The Saltwater Cowboy

How cannabis legend Tim McBride and his crew of Saltwater Cowboys managed to smuggle in over 30 million pounds of pot through Florida’s Gulf Coast during the 1980’s.

Tim McBride, a.k.a. ‘the Saltwater Cowboy,’ and his crew of Cowboys are responsible for smuggling 30 million pounds of cannabis into the Gulf Coast of Florida during the 1980’s.

  When it comes to cannabis, Tim is as much a part of the industry as they come. In this line of work, I experience some pretty amazing things, and get to meet some outstanding individuals. Some folks are legends yet to be born, others are making their mark. These are the people who have walked the walk and talked the talk. Cannabis reform wouldn’t be where it is today if not for these millions of pounds being hauled in and across our nation.

   Cannabis prohibition was in full swing during the Reagan administration (1981-1989). The attempted eradication of cannabis was a daring, fast-paced time that many remember as the Miami Vice era. Ronald Reagan spread propaganda with inaccurate comments like  ‘smoking even one marijuana cigarette caused as much brain damage as being on Bikini Island during an atomic blast.’ This was a bold faced lie, however, many people believed it to be the truth. Individuals that smuggled cannabis into the U.S. through our waterways and highways were considered criminals.

  When Tim hit the highway leaving Wisconsin for Florida his knuckles gripped the steering wheel of his Mustang Cobra. Tim was heading to a tiny town with less than 500 people in the Chokoloskee Islands located on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It was here Tim was offered a job as a crab fisherman. Anybody who lives in or knows someone from Wisconsin knows that it is cold as hell, and a job on the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico sounded like the perfect gig for him.

   On his first day of crab fishing, Tim became a pot hauler. A guy Tim was working with told him they were going to pick up. Tim was all about it. By day he crabbed and by night he became a legendary Saltwater Cowboy. Making 5k a night the first two nights, McBride found out that he loved his new job. He quickly moved past the rookie rates that others would get, and ended up netting himself between $25,000 – $70,000 a night.

Tons of Cannabis

  The sunshine state was full of opportunities. That fun in the sun turned out to become one of the best untold stories in American pot hauling history. Chances are if you were smoking cannabis during the 1980’s you were smoking  courtesy of Tim McBride. McBride and his crew would move 15 – 60 tons of cannabis at a time. It became second nature for the Saltwater Cowboys. An intricate system networked by McBride and his team led to millions of dollars, dangerous encounters, and priceless memories.

  McBride’s income depended on how much cannabis he smuggled in. Using the crab boats, they brought in bales of cannabis that would make even the crabbiest people stoned. Being able to buy cannabis in South America and the Caribbean Islands around $10 per pound gave McBride an edge in the game. Not everybody can just wander up and place an order for 150 tons, as Tim so elegantly put it. An average $300,000 investment would return $14 million in about a two-week period. Trips to South America, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean Islands became the norm for McBride.

   All good things come to an end, and in 1988 that was true for McBride. After years of being a Saltwater Cowboy, the authorities finally won the game of cat and mouse. McBride was arrested at his home in Naples, FL. McBride had over $8,000,000 in his house at the time of his arrest. He was facing life in prison but had no history of violence and managed to avoid a life sentence. From 1988 to 1993 he was locked up behind bars. In 1993 he was released from prison and went back to raise his two daughters while working in construction.

   After speaking with McBride over the phone, this writer came to realize that he is the kind of person many can connect with. Tim shared some amazing times of his life with me, and what you’ve read is just a teaser. In his 2015 book The Saltwater Cowboy, McBride tells all about his tantalizing, heart pounding life adventure. Read the tales of McBride’s lust and the love of the game. The book’s moral falls along the path of who you are and where you want to go. Life can change and we can change. The only real question is, where do you want to go?

Emerald contributor since September 2015


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