A quick recap on the last blog post, my family and I went on our fishing charter off the coast of South Carolina, near Myrtle Beach. We had a great captain and first mate that taught us the ropes and expertly navigated us so that we constantly reeled in a fish.
After a full day in the hot sun, sticky from sea salt, and muscle aching it was time to go back the hour ride to shore. Everyone but the captain relaxed in the spray of the waves and sun as we made the hour back at a fast clip. It is quite surreal to be so surrounded by water, with no focal point. As we got closer to shore we started seeing more traffic on the waves and it was a slight relief to finally make out a thing dark line of land! No wonder pirates are always yelling, “Land, ho!” What a thrilling sight after months on the big blue.
As we begin to pull into the Marina we see the Coast Guard on the normal patrol but think nothing of it. Until they are getting closer and closer…their lights go on. Dang it! I didn’t think you could get pulled over on the ocean. So we are all curiously and quickly complying with their requests as they conduct a normal walk-through inspection. They check on the captain’s license and ask to see fire extinguishers and life vests. Since Matthew and I were in the military we resist the urge to engage in friendly jibs about the Coast Guard. You military folks know what I mean;) Then the coast guard takes the captain and mate to opposite ends of the boat with some questions. I begin to feel this is not a normal stop.
The offboard and follow us to the docks. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer is waiting for us on the dock. Why is there a federal agent? The coast guard continues to inspect and question the crew. We are trying to get bits and pieces of what going on. The federal agent asks my father-in-law who rented the charter to discuss matters with him. At this point, we have no idea what we did! In my imagination, I’m thinking my father-in-law hired a word-of-mouth acquaintance who is a drug runner! After their conversation is over the federal officer lets us know we are free to go but that it will be a while before they complete their investigation. We ask about our huge catch of fish. He walks us over to the coast guard who is looking through the ice chest and they confirm that we will be able to meet back at the shop in an hour to claim our catch. They even complimented us on some of the big ones we caught!
We go back to the fishing shop. We let the other employees know that something was going on, most of them were family in the shop. The first mate’s wife is waiting to pick him up with a baby in the stroller. A sense of tension is over the shop. One of the employees is worried because the Captain license is expired and had not yet been renewed due to government slow down with COVID shutdowns. After what feels like hours in the southern heat, our crew finally arrives with the boat.
Both the captain and the first mate are mad and ready to tell the story. There was no problem with the license or boat, no illegal operations. The Captain had to fire an employee the previous evening. So they are now a disgruntled former employee and the way small towns go it was time to start some drama! The previous employee had called the federal agency to file a bogus complaint. The coast guard was responsible for working with the federal agencies to bring the boat off the water and aid in the investigation. Turns out there was nothing to investigate!
The first mate helped us get our fish cleaned up, but the jovial mood of the day was fading with the sunset. I don’t doubt that that was not the end of the drama. What do you call turf wars on the sea?