My tranquil morning on the seawall bench is shattered.
“Get the F* back here, you son of a bi***!” screams the man from shore. I follow the direction of his angry gesticulations and see that they are directed at a man floating in a rowboat about a hundred meters from the beach. The man stands up in the boat and fires back an angry retort of his own. The verbal sparring match with increasing intensity goes back and forth as the boat drifts further and further from the shore.
“Bring my boat back, you piece of S***.”
It’s almost as if the man in the boat is laughing now; he has stolen a boat and gotten away with it!
But then the tables turn. I hear an engine roar to life from somewhere out of my view. In a flash comes a motorized dingy heading straight for the rowboat! I see panic form in the face of the thief. He attempts to row, but there are no oars in the boat, only a long 2×4. The gap between the vessels closes quickly.
The angry driver knows only one speed — ramming speed — my eyes widen, and my mouth drops open as I anticipate the impact. He never lets off the throttle.
The dingy hits broadside at full speed, bouncing upward, its front extends up over the top of the rowboat. The pirate narrowly escapes being smashed and thrown into the sea by the impact. When he recovers his balance, he quickly strikes back, swinging his 2×4 wildly at the head of the intruder. An oar quickly parries his thrusts. The two battle each other viciously. Boat on top of boat, oar against 2×4, foul language flying in all directions.
I can’t believe what I’m seeing, I should probably be calling the police, but I can’t take my eyes off the scene. I’m watching an amphibious Jedi duel on False Creek! Suddenly, the man with the oar changes his tactics. He hops backward and grabs hold of the throttle; he jams it in reverse and guns it! The two ships dislodge, but this time he aims to impact the stern of the rowboat at a lower speed. Before long, he has the thief going round and round in tight circles. Safely outside the swinging range of the 2×4, he uses the time to lecture the bandit.
I can’t quite hear it all over the roar of the engine and the whirlpool wake that’s being created, but I do hear, “You’re going to get it now!” And “I warned you!” After a dizzying spin cycle that lasts half a minute or more, the avenger of stolen property prepares to remedy the situation. He breaks off from his spin cycle and makes a wide loop. He guns the engine and prepares for another ram.
Bang! Up over the rowboat he goes again. This time the dingy is so high out of the water that the outboard engine nearly dips below the waterline. The driver keeps the motor at full throttle; the two boats have merged into a single T-shaped vessel, heading steadily to shore. The guilty bandit offers a meager defense. Across the water, his voice echoes to me: “I had nothing to do with this; it’s not my fault.” Somehow, I doubt the efficacy of his explanation. He seems to doubt himself too. He sits down in the rowboat and says nothing more—the two boats which are now one pass out of my view.
What’s going to happen when they get to the shore? I’m left to wonder. Twenty minutes later I pass by where they would have made landfall. I’m happy to report that I found no boats and no bodies. As far as I can tell the early morning water war over False Creek concluded without a drowning or a bludgeoning. This is good news.