Kew’s Corner: “You’re Trespassing!

(Extra special thanks to Joe Hinkens for this story.)

“The incident took place in October 1997. I had made several trips up to Cojo in the prior weeks, and had even made the trip up the day prior to our mishap at Hollister. We would launch the Mainliner, a 23-foot sportfisher, at Gaviota, and cruise the 12 miles or so up to Government Point. Our crew consisted of myself and two Santa Barbara County firefighters, Mike Dalcerri and Bill Letson.

“No more than two or three miles into our trip, as we skipped from one swell to the next, I thought I heard a bit of clatter from the engine. I immediately shut it down and noticed that the oil pressure was almost zero. After throwing the anchor and pulling the engine cover, I found the bilge to be full of oil and the crankcase nearly empty. It wasn’t until the boat was in the shop with the engine removed that we discovered a small hole corroded in the lowest corner of the oil pan. I had one quart of oil with me, but it didn’t even register on the dipstick.

“We had cellular phones with us, and it was decided that I would call my wife and arrange for her to bring us some additional oil. My buddies were calling their fire station to arrange for the folks at the Hollister Ranch security gate to let my wife in.

“Ironically, it was just a few weeks earlier that many of the Santa Barbara County firefighters were at Hollister battling a brush fire that endangered several of the homes there. The Hollister Ranch contingency publicly thanked the firefighters for preventing any serious losses.

“After having made all of the arrangements, we floated lazily in the morning sun and pondered how we would get to shore to retrieve our provisions. It was a weekday, and we had not seen another boat all morning. Reluctantly, we all donned our wetsuits and hopped on our boards with the leashes tied to the bow hook of the boat, and began paddling the mile or so to shore.

“Surprisingly, we made very good progress, but after only a few minutes, a commercial Radon came up to us, and the skipper offered us a tow to shore. We gladly accepted, and, a few minutes later, we were anchored in 20 feet of water off of San Augustine. There were some chest-high sets, so we surfed for an hour or so before spotting my wife, trudging down the beach, dragging a case of oil in an inner tube.

“We paddled to shore and left our boards irregularly strewn several feet apart on the sand as we ran up the beach to greet my wife. After some small-talk, we thanked her and parted, with my wife heading home and the three of us walking back toward our boards, which were about a hundred yards down the beach. As we approached the boards, we noticed a Suzuki jeep driving toward us on the beach, when all of a sudden, the jeep swerved and ran right over–not one, not two–but all three surfboards! We were shocked, especially given the fact that the driver had to make several turns to hit all three boards.

“Before we even had a chance to speak, we all ran towards the jeep as it continued toward us. The jeep pulled to a stop and the driver jumped out, pissed and angrily shouting, “This is private property! and “You’re trespassing! His female companion sat quietly in the car. He looked somewhat like a leftover from the Haight-Ashbury days, with scruffy grayish hair, shorts, a worn-out pair of sandals and an old, dirty T-shirt. We were equally furious–perhaps more–as we demanded an explanation. With three of us and one of him, we still wonder what possessed him to confront us and why we didn’t seize the opportunity to jump him and bust his head.

“As soon as he realized who we were and that permission had already been arranged, he began to recant his story, explaining that he really hadn’t seen the surfboards. You know, with the glare and all. He refused to give us his name, but we took down his license plate number and made our way back to the boat. After five or six quarts of oil, we cautiously made our way back to Gavviota Pier, where we loaded the boat and headed straight for the Hollister guard gate to report him. We no sooner had described the ordeal before the security guard asked, “Was it a little red Suzuki? He knew the guy by name: Dieter Horneman.

“We made a formal complaint that day with Hollister security, which turned it over to the Santa Barbara district attorney. After several months, we were finally notified that the district attorney was not interested in pursuing it. But we did have our ‘day in court,’ if you will, when we were invited to the landowners’ meeting at the Ranch. The way I understand it is, this meeting takes place once a month and provides a forum for all of the landowners to gripe at one another about whatever issue is bugging them at the time.

“The whole affair stirred up a lot of commotion. Eventually, Dieter Horneman was denied his beach privileges at the Ranch. Surprisingly, the surfboards suffered only cosmetic damage.

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