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Necessity is the Mother of Invention

There is a saying, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’… and I never wanted to again experience having to dry out weed that had gotten water-soaked during a bungled loading operation. Here’s what happened…


In late November 1972 we departed Acapulco and made our way north up the coast of Mexico to a pre-arranged loading spot just south of the sleepy coastal fishing village of Playa Azul. One month earlier this spot had been selected as an ideal loading spot because of its isolation, its close proximity to the secluded road leading out of the mountains where the weed was grown and because the surf was anticipated to be… and I was assured that it would be… “smooth as glass.” It wasn’t… and the following excerpts from 90° to Zamboanga briefly describe the salient points of what took place…


…Now arriving near the loading beach, the sails were dropped and furled, and the engine engaged. Killian eased the boat to a point just outside the surf line and my worst fears were confirmed. Big waves were breaking in sets of five. The waves’ backsides were between four and seven feet in height, which meant that the wave faces were eight to fourteen feet behemoths…

Against my better judgement, we tried anyway…


His mouth opened into a silent scream as the wave broke, impacting on the bow of the Zodiac and tossing the five hundred pound, weed- laden vessel into the sky

…The Mexicans loaded eight fifty pound gunny sacks into the Zodiac, four on each side to balance the weight. Everybody on the beach helped slide the loaded craft across the wet sand into the foamy water. Jeff, in the stern on the starboard side, got the Mercury 25 outboard running while I sat in the bow. Several Mexicans gave the small inflatable a shove and we were off into the shore break with just enough depth to submerge the prop in the water. Jeff gunned the engine and it roared to life, but the small boat barely moved out into the surf. The prop couldn’t bite into the foam-filled water and just spun wildly, producing a high pitched whine, but the Zodiac only inched forward towards the oncoming breakers.


I looked up horrified, to see the feathering crest of a steep ten foot wave approaching us head-on. From my position in the bow of the inflatable rubber boat, the monstrous wave rose like a moving version of the Eiger’s North Face sweeping down on us and I realized, we had absolutely no chance. Jeff saw it too, and his blue eyes widened three times their normal size. His mouth opened into a silent scream as the wave broke, impacting on the bow of the Zodiac and tossing the five hundred pound, weed- laden vessel into the sky as if it was light as a piece driftwood or flotsam. Jeff flew off the stern, high into the air, his cowboy hat in hand like he was riding a bronco. Still clinging to the bow line with one hand and trying to hold on to the two gunnies at my feet with the other, my body was suddenly hurled over the tumbling gunnysacks and as the boat hit the water upside down, somehow I managed to hold onto the line. Six waterlogged gunnysacks rolled around in the surf. Two sacks had already been washed ashore. The upside-down boat and the remaining gunnysacks crashed ashore, with the next exploding wave…


That didn’t work so we relocated to a sheltered cove and successfully loaded three thousand pounds including the waterlogged bales.


…The equipment and ton and a half of weed was then packed down the trail to the beach, and loaded into the Zodiac, eight bags at a time. On the first run out to the Cal 40, Jeff and I took the wet gunnysacks. We heaved them aboard to Willie and Joe. Killian, standing by the port rail bellowed, “There’s green tea in the cockpit,” as the wet sacks slid to the bottom of the cockpit, dripping a dark green viscous liquid into the scuppers.


I rigged up six 300-watt heat lamps to dry the four hundred pounds of wet dope.

“Get that wet stuff out of the way for the next batch. Keep it separate,” I told Willie. “We’ll find a way to dry it later.” As the Zodiac sped back to the beach, I was making a mental note, we needed a waterproof way of packaging the kilos in the future…

After successfully unloading and during the brokering of the remaining pot we bent to the task of salvaging the 400 pounds of wet weed.


…At the Belmont Hills stash house, the weed was unloaded and the eight wet gunnysacks were opened and spread out on the garage floor. All the cracks in the garage door opening and all of the vents under the adjacent house foundation were sealed with sheets of black plastic so no light could be seen outside at night. Joe, Phil and I rigged up six 300-watt heat lamps to dry the four hundred pounds of wet dope. The process took a week, with the marijuana turned hourly and constantly separated to dry. The trick was to avoid over-drying, which would leave the weed brittle and powdery…


…The bulk of the load was split with Walter taking one third and Phil and I taking two thirds. Phil, Walter and I all agreed we would dry the wet kilos and split it according to the formula later, after we’d dried it. During the week in which the four hundred pounds were drying, ‘Yorktown’ Billy brokered all seventeen hundred pounds. He later sold the dried formerly wet weed as well for a discounted half price to one of his old customers who couldn’t afford the one-fifty per pound going rate…


After some trial and error and two successful trips, we finally came upon the solution… the mother of the invention… vacuum sealing the weed in clear, oxygen/moisture barrier bags made of poly-mylar, not the regular plastic bags we’d previously been using. This would not only keep the weed dry in the event of exposure to the elements during a prolonged ocean crossing, but also to vacuum seal in the freshness keeping the Thai sticks’ pungent characteristic smell inert and the ‘sticks’ themselves spectacularly un-deteriorated in any way, and as gorgeous as ever during 3 month sea voyage.


…The preparations for the next smuggling venture began. It had been decided to streamline the operation for efficiency. We started by making the packing and sealing operations in Thailand more like an assembly line. Joe and I began researching ways to better seal the bags. We located a firm which manufactured vacuum sealing machines in San Francisco.


We made an appointment to see the equipment, using the story that we would be packaging ginseng root and dried fruit in the Orient for shipment to the U.S. and worldwide. We were shown portable machines which weighed about 150 pounds, had wheels and could be powered by 220 DC, common in the Orient, or with a generator if no other power source was available. We were also told that to seal, store and transport the perishable merchandise of our business proposal, we would need oxygen/moisture-barrier bags made of poly-mylar and not plastic. The salesman further explained that a regular plastic bag would eventually leak and lose its vacuum seal, while a poly- mylar bag would hold its seal and preserve the freshness of the contents within the bag almost indefinitely. Joe found a source in the East Bay and submitted a start-up order for one hundred thousand bags. Although the poly-mylar bags were three or four times as expensive as regular plastic bags, it would certainly be worth it if there was no deterioration of the weed during shipment; also the new bags were crystal clear, unlike common plastic bags which were slightly hazy. This would show off the Thai sticks in the best presentation possible for sale, after the long overseas journey. Three sealing machines were purchased. Two of the 220 DC version were to be shipped to Thailand and the third, a 110 AC model, was to be kept at the stash house to seal any bags which might get ruptured in transit. Joe suggested that other things could be sealed: stores for the upcoming sea voyage and also money. Now money could be vacuum sealed and buried directly in the ground, without the ammo boxes which might otherwise mildew, and would no longer be subject to discovery with a metal detector…





So… the necessity of keeping the weed dry during the long ocean crossing led to the mother of invention, the use of mylar bags to keep cannabis fresh… a practice now commonly used in the cannabis industry. Following its use to seal in the freshness of cannabis it was also discovered for use in the fledgling computer industry to seal computer chips and components in order to maintain their sterility for use in that industry.


Back in the 70s when today’s computer geniuses were young students in the Bay Area smoking the Thai weed we were bringing in, they probably realized that the same type of packaging material, poly-mylar instead of regular plastic, could also be used to package computer chips… and still is today!

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