Marina Stories

By Tom Neale, 2/4/2010


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There’s nothing like snuggling into a marina slip to relax and escape the dangers of the high seas. You can let your guard down. You can watch those anvil clouds sweeping toward you as you look at those pilings you’re boat is hanging onto and flip a grin up to the dark skies. At least that’s what I like to think. But I also remember some marina experiences that weren’t quite so relaxing.

Marina Stories

One of the big deal things that people like to do in marinas is to cook out on the grill. It’s a boating tradition. And many marinas have a nice grilling area where you can do it safely. The idea is that you’ll only burn the food and not have to worry about burning other things like docks and the boats. But you know what happens to burnt food and all the greasy droppings from food before it gets burnt. What happens there stays there, down in the deep dark recesses of the grill. Which has something to do with why a really ticked rat came bounding out of the grill in one marina. It was odd, because he had waited secretly in the corner as the charcoal was dumped in. I guess he was looking forward to the hamburgers that he smelled nearby and figured a few lumps of charcoal were worth the anticipated culinary experience.

But the lighting fluid was apparently just too much to take, even for a rat waiting for a bite of burger. I heard the rustle, but figured it wasn’t anything more than cockroaches, who also like to hang out around marina grills. Then I dropped the match in. A ticked off rat is bad enough, but a ticked off rat with a smoking tail is no match for me, no pun intended. Now just in case there are some really extra uptight animal-rights lovers reading this, I want to assure them that they can relax. We did NOT eat the rat. We didn’t even have a chance to, actually, because he was so fast that he disappeared into the inner recesses of the next grill before we could wave a fork at him. I’m sure he felt he was safe there because that next grill wasn’t being used.

But an hour or so later a highly intoxicated group poured out of a sport boat, the football game having just ended on the wide screen. They began to prepare dinner on the grill in which the poor rat had sought refuge. Being big spenders, they had those self lighting coals and so didn’t pour any lighting fluid to give the rat fair warning. I suppose I should have said something on the rat’s behalf, but instead just watched, very closely, from the side of my eyes. I never saw him come out. Maybe there was a back door that he knew about, but I didn’t think so. But I did hear one of the guys a little later asking his buddy,

“Hey, who dropped that burger down there in the coals?”

“I dunno,” said the buddy, “you want me to try to fish it out? You still hungry?”

“Naa, it looks kinda weird. I don’t think I woulda eaten it anyway. Leave it there for the rats.”

Roasted rats aren’t the only problems lurking around marinas. There always seems to be at least one power cord jiggler, whom many people consider to be worse than rats. There are all sorts of ways to jiggle power cords and roast all or most of the electronics on the victim boat. Some people just trip over the cord and do the job. More responsible types trip over the cord and then jiggle it to be sure they didn’t pull it out. Some, furtively squatting down before the power pedestal trying to plug in their own cord, will peer around from under their hats and pull out your cord to see if the socket has a little less smoke coming from it than the one into which they just inserted their own cord. Once I saw a drunk who thought that the yellow snake was a water hose, and started to uncoil it, looking for the business end. When he found the business end in the power pedestal, he tried to turn it. I guess he thought it was a faucet.

Tom’s Tips About Marina Dock Power

1. Be particularly careful about power supply in offshore marinas that use generator power. I knew if an island marina, for example, where the operator actually ramped up the generator’s RPMs to help “balance” the load. If you have a good digital volt/ohm meter and a hertz meter, and know how to SAFELY use them, you can check out questionable power before it does damage to some of your sensitive equipment.

Click Here for More Tips

And then there are the pencil thin pilings. The problem here is that they never look like pencil thin pilings because the pencil thin parts are always underwater which is where, incidentally, the barnacles and worms live. I knocked one over once as I was docking and the dock master tried to tell me he wanted me to replace it. I gave him a pencil. In another marina I watched as a dock slowly began to settle down and heel over a bit. The crowd watching the fishing tournament weigh in didn’t seem to notice until one of the onlookers noticed that his feet were getting wet. Thusly prompted, the onlookers scrambled to terra firma leaving the dock on pencil stick pilings for the next crowd.

Speaking of crowds, one marina in the Bahamas had nice strong pilings and a nice fish cleaning platform hanging over the water inside the marina. Boaters loved to hang out on the dock, cocktails in hand, and watch the sharks snap up the entrails and heads of the catches of the day. But one day the wife of one of the wealthier patrons of the marina lost her little lap dog during the sunset ritual. She didn’t lose it in the sense of not being able to find it. She REALLY lost it. The dog fell overboard. You can guess the rest. So the marina operator moved the fish cleaning station to the opposite side of the little rocky spit of land that formed the harbor, hoping to keep the sharks out there. This was no great relief to the people in the marina who regularly swam at the beach a few hundred feet from the new fish cleaning station. The marina operator had apparently figured that he’d rather the sharks eat people than dogs, until somebody reminded him that none of the dogs had ever paid slip rent. He came up with a true island solution. To avoid the appearance of callousness, he built a fish cleaning station on both sides of the spit.

Some marinas present us with much more to worry about than what’s in the waters below the dock. Like the marinas with parking lots right up against the docks or the boathouses. Actually there are quite a few like these. So I suppose it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to a boat owner to come down on a Saturday morning and find a car with rear wheels on the dock and front wheels in his cockpit. This is where sailboaters have a leg up on power boaters. The latter often have those big open cockpits which are just right for cradling the front end of a car. The former are usually more narrow astern, the result being that the car slides off to one side or another, to remain snagged on a pencil piling as Triple A tries to convince the owner that this isn’t what they had in mind when they talked about roadside towing.

There are many more stories of special events in marinas, I’m sure you have a few. But I still love the feeling of staying in a marina after days of being underway. When you’re on a boat, stuff is going to be happening no matter where you are. But at a marina at least I know that when stuff happens I can run away instead of swimming.

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Copyright 2004-2009 Tom Neale