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Four Dollars Is Fine

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Night of Madness, by Daniel Sipes (continued)

Catalina's Year-End Storm

Four Dollars Is Fine

The ramps to the dinghy docks had been hoisted when I arrived and the docks themselves—with my dinghy attached—were already being towed away from what we call the “Green Pier” to a safer place in the harbor. I recognized the guy leading the operation, Brian Bray, who I’ve known as the harbormaster for many years.

“Hello,” I said.

He turned to me, looking frantic, and replied, “This wind just came up in the last 20 minutes!”

From his expression I inferred that he was surprised by the intensity of the wind. The worker riding on the now-free-floating dinghy dock yelled at the tow-vessel operator, “Go, go, go!”

I told Brian I had just dropped my family off at a hotel and needed to get back to my boat. He pointed to the yellow vessel coming in to drop off a woman and suggested, “Try the shoreboat.” I went down to the dock and immediately hopped aboard. The shoreboat operator just stared blankly at me as I told him about needing to get back to Tamara. “Well,” he said finally, “That was gonna be my last run. It’s too dangerous. But I’ll do one more. Exact change only—four dollars and fifty cents.” I told him I had four singles or a twenty. “Tonight,” he replied, “four dollars is fine.” He brought me to my boat and wished me good luck.

The wind was now blowing maybe 20 knots and the seas in the harbor were increasing—I figured they were 4 to 5 feet high and very steep, arriving every 5 seconds or so. I tuned my VHF radio to the working channel for the harbor patrol. From the traffic I heard, I determined that Baywatch Avalon had one or two boats in the harbor on standby in case the situation worsened, although one of them had a mooring line wrapped around a propeller and was therefore temporarily out of service. The Baywatch guys were trying to free it.

Boaters were also on the radio asking to be taken off their boats, although the shoreboat had stopped running. The harbor patrol uniformly responded that they were trying to secure the harbor but would get to the evacuation requests as soon as possible. Catallac, a 50-foot catamaran-type party boat, asked for assistance with doubling her mooring lines. She was in the outer harbor, and it was a very good idea to do this. The harbor patrol helped them. So now Catallac had two lines securing her bow and two securing her stern.

The ride was rough in the harbor. On my boat, items were falling from the shelves. I was tidying up and securing things when I heard a loud bang on the bow. I looked through the saloon window to see our standup paddleboard, which I had secured earlier, hanging over the side and held in place by little more than a Velcro ankle strap around a stanchion. I got a line and went forward to hoist the thing back aboard and tie it down more securely. Then I went back into Tamara’scabin.

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