Saturday, October 8, 2011; 6:45 pm
A slip at Brown's Yacht Yard
What a day this extended summer October day turned into. The forecast of
sun and in the low- to mid-eighties for this Columbus Day three-day
weekend was too much of a gift to not jump on, so this morning I called
ahead to Brown's Yacht Yard and made a reservation for a slip for two
nights. I dropped Chip Ahoy's mooring at 11:00 am and was on my way into
Salem Sound, through the channel between Baker's and Misery Islands, and
up the coast with a nice 12 mph SW breeze and 2 foot seas -- a welcomed
change from my usual sailing nose-on into the wind.
As I came into Gloucester Harbor this afternoon at about 3:00 pm I
dropped sails and called ahead to Brown's Yacht Yard, told Greg that I
was approaching. Then . . .
A Coast Guard large inflatable sort of boat with a cabin came at me from
Chip Ahoy's port side, with I saw one of the four crew aboard
hand-signaling. I slowed the outboard, thought they wanted to pass ahead
of me. They slowed too, started angling toward Chip Ahoy, more
alongside. What's with this? So I slowed more until the boat was right
"We want to board," I was told . . . !
Ooo-kay, what's this about?
So I let them pull alongside quite smartly. Two armed young guys stepped
aboard Chip Ahoy: Steve and Vuthy, with apparently the latter in
command. They want to see "my papers," always chilling when demanded by
armed federal government agents, regardless of innocence.
Here I am in the middle of Gloucester Harbor surrounded by lobster trap
buoys with two Coast Guardsmen aboard requesting that I leave the tiller
to provide them with paperwork that's somewhere aboard and below but
which I haven't had to provide . . . ever before.
Alright . . . maybe it's close to 9/11 again or something, airliners
overhead aiming for targets? I admire the Coast Guard, want to make
their servicemen's lives as easy as possible. Heroes and all that. "You take the
tiller, I'll go below and dig out the paperwork."
In the cabin I pull up the starboard cushion, reach into the compartment
beneath and grab the sealed Ziplock bag containing the paperwork,
instructions manuals, etc. in a plastic documents box, bring it out and
hand it to them, take back the tiller, let them peruse. No big thing:
it's all in order, everything's legal, there's nothing aboard to hide.
"Do you have any firearms aboard?" I'm asked.
Yep, today my .38 Special is in my seabag. Whoops, doesn't that grab
their attention! One guardsman drops below into the cabin, recovers it
from a pocket in my seabag, returns to the cabin. "Are you licensed for
this?" Yep, sure am. Okay, next I must provide paperwork to prove it. I
get my wallet from the bag, hand them Licenses to Carry both for here
and in New Hampshire. Yeah, it's all legal, so — next?
Next the boat inspection. More than enough life jackets, yep GPS
provides position, not one but two fire extinguishers, "What's that?"
I'm asked about the tiller pilot; ohmygod you name it
bucket-not-porta-potti (no problem), yada yada yada. These two guys
were good, I mean friendly, more curious than — what?
intrusive. In the end they could find not a thing wrong or missing
course. I pointed out that the flares in the emergency flares kit had
expired, as had the spare/backup ones alongside, but I've never needed
to use flares and hated to stockpile endlessly more. No problem
that was THE ONLY shortcoming on their possible list, and they went
through everything meticulously, didn't even write me up on the
Most of their time and interest was spent on their notepad computer
researching my firearm, and that they
couldn't find its registration in any of the government's databases. (I
didn't know the federal government kept such databases, but you can bet
it's there now!) I explained that I've owned it for some 30 years, that
I have the carbon-copy registration at home if they want to come by and
confirm. "Was it previously owned?" Nope, I bought it new, in the box.
Well, apparently they have no records for 30-year old firearms out of
I look around, grab the tiller. "Excuse me guys but we're drifting
into the state fish pier," so I reverse the outboard, steer away as
their boat circles nearby.
"You can head for Brown's marina if you want," I'm offered, but the boat
is now a mess with things pulled out and strewn about everywhere,
they're still inspecting. "I think we can wait out here," I offer,
"until you're done with me and I can get things re-stowed then on my way."
In the end, after almost an hour and a call to Brown's marina to explain
my tardiness, the Coast Guardsmen helped straighten out the boat then
came in with me, handled the bow and stern lines, pulled Chip Ahoy into
the slip smartly. Nice to have a docking crew aboard. We joked, they
couldn't find anything to write me up on, we parted as new friends. The
folks on the docks at the marina had something to talk about.
Postscript: After their departure, it took me a few phone calls to my
"new friends" at Gloucester Station to find where they'd put my firearm,
then its ammunition (re-stowed separately). I advised them that in the
future, when they separate the two, that they also look for and separate
any speed-loaders; they left mine in the seabag without inspection or
segregation. Even with the firearm segregated from its ammunition when
they left, it took me only a moment to reload, until I could find where
they'd stashed the originally-loaded cartridges.
I wonder what that was all about?
But on the dock after tying off Chip Ahoy they told me that I've now
been "inoculated" -- that if I'm boarded again, just hand the crew my
new inspection report with its perfect score.
The guys were professional, alert but courteous, and somewhat bemused
themselves -- admittedly impressed with Chip Ahoy and my redundant
safety measures and equipment. (My stowed SAR life vest is better than
theirs, they said, after asking if I had other PFDs aboard beside my
inflatable.) In the end, I think they felt rather silly, but it was
likely a training exercise -- and they got the bonus of a 'Firearm
At the dock after they'd departed, the consensus was that
I'd just experienced "a drill," that I happened to come along at the
right time for their exercise.
Monday, October 10, 2011; 4:00 pm
I arrived back on Chip Ahoy's morning at about 3:30 pm
after a relaxing day yesterday in at the slip in Gloucester then great
day of sailing today. Again the wind was favorable to my direction, West
off the starboard at about 15 mph occasionally gusting over 20. During
the entire time at sea the afternoon temperature was summer-like; I got
to pull out the shorts for probably the last time this year. I had a
great steak dinner both nights across the street from the marina at "Expresso's"
— still serving the best. After this
weekend, Brown's Yacht Yard is officially closing for the season. I'm
lucky to have squeezed in one last weekend away. It's time to start
thinking about hauling Chip Ahoy out for the coming winter.