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Gypsies in The Palace/assholes on The Water

By Randall Grantham - Community Columnist Aug. 17, 2012

Were you born an asshole? Or did you work at it your whole life? Either way it worked out fine 'Cause you're an asshole tonight.

Jimmy Buffett

Some friends of mine who read this stuff have commented that a lot of shit happens in my life, and that it always seems to happen to me. What are the chances? You got to write about what you know.

But this one is about something that happened to someone other than me. It freaked me out and I saw my life pass before my eyes but not because I, personally and imminently, was physically in danger. Let me explain.

Scallop season on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida is in full swing. They’re big, they’re plentiful and they’re tasty. And I’ve been out on the water almost every weekend to seek and devour.

Right after it opened, Fourth of July, I brought my brother. He was about to have shoulder surgery and would be out for the rest of the season. It was my brotherly duty.

We got into them and generally had a good time. Snorkeling the womb-like waters of the Gulf of Mexico is a great way to spend a day. Bringing home a delicious dinner while you do it, is gravy, figuratively speaking.

I continued the harvest on subsequent weekends when my sister asked to tag in. Being the model child that I am, knowing it would make my mother happy (and Sis is a fun girl to hang out with), I gladly brought her aboard. She had never really been scalloping and I hoped to put her on the tasty little bivalves.

We had a good time and it was a "bring ‘em back alive" weekend, meaning that there were no serious injuries to anyone involved and all made it home safely. But it almost wasn’t.

A successful launch from my new floating boatlift was followed by an uneventful voyage out to the Homosassa channel. It got a little interesting there when I merged with the flotilla of boats heading out to the scallop grounds. Note to self: Try to keep hand off of throttle when hitting big rolling wake waves.

After sitting off to the side, acting like that was what I wanted to do, we got the boat back up on a plane and headed to the deep waters, where the wily and elusive scallops are hanging this year. We got on them and my sister was having a grand time. She found one almost immediately and that got her going.

Although she was unfamiliar with the drill and the equipment, I was very impressed with her stick-to-it-ness and determination. Even after I took a break and got back on the boat for a sandwich, she kept at it, getting almost a dozen in deep waters.

But, while topside, eating my sandwich, I kept an eye on her. And while up there, I noticed a couple of boats heading our way, at full throttle. We had our dive flag up and were on the outskirts of several boats with dive flags up.

When you see a boat with a dive flag out, the first thing you should do is slow down. The second is look out for people in the water and the last thing, that is actually required by law, is to stay at least 100 yards from the boat with the dive flag out or slow down to a troll speed.

This guy was doing none of the above. He and the guy following him in the smaller boat were seemingly oblivious to us. I’m looking around for Melinda, watching the boats and, right as they passed by, off my bow, I see her pop up out of the water directly in front of the leading boat. She kicked her fins frantically while trying to wave off the assholes. Didn’t work. It runs within five feet of her, never knowing what they almost did.

The second boat, I think, sees her, and veers slightly, but never slows down or acknowledges my profanity-laced tirade from the bow of my boat. Melinda decides she’s had enough scalloping for the day and paddles back to the boat and I’m torn with a mixture of anger and relief. We finish the day by catching a few trout and having the scallop/trout combo for dinner.

She is ready to go out again but tells me she did see her life pass before her eyes as the big boat bore down on her. But what, you ask, made me see my life flash before my eyes when she was the one in danger?

That’s simple, my mother would kill me if I let something happen to my little sister.

The rules of the sea are very much like the rules of the road. They are there to make driving those fast machines around each other a little safer. But some people, on land or sea, think they’re the only ones out there. They just don’t give a damn.

So if you’re out on the water this season and you see a dive flag, slow down, look around and stay clear. And one more thing, don’t tell my Mom about this.

(Randall C. Grantham is a fifth generation Floridian and lifelong resident who practices law from his offices on Dale Mabry Highway in Lutz . He can be reached at Copyright 2012 RCG)