“It was no longer a boat. It was no longer a living quarters, it was no longer nothin’. The whole aft stateroom was full of hash. There was a forward forepeak, it was packed full…the only thing that was left open was the bathroom, the kitchen and the main salon.”
— Christy Campbell (Gentleman Smuggler) as quoted in the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Jackpot
By the time the late 1970s and early 1980s rolled around, Barry “Flash” Foy and the Gentlemen Smugglers crew (with sober eyes) could look back upon the previous ten years and wonder how far they’d come. From selling pounds to college kids at the University of South Carolina to using one small boat for transport to going “Big Time” with an entire smuggling fleet, the stakes became higher and exponentially faster, more drug-fueled, and more dangerous…
The Second Life
The year was 1981 and the means of transport for this particular smuggling operation, the Second Life, was waiting across the Atlantic, docked snugly in Mallorca, Spain. Not just any other boat, this seventy-one-foot double-masted racing vessel was widely known amongst the racing community. It was one of 17 yachts that raced in the infamous Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, held for the first time in 1973.
While the various members of the crew gathered in Mallorca, two months were spent preparing the boat for the journey — purchasing necessary equipment, installing new electronics — and, of course, making sure to do their fair share of “getting to know the locals.”
Crossing an Ocean & a Sea
When the mission commenced, the crew first sailed to Malta for one last hoorah, in part to calm their nerves for the daunting task ahead. Then they shifted gears: no more partying, all business. They were on their way to a war zone in Lebanon to pick up thirty thousand kilograms of hashish, where the anxious smugglers waited for three days for the Second Life to be loaded. Needless to say, countless thoughts of various nightmare scenarios played out in the smugglers’ heads — the weight of their undertaking sinking ominously in by the minute…
After the hash was finally stuffed into the vessel, and after stocking up on terrible beer for their trip back, the elated crew headed west accompanied by the smooth sounds of American rock & roll. The voyage through the Mediterranean and the subsequent Atlantic, however, was anything but breezy.
For four days the crew tried desperately to push across the Mediterranean, but a storm kept them from sailing no more than three-quarters of a mile. After this torture, the winds turned in their favor and they were blown into the Atlantic Ocean, making their way slowly but surely towards the comfort of home shores. Despite equipment trouble and necessary boat repairs, at last, they were sitting outside of Hilton Head, South Carolina, hustling to get to the designated dock ready to unload their illegal cargo.
By this point in the late 70s and early 80s, the exploits of the Gentlemen Smugglers and other brazen marijuana entrepreneurs were beginning to be quite the ticket along the East Coast. As the smuggling operations became more lucrative, law enforcement turned up the heat – surveillance operations began to show more urgency and cunning, and so naturally (for the savvy smuggler) there became a need to exert more energy towards new methods of disguise.
When the time came for the Second Life to make her way into the rendezvous point, it was nighttime and the assembled crews were scrambling to make unloading as quick and soundless as possible. Meanwhile, South Carolina DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) officers were on their guard, patrolling for anything suspicious during this murky hour, when locals and tourists alike were usually more than half-in-the-bag.
Just as the overloaded yacht filled with contraband and smugglers was nearing its final destination, two smuggler associates sitting in a decoy boat spotted the wildlife officers cruising a bit too slow for comfort. The smugglers smelled trouble and decided to earn their keep by drawing the patrol closer, under the pretext of illegal fishing. As the officers got within 100 yards, the smugglers knew they’d undoubtedly piqued the officers’ interest and gunned the engine. The chase took them careening around the sound and under docks at 35 mph.
With the officers distracted, the Second Life was relieved of its thirty thousand pound burden by the other smugglers, hand-t0-hand, from the dock to temporary storage in an old oyster factory. In the morning, inconspicuous trucks blended in with the rest of the island’s construction workers and the hash began its journey to the tokers of America, entirely unaware of the perilous journey that yielded its arrival.
The decoys were eventually caught (one on the boat and the other on the mainland) but had proved their worth and because they had no weed on them, they couldn’t be connected to the Gentlemen Smugglers.
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