now playing: lynn miles, “the ghost of deadlock”
and then there’s joe walsh.
this is a story that he told, printed in david crosby‘s autobiography, long time gone. i’m sure that i’ll eventually get a polite legal letter regarding my having reprinted it here, but i stumbled across it recently and i just had to share it. i love this story.
I had a 41 foot sailboat and I lived in Santa Barbara, California, and I was in the Eagles. We came off a tour and I was on my boat, wishing I knew how to sail it or how it worked.
I heard, by word of mouth, that David’s boat and David were in the harbor. There had been amazing sea stories about his ability to handle any situation that Mother Nature and/or the ocean could come up with and I had heard from Jimmy Buffett that David Crosby was one of the finest sailboat captains. Humbly, I walked over to his boat, met his crew, and later that day, while I was sitting on my boat, David stopped by and introduced himself, looked at my boat, hung out, and said, “we should go sailing sometime.” A year later, in 1978, David was in the harbor again with his boat, found me, and invited me to go sailing for about a week so he would teach me how. I said, “Okay.”
Boy, did he teach me how.
I got to go to the grocery store and get a bunch of groceries and carry ‘em from some station wagon about a half a mile down the docks to his boat and I got to help him put all the groceries away. Then he said, “See this? This is a halyard.” And “See this? This is a this. This is a that. This is an anchor. This is how you do this.” He showed me his boat, which is one of the finest sailing boats I’ve ever seen. Finally, he says, “Be down here at five in the morning, ‘cause that’s when we’re leaving.” I got on my boat and all the groceries we had were potato chips and M&M’s and stuff. At about 5:30 the next morning, I left the harbor in my boat and followed David to an island called Santa Cruz. We went over there and anchored in a harbor and dinghied over to his boat later in the afternoon and were invited to stay for dinner, which was good because after a hard day of sailing, potato chips and M&M’s are not enough. I wished I had at least bought some hot dogs or something, but that wouldn’t help because I couldn’t get the stove lit. So we went over to his boat and had dinner and he told me all about sailing to Tahiti, showed me a sextant and gradually I learned how to sail.
Then we went to Catalina Island to a place called Avalon. We stayed there for a couple of days. I learned how to go buy groceries and put ‘em in my own boat, which is a good thing to know. Next we went to another island called San Clemente Island, not to be confused with Nixon’s West Coast White House – this is an island, fairly remote. We went around to the far side and David warned me about how much fun it was going to be. We pulled into a beautiful little harbor and I got anchoring lessons. When everything was secured, we went over to his boat and he says, “Come on, we’re gonna go scuba diving.” And I said, “I don’t know about that. Aren’t there sharks and stuff?”
He said, “Yeah!”
So, the next thing I know, I have a wet suit on and I’m underwater, breathing air out of some tank, and I guess I did pretty good. I passed. The next thing I know after that, we’re back onboard, eating a bunch of really good things like lobster and mussels and abalone. I also learned how to pound abalone so you can actually eat it; if you don’t pound it right, it’s like chewin’ on a balloon. It’s kinda like getting a pizza with rubber bands and balloons on it.
Toward late, late, late afternoon, a naval patrol boat, like a PT boat, pulled up and a bunch of officers broadcast over their PA system that the harbor had to be evacuated. There were one or two other boats there, some lobster and abalone fishermen. What I didn’t know was that you can’t even go onto this particular island ‘cause for the last fifteen years it’s been a target for the Pacific Fleet, a firing range for battleships and destroyers. The Navy guys said, “You have to get out of here because at twelve, seven…nineteen-thirty zulu,” or something, “we’re going to have target practice.” And all these other boats left.
And I said, “We better get out of here, don’t you think, David?” And he said, “No problem.” Then they came around to tell us that we had to go, but they wind up saying, “Hey, Cros!” The entire U.S. Navy knew David Crosby. He sent over a few six-packs and introduced me and they knew my tunes, so I was okay with them. Then Cros says, “Where’s the best seat in the house?” And they say, “Over here by us.”
We pull up our anchors and go over near them, right? Once we’re there, Crosby says, “Now the fun starts.” It was almost dark – the sun had just left the sky – and we could here these Navy guys next to us talking to all these big battleships just over the horizon.
It looked like lightning at first, twenty miles away. Then we heard the shells coming and a flare went off, a sighting flare, and shells the size of a Volkswagen start to hit the cliffs of the island. The object of the game was to get these three shells as close to the sighting flare as possible. And it was like the 4th of July and it went on for, like, an hour and a half. The guns would go off on the horizon and you’d catch a glimpse of a destroyer or cruiser or something, then in about ten seconds, shells would come screaming overhead. We were maybe three football fields away from the cliffs on the island and they would slam in there. Ka-Blam! The last thing that you heard was the actual sound of the shells being fired. The guys in the PT boat would say, “Aim a little more to the left.” Or “try a blue flare this time.” “Hey, Cros, you like that one?” I was very nervous. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen and it went on for an hour and a half.
The last thing that the battleships did was to fire a sighting flare directly over my boat, when they were supposed to be aiming into the cliffs. The inference was that there were three shells coming next! I remember standing on the deck, yelling at a battleship twenty miles away: “No No NO NO NO!” Yelling at the top of my lungs, which the Navy thought was hilarious because they had a microphone open and all the guys on the battleship were listening to me going berserk because I thought three Volkswagens were going to land on my boat. Cros had set it up with the Navy guys!
I got set up pretty good on that one.