Chip Ford's 1974 Catalina 22 Restoration Project
Sail #3282  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

The never-ending project to fill my hole in the ocean while bailing it out

Columbus Day 3-Day Weekend to Gloucester
October 8 - 10, 2011

Click thumbnails for a larger picture

Saturday, October 8, 2011; 6:45 pm
A slip at Brown's Yacht Yard
Gloucester, Massachusetts

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 alongside.

"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 air-horn, bucket-not-porta-potti (no problem), yada yada yada. These two guys were good, I mean friendly, more curious than what? unnecessarily intrusive. In the end they could find not a thing wrong or missing of 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 but that was THE ONLY shortcoming on their possible list, and they went through everything meticulously, didn't even write me up on the 'expired' flares.

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 the box.

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 Onboard' drill.

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.

Marblehead, Massachusetts
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.


The Last Weekend Cruise of Sailing Season 2011!