One failed ‘King Midas’ voyage gives birth to another

Bob Quall is a two-time United States Tennis Association national champion, and a former Merced County Superior Court judge. You can email him with comments or suggestions at:

The score after two attempted sea voyages onboard the King Midas from San Diego to Santa Barbara:

King Midas, 2; Captain Bob, 0.

Three weeks after the engine threw a rod, Ren and I were on the high seas again, destination Santa Barbara.

The trip from San Diego to Newport beach went off without a hitch. Third time was a charm.  We stayed overnight in the harbor, sleeping on our home away from home. Leaving the Newport Beach harbor in mid-morning that Sunday, Ren wanted to pilot the boat out of the harbor.

I figured with a 3-mile-an-hour speed limit, it shouldn’t be a problem. It was Ren’s first and only time to pilot the King Midas out of a harbor; his lack of experience and skill at the helm almost truly resulted in a maritime disaster

I was straddling the bow as we moved out of the harbor at the 3-mile limit. Suddenly, Ren shouted that a 30-foot sail boat was headed straight for us and we were on a collision course!  I yelled at him that sailboats had the right of way! He was frozen at the wheel. I shouted that he should go full speed forward to the right to avoid the sailboat.

Ren, ignoring my command, jerked my boat to the left of the sailboat, giving the engine full power!  Fortunately, we missed the sailboat by two feet. Unfortunately, his turning us to the left put my boat on a  collision course with a 60-foot sailboat moored to the dock. By a miracle, we missed the luxury sailboat by three feet, powering parallel past its entire structure.

What happened next was unbelievable. King Midas created a wake of two to three feet that rocked the sleek sailboat. The eight guests on the teak deck drinking their wine and eating their brunch saw their wine glasses and quiche disappear from their tables. Not only did all of the place settings disappear, they landed in the harbor!  Half full wine glasses and their expensive brunch now at the bottom of the ocean!

I craned my neck as we moved out of the harbor to check out the damage, but was treated to the most vile swear words one could imagine. The volume and uniqueness of the swear words was mind-boggling. The women were worse than the men. Their yelling was so loud that you cold hardly make out the obscenities.  All over spilled wine, mostly. Of course, the wake did ruin their brunch, have to give them that.

I fully expected that we would once again meet our friends, the Coast Guard.  Fortunately, they were probably having breakfast also and gave us a pass. I would have pointed out that Ren was the temporary captain.

You won’t believe it, but two miles from the Santa Barbara harbor we ran out of gas. I had told Ren to fill it up, but I should have checked. We, of course, radioed the Coast Guard for assistance. Thank goodness a different Coast Guard cutter showed up and asked us why we were dead in the water. I think I blamed our problem on the carburetor, which in a way was true. Because we were only a mile from the harbor, they simply tossed us, once again, a rope and towed us into the Santa Barbara harbor. We finally made it!

I had a great time sailing out of the Santa Barbara harbor for a year, albeit short distances. Sheila and I moved to Oakland after a year and I sold the boat to a young man eager to pilot his first real boat. I figured his experience in sailing on an ocean was even less than mine.

A year later, almost to the day, my secretary in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office said there was an insurance adjuster from Santa Barbara that wanted to discuss the King Midas. I picked up the phone, laughing, and the adjuster, a Mr. Ron, was highly offended. Ron wanted to know why I was laughing before he even talked to me.

I told him that any call from an insurance adjuster concerning the Midas was not going to be good news for the King! Upset, he said that “As a matter of fact, the King Midas had sunk to the bottom of the Santa Barbara Harbor!”

Did I have any knowledge of how that could occur? I told him that I sold the boat in perfect condition and I was totally surprised that the King was apparently now dead under water.

I told him that he might check the engine hoses to see if they had been sliced. Incredibly, Ron hung up on me! The King Midas, unfortunately, was the first and last boat I ever owned. Almost bought a 40-foot Owens 20 years ago, and then Sheila reminded me of the King Midas. I bought a cabin instead. Haven’t stayed overnight in three years. I am going to identify my cabin as a boat, the King Midas 2, and sell it!

Robert Quall is a former Merced County Superior Court judge and Merced resident who helped establish the Maasai Medical Mission non-profit organization. The group takes annual trips to impoverished regions of Africa to provide healthcare services and other support.

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