Each year, the Nevada Yacht Club plans a charter trip from Long Beach, California to Catalina Island. In 2009, the race crew of Heeling Art figured it was time to join the fun. Andrew and I were keen to get out to the ocean again and onto a larger sail boat. So, Captain Shane gathered Andrew and I and our friends Rusty and Miki to charter a Hunter 47. We were all looking forward to this trip, what could go wrong?
We reconnoitered at the port in Long Beach, California. Our charter boat bobbed in its marina berth, seemingly ready to go. When Shane arrived at the dock, the Charter company owner took him aboard. He demonstrated his ability to steer the boat in and out of the slip, and the owner seemed satisfied enough. Shane took the full tour of the boat, checking fire extinguishers, learning about the electrical panels and other safety equipment. As he walked through, floor boards popped beneath his feet. The Charter master commented, saying: "They must have filled the water tanks really full!" At the time, we thought nothing of that.
The rest of us arrived, and we all piled our stuff onto the boat. I sniffed, and thought, "well, I've heard boats stink most of the time." We headed to dinner, returned and imbibed in a few adult beverages before heading off to bed. "Man, Andrew smells bad...." were my last thoughts as I drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, clear headed and more astute we all came to the conclusion that the waste tanks were pretty full and they needed to be emptied. No matter, we will just sail the boat past the three mile line off shore and use the handy-dandy macerator to dump the tanks. (Hey. Whales poop in the ocean, so can you if you are far enough off shore.) So, we sail off and try just that. The boat gives off a nasty fart, but pretty much did nothing more. Macerator broken/clogged. In our disappointment, we decide we should just keep sailing to Catalina, and we will empty out when we get there. Pretty soon, the foul stench had 4 of 6 sailors with their heads over the rails. Combine that with the smell of the diesel fumes because we had no wind, and it was just too much to bear.
Captain Shane and I remained functional, and we sallied forth. Much to our mutual chagrin, we arrived in Catalina too late to pump out so we had to "hold it" until the next morning. As soon as we were secured to the mooring ball, we all escaped the boat and headed to shore. Festivities carried on, someone rang the hurricane bell and Andrew may have almost gotten run over by the Catalina flyer (shore ferry) in the dinghy. Luckily he didn't and we bunked down in the USS Poopoo for the night.
The next day, Shane showed off some impressive captain maneuvers waiting in line to be pumped out. Sail boats don't wait in line very well. They like to wander around even without any wind. We even shocked the "Technician" at the pump out out..."Wow! I've never seen so much shit in my entire life." We hear you, buddy.
At this point we had all taken up pitchforks, ready to stab the charter company and its tour guide in the throat. But, as we left the stench behind at the pump out station our moods improved markedly. The wind was up and we planned a nice sail from one side of the Island to the other. We were having a great time, with Andrew and Rusty dragging behind the boat on a rope, until... the Coast Guard pulled us over.
Poking their heads above the stern rail from an inflatable RIB, they seemed empowered by the giant War Ship just off in the distance.
"Are there any guns on board?" They enquire.
"Yes," replied Captain Shane, while counting on his fingers "six!"
Andrew and I looked at each other. What were we expecting if we are to sail with three cops? Miki, being Japanese and a nurse offered to be helpful and said "I'll go get them for you!" All three cops and all of the Coast Guard personnel waive their hands in the air and say "No! No! No! No! No!" Miki settled back into her seat.
With this, the Coast Guard RIB drove away temporarily, the cutter with all the big cannons slid closer still, and the inspectors returned. Going through the boat, they learned that the registration had expired, and we were not legally entitled to be sailing in US waters. Nice. Thanks, Charter Company. Captain Shane explained it was a charter and offered to trade the lawyer on board in exchange for our freedom.
"Rude," I think to myself and pout in the corner.
The Coast Guard carefully considered the lawyer-sacrafice, but ultimately issued the fine to the charter company instead of us and declined the offer for the lawyer. They were so friendly as to take a picture with us and then let us go free.
After this, things did look up. We had an uneventful sail forward, evening on mooring ball, and another sail back to Long Beach. We gave the charter company the what-for and they ended up refunding half of our trip price. Lame, but fair enough that we didn't squak anymore. We learned some key lessons here:
(1) It is possible to have fun anyway, even when you are knee deep in shit.
(2) Overfilled watertanks do not cause floorboards to pop up, as water does not emit methane gas. An overfilled water tank would simply overflow, people. We are onto you, Charter-guy.
(3) The Coast Guard is more than just friendly and helpful. The Charter-Guy deserved that fine, and we were happy to deliver the news.