Archive for: ‘March 2016’

The Story of Two Boats

March 1, 2016 Posted by Deb

homelessIt’s kind of sad. Florida has a lot of homeless people and Ft. Lauderdale has more than its share. The 2015 Census listed over 71,000 Florida school children as homeless and a point in time count found 35,000 adults. Wow.

There’s another layer of folks just above homeless that have something resembling a place to live. In Florida, a boat will do. The first boat story (no names to protect the guilty) is about a small Catalina owned by a guy who motored up the New River five years ago and stayed. As his health declined, so did the boat. He was wheelchair bound when we met him but seemed to be in fairly good spirits. We said goodbye and “see you in a few months” and that’s all we remember about him. Apparently his health declined quickly and, though folks brought him food from time to time, pop tarts aren’t exactly a well rounded diet. The dock owner probably saved his life by calling whoever you call for that kind of thing and they hauled him off his boat in a straight jacket kicking and screaming. He’s been in the hospital ever since.

And then there is the boat. It was sold for $600 to a guy with an almost identical boat in almost identical condition. Hey … they’re everywhere. Anyway, the new owner of two derelict boats tied them together on the same dock, just behind us, and started salvaging his new purchase. This happened in multi-million dollar Ft. Lauderdale New River real estate with mini-mega yachts everywhere. The landlord/dock owner got edgy. The short version is that the landlord said “Sorry, you’re outta here at the end of the month” and it’s another $40 per week to have that other derelict tied up here.

Florida is full of people for which $40 a week is a big deal. The $600 he paid for his other derelict wiped him out and he was selling tools and salvage bits to get by. His solution was to scull the boat out into the New River, drop a couple of anchors, and swim back. He almost did not make it back because he’s a big smoker and drinker and not in very good shape. He also had found about a gallon of rum on the salvage boat and was having trouble walking for the prior few days.

No one gets away with dumping a boat in the New River. A mangrove swamp down the coast, maybe, but not the New River. It has been three weeks, the boat is a hazard to navigation, the cops have been by with bull horns, the neighbors are angry, taking pictures, and hot on the phones. The official word is that the owner was taken away (true), someone bought the boat (true) and took it away (false), and one morning it just showed up out there. There’s no paper trail, the guy in the hospital has been contacted repeatedly but could not ID who he sold it to; and the current owner just sits back and watches the show.BlueCoral

It gets better. The owner of the two derelicts, one aground in the channel, decided it was time to go back to Texas. He advertised his derelict for $600 and a true modern day dreamer showed up and gave him $300 for it. The young guy was a carpenter from Virginia and had been hiking the Appalachian Trail to get over his mother’s death, just like Reese Witherspoon in Wild. With $900 to his name, he decided to become a sailor. The rest of the story is why we don’t need TV out here.LeesBoat

We first saw the dreamer when he dragged his poor, shaking and scared to death, dog below decks, dropped the storm boards in the companionway, and left for lunch. That hurt to watch. The dreamer turned out to be a nice enough guy, brand new to Christ, newly off booze, OK with the dog after that, and completely out of his league with sailing or boats. We all tried to help, us least of all, because we have our own boat issues.

When we returned from a night out with Dave and Gail from Wildest Dream, an intoxicated voice came out of the dark, almost crying. As the former owner and the new owner prepared the boat for two people to sleep, it started dawning on the dreamer that his new purchase was not a perfect boat. We heard there was loud arguing, a falling out, and a lot of talk about getting money back. We had just run into the former owner in the dark, quite shaken by the “event” that we missed. He has a problem thinking that people don’t like him.

The landlord needed the deal to happen and the boat to be gone. He interceded the next morning with a  philosophical session with the dreamer. “You are starting a new life and there are going to be a lot of lessons. Last night you just had lesson one. Don’t get mad at the people who are trying to help you, you’re going to need them.” So … they made up over donuts and have been frantically working together ever since. It got a little dicey when the dreamer touched the mainsail and his hand went right through it.

Final chapter. The outboard was under water for awhile but it did run a little today. The boat has no functioning engine. The dreamer is going to strap the hard dinghy and partially running Evinrude 15 onto the sailboat and tow it north up the Intercoastal Waterway to home with around $200 in his pocket. This epic journey begins tomorrow morning. Their Plan B is to move down the river to docks off a vacant lot and continue to work on the outboard until they are kicked off that dock. There is a fair chance that both of them and their dogs will be gone in the morning and that both boats and all their debris will get dumped on the landlord. Side bets?

Looking out the other side of the boat -- much nicer view

Looking out the other side of the boat — much nicer view