Confessions of a Drunken Coastie, Part 14
Editor’s Note: From 1988 until 1991, Crash Barry — then known as “Egg” — served as a sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard aboard a 210-foot-long ship that patrolled from the Gulf of Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. This is the fourteenth of his true stories about fighting the War on Drugs and the War on Haitian Refugees.
“This fella says he’ll sell me a quarter-pound for 50 Aaah-mericano dinero,” Staples drawled. “He let me take a gander at the stuff. Looks just like that good herb we smoked last night. Nice fat buds. Dank.”
“That’s twelve-fifty each,” I said, doing the math. “For an ounce.”
“No shit, Sherlock.” Chamberlain slapped me on the back. “A helluva deal.”
“Yeah. The last ounce I bought in Portsmouth was a hundred and twenty bucks,” said Farrington, scratching his head, “for mostly stems and seeds.”
We were four stoner Coasties on mid-patrol break in the Dominican Republic. A kind of reefer radar had enabled us to identify one other as comrades-in-cannabis among all our anti-drug shipmates. Despite the constant threat of piss tests and the brig, we loved to get high — so much so that we were now planning to smuggle marijuana into the United States aboard a military vessel patrolling for drug smugglers.
We had the nerve to attempt this thanks to our recent training to detect hidden compartments inside ships. The four of us would collectively purchase a quarter-pound of Dominican weed, then each stash our share and pretend to forget it existed until we returned home.
“This fella will use his scale to divide the quarter into four Z’s, but we need to get some plastic baggies,” Staples said with a grin, “because this fella only deals in paper sacks.”
Three weeks later, we were almost home, a mere 20 miles so’ east of the mouth of the Piscataquis River, when a small electrical fire broke out in the aft steering compartment. An engineer making his rounds grabbed a CO2 fire extinguisher and pointed the horn to send a blast of carbon dioxide into the flames. He was certainly surprised when a bag of weed spurted out and tore open on the floor.
An hour later, the Tumultuous was anchored off the Isle of Shoals, waiting for a detachment of Coast Guard Intelligence officers from Boston to arrive via a small boat leaving Station Newcastle. I was standing on the flight deck, smoking, when Staples approached. We were alone for the first time since the ganja discovery and he was pissed.
“Please, Egg, tell me that you wasn’t the foolish idiot” — he looked over his shoulder — “who stashed his herb in such a dumbass lo-cation.”
“Hell no,” I hissed. “You think I’m a friggin’ moron? My weed is hidden in the base of an empty locker in the laundry.” I had learned from the training video that metal lockers have hollow bottoms. “I betcha it was Farrington. He’s a friggin’ engineer. Who else would even think of aft steering as a possible hiding spot?” I shook my head. “Let alone a fire extinguisher.”
“We’ll learn who, soon enough.” Staples frowned. “Provided we ever make it ashore again. I mean, I’m pretty sure my stuff ain’t never gonna be found. I cut a hole in the insulated bulkhead in the helo shack. Then I taped the slice and painted the tape to match the rest of the wall. Friggin’ invisible to everyone but me.” He pointed at me. “But if my shit somehow gets discovered because of this stupid extinguisher, I’m gonna be right pissed.”
The special agents of CGI searched the Tumultuous from stem to stern without success. Just before dinner, the skipper addressed the crew over the 1MC.
“I’ve ordered the corpsman to make preparations to drug test every sailor aboard this ship.” We could tell by the tone of his voice that the Captain was super-pissed. “We will find out which one of you had the audacity to attempt such a… a… a… stunt,” he sputtered, then took a deep breath. “I am very disappointed, to say the least. Now we’ll weigh anchor and head home. However, liberty will not be granted until the drug testing is complete. So those with family on the pier awaiting our arrival, you’ll have to explain the reason for the delay.” He paused. “That is all.”
Hours later, the four of us met in the parking lot. And from Farrington’s face, it was obvious he was the loser.
“A fire extinguisher? Shucks, boy, you must be daft,” Staples said. “Don’t matter to me. My stash is safe.”
“I don’t know what to say.” Farrington seemed on the verge of tears. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Well, it’s obvious you wasn’t thinking,” said Staples. “And now you’re plum out of weed.”
“I know.” Farrington moaned. “That’s the worst of it.”
“Listen, pal,” Staples said, putting his arm around Farrington’s shoulder. “I feel sorry for you. Real sorry. So I’ll sell you an eighth of this premium, imported kind bud.”
“Oh man,” Farrington said, instantly brightening. “That’s awesome. You are a friggin’…”
“For 25 bucks.”
“WHAT?” Farrington was incredulous. “That’s twice what you paid for a whole ounce.”
“Well, yeah.” Staples nodded. “Boy, you do realize we ain’t in the Dominican Republic no more, right?”
“Hey, Egg, you know anything about that bag of weed?” Doc asked the next morning after breakfast while we stood on the fantail, smoking cigarettes. “Man, the skipper is livid. I’ve never seen him so angry.”
“Nope, Doc.” I shook my head. “All I can tell you is that the weed wasn’t mine.”
“OK. Not that I give a damn.” He took a long final puff off his cig, then flicked the butt into the harbor. “Thought you might want to know, anyways” — he looked around — “yesterday’s piss tests ain’t going nowhere.”
“For real?” I asked, relief washing over me. I figured my urine reeked so strongly of THC that getting busted was almost inevitable. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah.” Doc smiled — he knew I smoked weed. “I was in the wardroom when the XO told the skipper there was no money in the budget to pay for all this extra testing. Then the old man mumbled something about asking District One for special financial support. That got the XO quite upset. He wasn’t happy explaining to the skipper that a request for help paying to test the whole crew would make it look like the entire ship had a drug problem.”
Crash Barry’s new book, Marijuana Valley, is now available at most places where books are sold. For inscribed copies and details about local book-launch events, visit marijuanavalley.com.