When You Can’t Choose Your Neighbor: Feuds at a Marina

Friday November 22, 2013

11.22.13 (2)

As I mentioned in our last post, we are so happy to be out at anchor again, but not all of it is because of fresh breezes and better views of the sunset. Nope, there’s one more reason I’d left out. We’re both quite happy not to have to see a certain neighbor at the marina any longer, someone we haven’t been on good terms with for awhile. But to get to this point, first I have to go back and start at the beginning.

When Matt and I first arrived at our marina in late June, we were placed in one of the last slips (I mean, I guess we did hang out in the Caribbean about three weeks into hurricane season), but thankfully still in a primo place right in front of the ranchito, a favorite hang out place of ours equipped with shade, picnic tables, and a hammock, as well as being snuggled between two boats who’s owners had left for the season. It was quiet and peaceful, and we liked it that way.

While being given a quick rundown on how everything worked our first or second day there, one of the marina employees showed us the power boxes that each coupling of boats shares, each boat has their own side, and each power box sits above two water spickets, one for fresh drinking water, and one for river water to do washdowns. The two boats next to each other share these spickets, but it wasn’t a problem for us to constantly attach or detach our hose since we were the only ones there at the time. It was also mentioned to us, for reasons that we couldn’t remember for a long time, that the power outlets were switched between ourselves and our neighbor. He needed to use our side, and if we needed power we should use his. All the billing would be figured out at the end of each month. Sure, no problem. For the first five weeks we spent at the marina before leaving for some land travels through South America, life at the marina was p-e-r-f-e-c-t. All of that changed as soon as we got back.

Getting back to the marina after our six week leave, we found that the boat that had originally been next to us, our power box buddy, was gone and there was a new boat in it’s place. To protect this person (or possibly just ourselves) I’ve changed his name and boat name. Let’s call him…Lon, and we’ll call his boat…Infinity. We first met Lon our second day back at the marina and desperately needed to fill our water tanks after having left them empty during our absence. His hose was attached to the fresh water spicket and we wanted to get his permission, or at least give him a heads up, before we unattached his hose to put our own on. After knocking on the hull he came out of his boat, immediately talkative, and immediately friendly. He explained that he had a Y attachment which would allow both of us to keep our hoses connected to the fresh water at all times. Before we could even go about filling our tank he ran into his boat to grab this and attached it right away so there would be no worries in the future. How nice, right?

Over our next week and a half back we saw plenty of Lon. He was usually in the ranchito, as we were, talking to the marina employees as they went about caring for the boats, and keeping them refreshed with cold 2 liters of Coke that he kept out in a cooler for them. The days were spent with him telling us all about his previous travels,  and showing us photos of his grandchildren, as well as going into lengthy conversations about  his family. After a few days though, we started trying to avoid him a bit. Sure, he seemed nice enough, but there were two things we noticed about him and his conversations. One was that they never ended. I’m all for sharing a friendly talk with other people that are around, but there’s a time and a place, and all day every day is not it. It became hard to get any work done outside of the boat because this man would talk and talk, even when you ended the conversation and tried to concentrate on what you were doing. Forget trying to write blog posts out there too, one of my favorite pastimes our first few weeks there.

The second thing is that most of his conversations were beginning to fall on the bitter side. Although he’d done a few nice actions that we’d seen, everything out of his mouth was a complaint of something another person had done. His food wasn’t prepared properly at the restaurant, he felt he was getting charged too much for work he was getting done (Seriously? Labor in Guatemala is dirt cheap.), ect.  After a week and a half of this, when Lon had to leave for a two week stay in Guate City for (planned) medical reasons, we were actually kind of relieved. We could go back to the peace and quiet, and personal space, that we’d sorely been missing.

The day that Lon came back from the city, it was a rainy and surprisingly chilly day, and Matt and I were sitting in the ranchito catching up with our friends Luki and Elmari. Lon came walking up the dock from his boat and up to Matt and I, and let us know that while he was away, our cat Georgie had um, used his boat as a litter box. We were mortified. I quickly ran over to his boat with him, apologizing profusely. Leading me into his cockpit he displayed a rug on the floor where, sure enough, there were about three different spots of cat poop slowly drying into the fibers. Wanting to right this, I grabbed the rug and made my way back to the docks to give it a thorough cleaning. As I was stepping off his boat he made an offhand comment of “I know it wasn’t my cat, because my cat is trained”. We think the reason Georgie may have gone to the bathroom is because there is another cat living aboard there and the smells attracted her, which is in no way an excuse, the incident was still all our fault, but it seemed like a weird thing for him to say. After an hour of really good scrubbing to his desicrated rug, I couldn’t find him around, so I left it in the ranchito to dry.

We didn’t see Lon for a day or two after that, not that we were trying to avoid him, although I think the whole ‘cat pooing in his cockpit’ was the start to some bad vibes between all of us. Then one night, just as the sun was going down and the two of us had retired to the safety of our salon for the evening to avoid the ever present mosquitos, we heard Lon calling our name. Or Matt’s name actually since he never preferred to address me on his own. No reason to have woman handle anything when there’s a man around.  Below deck I was only able to catch Matt’s part of the conversation, but what I found out a few moments later was that Lon was trying to start an argument about our power cord. Remember how I mentioned earlier that when we got to the marina they told us we needed to switch sides with our neighbor? Well, not that we use shore power, we don’t even have the cord or capabilities of that anymore, but sometimes when we’re running low and we happen to have the option avialiable to us, we hook an extension cord up and run it into the boat to charge things like our computers or the tv. Which, we had been doing for the past few weeks since the precious shade from our ranchito was also now shading our solar panels.

Apparently Lon didn’t get the memo about the switched sides. All he saw was that we were using ‘his’ side to charge our boat, and assumed that we were being sneaky little thieves that were trying to have him charged for our power. So not the case. Matt tried to calmly and politely tell Lon this, although Lon was not having any of it. He continued to call us thieves and said that we were trying to rip him off, making sure that he was being charged the hundreds of dollars of power we must be using in his name. After a couple more times of trying to politely explain the situation, Matt couldn’t handle the name calling anymore. He kind of exploded and went on to tell Lon that we were only doing what we were told, and went on to tell Lon that he was was a lousy neighbor, playing his music on high volume all the time, loud enough for the half of the marina to hear. And this, is where the war started.

Being a non-confrontational person myself, my first thoughts were to ignore Lon at all costs for the next few days until the whole thing blew over. When I walked onto the docks the next morning to use the restroom, I did not look at him and did not say anything as I saw him fiddling around by our shared power box. When I came back a few minutes later, I saw that the Y hose valve which he so graciously had put on a few weeks before was gone, and the end of our hose was now floating in the river. Not cool. Still, I didn’t make a big deal of it. I strode back onto our boat, picked up the end of the hose out of the water, and coiled it back on board. If he wanted to play dirty, fine. We’d take the high road by ignoring it and not succumbing to his childish passive aggressive behavior. Apparently he wasn’t done with us though. No, he wanted us to know just how pissed off he was, and that we’d never get away with ‘stealing power’ from him again.

A day or two after the hose incident, I kept myself busy in the cabin from that point on on, with less chance of running into Lon, while Matt continued boat projects which kept him constantly running on and off of Serendipity. And one of the times he was passing by Infinity to get to the marina’s workshop, who was basically blocking his path on the dock?, but Lon, oiling his shotgun and staring Matt down. Yes, you read that right. This guy had an illegal weapon in the country, and was now using it to terrorize us. Matt tried not to give Lon a second look as he continuously passed by him, showing him that these scare tactics were not going to work on us.

For a few more days after this we all went back to a routine of completely ignoring each other, which suited me just fine. I’d be out on the docks doing bucket laundry, and not feel the need to look up and smile and wave at Lon as he passed by. I became braver and began taking my computer out to one of the picnic tables at the ranchito when I knew Lon would be out there, knowing most likely that he would not say anything to me. In a way it was kind of nice. We finally had our peace and quiet back. I though the issue was somewhat resolved, and we could all coexist among each other while pretending the other did not exist. This lasted until we needed to fill our fresh water tank. Remember now that Lon had taken a monopoly on the fresh water spicket, keeping his hose constantly attached.

Taking our hose out of the cockpit once more, we wound it around wooden pylons and out to the dock until we had enough slack that it could reach the spicket. The plan was for Matt to use a set of channel locks to undo Lon’s hose (they had to be super tight, otherwise the hoses leaked), and then I would hold Lon’s hose out of the water while Matt attached ours and we went about filling our water tanks. We weren’t trying to be dirty  or underhanded about it in anyway, our only hope was to do it quietly and without confrontation. Unfortunately, that was not the case. We set out to do this project after we saw Lon leave his boat, on his way to the showers. Just about as he had gotten far enough down the dock to be out of our sight, he turned around and saw us. From 300 hundred feet away we could hear his yells. “Don’t your dare touch my things, you dirty little  thieves!!”. Matt, already extremely perturbed by Lon’s behavior but definitley not acting in his best form yelled back, “Quit being such an asshole, Lon!”. Ohhhh boy. If this man could have exploded at the sound of someone calling him an asshole, he would have.

Running down the dock toward us he continued yelling at top volume to anyone within ear range. “Did you hear him? He just called me an asshole! This guy called me an asshole!” Trying to step in and be a little assertive myself I replied, “Lon, you’re not being fair”. “Fair?”, he cried back, “Fair? Don’t even talk to me about fair, you thieves!!” Getting right up in our faces now, he rammed into Matt, causing Matt to drop Lon’s now un-attched hose into the water. He yelled at us, again, for stealing his power, and now claimed that we were stealing his water. From a shared spicket. We tried to explain that, hello, this is shared water, but he wasn’t even listening by this time. He only wanted to hear the sound of his own voice. At this point we were beyond trying to deal with him, and went about ignoring him as we finished attaching our hose and climbed on Serendipity to finish the task of filling her water tanks.

After we had been our our boat for a minute or two and not responding to any of his calls or insults he ended up storming off. When our water tanks were filled up we un-attached our hose from the spicket, and would have put Lon’s back on, except now it was sitting in the river.  Because of Lon. About 30 minutes later we heard someone outside our boat calling our name, so we went on deck to check it out. Two of the marina employees were standing there, apparently Lon had made such a stink at the front desk that they were sent out to handle it. Going through the whole story, we explained how the issues started and how we’d gotten to the point that we were now at. Of course, the power source came into question. When we tried to explain that we had been told upon arrival to use the outlet on the opposite side of our box, we couldn’t remember the exact reason why, only that we were told to do so. Matt thought it was because our side was not working and since the owner of the original boat on the other side was not there, we could then use theirs. I was under the impression that both sides just generally switched, but couldn’t remember why. We also couldn’t remember who had told us this, it being our first day here, and now five months ago.

The marina employees we were now talking to had no recollection of us being told to switch, and since we couldn’t tell them who had told us to do it in the first place, there was no one for them to outright question on the situation.  Trying to get the whole thing settled once and for all, we said that we’d gladly pay anything that Lon was charged because of us.  In fact, we’d pay double if it made him happy.  The marina agreed to this (only what we used, not double) and said they’d reset the boxes and from now on we should stick to our own side.  They also said they could bring out a Y valve that belonged to the marina to fix the water spicket issue.  We were completely fine with this and also apologized profusely to them for having to get involved at all.  How sad was it that three grownups could not resolve it on their own?

From that point on, now that all issues with Lon should have been fully settled (oh, and the marina informed us that our 110 volt charge we used on his side for three weeks came to 40 Q, or about $5.10), I found no reason to act like he even existed.  My conscience was now clear.  Before, if he approached me, I might have felt obliged to try and be civil to him so we could work out the above issues.  Now if there was any reason he might feel the need to get my attention, I would have had no qualms with not making any kind of  contact back.  He was dead to me, and you can’t very well have a conversation with a ghosts.  Friends of ours that were privy to the whole situation (that had also never met Lon, lucky for them) said we should take the high road, bake him a cake, and try to start fresh or at least put all this unpleasantness behind us, but I just couldn’t do that.  Not with him.  Because in his mind this would have made him victorious.  He would not have seen it as us taking the higher road, he would have seen it as us trying to make up for a guilty conscience.  Of which I did not have.

Luckily we knew our remaining time at the marina was limited, and both parties gladly stayed out of each other’s way.  Then something spectacular happened our last week at the marina.  Lon was moved back to his old spot, and the boat that was originally there when we first arrived was placed back.  That owner was coming back and needed that spot for it’s easy access onto one of the few finger docks.  We were happy just to have even more space put between us and Lon, but after this new boat arrived back, something even better happened.  Our new (old) neighbor came by to introduce himself and ask us a little favor.  The shore power doesn’t work on his side for some unique connection he had, and if it’s not too much trouble, would we mind switching sides on the power box since our side was compatible?  Yup, we had been right on target about that little issue all along.  Turns out someone just didn’t want to listen to us.  I have to admit, I felt a great triumph when Lon walked by a few days later and noticed our neighbor plugged into our side of the power box, absolutely proving him wrong.

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 I’m pretty sure he expected us to fill our water tanks with river water, the other side was his.

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 So much trouble, from one little power outlet.

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Now this is how cruising is supposed to be.  Don’t like your neighbor?  Pack up and leave.




8 thoughts on “When You Can’t Choose Your Neighbor: Feuds at a Marina

  1. Oh. My. God. This is hilarious! Ahem, I mean terrible. What a crazy freak that man is! Polishing his shotgun?! Matt should’ve totally run in and grabbed his arm knife and smacked him with his sail gloves to signify a duel. A Bladerunner-meets-Clint-Eastwood-style duel. Such insanity! So glad you’re out of there. That guy brings bad karma on himself…no need to think about him anymore. Bastard.

  2. Wow, that is one hell of a story. It is amazing how things can escalate so quickly due to some basic misunderstandings or overreactions by one party.
    I must admit I was baffled about the switching sides for the power supply but it is good to hear it became apparent in the end.

    And as for people talking far too much and more than you have time for, I fully understand. I’ve come across a few people like that too.

  3. Wow! So much drama. Sorry that wasn’t a good experience. It would have been so much better if it was talked about calmly as possible. Some people think they have to rule the land in order to be heard and don’t care about the rest.

    I would have been tempted to find an old style manual drill and go diving under his boat and poke holes in the hull but that would probably some how come back to bite me too. I don’t know, I just think of random things when situations like that come up. Another thing, “kill with kindness”, Be overly nice and as the other person gets more angry, keep it up until he leaves.

    It is a good thing as people say that if you don’t like your neighbor, pick up anchor and go somewhere else. I hope you don’t run into that guy again.

  4. Tasha, it is kind of funny when you look back and think about it, part of me wants to laugh, and the other part of me still lets my blood boil.
    Guy, it tormented us for so long that we couldn’t remember why it was done in the first place. Not to mention it was probably told to us in a broken mix of Spanglish. No wonder we couldn’t remember. And yes, I wouldn’t want to be you on many of your plane flights.
    Daniel, I usually have the ‘kill them with kindness’ theory as well, but I just couldn’t muster up even a smile any time I saw him. Believe me, we did think of effing with him if it wasn’t going to bring bad karma back on us (and ok, it would have just been the wrong thing to do). But oh, we came up with some great ideas.

  5. You were way too nice to that asshole. I’m sorry if he caused you any discomfort. Sail into the sunrise and breathe deeply my friend.

  6. Oh my – isn’t that just the worst feeling when you’re trying to avoid someone who is right next to you? ha I’m sorry he ended up being such an asshole, but the way you wrote it is great. You painted a perfect picture of this jerk and I’m glad you’re outta there. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Goodbye Guatemala | Matt & Jessica's Sailing Page

  8. We’ve had such horrendous experiences at marinas in South Jersey that we are selling our beloved cabin cruise after only three years of ownership and over ten thousand dollars worth of upgrades.

    From a windy, too narrow slip that we were unable to dock at complete with neighbors across the basin that sang drunken karoake until 3am and a row of local drunks at our dock head that drank and partied from 8am to 10pm always stopping us to engage in drunken banter and making a mess of the common restroom.

    The second marina was fine for a few months until another drinking couple showed up next to us with their rag tag boat, aged picnic table, torn chairs, and a large garbage barrel. They were a permanent fixture in our salon door at the end of our shared finger pier as they stood in the parking lot or dock walkway with their bottles of beer from their nightly 12 packs each. They erected a large tent and hosted picnic parties every holiday. They placed the large garbage barrel closest to us by the finger pier, constantly encroached upon the parking area behind out boat, left food and empty beer bottles in the aft deck overnight and constantly tried to engage us in their drunken banter that we had no peace at all.

    The third marina was fine for two weeks. This was an upscale facility near a well-known dry, family-oriented shore town. We rented a premium, wide slip at the end of one of the docks. There was a center console boat tied to the outside of our floating dock. The captains that brought our boat down said they told a friend of theirs about bringing a boat down that weekend and that their friend replied, “As long as it’s not next to me”. When we docked at our slip, the captains took a photo of themselves on our aft deck and sent it to their friend. It turns out their friend was the owner of the center console tied next to us. He and his very rude and stand-offish wife came down to the dock and had one of the marina employees move the aft cleat back where their center console boat was tied then spent several hours removing items from the boat. We didn’t know what to make of this somewhat odd behavior and tried to enjoy the beach, pool, restaurant, and new acquaintances even putting up with the center console owner and friends raucous and drunken or drug-ridden carrying on as they returned in the evenings to dock the boat. One day, the center console showed up docked a few slips away. That same day while I was on the boat alone, I felt the boat dip down. I was leaving anyway to get some items from the car and after exiting the salon, found two men stepping off our swim platform back on to the dock. They did apologize and said they were just trying to get some shade. I got their names in a round-about introduction of sorts and they meandered down the dock. They snickered to themselves as I also proceeded down the dock making a conversational comment or two about the one owner’s new canvas, etc. It occurred to me then that they and perhaps others had been on our swim platform and aft deck before as we would arrive to find it dirty with footprints and ashes and we always leave it scrubbed and clean. Within the next few hours, a used 36ft fishing boat appeared tied next to us where the center console boat had been. The captains that brought our boat down were there along with the center console’s owner, wife, and adult son. A few other people stopped down to see the boat, so I went to the beach and pool for a while to give them some time and space. I did comment on how nice the boat was an no one said anything and only stared at me. When I returned, there were items strewn all over the dock walkway behind our boat and blocking the entrance to our boat. None of the five people acknowledged me or helped move the items that included heavy, wet canvas as I struggled to move them myself in order to get by. When I got nearer to the owner I said that he can’t have these items all over the dock. He popped the end of a hot dog in his mouth, pointed a finger in my face and said, “Don’t start with me. I just got in”. As I rounded the turn to step onto our swim platform, there was a long rope coiled about on the dock that I had to move. When I got on the aft deck and about to enter the salon, he said, “I’ve been here for 17 years”. I said that didn’t give him any more rights than us who also paid our money to be here. The evening wore on with dock carts full of cases of beer behind our boat, the items still strewn about the dock, visitors, and drunken behavior. My husband (who was out of town) called Security at 9pm to have them move the items blocking my path and dock way and to ensure the party ended at 11pm. The next morning, at my husband’s suggestion to help recover from the previous evening’s unpleasantness and to look forward to what remained of the boating season, I proceeded to look for a slip for our small boat. As is stepped off our boat, there was a cardboard box full of trash and empty wine bottles on the dock right where I needed to step. As I proceeded to view available slips, the couple across from the the slip where the center console was now docked suggested that slip. I said that now that center console boat is docked there but they pointed out the “For rent” sign at the top of the piling with the owner’s names and phone number. (On that note, this couple had said to us in passing the other week, “If you don’t like your neighbors, you can move”.) I then contacted the marina and the owner of the slip. I thought the latter was odd as the slips are “dockaminiums” and the marina rules clearly state that all rentals must go through the marina. The owner’s of the slips showed up without contacting me, passed by glancing at our boat, and proceeded to the fishing boat next to us for about 40 minutes. The marina owner and manager came down and were none too pleased with the attempt to bypass the marina for the slip rental. The fishing boat/center console owner was stressed staring at the center console boat as if thinking, “What do I do now?”. It turns out that the center console owner never had permission to dock in that slip. The owner of the slip for rent was apparently annoyed enough at my legitimate attempt to rent the slip by contacting the marina and exposing their “private rental” scheme that he refused to rent it to us although the center console boat was removed a few hours later. In the end, it turns out that center console owner planned to dock his new fishing boat in our slip without paying for it until we showed up and legitimately rented the slip interrupting his plan. We can only think that they intentionally were making me as uncomfortable as possible so that we would leave or at least not return next season never imagining that their thievery and bad behavior would be exposed as it was. The marina did what they could as far as clearing items and keeping their parties contained to the boat and having them end at 11pm but they can’t change people’s personalities or ingrained and willful behaviors and habits. In the end, although all guilty parties were sufficiently exposed and embarassed, we endured an extreme amount of stress and the loss of $4,500 dollars for only two weeks of enjoyment. As business owners ourselves, what we would have done as the marina was to contact us this season and say something to the effect of “Mr. And Mrs. P, we are again very sorry about your experience. We would like to offer you slips for your large and small boats at the discounted price of X. The people who caused problems last season have been barred from returning to the marina. We hope you will consider our offer and will return”. But no. Grab our money and continue to rent discounted slips that are inappropriately sized and configured to problematic, thieving people while continuing to rent to the other two people who cause problems and have addiction problems. It certainly explains why the premium wide slip was empty and I wonder if the owner of that slips knows why. I can only hope that “the captains” business cards were removed from the marina office as they were part of the problem and made us the brunt of a joke after collecting our $500. So, we are keeping our classic, small boat and joining a private lake club. We are holding off renting a campground and buying a camper until we know for sure what it is like there. Thank you for this Web site and the opportunity to share our horrendous stories leading to the heartbreaking decision to sell our beautiful cabin cruiser. On a lighter note, I came to realize we are probably sailboat people at heart but we have no idea how to sail and are too old to learn;-)

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