Until the U.S. Coast Guard heads towards us out of the east.
At which point my heart beat increases, and a feeling akin to complete doe-in-the-headlights panic hits me. I start running through the check list of Coast Guard requirements for navigation on inland coastal waters of the United States at a rapid fire clip. These are fresh in my memory having just prepped for the Washington Boater Education Card. The problem is, I know for certain we are not fully compliant.
So let’s back up a bit. Complying with all the USCG rules is similar to complying with all the DMV rules. It’s a really really good idea, but the bottom line is that if a USCG/cop wants to find something wrong with your boat/car, there are always more things you could have and should have done. The trick is to do all the major and important bits, and then obey all the rules of the road so that there is no reason to stop you. Mind you, I’m not dissing either USCG inspectors or traffic police. It’s a traffic cop’s job to find stuff wrong, and they do a fine job. Mostly, they don’t want to bother finding little ditzel crap on your vehicle, they just want to keep you from driving like a complete idiot. Same with the USCG.
However, I am very aware of the ditzel crap that is non-compliant on our vessel. The most significant at this point is probably our hailing port. While we have the WA to convert Vancouver, BC to Vancouver, WA, we haven’t installed it yet. Nor have we actually yet changed our hailing port from Seattle to Vancouver. That’ll happen in August when we renew our paperwork. Another place where we fail our perfect inspection report objective would be with the heads. While we have the thru hulls to dump overboard zip-tied off, the USCG apparently wants something more permanent and incontrovertible to prove you aren’t occasionally sneaking out into the middle of a sloshy big bit of water and just letting your pants down -- nautically speaking.
On the other hand, these offenses are minor. Certainly, the small fines or hassle resulting from their discovery was disproportionate with the deeply panicked, utterly terrified feeling I experienced as I watched Authority zoom in on our craft. Han Solo reminded me to ‘sail casual’, and I did a quick scan of sails, instruments, course, and conditions to make sure that we looked like a big innocent white blob on the water.
Apparently, it worked. Alternatively, they might have -- like half the rest of the Puget Sound -- merely decided to do a drive-by-catamaraning. This is what the girls call the frequent custom of boats around here to go far out of their way to take a look at us. With multihulls in the absolute minority and big condo-cats like ours literally countable on your fingers and toes, we’re something of a curiosity. More likely, the Coast Guard wasn’t paying us the slightest attention.
It took awhile to calm down. It took another long while to figure out why I panicked. It isn’t the graphics on the transom or the poopy head. I have reason to fear Authority. They might catch us. We’re escaping and taking our kids with us. We’re skipping school, playing hooky, taking a personal day that may last several years long.
We’re being irresponsible.
We’re [cue ominous music] ... cutting.
Sail casual, Toast. You might even consider taking up whistling innocently.