"It's an ill wind that blows no good."
I'm Manfred Ito. An uglier crossbreed I dare you to find. I'm scrawny, have lanky straight dark-red hair that I wear to my collar and bright blue eyes. I've got a nose that looks like the business end of a two pound ball-peen hammer, and if I could control my ears I wouldn't need canvas to sail a skiff--all I'd have to do would be to stand up straight and move the tiller with a foot. I'm a quarter Japanese, a quarter Caddo Indian, a quarter Norwegian and a quarter Red-Irish. When all this started I was nineteen, amoral and shiftless.
Up until that ungodly strong storm came aground and tore the hell out of the east side of south Florida, I lived with my mom in Port St. Lucie and worked cleaning rooms, same as mom, at the Hutchinson Island Marriott. I spent my nights going to school to be a medic on an ambulance--a paramedic.
Everybody got warned to leave the area. It was pretty much a blanket 'leave or else' issued by the feds and the state boys. The guys and I figured to hell with it and had a beer bash during the storm, protected by a big, solidly-built manual car wash. The state police still didn't want anyone in the area so I had a few days off work. I was beach combing that morning, looking for anything to salvage for a few bucks.
I spotted a capsized boat in the surf. It had to have been Peavey's. I didn't know anyone else with 29 foot tender painted a bright purple. I kept my sneakers on because of the beach trash, and managed to swim out to the boat. Yep, it was 'Knicker Bait'. The outboard was still hanging onto the transom rail and there were two tanks of gas floating in the water, tied to the stern by some poly line.
It took me a while to figure out how to get her right-side-up. I cut off the anchor, leaving some twenty feet of line attached to it. I reached up under one of the bench seats and grabbed a life preserver. I tied that to the anchor's line and dropped it. I'd recover it later if this worked. Next I tied off the free end of the anchor line to an oarlock amidships. I got my feet up against the bottom across from that oar lock and got ready to pull like hell. A seventh wave lifted me. I kicked down and pulled up for all I was worth. She flipped over just as pretty as you like. I crawled in over the bow and caught my breath. Then I had to get busy before she grounded herself in all the sharp rip-rap that made up the storm wall. I got the tanks aboard and used one of the (thank God, tied down!) oars to bring that life preserver aside. I re-tied the anchor line, snubbed it short and dumped the anchor back over the side to give myself some time. I tied on the life preserver to keep any asshole coastie with a pair of binoculars from busting my ass, then I set about clearing Peavey's forty-five horse Johnson. He always did say he had the biggest Johnson around. <snort.> I wasted a few ounces of gas clearing the lines, then got her goin'. The battery was shot from the salt water both shorting it out and leaking into the cells. I had to use that goddamned pull rope. I finally had time to bail the damned boat out.
The tanks were almost full, which gave me over five hours to play around with if I didn't goose it too much. I now had a lot more flexible way to scavenge.
The sea was quiet out past the surf, with just a gentle ripple. The storm seemed to have pounded all the anger out of the sea--for a while. I kept an eye on the horizon. I spotted a big yacht laying adrift in the water. It was a bit further south than I wanted to go and still have some reserve gas but I couldn't resist...
She was a rich man's toy--a catamaran over fifty feet long. The davits at the stern no longer held a lifeboat. She was the Hermosa Chica, flying a Panamanian flag. I tied off and climbed aboard. I called out but nobody answered. My nose wrinkled as smelled something rotting. I 'followed my nose' to find a guy dead, handcuffed to and lying on the master berth. Someone had tied some surgical tubing around his arm and shot him up with something that really didn't agree with him, from the way he struggled before losing it.
There was a stuffed wallet, some change, a ring of keys and a passport lying on the floor. I stripped the wallet of cash and left the papers. The passport looked as much like him as was possible, considering. The name on it was Juaquin Guzman.
I started looking around for things to take. There were electronics everywhere, a full bar, a closet full of automatic rifles (Hey, I would have been some kind of stupid not to be able to recognize a goddamned AK-47 after growing up in Florida!) and a shit-pot full of drugs. White, powdery drugs. Cabins and lockers packed full. Damn, so close and yet so far. I'd never be able to sell any of it without getting my throat cut.
I tried to make at least a fast pass through the whole ship before I decided on an action plan. That's when I found fourteen inches of water in the engine compartments. Jesus! I didn't know if it was storm spray that made its way inside or if the hulls were leaking. I tried to get the bilge pumps running, but no deal. I figured that they'd drained the batteries, the generators drained the fuel tanks to recharge the batteries and that was it. There were two battery farms and two generator/chargers, one set of each per hull. I traced the fuel lines, hoping that my guess was correct--that they'd run out of juice. That guy had been laying there for a while which would have given the gensets plenty of time to drain their tanks. I found a reserve tank valve on the engineering consoles in each catamaran hull. I threw them over and tried the little diesel motors again. After an unreasonably long time I got them started. It was but minutes later that the bilge pumps started doing their jobs.
I took Guzman's keys up to the helm to try and get the electronics up and running. The system was designed for an idiot to run. Within five minutes it was showing a radar plot and a GPS coordinate marked on a color chart, showing the coast and depth strata. The diesel tanks showed about 410 gallons. I decided that I'd better get ready to cut and run.
Once the Coasties and the ATF got hold of the ship I'd better be history, or I'd soon be history. I needed bags and such to stuff with loot. I found a gym bag under the captain's berth. It was stuffed full of straps of hundreds. Damn! I liked the way these people lived! Why pack crap that I'd have to pawn to get cash when the cash was already there waiting for me? I'd just stepped out of the bracket of petty theft.
I brought all the packages of drugs that I could find to the aft deck. I wanted to slice them open and throw them over the side, but the job was too big for me. I settled with slicing open all the wrappings with a razor knife so the sea water would later do the job for me. I initially had a ballsy fantasy of making off with the ship and claiming it as salvage, but I was too small to swim in those waters. I'd have my throat slit and be bobbing face-down in the flotsam left by the storm in no time. Besides, I'd have no way of knowing if I'd found all the drug caches. Just one kilo left behind and a glassy-eyed Doberman would put me away for the rest of my short, short life.
While pawing through the drugs I found more cash. I just shook my head as I stuffed it all into a big dry bag that I found and tossed it into 'Knicker Bait', then tied the packages under the bench seats. I took a laptop and charger, a couple of cell phones, an Icom marine hand-held radio with its charger, a stainless steel pump shotgun with some shells and a whole bunch of jewelry that did NOT look fake. It all went into a suitcase. I padded it with some towels and a nice terrycloth robe. Once I'd emptied the jewelry chest it still felt way too heavy. I shrugged and launched it at the deck. Why Juaquin, you dirty, dirty boy. I found sixty bars that looked suspiciously like solid gold, each one marked "Ten Troy Oz 24K Pure".
I went into hard core looting mode and tore that bedroom apart. Sorry, Guzman. I dumped his dead ass on the deck when I took apart the bed. Good thing I did. There was a hidden box cabinet under the owner's bunk. This must have been his "run away from trouble" boat. Scanning all those bills, I didn't think that I could count that high. I made sure to take the largest denomination bills first. The kitchen provided buss pans, roasting pans and stock pots that I filled full of banded packs. Then I wrapped them all tight in cling-wrap and stowed them in 'knicker bait'. I was sweating pretty badly by then, worried at being caught. I covered my 'salvage' with a canvas tarp and laced it down, then used the catamaran's engines to slowly travel up the coast to give me a shortest path back to my home port. Before I cast off I searched through the armory for anything that looked sweet. Pistols. He had a couple nice Glock 10mms in there and several boxes of shells. I searched through the closets for some nice clothing. While tossing the ship I found couple of sturdy briefcases. Should I take the grenades? Fuck, why not? They were free. I left them in their cardboard shipping tubes. Two rows of five U.S. baseball grenades filled the lower half of one briefcase when wrapped in another fuzzy towel. The pistols and boxes of ammo filled the top half. They were heavy! Well, they should have been. The forty pounds of gold went in the first case as well as eighty straps of hundreds in the second. Those two briefcases weren't going to leave my sight. If everything else went to shit, I'd still have a bankroll if I hung onto them.
.... There is more of this story ...