Previous Port: Cat Island to the Gulf
February 28, 2006 - Evening of March 1, 2006
The seas coming out of Nassau were rough enough that we considered turning around but by noon things really calmed down. It was an easy crossing until we hit the Gulf Stream and then we slowed to 3.9 knots. Of course, I would have cranked the engine up but Bob is still stubbornly into the fuel conservation thing. Anything above 1500rmp (1200rpm, if I'm not watching) is wasting fuel. "After all, it is a sailboat".
So our second day at sea was very long and very boring until about 12 miles out of Miami when we were hailed by the Coast Guard. We knew that was coming and were prepared with documentation numbers, etc. that we knew they would ask for. What we weren't prepared for was "When was the last time your vessel was boarded?". Not that it was a problem because we knew we had everything needed to be legal but we'd never actually been boarded.
A tender with four crewmen approached our boat. Two men stayed in the tender and kept close beside us, two men boarded Escapades, and the Cutter stayed close behind. It was kind of exciting watching all this activity and the tender pulling along side to discharge two crew members without us even slowing down. Ok, so we were only doing 3.9kts and I've already said it had been a long boring day.
Anyway, the safety inspection went great and the papers were all in order, so it seemed. One of the men was talking on a handheld radio back the Cutter. We could hear only his side of the conversation but he began asking us for more paperwork. Bob eventually pulled out documentation certificates for every year since we've had the boat. Then they ask for more paperwork: a bill-of-sale, documents showing the original boat name, paperwork showing who the previous owner was. Bob eventually pulled out every piece of paperwork we've every had on the boat. Still, there were questions.
The two guys on board had no real answers when we ask what was going on. "We're not sure but the paperwork isn't coming back clean". Ok, but what that meant, they either didn't know or couldn't say. After awhile, the Commanding Officer from the cutter came aboard. He looked around, asked some questions, looked some more and left.
It was finally decided that we would be escorted into the Miami Coast Guard Station. The two original officers(? not sure what to call them) stayed on board Escapades and the tender took the Commanding Officer back to the cutter. At no time were we told what was going on or why. We heard bits of something about a drug-sniffing dog but thought they were surely joking. We were trying in every way possible to cooperate, but after a couple of hours the excitement had waned. The whole thing was starting to be a nuisance and somewhat worrisome.
As we neared the Miami channel, Bob went on deck to take the sails down, with instructions for me to turn the boat into the wind. The officer on board started getting really excited because we hadn't gotten permission from the cutter to turn. I guess they thought that at our fast speed we were going to try outrunning the cutter. We entered the channel with a guard standing at attention on each side of the deck. It was somewhat embarrassing. "Wow! If our kids could just see us now."
Escapades was directed to a dock that was five feet above her deck. That was the dock the cutters tie to. We were told that we would have to leave the boat so they could bring the dog aboard. We instructed to scale the five foot wall, without the aid of a ladder, with the officers on top giving us a hand up. Of course Bob, as usual, had no problem or not one he would admit anyway. I, on the other hand, skinned both my knees, skinned and bruised one chin, and aggravated a previous rotary cuff injury. By this point, we were into our fourth hour with the Coast Guard and getting little bit tired of being cooperative.
The biggest insult of all was being taking, under guard, to the side of the building, where we couldn't see what was happening, while the drug-sniffing dog did his thing. This was feeling a whole lot like a foreign country where we had no rights. We weren't concerned about the drug issue because we knew how bogus that was; but we did have to remind ourselves, "We are in America and we're U.S. citizens".
After five hours, we were cleared to go with an explanation that was as ridiculous as the whole event had been. We were told that Escapades, while still named Rainbow's End, had been involved in two drug related incidents. One was in 1996 and we couldn't really know about that one because we didn't own the boat at that time. The one they claimed happened in 1999 was impossible. Rainbow's End, a.k.a. Escapades, never left Waterford Harbor Marina in Kemah, Texas, except on a very few day trips. We were only there a couple of weekends of each month but there were enough live-aboards on our pier, who would have noticed had she been gone. When we challenged the 1999 drug-activity incident with the Commanding Officer, were told that the information came from the Documentation Center and to contact them for more details or to resolve the issue.
It was well after dark when we finally dropped the anchor; wounded, confused, and violated. I was very proud of Bob. He held his tongue throughout the ordeal until the very last. When he did lose it, he made some real valid points. Of course all it did was make him feel better.
Bob fired off some letters once we were settled in Miami. We've already gotten a response from the Documentation Center. They claim to have no idea where the Coast Guard got the information that was given to us. The Documentation Center's records indicate that there has never been a drug-related or any other incident involving Escapades or Rainbow's End. Hopefully, we'll find out what the real reason for the hassling was. We'll post it when we do.
At the time of the Coast Guard detainment we were told that the reason we were detained is that our boat had been involved in drug related activities in 1996 and 1999. We didn't own the boat in '96 but we knew it was almost impossible for the '99 incident to have occurred. We wanted these four simple questions answered: 1. Exactly when in 1999 did this happen? 2. Where did this happen? 3. How was our boat identified (name, Coast Guard identification #, or what)? 4. Who were the people involved? Well, after countless letters to and from various offices of the Coast Guard and the National Documentation Center we still have no real answers. We received a 19 page document that was supposed to explain it all, but all the document covered was the boarding we were involved in. It seems that no where is there any information to validate these alleged "drug activities" and the only people that knew anything about them were the members of the actual boarding party. So was this a training exercise? Was it a way to break the boredom? Or was the boarding team just looking for an excuse to get back on land? Our next step is to contact the National Archives and Records Administration as advised in the last C.G. letter we received.
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