commentary

What’s Really Keeping America Safe

It’s with a heavy heart and a whole lot of angst that I’m writing this blog. The United States is now in its 34th day of a government shutdown that Donald Trump, our ersatz president gleefully takes credit for. The scenario has the emperor Nero written all over it. For those of you who were smoking in the boy’s or girl’s bathroom during that history lesson, Nero was the sadistic emperor who played his fiddle while Rome burned. Sound familiar?

The Coast Guard along with countless thousands of others are now facing the second payday without a paycheck. Part of the strumpet’s coterie suggests these hardworking folks go to their local grocery store and tell the manager, they can’t pay now, but they’ll pay later. That would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. As if the grocery stores don’t have to meet their own overhead and pay salaries.

Or how about this. When your credit card bill and your mortgage payment come due, the president wants you to pick up the phone and tell the nice person at the other end you are a government employee and you’re sacrificing yourself so he can build a wall for his supporters. Do you know how stupid that sounds?

Imagine telling 40,000 Coast Guard men and women that the sacrifices they make day in and day out is not enough. “Now you must sacrifice even more so I can build a wall.” And this coming from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. If I wrote a book with this stuff in it, my agent would laugh me out of her office.

Of course, the Strumpet isn’t the only one to blame for the terrible predicament the Coast Guard and other federal employees are in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell evidently thinks his job is to be head cheerleader for the president of the U.S. Now there’s someone who must have been smoking in the boy’s bathroom when civics was being taught.

Our forefathers set up our government with three branches. The Senate and the Congress are supposed to make laws. Not the president. If the president doesn’t like what’s put before him, he can veto it. It’s then up to the Congress and the Senate to get enough votes to override his veto and make their proposal into a law.

Instead of assuming the unpleasant task of confronting the president, McConnell has, instead, decided to climb into bed with the strumpet. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would be infuriated if they could see this scenario being played out.

I don’t know how long this shutdown will continue, but I want to put a few salient facts about the Coast Guard before you. And if you’re not angered by what is being done to the members of the USCG, you’re part of the problem. If you are angered, then let the politicians know how furious you are, and let them know you have a long memory, a memory that stretches to the next elections in 2020.

If you do nothing, then when planes begin dropping out of the sky because air traffic controllers can’t do their job properly, when security at our ports falters, when the USCG can’t buy the gas they need to run their boats and helicopters to perform their Search-and-Rescue missions, you really must accept your part in this fiasco.

Maybe you know a Coastie who is struggling to make ends meet, maybe you know an air traffic controller whose mind is distracted because he can’t pay his kid’s medical bills, or maybe you know some other government worker who’s been told to take a job as an Uber driver or get a loan which will have to be paid back with double- digit interest while the billionaires in Washington waddle to their five-star restaurants and hotels, insulated from reality.

Support our unpaid patriots in whatever way you can. They’re hardworking folks just like you and me, and they don’t deserve to be betrayed by their Commander-in-Chief or other politicians in Washington. A couple of bucks, a gift card to help them through the crisis, a donation to a local food pantry; it’s all good. Contact the Coast Guard in your area. They’ll give you some ideas. Donate to the USO who’s also involved in assisting these dedicated men and women, being treated like shameless pawns.

Did You know…

  1. The Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security and not independent like the Navy, Army, or Air Force. During war, the Coast Guard comes under the Navy. The Coast Guard keeps us a lot more secure than a wall ever will.
  2. Semper Paratus is the motto of the Coast Guard. It means Always ready. I wonder if the men and women of the Coast Guard were ready to be betrayed by the politicians in Washington.
  3. The Coast Guard was founded Aug. 4, 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury. There was a lot of turmoil in the government then, but they managed to work things out. I bet if he saw how the clowns in Washington are acting today, he’d come after them with a horsewhip.
  4. The Coast Guard not only provides security around the world as well as rescuing boaters, but they employ ice breakers and provide for safe navigation by tending buoys all over the U.S.
  5. If you’re a bad dude, better watch out for the DOG, the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group. This counter-terrorism group hits fast and hard. I bet their job is a lot harder with the government shutdown. I wonder if the president cares.
  6. On average, the Coast Guard conducts over 100 Search-and-Rescues a day and saves ten lives. Since the government shutdown, that’s 350 lives saved on average. Is a wall meant to flatter an over-inflated ego worth that many lives?
  7. In an average year, the Coast Guard interdicts over 100 tons of cocaine. I guess Trump wouldn’t be interested in knowing the Coast Guard didn’t sail their boats into the middle of farmland bordering Mexico to do that. They actually did it on water which means security on the seas and in ports is what is key to keeping America safe. Not a wall.
  8. Every year the Coast Guard conducts over 1,400 boardings of ships suspected to be high risk to national safety. Remember, that’s just in one year. If the president is so concerned about the safety of America, maybe he should spend a hell of a lot more money providing the Coast Guard with the tools it needs to do its job.

                                  Bill Hegerich

                                   The Uncommon Mariner

to leave a comment, click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/01/25/whats-really-keeping-america-safe/

Welcome to 2019

Welcome to 2019. With the dawning of this new year, comes great hope. Hope that our lives will be better, that each of us, in our own way, will find a way to make our lives and those of others better.

Two thousand and eighteen was a good year. Before you decide to complain about how terrible it was personally or globally, let me paraphrase the curmudgeon Judge Judy. “You’re alive. Does it look like you’re losing?”

The state of South Carolina ranks close to last for things no one wants to write home to their mother about. Spousal abuse, economic well-being, and education and health. Yet it has a wonderful motto: Dum spiro, spero. “While I breathe, I hope.” A lot of not so nice things transpired last year personally and worldwide that it would be easy to lose hope.

I discovered mold issues in my house which caused a major drain on my time, resources, and energy. I had a truck on its last legs, at least they looked like legs when the mechanic put it up on the lift. My wife struggled with bad knees and legs and has been reminded of the pain with every step. The international community saw one of the greatest countries in the world alienate all its allies and suck up to despotic regimes that the rest of the globe has been trying to neutralize for over 75 years. Catholics and Baptists have had their faith betrayed by child molesters and their leaders, leaders whom they trusted for guidance and inspiration.

But the news wasn’t all bad. My agent who recently moved from Boston to Texas, has continued to represent and guide me along with many other writers. I doubt anyone not connected to the publishing world can appreciate the challenges and sacrifices she makes.

My wife wakes up every morning with a hopeful heart and throws herself head on into activities she loves. She continues to create shell wreaths that adorn homes throughout the Grand Strand of South Carolina. My daughter in the Coast Guard has taken over a challenging job at Sector Charleston, managing critical areas in personnel and resources. She would be embarrassed if I elaborated on the impact her personal efforts are making on her fellow officers and her charges. With Donald Trump’s government shutdown, no doubt her job has been made that much more difficult.

My son continues to work as a teacher in the Toms River school district where he inspires hundreds of high school students. I doubt he has an inkling of the impact he’s making on those lives. When not devoting his time to his profession, he pursues a Master’s Degree in genocide studies. Perhaps the world would be a much kinder and gentler place if more people acquired the sensitivity that kind of experience brings.

My other daughter, Jennifer, is now in her fifteenth year working as a counselor for Vocational Rehabilitation in South Carolina. Her wide array of clients includes elderly folks recovering from debilitating operations and diseases to younger clients with a variety of needs. Some are just hard-working folks who have fallen on hard times. Others are former prisoners and drug addicts seeking a new start in life.

In the midst of all the chaos, one thing remains that will see us through the hard times ahead. Hope. The recluse poet, Emily Dickinson, who in her lifetime, barely traveled a few hundred miles from her home, put it best.

“Hope is the thing with feathers,

That perches in the soul.

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all.”

Hope is like that. It’s quiet but real and will sustain you in hard times, no matter who you are.

As the new year, in its infancy, dawns, I wish you a fantastic 2019. Following is a piece I wrote last year that others have requested as a reprint, so I’m offering it to you as a New Year’s gift. May it help you reach deep into your soul where Hope lives and rediscover the strength and light you need to live the best year of your life.

We’re two weeks into the New Year and by now most people have blown their New Year’s Resolutions. Still working out every day? Missed two days the first week and the second week wasn’t any better. Showed up two days. That diet you’ve been on? Some have gained another pound or two trying to get rid of that holiday candy calling their name.

            But I’m not too concerned about that gym resolution or those few pounds that found their way to your waist. Doctors and psychologists will tell you it’s normal for people to break those kinds of resolutions shortly after they’re made unless they’re tied to a profound commitment to change.

And that’s why I’m offering you a second chance. A second chance to make some meaningful New Year Resolutions that will have a huge impact on your life. These twelve resolutions have less to do with diet and exercise and more to do with altering the behavior that will get you to the Far Side of the World where your Pirate Dreams await.

  1. Don’t surround yourself with negative people. These are people who make you feel small. People who laugh at your dreams. They may also be the people who get real quiet when you talk about your dreams instead of getting excited.

  2. Have a goal to work on every day. You always need to keep your Dream before you and do something small towards achieving it. It’s how you turn goals into GOLD.

  3. Forget the past. Forget the people who were mean to you, who gossiped about you, who failed when you needed help.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Their negativity will consume too much of your energy. Don’t give them that power.

  4. When you’re tempted to quit, remember your dreams and why you held on for so long. They’re the reason you’ll hold on when the storms of life blow again.

  5. Have an island to go to. A retreat where you can rest when life is overbearing. It can be a room in your house, a corner of your yard, or simply a chair that offers comfort and a nice view. I’m lucky. I have an alcove in my bedroom with a sofa surrounded by bookcases brimming with books. I also have a sunporch and a backyard retreat with several hidden coves I can lose myself in. I can also retreat to Brookgreen Gardens only a stone’s throw from my house where the landscape and art work is salve to my soul.                                                                          

  6. Take time to have fun every day. Jimmy Buffett once said, “Having fun is a good habit to get into.” It’s why children are so resilient when they get hurt emotionally and physically. They know how important it is to have fun.

  7. Take time to count your blessings. You’re richer than you think. Recognize all the good things working for you. Touch them mindfully every single day. If you’re not taking the time to savor the small things in your life, you’re killing it off.

  8. Enjoy the journey. If you wait until you reach a goal to be happy, you’re throwing away all the days you’re working to get there.

  9. Forgive yourself. We all mess up. When you fall, get up and keep going. Failure is not permanent unless you stay down. And remember people who remind you of your shortcomings, failings, and mistakes, aren’t your friends. Not to be too blunt about it, but in a sailor’s language, people who do that are scumbags that you don’t need in your life. The New Year is a good time to jettison them just as you would any other garbage mucking up your life.

  10. Raise your sails. The winds of opportunity may blow, but it does you no good if you stay in harbor.

  11. Don’t accept excuses from yourself. Somedays the storms of life never seem to stop blowing, but when your boat get swamped, bail it out, get yourself afloat, and sail on. Sitting your soggy ass in port feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to get you any closer to the Island of your Dreams.

  12. Finally, don’t let fear paralyze you. I always remind my pirate wife that fear always makes the cannons seem louder than they are. The remedy is to act. The smallest action will get you moving and break the chains of fear holding you back.

I hope the New Year 2019 holds a world of adventure for you with blessings that you can only begin to guess at. But if you expect to make it one for the record books, you have to hoist that anchor. God may provide the wind, but you have to raise those sails. Good luck and see you out there on the Far Side of the World. Even if you’ve never met me, you’ll recognize me instantly. I’ll be the one yelling and screaming at the top of my lungs enjoying every swell and every dip on the High Seas of Life.

                                           Bill Hegerich

                                           The Uncommon Mariner

To leave a comment, visit https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/welcome-to-2019/

Thirsty Pirates

“I like beer. Do you like beer? All my friends like beer. Gee! I wish I had one now.”

I can’t help but imagine Blackbeard or the crew of Calico Jack Rackham saying those words with gusto. Or Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He said so himself when he testified before the Senate committee recently.

I don’t think he helped his case much. When you’re pretty much fighting for your political life, how smart is it to brag about your excessive drinking habits?

I mean you’re more or less applying for one of the most important positions in government, and you don’t have the judicial smarts to tone it down? It’s more like the man was applying for a seat on the board of Anheuser-Busch who makes lots of beer, good beer. Or maybe he had a mental lapse and thought he was applying for the job of CEO of Brown-Forman, the company that makes Jack Daniels whiskey.

Pirates would surely welcome Kavanaugh into their circle. After all, what bunch of rum-guzzling, beer-swilling alcoholics wouldn’t want a Supreme Court Justice along for the ride? Pirates would probably find him quite helpful when their cases came to trial. “Charged with murder, mayhem, and robbery on the high seas? Not to worry! The judge is one of us.”

Of course, not all pirates swilled rum. In fact, they guzzled anything that had alcohol in it. Beer though did just fine. There’s one pirate, however, that was a teetotaler. That was Bartholomew Roberts. I think he probably tried to curtail his crew’s drinking, but I’m not certain he was all that successful.

Most people are surprised to learn that beer was an important part of a sailor’s diet in the 1700 and 1800’s. But there can be too much of a good thing. Because beer and ale spoiled on long voyages, rum became an important drink. When it became apparent performing one’s duties with a buzz was a risky business, Admiral Edward Vernon ordered that a sailor’s half pint of rum rations be cut with a quart of water. Because he wore a coat made of grogram, his concoction was eventually nicknamed grog.

It’s too bad Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t around a couple hundred years ago to serve in the Royal Navy. I think he would have found a home there though I think he would have enjoyed life more on a pirate ship where drinking and wenching were encouraged.

I like beer. Do you like beer? The trouble with beer or any other alcoholic drink is you’re a drunk if every night you’re having quite a few. Eventually, drinking too much is going to catch up with you whether you’re a pirate or a judge.

Speaking of judge, it’s no surprise that alcohol affects your ability to make clear judgments. That’s why it’s easy to scarf down a bag of potato chips and a plate full of sweets when you’re half in the bag despite your best intentions.

If you’re a pirate loading a cannon or a judge making life-and-death decisions, I have to wonder what faulty judgments could cost someone an eye or a hand or worse. For example, did you know that alcohol has been responsible for the demise of a lot of pirates. Jack Rackham and his crew got so drunk that they couldn’t fight when pirate hunters descended on their ship?

Want to know who defended the ship and the drunken crew who cowered below deck? Two women who people in those days believed were incapable of doing anything except looking pretty. Ann Bonny and Mary Read fought the British Navy side by side till they were so outnumbered that they were forced to surrender.

Would you be surprised if I told you before Jack Rackham was hanged, Ann Bonny reminded Jack of that night. “If ye had fought like a man, ye wouldn’t have to die like a dog.”

Beer? Rum? Or as Jimmy Buffett would say: “Tequila? Of course, I’ll have some.” He may have said it jokingly, but he would agree it’s good to know when to say when.

Ben Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us.” I guess for pirates and politicians who indulge in happy hour that meant “the more I drink, the more God must love me.” I don’t know if Judge Kavanaugh thinks like that. What I do know is he likes beer. He told us so in his own words. Several times.

John Ciardi once said, “All things in moderation. Including moderation.” So I think I’ll have a beer. If Blackbeard were here, I wouldn’t mind sharing one with him. I don’t think I’d want to have one with Brett Kavanaugh any time soon. I don’t like people who pretend they’re being honest when they’re covering up more than they’re revealing.

For example, he stated at the Senate hearing that boofed means farting when in fact it refers to anal sex. He also stated that the Devil’s Triangle was a drinking game. The truth is it refers to two men having sex with a woman. He may have written those words in his high school yearbook a long time ago, but he outright lied about their real meanings just last week before millions of people. What’s disturbing to me is that if he’s willing to lie about that, what else is he willing to lie about?

And I don’t like men who yell at women in a professional setting. Where’s the dignity and respect that’s called for? Or does that go out the window with good judgment when you have that first shot of vodka?

I like pirates. They’re a no-nonsense, genuine bunch. I like beer. But what I especially like are pirates who like beer. I’m not too keen on politicians, especially politicians who drink beer and either can’t or don’t remember to tell the truth afterwards.

Tell me what you think. Do you like beer? Would you like to share one with pirates on a crowded ship? Or would you be more comfortable sharing one with Brett Kavanaugh in a nice quiet setting?

Now that I’ve finished this blog, I think I’ll have a beer. If only I could find that bottle opener my pirate wench hid on me. Maybe it’s next to Jimmy Buffett’s long, lost shaker of salt. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll have my mermaid make me a Margarita instead. That’ll leave an extra beer for Brett Kavanaugh. Aarrgh!!!

                         Bill Hegerich

                         The Uncommon Mariner

To leave a comment, please click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/thirsty-pirates/  But go finish your beer first.

Life Lessons from Papa Hemingway

Key West recently celebrated Ernest Hemingway’s birthday. Papa, as he was fondly called, is 119 years-old. Key West, as you probably know, was home to Hemingway from 1928 to 1940. Hemingway did some of his best work there. After alienating many of his friends because of an affair, he divorced his wife and married Martha Gelhorn. Strange as it may seem, he imposed a self-exile on himself, leaving Key West and moving to Cuba. There he wrote perhaps one of the best stories ever written. The Old Man and the Sea.

It’s the crowning masterpiece of a large set of literary accomplishments from a hardworking writer. The story isn’t long. But it’s packed with style and character, and it turned the literary world on its ear with its stark, simple writing. It earned him both the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. As a writer, I admire this especially in a world where so much writing is bombastic and self-aggrandizing.

I’ve always admired Hemingway’s writing though his personal life leaves a lot to be desired. Hemingway was no saint. Make no mistake about it. But none of us are. We struggle in the human condition, each of us making our share of mistakes, and all we can hope for is forgiveness and mercy from ourselves, each other, and God.

Hemingway once said the most essential thing a writer must have is a built-in “bullsh** detector.” I know I must drive my wife crazy, but I guess it’s the writer in me, so when I hear something that’s odd or hard to believe, I always ask: “Who said it?”  Or “How do you know this?” And when she tells me who told her, I ask: “How do they know?” At this point, she sometimes grows frustrated, but the writer in me has to ask. Maybe like Donald Trump I’m wary of fake news. Though I think our motives are far different. I want to verify the facts. Our president only wants to acknowledge the ones that fit into his bizarre sense of reality

It’s not that I don’t believe things that I read or are told to me. It’s just that when things don’t make sense, my built-in bullsh** detector goes wild, clicking like a metal detector over a pile of pirate booty buried in the sand off the nearby Garden City Pier.

Another thing I learned from Hemingway is that if you want to accomplish something, you have to park your rear-end in a chair and keep it there till you’ve made some significant headway. He started work somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00 each morning and pretty much stayed with it till way past noon. He would have his maid bring him a sandwich and something to drink and leave it outside the studio door over the carriage house where he worked.

He would then finish up his writing early in the afternoon. Not a bad day’s work for a writer who had to labor in the oppressive heat of Key West without air conditioning. Only then would he stop. He would then spend the next hour or so with his wife, Pauline, where they would often swim nude in the only inground pool for 100 miles around. Under penalty of being fired, his housekeeper was given strict orders not to disturb them or pry.

Hemingway no doubt could have gone on for another hour or two, but he once said that when you drain the well, you have to give it time to fill back up. As a result, he always made it a point to stop short of putting everything down on paper. That way when he came back the next day, he would already be deep in the middle of a scene instead of staring out the window, wondering what he was going to have for lunch that day.

Hemingway had a reputation for being a boozer, a reputation he deserved. But did you know he had a rule to never drink before writing and to never drink while writing? A lot of writers think alcohol makes them wittier, cleverer, or somehow opens the heavens so that the muses throw themselves at their feet. Hemingway was smart. He knew what seemed so ingenious during an alcohol-fueled writing session was just a lot of crap. His own built-in bullsh** detector wouldn’t allow even himself a free pass.

Hemingway rarely missed a day of writing. There were exceptions. The day his new fishing boat, the Pilar, was delivered was one of them. I can only imagine the excitement when he got news it was docked not far from his house. Not much got written that day, or the next or the next, or the day after that, but the creative energy triggered that day more than compensated for the time away from his writing table.

Wherever you are tonight, Papa, I hope you know what a difference you made in literature. I also hope you know that that built-in bullsh** detector is as important today as it was when you lived on Whitehead Street in Key West.

Happy Birthday, Ernest. Enjoy your lunch, savor your swim, and tell St. Peter I said to pour you a couple extra ones. You deserve it!

                                                  Bill Hegerich

                                                 The Uncommon Mariner

To leave a comment, please click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/life-lessons-from-papa-hemingway/  When you visit, don’t forget to view the Carriage House where Hemingway wrote.

Big Oil Says Spills are an Inconvenience

Big Oil wants to start drilling in your backyard. Enjoy the pristine beauty of the egrets and herons in your neighborhood before they’re covered in black muck

Most Americans probably didn’t notice it because it happened in the East China Sea, but on Jan. 6, 2018 an Iranian tanker, the Sanchi, filled with petroleum condensate, collided with a Chinese freighter, the CF Crystal, spilling 100,000 tons of oil into the sea. It’s a tragedy when one mariner dies, but 31 crew members from the Sanchi were either killed in the accident or presumed dead.

Because it was petroleum condensate, the spill was extremely flammable and spread quickly across the surface of the water, creating a sea of fire. God only knows how many sailors were thrown into the sea and burned alive.

Chinese officials are having a tough time getting close to the scene to even assess the damage. The consequences for the environment are devastating. Since the area is a known spawning ground for many species of fish, all kinds of marine life along with their habitat are being destroyed because not much can be done to clean anything up.

Chinese authorities were caught off guard just like local authorities and citizens would be around the globe, when such a huge disaster occurs. And let’s be clear about this. Any oil spill is a disaster because it has so much impact on an already fragile ecosystem.

Of course, the first modern mega oil spill occurred in Santa Barbara, CA Jan. 28, 1969. The world had never seen anything like it. Don Craggs, spokesman for Union Oil, told the governor of California that no oil had escaped. He lied. Within ten days, close to 100,000 barrels of oil washed up on the beaches of California. Hundreds of thousands of birds and fish died and beaches were hopelessly contaminated.

And for those who think history does not repeat itself, consider that on May 19, 2015, 100,000 barrels of crude oil leaked from a broken pipeline along Santa Barbara, CA at the start of the tourist season. The oil slick stretched for nine miles. Eventually, the spokesperson for Plains All American Pipeline, Greg Armstrong, said he was sorry for the spill. “We apologize for the damage that has been done to the wildlife and the environment, and we’re very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience that it has caused the citizens and visitors of this area.”

“Inconvenience?” Did he say inconvenience? Did he say that with a straight face or was he just jerking citizens, businesses, and tourists around? Did he just call the destruction of wildlife and the destruction of nine miles of oceanic environment an inconvenience?

I’ll tell you what’s an inconvenience. Inconvenience is when you have to reschedule a doctor’s appointment because your physician had an emergency. Inconvenience is when your four-year old throws up as you’re taking her to daycare. Diabolical comes closer to what oil companies do when oil spills happen.

Most Americans are old enough to remember the Deepwater Horizon debacle that began in the Gulf of Mexico April 20, 2010. In that travesty, over five million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf until the well was capped three months later. That’s five million barrels not gallons. There’s no wonder millions of fish and birds were killed, miles of pristine coastline fouled with muck, and the fishing industry crippled.

Eleven workers died in that explosion. Strange that you don’t hear much about them anymore just like we’re not likely to hear about the mariners who died in the South China Sea. That’s a shame because they were as much victims as the environment, but when it comes to making big bucks, oil companies don’t discriminate between herons, fish and humans caught up in the atrocities it creates.

And now we have oil companies anxious to drill off the Eastern seaboard of the United States. They’ve already testified before Congress, spouting their lies. They claim they have better response plans far superior to Deepwater. The fact is, their plans are pretty much a carbon copy of Deepwater’s. You can put lipstick on a pig and parade it before Congress, but it’s still a pig.

A lot of people think a Deepwater scenario could never happen again. And they’re even more convinced that a replay of the incident in the China Sea is even less likely to occur. Just speed bumps on the road to progress, right?

Not so fast! Oil spills aren’t rare occurrences controlled by fate. They happen far more frequently than big oil wants you to know. On June 03, 1979, an offshore rig exploded in the Bay of Campeche in Mexico and leaked 126 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico before being capped ten months later.

Many Americans remember when the oil tanker, Valdez, crashed along the pristine shores of southwest Alaska, March 24, 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of oil and destroying thousands of acres of coastline and millions of birds, fish, seals, otters and even whales. The salmon industry still languishes because of a spill no one ever believed would happen.

Oil companies now want us to trust them with our beaches and coastlines from Maine to Florida to Texas.  They want us to believe that nothing bad is going to happen when they drill and eventually pump oil from offshore rigs.

They want us to believe there will be no blowouts, that their response to such events will be so much improved that not a drop of oil, not one tar ball will touch our shores.

President Trump, who at every chance has betrayed the common good of the average American in favor of big business, has removed all roadblocks to testing and drilling. However, state governors up and down the Eastern seaboard are not only suspicious but livid that he’s pushing testing and drilling down the throats of residents and business leaders. In South Carolina, the Grand Strand is the Pearl of South Carolina’s tourist industry. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit here each year, pumping millions of dollars into the Palmetto State’s economy while providing thousands of jobs.

How many people do you think will be flocking to South Carolina’s beaches, some traveling from as far away as California, Kansas, and Canada, when tar balls start smothering the beaches and the stench of oil fills the air.

Still the oil industry continues to overwork the old cliché, “This is good for the economy. Think of all the jobs we’re creating.” When they frame the argument that way, it portrays anyone opposing them as unamerican.

But let’s do the math! Suppose big oil does create 1,000 jobs in an area like South Carolina, but then destroys the state’s economy and causes the loss of twenty or thirty thousand jobs. Tell me how that’s looking out for the best interest of the folks who live here.

 

 

 

 

Oil companies assert that it won’t happen here. But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice a major oil spill is likely to occur somewhere as frequently as every ten years if not sooner. I could have included in this dialogue many more examples of oil spills, so the problem is actually worse than it appears.

When oil companies say it won’t happen here, I’m reminded of what Mark Twain said: “There are lies, and there are damn lies.” To say the beaches up and down our coast will remain safe is a Damn Lie.

If the oil companies win out and set up oil platforms up and down the Eastern seaboard, South Carolina might want to consider trading in its state symbol of a crescent moon shining over a palmetto tree. Tar balls washing up on a beach blanket might be more appropriate.

What’s your opinion? Would you mind if your favorite beach resort, no matter where it’s located, is destroyed because big oil had its way? Trump has surrounded himself with bobbleheads who nod mindlessly when oil companies ask for a freehand where human lives and the environment are at stake. Don’t be a bobblehead. Learn the facts. Be aware of what’s going on. And question everything big oil and politicians tell you. Let them know you’re mad as hell, then go out and vote.

                                       Bill Hegerich

                                       The Uncommon Mariner

To leave a comment, click on http://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/01/28/big-oil-says-spills-are-an-inconvenience/

 

Hawaii

There are four major Tiki gods: Kono, Kane, Kanaloa, and Ku plus numerous small ones. These two Tiki gods apparently are discussing who drank their rum. I hope they know it wasn’t me.

We recently celebrated the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands, January 18, 1778 by Captain James Cook. Surprisingly, there were no tiki bars when he landed, no grass skirts on the women, and no pineapples growing there.

And I’m pretty sure neither Cook nor his men got leied by the natives, though they were surprised to see the visitors appear on the horizon at the culmination of a sacred festival. The natives took their appearance as a sign that they were gods. I don’t think Cook and his men did much to discourage that idea.

Cook named his discovery the Sandwich Islands after John Montague, Earl of Sandwich, a generous benefactor who helped make Cook’s voyages possible. I don’t think I would have called it that especially in front of a crew of hungry sailors.

One of the best books ever written about the islands was penned by James Michener, who once served in the Navy there. He went to great extremes to research his topic so that he got it right. Of all things, he called his book Hawaii. Imagine that. What’s more, the book was translated into 32 languages. I’d be happy if my book was translated into one language.

Though it’s a fictionalized account of the islands, Hawaii is so true to its history that it could be a documentary. One of the things you might be surprised to learn about Hawaii is that among the first settlers were Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands and natives from Bora Bora in the South Pacific. I’m glad they didn’t name their new home Hawaii Hawaii.

Everyone has heard of Maui but not many are familiar with Molokai, Hawaii’s fifth largest island. Its dark secret may be the reason. Unimmune islanders contracted diseases from visiting sailors and foreigners seeking their fortune. A small section of the island was set aside as a leprosy colony in 1866 and operated for over a hundred years. People exiled here were declared legally dead. That’s sad.

I’ve never been to the islands, but my daughter and son-in-law honeymooned in Maui. I wasn’t invited. As you can guess, the islands are breathtaking and all have their own, unique microclimate, so much so that you can indulge in sandy beaches, towering mountains, tropical rain forests, or volcanoes that still grumble.

In case you haven’t heard, the Hawaiian Islands are 2,500 miles from the mainland of the United States. Natives there don’t really use the phrase “mainland of the United States.” They just call it the mainland, and because it is so far away, everything must be imported. Cars, toothbrushes, hamburgers, and Hawaiian shirts. That makes living there quite expensive. You probably know Hawaii was made the 50th state in 1959, but what you may not know is the average home is around $270,000 while the average home on the mainland is closer to $119,000.

Despite the inconvenience and expense of having everything imported, the United States government is not about to close any of its bases. Hawaii is the key to protecting the mainland as well as keeping an eye on things in that corner of the world.

Unless you spend your life in the fantasy world of Facebook, you no doubt have heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On a quiet Sunday morning on Dec. 07, 1941, Japanese Kamikaze bombers came roaring out of the western Pacific and bombed the hell out of the American fleet and the Navy personnel there. Over 2,200 Americans died that day with another 1,200 wounded.  The surprise attack destroyed battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and over 188 planes. The only reason our three great aircraft carriers weren’t destroyed was because they weren’t in port that day. Talk about luck.

Franklin D. Roosevelt called it a, “Day which will live in infamy.” He was right. And it’s why we should always be extremely cagey when dealing with the bastard in North Korea, nuts enough to think he can get away with something similar. When unstable leaders like Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump play chicken with each other, the whole world better sit up and pay attention.

As beautiful and breathtaking as the images of Hawaii are, America’s early involvement in the islands have their root in a dark and checkered past. The United States helped overthrow the legitimate ruler, Queen Lili’uokalani in 1893 after years of wrangling and manipulation, and it wasn’t because the U.S. had a yearning for Hawaiian guitars, grass skirts, or luaus either. The culprits behind the overthrow of the queen were white businessmen headed by Sanford Dole, eager to expand their pineapple plantations at the islanders’ expense.

But non-Americans shouldn’t get too sanctimonious. The Spanish brutalized the natives of South America for gold and silver. European countries like England, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands all had a hand in carving up the Dark Continent and wreaking untold misery on its native cultures.

Mark Twain once said, “There isn’t a foot of land in the world that doesn’t represent the ousting and re-ousting of a long line of successful “owners” who each in turn… defended it against the next gang of robbers who came to steal it…”  I bet Queen Lili’uokalani would agree with Twain’s assessment.

I don’t know if it’s the seductive images of Hawaii or the last few songs from Jimmy Buffett Live in Hawaii, but I think I’m getting a little nostalgic for luaus, Hawaiian shirts, and wahines in grass skirts. If my wife walks through the door wearing one, I’m getting my scissors out and do a little trimming. No sense letting grass grow under my feet. Or anywhere else.

                         Bill Hegerich

                        The Uncommon Mariner

To leave a comment or pay homage to the Tiki gods, go to https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/01/19/hawaii/

 

Twelve Resolutions that Can Change Your Life

The dawn of a New Year is upon us, and I wish you smooth sailing through 2018.

The closing hours of New Year’s Day are upon us and by now many of us who made resolutions have broken them. I’m posting this blog which I wrote last New Year’s Day because we all need a little encouragement when making changes to our lives.

Resolve to workout but missed the very first day? Promise to start that diet but answered that holiday candy that kept calling your name instead?

I’m not too concerned about that gym resolution or those few pounds that found their way to your waist. Doctors and psychologists will tell you it’s normal for people to break those kinds of resolutions shortly after they’re made unless they’re tied to a profound commitment to change.

And that’s why I’m offering you a second chance. A second chance to make some meaningful New Year Resolutions that will have a huge impact on your life. These twelve resolutions have less to do with diet and exercise and more to do with altering the behavior that will get you to the Far Side of the World where your Pirate Dreams await.

  1. Don’t surround yourself with negative people. These are people who make you feel small. People who laugh at your dreams. They may also be the people who get real quiet when you talk about your dreams instead of getting excited.

  2. Have a goal to work on every day. You always need to keep your Dream before you and do something small towards achieving it. It’s how you turn goals into GOLD.

  3. Forget the past. Forget the people who were mean to you, who gossiped about you, who failed when you needed help. Their negativity will consume too much of your energy. Don’t give them that power.

  4. When you’re tempted to quit, remember your dreams and why you held on for so long. They’re the reason you’ll hold on when the storms of life blow again.

  5. Have an island to go to. A retreat where you can rest when life is overbearing. It can be a room in your house, a corner of your yard, or simply a chair that offers comfort and a nice view. I’m lucky. I have an alcove in my bedroom with a sofa surrounded by bookcases brimming with books. I also have a sunporch and a backyard retreat with several hidden coves I can lose myself in. I can also retreat to Brookgreen Gardens only a stone’s throw from my house where the landscape and art work is salve to my soul.

  6. Take time to have fun every day. Jimmy Buffett once said, “Having fun is a good habit to get into.” It’s why children are so resilient when they get hurt emotionally and physically. They know how important it is to have fun.

  7. Take time to count your blessings. You’re richer than you think. Recognize all the good things working for you. Touch them mindfully every single day. If you’re not taking the time to savor the small things in your life, you’re killing it off.

  8. Enjoy the journey. If you wait until you reach a goal to be happy, you’re throwing away all the days you’re working to get there.

  9. Forgive yourself. We all mess up. When you fall, get up and keep going. Failure is not permanent unless you stay down. And remember people who remind you of your shortcomings, failings, and mistakes, aren’t your friends. Not to be too blunt about it, but in a sailor’s language, people who do that are scumbags that you don’t need in your life. The New Year is a good time to jettison them just as you would any other garbage mucking up your life.

  10. Raise your sails. The winds of opportunity may blow, but it does you no good if you stay in harbor.

  11. Don’t accept excuses from yourself. Somedays the storms of life never seem to stop blowing, but when your boat get swamped, bail it out, get yourself afloat, and sail on. Sitting your soggy ass in port feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to get you any closer to the Island of your Dreams.

  12. Finally, don’t let fear paralyze you. I always remind my pirate wife that fear always makes the cannons seem louder than they are. The remedy is to act. The smallest action will get you moving and break the chains of fear holding you back.

I hope this New Year holds a world of adventure for you with blessings that you can only begin to guess at. But if you expect to make it one for the record books, you have to hoist that anchor. God may provide the wind, but you have to raise those sails.

Good luck and see you out there on the Far Side of the World. Even if you’ve never met me, you’ll recognize me instantly. I’ll be the one yelling and screaming at the top of my lungs enjoying every swell and every dip on the High Seas of Life.

Happy New Year!!!

                                      Bill Hegerich

                                     The Uncommon Mariner

 

To leave a comment, click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/twelve-resolutions-that-can-change-your-life/  

The Secret Life of Oysters

Oysters not only taste good, but do a lot of good for our environment.

Oysters not only taste good, but do a lot of good for our environment.

It’s late winter in North America, and most people are suffering from winter doldrums, and summer seems far, far away. I thought I’d brighten your week by sharing some thoughts about oysters, even though we don’t celebrate National Oyster Day till August. Personally, I think six months is too long to wait; oysters are so good, we should celebrate them every day of the year.

The English satirist, Jonathan Swift, once said, “It was a brave man who first ate an oyster.” There may be some truth to that. Oysters are slimy and shaped funny with little folds in them that promise a world of delight. They can be white or gray, and their bodies sometimes fringed with a little black. But that’s part of the fun of eating them. If oysters had the consistency of an apple, the color of a carrot, or the appearance of broccoli, they would lose a lot of their mystery.

Oysters do a great service to mankind. They keep the waters around the mouth of our bays and estuaries clean. Did you know each oyster filters about a half of a gallon of water, and it’s for that reason some people are repulsed by them? That’s good! That means there’s that many more for me and other oyster lovers.

This may come as a shock to you, but did you also know that our beloved Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants were processed, was once called Oyster Island? That was before the very first European settlers felt it was their duty to rape the land and pollute the waters when they came to the New World. It may be hard to conceive this, but this area once teemed with huge, juicy oysters.

Oysters are not only delicious, but are good for you. Not only are they filled with zinc, iron, and vitamin B-12, but they contain amino acids that promote sexual performance, earning them the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. The womanizer, Casanova, known for his wild affairs, was reputed to have eaten fifty oysters for breakfast.  I don’t think I could eat that many at one time and then frolic with my wife, but it’s something I think I’ll put on my bucket list. Continue reading →

Mariners Face New Threats in 2017 While Dealing with the Old

No matter the size of the ship, a mariner's job is demanding on any of the seven seas.

No matter the size of the ship, a mariner’s job is demanding on any of the seven seas.

No matter the size of the ship, a mariner’s job is demanding on any of the seven seas.

It’s a brand new year for the world, but it looks like the Same Old S*** for mariners. Threats of piracy, accidents, death in foreign ports, and now, with Donald Trump as president, mariners forbidden to take leave in U.S. ports.

The next time you settle into that easy chair, or slip on your favorite running shoes, I want you to think about this. According to a recent article at Maritime Insight.com, a mariner is twenty times more likely to have an accident than someone who works ashore.

These aren’t accidents that involve bumping your head on a door or losing your balance when the ship rocks in rough seas. We’re talking about serious bodily injury or death. Let me put it this way. If you invited your Cousin Joe, who’s a merchant marine, and nineteen other cousins to a party, Joe’s chances of being injured or killed on the job are equal to the chances of all your other cousins combined.

Dr. Grahaeme Henderson president of the United Kingdom Chamber of Shipping, recently told members, “When I meet families of seafarers, they tell me the most important thing is getting their loved ones home safely.”

Mariners, no matter what country they’re from, are somebody’s sons and fathers, brothers and uncles and cousins. Shipping companies can’t afford not to continually seek newer and better ways to improve on their safety record.

When the ship’s electrician, who was working on an elevator on the Carnival Ecstasy, was crushed to death, his blood flowed down the elevator doors. When events like this happen, we can’t just turn squeamishly away, upset that our cruise was ruined. If companies that employ these victims are genuinely sincere about the loss, they must do better than hire a new employee at the next port.

Carnival expressed “heartfelt sympathy” over the death of 66-year old Jose Sandoval Opazo. But a little soul searching and the development of stricter safety regulations onboard their ships would be far, far better than empty words. If Carnival’s concern ends with a press release, you can bet sooner or later we’ll be reading about more deaths on cruise ships.

As for the public’s part, I encourage you to visit cruisejunkie.com for a comprehensive list of accidents at sea. If that’s not enough to open your eyes, go to www.cruisecritic.com/news. Skip the link to “Finding a Cruise” and “Deals” and stay focused on “News.”

Here you can read about the crew member who died in a gas explosion this past February 09 aboard the Emerald Princess while the ship was in Port Chalmers, New Zealand. The cruise line released a statement saying, “We are deeply saddened that a member of Emerald Princess crew was fatally injured in the incident.” Continue reading →