I live a fairly simple life and that didn’t change much after I sold TechCrunch in 2010. I didn’t buy a new house or even a new car. The one thing I did splurge on was a boat.
Nothing too fancy or large. I live near Seattle and there’s a big boating culture up here. I found a small company that builds boats specifically for this area called Coastal Craft. I ordered it in 2011 and planned on writing about the experience after it was delivered.
I named her Buddy. It has state of the art electronics and a fairly new highly efficient propulsion system that the TechCrunch audience would be interested in.
There’s a whole story about the disaster of buying a new boat from this company that I’ll write about another day. Needless to say I’ll never be writing the glowing story I first intended. Instead it will be a cautionary tale.
Buying this boat was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made, and the nightmare is only just starting.
Today, though, I’m going to write about how the Department of Homeland Security seized that boat. Twice before today the company tried to deliver Buddy to me. Each time mechanical problems forced a return to Canada.
Today was the third try, and I really thought it was going to happen. Buddy has to clear customs, part of the DHS, since she was built in Canada.
My job was to show up and sign forms and then leave with Buddy (WA sales tax and registration fees come a week later).
DHS takes documents supplied by the builder and creates a government form that includes basic information about the boat, including the price.
The primary form, prepared by the government, had an error. The price was copied from the invoice, but DHS changed the currency from Canadian to U.S. dollars.
It has language at the bottom with serious sounding statements that the information is true and correct, and a signature block.
I pointed out the error and suggested that we simply change the currency from US $ to CAD $ so that is was correct. Or instead, amend the amount so that it was correct in U.S. dollars.
I thought this was important because I was signing it and swearing that the information, and specifically the price, was correct. The DHS agent didn’t care about the error and told me to sign the form anyway. “It’s just paperwork, it doesn’t matter,” she said. I declined.
She called another agent and said simply “He won’t sign the form.” I asked to speak to that agent to give them a more complete picture of the situation. She wouldn’t allow that. Then she seized the boat. As in, demanded that we get off the boat, demanded the keys and took physical control of it.
What struck me the most about the situation is how excited she got about seizing the boat. Like she was just itching for something like this to happen. This was a very happy day for her.
So now I have to hire a lawyer to try to figure all this out. And I will figure it out, eventually.
My point in writing this isn’t to whine. Like I said, this will get worked out one way or another.
No, it’s to highlight how screwed up our government bureaucracy has become.
A person with a gun and a government badge asked me to swear in writing that a lie was true today. And when I didn’t do what she wanted she simply took my boat and asked me to leave.
What would you have done? Maybe most people would have just signed the form. The U.S. and CA dollars are almost the same value right now (although they weren’t when I made most of the payments on the boat), so what’s the bother?
Well, to me it’s the principle involved, being told to sign and swear to something false, or else.
And it would have been SO FUCKING EASY to just correct the form so that I wasn’t swearing to something that was false.
As usual, I took the “or else” option. And the bastards stole my boat.
I’ll probably get droned now, too.