Have you ever watched the ventriloquist comedian Jeff Dunham when he is doing a routine with his puppet, Walter? The character is described as an old curmudgeon who says whatever we're afraid to say, because he just doesn't care anymore.
When I was making my way around the harbor this week, I had a chance to talk to a few of my favorite old curmudgeons. Picture a group of Walters, sitting in a semicircle, being interviewed with only their silhouettes exposed to protect their identities, and they all have Walter's voice.
One of the first topics we talked about was getting our boats ready for inspection for our yacht club's opening day.
"I remember when just one or two inspectors came on board," one said. "Now the inspectors have checklists and are asking if our flashlight batteries have expired or if we have wasabi in the refer. This opening day thing is a real pain. I am not sure if I am going to get my boat ready this year."
He then turned and looked at his boat partner and reminded him to bring down the ditch bag (abandoned ship bag) for inspection. After a long, concerning rub of the face, he asked, "Does anyone know how to properly dispose of expired marine flares?"
They looked at each other and shrugged. One of the curmudgeons said, "You should throw them in a beach fire pit."
The next topic was the mayor and the floating docks. One of the guys looked over at me, raised an eyebrow and asked, sounding skeptical, "You mean our boating mayor?"
The idea of a floating work dock for mooring permit holders seemed like a good idea, but overall, the concept still needed to be proven before these guys would buy into it.
Just then, someone said, "Why won't the city do more for the mooring permit holders? They should take those dingy racks over at Basin Marina, the ones that have been sitting empty for the last two years, and take them over to 15th Street, where someone will use them."
I brought up the subject of the water taxis and was surprised that most of these old guys liked the idea.
"Will they have a senior citizen discount?" one asked. Another one of the guys said, "Doug West is a sharp man, and I recall that he recommended that if the city is going to give this a trial run, they should use four boats, not just one."
West is the harbor commissioner who is chairing this ad hoc committee.
One of the old Walters sat up in his seat and said, "I will use the water taxi all the time to get home from Sunday afternoons at the American Legion." I laughed out loud at that comment and was quickly reprimanded with a face scowl and the rising of one very big, gray eyebrow.
I really wanted to get the guys grumbling at me, so I brought up the idea of tidal gates and new sea walls. I thought this would be interesting because some of these old guys do not believe the sea level is rising.
"I read that the South Pacific island of Nauru reports the sea level is decreasing," one said with great conviction. "This whole idea of the sea level raising is nothing other than turtle poop."
The guy sitting to the right of me leaned back in his chair and said, "You understand, son, that those sea walls have been around for some time now and have never once failed. Other than that one time in 1983, there is nothing wrong with our sea walls."
I thought I'd get a heated argument when I asked about the concept of a tidal gate being placed at the entrance of our harbor. Just then, one of the Walters leaned forward and said, "The concept of a tidal gate will solve all of these sea water rising issues in our harbor and makes the most sense to me."
I really was not expecting that from this group.
I am not sure, but as I left for my next appointment, I could have sworn that I heard someone say, "I'll sea ya later, dummy."
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.