Thursday, November 9, 2017

Random Recollections of Caliente Characters

Random Recollections of Caliente Characters

Here we have a guy with the unusual last name of Hamburger. He had a first name of course, Bob. But why would anyone with a cool last name like Hamburger want to be referred to by such a plain first name as Bob--and so it is in this story, simply “Hamburger.”
That his last name was Hamburger really has nothing to do with the fact that he was a character. Instead, he was a character because of his boating habits. While most of us were regular users of our boats in the normal way of cruising--long weekends at anchor and the like, this guy only rarely took his big houseboat out in this way. Instead, he was remembered mostly for his after party midnight jaunts.

Club old timers will attest that we had super parties every month at our old clubhouse on Bethel Island’s Taylor Slough. And more often than not, these parties would  have been truly memorable if not for all the fun imbibing at the bar, making them, in fact, somewhat unmemorable.  Generally when the bar closed, often in the midnight to 1 AM hour, almost all of us would do the only thing we could. We would go to bed.  

Not Hamburger. A closing bar wasn’t going to stop him from going boating. Now, it is not remembered that he was a big drinker, or worse (we had a few of those.)  So while he would often start his weekend boating fun at midnight after the bar closed, it is not to say that he was seriously impaired---just that his night hadn’t ended yet and he had self-confidence running in his veins. This was no doubt the reason he was the top exec at a big Silicon Valley defense company building Trident submarine missiles, suggesting recognition of his self confidence at the highest levels.  And this confidence naturally led him to think nothing of rounding up all the remaining people sitting at the bar at closing time for his signature event, a “midnight run.”

As the bar was closing, he would loudly announce that his boat would be fired up shortly and that everybody should just bring their remaining drinks on board and keep what was left of the party going—never mind that the real party had ended much earlier. It was always a boisterous departure.  Ninety percent of our party goers were long in their bunks when Hamburger’s extremely loud Nautaline houseboat fired up. The remaining 10% were getting their second wind, in part by chanting at the top of their lungs “midnight  run, midnight run” as they charged out of the clubhouse and onto Hamburger’s now roaring boat.  Off they went down the fairway with an exhaust note like an offshore racer and out onto pitch black Taylor Slough, waking even the heaviest party goers.

In the morning, we would ask those midnight runners where exactly they went at midnight. Most had no idea. But it seems that Hamburger had a favorite turnaround place near the False River ferry slip. Being competent and not fully impaired, he would slowly turn his boat around in a wide arc without fanfare and being that it was dark and his passengers were, in fact impaired, surprise all when he slipped the whole affair back into his berth. Slipping back into his berth was known to be an especially remarkable feat on the part of this captain because Hamburger was very proud of his seamanship.  Before entering the slip, he would suddenly yell “don’t touch anything” at all of those on the boat who could still comprehend such orders. And sure enough, that 15’x43’ behemoth would always glide into its berth, in the pitch black and with a captain surely tired, if not just a bit impaired. His goal was to not touch either side of the only slightly wider opening. This he did time and again—with cheers coming from all that could.

Hamburger became Commodore in 1983. CIYC would have had a quite successful year under his tutelage but he had the misfortune of dying part way through his term. Had he not died, his year could have been capped with headlines in the local rag of the worst kind as in “Midnight Boaters Wrecked at CIYC.” But it was all a part of the fun.  As a Caliente Character, Bob Hamburger was right in there with all the others, truly memorable.

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