Letter to San Juan County
Reply from San Juan County
Entire Court Case
For names and addresses of the culprits, go here

San Juan County Government
Friday Harbor, Washington

Another Washington State Embarrassment
An Editorial---This Site Includes "Our Opinions"

San Juan County's PWC Ban---an "Inside Job"

Is it denial or deception which motivates people of this ilk?

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The lead proponent of the jet ski ban was a citizens group ramroded by Mary Anne Anderson. How much you wanna bet she no longer checks her email.

If this foolish woman had possessed the intelligence to go after and legislate the offending behavior, regardless of what it was aboard, instead of what she perceived to be the offending machinery (and then the machinery she outlawed was only a drop in the bucket), she would have accomplished twice as much in half the time with a quarter the effort. No one would hate her except the obnoxious pleasure boaters, and who cares about them. As it stands this woman has insulted the intelligence of every San Juan Islander. They must live knowing the world views them as backwoods hillbillies. Her law has not saved one bird or fish, nor will it ever. Had she listened to the reason of the two dissenting judges, San Juan County would have legislation it could be proud of, legislation that would have actually worked, and legislation which would have made the county a quieter, safer place for you, me, and the critters. Mary Anne Anderson's heroic efforts should go down in the Guinness Book as the biggest waste of time in Washington's history. Indeed, our society seems to take two steps forward and three steps backward. This woman has set in motion a sequence of events which will take years to undo, and will take decades for San Juan County to live down. This is a tale straight out of Lil' Abner and Dogpatch, USA.

Copyright (c) 2003 All Rights Reserved

Recently San Juan County Government banned all so-called "personal watercraft" (aka PWC, jet skis, wave runners) from the navigable salt water of San Juan County, Washington state.

Before we begin, let's take a look at San Juan County, geographically and otherwise.

San Juan County is a gorgeous little archipelago about 60 miles NW of Seattle.

The sun shines there. The wind blows little. The protected coves are many and the scenery is breathtaking.


In the 60's and even into the 70's, we used to spend our winters fishing commercially in the area. Friday Harbor was a quiet little fishing village, a pleasant cove to wait out a storm or sell some fish and have a meal. It was peaceful, serene, and slow.  Land was cheap, and life was good.

Uh Oh. If this outboard is fitted with a jet-pump---and it probably is (the water color indicates it's in a river where jet-drives are popular), then....guess what? It's illegal in San Juan County. See that guy straddling the pontoon? That's a no-no in San Juan County, as it meets the county's definition of a "PWC". Swap out the seat and it's perfectly legal. Ruff....ruff-ruff.....ruff.... (the sound of a BARKING-MAD county commissioner).

I remember in the Sixties asking some old-time San Juan Islanders what it was like in the Islands during the Great Depression. One of the gentleman rubbed his scruffy chin reflectively, and replied, "Yeah, we remember hearing something about that."

While "the place" was nice, the people (the "indigenous population") left much to be desired. They tend to be mostly scallywags, habitually dishonest, uneducated (but arrogant), often criminal. The entire abalone fishery in San Juan County was utterly wiped out and completely and irrevocably destroyed by one (one) individual over a period of years, for instance. Today he advertises his conquest on the side of his boat. This is Green Acres, or "Dogpatch USA", replete with "Lil' Abner" characters of dubious, or worse, repute. We operated a salvage and rescue company for many years which also served San Juan County. In every single case, bar none, if a damaged, sinking, sunk, burning, grounded or otherwise imperiled vessel was rescued or recovered by us, we didn't get paid unless the vessel was insured. It was guaranteed that if a vessel with a home port in San Juan County was not insured, its owner WOULD NOT pay its bills. Fortunately, under maritime law, the vessel itself is responsible for its own bills, and in every single case of an uninsured casualty in San Juan County, we were forced to legally seize the vessel and sell it at auction to obtain payment for the rescue or salvage. To say that the indigenous population of San Juan County is largely dishonest, lazy and financially irresponsible would be a gross understatement. Without its people, San Juan County would be the prettiest place on earth. As it stands it's a nice PLACE -- if you can avoid its born-and-bred residents.

Is this a PWC?

But as happens to all nice places around the world sooner or later, something happened to The San Juan Islands. Mostly what happened to it was Seattle. Gradually the San Juans became the weekend getaway for affluent Seattlites. These people had to go somewhere. They had ruined or polluted, chemically and socially, all the pretty little spots around the city. So they overflowed into the San Juans. They needed fresh territory to pollute and corrupt.

Is this a PWC?

As the land-grab got under weigh, prices soared. Soon, land in the San Juans was available almost exclusively only to affluent Seattle doctors, attorneys, judges and the ilk. In short order that crowd came to rule San Juan County. And that's the way it's been ever since.

Is THIS a PWC? It's capabilities far exceed San Juan County's definition of a PWC, yet it can operate in San Juan County with total impunity because the operator doesn't "straddle" the seat. Is this madness? Of course it is.

With that crowd migrated the tourist trade. San Juan County is now arguably Washington's hottest tourist area.

Jet-drive propelled. Exceeds every handling and speed capability of any PWC built as of this date. Does THIS vessel disturb the "peace and tranquility" of San Juan County? Of course it does---to a degree several times that of any modern PWC. But it's legal to operate in the San Juans, all day, and all night, right in front of your beach-home. Why? Because your County Commissioners figured if they tried to ban this vessel, their stupidity and bias would finally shine through and they'd be laughed out of court. Ah, but the San Juans are SOOO much safer now....

Ironically, San Juan County's new residents were exactly the people San Juan County's new residents were trying to leave behind in Seattle. (We have met the enemy, and they is us, etc.).

Oh my God. It's the Hell's Angels. Outlaw it quick!

As is the cycle with all such mentalities, San Juan County's newbies started looking for ways to keep the rest of the world out of their playground.

This vessel is 15 feet in length. If you equip it with a prop-powered outboard, sporting a nice, big, razor-sharp stainless steel propeller which slices and dices its way through swimmers, snorkelers, skiffs, marine life, whales, it is perfectly legal to operate in San Juan County. But if you equip it with a jet-pump type outboard, which causes perhaps twenty or forty times less damage when it hits something, it's illegal in San Juan County (note the straddle-type seat). Ain't it nice to know your government respects your intelligence and has nothing but your best interests at heart? "I" shore feel safer!

I recall an incident in about 1991 or '92. I was crossing Friday Harbor in a pram at about 3 knots with my young son. The harbor was a veritable demolition derby of ski boats and Boston Whalers flitting here and there as fast and as recklessly as they could. You took your life in your hands just trying to cross the cove. After a dozen near-misses I was appalled to see an over-powered skiff head straight for us a full throttle, zig-zagging wildly this way and that. The vessel missed us by perhaps a foot. The driver didn't slow, didn't acknowledge us, made no attempt to apologize. We changed course and finally met the man and his family at the dock where they were disembarking. I told him what I thought of his recklessness. Turns out he was a local minister.

Here's a jet-drive boat capable or nearly 100 mph. It has been heavily modified, as most boats of this type are. It can turn, for all intents and purposes, as quickly as a PWC. It weighs far in excess of a personal watercraft, meaning it can inflict far, far more damage if improperly operated. This vessel is perfectly legal in San Juan County.

Recklessness isn't a function exclusively of the young, nor is it limited to the owners of certain types of cars, vessels or airplanes. I've flown extensively, and have endured and survived a number of near-mid-airs. In every single case of a near-miss, the offending aircraft has been a Bonanza. Other pilots have near-misses with all sorts of other aircraft, but for me, coincidentally, it's been a Bonanza every single time. If I were an illogical human being, even stupid, and especially if I were these things and also politically powerful, I might endeavor to introduce legislation which outlawed all Bonanza aircraft in any airspace I was likely to travel through. If I were powerful enough, perhaps I could accomplish it.


Let's see......is it a bird? A plane? No, it's---what the hell IS it? It's not a zodiac. There's a guy in the starboard bow who seems like he's....just maybe he's.....STRADDLING something. Quick! Call the Coast Guard! This might be a PWC! Naw....it's just a pontoon boat. Maybe it's illegal too though. You just never know.

We watch television commercials every night which portray automobiles driving recklessly, illegally and dangerously. For many years the Chevy Camaro was, for instance, statistically one of the most recklessly operated vehicles on America's highways. I am not aware of a single effort directed at removing Chevy Camaros from the road, or even banning them from certain areas. Such logic would have been, and should be, considered nothing short of madness.

Vessels just like this are found throughout San Juan County's waters, both on the navigable salt waters and in lakes. It travels as fast or faster than a PWC, can turn MORE QUICKLY (this vessel can turn literally in its own length at slower speeds---a PWC cannot) (this vessel can turn LESS quickly at higher speeds, meaning that it has a poorer chance of avoiding marine life---or your yacht), is far heavier and therefore more dangerous than a PWC, tends to travel in "multiple numbers", is built to go fast and is advertised as "a thrilling ride", sports a propeller which chews up any marine life it hits (a PWC inflicts almost no damage to anything it hits because it has NO MACHINERY which extends below the hull), but this vessel is legal---even welcomed in San Juan County(!) because it is too long to fall within San Juan County's 16 foot size restriction---and it sports a prop which virtually annihilates anything it hits, and because the operator sits in a seat as opposed to straddling a seat. More madness? You bet.

As a commercial skipper for much of my life, I have often entertained the notion of having enough money, power and arrogance to remove all pleasure craft from all waters of the world. Think how much easier would be the jobs of commercial skippers everywhere if we weren't forced to navigate not only the potentially tricky waterways of the world, but also the seemingly mindless antics of pleasure boaters, the vast majority of whom are poorly, if at all, trained, and often not the brightest bulbs in the string. I spent nine years rescuing them from Coos Bay to Alaska (321 times successfully, and I've ungrounded the Coast Guard twice). I know my subject.

Jet powered? Well, actually, YES. It uses a jet of air to propel itself, instead of a jet of water, but San Juan County never stipulated the medium a craft must push against, so anything that propels itself with any kind of "jet" is automatically suspect. These craft travel at 60 mph+, the little models like these usually feature a straddle-seat as opposed to a sit-down seat. They are slightly MORE maneuverable than a PWC, they are about 25 times as noisy, they not only travel "near" the shoreline, they can move across land AND water (right through your yard if they so desire) and (here's the kicker) they travel (dare I say it?) IN MULTIPLE NUMBERS!!!! OH MY GOD THE HORROR! Call the SWAT team quick!

But we live in a society, and our resources are finite, and there is no room for hoarders or mongers. We also live in a Democracy. That means that there is supposed to be logical legal recourse against bullies.

San Juan County argued in court that "since PWC were more likely to be modified than other types of vessels, they should not be allowed in San Juan County (we can't really find the logic here but let's go with it anyway). The argument is utter nonsense, supported by NO science, NO studies, only the outrageous personal opinions of the San Juan County Government. Above is a nasty little outboard that has been modified in the extreme. No judge with one single fleck of common sense or real-life experience would have bought this argument. So why was it bought, hook, line and sinker by no less than five (5) Washington Supreme Court judges? Either they are utterly and totally incompetent and should be knocked off the bench for the good of the community, or it was "an inside job".

San Juan County's "indigenous" population is relatively poor, made up mostly of commercial fishermen, shipwrights, and minimum wage workers.  San Juan County's affluent easily control the born-and-raised, and Democracy there must struggle to live.

Is this thrill-craft welcome in San Juan County? Of course!

San Juan County won the right to ban all personal watercraft from the navigable inland waters of San Juan County Washington. The county cited all manner of reasons, some borderline logical, most barking-mad. But amazingly, San Juan County gained a ruling in their favor. So far the (newest) ruling hasn't been challenged.

There are plans to motorize this thing and others like it. Would it then be a PWC in the eyes of San Juan County? Who knows! I suspect it would depend on the mood of the responding officer, and whether or not he/she personally liked the operator, liked the color yellow, or the moon was blue or the coyotes were howling. They could cite it, or not, at their whim. Based on the lack of integrity I have personally witnessed in law enforcement in the little hillbilly berg of San Juan County, whether or not you'd be cited would be a crap-shoot, dependent on the weather. Thanks again, San Juan County, for giving your law enforcement more power than they have brains to wield. It's only a matter of time before some rich retired judge from L.A. or some other slime-pit tries to operate something like this in the waters of San Juan County, gets cited, fights, wins, and then sues the county for a horrendous sum. What a bright bunch of Commissioners we have at the proverbial helm up there. My God where is their common sense?

San Juan County delights in its victory over the people, eager to remind us how "legal" their ruling was. But how did the county actually win in court? I submit it was an inside job, perpetrated by a handful of retired attorneys and judges playing the hoarding game. I suggest that a very few of San Juan County's "pretty" people planned and orchestrated the case, calling on their peers in the judicial system to pay off the odd marker.

Legal in San Juan County? Of course.

Let's look at the logic of their case. San Juan County asserts that a personal watercraft is:

"a vessel of less than sixteen feet (16') in length that is propelled by machinery, commonly a jet pump, and which is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel, rather tha[n] being operated by a person sitting or standing inside the vessel."

A PWC? Do you trust your local law enforcement to decide? Shouldn't a PWC be properly defined BEFORE the the tickets start flying?

The intelligent reader should already be afraid. Why? Because the case was won without defining a legal craft in San Juan County from an illegal craft on the same navigable waters. The above description accurately describes hundreds of thousands of vessels such as center-console inflatables which are "ridden" by straddling a fore and aft mounted seat, including but not limited to hundreds of thousands of fiberglass vessels built from the mid 1960's onwards with the same seat configuration, tens of thousands of which have been outfitted with jet drive propulsion. Not one of those vessels has been cited operating in San Juan County, and I submit that an experiment could be performed in which a dozen, or a hundred such vessels could be operated for several hours straight, in clear view of the Friday Harbor police boat, and that no citation would be issued. San Juan County has not properly described what type of vessel will be allowed and what will not be allowed, and law enforcement in that county has no intention of citing vessels it personally "likes", based simply on appearance. The type of seat a vessel employs to allow its rider to rest has zero bearing in identifying a vessel as a type, since seats may be changed at will, even on a PWC. If the owner of a sedan automobile were to take the seat out of the car and put another type of seat in the car in its place, would the sedan then become a truck? This kind of thinking is madness. If San Juan County is trying to assert that one type of seat is more or less dangerous to the rider than another, then let's see the statistics showing accident rates between boat operators who are seated on a PWC, and boat operators who stand while they run a Boston Whaler at 70 mph plus. Even if that argument showed PWC in a poor light, which it does not, the point could not be used to demonstrate a threat to the tranquility and peace of the San Juan Islands, nor could it be used to demonstrate a danger to local wildlife. I know of no incidents on record of someone being thrown from their boat and their body striking and injuring or killing a bird. San Juan County's argument is nonsense from any angle.

This craft may legally buzz around (and around) your yacht lying at anchor, or back and forth twenty feet off your dock or beach (until you stop it with a 12 gauge---an remedy we're not totally opposed to!). What fun! Once again, San Juan County must legislate the BEHAVIOR. It cannot legislate every single boat off the water---though there are undoubtedly Gestapo mentalities in the San Juan County Commissioners who would like to try. After all, they're halfway there with this precedence regarding PWC!

San Juan County says:

PWCs are capable of high speeds, up to 60 MPH, have a high degree of maneuverability. Operation typically includes rapid changes of direction, rare travel in straight lines, and frequent operation in multiple numbers in a confined area. Operators are expected [to] be in contact with the water either by spray or falling overboard. PWCs are small and have a shallow draft which allows them to be operated at high speeds close to shore.

See what I mean....VERN? 

San Juan County mysteriously ignores the fact that there are more "traditional" vessels on the water, in operation today as ski boats, which are capable of far in excess of 60 mph. Yet San Juan County has shown no interest whatsoever in banning these vessels. The issue of speed is rendered null and void as a component in specifically banning PWCs from the navigable waters of San Juan County. If you're going to ban one vessel because of its speed, you're going to ban them all. You cannot pick and choose, and say, "Well, the blue ones go fast, and the red ones go even faster. But since I only like the red ones, I'm going to ban all the blue ones, because the blue ones go too fast". This would be, of course, madness, which is exactly what we have in the San Juan County Government.

Heartily welcomed in San Juan County and perfectly legal. It's a jet drive capable of around 100 mph. Good thing it's big and heavy, so it can slice right through your yacht and hardly lose any speed at all. Do you smell the insanity YET? Or are you still playing Ostrich...

San Juan County complains of the maneuverability of so-called PWCs, as opposed to......what? Virtually all inflatables will turn in their own length. I know of no PWCs that can accomplish this. The issue of maneuverability is null and void as a component in seeking to ban all so-called PWCs from the navigable inland waters of San Juan County on the basis that PWCs can turn quickly, therefore they are a hazard to marine life. If you are going to start banning vessels in San Juan County based on their turning radius, then you must ban all vessels which can turn in an equal or shorter radius. To do otherwise is utterly discriminatory, and therefore illegal. It is madness.

Legal? Yes once again---capabilities far exceed almost any PWC. Note the nice, sharp, pointy nose---goes through slab-sided yachts like a prison sheave through a ripe, warm kidney. MMMMmmmm.....comforting. Sleep well while anchored in Friday Harbor, because the San Juan County government has PROTECTED you. (now we just need protection from THEM).

And what about the length issue? San Juan County is stating, for the record, that a vessel that is 15 feet, 10 inches, which can travel at speeds in excess of 60 mph, which can turn sharply, and which features a straddle-type seat as opposed to a sit-down, bucket seat, is a hazard to the marine life of San Juan County, and, further, that craft which fit this description are so blatantly dangerous and objectionable that they must be banned from the county entirely. Yet San Juan County says, for the record, that if a vessel which boasts all the above capabilities, yet is three inches longer, is no threat whatsoever to anything or anyone in the county. In fact, San Juan County is stating, for the record, that any vessel which might far exceed the undesirable capabilities of their definition of a PWC, is perfectly allowable, even welcome in the county, as long as it has a bucket seat as opposed to a straddle seat! Again, this is madness, madness, madness!

Tiny balloon-powered painter's tray. Look like fun? Soon to be banned in San Juan County (balloons, you know---dangerous. Or something. Haven't you heard?)

I spent one of the most miserable nights of my life a few years back, moored to the dock in Friday Harbor while probably the most---bar none---outrageous party raged on in a building overlooking the harbor. It continued unabated into the wee hours of the morning. I had to get up and dive the following day, and the party was absolutely irresponsible and unconscionable. Why weren't the police called to break it up? Because it was hosted by the county government of San Juan County! (as I recall it was hosted by the mayor himself), and attended by sheriff, the harbormaster and most county government employees and elected officials. Who ya gonna call? San Juan County contends, for the record, that most tourists come to the San Juans to experience peace and tranquility, and that PWC should be barred from the county because they impinge on this supposed peace and tranquility. I say ban the mayor, the sheriff, the harbormaster and the county commissioners and anyone else who was involved in that night-from-Hell, even on the periphery. San Juan County has openly stated in court that people who act like this are not wanted in San Juan County---so relocate 'em. Now. Today. Get these people out of the county so that its delicate sensibilities will no longer be assaulted. "I" was certainly in the San Juans to experience and enjoy some peace and tranquility, and this gaggle of beer-boozing boobs, in their supreme arrogance, smuggery and smarm, deprived me (and the entire marina) of it utterly, and that includes the wildlife of this ecologically sensitive region. What's good for one is good for all; in for a penny, in for a pound, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. This is one of the most hypocritical issues raised by the San Juan County Commissioners. May they rot in hell.

Ah, the choice of all retired judges, doctors and attorneys and their snot-nosed grandkids everywhere. Jet-powered, under 16 feet, turns SHARPER than a PWC (it's easily documented and proven, folks);  soup it up and it will do 60 mph---Oops. This is PERFECTLY LEGAL in San Juan County. Why? Because the spoiled grandsons of the county's retired judges must terrorize the area with SOMETHING, right? I mean, after all, you couldn't ask them to ROW the two hundred yards across Friday Harbor, right? My God! The Horror! The HORROR! (So let's either legislate the obnoxious, reckless, dangerous behavior of local ministers, punks and other obvious vermin and Evil Doers, or let's GET BOATS LIKE THIS OFF THE WATER!). One remedy to this whole mess would be to begin a serious and concerted crusade to remove vessels just like this from the waters of San Juan County, Washington. Why not? Seriously, why not? The FACTS and the LOGIC and the SCIENCE will easily prove that the vessel shown above is exactly as unwelcome in the county, given the county's court arguments. If the county is going to ban one thing, it must ban an almost identical thing. I wonder how fast San Juan County would back down then...

San Juan County laments that operators of PWC frequently operate in multiple numbers. Therefore, one might surmise, San Juan County is trying to assert that they are a danger to marine life. In point of fact, PWC traveling in "multiple numbers" are (1) assuring themselves a greater degree of safety through redundancy, and are therefore far less likely to require rescue resources---a savings to the state and Federal government, but more significantly and to the point, PWC operators traveling in multiple numbers are going to be far less likely to invade posted, marked or otherwise recognized sanctuary areas because peer pressure will prevent it. A lone ski boat may be tempted to harass a whale (I see it every time I go through the San Juans and whales are present), while a group of boats together (i.e. PWC in "multiple numbers") will be less likely to harass the wildlife because no one in the group will be sure there isn't someone in the group who violently objects. Even disregarding these arguments altogether, ski boats and other recreational craft are often found traveling in groups. So how many in a group is objectionable to San Juan County? Is San Juan County now going to appoint itself to place a concrete limit on the number of vessels it will allow to travel together? Is this the level of arrogance the San Juan County government has come to? If San Juan County wishes to stipulate that PWC are a threat to marine life because they tend to travel in multiple numbers, then (1) define what a multiple number is. Two vessels together? Three? Eleven? And (2) once this magical number has been arrived at, it must be applied evenly and even-handedly to ALL vessels who wish to travel in "multiple numbers". Let's be fair.

Who knows what the hell this thing is. It's not a product of Photoshop. It's a "fireboat". How long would it take San Juan County to ban it? Heck---maybe it SHOULD be banned, just because it's ugly! Why not drive through San Juan County with this thing, get cited, take it to court, and therein document the arbitrary nature of San Juan's utterly stupid law?

 San Juan County laments:

Operators are expected [to] be in contact with the water either by spray or falling overboard.

What relevance does this have to anything at all?

Yep---I'd SHORE like to have this guy razzing back and forth in front of my beach cabin for an hour some Sunday morning. Well, guess what---it's perfectly LEGAL, because San Juan County didn't legislate BEHAVIOR, they legislated a type of craft! Ain't the county smart? Remember, you're paying the wages of this gaggle of nitwits! And you're footing the bill when the county gets sued for discrimination---and loses. It's a Democracy, after all, and these are the people you've CHOSEN. Congratulations.

San Juan County complains:

PWCs are small and have a shallow draft which allows them to be operated at high speeds close to shore.

Is this a PWC? The outboard may or may not be fitted with a jet pump. If it is, it's illegal in the San Juans. If it isn't, it's legal. Smart, huh?

PWCs do have a shallow draft. When I worked out of Friday Harbor as a salvage diver, I worked on many dozens of vessels every year which had run aground because (1) their operators were stupid and (2) their vessels had a deeper draft than a PWC which meant they were far more likely to hit the rocks when they "mis-navigated" (pretty-much an every day occurrence for most yachtsmen). Let's see now, if a PWC draws three inches at speed, and a yuppy sloop draws twenty four times that, then simple math dictates that the yuppy sloop is twenty four times as likely to hit bottom given the same navigational error. Oops---that's not correct. The fact of the matter is that San Juan County laments that PWC tend to travel in "multiple numbers". That means there's a greater chance that someone in the group will recognize a navigational error and steer the group clear. So, in this regard, PWC are far safer than the yuppy sloop, and inflict far less damage to underwater habitat. How much damage to marine life and marine habitat is done by these witless sailboat boobs every single season? Most who paid me to correct their navigational bloopers were doctors, attorneys and judges from Seattle.

Is this vessel, an official law enforcement boat used by the state of Hawaii, legal or illegal in San Juan County, Washington? Turns out, it's ILLEGAL. It satisfies ALL of the criteria in the county's legislation. So here we would have San Juan County law enforcement turning on its own kind. Does illogic and stupidity in government scare you? Are you scared yet? I am!

But what San Juan County is actually trying to assert is that since PWC have shallow drafts, they are capable of operating closer to shore than the sailboats that doctors, attorneys and judges usually run aground in. PWC, therefore, the County seems to be arguing, are a far greater threat to marine life in the County than vessels which cannot move so close to shore. Even if this were true, which it clearly is not, what would be the solution? Ban ALL vessels which can travel close to shore! Ban the high-speed, glass-bottom tourist boat, for instance, which operates from Friday Harbor, and which purposely operates as close to shore as possible!---and for no purpose any more or less legitimate than the motivations of the PWC operators. Ban all the spoiled rich kids whose retired-judge Grandfathers bought them a hot little over-powered Zodiac which can run faster than a so-called PWC, which can maneuver far more quickly than a so-called PWC (it's documentable so don't bother arguing it), and which can operate exactly as close to shore as any so-called PWC. Why haven't these vessels been banned? Seriously---this is not a rhetorical question! The answer is simple---these are the chosen craft of doctors, attorneys and retired judges from Seattle. Oh yeah---and of local ministers with far more horsepower than brains or manners. I say, ban 'em all, or ban none. Let's try to at least appear to be logical and fair here.

This is a sardine can fitted with a flare, which could easily be construed as a "jet drive" by mindless county commissioners somewhere over the rainbow. Radar guns have shown that this little beggar can achieve 60 mph (actual speed, not scale speed) (they run on a wire across a pond in the NE). Since any operator (a mouse, let's say) would have to straddle the "seat", this vessel is outlawed in San Juan County. Ludicrous, you say? Of course it is.

In no other industry, in my travels around this hemisphere, have I encountered more stupidity, more corruption, more arrogance, more bias or more blind discrimination than in boating circles of the Pacific Northwest. It's shameful. Here's an example which so sadly makes this point. This is an actual transcript of a telephone conversation which took place some years ago when a gentleman was considering buying a diesel-powered Cruise-a-Home and mooring it at Shilshole Marina, near Seattle. I was present and attest to the absolute accuracy of the transcript, except that I have changed the real name of Shilshole's employee to "Bob". While this conversation refers to "houseboats", it nevertheless illustrates the mindless bias and stupid, counter-productive, illogical discrimination exhibited by those with a little bit of power against those who have none:

Titled: The Arrogance of Seattle Marinas

Call initiated at 9:24 a.m., 11-1-97.
Caller spoke with “Bob” at Shilshole as follows:
(Connect) Bob: Hello, Shilshole Marina.
Caller: Howdy. Who do I have here?
Bob: This is Bob.
Caller: Bob?
Bob: Yes, Bob.
Caller: Hi Bob. I have a question for you.
Bob: Okay.
Caller: Does Shilshole allow Cruise-a-Homes in the marina?
Bob: (long pause)(no answer)
Caller: Are you familiar with Cruise-a-Homes?
Bob: (slightly irritated) Oh yes, we know what Cruise-a-Homes are.
Caller: So does Shilshole allow them?
Bob: Well, you know, Cruise-a-Homes are kind of a negative.
Caller: A negative?
Bob: Yea, well, they are a negative. They could be a problem.
Caller: A problem?
Bob: Yea.
Caller: So does Shilshole allow Cruise-a-Homes or not?
Bob: (pause) No, we do not allow them.
Caller: And what is it, specifically, about Cruise-a-Homes that you object to?
Bob: Well, they are a negative. They are a houseboat.
Caller: What exactly is a houseboat? If I were to go looking for a boat to buy, how, exactly, would I know the boat was a houseboat? I mean, does a houseboat have certain measurements or something?
Bob: Well, a houseboat is a houseboat. It’s whatever the management decides is a houseboat.
Caller: Really? So the management does not have any criteria for deciding what is a houseboat, and what is not a houseboat?
Bob: It’s whatever the management decides is a houseboat. They can keep any boat they don’t like out of the marina.
Caller: So if the management decides, on any particular day, that a sailboat is a houseboat, then all sailboats could be banned from Shilshole?
Bob: Yes, I guess that’s right. The management has the say. The management decides what boats can be here.
Caller: I see. So the management could decide, for instance, that it no longer likes certain boats of any kind or description, like the management could say that on Tuesdays when the moon is blue, it will not allow any blue boats in the marina, no matter what they are, houseboat, cruiser, sailboat, whatever?
Bob: Well, yes. The management decides what it wants here. I don’t think there’s anything in the regulations about blue though---
Caller: ---But it could decide that and no one could stop them, right?
Bob: Yes, I guess so.
Caller: Do you have any objection to your comments going to the newspapers, Bob?
Bob: Well, I wouldn’t like that.
Caller: Sorry. Too late, Bob. They’re on their way.

Multiple numbers again. They just never learn, do they....


I don't know if the transcript was ever sent to the newspapers or not. I do know that, at the time, Shilshole had a number of Cruise-a-Homes moored at its docks on a permanent basis, and I also know that the Shilshole employee had no idea who the caller was, so there is no possibility of any kind of personal conflict. Shilshole thinks it's God. San Juan County thinks it's God. That is the point.

Perfectly legal in San Juan County, and coming to a shoreline near YOU! Heck---this is just too confusing. Let's outlaw ALL boats in San Juan County. Or at least let's outlaw all pleasure craft. (Serenity now! Serenity now!)

San Juan County whines further with regard to so-called PWCs:

The high speed of a PWC, the rapidity with which it can change direction and the waves and noise it produces cause disruption to other vessels, swimmers and divers and the natural environment. If the operators violate the law, they are almost impossible to apprehend because of the high speed and high maneuverability. Because they rarely travel in straight lines, the vessel speed cannot be easily determined. 

Jet powered, 80 miles an hour, operates in eight inches of water, it FAR exceeds virtually any and all capabilities of a PWC, except that it is as heavy as a ship (just think of the damage to your Bayliner!), and in addition to the incredible noise of hundreds of poorly muffled horsepower, you also have about 35 screaming yuppies to listen to. Kind of like a big carnival ride, huh? Ah, the peace and tranquility of San Juan County (it's legal there, of course).

Every single argument in the above paragraph applies straight across the board to ALL vessels of like capability which travel the navigable inland waters of San Juan County, Washington. If a vessel is too loud, cite it. Virtually every single "traditional" ski boat in operation in San Juan County produces significantly more noise than any modern PWC. This is easily borne out with a simple $50 decibel meter from Radio Shack. It's easily demonstrated in court. If operators violate the law, as San Juan County wants us to believe is the case with far more PWC operators than with other vessels, then find a way to control them. What if Chevy Corvettes had been banned in the 50's because they were "hard to catch when they broke the law"? This would be viewed as nothing short of madness. Yet this is exactly what San Juan County has done---and with what will probably someday be shown to be some high-level marker-calling and some good ol' boy back scratching, they were able to turn their illogic and their madness into law. San Juan County complains that since PWC can turn sharply, they are more of a danger than other craft. We've already looked at the turning-radius issue. Document the phenomenon and ask why San Juan County hasn't banned ALL vessels with this capability? I mean really ASK them. They'll never willingly reply of course---you'll have to seek a court order to force them to reply. What could be more fun? San Juan County is clearly, blatantly and unashamedly discriminating against certain boats while allowing vessels of even more destructive capabilities to operate in the County with impunity. San Juan County can be forced to explain why it is doing this, and won't it be entertaining to watch them squirm! Who's up for the job?

"Vessels" similar to this are now self-powered (little jet drives). Is this a PWC? No? Yes? Maybe? Better figure it out, because several dozen new designs brought about and inspired by new technology, things like this, are coming to YOUR TOWN. The only way to stop them is to outlaw EVERYTHING. That's fine with me. Is it fine with you? (Maybe the county will buy some ferries to take up the slack when you can no longer own a boat in the San Juans). Or maybe they won't!

San Juan County changes tack here, because they are running out of issues which they can bend and subvert to seem like environmental issues, so in the following argument the County decides (just temporarily, of course) that it is really looking out for the best interests of PWC owners when it seeks to ban them from the Islands:

The operation of PWCs is less safe and more damaging in San Juan County marine waterways than in other waters because of cold water temperatures, changeable and unpredictable currents, variable tidal heights exposing rocks at different times, floating deadheads, rocks and reefs, and populations of marine life.

Let's see: Jet-pump powered, under 16 feet, capable of 60 mph, turns on a dime (though not as sharply as a zodiac), operates in about 3 inches of water, is this a PWC? San Juan County says no. Why? Because you don't straddle the seat. If you're not scared YET, you're brain-dead, or taking far too much Prozac. Or both.

I personally ride a PWC from the Northwest to SE Alaska (dozens of rowboats, kayaks and canoes make the trip every year, so this should be shocking only to the hapless). Few more seaworthy craft exist than PWC. Seaworthiness was never about size, as most land-lubbing yachtsmen would have you believe. The most seaworthy vessel in the world is a wine bottle with a cork in it. Such a craft will ride out any hurricane and never ship a drop. Size dictates degrees of comfort, not safety. It can be a measurement of safety, but it is not automatically a measure of safety. Take two vessels of identical design, one is 50 feet in length, the other is 100 feet in length; the larger of the two inherently unseaworthy vessels will be more seaworthy than its smaller twin. But this does not mean that either vessel is as seaworthy as a wine bottle with a cork in it. In 321 rescues in the NE Pacific I have come to know a thing or three about seaworthiness. The vast majority of yuppy "yachts" operating in San Juan County today are unspeakably unseaworthy compared to even the oldest PWC design. San Juan County has shown itself to be a gaggle of hapless landlubbers to have even considered such an argument, let alone to have actually entered it into the record. I am embarrassed for them and by them, as all intelligent seafarers should be. San Juan County seems to want us to believe that since the waterways of the county experience significant tidal action and strong currents, PWC are somehow unsafe to operate in those waters. This argument is so stupid as to be not worthy of additional comment. San Juan County in the paragraph above tries to argue that since the area has so many reefs and rocks, it is unsafe for PWC. Yet the County only moments before made the argument that PWC sported very shallow drafts which allow them to operate in very shallow waters....which means they are far less likely to run aground than their deeper-draft counterparts, the sailing and cruising chariots of the doctors, attorneys and retired judges from Seattle. If the county is a particularly unsafe to operate because of the reefs and rocks---and the San Juan County just said it was---then the vessels most susceptible to the phenomenon of reefs and rocks should be immediately banned from such a dangerous area. Seriously---why hasn't this been done? Similarly, a vessel which travels 60 mph is far, far less prone to tidal and current action than an underpowered yacht which might only cruise at 6 knots, or even 20 knots. San Juan County is arguing that the waters are too dangerous to allow fast, powerful, shallow draft vessels to operate there, so it has made the case FOR US that any vessel of lesser capabilities must be also banned immediately, under an emergency action, to protect life, property and the serenity of the region. So why hasn't this been done? Really! This is not a rhetorical question! If PWC, which are hardly affected by currents or reefs are too dangerous to allow in San Juan County, then those vessels which are extremely susceptible to these things should be removed forthwith. We need a group of paralegals to begin work on new legislation that will cover this issue, immediately. Any takers?

We can't tell if this vessel's outboard has been fitted with a jet pump. Likely it has. If so, it is illegal in San Juan County. Oops---we can't see what kind of seat it has either, so if we were a law enforcement agency, would we cite this vessel or not? If we cite it and we're right, we're still mindless imbeciles who'd do Mayberry's Barney Fife proud. If we cite it and we're wrong, then YOU, the San Juan County taxpayer, gets to foot the legal bill when the county gets sued. But of course you have plenty of money and you like being taxed to death, so it doesn't really matter, right?

The reader can continue---if he hasn't upchucked yet---to peruse San Juan County's case and the additional silly, uninformed, and just plain stupid and irresponsible arguments it made to win its case. I do not believe for one second that there was any question of the outcome of the case when the County brought it to court. Some retired-judge-hapless-yachtsman probably had a run-in with a PWC operator and, to his glee, found that he had the clout and the position to get the ball rolling toward this legislation. It was an "inside job". San Juan County has not demonstrated a logical argument. As such, it can be undone.

Is this a PWC by San Juan County's legal definition? Nope. We're beyond merely afraid---we're terrified. Where did the county FIND these people? How did they attain positions of power? We submit that they'd be hard-pressed to hold a job at Burger King, and we mean that quite literally.

If the people of San Juan County don't like noise (and who does---who should?) then legislate the noise---and this means outlawing those %#@damned obnoxious seaplanes that split your eardrums every single time they drop off a load of fat, greasy tourists from Seattle---you know, the people who line the pockets of San Juan County's government..

Legal or illegal in San Juan County? We're not going to tell you this time. Figure it out for yourselves. (Warm up your attorneys, just in case you're wrong).

If the people of San Juan County don't like fast boats, then impose a speed limit and enforce it! It's been done on our nations highways for a hundred years, with a pretty good degree of success. If law enforcement can't catch the offenders, then law enforcement needs to go faster. Hmmmm.....I wonder how in the world they could do this? Let's see. Oh, I know! They could put their cops on JET SKIS! That one move would extend their patrol budget by a factor of about ten times over the loud, tidal-wave producing twin engine slab they operate now out of Friday Harbor, burning 40 gallons an hour.

You see these all day long in San Juan County. They're far faster than a PWC, capable of far more damage, almost always pouring out far more noise and pollution, yet this vessel is perfectly legal in San Juan County, Washington. Is this Planet of the Apes? Hello? Hello?

If the people of San Juan County don't like vessels which are capable of turning quickly, then go at the problem scientifically. Find out which vessels and which types of vessels actually have the tightest turning radius, then ban THEM and leave the others alone. But first, explain to all us dumb folk why the ability to maneuver quickly is a detriment to marine life. Why could it not be seen as an equal or greater benefit to marine life in that operators of agile craft are better able to avoid marine life in their travels?

Legal in San Juan County? Yes. Why? ONLY because of the shape of the seat. Newsflash: San Juan County plans new legislation which will ban all vessels which are blue, but only between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., between the 3rd and the 20th of each month with an "R" in the name, but only when the weather is forecast to be sunny, including that winds must be from the SW, and the rider/operator wears a green shirt. (Operators wearing blue shirts with a little alligator monogrammed above the left pocket will not be ticketed). Well, it makes just as much sense as the PWC law.

In short, this is one of the dumbest laws ever passed, and the judge who allowed it should be knocked off the bench with a hardball like one of those lead-weighted cats at the carnival. You wouldn't win a stuffed Teddy Bear for it, but you'd win a little more logical, truthful and honorable society.

PWC? Nope. Perfectly legal in San Juan County. Better get busy and outlaw this thing quick! Of course you'd then have to outlaw all seaplanes in the county too. Well, why not? We never liked seaplanes no how, especially them red ones, you freakin' hillbillies..

I wrote a letter awhile back to the San Juan County government, asking for permission to run a PWC through the county on business. I'm mostly retired, but I still dive occasionally, when a job comes along that I like. I travel to and from potential jobsites by whatever means makes the most sense at the moment. Increasingly, as PWC technology has evolved, I find myself using them as simple transportation. They're fast, cleaner than any old outboard, utterly reliable now that they are powered by four-stroke engines. They're surprisingly dry, and are the cheapest, and one of the safest, ways of moving between point A and point B on inland waters. San Juan County flatly rejected this simple request, which was expected. By writing the letter I mostly wanted to see just how dumb these folks were, and I was not disappointed. San Juan County does acknowledge that if my diving business were located in Oregon, or Canada, and I was therefore involved in interstate or International business, I would be allowed to operate a PWC in the county. But since I am a Washington business, I am not allowed to travel there by PWC. Barking mad, you say? Of course it is. The San Juan County Government is made up almost exclusively of dimbulbs and has been for several decades now. But this is an isolated, out of the way little berg, and these folks are used to getting away with stupidity in the extreme. Trouble is, when they make decisions which effect people outside of their county, and more importantly, when their incompetence and illogical bias impacts the earning capability of those people, they sometimes find themselves having to take a step backward.

Is this one of those times?

Stay tuned. You just never know.

                             Letter to San Juan County               Reply from San Juan County

This thing would be legal in San Juan County because it has a bucket seat (we've seen it in person).
But don't you ever, EVER put a straddle-seat in it, 'cause you'll go straight to the hooskow. Oops---this is a police boat. I guess they can straddle their seats if they want.

Does this outboard have a propeller, or a jet-pump attached? Can't tell, can you? Would it make ONE DAMN BIT OF DIFFERENCE TO THE ECOLOGY OF SAN JUAN COUNTY? Well, as a matter of fact it would. If it's prop-driven, it's a veritable BLENDER of wildlife. If it has a jet-drive, it has no-machinery in the water whatsoever than can slice and/or dice. Now, which one did San Juan County outlaw again? Oh yeah---the safe one. Sure makes sense to me. I think it's high time we initiated a movement which outlaws ALL PROPELLER driven craft in San Juan County. Period. No exceptions. Why not? Seriously, why not? That goes for that pesky ferry, too. It's been bothering the wildlife lately. It turns about as nimbly as an apartment building. It runs aground about every other month. Get rid of it. Who needs it. Who wants it. Oh yeah---I forgot: The Seattlites cum San Juan Islanders want it!

We're not even going to attempt to comment on the wacky thing above. But if it scares you, you'd better outlaw it post haste. And if you're wondering how on earth San Juan County was ever able to ram such a vague, arbitrary law down the throats of the citizenry, consider this: When opposing council suggested to the Supreme court that the law was too vague to be sensible, enforceable or fair, the Supreme court answered by stating, for the record, that they simply wouldn't hear that argument.
HUH? Now YOU tell ME this wasn't an "inside job".

Designs like this are exploding all over the world. Whad'ya gonna do now, San Juan County? Outlaw air mattresses? Outlaw the ferry? Outlaw Boston Whalers? Outlaw Bayliners? Who's next? Outlaw swimmers? Outlaw waders? Outlaw beachcombers? Outlaw slip-n-slides? Outlaw inner-tubes? Outlaw sunbathing? Why not start by outlawing the REAL problem in San Juan County---outlaw STUPIDITY. Outlaw yourselves.



Common sense, logic (oh that mysterious, pesky thing), science (the Kryptonite of bureaucrats everywhere), reason (a concept not recognized in modern American courts), fact ("ain't no fact we cain't distort and subvert," says San Juan County Commissioners)---none of these things will ever appeal to the peculiar sensibilities of the academic mentality, which almost exclusively permeates the San Juan County Government (they ain't got the brains God gave a crowbar, but they've all got a degree!). Neither do the concepts of right or wrong have much bearing on their thoughts. It's a sad commentary on educated America that in order to actually obtain a little slice of justice and fair-play, you pretty much have to outsmart these types with treachery and skullduggery. That's what the academic system understands, and it's about all it respects. Fair-minded people are appalled at the notion of having to sink to their level to beat 'em, but since logic and reason seldom enter into the equation, we must sink even lower into the murk of the bizarre and the emotional to win the game of fairness and reason. What a shame. Most of us would rather not dirty our hands, but dive in and get filthy we must, if we are to keep this outrageous mindset at bay.

Let's all go over this ONE MORE TIME. Pay attention: (1) Under 16 feet, (2) features a straddle-seat, (3) goes as fast as any PWC, (4) turns as sharply as any PWC (a little sharper at slow speeds), (5) has a jet-drive. This means it's illegal. Or (5b) has a prop-drive. This means it's legal in San Juan County. Are you angered by stupidity? Are you angry yet?

There is little doubt that, sooner or later, San Juan County will be forced to (a) come up with a logical, factual, reasonable argument for banning so-called "PWC", or (b) have the law overturned. They can't supply the former, so they will be forced to endure the latter. The question is, what will be the mechanism that brings about this change, and how long will the people have to wait to see this obnoxious brand of bully-ism overturned?

Jet drive. Loud as hell. Turns on a dime. Does 70 mph. Legal in San Juan County. Do you know why?

One possibility suggests suing the county for denying commercial traffic to traverse San Juan County's waterways on legitimate business errands.

Legal in the county? Of course. Capable of operating in shallow waters? YOU be the judge!

Another tactic puts a couple of retirees on a boat in Friday harbor. Each time a vessel with the capabilities of or exceeding the county's absurd definition of a "PWC" operates in the area, they would file a criminal complaint against the offending craft. Of course law enforcement would refuse to act or investigate, and the next step would be to file a complaint against the San Juan County Sheriff's department for failure to investigate. When a dozen such complaints have been filed, you'll have the county's attention.

Cute though, ain't it?

A third option is to mount a frontal assault on the legislation. The law is dumb, it's counter-productive, a valid case wasn't made for its inception---not even close. We can't imagine the level of expertise of whatever counsel opposed San Juan County, but it can't have been high. The point is to demonstrate to the court how utterly arbitrary this law is. It is just plain nuts from the point of view of ANY fair-minded, THINKING individual. We know that the vast majority of judges don't fall within this category. That's why they must be overwhelmed with facts, data, and logic, and in this case there's a veritable cornucopia to choose from.

OK to run this back and forth in front of your home? You don't mind? Okidoke then. It's sure legal to do it (It's a straight-backed seat).

The San Juan County Government is used to having things go its way. It's a shady little compost pile out there at the edge of the known Universe, and its county commissioners are a silly, spoiled lot. They can act almost with impunity, passing idiotic laws, steamrollering over the rights of the majority, doing pretty much what they please. Almost. We think their arrogance in this particular instance is too blatant. We're all sick of bullies. Over the next few years perhaps these particular bullies can be put back in their places.

Legal in San Juan County? Absolutely. YOU tell ME these Commissioners got the brains God gave a freaking crowbar.

This page will evolve as the case evolves. Though we have almost no time to devote to this crusade, we do have a few connections which can lever pressure into one or two of the County's soft spots. Mostly, we believe that competent representation coupled with logic, documentation and science can overcome the insanity of San Juan County's "commissioners". (We call them a gang).

No comment (soon to be illegal in San Juan County though, if these Commissioners continue unopposed). Why not "Just Say No" to hillbilly-ism, and move on up into the 20th Century. It's not painful. Really it isn't.

Remember, "every country (and county) has the government it deserves". If you're appalled by, ashamed of and embarrassed for your local San Juan County government, you have no one to blame but yourselves. After all, you elected them. That means you can un-elect them too.

Legal? Yep.

Whatever you do, Mister, for God's sake don't STRADDLE anything...

Looks dangerous to ME.

Legal in the county? You decide. Just remember that you can't outlaw EVERYTHING.
You CAN, however, and SHOULD outlaw BAD BEHAVIOR. Too bad that never occurred to the San Juan County Government.

It's a PWC on the right. PWC operate in conditions like this, and much worse, all day every day. Sort of blows the hell out of the county's unseaworthiness inferences about PWC, doesn't it... Stupid landlubbers.

Jet powered. But there's no seat at all. Better go write another law... Why not make red wheels illegal too---blue ones are much prettier.

If I had a business in San Juan County, I'd install one of these in front of it just to see how long it would take for the county to outlaw it.

It's a slicer and a dicer and it's perfectly legal in your county and mine.

Now I'd ban this sucker just on general principles. Oops---it's over 16 feet, therefore it's A-OK in San Juan County. 85 mph plus. Doesn't turn worth a damn so God help anything that gets in its path. I feel so safe I have goosebumps. Don't you?

Legal or banned in San Juan County? Give up? Guess what---no one else has a Goddamned clue either. THAT is why this law is so utterly mindless and embarrassingly counter-productive. Who in THE HELL was stupid enough to screw things up this badly.... Where do people this dumb come from? Zeta Riticuli?

No seat at all. Perfectly legal in San Juan County.

Can't we all just (sniff sniff) GET ALONG....?

No comment. No comment at all.

Dangerous? Hell, it's a Weapon of Mass Destruction...

See what I mean.....

Kill 'em all.....Let God sort 'em out....

Definitely NOT capable of 60 mph (I saw one of these two miles outside the Grays Harbor Bar one time---thought it was aliens). But too ugly to live in any case. Book 'em, Danno. (We just don't want this kind of thing in San Juan County, Washington.)

Too slow. The granola-munching yuppies will love these things. Until they're banned too. Why? BECAUSE THEY'RE RED! Sheesh.


I can think of a few asses I'd like to shove one of these up.
Yes, yes, but are they legal in San Juan County? No one knows (it's the seat thing again).


Letter to San Juan County    Reply from San Juan County    Entire Court Case


Randy's Weird Web

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