Pepper was rippin’ along all day at over 6 knots. We were absolutely stoked about the good winds and took full advantage of the way it blew but we didn’t feel the need to pull an over nighter. We’re in no hurry after all. Our good friends, George and Barb, told us about a quiet little anchorage along Longboat Key where we decided to swing in for the evening.
You see, there are several dozen other boats already anchored out in our vicinity, which we always take as a good sign. Safety in numbers, right? Because we were so close to shore we paddled little Salt over the the Seafood Shack for a happy hour. It’s always a celebration if we have effortless sailing, giving us a beautiful beam reach, and zero problems setting the anchor before the sunset. Plus it’s just nice to step off the boat for a few minutes after being on the water so much. I don’t tend to get sea sick. I get the exact opposite and often feel queasy back on solid ground. It’s the weirdest thing but that’s besides the point.
As we headed back to the sailboat, it was just after dark, I made a comment about how Pepper was the only vessel with the anchor light lit. Accidents happen and everyone forgets sometimes but how could dozens of people forget to flip their switch? That’s just asking for trouble. Meanwhile, we rolled out some pizza dough and noticed that an enormous Coast Guard vessel started making the rounds. The crew must have issued dozens of tickets. We watched them board boat after boat after boat. We just knew we had nothing to worry about since we were the ONLY law abiding vessel. No way would they care to board us. It’d be a waste of time. The picture here was taken the next day so you can see just how many stops they made.
Pepper was at the end of the line of so by the time they boarded our neighbor we were already eating pizza, flipping through some movies. Moments later they pull in against our beam (side of the boat). We’ve read horror stories about being boarded by the Coast Guard. Friends have told us how they can tear through your boat and rip everything apart in a matter of minutes. I was freaked. Did they smell the pizza? Let the boarding party commence!
We were terribly nervous but Trent was confident that we had everything lined up for inspection. Before we knew it there were 3 new people in the cockpit, 2 males and a female. They came on just as fast as a flying fish lands by accident on your deck. They began immediately with questions about weapons and who all was on the vessel. Then they examined the title, documentation and Trent’s drivers license. They didn’t even care to see my license. In fact, I don’t even think they asked for my name. Believe it or not I was voted “most innocent” in high school and I guess I still hold that title!
For anyone worried about our safety, we passed the inspection with flying colors. Here’s a short list of items we ticked through: life jackets and their accessibility was number one (they were impressed with our vests), waste, holding tanks, fire extinguishers, throw-able type 4 flotation device and garbage and oil placards. I entertained them with the Pepper’s Big Slow Emergency story which they seemed to get a kick out of all while the female was writing out the report.
I have to say, this Coast Guard crew did not meet our negative expectations. They were cool! They looked through windows and shined the flashlight down below as we pointed out a few things but they never even went below the deck. We even managed to share some laughs. At one point, one of the guys looks at Trent and says, “So what you’re saying is, safety isn’t important to you?” I burst out laughing immediately sensing some humor in his voice which I quickly regretted. Trent took it seriously and began his defense, poor thing. Thank goodness he was yanking us around a little bit because I just lost it. Que a new scene from Super Troopers! The comic relief was timely.
The guys gave us a couple of tips which we will absolutely put into play and thanked them for that. Should we get stopped by the Coast Guard again in the next year, all we have to do is show them our previous boarding form, life jackets and chances are we won’t have to have another boarding party. We’re glad it happened when and where it did and feel blessed by encountering such a cool Coast Guard crew.
UPDATE on Pepper’s Big Slow Emergency: The broken lever was easily fixed with a new stainless screw. It was the dinghy ride to shore and the 6 mile walk to the hardware store ate up most of the day. Trent dove on the prop and didn’t find anything unusual. I think I mentioned Clearwater’s water not being so clear, so we were hesitant to jump the the brown water. I offered to accompany him but he sucked it up. We saw a manatee and figured it was a safe time to get wet. After Trent was drying off on the deck a black tip shark passed right under the boat near the surface. We both saw it. I think God did that so we could laugh a little bit. At the end of the day, I think it was just nerves that led us to believe something was wrong with the prop. Trent had the cutlass bearing checked when we hauled the boat out so we know it’s okay.