Believe it or not 2019 is about to sail into history, and like you, I can’t really believe it. If I didn’t know better, I’d think those scoundrel pirates stole it. And with a new year ready to sweep over us, that can mean only one thing. New Year’s Resolutions.
There’s something deep in the soul of every human being that strives towards a better life. Something that makes a person want to be better, do better, and achieve more. Even the slackers who sit back and collect welfare for a living, or use their time and talents to scam others, like those shysters who keep calling my house trying to sell my wife devices for her back and legs, all the while pretending to be from Medicare.
Making New Year’s Resolutions seems to be part of our DNA… even if we only make them in our head. As a pirate and a writer, I can’t help but wonder what kind of resolutions some of the more famous pirates might have made.
First there’s Blackbeard. Before assuming that name, he was known as Edward Teach, or possibly Edward Thatch, but somehow that doesn’t have quite the zing to it that Blackbeard does. That must have been one of his resolutions early in life.
Blackbeard died in the shoals of North Carolina where he had been hiding out. The night before he threw a massive party, and had an incredible hangover the next day. And it got worse. Lieutenant Maynard, who had been sent by the governor of Virginia to track him down, discovered his hide out and initiated an attack. If you ever had a headache from imbibing too much the night before, imagine how painful it must have been when cannons roared. To make matters worse both ships were stuck in muck and both sides had to wait for a rising tide to maneuver.
Outgunned by Blackbeard’s cannons, Maynard was in a precarious position. He ordered his men below deck, and Blackbeard, his head throbbing but certain of victory, swarmed Maynard’s ship. Suddenly, a door burst open, and Maynard’s well-armed men swarmed the deck. Fighting was vicious, and it took a combination of almost two dozen pistol shots and sabre cuts to bring Blackbeard down.
Ironically, the only thing that stopped him was a sword that separated his head from his shoulders. Well, that’s one way to get rid of a hangover, but not highly recommended.
I’m willing to bet my last doubloon that had Blackbeard lived, he would have made a couple of resolutions. One, go a little lighter on the rum. Two, Never underestimate your enemies. And three, arrogance can be your undoing.
Then there’s the situation Bartholomew Roberts got himself into. Also known as Black Bart, Roberts hounded shipping in the Caribbean pretty much freely till the British Navy got tired of his antics. He even went so far as to have a flag drawn up with the initials AMH and ABH on it as a warning to the governors of Barbados and Martinique that he would kill them if he got the chance. He did exactly that when he caught up with the governor of Martinique.
Unfortunately, Roberts got into trouble when he got over sure of himself and chased a ship that turned out to be a British man-of-war. Oops. His smugness no doubt turned to dismay when he realized he was trading broadsides with a ship better armed than his. Roberts died in the battle and his men threw his body overboard at his request. No doubt he didn’t want to be placed in a gibbet and his remains left hanging for everyone to stare at.
I bet if Roberts had to make a New Year’s resolution or two one would be: “Keep a low profile. Drawing a lot of attention to yourself isn’t a good thing.” I bet his other resolution would have been: “You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.”
Then there’s Captain William Kidd. He’s often described in some books as one of the most evil pirates in history. That’s not true. Kidd was a businessman who entered into a partnership with some very influential businessmen in New York, including the governor himself. With sea water in his veins, he went to sea to hunt pirates, not become one. During his voyage, his recalcitrant men, hungry for booty, became rebellious and forced him to attack ships not on his list.
When Kidd finally made his way to the Caribbean, he was shocked to discover he was a wanted man. Partners with some of the most powerful people in the British government, he was certain he could easily clear his name. Was he wrong! Embarrassed to be associated with Kidd, everyone denounced him and let him die on the gallows in England.
Want to guess what Kidd’s New Year’s Resolutions would be? “Don’t be too naïve. Politicians are about as good as their word, and when the caca hits the fan, you better not be standing too close.” I bet he wished he had stayed in the Caribbean a little longer, working on Plan B.
As I welcome 2020, I realize I have a lot of good resolutions I never quite got around to executing from last year. I also have a few new ones I’m sure will make my life better in the new year; maybe there’s something you might be able to use too.
One. Plan your day. If you’re a wandering generality, as Zig Ziglar likes to say, tomorrow’s going to look just like today which looked just like yesterday. But a plan changes all that.
Two. Don’t over plan your day. Leave time for fun and adventure. Otherwise your life is going to look like a boring checklist from the back of some How-To book.
Three. Have Hope. You must believe All things are Possible.
Four. Always appreciate what you have. Practice this every day. If you think you got it really good, God is going to say to you: “If you think things are going great for you now, wait till you see what I have planned for you next week.” He’ll also say to those blind to their blessings: “If you think you have something to complain about now, wait till you see what I’m sending you next week.”
Five. Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. Learn from yours and move on.
Six. People will betray you. You’ll think they’re in your corner, and one day you awake to find out they’re gone. It’s life. Don’t let it stop you. The power of how far you will travel in life is determined by you, not your enemies.
Seven. Never stop dreaming. Your dreams are what keep you young. I count my age by my dreams. Years are a chronological fact like the United States was born in 1776.
Eight. Never stop believing in yourself. No matter how old you are, there’s a vast, untapped potential waiting to be discovered. What are you waiting for?
Nine. Don’t listen to “No,” when your heart says “Yes.”
Ten. This one is for you to fill in. Please tell me one resolution you think would be invaluable for everyone to make this coming year.
I don’t know what storms will blow my way or yours this year, but if you take only one or two ideas here, you just might have a little more fun navigating the Seas of Life. I wish you Health. I wish you Fun. I wish you Love. And I wish you Adventure.
The Uncommon Mariner
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It’s 1:45 pm on a Thursday, but this is no ordinary Thursday. Hurricane Dorian is bearing down on my house in M.I.S.C. Horrific rains are whipping the roof and sides of my house relentlessly, looking for the smallest crack so they can enter.
The eye of the storm is churning furiously in the sea just 40 miles from my front door. During the night my wife and I rose and went to her Creativity Room where she breathes life into amazing things, like shell wreaths and delicate fairy books that she spent thousands of hours creating.
Afraid that Dorian might have his way, she asked that we move them to a safer place in the house and wrap them in plastic. Three hours later the job was done, and we slept soundly while the winds raged outside our window.
You’d think that the storm would be further along by now, but it’s a bully, taking its time, beating anyone and anything exposed to its fury. Just look what it did in the Bahamas.
Forecasters are predicting that winds will increase to anywhere between 45 and 75 miles-per-hour later this afternoon. Torrential downpours are accompanying the terrifying winds, so we haven’t seen anything yet.
I’ve done what I can to prepare for Dorian. I hope it was enough. I’ll tell you about it in a minute, but first let me relate a true story that happened three days ago at a local Home Depot. While picking up supplies, I overheard customers and employees discussing the impending storm. Everyone seemed to have their opinion about how bad it would be.
Some based their opinion on the forecast and logic; others were talking… let’s see, how can I put this delicately? Others were talking out of the seat of their pants.
“It’s not going to be bad.”
“We’re not going to get anything.”
“It’s not going to be as bad as they predict.”
“They always say that to scare you.”
I wonder if those who voiced those optimistic forecasts are sitting safely in their own homes now or in a shelter. Hurricanes can be so unforgiving when you don’t prepare for one.
While standing in line, I couldn’t help but hear something else that was pretty stupid. “There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m here to pick up paint for my daughter’s bedroom.” Someone else chimed in: “You got that right. They tell me I need to sandbag my house, but that ain’t gonna make any difference.”
Well, the first man was half right. There is absolutely nothing you can do to direct the storm or mitigate its intensity unless you’re a devout believer, and can talk God into helping out a little. But there’s plenty you can do to prepare for the worst. I don’t live in a flood zone, so I don’t have to worry about sand bags, but I’m smart enough to know there are other things that need to be done.
I would almost feel silly admitting this to those numbskulls at Home Depot, but I spent four days turning my house into a virtual man-of-war. I didn’t roll any cannons out; my neighbor across the street might have been terrified had I done that, but there were a number of key things I did do.
First, I climbed onto the roof of my sunporch and caulked the seams of the metal sheets to keep out rain that always seems to find a way in. While up there, I inspected my roof and found two cracked shingles and a vent that needed caulking. Done and done!
On Sunday, I cleaned out gutters, far from a glorious job. Hauling a ladder around the house and having to keep climbing it is hardly my idea of fun. Sticking my hand into rotted leaves and muck is even less so. My friends at Home Depot, no doubt, were home drinking beer and watching football.
I spent Monday screwing three-foot anchors into the ground around my shed so I could tie it down. Without tiedowns, it was likely to blow into my neighbor’s yard or worse into the next county. I use the word tiedown, but it’s probably the wrong word. Chaining it down would be far more accurate.
Let me explain something to you about these tiedown kits they sell. They give you four sturdy anchors and a strand of wire that a pencil neck like pirate Stede Bonnet could rip with his bare hands. The strands might be good for flossing, but that’s it. So on Tuesday, I got the heaviest chain I could find and had my friendly Home Depot associate cut an 8-foot length into four sections. The whole thing probably weighed about forty pounds. I then spent the rest of the day chaining my shed to the ground.
Yesterday, I spent the morning disassembling my pirate paradise, so pieces of it wouldn’t end up in North Carolina near the shoals where Blackbeard deliberately sank his Queen Anne’s Revenge. Screens, conch shells, pirate flags, two skeletons (one with a wooden leg), and furniture all had to be packed into the shed.
Of course, that didn’t include twelve flamingos that roam my pirate paradise. Boy, did they squawk when I corralled them up.
When I finished, I thought of the numbskulls who said there was nothing they could do, and I wanted to drive to Home Depot and hit them over the head with one of my flamingos. They would have been upset. My flamingo would have been upset, so I had a shot of rum instead.
It’s getting close to three o’clock, and that means I have an hour before Dorian fires a vicious series of broadsides that’s bound to shake the rafters of my home. I hope I did enough to prepare for the attack. As for the two knuckleheads who couldn’t or wouldn’t help themselves, God help them. Oh, wait! God helps those that help themselves. So I guess that’s not going to happen.
As the ever-vigilant Coast Guard who has been doing so much for so many in this storm says, Semper Paratis. That’s Latin which literally means always prepared. Or as the United Coast Guard says: Always Ready.
What do you do to get ready for a monster storm? Let me know, and I’ll pass your ideas on. Stay safe out there.
The Uncommon Mariner
P.S. We should never forget the huge debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard during this crisis. They have sacrificed so much and given so much of themselves to keep everyone safe.
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It’s no secret by now that the Bahamas have suffered a series of devastating blows from Hurricane Dorian. With twenty dead and many more victims to be counted, well over 13,000 families are now homeless, and that’s a modest estimate. It’s hard to find a strong enough word to describe what happened to our neighbors just a stone’s throw from Miami. Horrific doesn’t come close. Catastrophic is not much better. When looking at the open wounds of these island people, those words seem too sterile or impotent.
Authorities have yet to estimate the cost of this devastating storm. More importantly, entire towns were obliterated, but the storm was non-partisan. Dorian has forever changed the lives of rich and poor, black and white. Many whose ancestors have called the Bahamas their home for generations now have no home to go back to.
The Bahamas, unlike many other Caribbean islands, is largely flat. So when the raging waters of the storm filled the home of one Bahamian family, mother and father and their children climbed to their attic. There they hoisted themselves onto the rafters of their humble house where they huddled in fear. Then the unthinkable happened. Dorian, with its 185 mile-an-hour winds, peeled the roof off, and spit its wrath onto the little family clinging for their lives. Merciless, the hurricane whipped wind and rain in their faces. Exposed to the full fury of the storm, children clung precariously to the rafters while mom and dad looked helplessly on.
Minutes later, another threat became obvious. Pieces of sharp metal ripped from the roofs of another home hurled themselves mercilessly at them. Other debris found their mark, ripping fingers that clung for life, and gouging faces that looked for mercy from a storm that would give them none. For over 24 hours the eye of the hurricane slashed at them, gloating in its torture.
Multiply that scenario by thousands of homes where, in some cases, three generations of Bahamians clung for dear life. The storm is past, and the families of the islands are left to pick up the pieces of their lives buried in the rubble of their homes.
If you believe in God, I urge you to pray for them. But don’t think that prayers are enough. Some one once observed: “More precious than the hands that pray are the hands that help.” The hurricane is past, and now it’s a time for doing. Pity, prayer, and thoughts of the devastated are all fine, but help is what these island people really need.
I’m not a wealthy man by any means, but I encourage everyone reading this to make a donation to the Red Cross or any other group directly offering help though you need to watch out for little known charities who far too often put your donation in their pocket.
If I were a Warren Buffett or a Bill Gates, or one of thousands of sports figures making millions of dollars every year, I wouldn’t hesitate to take one of those millions to help the people of the Bahamas rebuild their lives.
If I were the President of the United States or an influential politician, I would waste no time stepping up to the plate offering massive aid not just for relief, but to help the people rebuild their homes and their lives. We’re not talking a few million dollars which would be nothing but a band aid on a hemorrhaging artery. I’m talking about a massive infusion of cash. Twenty-five to 50 million dollars would be great for starters.
Maybe some of the millionaires who recently got massive tax breaks would be interested in returning the money that they never really needed, so they could help those whose only fault was being caught in the eye of a storm, incredibly brutal and cruel.
What’s your opinion? Do you think it’s enough just to pray for our neighbors just 50 miles off our coast? Or do you think we should do something about it. What would you do? Here’s a better question. What ARE you going to do?
The Uncommon Mariner
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