Fall’s wind and rain no friend to boat scuppers

Bucket of bait helps take down mugger

By now you’ve probably forgotten that crazy windy, rainy week we had before Thanksgiving, unless you’re one of those slugabeds who didn’t get up in the middle of the night to clear their scuppers.

If you are, you got what you deserved — a boatful of water, tree branches, acorns, coconuts, fronds and a lesson in taking bad weather seriously.

Justin Casey, who thinks of everything before it happens so it won’t happen to him, was going outside that night to clear his scuppers just before bedtime. As he opened the door, a lounge of curly-tail lizards burst inside.

A lounge?

“That’s the correct word for a group of lizards. I looked it up,” Justin said.

“So it’s true that lizards have enough sense to get in out of the rain, even though we haven’t,” Anzuelo remarked. That one has a sharp wit.

“Anyway,” Justin continued, “my wife Grace freaked and shrieked, ‘Get those things out of here!’”

That got a laugh from assembled members here at the Fish or Cut Bait Society.

We know Gracie Casey is tough and fearless — Justin loves telling about the time she took down a mugger at the bait store — but a 4-inch lizard can scare her up a tree. A bunch of them in her house scared her out into the rain and wind.

“What with chasing the lizards and Gracie screaming on the other side of the door, by the time I caught them all and calmed her down, I forgot about the scuppers,” Justin said.

It was still pouring in the morning when he woke up and remembered his boat on its trailer in the usual spot beneath an oak tree. The tarp he always spreads over it had been blown away.

“The scuppers were clogged with oak leaves and acorns,” Justin said. “The boat had shipped rainwater up to the gunwales. The battery that runs the bilge pump was immersed, drowned, dead.

“I must have stood at the stern for half an hour, scooping leaves and acorns so the water could run out. I thought my toenails were gonna dissolve.”

Anzuelo said he didn’t think of checking his scuppers either, until he woke up about 3 a.m. and looked out a window. He didn’t say what woke him up. His automatic bilge pump was running, but not keeping up with the rainfall because the scuppers were clogged. With better light, he might have seen tadpoles
in there.

Several of us nodded, a silent admission that we also hadn‘t been diligent that night.

All of us in the clubhouse next day were here because the weather was still too snotty for fishing and we didn’t feel like picking up tree debris at home. It didn’t occur to any of us that there would be leaves, twigs, acorns and coconuts here too.

It did occur to Tiller, who is chairman of the steering committee. He arrived with a smirk on his face, evidence that he had attended properly to his own scuppers. Tiller is the most organized person any of us know. We try not to hold that against him.

He’s also kind of bossy.

“I’m appointing an Ad Hoc Debris Removal Committee,” he announced, using capital letters for emphasis. “That’s you, you, you and you.”

Tiller caught me sneaking toward the exit.

“Hey, you!” he yelled. “Come back here. I’m appointing you chairman of debris removal.”

At least I didn’t have to assemble a crew. Tiller had designated Justin Casey, Tyro the new guy, Anzuelo and Trickle the rich guy. Patella volunteered, even though the damp weather made his knees ache.

“Follow me, men,” said I, and out the door we marched with Tyro singing baritone: “Give me some men. Who are stout-hearted men...”

Before I could stop him, the others chimed in: “Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more...” That’s a better marching song than “Hup two three four, isn’t it?”

The clubhouse property has only some decorative bushery, mostly ferns, so almost none of the debris on the grounds was technically ours.

`The rest of the neighborhood had air-mailed us twigs and small branches from mahogany and oak trees, plus lots of acorns and big mahogany fruit capsules. In a hard wind, you don’t want to be caught under a mahogany tree without a helmet.

Shoulder to shoulder, three of us stout-hearted men dealt with all that, stacking a pyramid high enough that the city trash crew couldn’t claim they didn’t see it.

Out back on the dock, the stout-hearted others used boat hooks and a bridge net to haul coconuts out of the water. A lot of those had floated in on more than one incoming tide. It looked like hardly any had floated out on the ebb.

“I’ll take the coconuts home,” said Headwind, whose other hobby is growing orchids. “The husks make a great growing medium.”

Anzuelo told him to save the coconut milk for bottling because it’s a good drink when you need to rehydrate yourself while fishing. It’s also suspected of having other medicinal qualities, none of them bad.

“With enough pineapples and a juice press, we could use it to make fresh piña coladas,” Patella mentioned, “with or without rum.”

All of us already knew that oak and mahogany, being hardwoods, are fine woodworking materials. The deadfall we collected was too small for that, but it would be good in a patio fire pit.

Justin Casey said if we had bigger branches we could tie them together like a raft and tow that to blue water to attract dolphin.

Tiller cheered all those environmentally responsible ideas. He thought if we did them we could win some prestigious conservation awards.

“Who wants to be on a committee for that?” he asked.

“I said ‘Who wants to be on a committee for that?’ ”

Nobody spoke until Anzuelo changed the subject.

“We don’t have bigger branches or a patio fire pit or a pineapple juice press, so never mind that,” he said. “But I wish Justin would tell us about his wife taking down a mugger. We haven’t all heard that story.”

Justin said that Gracie Casey’s mugger accosted her outside the bait store after she bought a bucket of live pilchards on ice. He pointed something pointy and asked impolitely for money.

“What money? You should have stopped me before I bought live bait,” Gracie answered. “You got any idea what these cost? But okay. Here, hold this.”

She rammed her bucket into his belly, folding him. He said oof and then oof again as she swung him a low kick. He was still on his knees, draped over the bait bucket and kissing gravel, when the cops came.

“Gracie gave them his dagger, which she’d acquired by breaking his right wrist,” Justin said. “They handcuffed him, rolled him off the bait bucket and helped Gracie pick up the spilled pilchards.”

I asked what became of the mugger. Justin said as follows: “We heard the DA offered him a deal: plead guilty to larceny and take a few years in the can, plus probation, or go to trial for armed robbery and face Gracie Casey again.

“He took the guilty plea.”

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