Of Gentlemen, Sailors, And Sea Dogs


Tales from Geezer Boatworks

by Paul Browne
Geezer Boatworks

Of Gentlemen, Sailors,
And Sea Dogs

What is it about boats on rivers that dogs on shore hate? Yesterday, Gentleman Frank, Bird-Man Vernon, and I were cruising up the mighty Alafia River, in search of a bit of lunch. The Alafia is pretty well built up all along it’s banks where we were, and every third house had a dog loose in the back yard. As we drew near, every one of them would charge down to the bank, or the dock if there was one, raising an awful racket, threatening us with a severe mauling if we came closer.

Now I’m not too fond of stupid people, but I’m even less enamored of stupid dogs. So feeling somewhat ornery, I began to tease these canines as we glided by. I opened the starboard window and stuck my head out. “Arf, arf and woof, woof,“ I barked back at them, growling and grinning. It drove them nuts. I was really getting into it. Must have been my primitive side coming out. I edged closer to the bank. “Grrrr…rruff, ruff,” I taunted them. Stupid dogs going nuts, tearing up the grass, claws clattering up and down on their docks.

Frank was appalled, being too much of a southern gentleman to treat even a dog so impolitely. And Vernon; well initially Vernon was mildly amused. But having more sense than I do, he was starting to get concerned that maybe I was becoming unhinged again. I might hit a dock or something. “Hey Paul,” he said, “Yer getting a little close there arncha?” “Naw…wooof, grrr, ruff-ruff,” I answered, barely paying attention to Vernon, “Look at the ignorant little rat-dog, Vernon. Wouldn’t even make a good lunch. Ho, ho…grrrr, woof!” And just up ahead was a miserable rat-dog for sure, about 5 pounds wringing wet, ugly as sin, with a pug nose and bulgy eyes. The thing was really riled up, and he got more and more agitated as we slid closer and closer. Now there was a boathouse coming up, and a dock on the other side of it. So the rat-dog tore around behind the boathouse to get to the other side as we slid by. I angled over to just miss the dock. “Watch this Vernon,” I said, “He’ll come ripping down the dock. With any luck he’ll fall in.”

I could hear him yapping as he rounded the boathouse, but just as we got so we could see along the other side….“Ooo, she it,” Vernon gasped. “Uh-oh,” murmured Frank, and the two of them started to look around furtively, because beside the boathouse was the biggest, nastiest, most vicious looking Rottweiler you ever did see. He was getting to his feet, and he didn’t look any too happy about it. His rat-dog buddy had just run over him, yapping all the while. Talk about the Hound of the Baskervilles, here he comes! Snarling, drooling, growling, fur on end, from a stiff step to a dead run down the dock in naught point five seconds!

Well sir, Vernon turned left, and Frank turned right; the two of them bumped into each other. I slammed the window shut and lunged for the forward door. The rat-dog put on the brakes just as he came to the end of the dock, but that hell-hound Rottweiler had no such intention. He had perpetual hate in his heart for all boats, and he was finally going to get one! He didn’t care about no stinking five feet of river between us. Three bounds and then he launched himself off the end of the dock, teeth first. The brute soared through the air, snapping and spitting, and he landed skidding across the foredeck to pile up against the far bulwark. Just as he hit the deck, something splashed into the water and old Vernon leapt for the ladder. He went up it like a squirrel with his tail half bitten off, which it almost was, cause the Rottweiler recovered in an instant. And when he lunged after Vernon, he managed to glomp onto the heel of Vernon’s left shoe, which he then proceeded to remove and shred in a most terrifying manner. I had the door shut, but what had happened to Frank? That question was answered when I spied him quietly doing the breaststroke about 20 feet off to port, looking worried and heading surreptitiously for the stern of the boat. I went to give him a hand to get back aboard.

“Day-am,” sputtered Frank as he stood there dripping on the aft deck, “Look at that, would you.” We had a ringside view of the horrific proceedings through the front windows. The hell-hound was snarling and ripping and shaking Vernon’s shoe to bits. Every now and then he’d lunge at the glass, slobbering all over it. Then he’d chew on the ladder for a while. “You sure that’s safety glass?” Frank worried, “Where’s Vernon?” “Up top,” I answered. “His foot in that shoe?” Frank asked. “You OK Vernon?” I hollered. “More or less,” came the muffled reply, “Whut we gonna do now?” Frank and I looked out the windows again. The Rottweiler was busy peeing on the barrel that held my anchor rode. But when he saw us looking at him he rushed the door, chewing on the doorknob with his two-inch fangs. Frank and I stepped back a bit. “Any ideas Frank?” I asked. “Not me,” Frank said somewhat bitterly, water dripping off his nose.

“Well, let’s see,” I said, “How bout we come around to the dock again. Put the boat against it, and I’ve got a couple sausages in the fridge. We could throw them onto the dock. Maybe he’ll jump off.” So we tried that. I pulled up to the dock and let the breeze push us against it. Then I whipped open the side window for an instant and Frank pitched the sausages onto the dock. The hell-hound watched as the rat-dog stopped yapping and ate the sausages. Then he went back to growling and chewing on the ladder again. “Nuffa this,” Frank said, and giving his rebel yell he opened the side window again. He put one foot on the windowsill and swatted at the rat-dog with his hat. Frank let him lock his nasty little snaggle-toothed jaws into the hat, keeping him busy. Then he leaned round the corner and gave the Rottweiler a raspberry. It was more than the beast could bear, and he hurled himself back onto the dock to get at Frank. But quick as a cat Frank slipped back inside and slammed the window on his hat, leaving most of it outside with the rat-dog still attached. The Rottweiler joined in and ripped the hat out of the window. As the two of them tore it to bits, I goosed the engine and made good our escape. Up top I could hear Vernon scrambling to keep his footing. The noise started up forward, proceeded sporadically for some distance aft, and finally terminated with a blood-curdling scream and a giant splash off to port. Water sloshed up against the port cabin window. Lucky thing I had it closed.

Usually Vernon takes these dunkings fairly well. But then he doesn’t usually start them from such a high perch. And he’s not often as sober as he was this time. “Grab him Frank,” I hollered, “I ain’t stopping for nuthin!” As we roared by, Frank managed to snare him with the boathook up his trouser leg. A rather fine piece of seamanship, I thought. Once we were out in the channel, I stopped the boat so we could haul him in. I have to say it would have been considerably easier if he hadn’t struggled so hard to keep his head above water. And you’d think he would have been grateful when we finally managed to drag him over the gunwale, cussing and coughing and spitting. But no sir, he was so agitated that he staggered halfway to his feet, took a swing at me of all people, slipped on the wet deck and flopped smack down on his keester. Which was a good thing, because that gave Frank and me time to scramble back into the cabin and lock the aft door.

Vernon didn’t really calm down till we were half way back to the marina. I let him in when his mustache was droopy again. He’s always OK after that. When we got back, let me tell you we cast some pretty careful glances around for loose dogs. Then we tied up and stumped off for the parking lot. “How bout some lunch now fellas?” I suggested cheerily when we got to the car. But Frank and Vernon both looked a bit glum. “I dunno. My left foot’s sort a tender on the bottom of it,” Vernon complained, “And I’m still wet.” “Yeah well I’m wet too, and my head’s getting sunburned,” grumbled Frank, which was entirely out of character for him. “Well maybe I could drive over to the mall…” I mumbled, “There’s that new Chinese joint, and, umm, that K Mart. They’ve, umm, got shoes and hats. We’ll leave the windows open on the freeway, so you guys can dry out.” So that’s what we did. We went Dutch on lunch as usual, but I thought it only sporting to offer to pay for the shoes and the hat. “If you don’t want to sleep with the fishes tonight,” joked Frank darkly… “Maybe you should,” Vernon finished it for him. And we all laughed. But a small corner of my wee mind wasn’t completely convinced that they were joking. They weren’t saying much at lunch.

I guess maybe I did get a little bit carried away. But geez, some guys got no sense of humor at all. Ha! Stupid dog going nuts like that. Who da thought?

Ah hell, they’ll get over it. I wonder if they want to go fishing next Saturday. We could bring the women. We could pull up to Beer Can Island for supper. Boil up some shrimp and corn on the beach.