My most scary experience was on a lovely day sail for a child’s 6th birthday party. The parents hired me to take their boat out with 6 or 8 kids to have lunch and cake and celebrate. It’s was a textbook-perfect Southern California day - warm, light breeze, flat ocean and it was even whale season, so there was a good chance that we’d see a whale.
I was running the boat and the kids and parents were all on deck having lunch and cake. I heard them singing the birthday song, just as I passed an anchored boat, and began my turn to head back in. I was busy trimming sails and I heard a loud POP. In the back of my mind, I registered it as a gunshot to start a sailing race. But then I realized it was a weekday and they only race on weekends. Then I heard another POP and then several, and I suddenly recognized that that anchored boat was shooting! Not only single shot guns, but rapid fire guns too! I watched for a few seconds and saw that they were not shooting at us, yet.
Imagine a boat full of little kids, clueless parents and I have no help. Don’t panic. Just stay calm. Right. Did I mention this was maybe a month after 9/11? We were all pretty nervous. I grabbed the radio to call the Coast Guard. They ask you all sorts of annoying details when all you want them to do is show up and blow that boat out of the water! How many adults and children onboard, color of the boat, owner’s name, boat name… The boat was named Ineffable. Try spelling that without looking like this: India, November (is it 2 Ns?), Echo, (I-n-e…F!) Foxtrot Foxtrot, ugh just hurry!!! Is it el or le? Yes, my voice was shaking and I had to look over the side to get the spelling right. Then they asked me the name of the other boat! Really? I am NOT going to go over there to find out! Please describe the other vessel. It’s the one that’s shooting!!!
By then I was turning again and was almost behind a big sea wall when I saw the boat head off toward a huge ship coming in. I told them on the radio and ducked out of sight. Safe! Whew.
The end of the story is that another boat reported them when they started shooting again and was able to see the name. The Police were alerted and the shooters were followed in by some incognito lifeguard boats. The Police found out where the boat was kept and they stationed themselves on the dock. When the shooters returned to their dock, they were swarmed by the SWAT teams and they all went to jail. They called me later to thank me for my efforts, but the fighter jets I longed for never arrived.”