Wherein a Captain Tries to Strangle One of His Crew

Wherein a Captain Tries to Strangle One of His Crew

He kind of deserved it.

There are a couple of shark-diving boats that operate out of Cruiseport Village marina, here in Ensenada. For three months of the year, they are paid extraordinarily good money to haul insane vacationers out to popular shark haunts where they can frolic in the water amongst cute and cuddly maneaters. At more than 100′ long, they’re so big that when they pull into port you don’t so much see them coming (although the way they take up the whole horizon, they’re hard to miss), or hear them (again, couldn’t miss it if you were comatose), as much as you feel their approach coming. The aggressively throaty growl of huge twin diesel engines is transformed underwater, into an onslaught of miniature soundquakes that assault everything below the waterline.

It sucks to have them be your neighbors. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. The age old rivalry between power boats and sailboats.  Or commercial vs. pleasure craft, I don’t know. They’re obnoxiously loud, running their engines and generators pretty much the whole time they’re tied up. Even in the middle of the night. And their lights, oh my freaking god, the lights. I’m all for having well lit decks but their lighting scheme is also designed to illuminate all of the ocean around them in roughly a 10 mile radius. I’m surprised they haven’t laser-beamed a hole through the side of my pilothouse, yet.

The only good thing about them is that they’re usually only tied up for 12 hours at a time. Just long enough to offload the old passengers, reprovision for the next trip, and take on a brand new set of divers with death wishes. We make a habit of being nice to them and they do their best not to suck, which is greatly appreciated. In retrospect, I should have been more appreciative.

One morning, we got woken up way too early by the unmistakable rumble of an incoming shark boat. Whoever was driving the damn thing was doing a piss-poor job of it. He’d come in too hot, panic at the last minute, and then (still full-throttle) throw it in reverse. It took them a good half-hour to park. Steve was not a happy camper.

“Hey fuckers, do you think you’re gonna like parking, once you get the hang of it?” he shouted, as the captain walked by. Despite this  less than auspicious start to our relationship, everyone stayed pretty mellow. Which is good, as it turns out, because we got to be neighbors for weeks. This new shark boat was different from the others, smaller and a little rough around the edges. They hardly ever went out. The other shark boats were sleek and shiny with burly shark cages stacked up on deck and everything looking really squared away. Their crew wore uniforms. This new boat’s  superstructure was painted in a blue camouflage pattern and their shark cages…I think a hungry shark would view those cages as inconsequential packaging surrounding a tasty treat. Steve says they’re built like lawn chairs. He is being too kind.

Eli decided that the captain looks kind of like a hippy, stoner version of Dog the Bounty Hunter. Actually, more like the love child of Captain Ron and Dog the Bounty Hunter, On our boat, we call him Captain Dog. His crew was more of the same. A pretty ragtag bunch and I’d bet good money that this was the first time most of them ever crewed on a boat. Or did anything on a boat. Nonetheless, they were a less of a pain in the backside than we feared, so things were good.

Until a couple of days after I got out of the hospital. It must’ve been all of 3:30 AM when the shouting started on the boat next door. Ugh. I tried to go back to sleep. And then the explosions started. At least, that’s what it sounded like. POW! POW! POW! POW! POW! By this time I was sitting on the companionway steps trying to see what was going on without making myself an obvious target. I heard a bunch of splashing, then more yelling and now stuff was raining down on our boat. On my bleepity-bleeping boat! I’d had enough and stepped off the boat to go have a little chat with the neighbors about WAKING THE DAMN DEAD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FREAKING NIGHT. Before I got very far, two port security guards glided by, like ninjas. Ninjas who speak Spanish. “Calmate, Señora, calmate,” one said, motioning for me to stay put. I went back to my post near the companionway.

“Hola! ¿Hola, qué pasa?” The first guard called loudly, knocking on the side of the shark boat. Dead silence from inside. Then, one of the crewmembers shuffled out on deck and said, “Ahhhh….yeah…..it’s all cool now. Sorry about the…uhhh noise and stuff.” The guards weren’t letting him off that easy. “¿Qué pasa?” they insisted. “I don’t exactly know,” he said. “I was actually sleeping when all the shouting and stuff started. I don’t know why, but one of the crewmen has aaahhh…had too much to drink and started yelling and throwing stuff in the galley and now he’s kinda curled up in the fetal position under the table. Crying.” “So is everything ok? Does anybody need help?” asked the second guard. “No, I think…I think it’s all good now.” After the guards left, there was a little more shouting, but not much. One of the crew got out a camcorder and began walking around the boat saying, “Oh my God, this is crazy. I’m trying to document this. I don’t know where the captain is now…hopefully he’s just partying in town with some hookers or something…,”His voice trailed off as he moved into the wheelhouse and then everything was quiet for a while.

We all tried to get back to sleep and I must have been successful because an hour later I woke up to more shouting, this time from Captain Dog. Apparently, he’d returned safely from whoring around. “WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO MY GALLEY, YOU STUPID FUCKING WASTE? WHERE IS THE BAIT? THE BAIT. WHERE IS MY MOTHERFUCKING BAIT? DID YOU THROW MY FUCKING BAIT IN THE FUCKING WATER? FUUUUUUUUUUCK” There was a pause, while a quieter voice made noises that I assume translated into some kind of an explanation. “Jesus. Fuck. Jesus….,” It sounded like the captain was running out of steam. I closed my eyes. Maybe he’d shot his wad and we could salvage a little more sleep before the sun came up. “I DON’T CARE. I’M GOING TO BED. THIS BETTER…YOU’D FUCKING BETTER HAVE MY GALLEY CLEAN BY THE TIME I WAKE UP IN THE MORNING. I DON’T CARE. I DON’T GIVE A FUCK, IT BETTER FUCKING BE SPOTLESS. DO YOU HEAR ME? FUCKING SPOTLESS. GOD, I CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT YOU DID TO MY BOAT. FUCK.” I crawled out of bed and went up on deck just in time to see a skinny, barefoot, shirtless guy slither off the boat. He stood on the dock, facing the boat and tried to spit on it. From where I stood, it looked like most of the spit ended up on his chin. He turned around and began walking slowly down the dock. Thinking the show was finally over, I started back down the companionway steps.

I hear a thud, as Captain Dog jumps off his boat and onto the dock. Then the sound of someone sprinting furiously past our boat.  “YEAH YOU’D BETTER RUN, PUNK. FUCKING PUNK. YOU PIECE OF SHIT. I’M GONNA FUCK YOU UP,” he screams. The skinny guy takes off, running down the finger pier right after ours. I’m back out on deck, but can’t see anything because there’s another boat between me and the commotion. I hear a huge splash and then the skinny guy starts screaming, “Help! Help me! Somebody help! He’s trying to kill me!”  He sees me and starts swimming frantically towards my boat. His face is all terror and panic and then…relief, as I step down onto the dock, ready to help him out of the water when he reaches my dock. By this time, Captain Dog has walked back into view, two crewmembers in tow. Then they start walking down my finger pier. I turn and look at the guy in the water and then back at the ugly look on the captain’s face. I cross my arms and block the captain’s path. “WHAT. THE. FUCK. MAN?” I shout, right in his face.

Some of his bluster drains away. “My boat!” he yells, stabbing the air next to my face with his finger, for emphasis, “Did you see what that asshole did to my fucking boat?” I step a little closer and match him decibel for decibel, “Look, I am sorry he fucked up your boat,” I say, “And I don’t know what’s the deal between you two, but you guys need to take a break. Jesus Christ, I just got out of the hospital. How am I supposed to get better with this crap going on?” “I’m sorry,” he says, “I didn’t mean…it’s just…he smashed up the galley and there’s shit everywhere and he threw the bait in the water and…how can I trust him on the boat after he pulls this kind of shit?” Now he’s pissed off again and starts forward, like he’s going to push past me and finish what he started, but he can’t, because one of the other crewmembers has grabbed him from behind. “Look,” I say, “You’re the captain, not me, and you’re the one who has to make the call, but maybe he shouldn’t be on your boat right now. Just, you know, give yourselves a little time to cool off.” “You’re right,” he says, “You’re right. I’m sorry. I just….fuck.” he looks over my shoulder and points his stabby finger at the skinny guy, who’s managed to crawl onto the dock by himself, “You’re off the boat. Got it?” Then he stomps himself back onto his own boat, leaving the crewmembers to make more apologies in his wake.

I turn around to see a shivering, dripping, scrawny kid of a man trembling next to my boat. It looks like the enormous dive knife he’s clutching is the only thing holding him up. “It’s gonna be ok,” I say in what I hope is a soothing voice. He nods his head a little and I’m surprised his eyes haven’t jumped right out of his head by now. I put one hand on his shoulder and the other over his hands, which are clutched tight to his chest. “It’s ok. You’re safe now…just…give me the knife, alright?” He shakes his head and I feel his knuckles shift as he grips the huge knife even closer. I give a gentle tug. “Please,” he whispers. “Please don’t take my knife. Please. He’s gonna kill me. He tried to kill me. I’m so scared. Please don’t take my knife.” Tears are dripping off the tip of his nose and in this moment, he looks all of five years old.

“Ok,” I say, “Ok. I won’t take your knife, but you’ve got to tell me what’s going on. Ok?”  He looks at me and says softly, “What am I going to do? I was asleep and then he was..he was choking me and I couldn’t breathe and I thought he was going to kill me right then and worst of all he’s my Daaaaaad!” And now he’s crying big wracking heartbroken sobs. “What if he comes back?” he asks. I think about bringing him onto my boat, where Steve and Eli and Nala are hopefully still sleeping. I think about what could happen in close quarters if Captain Dog comes back for another round. Sigh.

“Tell me your name,” I say. He wipes his eyes with the back of the hand that’s holding on to his dive knife and blows his nose into the water. “I’m sorry. I know that’s gross,” he says, “I’m Corey. “Good,” I say, “and the captain is your dad?” He nods, wrapping both hands around the knife, again. “Do you guys do this kind of thing often?” I ask, “I mean, do you have a history of fighting like this?” He shakes his head. “I think…I think he’s on something. I mean, he’s been acting weird. On our last trip out to Guadalupe, he stayed up for like 30 hours straight and wouldn’t let anyone else take the wheel and then he slept for like two days straight. I think he’s taking some drugs. I don’t know what.” “So what are you going to do now?” I ask. “I don’t know,” he says, “go home, I guess. Yeah, go back home.”

“There’s a bunch of paperwork that needs to happen if you’re leaving the boat,” I say. “Do you speak any Spanish? Do you know what to do?” He shakes his head. “And my stuff,” he says quietly, “Shit, all my stuff and my passport and…” He’s looking down at his feet, using the dive knife as a security blanket again and I’m pretty sure that’s going to end well for no one. “Corey, look at me,” I say. His head comes up slowly and I can see how he must have looked as a child. “Do you trust me?” I ask. He nods a tiny nod. “Here’s what we’re going to do,” I say. “We’re going to walk on up to the guards and tell them what’s going on. They can help you and they will keep you safe. OK?” He nods again. I start down the dock but Corey stays where he is. I go back, “Corey, we have to go up there.” “I know,” he whispers, “but what if he comes after me again when we’re going up there?” “Give me your hand, Kiddo,” I say. His eyes are full of questions. “You already saw, ” I say, “he won’t hurt me and he’s gonna have to go through me to get to you.”  Long, cold fingers slowly release their deathgrip on the knife and fold themselves into my hand.

We walk, hand in hand, up the dock and find a guard. “This man,” I say, “this man is not safe on his boat. He and the captain had a big fight. The captain choked him and it’s dangerous for him to go back. He needs to get his stuff and his papers. He needs your help.” “OK, is ok,” says the guard. “Ven aqui,” he says leading us over to the patio. “Wait here.” He walks back over to the dock ramp and stations himself in the middle of the walkway, making sure he can see both us and the shark boat at the same time. We spend the next five minutes listening to him  rattle off the fastest machinegun Spanish I’ve ever heard. Understanding exactly none of it.

By this time, Corey is shivering pretty bad from the cold and adrenaline. He looks so cold and miserable and I’ve got nothing to put around him to keep him warm. Marina, the stray kitten who adopted herself to Cruiseport, meows for attention and twines around my feet. I swoop her up and deposit her in Corey’s arms. He looks at me like, WTF? “Hold her. Pet her. You’ll feel better,” I say, and since I used my MomVoice on him, he does. “Thanks,” he says, “I’m sorry you got dragged into this, but….ummmm….I’m really glad you were here.” We talk about trivial things for a while, willfully ignoring the elephant in the room, until Corey calms down a bit and stops shaking so much. The cat becomes bored with us and takes her leave with an annoyed meow.

He tells me about his friends and stuff he likes to do and about his mom, which makes me feel old, because as it turns out, she’s exactly the same age as me. And he’s like 23. He tells me that things have been tough on their boat and no one’s gotten paid in a while. He tells me how he and his dad and another guy went cruising the strip bars last night and about how he got in a hassle with security at one of them and got kicked out and kind of beat up. And then they ditched him. He said the reason he smashed up the galley was because he was mad at his dad for not sticking up for him. And for ditching him. “Oh, crap,” he says, “I guess I can pretty much kiss my PS3 goodby. He’s probably thrown it in the water by now.”

After a while, the Navy shows up, because this is a Federal Port, after all, and they like to discourage the kind of shenanigans that we’ve been partaking of this night. They ask many questions of the guards, then start in on Corey. What is your name? Tell me what happened tonight. Do you have your papers? That kind of thing. Then they start on me and when I give them my last name it literally stops the whole thing cold. The guy turns to one of the guards and asks in Spanish if I’m the mother of this boy or not.

Awesome. I assume at some point, there comes a time when you’re so used to being old that stuff like this never even registers a blip on your radar and maybe I should just be happy I’m not there yet. Still…sucky. “No,” I say, “I am not his mother.” “So you are the girlfriend?” he asks, looking doubtful. “No. I am just the person whose boat was closest to him. He needed help, so I helped him.” He’s looking at me like I just said something weird. “So…this man here,” he says, pointing at Corey, “he is in a deadly fight with the captain of another boat and you are the one who is rescuing him?” I suppose the fact that I was wearing a skirt and no shoes did nothing for my credibility. “In the past,” I say, “I was in the Coast Guard. We have a lot of training for things like this. But now, I am a mother. My son is 15. I see this young man needing help and so I help him.” He nods his head, “Ahh, I understand.”

The sun was up by the time I was able to make my way back down to the boat. Most of the crew jumped ship that morning and well, who could blame them? The Navy had a serious talk with Captain Dog and told him that if anything else goes wrong, they’re impounding the boat. Later that day, one of the remaining crewmen bumped into Steve on the dock. “You might’ve heard some crazy stories going around the dock…” he began, “but nothing like that really happened. Everything is cool.” Steve stopped him right there, “I’m not listening to any crazy stories going around the docks. I’m going by what I heard and what I saw and what happened right in my wife’s face. That’s what I’m going by.” Which pretty much shut that guy down. Later, when the Captain tried to smooth things over, Steve said, “Look, as long as you keep your shit off of my boat, we’re good, got it?”

And he did. But that isn’t quite the end of the story. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what happened after Captain Dog managed to hire on some new crew

1 P1010370 630x472 Wherein a Captain Tries to Strangle One of His Crew

One of the big shark dive boats.

cammo 01 Wherein a Captain Tries to Strangle One of His Crew

The Blue Cammo boat trying to park. It's kind of a rinky-dink outfit compared to the big shark boats.

cammo 2 Wherein a Captain Tries to Strangle One of His Crew

Kind of flimsy for a shark cage...


6 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. balyhu says:

    Curiouser and curiouser… I’m one of the NEW crew (the chef) and I am really interested in the COMPLETE story as Corey and the other crew members are very dear to me and I am NOT “in the know” about the ENTIRE scope of what REALLY happened. personal email elise@balyhu.com

    • Steve says:

      Well Elise, that’s about everything that we know. We stuck to just what we saw and we heard with our own eyes and ears and we stayed away from any speculation or slander. From what I saw I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be on that boat.
      We are posting part 2 today, that’s the story of your return.

  2. CrewThatBailed says:

    Hey guys beautiful job on the retelling of the insanity from your point of view. We made it home safe after a taxi, a bus, another taxi, walking with all our stuff across the border, another bus, a trolley, and finally a train to our truck in Southern California. Not the way we planned on getting home but hey when shit hits the fan make a plan C! Hope all is well with you!

    • Steve says:

      We’re really happy to hear that you guys made it home safely. I hope that your future adventures include just a little less adventure.

      • CrewThatBailed says:

        Hopefully less of the hostile adventures and more of the fun adventures!!! I still think it’s awesome that we met you and Eli in two harbors months ago and then got to be your neighbors in ensenada. May the wind carry you safely and swiftly on your voyage. I’ll keep in touch.
        -Eric, The sober deckhand who was also woken up by the chaos and talked to the security guards when trying to figure out just What in the HELL was going on.

6 Comments Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Shark Diving Excitement - SailNet Community
  2. Landfall Voyages » Return of Shark the Dog Hunter

Leave a Comment Here's Your Chance to Be Heard!

You must be logged in to post a comment.