I woke up in the morning with a very sore and swollen wound on my forehead, but other than that and assorted aches and pains from falling down and running around while out of condition, I didn't feel too bad.
It was 6:15 and I decided to wake up Bard Purtch, get him down to the harbor. I calculated that Carlos & Co. would leave the harbor late in the morning and make their pickup of drugs - or whatever they did - by mid-afternoon, probably somewhere out by the Channel Islands.
This was going to be tricky, since surely they wouldn't meet up with a sleazy tub full of drugs from down Mexico way. Plus, it's a big ocean, even near Santa Barbara. Should be interesting, I thought.
I called Bard and he answered: "Errnggg … Howagguduh …" Must have been a rough night.
Then I heard his wife's angry voice, "Who the HELL is calling this early?"
"Bard … Dick McNabb here … Hey, your thousand-dollar day is about to start. Meet me at The Point for coffee at 7, OK? I'll buy breakfast."
His grunting noises more or less sounded out, "All right," and I left the house as soon as I took a seasick pill. They work well for me.
I surveilled while having my coffee outside of Marina D, and Bard lingered over his food, telling tall tales with his morning gang of fishing cohorts. I don't think they ever caught much, but they talked a good sport. Halibut, anchovies, squid out yonder. Yeah, yeah. Guys like them had left very few edible creatures except for around the islands.
We sat on my surveillance bench and gabbed for about an hour, after I reassured him that he was working and I would be paying him for this, whether anyone showed up or not.
He went back to The Point for more coffee and tuna sandwiches to take out with us (he said he kept plenty of beer on the boat, refrigerated while he was docked).
Once again I was getting annoyed by the waiting-and-watching aspect of the job, but then there they came - my perps - strolling up the walk from the parking lot, headed for Marina C and their sailboat, Chicken of the Sea.
Loretta was being pulled along by Carlos, who had his arm around her back and his fingers tightly encircling her arm. I couldn't tell whether she was stumbling along half-drunk or just bumping against him making moves of affection the way some women do.
I pulled my Mexican lifeguard hat down low over the right side of my face and began to feel a sense of panic as they made ready to sail. The problem was, Bard Perch was still over at the café, yakking no doubt. I heard them chattering while they opened the marina gate and went down to the boat, but I couldn't understand anything.
I was considering firing Bard and finding another fisherman when I looked down there and saw Capt. Poubelle giving orders and the big thug responsible for my sore head, whose own head probably hurt more than mine, as he uncovered the sails and made ready to back out of the slip. There wasn't a bit of wind anyway, which there hardly ever is around the harbor this time of morning, so the next thing the thug did was rev up the inboard motor.
Finally, at the last possible minute, here came Bard, happy as if he had good sense, two more coffee cups in hand and a big grin on his face. Weren't we just having fun though!
No wonder he was happy. I was paying him $50 an hour, and so far he hadn't had to do anything except roll out of bed, eat a pile of food at my expense, and swap stories with his buddies.
I was expecting this surveillance job to take the better part of the day, maybe even all night, and I wanted to get the show on the road.
My annoyance annoyed Bard. As we walked along the row of fishing boats, he told me to calm down, and said he could catch any sailboat.
Not long after the Chicken of the Sea motored out of the harbor and headed due south toward Santa Cruz Island, Bard's 35-ft. fishing boat also hummed off, around the breakwater, between the red and green buoys and out to sea.
We had a little trouble finding the sailboat, since there wasn't enough wind this early to make sailboats sail very well and Chicken had left the harbor with sails still furled. But Bard zigzagged widely across the channel and back.
Bard is a sword fisherman in the summer. He explained that he would steer and keep lookout from up in his crow's nest, the way he looked for swordfish during the season, finding them lolling about near the surface of the water, ready to be harpooned. I guessed the nest was about 15 feet above the boat's cabin - too high for me.
Before long, Bard spotted sails way over yonder, a full mainsail and jib, hoisted now and heading into the light breeze coming down the coast. Halfway between the mainland and the island, the Chicken of the Sea had tacked westward.
Bard showed me how to speed up or slow down when he called for it, and with me inside the cabin manning the controls, we were soon close enough to the Chicken to be spotted. He shouted down that we should make like fishermen and stay on the island side of the shipping channel.
Then he asked, "What were we supposed to be looking for besides the Chicken of the Sea? Or do we just keep following it?"
I told him I expected to see a big bag of drugs floating around somewhere out here.
"A bag? Where?" he asked, looking dubious.
"I don't know," I said. "Just guessing."
"Pretty big ocean," he said, moving his baseball cap back and forth on his head. "This might be hopeless. But on the other hand, it's probably a GPS deal."
Not understanding, I locked down the wheel momentarily so I could climb up the ladder and talk to him without yelling back and forth from crow's nest to cockpit. I didn't get far. I decided that the swaying of the mast would be sickening if I stayed up there.
"Whaddya mean, ‘GPS'?" I asked, hoping he would make it fast. I wanted down.
"Global Positioning System," he answered, looking comfortable and happy. He was like a kid contentedly relaxing on the swing set at the beach. "I think the S is for ‘System'. I don't know. Anyway, it's one of those gadgets that can place you to within a matter of feet where you wanna be. We have one here. They're great.
"You mentioned a Mexican boat - they could call or something and tell your friend where the drop is. Or meet him somewhere. Or, more likely, they set the exact point before either of them ever left a harbor. Anyway, like right now we're about ?34 degrees north by 119 degrees west. It can be like 119 point 3544 … whatever. Very exact.
"Sure beats the old navigating by the sun and the stars. Meanwhile, you better get back to the controls. Keep an eye on things. But while you're at it, could you get me another cup of coffee? There's stuff there in the galley, just heat a little water. And help yourself."
He went back to his lounging.
The morning mists had evaporated and it was a lovely day. Look on the bright side, I thought as I made the knucklehead his coffee, and one for me. The mid-channel water was a lovely, deep shade of blue, and not too rough for a landlubber like me.
To be continued.