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Life On The Docks: Summer Is Coming

Part one of the Chronicles of a full-time dock dweller as he fears the approach of the tourist season in Marina del Rey.

In the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, there is an ongoing saying amongst the characters: “Winter Is Coming.” This is a portent of hard times and famine and war that looms on the horizon like the plague. When winter comes, you better be ready for it. It means death and doom and most won’t survive. It is a saying that mothers keep repeating to their children to scare them and keep them in line, to make sure their work ethic does not slip to unproductive levels. This is a saying that carries much weight, for when winter comes it last for a very long time.

Same thing with the summer season when you live on a yacht in Marina del Rey. It’s coming. Sooner than you think. And it brings with it a barrage of negativity to the full time residents of a tourist travel destination like Marina del Rey. Every town with water access all up and down the coast knows this fear. “Summer is commin,” you hear the old fishermen mutter over their mugs of beer. “Gonna be a ruff one.”

Wintertime on a yacht is cold and blustery, with rainy Pacific storms that come in and make life generally miserable. A yacht is hard to heat in the winter, there are few people on the docks or in the walkways and al those nice tropical plants are withdrawn and dead against the cold season. Rain on a boat means damp interiors that constantly provide a dank musty smell. 

There is a constant sullen and lonely clanking of lanyards against metal masts and there are very few calls of wild things like seals and sea birds and drunken coeds looking for a mate. These are sad times that make a dock dweller hunker down under mounds of blankets, with hot whiskey-laden coffee drinks. It is a time of solitude, for roommates and neighbors all seem to find more cozy conditions to enjoy: Ski lodges in Aspen and Park City, the flat in London for Christmas, Brazil or Australia for New Years. This is a time to work on writing and to call home to parents in other states. This is a time to thank God that you have an electric heater and plenty to write about. It is a time to thank God for the privacy and peace of mind that will soon be shattered by the tourist season of summer.

For summer is coming. And it starts, in my opinion with the arrival of college students and other season creatures right after midterms in March.

You know winter is over when the dock dwellers start coming out of their caves during the day. The seasons have begun to change and the sun is out much more often. Suddenly familiar faces appear and begin working on their boats. Paint job here, general cleaning there. You hear voices of the retirees early in the morning; they are back in their condos and are venturing out to see what winter has wrought on the marina. Music from portable radios on the decks of neighboring watercraft belt out Beach Boys hits from classic radios stations like K-Earth. The mood is friendly. Everyone waves and asks how the grandkids are. You can smell coffee brewing in the morning and sometimes someone will fire up a hibachi at sunset.

Occasionally a hipster will show up and crank up the huge engine of one of the many long speedboats that reside at the docks, but which almost never get used---and rattle the fillings in everyone’s teeth. It never lasts long; the owners don’t untie and take the beast for a run out into open water. Just a few minutes to get the oil worked up in the crankcase.

This is springtime, and it is a joyous event for some. Time to get down and get things in order and get a mocha latte at The Cow’s End and talk surfing and other trivialities with the full-time locals. For others, like myself, it is a sign that summer is coming; “White Walkers” with blinding pale skin are an infrequent sign of things to come. These old folks with white translucent skin and retired has-been “Dock Dudes” are a forecast to two months from now when all hell will break loose. Soon these docks will be lousy with renters and seasonal freaks of all manner and stripe. The streets will be clogged with sports cars, hot rods, slow moving families from the inland empire on fleets of rented bicycles. Longhaired skaters begging for weed money, gang bangers from all over the city and close behind them newly recruited divisions of police.

Oh, summer is coming. Spring break will be a test trial for us locals. And it manifests itself in a very specific and indigenous way when you live in a broken down luxury yacht. It means the dockmaster will be after the owner to change slips, to repaint the entire vessel, for all of us who have been living full-time in weekend spots to only live on the dock during the weekend like everyone else. The bars and restaurants who know me by name will be so busy won’t able to get served. Prices will go up across the board for everything, especially booze.

This is when I change from whiskey in hot coffee to vodka and juice over ice in a blender. It is a inevitable change, when spring arrives and a man in threatened by summer fun in the sun. Vodka helps. My TV show will go on hiatus and the fat checks will stop arriving every Friday. Time for unemployment insurance claims and freelance writing gigs off the books. It’s time to sell stories of the coming fire---of what happens in Marina del Rey when the “excrement hits the air conditioning.” There is an old saying in this neighborhood, “What happens on the docks, stays on the docks.” Not this time. I am ready to tell my story.

Good luck. More to come.

Gracee July 23, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I finally have a cool new neighbor who has embraced our hood more in the last few weeks than the people I know who have lived here 10 plus yrs. It's really exciting to see some like minded people living here. And I hope that some of the older people will come to see it as a good thing too or move into a house where they can get peace and quiet, water the lawn as long as they like and walk the dog. I haven't seen them on the water or coming out to enjoy that Fabulous sunset we had a few nights ago. All of my neighbors are very nice and respectful of the space we all share. I get it, that's how they choose to enjoy this paradise we live in. Just wish they were more ok with us having fun next to them. None of us are partying all night and we like to have a good time here in MDR.
Paul Chavez July 24, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Glad to see Mr. Hackett writing about life in the marina again. I enjoyed editing his summer series last year -- http://patch.com/A-hGvK
david gardner July 27, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Gee, anyone think of migrating south to Mexico for the winter months??....mighty fine down there-in the 70s and 80s.

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