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THE SCENE : Wailin' Season in San Diego

August 15, 1993|Bill Manson

Picture this: It's Saturday night. You and 20 other boats are anchored out in the inky waters off Shelter Island in San Diego Bay. Suddenly this guy looms out of the dark in a small powerboat, uncovers a piano and a Vanna White look-alike, then bursts into amplified song.

"Roll . . . out . . . the barrel . . . we'll have a barrel of fun."

The sailors around you start singing along. Soon 50 voices are roaring across the night waves.

The Floating Pianist has struck again. This time at the Chula Vista Yacht Club's R&R (Race 'n' Raft-up) weekend. "We had wondered how we were going to entertain ourselves once we got here," says the event's organizer, Tony Townend. "Then we saw a flyer for this wild and crazy guy. We couldn't resist."

"Offshore entertainment" is the brainchild of Dan Barnes and Diana Stephenson, born out of a career crisis. Barnes used to be a corporate pilot until last year, when the recession swallowed his clients. "I was at a loss," he says. "Then one day Diana just said, 'Do what you do best.' Well, I love playing honky-tonk piano and singing and showing off and boating. It took me a year to work out how to bring them all together, but this is the result."

The Chula Vista Yacht Club singalong echoes into the night for two hours, spiced with trivia quizzes and a "treasure chest" of chocolate gold coins for those brave enough to sing solo.

"We're just doing our job, entertaining the, uh, floating population of San Diego," says Barnes.

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