Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Saltwater Cowboys Series Part Three

The Sheriff, the Smugglers, and the Saltwater Cowboys

Sometimes it’s about timing, sometimes it’s about opportunities, but on some occasions, even the bestconstructed plans can go terribly wrong. Strategies can fail for many reasons, but being overconfident and underestimating your adversaries should probably be high on the list. 

With Frank and the boys cruising the Sheriff back and forth between Marco and the Caribbean Sea, and with the Chief happy in Jamaica and even happier when looking at his banking statements, the boys decided to try something bold, aggressive and worthy of a caper right out of the Saltwater Cowboy Wild West. 

Everyone loves the Super Bowl. It is one of the most viewed television broadcasts in America, and Frank and the rest of his network of boys and girls figured the cops liked the Super Bowl even more than your average red-blooded American. After all, what could more predictable than cops watching the biggest football event of the year? 

Hauling bales of pot for the last few years had been very lucrative, fun and very exciting. Many of the Saltwater Cowboys and Girls were into the rush and thrill of excitement just as much as they were into the paydays, so when Groucho and his crew—tired of making the offshore run—suggested bold daylight run during Super Bowl, just at the mouth of the Marco River, everyone agreed it was just crazy enough to work. 

On the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday, Frank, Jimmy and Pete were dragging their trawls just north of Key West and just to the east of the Dry Tortugas. The weather was perfect. The gulf was clear as a swimming pool, and the Sheriff was chugging along through the water at a respectable 6 knots. The 90-foot shrimper might have been aging, and she might have more faded blue and white paint than brightwork, but the heart of the old girl was the Detroit Diesel that just kept rattling, pounding away, and sending out a healthy stream of smoke out of the dry-stack exhaust. From a distance, no one could have known she was very heavily laden with as many bales of pot as she had ever carried. 

The Saltwater Cowboys on the receiving end of the plan were also ready for the big day as they had been in communication with the Sheriff by single-side-band radio. With the plan in place, everyone showed up about kickoff time at the first channel marker leading into the Marco River. 

No one was worried, because as everyone knew all of the cops loved to watch football. What no one expected, however, was when the Sherriff came in as close as she dared—because of the shallow water—there was a little spec of trouble coming up from Everglades city in the form of a small airplane. 

Of course, Frank and boys never shut down the diesel on the Sheriff, nor did the eight smaller fishing boats that were rafted up alongside and transferring the heavy bales as fast as Saltwater Cowboys could work. 

Later, Frank recalled that because of all the engines running on nine different boats, no one noticed the airplane until it was almost overhead and began to circle. 

Imagine, all the smugglers on that fateful Super Bowl Sunday suddenly stopping the unloading—almost exactly in the middle of the marijuana transfer—to freeze in position, just like the proverbial deer in the headlights, and stare up in disbelief as the suddenly intruding airplane began to circle and watch the illegal smuggling activities from above.  

Pot hauling cowboys are just like regular folks, and some folks react faster than others, but within a minute, all of the smaller smuggling boats were flying away from Frank, Jimmy, Pete and the Sherriff faster than anyone could imagine. Everyone was in a panic. There could be no doubt that the airplane was radioing the authorities, as the surprised and perhaps delighted pilot continued to circle overhead and watch everyone scatter. 

Even before all the smaller boats began to disappear from sight, Frank, Jimmy and Pete became superhuman with panic and adrenalin as they began throwing bales of pot overboard as fast as possible. After all, if they were boarded with no pot onboard then there was no evidence of a crime. They worked harder and faster than in their entire lives, and they worked as if their freedom was at stakebecause it was. 

Meanwhile, as the sun was setting, the retrieval boats were well on their way back to their respective docks on Marco and Isles of Capri, where they would soon be tied up and unloading whatever marijuana they had already loaded onboard. As it turned out, most were cleaned up and washed out, with the contraband stashed, just before the final quarter of the big football game began. 

Onboard the Sheriff, when the last bale of pot splashed into the Marco River, Frank pored the coals to the Detroit Diesel and the now much lighter shrimp boat began streaming as fast as she could for Fort Myers Beach and the old shrimp boat docks. After all, Frank knew where the was the best place to hide a tree? In a forest of many other shrimp boats. 

Meanwhile, the circling airplane was running low on fuel, the cops were indeed notified, and as the plane touched down at the Marco airport, the tropical darkness was falling fast. 

The last noticeable event the pilots would never forget before they turned away from the old shrimp boat that was belching out diesel smoke and moving fast, was the seemingly hundreds of big chunks of marijuana floating into the Marco River. 

The tidal current in the Marco River can be quite strong, and this Super Bowl Sunday was no exception to that rule. Within minutes, and undercover of the recently fallen darkness, several thousand pounds of Jamaican marijuana was riding the tide and flowing right by the Snook Inn and onward into Factory Bay to where the next installment of the Sheriff, the Smugglers and the Saltwater Cowboys will continue with a firsthand account of what happened next. 

Part Four Coming Next Edition… 

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