. I was a buzz with many thoughts - the glimpse of boat's movement, the visit from Marilyn, the annoyance of sneaking around harbor patrol in so many ways - I was getting antsy. Here we were, December 10th, and I still had no idea when we were shipping out - it certainly hadn't been the "end of October", as originally quoted.

Just Mitch and I cruised back to shore. "So what's our ship date looking like now?", I asked him.

"Well", he thought, "You know the major projects left are the portholes, the fridge and the rest of the painting. Beyond that there's just odds and ends. Once that's all done it'll just take me a few weeks to get all my things on land sorted out and we'll be good to go."

I could make a pretty decent estimate on how long the "major projects" would take to complete, a couple weeks ideally, but probably longer. "Odds and ends" could be a never ending spiral. The "few weeks" tagged on after... all of this was not sitting right with me. Christmas was fast approaching too, I already knew Benny would be gone for the surrounding days and Jake planned on doing the same. I pictured a strange Christmas day alone on the boat, unsure of what I'd been doing and how long it would be until I was moving, still not knowing, pretending that Christmas was meaningless maybe to justify my floating solitude, drinking some fancy beer for the opposite reason, giving a cheers and nod to the day as I took a sip pondering my existence.

"Well in that case I might make a run to the east coast for Christmas here pretty soon if we keep making progress beforehand, if that's cool with you.", I thought out loud.

"Possibly, let's see how things go here, that could be fine", he told me.

I dropped him off at the dock and made my way back to the boat on the dinghy, sure to look both ways up and down for harbor patrol.

By the next day I'd convinced myself that I was going to hitchhike out for Christmas, it's just the way it was gonna be. The major jobs left were mainly two person gigs, my labor wouldn't be missed much and I once again needed a change of pace.

The day after that I made my intentions clear to Jake and Benny that I was going to hitch out for the holiday the following day. I'd decided I was just going to pack up and leave the next day, letting Mitch know that I was doing so instead of waiting around to "ask permission".

That night the three of us grabbed a bottle of rum and got into it, cigars too, back on the boat playing some cards. Benny and Jake both asked me about hitchhiking, like how it was and how long I expected it to take to get across the country.

"Southern California can be pretty crazy because of all the roads and congestion, it's always a wild card... but if it's a good day I'll be able to get as far as Vegas by the first night", I started. That's all that needed to be said though.

"Vegas!", Benny exclaimed in that "Vegas!" kinda way, "I'd love to go to Vegas!"

"You should go then!", I said, half jokingly.

"Ah, don't tempt me..."

And so went the conversation with rum filled passion. Benny had a car, was willing to drive, Mitch wasn't coming in for the rest of the week and the weather wasn't supposed to be any good for installing the portholes or much else anyways coming up. I was certain I could find a place for us to stay between several friends I had there, and we all agreed that sleeping in the car wasn't such a bad last-ditch alternative.

The morning came, my bag was packed and all my momentum was pointed at Vegas. I left no part of me feeling otherwise, wanting to be sure that last night's drunken conversation wouldn't be just that and nothing more. An easy ride straight to Vegas, compared to the hitching out, was too much to pass up. Sure enough, Benny hazily woke up and was just as ready.

Jake was somewhat more surprised.

"This is happening", he realized out loud, "Wow... alright", he grabbed a little bit of a bag and soon we were on the dinghy. We buzzed out, saw harbor patrol, buzzed back and waited for them to pass, then buzzed our way to shore. Soon enough, we were on the road.

It was a strange feeling, an excitement in a haze. I somehow knew I wouldn't see that boat again, that this was really a last horah with my shipmates after an adventure that never was what it was billed to be, but was certainly something of it's own.

On the drive I tried getting in touch with some Vegas friends, but they were all either out of town or in living situations where they couldn't put us up for the night. I posted on instead and hoped for the best, but we were all pretty resigned to sleeping in the car.

We parked the car at the Bellagio, the Vegas vibe set in quickly. By the time we'd landed there I'd gotten a message from a couchsurfing host who happened to be just by the Bellagio who said we could stay with him for the night. I went and met up with without Jake and Benny, at this point I realized the couchsurfing may not be our best outlet considering our idea of running around in the madness.

I met the nice guy and thanked him for the offer to let us stay, but told him it looked like we'd be all over the place and had no idea when we'd be done for the night so it probably wouldn't work out.

"This is Vegas!", he smiled, "I host all kinds of people, I totally get it. You can come to my house and just call me and I'll let you, it doesn't matter if it's 4am or tomorrow morning or just in a few hours, and I mean that sincerely and am used to it, this is Vegas! I'm happy to help out, it's all good."

I gladly accepted the offer, surprised by how genuinely understanding he was.

I soon caught back up with the guys and the Vegas night began. We drank up on our own bottle, hit the craps table and threw Benny's money around - losing, winning, losing and winning big. Jake and I split from Benny, he'd become totally hooked on craps and we wanted to leave him on a high before losing any of his chips he was letting us play with. We opted for pounding free tequila cokes while playing low stakes video poker at the bar.

Somewhere in the middle of the night we wound up in the suburbs all joy and good times after Benny somehow drove us from the strip, pausing in our host's driveway to finish up our singalong with Bohemian Rhapsody that had jumped out at us from the radio.

The morning came hazy, but not to bad. We actually had a chance to meet our host a bit and talk, although Benny and Jake seemed a bit disinterested. To them this was more of a free place to stay rather than an a person to meet, a common first thought with the couchsurfing site, so I held my own with the conversation for a while.

He gave me a key and said we were free to stay another night if we liked, so we happily agreed.

Soon we were down on Fremont street walking into a pub.

"Kenny Flannery!", said Shana, my friend bar tending there. We'd had plenty of Vegas, New York and New Orleans adventures together, always plenty of Jameson involved, shots of such were promptly poured. I caught with her for a while and had some drinks, but soon could tell Benny was getting itchy. He'd gotten the bug for craps and was fiending to get to another table and gamble.

The day drinking went on, me on video poker, Benny on craps and Jake racing between both of us. We scurried about town in this manner, eventually ending up back on the strip.

Coincidentally, Jake had some friends in town and after a while we tracked them down at the Burger Bar, a great beer bar in the upper mall connecting Mandalay Bay and the Luxor. We found the group of them in a booth and squeezed in with them, all pretty well lit by this point.

Next thing I knew they were cutting up lines of Molly (pure ecstasy) and everyone was getting their sniff. A bartender or otherwise employee walked by and saw this fairly blatant exercise, "What the hell?", he said as he quickly rushed off.

I was the first to jump up, being at the edge of the booth, quickly jetting out of the restaurant before things got hairy. I didn't look back, walking quickly without running down to the casino floor and looping around. I soon noticed I was on my own and some time had passed, ten minutes or so. I began to wonder if I'd just spooked myself, the rest of the crew was nowhere in sight, Jake didn't have a phone and Benny wasn't picking his up. I thought maybe we hadn't been spotted at all, no trouble, everyone was still sitting at the table and I 'd taken off like a madman for no reason.

I decided I'd head back up and walk by the place and glance in to see if they were still there. I got up the escalator and right away down the wide mall I saw a group outside the bar comprised of staff, police and security guards. Just as quick as I saw them I did a smooth walking 180, just as they saw me, and I started heading back towards the escalator as casual as can be. I didn't make it that far.

They ran after me, grabbing me and tugging me back towards the bar. "What was that white powder?!", they yelled at me, emptying my pockets and jerking me around. All at once I had a realization - there were no cameras pointing at the table and I had nothing incriminating on my person.

"What white powder? What the hell is this?!", I retaliated. "I've done nothing wrong, you can't keep me captive! You're gonna have to let me go right now!", I struggled as other looked on. They ripped my shirt in this process and no one was thrilled.

Minutes later I was down in the casino's holding cell, a place I'd been before. This previous time got brought up, and I'd thought it was all forgotten. They brought up how I'd been banned from all MGM properties a few years ago. Something I'd thought I'd gotten all cleared up, after all they kept inviting me to stay for free, I'd even called security in the past to confirm I wasn't on the blacklist. I just played dumb now, I was drained anyway.

The cop wrote me a ticket for trespassing and eventually I was escorted out. Later on I realized they'd taken my ID, I knew I wasn't getting that back, a minor inconvenience and the same trick they'd pulled the last time.

In the meantime, the battery on my phone was all but dead and I still had the Vegas game of  "where are you? I'm here. Now I'm here. Where are you now?" left to play with Jake and Benny.

Luckily I tracked them down at the Paris Casino right as my phone died. Neither of them believed my story, Benny was somehow already coming down from the molly and was particularly down on everything. They were both ready to go.

"What the hell happened back there?", I asked them, but "Back there" was no longer relative to them. Their context had been flipped all around and they'd had their own adventure that night, my absence was just one of the beats of the night long ago, they'd all ran like me, but in a different direction. Eventually though they'd lost track of the other group and just looked sad in front of slot machines where I'd found them.

We headed for the car in a disconnected walk, a silent ride back to our host's house for the night.

In the morning we left in a hurry, Benny was ready to get back to California. I felt bad scramming on our generous host who was blending up morning smoothies for us while Jake and Benny ignored him like a bum asking for change, waiting by the door for me to join them towards the car. I thanked the guy best I could while using tone and the rest of it to convey that the situation was what it was, he seemed to understand.

I told Benny about my favorite hitchhiking spot, the Speedway exit north of town, so they drove me up there with a strange and hazing hungover air still in the car.

I found the ticket the cop had written me with a court date on there. I knew I'd likely not bother showing up for it, which would very well mean any trip to Nevada could get me taken in if stopped by a cop or otherwise. I figured avoiding Nevada wouldn't be such a bad thing.

I grabbed my pack out of the car and saddled up, saying goodbye to the guys with some see you after Christmas sort of speak. Still I had the feeling that this was it, there would be no coming back to the boat, maybe no seeing these guys again.

A few weeks later I'd find out that Mitch "ran out of money" and the boat adventure was off. I haven't seen any of them since or heard from Mitch himself at all. Seems I bailed at just the right time, but who knows whatever came of the boat.

I walked up the on ramp towards the flow of northbound traffic there in the desert outskirts, pack on back, something new ahead. The road goes on forever, the good times roll along.

November 28, 2012 to December 15, 2012