Fast as Fast Can Be, It Took You Years to Catch Me

Tim McBride Aka the Saltwater Cowboy! If that name doesn’t ring a bell to you, then allow me the honor of introducing you to a legend. Chances are, if you smoked weed during the 1980’s, you had your hands on some of the pot moved by the Saltwater Cowboy and his crew. I was lucky enough to get to speak to this legend over the phone and get to know him a bit better.

Little did Tim McBride know this was an epic and monumental moment in his life. His trip to Florida would change his life forever. Over roughly the next decade, Tim McBride went from your everyday guy, to one of the most notorious pot haulers in US history. He would ultimately end up sentenced to 10 years-life in prison for smuggling an estimated 30 thousand tons of pot into the U.S during the 80’s.

Tim McBride served a total of 4 years, thanks to having never been a violent offender. A little research in the law library also helped to cut some time off his sentence. Now a free man, Tim wants to tell the story how it really happened before it gets told all out of text by some reporter or blogger in the future. Here’s a look into the life of Tim McBride.

Tim McBride wrote a book telling his story titled: “Saltwater Cowboy (The Rise And Fall Of A Marijuana Empire)”

It’s the summer of 79. A Mustang sits waiting to chew up the asphalt in Wisconsin. A young Tim McBride is offered a job by a friend working on a crab boat in Florida. Without any hesitation Tim takes to his Mustang and shoots down the interstate, heading to the Sunshine State to Chokoloskee Island. A small town of around 500 people. The community was a tight one as you could imagine in a small fishing town. From the time he arrived in 1979, Tim was making a name and a reputation for himself as a dependable stand-up guy.

In 1984 the federal government came down hard on drug trafficking during the Regan Administration. The Everglades were one of the targets. This operation would ultimately be what pulled Tim into the position of a boss. Tim managed to somehow stay out of the federal radar and ended up becoming the man!


The Saltwater Cowboy would go on to live a life that went hand in hand with the era. Work hard play hard. Trips to the Caribbean Islands and Jamaica to purchase tons of pot where common. The money and beautiful woman were every young man’s dream. Tim was able to shower his friends in cash. Something that never grew old. It all started with that first day crabbing. Imagine going out on your first day working a crab boat and discovering that you would be crabbing by day and hauling pot by night.

Tim was down without hesitation and started smuggling marijuana that night. The crab boat would go to a larger boat to pick up the weed. Sometimes they would make several trips. Bales of pot were then transferred from the main ship to the crabbing ship. The bales were lifted one bale at a time by people and loaded in a chain fashion handing it to the person next to you. Theses bales were unloaded from cargo ships, to the crab boat, then unloaded from the crab boat to vehicles waiting on shore. It was backbreaking work but the pay was great. After making $5,000 a night the first two nights out Tim broke out of the cycle of rookie pay and into the big time.

Starting to bank an average of $25,000 to $70,000 per night and hauling anywhere from 15 tons to 60 tons and more of pot at a time. There’s a time when Tim can remember pulling 28 nights in a row working. This was hard, it was not all fun and games. One thing that you have to understand about the Tim McBride is though he may have smuggled marijuana, he was not a thug. He didn’t tote guns and explosives as Hollywood so often displays about those in the herbal commodity market. Instead he played a clever game of cat and mouse with custom agents in his backyard.


Tim McBride’s back yard of course is located in the Florida Everglades and referred to as 10,000 Islands. Knowing how to navigate these inlets gave the Saltwater Cowboy an advantage over custom agents. If you didn’t know these waters like the back of your hand you could run aground with the most of ease. The waterways though these inlets were an ever changing puzzle box.

This was the case on several occasions for, know-it-all, would be custom agents chasing down kids on a boat, with some weed. Part of what made it so fun was, nobody was getting shot at. Custom agents that were used to working other borders and areas actually enjoyed chasing down Tim and his crew because they didn’t miss the unpleasant exchange of gunfire found elsewhere. Running a boat aground was just a damn it moment for them.


When you can take 300k and turn it into 14 million in an average of 2 weeks you become the best friends of the investors. Buying pounds of herb at about $10 a pound made this possible. Tim had a system where one run would cover 20 more and so on.

Tim’s luck would finally run out in the mid to late 80’s. In 1988 he was arrested at his home where he had 8 million dollars. I can tell you from my speaking with Tim that this man is a legend. While many of us enjoy smoking pot today we forget that there were and still are many people who sacrificed a lot to help cannabis get to where it is today. There are still people in prison for pot and people still going there every day. If you are a smoker, toker, edible muncher, or topical applier you need to know about where the medicine you enjoy comes from. The past will try to be buried unless we keep it alive making it history through the power of story.

Read, “Saltwater Cowboy (The Rise And Fall Of A Marijuana Empire)”. Share the story and help bring history to life.

Here’s an excerpt from the man himself, Tim McBride.


“But it all ended for us in late 1988 when the United States government, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the DEA, the United States Customs, the U.S. Marshal’s, and state and local law enforcement initiated “Operation Peacemaker.” This operation was directed specifically toward us. Ultimately their years of failed and frustrated efforts to stop what was going on lead them to get one of our own to betray us. The domino effect was set in motion. One after the other each one of us was indicted on federal charges of importation of marijuana and conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana in the United States. It wasn’t long before a knock on my door was followed by a piece of paper being handed to me that read, “The United States of America verses Timothy S. McBride.” I tried to imagine it, the most powerful nation on Earth against me…I was screwed. After the dust of this operation settled, 141 people including myself went to prison. I was sentenced to 10 years’ mandatory to life.”

 ‘A single seed can tip the scale, be the seed!’

Article courtesy of Expert Contributor: JamesP from Marijuana Writers (