Making it as a California Teen

May 2020 Feature By Shandra Batemon

Many people have dreamed about being on the blues and greens of the ocean. Wind whipping through the sails and gulls calling above you in the air. For one California teenager, this was an adventure of a lifetime.

Annette Batemon lived in Los Angeles California when she was growing up. About the time that she was fifteen years old, her father told her that they were moving to the Seal Beach Marina in California and eventually the Long Beach Marina as well. In a blink of an eye, Annette went from your everyday apartment to a 42’ Yorktown yacht, sloop, and center cockpit. It had two berths, six beds, two heads and one shower. “It was nice to have all the amenities of a radio, a television, an Atari and all that type of stuff.” Annette said when talking about the ship. She and her dad and two younger siblings lived on the boat for over year, from July of 1982 to August of 1983.

The Beauty of Boat Life

Annette lived on her family’s boat during her Sophomore year of High School. “… I would sit on the deck of the boat and do my homework in the sun and just listen the water crashing next to the boat. I just loved being on the boat.” Annette reminisced. One of the things she loved the most about living on the boat was sitting on the dock and looking across the harbor at the THUM Islands. These are man-made islands in the Long Beach Harbor that are used to refine oil. These islands were made to look tropical by adding fake palm trees and other vegetation among the “big towers…that were lit up at night.”

“One of my favorite memories was going and sitting at the end of the dock just looking at the pretty lights there.” Annette mentioned. Along with the beautiful sights of the THUM Islands, Annette also had a great view of the [Queen Mary] hotel and resort.

Under the Boat

During the summers that Annette lived in the Marina she would work as a boat cleaner. “I would put on scuba gear and go at it with the spatula like scrapper and scrape off the algae and the shrimp and barnacles. Just after you scrape it off you take like those dish scrubbies and then go along the boat and just try and get everything off the bottom of the boat that you could.” She said that she would generally make $45-$50 per boat.

This was well worth her efforts because of the wondrous sea life that would come to see what she was doing. “When we started knocking those things off, everything that would or might eat it would come up and check you out and check those out. So, there would be fish eating little shrimp off my scuba suit and we saw octopi, and bat rays, and all kinds of other fish just coming and eating everything while knocking it off.” Annette said. This was one of her favorite things to do during the summer. She would also help her dad refinish the wood on other sailor’s boats, which was much harder and not as much fun.

Marina Family and Adventures

One of the things that Annette loved the most about boat life, were the other boaters. Living in the Marina, Annette met many people. Some of them were also “live aboard sailors” and others were your every other weekend sailor. “The people in the Marina (especially the living aboard people) were just really nice people and we kind of became a little bit of a family.” Annette told us how her four year old brother quickly found out when they moved into the Marina that if he mentioned he was hungry (whether he was or not) it was not long before he had a sandwich, a bag of chips, some candy, or a pop in his hand.

“We would watch over the other boats in the marina like they were our own. We felt kind of responsible for them.” she said. A big part of being in the Marina family was being respectful and helpful.

With this family rule in mind, it wasn’t odd when a boat came into dock on a foggy night with only a lantern at her stern. Annette and her family were there to help them moor at the dock and were shocked when one of the crew members jumped down to tie up the ropes.

 “It was a woman dressed in ragged cutoff jeans with a red striped shirt, her hair covered with a bandana, large hoop earrings and a flashlight in her teeth. But the first thing we noticed about her were the hammerhead sharks tattooed around her calves.” Annette described. The captain was no less intimidating as he walked off the boat sporting a white beard and an eyepatch. “My siblings and I were sure they were pirates.” Annette said.

Stormy Times

While she enjoyed her time living on the boat, not every minute was filled with excitement and beauty. Some parts were downright scary.

As a teenager living on a boat, Annette had to keep a close eye on her two siblings. Her brother would frequently fall into the water, only to be rescued again and again by Annette. They eventually had him wear a life jacket at all times.

Another time that tested their resolve to live on a boat was a storm in 1983. This was the biggest storm that had ever hit Long Beach, California. After a tornado touched down across the street from the Marina, Annette and her family had to scramble to secure their little dinghy.

“While we were asleep, we heard the storm hit and then we heard this horrible sound outside. So, we went running out in our pajamas and the [dinghy] had been thrown over the boat bending the stanchions. And the dinghy was out in the water.”

After spending about an hour trying to re-secure the dinghy to the dock, the family was able to go back to sleep. “That was kind of an exciting night!” said Annette.

After moving to Oklahoma 18 years later, Annette still loves to go to the ocean when she can. The lessons she learned and the memories she created have stayed with her throughout her life. When asked if she would recommend living on a boat Annette said “I think it's only a retirement thing. It’s when there's only just two of you and you can just take off and do what you want and come back. Really, there's nothing like being rocked to sleep by the ocean and having that experience of being self-sufficient in your own little house basically that's on the water.”

So, if you’re looking for that perfect place for you and the love of your life, think about taking to the open waters and enjoying the life that comes with living on a boat.

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