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, with a couple of good conservatory heaters (conservatory heater reviews on www.konservatory.co.uk are helpful) 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.

11.22.13 (5)

 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.

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