..a winner at an auction.
"Finally! A boat I can afford."
"I thought it was going to be one of those local police auctions filled with junk. But it turned out to be run by the U.S. Marshal's Service with confiscated high-end toys from busted drug dealers.
"There were some go-fasts, and one caught my eye: an older Cigarette 38 with barnacles and busted drives. It looked like crap. The prior, recently arrested owner obviously didn't spend a lot of money keeping it up. But it was a Cigarette. Before the bidding started, I got to pull the spark plugs, which weren't especially dirty, and I saw no oil seeping between the gaskets. The bidding started at an astonishing $400, and quickly shot up to $1,000. At $1,500, the bidding began to slow, and when the auctioneer said 'Going…going…' I lost it and screamed, '$2,000!' He paused. 'Anyone else? Do I hear $2,500 for this boat driven only to Mexico by a little old cocaine runner on Sundays?' Silence. 'Sold!' I wrote the check, borrowed a trailer, and brought it home. The engines started right up, and I spent $1,800 to fix the drives. It runs okay, not great. But I now own a Cigarette that cost me only two grand. Can't beat that. Better yet, I have a boat with an interesting past and a great story about how I bought it."
...in a hurricane.
"It beats up your body and your brain."
"The owner was taking his boat around the world. He was also trying to kick a heroin habit. The other fellow was Peter, a cook.
"North of Madagascar we got notice that a hurricane was coming. I started preparing the boat and myself mentally. There was tremendous thunder and lightning, and torrential rain. The waves were 40', 60' high. A couple of times I was waist-deep in water, which means the boat was submerged. Our only chance was a harbor a couple hundred miles away. After a day my fear went away. But I never got used to the noise, which was tremendous. It wears you out. Peter tried to make a meal. Stuff was flying in the galley, but he did it. I feel about him the way you feel about someone you've gone to war with. This was before GPS. Every 20 minutes the owner would come out of the cabin in a cloud of smoke, his red eyes looking around. Then he'd go below, light up another joint, and plot our position. I don't know how he did it, but he found that harbor. Seeing it was tremendously energizing. Soon we were going to be safe. Once inside, it was flat, calm. The contrast was amazing. The anchored tankers all blew their horns, knowing what we had been through. After we tied up, I left the boat. I always wonder what happened to Peter."
"Having nothing to lose is liberating."
"We were running 2,200 pounds of pot and 5 gallons of hash oil to the lower Keys, from Andros in the Bahamas. I'd made the run hundreds of times before, but this one was way different.
"First, we got tagged by a Cuban patrol boat. What he was doing so far north has always left me wondering. Anyway, they're slow and easy to lose. A few hours later we heard choppers to the west. I stopped to drift but the bastard found us. I nailed it but the chopper hung off our stern. Real close, so we could see them. They turned on their spotlights and started making these hand signals that weren't exactly saying, 'Good luck and call us if you need help.' I thought about going back to the Bahamas, but we didn't have enough fuel. Then they started firing entanglers and stingballs at us. So I turned to the Keys and kept going, 'cause I'm like, 'Yeah, I got a ton of weed here and it ain't medicinal.' We start dumping dope to go faster. It was off Big Pine Key when one our outboards died. I still had enough speed to run it up on a mangrove swamp, about 50 yards away from a playground. We hopped out, but you can't run too fast across mangroves. They caught us. I'm doing 10 minimum, and the food sucks."
"I'm always glad when it's over."
"As a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I'm literally the last guy you want to meet when you're on the water. It's usually also the last time you're going to see your boat, and you're not sure if you're going to live. "Before I jump in, there's a whole lot of variables I have to figure. So I sit, watch, and study for a long time. What are the winds? Are the waves breaking? Are they on the boat or off the boat? From a rescue swimmer's standpoint, you fly out there and hope you don't screw it up. You know you're it, the last hope. Until you get them in the helicopter it's all you. It's an overwhelming responsibility. Once in the water, you don't know if the victim is going to be cold or unable to move. I'm used to the rotor wash, they're not. I know how to get into the helicopter, they don't. They might be injured and unable to explain what's wrong. If I handle things improperly, I can make them worse. No matter what we hear before leaving, the case always turns out to be different. Straightforward rescues almost always turn into medical emergencies-exposure problems, hypothermia. But once everyone is in the helicopter, there's a rush of relief. It's over. I'm thankful and drained, but it's an absolute blast."