After a daylong standoff, the Coast Guard backed away from trying to board the boat of a defiant fisherman who claimed the routine safety inspection would be a violation of his constitutional rights.
"I just want to be left alone and have them stay out of my face," Jim Blaes told reporters in a cellular telephone call Monday.Vowing there wouldn't be "another Ruby Ridge," Blaes said he had 1,000 gallons of fuel and was prepared to stay at sea for at least four days. He remained adrift Tuesday.
The Coast Guard decided Monday to not take action against Blaes and to turn the case over to the Justice Department.
"Our latest tactic is that we are going to leave him alone and let the Justice Department handle it," Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Jerry Snyder said. "The boats are breaking off right now."
The face-off began Sunday afternoon, in clear sight of beachgoers crowding the Santa Cruz boardwalk, a tourist attraction with amusement park rides and souvenir shops.
Blaes refused to allow Coast Guard officers aboard his 36-foot boat for the inspection, saying he viewed his boat the same way he felt about his home ashore and insisting the Coast Guard needed a warrant.
"Just because I make my living at sea doesn't mean I give up my constitutional rights," Blaes said. "I have never been in trouble. I'm not holding anybody hostage or anything."
Blaes said he had a handgun aboard but said it was for protection from sharks. He said he was "absolutely" not a member of a militant group.
Ruby Ridge refers to the 1992 FBI siege of the isolated Idaho home of white separatist Randy Weaver. His wife and 14-year-old son were shot and killed as the government attempted to force Weaver to surrender.