I had an education this summer at our marina in Philadelphia that I wanted to share.
After the 4th of July party on board the 65-foot M/Y Majestic, cleanup completed, I retired to my bunk. Asleep about an hour and a half, I woke to voices. Were the voices from the vessel in the next slip? Had the boss come back, as he suggested he might? I really could not tell with the A/Cs on board running wide open.
Then I heard cabinets opening and closing. I still thought it might be the boss who had come back to stay on board for the night.
Then I heard someone say, “Holy shit, look in here, holy shit.”
That’s not the boss.
I called marina security because I figured there was no way the Philadelphia police department would know where I was located inside the marina. I pulled on a pair of jeans, locked my doors and waited in my cabin.
I heard three voices. One of them tried to open my head door and then put a shoulder to it, trying to break it in. My heart beat faster than I ever felt it beat before. I had a cruise coming up in 48 hours; I didn’t want these guys to break the wood work.
My brain flashed “The best defense is a good offense.” Not knowing how big the guy on the other side was, I took a deep breath, opened the door and said, “Hey mother f@$&ers. What are you doing on my boat?” I wasn’t trying to be macho; I was just protecting the boss’ boat.
I had a half second to see the guy before a flashlight was shining in my face, blinding me. He screamed, “There’s someone on the boat.” I walked blindly toward the backing-up light, following it upstairs toward the galley where the light stopped and a nervous voice announced, “I got a gun.”
I waited a split second before I replied, “You better use it because you are going to need it.” I wasn’t thinking, just reacting. No muzzle flash came, but the blinding light was back in my eyes. His bluff didn’t work.
The light backed up into the main salon and I kept walking toward it. As I followed, he yelled he’s got me and I was blindsided with a sucker punch to the side of the head. Another intruder had attacked me from behind.
I fell and, after several punches and kicks to my head and ribs, they ran off. I got up, still had not learned a lesson, and exited the aft salon sliding door to the aft deck where I took the grill utensils case and took a swing at the last one to leave the boat. I fell as I swung, missing him.
One of the intruders dropped his New Jersey ID on the dock as he fled. Still, police have done nothing.
What did I learn?
1. If a door needs to be slammed to lock, slam it or fix it.
2. I’m 63 years old; I should have known better. Now before I open a door and confront intruders, I will announce “I have called the police. They are on their way. I have a gun and I’m coming out.”
3. A cheap motion alarm purchased at a big box lumber store would have stopped them before they even got five steps onto the vessel. I’ve since installed a $20 model that simply makes a loud noise when motion is detected, which would scare off any intruders in the future.
4. Minimum wage marina security officers will not interfere with intruders in the middle of the night.
5. I was right; the police had no idea where slip 9 was.
6. With no one really injured, marina management does not care. To date (over a month), no management has asked me any questions or has not commented on that night.
Capt. Kelly Dobbs runs the 65-foot Marquis M/Y Majestic for a “great boss” in Philadelphia in the summer, Palm Beach in the winter. Comments on his essay are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.