Friday, August 30, 2013

Key West and Gib Peters

For a number of years my pal Troy and I would try and make a trip to Key West to hide out before school started - usually at the end of August. Troy was teaching at UT - weather and climate. I was teaching at Texas State - photography. I was also a Policeman in Texas as well.

Mike Peters was an acquaintance of ours from Austin, Texas who happened to be home to Key West while we were there. We stayed at the La Concha. Mike stayed with his family and father Gib Peters. Mr. Peters was a local banker and wrote for the local Key West paper.

Troy and I had cop friends there too. Kurt Stephens, now retired was a great guy and good for Key West. The other cop we knew ended up in prison for selling cocaine. Oh so Conchish.

Part of this trip was going to be a trek out on the water on Gib Peter's Dutchman - I think - a trawler none the less. At reasonably early hours, and the day before we were scheduled to fly back home, we met at the dock with our days supplies and headed out to sea. We were going to go Lobstering.

In short order, we were past the flats and on the reef. I was the only certified diver and hobbled on a tank and fins. Everyone else was wearing snorkels. We found our spot and anchored. After a quick lesson on how to use a tickle stick, down I went. Holy Crap, I was pulling up lobster after lobster, one after the other - and big ones too. I imagined the forthcoming barbecue. When I'd get a few in my bag, I'd come up and throw them in the boat.

The sea isn't silent and I heard the sound of a boat screw closer than all the rest. When I looked up, there was a cigarette boat pulled along side ours. When I surfaced to take a looksee, it was a pair of Game Wardens and they were tossing my lobsters overboard. We all sheepishly climbed back on the boat. It seems we had anchored inside of a newly designated wildlife refuge where anchoring and fishing were not allowed. 

I heard Gib arguing with the Wardens about the maps and the buoys and like all Game Wardens, they weren't having any of it and proceeded to issue Captain Gib a $750 ticket. He turned to me - the only cop on board and said. "well say something", like I might be able to sway their judgement. He was, after all, trying to show us a good time. 

Well when they left, we did too, running toward the mud flats, a place we could dive and where we might see dolphins. It was a beautiful warm day, and despite our run in with the law - the day crept to its end. 

With the sun hanging on the horizon and beneath the clouds, we raced toward home. From the deck I spied the sun, and then to its left a water spout. I, also a photographer, and right here before my eyes I had a waterspout backlit by the sun - wow - I needed my camera. I'd put it below and so I hurriedly stepped into the galley space to get it - and as I stepped down, the boat skidded to a stop. My first step was about twelve feet long and I ended up in the bow, along with everything else that wasn't tied down. I was unhurt, and found my camera, and rose to the deck only to find us stranded in the sand - a boat length outside the channel. We were good and stuck too - and when the sun goes down, it goes down fast.

Before long and after a few chats with the harbor master - we sort of decided that getting towed out wasn't going to work - and that we would sit it out until the tide returned at 4am. 

Ok, this was cool. It was an adventure after all. Troy, bless his heart tried as he could and tried has me might - but couldn't help Mike and I try and salvage our boat - and there we were, beneath the stars, the Gulf Stream storms popping their lighting in the distance. 

It was peaceful, quiet, and fun - although we had eagerly anticipated a crazy night of drunken debauchery on Duval - which this night would elude us. And then we ran out of beer - too early - and food as well. Dammit.

But in what must continue to be the most fantastic pizza delivery of all time, we called Pizza Hut by cell phone from seven miles out at sea, and ordered two giant pepperoni pizzas. Yes - it's true - and the pizza boy did deliver using the harbor taxi, showing up by boat and leaving with a handsome tip. He probably told that story to his friends at the High School the following Monday morning.

It was Gulfstream storms in the distance, clear starry skies, calm warm water - like a bath. And shallow enough to step right off the boat and walk a hundred yards shin deep. Alas - no beer. 
And as God and the heavens predicted the sea began to rise - and in due time freed us from the sand. 

At 4AM, we turned the screw and headed for home. Oh wait - and we'd bent the propeller shaft too. It was slow going - not unlike watching your washing machine dance on the floor when a pile of towels bunches up on one side. And with one loud outburst from Gib - "God Dammit" - we were home.

It was all good fun.