This is my moaning chair. It was part of the furniture on a Turkish Gulet that sank in my local marina. The boatyard carpenter, in one of his rare talkative moods, told me that an enterprising young Catalan had sailed the boat from Turkey with the idea of restoring it for charter work. However, he crossed wakes with the Guardia Civil, whose water-based operation is that of coast guard. The GC have their headquarters in the local port and their menacing black,
Our enterprising young Catalan friend wasn’t so lucky, according to the carpenter some vital piece of paperwork had been left on the dock in Turkey and the Guardia Civil promptly impounded the Gulet and triumphantly towed it into port. They had to moor the beamy vessel in their own berth, which meant moving their other boat to the fishermen’s quay. We don’t know what became of the young Catalan, whether he tried to track down the lacking paperwork or whether he simply went off and did something else. But back in the port the Gulet found itself in a bureaucratic vacuum and, while the slow wheels of officialdom ground out their dull dirge, long fingers of rot spread through the Gulet’s hull. The Guardia Civil were slightly inconvenienced by the long walk round to the fishermen’s wharf when they needed to use their other boat, but otherwise the situation continued unchanged for 3 years.
Then one day the elderly Gulet, yawing under the weight of bureaucracy, took on water and keeled over crushing the GC’s boat up against the fuel quay. Apparently the Guardia Civil had an awkward job of extricating their boat but eventually they freed it from the grasp of the Gulet’s rigging and rafted it up to their other craft.
The Gulet was now occupying the whole GC berth and it wasn’t long before divers and dockworkers were dismantling the old boat. They smashed the Gulet into workable pieces, which were loaded into two enormous skips, and it was here that I found my chair.
The skip was full of useful boating material, blocks and pullies, ropes, cleats, fairleads and other tempting bits of stainless steel and bronze but most of it irretrievably buried under tons of rotten wood.
I went back on another day and had just detached this mast light when a port official asked me what I was doing. Apparently the Gulet's fate was still being ruminated upon by the courts, everything in the skip was considered official evidence and no one was allowed to take anything. But he said he’d overlook the light seeing that I’d gone to the trouble of unbolting it from the mast.
The whole story left me wondering what might happen to me in my Trow if I was ever pulled over on the waves and asked to show my documents. Wanting to clear the matter up I asked the Guardia Civil where a homemade boat stood within the law.
The short answer was they didn’t know. They handed me a fat file with all the laws printed out and advised me to read it but after one paragraph of the tortuous gobbledegook, my mind fizzled and switched off—couldn’t they just give me a brief resumé? No, because they hadn’t read those bits. They mainly concerned themselves with the laws referring to jet skis and other engine driven craft, as these were the worst offenders, “Imagine.” One of them chirped up, “Going out in your car without your driving licence or insurance or tax. Well these people do the same. They are driving without the papers.” I made disapproving noises and said that I would be using oars and polytarp sails. “Oh, don’t worry then, we won't be stopping you.”