This year, May 7, the opening day of boating season was gray and rainy. I couldn’t remember any day in spring as cold and depressing. Several folks recall the year 1978 was similar. All those summers on the Gus Arno, we would have gray days, but it was always warmish, or perhaps it was the brandy-flavored with coffee that made it so.
We endured that kind of a day in the early mornings with lots of laughter. Those who had not acquired their sea legs huddled under blankets near the comfort station. A guest who lived on Three-Tree Point was supposed to show, but he flagged a speed boat and caught up with us at the last minute. He was welcomed by the then rain-soaked crew. Miraculously, he ripped open a large cardboard box and produced extra-large plastic bags, all of which happened to be our exact sizes.
The Gus Arno was built within the standards of Coast Guard and police requirements and became a part of the boating community. Most weekends we would ready our freshly carpeted watercraft for the upcoming outings.
John Gilbert, the captain, Jack Hendricks, admiral and builder, and I, ship’s doctor, boarded John’s El Camino, called El Rancho, in the quest for carpeting for the Gus. It was to be a necessary purchase due to the wayward splinters in the unfinished wood floor. We hit all the used goods stores with little or no luck. Stopping after a few brews, we peered into a dumpster in a dark alley. There, rolled in a large, tight bundle, was a nearly new gold carpet!
After the captain announced that it was a sign from above, we loaded it into El Rancho. The next day we unraveled it onto the forward salon — it fit perfectly! Talk about style. Anyone who spilled anything on our find would have to run around the Gus three times unclothed for punishment. It was rumored this occurred without it having to do with a spill. There were really very few rules.
One favorite fuel stop was the Hungry Turtle on Lake Union. Although crew members brought many beverages, ice and treats lasting an entire voyage, we still enjoyed tying to the cocktail lounge glass door to socialize. We were obliged to enter and have any number of cocktails inside but were not allowed to carry any out.
Not far from the Turtle was a high rise about to be built, but it never got beyond the concrete footing. It was perfect moorage — it was free. Never were there any major costs involved with decorating the Gus. Used materials and items were offered by friends and accepted with gratitude.
One hydroplane day cruise, we were asked by a passing boater, “Is Jack Hendricks there?” Standing near the ship’s cocktail lounge, I opened a lid to a container and yelled, “Jack, someone is here to see you.” Then closing the lid, I said, “He’ll be up as soon as he finishes the last game of eight-ball.” Another passing boater was clearly disgruntled and yelled, “Is that outhouse a sanitary facility?”
We answered in the affirmative that we were connected to Metro.
We planned a cruise one Saturday morning and called it the 12 gallons of fuel day. We motored east to the back side of Mercer Island to Kennydale. It was a perfect day for the Gus Arno. In the distance we heard country music, and it was live! Drifting in the direction of the music, we saw party guests dressed in country attire, dancing and getting it on. So nice to have live music this day. Suddenly someone yelled through a microphone, “Get your ass over here!” How could we reject an invite like that? We invited some of them aboard and noted they loved our craft. Then they motioned to the open barbeques with ribs and chicken along with an open bar.
We came to find out they were the owners and staff of country KAYO radio! Very popular everywhere! They were all dressed to the nines and here we were with cutoffs and bikinis. Drinks in hand and full of ribs, we were offered shots of Cactus Silk, a very smooth tequila. Dancing and toasting the band, we were introduced to Buck Ritchie, the voice of KAYO.
One of our crew members, Ray Kicker, a teacher at Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting Engineers, joined the band and played just about anything that created music. He sat in on drums at first, then the keyboard, saxophone and even sang with the influence of Cactus Silk. Soon, one by one, our crew went down a big slide into the pool. Some wearing star-studded attire and females with high fashioned hair all ended up in the pool.
It was time out for the Silk. No one got sick, thankfully, as the “I quit” flag went up. Then, under cover of darkness, just before the sun set, we slipped into the night in our nautically decorated ship and aimed the Gus northwest. Turning on the Coast Guard-approved lights that shined all the way mid-lake, we connected our other gas tank. The Silk was kicking in and we all nodded off. The car traffic on the bridge brought us back to reality, and we proceeded to park on the north side of Madison Park beach dock.
Our presence was seen on the lake on most sunny days. By the end of May, most of us had already leapt into the lake. When summer arrived, we were sporting pretty decent tans. Soon on Friday nights at the 410, The Broadway and our local taverns, it was common to hear statements like, “Hey, we saw you on TV!” or “Saw you at so and so’s lakeside party!” The Gus and its illustrious crew were in demand.
We might have been classified as renegades but really, we only wanted to be accepted in the community of boating and to be invited to the events. By all indications, we were!