Monthly Archives: May 2016

You Can Reason with Hurricane Season

Where are you going to go when that big storm blows?

Where are you going to go when that big storm blows?

In case you haven’t heard, June 01st is the official start of hurricane season, and it doesn’t come to an end until December 01st. A lot can happen in six months and sometimes does, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be in better condition to cope than if you allow yourself to remain clueless.

Hurricanes don’t always know they’re supposed to hit between June and November 30th, so don’t be surprised if an occasional tropical storm becomes obstinate and sets her own pattern. Tropical storm Ana formed over Easter weekend in 2003 though she didn’t amount to much.

Hurricane season doesn’t really ramp up until mid August then it can be a roller coaster ride through October. That’s not to say that killer storms won’t hit before that or even in November because they have, it’s just that the season

Intensifies as it grows later till finally it dies down.

Most people think the real damage from hurricanes is caused by wind. The truth is winds can be extremely deadly, but the tidal surge accounts for a vast majority of deaths. Audrey hit east Texas in 1957, pushing a massive tidal surge forward while unsuspecting residents slept in their beds. Over five hundred people perished. The storm surge of Camile on August 18, 1969 left over two hundred and fifty dead from Louisiana to Virginia.

So what should you do to prevent you or your family from becoming a statistic? Three things: One, listen to officials and follow their directives. When they tell you to prepare to evacuate, be ready to go. Two, Be prepared. This means getting your property storm ready and your family ready to move if necessary. Three, have a plan. Know what you need to do, what you need to bring with you, and who you will need to contact.

Several things are important if you want to minimize damage to your property or danger to yourself. Cut down dead trees and branches near your home now. They’ll look pretty darn ugly sticking through your roof when you could have done something about it earlier. Continue reading →

Stand Fast


         If you love your freedom, if you love being able to read the newspaper or magazine of your choice, listen or watch what you want on radio or TV, you need to put your computer or phone aside and thank someone who’s served in the armed forces. But wait! Finish this blog first.

Since 1949, the third Saturday of May has been designated as Armed Forces Day. In fact, the entire preceding week has been set aside to honor all the branches of our military.

I often wondered what it would be like to live in a world without armed forces. Thoughts of peace, tranquility, and brotherhood surfaced momentarily, then I realized the Hitlers, Saddam Husseins, Kim Il Sings, and Osama bin Ladens are always waiting in the wings ready to snatch freedom, property, and life from millions of people. Together they have wiped out untold millions of people and brought unspeakable misery on billions more.

And you thought pirates were bad!

Today’s pirates, as serious a threat as they are, and make no doubt about it, they are a serious threat, are a nuisance compare to the threats posed by organizations like Alq-Queda, Isis, and the Taliban.

Add to this mix a sabre-rattling North Korea, always restless and dangerously aggressive. To her west lies China who has built an island in the South China Sea complete with a lighthouse, expecting the nations of the world to recognize her claim to the surrounding seas as she subtly expands her global power.

Tyranny is alive and well, and people around the world need to realize the price of any country’s freedom is vigilance, and that vigilance lies in an armed force that is respected, honored, and given the support it needs to do its job.

Here in the United States, we place a high value on our military and the families who serve in it. No one knows when the ante will be raised and they will be called to action. We live in uncertain times, and a crisis is never far away. Our military must be ready to adapt to unusual circumstances as it did when President Monroe established the Mosquito Fleet in Key West in response to a vicious uprising of pirates attacks in the 1800’s. Under Commodore Porter’s command, the pirates were dealt with so swiftly they barely had a chance to yell “Aarrrgh!”

Supporting our military is by no means to suggest we return to the Sixties when the super powers had enough bombs to obliterate every living thing on this planet hundreds of times over. But as the leading Super Power, the United States is a microcosm of all civilized nations. When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. We, along with our allies, are constantly being tested. Think 911, and the terrorist bombings in London, Paris, and Belgium.

A standing army and navy equipped with the latest technological advances are a must if we are to be prepared for the next crisis fomented by our enemies. It’s hardly a time to cut the budgets of our dedicated military.

Piracy lasted far too long in the Caribbean in the 1600 and 1700’s. No one expected piracy to become literally such an explosive phenomenon. Lacking a significant army or navy, the super powers that ruled then could do little. It’s true Spain had her guarda costa, but it was too small to be effective. Even Britain did little till she finally got some skin in the game. Once she established a naval presence and sent her pirate hunters to track the buccaneers down, piracy was quickly eradicated.

If you want to keep the bad guys in check, then you have to give our Armed Forces the tools they need to do the job. This nation owes all the men and women who serve a huge debt of thanks, and the best way to do that is to let your congressman know how you feel about budget cuts that adversely affect them.

Armed Forces Day isn’t about flexing our military muscles. It isn’t about threatening other nations. It is about recognizing that might doesn’t make right, but it does go a long way in keeping the bad guys in check- whether they’re pirates, terrorists, or countries halfway around the world eager to test our resolve.

Text, twitter, facebook, call, or email someone you know in the military and thank him/her for their service. And the next time your congressman talks about cutting the military budget that’s already stretched thin, let him know in no uncertain terms what you think of the scalawag.

                           Bill Hegerich

                         The Uncommon Mariner


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Accidents at Sea

Any landlubber can bring a ship to sea. But it takes a true mariner to bring her safely home.

Any landlubber can bring a ship to sea. But it takes a true mariner to bring her safely home.

On May 07, the Maersk ship Safemarine Meru collided with a German container ship, the Northern Jasper in the South China Sea. Miraculously there were no deaths or serious injuries on either ship.

With a fire aboard the Meru, the crew of twenty-two transferred to the German ship which apparently suffered no damage. Chinese fireboats arrived at the scene and extinguished the blaze, and later in the week the Meru was towed seventy-eight nautical miles to the Port of Ningbo.

Tragically, the same day, seemingly not far from where the freighters collided, a Maltese freighter collided with a Chinese fishing boat, the Lu Rong Yu. Two died and seventeen are missing. Several nations including Japan and the Philippines have complained about the wanton disregard for safety on the part of Chinese fishing boats.

The cause of the two accidents are under investigation, and without credible witnesses, blame may never be properly fixed.

Going to sea either as a professional mariner or a traveler is always a risky proposition. There is a saying, “What the sea wants, the sea will have.” But those who go down to the sea, don’t have to make it easy for her.

Ask almost anyone in the shipping industry and those who investigate accidents, and most will tell you the same thing. Accidents at sea are generally caused by three things. Mechanical failure, human error, or weather. Often it’s a combination of all three.

Sometimes the crew members in charge of navigation and piloting are not paying attention on the bridge. That’s why the more eyes there the better. What’s worse than an inattentive crew on a ship is an inattentive crew on a ship coming the other direction.

Long hours, boredom, and ennui also contribute to collisions. Navigators who have logged thousands of hours on the bridge have their routine down pat. But as we all know, we lose out edge when we don’t double check ourselves. Assuming everything is fine is the mother of all screw-ups.

Distractions also play a role in accidents. A conversation. A spilled cup of coffee. A personal problem. Though they seem insignificant, they can, indeed, be contributing factors to a disaster at sea just like an automobile accident on the highway.

How often was a captain in a hurry, wanting nothing more than to get the ship docked and complete the journey? That’s understandable. But not at the expense of safety. Coming in too quickly to port or not wanting to burn more fuel than necessary puts everyone at risk on board and in port.

Unfamiliarity with a region has also been a contributing factor to disasters at sea. A strange harbor, river, or bay. Currents peculiar to a certain area can wreak havoc on a ship’s steering. Hidden rocks, sandbars, or jetties covered by a moon tide often lie waiting for the unsuspecting mariner.

When the Tek Sing set out from Xiamen, China to Indonesia in 1822, the trip went smoothly. Then the captain decided to take a shortcut through the Gaspar Strait to save time. Unfamiliar with the area, he hit a shallow reef. The impact ripped the ship to pieces and over 1,400 died. Continue reading →

You Have to Grow Older, but You Don’t Have to Grow Up

Send more pirates. The last one was delicious.

Send more pirates. The last one was delicious.

May 09 marks the 156th birthday of J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. It was Barrie who helped shape our concept of pirates and our love for them. Captain Hook with his elaborate dress, his one eye, his hook, and his diabolical demeanor changed the public‘s consciousness towards pirates forever. We were hooked from the outset.

Barrie was born in Scotland but moved to London to make his way in the literary world. He was successful as a playwright long before he wrote Peter Pan in 1903. However, when it appeared on stage the following year, audiences adored it.

Few are aware the character of Peter Pan first appeared in another work of Barrie’s called The Little White Bird. When Peter Pan was first written, it was also known appropriately enough as The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.

Peter Pan relates the story of a boy who remains eternally young. One night he flies into a nursery and tells two boys and a girl all about Never Never Land. Fascinated, he agrees to take them there after a fairy sprinkles them with fairy dust. Their adventures involve Peter battling Captain Hook who tries several times to kill him. In the end, Peter defeats Hook when he falls off his ship, the Jolly Roger, and into the mouth of a waiting crocodile.

Peter Pan appeals to that part of our soul that stays forever young, that prompts us to still chase our dreams and believe anything is possible whether we‘re six or ninety-six.

Beyond that, Peter Pan teaches us that it’s okay to be childlike long after we’ve outgrown our childish ways. This would help to explain why Jimmy Buffett is still so appealing to aging parrotheads. He’s reintroduced us to pirates and the fun to be had from exploring our childlike heart. Continue reading →