A Kid Growing up in Marina del Rey

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Posted by Dave on May 10, 2009 at 13:44:12:

The recent photo of the submerged truck towing a small skiff at the launch ramps at Marina del Rey reminds me of how as a kid I used sneak into that SeaBees place because I was curious as to what was inside.

Fishermans Village also had this attraction, I don't remember what it was called, Undersea Gardens or something like that. It was a partial floating, partially submerged giant box. Once inside above water, you descended down in and took a seat below. There were windows all around, and through them, you were looking into a giant salt water eco-system. They had sharks, tuna, yellowtail, rays, reef rock, and all the usual stuff. I wish I could find photos of that!

We lived on a sailboat on Palawan Way, and real early in the morning I used to row my dinghy from about Mothers Beach to Fishermans Village where the attraction was docked. I would gather up dead anchovies from the fishing dock and tie a small piece of fishing string without a hook to the anchovy, and rowing right up to the outside of the aquarium, I would "fish" for "big game" lol.

Every once in awhile a staffer would come by thinking I was using a hook on the fishing line, and before they even had a chance to go postal, I would lift it up and show them it was an anchovy and there was no hook. A few told me I couldn't do it because others would think I was using a hook, but most left me alone then.

My mom passed away when I was 13 and left my brother and myself a small coin collection. My brother and I wanted to sell it to be able to buy scuba gear, as we had been skin diving along the north side of the MdR breakwater and the backside of the front breakwater....yes, at 12 years old, with just my 13 year old brother. My grandpa bought the coin collection from us, so at 13 my brother and I got certified at a MdR dive shop which ran an NASDS training facility. Thank goodness my grandpa had the wisdom to preserve in the family something that should have stayed in the family, as it is now the only thing I have that my mom gave my brother and I.

Sadly, that dive store on Lincoln Blvd eventually became a Thai restuarant, but those were the days when the dive class had a dozen students in it. Nothing like being certified by Mr. Wreck Diver himself, Bill Wilson.

Growing up in MdR was an adventure in itself. I learned to swim, or more correctly, learned to be freaked out by mucky bottoms on Mothers Beach.

For fun I would row our 6 foot dinghy from Palawan Way to the backside of the front breakwater and fish there. I would rope a plastic 5 gallon bucket with holes in to the dinghy transom, then go to the anchovy bait dock. If they were open they would always say I had to buy a 1/2 scoop for $5, which I never had, nor would ever use that much, I just needed a dozen or so anchovies, so I just went before they opened, netted a few for my live bait bucket, and slipped two quarters under the window.

From there I would row all the way out to the backside of the front breakwater and fish. Pretty much the only thing I ever caught was Queenfish, they people would erroneously call either herring, or croakers. Even at 12 I was a wannebee marine biologist. I sometimes anchored to the breakwater, and climbed onto it, trying to avoid the guano while checking out the cool brown pelicans. Rats were everywhere on the north and south breakwater, as were these REALLY creeped out things that look like parasitic centipedes. And the little buggers are fast AND huge.

My Dad finally bought a twin hull dinghy, sort of like a catamaran. We rowed that too, till we finally convinced by Dad to buy an outboard motor. We thought we were going to have a blast with that, but all they liked to do was putt-putt and look at other boats, we wanted high speed adventure! We had to settle for a 2 horsepower Johnson outboard. At least we didn't have blisters anymore from rowing, and it cut down on the time it took in half to get anywhere.

If it was just me, with no gear, if I leaned forward just out of reach of the outboard steering arm, I could get it to just barely come up on a plane on a good day. I would sometimes hang out in the main entrance channel, and wait for the fishing party boat called the Betty-O and this one particular anchovy netting boat to come, both threw up a good wake, but the anchovy boat, man, I could surf that wake with my dinghy!

Once there was a run of bonito and barracuda, and my 2 friends and myself motored the dinghy all the way out to El Segundo beaches and caught 22 bonito and 7 barracuda. I had way more than I could eat, which ended up being a waste. My conscience was rightly guilty even at that age, and I vowed to never make that moral mistake again.

At times when I was bored I would hang my head over the floating docks of the boat slips and start at the growth of marine life invariably swarming the fiberglass squares. it was there that I first saw what I now know are skeleton shrimp. I guess the whole macro admiration thing has never left me!

Boys Market east of Fishermans Village was the only real supermarket in the area. They had a painted motto which was "Where Boys Love Girls". George was the store manager. He liked to wear eyeliner and other makeup. I once found an intercom near the rear vegetable stands, I keyed the microphone and announced to the whole store: " Hello shoppers, this is George the manager speaking. Welcome to Boys Market, where our motto is "Where Boys Love Boys". We ran out as fast as we could while listening to the employees cackling.

They used to have some real old sailing ship at Fishermans Village as a tourist attraction. My brother and I would sneak onto it and give ourselves a free guided tour. The highlight there though was the Hot Dog on a Stick stand. We never had enough money to eat, so I was a scrawny kid always hungry. The few times I could afford a 50 cent hot dog on a stick and a 50 cent lemonade, I was in heaven.

My brother came up with this great business idea that we would clean the hulls of boats, but I was not interested as the murky, mucky waters inside the bay always gave me the creeps. I still hate it I descend feet first and my feet hit the bottom before I can see it. Local Channel island diving was the antidote!

When they would shoot huge fireworks off the north breakwater jetty, they would rope off the top to prevent pedestrians from getting anywhere near, so that means I would don my black turtleneck sweat and black seamen's beanie and sneak along the rocks at the waterline, then sneak up and watch them light the fuses from about 20 feet away. Those big aerial mortar fireworks are as loud when they launch as when they explode and a cool smoke ring shoots up 30 feet when they launch.

The whole MdR area always had some adventure waiting. I learned to fly hang gliders at the Dockweiller sand dune, and even once flew off the hillside south of Lincoln Blvd where Hughes Aircraft was. I promptly got kicked out, at 14 years old, when I landed at the bottom by a Hughes security guard, but not before the security guard said something to the effect that Hughes Aircraft admires anyone who has the pioneering spirit of flight in them.

I remember once when lifeguards patrolling the beaches up and down were on their PA system announcing a grey whale was headed towards the Venice pier. We hoped on our bikes and pedaled as fast as we could, and staged ourselves midway on the pier. Sure enough, there came a large gray whale, and it swam right underneath us to the other side. We could see every part of the top of him or her.

We had always watched Jacques Cousteu, Mike Nelson of Sea Hunt and Flipper, so with that spark, when we got certified, we dove all over the MdR breakwater, including the frontside of the front breakwater at night. We usually ended up with 1 or 2 lobster.

In 10th grade, once class had a hobby show and tell session, and I brought in my aluminum 80, my US Divers Conshelf regulator, and my horse collar BC that I had a tank inflator hose added, something nobody else in my certification class had. Can you imagine orally inflating your BC?! That is what everyone did then. I bought it all from New England Divers because they had the lowest price I could barely afford, and they had a "free air for life" policy f you bought a tank from them. Plus US Divers had these cool black tanks with a yellow chevron on them which was sort of like Sergeant bars. I repainted the tank once, and US Divers was nice enough to male me new stickers, including the ever needed yellow chevron sticker.

The MdR Harbor Patrol was always out and about, but they never gave us any problem as we were never really up to any no-good. We did sneak regularly into the Marina del Rey Twin Towers, which are now 3. We would throw paper airplanes and small balsa gliders off the inside top. We also liked to use their swimming pool, and 25% of the time, we would not get caught and kicked out by the security guards.

Living on a boat is a rather noisy affair, as in a breeze all the ropes and cables that go up tot eh mast pulley rhythmically slap the hollow aluminum masts. All night long, you could hear the snaps, crackles and pops of marine life through the ferro-cement hull of our sailboat, but you got used to it.

Now days the Marina management discourages live aboards, and the land portions are chocked full of condos compared to the open fields that used to be there where would would fund shells everywhere, even all the way back to the Culver City border.

Marina del Rey was a great place to grow up, and it was a great place to be a kid.


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