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This Boat Thief Barks Out The Orders

Before I tell you about the sea lion that swam into our bay, I must first set the scene. We live on Balboa Island, in Southern California, where the streets are named after jewels: Ruby, Diamond, Emerald, Pearl, Garnet, Opal, Sapphire, etc.

In the harbor hundreds of boats are moored, some as small as rowboats and others as large as 75-foot yachts. All year long we are entertained by wildlife swimming in the water or flying above: pelicans, blue herons, white egrets. Seals and sea lions bark and dive for food around the fishing piers - which brings us to our story.

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A few months ago, a very large sea lion, weighing between 700 and 800 pounds, climbed aboard a small sail- boat and made himself at home. He rearranged the blue tarp that was covering the boat into a kind of bed. He broke a light or two and slobbered over everything. When the boat's owner came near, the sea lion lifted his head and barked loudly, not allowing the woman to board her own boat.

She gave him the name "Sinkie" because her boat was slowly going under- water. The second name was "Stinkie" because he didn't smell very good. She tried everything to shoo Sinkie away, but nothing worked. The Harbor Patrol said that Sinkie had made the boat his home and they could not disturb him. And the Save the Sea Lions Group said they couldn't do anything either.

Soon the newspapers took pictures and put Sinkie on the front page. This brought the television people out with their cameras. Sinkie, the stinky, silly sea lion, was on the news for a week. But nothing fazed Sinkie. No matter how many people were watching, he would dive underwater, get his food, and boldly reclaim his place on deck.

Although he was "cute," according to the boat owner, Sinkie was doing much damage to her sailboat. And she did not know what to do about it.

Finally, the Harbor Patrol found a rule that said it was illegal to keep a sea lion for a pet. So when the beast took a dive, they towed the little boat to the other side of the harbor, where the owner spent three days scrubbing to get all the drool off the deck. Last seen, Sinkie was searching the moorings for another low-slung boat that he could slide up onto.

Not a day goes by that something fun isn't going on here. That's why we love our island - a jewel in the sun.


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