Trawler Trash; Confessions of a Boat Bum

  Production is well underway. The manuscript is in the hands of an editor. Professionals are working on cover design. It won’t be long before Trawler Trash is available. I think you will enjoy it. 

 

Here’s a sneak peak. Read chapter 1 for free.

 

  I was sitting under the gazebo at the end of C dock at Fisherman’s Village Marina, in Punta Gorda, Florida. Colorado Bob and Kentucky Tom were letting me pilfer beers out of their coolers. These were my last two friends on Earth. They were two of the few who knew how broke and desperate I really was.

  Tom drank Budweiser, which I really didn’t like much. He also bore a strange resemblance to Beevis, from Beevis and Butthead. He had a self-deprecating wit and was always willing to lend a hand when needed. He was also a diver. I used him to clean the boat’s hull and he never charged me full price, sometimes doing it in exchange for my homemade rum, which he fed to his wife to keep her docile. Where ever Tom was, so was his dog Truman. In fact, he planned his bar stops and special events based on how dog friendly the place was. Me and Truman were cool. Bob had Yuengling in his cooler, which suited me much better. I alternated beers from each though, to keep the ledger even. Once I made a score, I’d come back with a case of Busch Lite and we’d all share. Bob had a fine gentlemen’s appearance. He was always neatly groomed and sharply dressed. You couldn’t pass by his boat without him offering you a beer.

 

  “When are you going to have another batch of rum?” asked Bob. “I’m almost out.” Bob liked his rum. He’s the only person I’ve ever known that mixes rum with tonic.

  “Another week or so and I can hook you up.” I reminded him I needed his empty bottles to refill. Then I turned to Tom. “You drown that crazy wife of yours yet?”

 

  That’s when we saw him coming down the dock. He was not a tourist. He wasn’t a boater either. He was wearing dress pants and shiny black shoes. His dark sunglasses didn’t say Florida. They said agent of some kind. His plain white tailored shirt was sweating through. I looked my drinking buddies in the eye and said, “Follow my lead.”

 

  I always assumed they’d come after me some day. I didn’t know if it would be police or the IRS, but they would come. There was no way to tell who this guy worked for and he did not identify himself. Instead he walked right up to our table and put his hands down on it. “Have any of you gentlemen seen one Meade Breeze around here lately?”

 

  I spoke up first before Tom or Bob could blow it. “Breeze hasn’t been around here in over a year. Haven’t seen or heard from him in a long time.”

 

  If he was looking for me, I’m sure he had seen a picture. His trouble was that I had lost about forty pounds and grown my hair out long since that picture was taken. He raised his glasses and gave me a squinty once-over. I shrugged. “You got a card or something in case we see him?”

 

  “No,” he answered. “I’ll be back.” With that he turned and started heading back up the dock towards the parking lot. Halfway to the end of the dock he stopped. He turned around and looked back our way, rubbing his chin. He sensed something was wrong here, at least that what I was thinking. His indecision saved me.

 

  “Later guys,” I yelled as I ran the other way. My dinghy was tied up at the end of D Dock. Mystery man yelled for me to stop but it was futile. I’m no track athlete but my head start was too much. I untied old Patches and fired up the Mercury on the first pull. The old outboard didn’t let me down this time. Starting on the first pull was about a fifty-fifty proposition. Hell, sometimes starting at all was questionable.

 

  My pursuer stood at the end of D dock taking pictures of me with his cell phone. I knew that once I made it to the other side of Harpoon Harry’s he wouldn’t be able to see me anymore. My boat was anchored just outside the canal to the Isles Yacht Club, less than a mile away. I needed to weigh anchor and make myself scarce before he could commandeer a boat and come after me. I had no idea how bad he wanted to catch me. I didn’t even know which agency he was with. All I knew was that The Man had found me.

 

  I was really feeling the adrenaline as I raced across a shallow flat towards safety. I laughed out loud at the absurdity of my situation. I’d like to be a fly on the wall when that guy tells his superior that his suspect escaped via dinghy. Approaching within a hundred yards of my trawler I eased off the throttle to bring the little boat down off plane. That’s when it happened. With a cough and a sputter the old Mercury died.

 

  “Shit,” I hollered out loud. I kicked the empty five-gallon gas can that I had intended to fill while at the marina. I was out of gas. I made a lousy fugitive. This new development sobered me up pretty quick. I dropped the oars and started rowing before I lost all forward momentum. Inflatable boats don’t row very well and I was fighting a combination of wind and current. I took a glance back and saw no one in pursuit. I stroked like a madman anyway. Angling the oars deeper I pulled my little boat as if it was in an Olympic competition. I punished myself for being so lax in my own personal security. I was going to have to be much more careful in the future. I was a wanted man after all.

 

  Eventually I was able to reach out and grab the swim platform and haul myself aboard the bigger boat. There was no time to break down and stow the dinghy, so I tied off a long painter and prepared to take it in tow. I fired up the tired Lehman 120 diesel and jogged up to the bow to raise the anchor. I made mental calculations as to how much fuel I had in the tanks. Pulling up the anchor was a major pain the ass. My windlass has ceased to operate years ago. Hand over hand I hauled up chain and fed it into the anchor locker. By the time I was finished I was drenched in sweat and my hands were raw from stray barnacles and sand. Mental note to self: wear gloves you idiot.

  I wondered what else I was forgetting as I climbed the ladder to the fly-bridge. My little close call was affecting my thinking ability. Breathe Breeze. Settle down. There would be plenty of time to gather my thoughts on this trip. My old trawler traveled at a stately six knots. It would be nearly four hours before I could nudge her into my hidey hole near Pelican Bay. I needed that time to formulate some kind of plan. Cash was low. Food stores were low. I didn’t get a chance to take on water like I had planned. The tanks were maybe half full.

 

  I piloted the old trawler out of the Peace River, around Whorehouse Point and turned her south towards marker five. I tried to take stock of my overall situation. Things were pretty dire without this mystery man coming so close. I chuckled to myself about trying to run in such a slow boat. Six knots wouldn’t win a turtle race. Slow and steady old girl, just keep chugging like you always do.

 

  We made the turn at marker five off Cape Haze and Boca Grande came into view. Soon I could make out the shoreline of Cayo Costa. I realized I was really thirsty. Having my free beer drinking session interrupted, followed by a vigorous rowing session left me dying of thirst. Normally I’d hoard any beers I had aboard but I felt I deserved a few at that moment. It was times like these I wished I had bought an autopilot when I had the money. By the time I climbed down the ladder, grabbed a beer out of the fridge and climbed back up, we were way off course.

 

  In my mind I told Miss Leap that she should know the way by now. Her real name was Leap of Faith but I always referred to her as Miss Leap. Whenever we completed a journey, I’d pat her on the transom and tell her she did a good job. She was a 1980 Blue Seas Yacht. She sported the Europa style, with overhangs around the sides and over the aft deck. Her lines were all class, but she was aging. At first I kept her pristine, constantly caring for her teak and gel coat. I couldn’t afford that these days. She didn’t appear derelict or anything. It was just that the first signs of neglect were becoming apparent. From a distance people thought her a beauty. Upon closer inspection they’d see the oxidation and cracking varnish. She was my home. Without her I’d be just like the bums in the park.

 

  A few miles remained until we entered Pelican Pass. The sun was about to set over the Boca Grande Pass. The water closer to the Gulf had turned blue. I sat at the helm with my precious beer and watched the water become inflamed with the image of the sunburned sky. I had a moment of happiness in an otherwise miserable life. The beauty of my surroundings was often the only thing that kept me going. I had lost everything I had ever loved except for this old boat. I had screwed up royally thereafter. I had no future but I kept on living.

 

  Now it looked like the endgame was getting near. I had no choice but to keep running, keep hiding. The years of freedom that living on a boat had provided made the prospect of jail seem a certain death sentence. I shook myself out of this introspection as we approached the entrance channel to Pelican Bay. Normally I’d anchor in the open bay. I had to stay off the mangroves to avoid the mosquitoes. This time would be different.

 

  I passed the sand spit to starboard and turned off towards the park service docks. Veering south I left the other anchored boats in my quiet wake and angled towards a cut in the bar that would allow me entrance to a mostly hidden cove. I slowed to a crawl in case I hit bottom. If you did this right there was plenty of water, but the cut was narrow. During the day you could see the bar to port and the grass bed to starboard. I have arrived after sunset and had to rely on my GPS only. We made it through without a bump and I dropped anchor about an hour after sunset. I spent the rest of the night just sitting and staring at the moon as it rose in the sky. How in the hell had I ever let my life spiral so far downward? Finally I gave up thinking and hit the bunk with the smell of Off prominent on my skin and the odor of despair coming from my soul.

 

 

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