By: DAVID RICE Re: Vacation #1 of What I did on my Summer Vacation. In August, during Drag

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

By: DAVID RICE Re: Vacation #1 of What I did on my Summer Vacation. In August, during Dragonfest, I took a week off work and went on vacation. I chartered a thirty-two-foot yacht called "Sloop de Jour" out of Dana Point, and shoved off, all alone, to Santa Catalina just before noon on Monday. Catalina is 48 nautical miles away, due West (true, not magnetic). Provisions included a huge pile of exotic (i.e. frozen) Mexican foods, several bags of quasi-exotic (i.e. half-frozen) Chinese dishes with mysterious ingredients in them, a jar of dill pickles, a brick of tofu (extra firm), a dozen limes, a pint of Bombay rum, a dozen corn tortillas, and half a can of salsa that had been in my refrigerator for so long that it had a patina of blackened, aged tomato guts around the rim. I travel first class. Loading the boat was a mercilessly hot job. I loaded 50 pounds of chain aboard in case the anchors needed it (why use rope when one can over-kill with steel?), filled the on-board water tanks, and stowed five gallons of drinking water. I filled the "solar shower" bag with 2.5 gallons of water, and while I was rolling up the hose this bag oozed like an octopus over the rail and plunged into the harbor. (This was to later prove to be prophetic.) I managed to grab the water bag before it sunk, and put it on the salon hatch. I managed to back the boat out of the slip without hitting anything and sinking it. I had the unnerving feeling that I didn't dare look back least the charter company change it's mind about allowing ME of all people to use one of their boats, and had sent someone out to stop me. I had lied to them about my having crew for the trip. The trip down the breakwater was dicey. The helm would not lock down (screws were stripped), so steering was a constant job. I tried to tie the wheel down with a mooring line, and then rush to the mast to hoist the main sail, but the boat was careening all over the inner harbor. The inner harbor was VERY crowded with boats coming and going. It took me almost twenty minutes to figure out which line did what--- something I should have done while still tied to the slip. I got the main sail up eventually, while dodging kayaks, wave riders, jet skis, buoys, Sea Scouts, and Harbor Patrol launches. I got the jib up and pulling, wing-and-wing, but by then I was worn out and ready to cancel the vacation. The trip to Catalina was quite an ordeal, since the prevailing wind blows on the exact course one must take to get to Catalina, so even though the wind was blowing well, I had to take the sails down and motor. It's not very easy to do when no one is steering the boat directly into the wind. The magnetic variation is 14 degrees East, but I didn't remember if I was to add or subtract that 14 degrees from 270 (West). My chart was down below, but I pulled up the chart in memory and calculated a heading of 256 degrees magnetic, which happened to be correct. One thing about sailing away into the setting sun is that my destination isn't visible except on very clear days. I couldn't tell if the island was actually where I thought it was. With limited fuel, poor wind, and no crew, this is quite a leap of faith. For six grueling hours I steered the boat, wondering if I was on course. Eventually the island showed up--- I was a few degrees too South, probably due to the current (it couldn't possibly be my navigation or steering). In Avalon I quickly showered and caught a shore launch into town, where I found a Mexican restaurant and ate 6 enchiladas, 3 plates of rice, 2 margaritas, and 1 glass of iced tea. The waitress asked, in mock disbelief, if I would "like any more food," while I moaned in pain from my gluttonous feeding frenzy (I'm a white American male, after all). I waddled back to the harbor taxi and was delivered to my boat. The swells were rising and dropping by at least four feet, and getting aboard from the taxi was a harrowing experience (the couple whos boat we went to first had an infant--- the father went aboard first and then the baby was tossed like a football to its father by its mother. It reminded me of how Bonobo Chimps raise their young.). One must be cold sober to accomplish the feat I was to perform, or one gets crushed between two hulls and / or drowns. I was neither sober or breathing well (due to the pressure from my gut against my lungs) but I managed. Sleeping that night was a bitch. The mooring was South / North, but the swells were marching from West to East. It is not an exaggeration to say that the boat rolled 40 degrees from plumb. Naturally the berths were laid out bow to stern. The upshot of this was that I was constantly thrown violently against the hull on the up swell, and slammed to the deck on the down swell. I tried to sleep on my stomach with my arms braced against the deck, but I'd eaten so much that this position was painful. Sheeeish. I ended up sleeping on the deck with my head in the wine rack under the chart table and my feet in the galley's oven, thus achieving a personal bodily alignment West and East, which converted the rocking into pitching. Easier, but still it was not an easy night. In the morning I bagged the main sail to make it look pretty, since I had decided to motor instead of sail. While bagging the sail, I accidentally kicked the solar shower bag over the side. While it was going down for the third count, I ran below, got the boat hook, ran back on deck, reached over the side to snag the bag, and harpooned it instead. It sunk to the bottom like a lead brick, with a "why me?" look on its face. It took three hours to get to Little Harbor. Along the way I passed the rock quarry where the side of the island has been sawed off and carted away. I was fortunate enough to pass just as an explosion was set off--- I thought my boat had blown up until I saw a tiny part of the cliff fall apart. Little Harbor is mildly risky to get into, since the opening has reefs awash even at high tide. There were four sail boats anchored there when I arrived, which added to the complexity of anchoring myself. Anchoring was hard work. Before I left Avalon I had checked both anchors, setting the stern anchor on the deck for ready use. When I motored into Little Harbor I had to dodge all four boats, a reef, and two scuba divers. One boat was single-handed by a woman who watched me as I came in: I gave her my best Buccaneer, swashbuckling I-have-a-rather-large-penis-and-I- know-how-to-use-it grin, sucked in my gut, and waved at her. She waved back and pointed at the scuba divers, which I promptly aimed for. I slowly motored up as close to the reef as possible, put the boat in reverse a tiny bit to check forward motion, put it in neutral, then raced to the bow to drop the anchor. It struck bottom without a hitch. . . just like my solar shower did, come to think of it. I then raced back to the helm, put the boat in reverse again and left it that way, then raced back to the bow to let out the rode. After letting out a seven-to-one scope, I belayed the line, raced back to the helm, and put the boat in hard reverse, digging the anchor in tight. Then I raced back (pant, pant) to the bow and groped the anchor line to see if I could feel the anchor dragging. It wasn't, so I raced back (pant, pant, pant) to the helm and put the boat into neutral again. The I raced back to the bow (pant, gasp, gasp) and let out a great deal of rode until the boat was damn near on the beach. I dropped the stern anchor in the surf, eased the boat forward, put it in neutral, then raced (gasp, wheeze) to the bow to suck up the slack while the stern rode played itself out. After gaining a fifteen-to-one scope (twice what is required), I tied off the bow anchor line, raced back to the helm (wheeze, gasp, cough cough), tied the stern line down with a ten-to-one scope, then powered forward to set the stern anchor. Then I picked up the remaining slack at the bow, cut the engine, and bowed to the woman I had previously waved to, who was watching me all the time. She gave me an "okay" gesture. . . or was it a "fuck-off" gesture? I dunno, since my eye glasses were below. Needless to say, anchoring is a whole lot easier with crew. The beach was covered with Sea Scouts. Shit. There were pup tents everywhere. Fortunately I was anchored far enough out so that I didn't have to hear them. I had planned on swimming to the beach in the evening and having a camp fire, but the Scouts got there first. The boat's dining table converted into a bunk, whereby it may be lowered to lay flush with the salon's seats and thus become a rather large bed. I didn't know this when I was being slammed around the night before. It was great to sleep aligned with the roll (Little Harbor is on the South side, and the swells were going from West to East, so the swells were not much of a problem). So there I stayed for four or five days (I already forget which). I read a collection of essays by Asimov on various sciences, a larger collection of essays about the evolutionary sciences by Gould, the surviving Sappho sonnets, and a book on Bible history. Every morning I would get out of bed, don flippers and mask, and jump over the side. I'd swim around the boat a few times, dive under it, then swim to the beach and back. Then I'd fix breakfast, eat and read, take a nap, swim some more, eat lunch, read, swim, read, swim, eat dinner, swim, read, eat some snacks, read, and then have a late-night naked swim. (Much like Dopefish, I imagine.) The diatoms were excited and happy to see me, as they clung to my damp, manly body while I forcefully, deftly penetrated the inviting folds of the sea and rhythmically ungulated between its wet, warm thighs, gently caressed by grasping, eager swells. I thought about the woman anchored next to me, and wondered why she didn't paddle over and surrender herself to me utterly. Didn't she know what she was missing?! Ah, well. She wasn't the first. One day I went ashore to climb the cliffs overlooking the harbor, just as the Sea Scouts decided to do the same. Having several dozen kids climbing the cliffs reminded me of the movie "Lord of the Flies." I started to chant "Kill the pig, kill the pig, kill the pig. . . ." but no one else picked up the chant. Stupid kids. Two teenage girls motored in on a Boston Whaler, and found a place to jump off the cliffs and into the water. I was enjoying watching them from the boat, as they would launch themselves into space and then squeal all the way down. This behavior was meant to attract teenage boys of the same species. Goddess, I felt old. When the girls left, I swam to the cliff, climbed to the top, and flung myself off, yelling "Piggy!!!!!" Ten liters of water slammed into my ears and stayed there for two weeks, which was a real pain in the. . . er, ah, "ass" doesn't quite fit here, but it was damn annoying. I poured a mixture of alcohol and vinegar in my ears, but it didn't help. After a few days the Lone Woman, who had by then grown to mythic stature in my imagination (I was doing her every night in my dreams) sailed away, without ever knowing how happy I could have made her. Ah, well. Hardly the first time, as I said. One day I dove on my anchors to see how well they were holding. I got to the bottom after a fight (my fat was keeping me on the surface), and found them well entrenched. After checking out the bow anchor, which was the deepest, I broke the surface and was met by an airborne flying fish as it madly slapped the water with its "wings" and tail. It slammed into my face mask face-first. Needless to say, we were both astonished and surprised. If I hadn't been wearing the diving mask I would have been injured, it hit that hard. The fish gave a twitch or two then swam away. A large power boat dog-paddled up, dropped ONE anchor, and then cranked up very, very crappy "Rock" music. Estimating the rode on his bow anchor, I thought his boat would slam into mine once the wind died down, since the wind was countering the swells. Once the wind died, which it does in the early evening, the swells would put his boat right on my beam. The master and commander of the boat was an obnoxious, boisterous, arrogant Archey Bunker type who wouldn't turn his noise down long enough to hear what I was yelling at him "Put down a second-anchor!". Naturally he wouldn't (because he's a mother-loving so- in-so), so I had to move my boat, by letting out the bow rode until I was almost in the surf again. If there had been a Harbor Patrol boat around, he would have either moved his boat or have it moved for him. The noise from the power boat increased, and I considered weighing anchor to shove off to another harbor or anchorage. Hour after hour the peace and quiet of the harbor was replaced by utterly horrible, incoherent, disharmonious, distorted white noise. But then my insane, neurotic lust for revenge kicked in, and I decided to stay and punish the bastards. I looked over to the power boat and smiled, but foul deeds were in my heart. That night before going to sleep I set my watch to sound at two o'clock in the morning. When it went off, I got up, grabbed a certain piece of equipment, donned swimming fins, and slowly, quietly bobbed my dark and sinister way to the power boat. I reasoned that the master and commander of the boat would be sleeping in the stern cabin, since it was likely to be the best berth on the boat. Oh, good: both stern port holes were wide open. Perfect. . . just so very, very, perrrrrfect. Goat was with me. With a powerful kick from my fins, I reached up with one hand and grabbed onto a port hole. Then while hanging there, my other hand shook out the water in the device I was carrying, reached up, put the device up to the port hole, and depressed the trigger for about ten seconds. Tee hee. The device was, of course, a compressed-air horn. One can hear these horns for miles--- they are used in heavy fog. When one goes off, generally every person in the vicinity will do damn near ANYTHING to make the noise stop. In the boat's inner turmoil that followed, I heard words that sounded like "What is it?! What is it?!" while I let go of the port hole and quietly swam away. I swam to the reef, which had swells breaking over it. I figured if my head was spotted in the water, it would look like part of the reef. Lights came on in the power boat, one guy went on deck, and the boat was quite a bustle of activity for a good ten minutes before they settled down. I then made my way back to my boat while hugging the shore, climbed aboard, and set my watch's alarm for 3:30am. Hey, it worked great once, it will work just as great twice, right? You bet! I almost pitied the poor bastards. I remember thinking that SteveQ and Fredric would have enjoyed this. A little after 3:30am I was back in the water. I picked the other stern port hole this time and let them have a mere five seconds of air-raid quality noise. Five seconds is a very long time, all things considered. Before I could get to the reef, several guys came on deck and were looking around. I though for sure they would catch me, so I tried to deep six the air-horn--- but it floated, so I kept it. All they had to do was turn on a flood light off their boat and they would see me. Instead they used a weak flashlight, and they looked a bit. Since I appeared to be invisible, if not invincible, I swam back to my boat while they were still out on deck. I briefly considered setting my watch for 5:00am to have another go, but I thought that was pushing it. I woke up in the morning around 9:00 to the sound of the power boat's fog horn--- they appeared to be testing it for problems for some reason. Eventually they gave up and prepared to shove off. I put on a bath towel, went on deck, and bade them good-bye. I asked them in an annoyed, irritated, miffed voice why their fog horn was going off "all night long." They apologized profusely. I had just one day left before I had to sail back home, so I spent it diving as deep as I could without my head imploding. (If it did, no one seems to have noticed.) Next day came the cruel, tiring trip back home. I had a following sea, so the boat averaged about seven knots. I wanted to get back to the harbor before The Villa stopped serving dinner. The sun was mercilessly beating upon my body hour after hour, while I struggled mightily at keeping a straight course. After eight hours, my arms were ready to fall off. When I spotted the mainland, I found that I had fallen exactly dead on to the home harbor--- flawless navigation and seamanship (Goddess and the spirit of Captian Ron was with me). I rounded the turn into the harbor, dropped the sails smartly, and coasted into the slip by 9:45PM Saturday. I was ready to eat a dog, so I did minimum boat cleanup, planing on finishing it Sunday morning. I took a shower in the boat, put on my cleanest dirty pants, and headed to The Villa for dinner, drinks, song, and nookie. I stepped off the boat, walked to the bow, and slammed my head into the bow pulpit, knocking myself ass-over-teakettle to the dock. Fortunately no one seemed to have seen the slapstick. I got to The Villa in time for dinner. Chris Cram was taking a break from playing the guitar and was standing outside, trying to talk some drawn and haggard woman out of her pants. I walked into the place and told the lady at the door that I wanted dinner and lots of it. She showed me to a table, and I sat down. When I pulled my feet under the table, they bumped into something large, firm, and fury. I was almost too afraid to look under the table, but when I did I noticed a dog, a large dog, a very large dog under the table trying to get some sleep. He looked up at me with a "what the fuck do YOU want?!" kind of look, then tried to ignore me. When the guy came with the basket of chips and pot of salsa, I said "Well look, there's this dog under my table. . . ." fully expecting him to disbelieve me. "Oh he no bite!" the guy said, shaking his head and putting his hand partly over his mouth, "He no bite you!" So big deal. I've had worse dinner companions. I got up and walked to the bar and the bar tender saw me coming so he whipped out a glass and filled it with white Zinfandel--- I love a bar where they give you what you want without you having to ask first. Way cool. I grabbed my drink, four bar napkins, and went back to my evening's canine date, whom I fancied was waiting for me. I had nearly finished the wine when the lone waitress showed up and asked me what I wanted. I laid all four bar napkins in a row in front of me, and said "On this napkin I want another Zinfandel. On the one," I said pointing to the second, "I want your best Merlot. This napkin here gets a flute of Bruit. And this last one here gets a diet coke." The waitress wrote all this down, without so much as a blink, and then asked me if I'd like some food. I ordered four cheese encliladas, two orders of rice, a chile relleno, a plate of jalapenos, huevos rancheros (which she wouldn't give to me for some reason) and I emphatically instructed "NO Frijoles with the enchiladas!" I thanked her, and before she walked away she reached over to the nearest table and removed one of its dining sets and placed it on my table, evidently believing I was ordering for two people. It seemed none of the fulltime waitresses had warned her about me and my eatting habits. The drinks came just as Cram gave up getting in the woman's pants, and he went to the little stage in the bar to sing for his pay. He started the set with that all-time family favorate, "Let's get drunk and screw." When the loud noise started, The Beast under my table gave a monstrously loud, heavy sigh and kicked his hind feet a few times, shaking the table. The Beast settled down after a minute or so. By the time dinner arrived I had finished all of my drinks, and was enjoying the spinning room, and singing along with Cram (there are very few songs of which Chris knows the complete words to, so I had to help him out, you see). I was so happy, I often put my head under the table to talk to The Beast. "HI, DOG! WHAT THE FUCK'S UP, DOG?! DO YOU CLEAN PLATES IN THIS SLEEZY DUMP, DOG?!" I looked over the dinner put before me, and noticed that, true to my wishes, I didn't get beans with the enchiladas--- the waitress had mistaken my desire for NO beans, with my wanting them on a seperate plate than the plate the enchiladas were on. Hummm. I like a woman who does precisely what she's asked. I put my head back under the table. "WANT SOME BEANS, DOG?!" but it continued to ignore me. I picked up one plate of enchilads and dumped it on the other plate of enchiladas. Then I dumped on top of that both portions of rice, then the chile relleno on top of that, being sure to put a layer of salt in between each dumping. (I pushed the beans to the far side of the table.) I couldn't possibly eat it all, but I was going to try. And to tell the truth, I had by then lost all interest in food. Just as I was about to dig in, my friend Nikki came down stairs and came bouncing up to me. I hadn't seen her for five months. Oh Goddess did she look GOOD! Imagine Cristy Brinkley in her mid-twenties, fresh and golden- tanned and ripe for the pickin'--- then multiply that image by about two thousand, and you'll get Nikki. I gave a heavy sigh much like The Beast under the table had uttered. She asked me what I had been up to, and I told her "Dreaming about you." I'm soooooo smooth, ain't I? She laughed as if I were kidding, then trotted off. So much for the "nookie" part of the evening. I finished all the food in an orderly, efficiant manner, and was left with a cold plate of beans. I grabbed the plate, put my head under the table, and yelled "HEY DOG! HAVE SOME BEANS!" and put the plate near its nose. Dog gave a long-suffering sigh, stood up, sat down, and slowly ate the beans, as if I had put a gun to his head and was forcing him to eat. "HEY! YOU -DO- WASH DISHES IN THIS DUMP, DOG!" I yelled at it. A very fat, sullen old Mexican fart was staring at me from the bar, obviously curious about what I was doing under the table. I left the table, without paying for anything, and went to the bar for another drink. I stood next to this Mexican guy, and while waiting for the drink I pointed at his bulging gut and said "When's the baby due?" All he could say was "Eh?" I was trying to start a fight, but there was this language barrier getting in the way. I doubled my efforts to insult by trying to speak Spanish: "El ninja! El ninja!" I said, pointing to his gut again. "Ehhhhhh?" he said, suspiciously--- if he spoke Japanese he would have been even more mystified. My drink came so I gave up. I went to sit in the "lounge" area in front of Cram, and the old Mexican went to go look under my table. I very much hoped he, too, saw the dog and that I had not been hallucinating. He stayed under the table for a minute or so, so I assume they were hitting it off. Chris sang several Eagles tunes, none of which contained the correct verses in the correct order, then he sang a few he had written. One song is about "used cocaine." "Would you like to buy a coke-laced bugger? You may think it's coke but it's'not. But used cocaine is the only coke I got." Then he sang a song about a budding young minor-aged girl named "Precious" that could have landed him in prison for life, or at least on the Deviant Sex Offender list in every city in the nation. Disgusting! Then a curvatious, boney, buxom, busty young woman named Tiffany got up and sang a song with him. She couldn't sing worth shit, but that didn't matter. He sang "Free falling," "Southern Cross," and "Hendrix," whatever the hell that is. Then he asked for requests. A chant started at the bar: "Lennon! Lennon! Lennon! Lennon!" which I assume is / was a Beatle. Naturally I had to start my own chant: "Marx! Stalin! Brezhnev! Gorbachev!" but I ran out of Russians and wine. "Last call" came and Chris Cram said he would "tell Tiffany here to lay anyone who gets me a shot of tequila," so I jumped up, walked carefully to the bar, and ordered a shot of tequila. The bartender asked me "Tequila? Really? You really want a shot of tequila?!" (he may have been surprised since I only drink wine when I'm there). I said "agave tequilana, as a favor!" He looked at me with one eye, then put a shot glass in front of me, filled it with tequila, put a slice of lime on top of the glass, then handed me a salt shaker. What the fuck was the lime and salt for, I wondered?! I left the salt, walked carefully back to Cram, and gave him the shot. Chris downed the shot with one gulp, then stuffed the glass down his pants, saying "Thanks, bro." But, sad to say, I didn't get to have my way with Tiffany. When my bill was added up, I discovered that I had spent US$14 on food and US$55 on drinks. That's a decient ratio. I wonder what they will think when they find the plate under the table? ... Noah's Flood--- it just doesn't wash . . . *


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank