Warren’s World: High-Speed Boat Chases and Other Island Adventures

By Beacon Staff

Yesterday from my desk overlooking the water, I was startled by the sound of a big cigarette boat’s throaty engines running wide open. I looked out the window and one with four humongous outboard motors roared by at about 60 mph fewer than 40 feet from my dock. Whenever I see a cigarette-style boat going at a high rate of speed in this part of the world I have only one thought: “It’s headed west for Vancouver Island with cocaine and handguns for sale.” The boat was followed about 30 seconds later by a U.S. Customs boat going at about the same speed. He was followed 30 seconds later by a U.S. Coast Guard boat at the same high speed.

Half an hour later I saw the same parade of high-speed boats headed in the opposite direction through the very narrow Pole Pass. It came to a stop about 400 yards across the bay from my house. With my binoculars trained on the three boats, suddenly the high-speed drug boat sped up, started a right turn and immediately hit an unmarked rock.

A later investigation would reveal that when the drug boat hit the rock it ripped off the lower unit and the stainless steel prop, both of which now reside on the front porch of a neighbor who went out and retrieved them at low tide. The three boats were only doing a military exercise called “try and catch me.” This all happened in a 5 mph no-wake zone.

Over the next two days, two familiar drug boats were seen headed west at 5 in the afternoon, and the next day one of them came back, probably with its load of “Vancouver Bud,” the world’s most potent strain of marijuana.

The conversation that evening revolved around the question: Do the drug boats tune into the local sheriff and Coast Guard radios and know that their high-speed chase boat is out of commission and the coast is now clear to make a couple of runs while they are getting it fixed?

Two days after the drug runners’ escapade, my wife hollered, “Warren, a sailboat is on the rocks at the east end of Bell Island.”

It was the 90-plus foot, 1930s charter boat Adventuress sailing downwind with the spinnaker full and the boom way out to starboard, but it was standing still. She was hard aground on the Bell Island reef in the morning of an unlimited visibility day. This reef is plainly marked by a 10-foot tall, eight-foot square pile of rocks with a large, bright blinking light on the top.

By the time I went down to the dock, warmed up my small boat and drove over to the stuck ship, the boater had lowered the spinnaker and the main sail, but it was obvious that she was hard aground. Unfortunately the tide was running out and that in combination with the wind was lodging her ever higher onto the reef.

There were approximately 13 passengers on the charter sailboat that were having their vacation ruined by someone who was driving this great, old two-mast sailing vessel and was unable to read a chart properly.

Mike Brown showed up from Double Island in his landing barge and took the passengers off and hauled them to the Orcas Ferry Landing for eventual transfer to the next ferry boat going somewhere else.

The Vessel Assist boats showed up and decided to try and kedge the ship off of the rocks. To kedge a boat means to run one of the lines from the top of the mast to the rescue boat and try to tip the boat over far enough so it will float off of the rock. With a line to the top of each mast, the stuck boat is now way over on its side waiting for the high tide to return and float it free. The swarm of small boats trying to help out have all continued on their journeys to wherever and the skipper of the boat who went aground is mentally preparing an update to her resume so she can get on the Internet and look for another job when her boat finally gets off of the rocks.

People always ask me, “What you do for excitement living on an island?” Right now it is half an hour past my daily nap time.