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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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…
The Uncommon Mariner
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“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!!!
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.
I’ve always been intrigued by mankind’s use of flags throughout history. They’ve been used to symbolize a variety of things. Governments have used them to evoke pride and patriotism in their peoples. Military leaders have used them on the battlefield to rally their troops. Flags have been used throughout history to instill fear in one’s enemies. Pirates were infamous for this. The mere sight of the Jolly Roger turned many courageous men into quivering jelly.
The U. S. Coast Guard flies a flag at small boat stations to indicate weather conditions. A single triangular red flag indicates a small craft advisory. Two piggy-backed ones warn boaters of gale conditions. A single, oblong red flag with a black box in its center indicates a storm warning. When these are piggy-backed, boaters better take notice. A hurricane is on its way. Ignore the flags, and sail at your own risk. I just wish the fools who ignore the flags didn’t expect the brave men and women of the Coast Guard to risk their lives to save them.
Signal flags, with each flag representing a letter of the alphabet, are used to indicate a wide variety of events or dangers a ship may be facing. The science of using them requires training and skill. For example, did you know the Juliet flag means “Steer clear. I’m carrying dangerous cargo and am on fire?” The Whiskey flag means “I have a medical emergency aboard.” And the Oscar flag means “Man overboard.”
In old times, when a captain died at sea, a blue flag was flown. As the ship arrived in port, anyone watching it dock immediately knew the crew was in mourning. Hence, the expression in our language “feeling blue.”
One of the most famous flags in the world is, of course, the American flag. The United States has set aside June 14 to honor it. It’s simply called Flag Day. A type of Flag Day was first observed one hot summer in Hartford, Connecticut in 1861, but by the late 1800’s Flag Day observances were being held all over the country as a way to incorporate foreign children into our society. If that were to happen today, I don’t think it would go over too well in some communities on the Texas border. There foreign children are more likely to be deported or their parents shot at.
Most folks don’t know that Pennsylvania is the only state where Flag Day is a legal holiday. The forward-thinking citizens there made it so in 1937. Other states across the nation observe it, but only Pennsylvania citizens deemed the flag sacred enough to merit a special holiday.
It’s a shame more people don’t fly the flag regularly. Most folks wouldn’t think of going a day without cable service, but not many seem too concerned about not seeing Old Glory on a regular basis.
Did you know that the American Flag is flown year-round by Presidential decree in five different places? For clarity sake, it wasn’t Donald Trump who first ordered it. You can probably guess a couple of places it’s never taken down. The White House, the Washington Monument, the USS Arizona in Hawaii, Fort McHenry in Baltimore, and the moon. I bet a lot of Raven and Oriole fans didn’t even know that.
It wasn’t until President Harry Truman signed a bill into law in 1949 that Flag Day was nationally observed. I wonder why it took such a long time for so sacred a symbol to achieve such a venerable status. Can’t bombastic, self-serving politicians ever get anything done without dragging it out for decades? I bet if they were told no cocktail hour till some work is done, Flag Day would have been a reality back in 1927 when President Coolidge championed the idea. .
Not everyone in the United States is a big fan of Old Glory. Many protesters believe it’s their God-given right to burn it in protest of their government’s policies. The Supreme Court has ruled they have the right to freedom of expression, but I can’t help but wonder if those brave enough to burn the flag in broad daylight would do so if they had faced down deadly enemy fire in the dead of night in some remote outpost in Afghanistan or a dark jungle teeming with Viet Cong. Those who want to burn the flag should talk to my wife’s cousin, Johnny Gilroy, one of this country’s true heroes. He can tell you about some of those Vietnam jungles and the men who fought by his side for your freedom.
If you really want to protest our government’s policies, smash your X-Box, burn your paycheck, or lend your debit card to a homeless Vet. A thousand protesters doing that will really get our nation’s attention.
I’m proud to be an American and if you come visit me, you’ll find the American flag flying along with the Jolly Roger and the flag of the Conch Republic. That’s the flag of the Florida Keys, a country unto itself, but that’s a story for another time.
It’s not a perfect country that Old Glory flies over, and like Blackbeard’s crew, we certainly have our blemishes. Bigotry, prejudice, and racial hatred don’t even begin to scratch the surface.
But when just one American stands up for another whom he doesn’t even know or even care for, the invisible threads of our unity are knit tighter than the threads of our flag. Great divisiveness has strangled our nation in recent years, but if we remember that only by working together can we survive, then our future is bright. But if we let anger, fear, hatred, and greed divide us, then we are doomed and no amount of flag-waving is going to save us. The choice is ours. Flag Day is a good day to remember we need to focus on what makes us Americans and not Republicans or Democrats.
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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.
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The election is over and Donald Trump is the president elect of the United States. Hopefully, he will lead this country wisely and bravely for the next four years.
I have my doubts considering his remarks and behavior during the primaries and this past election bid. The man gushed unashamedly about how he likes to ogle naked women as they change for a beauty contest. It’s one thing to have your private sexual fantasies and another to act on them.
He also bubbled with joy about grabbing women’s genitals without fear of repercussion because he was a celebrity. I wonder how many women he’ll actually attempt to fondle now that he’s even more of a celebrity. I suspect if he tries it with Angela Merkel, chancellor of West Germany, he’ll be in for a surprise.
Of course, all of this is not exactly the stuff role models and leaders are made of. So how do you explain him to your teenage son or daughter?
His opponent put up a fantastic fight, actually winning more votes than he did. She no doubt would have made a fine president, but a quirk in our electoral college circumvented that. So forty-eight percent of Americans decided they liked a borderline pervert instead. And to think that many of those who selected him were Evangelical Christians who believe in the straight and narrow path. I can only guess their value system aligns with Donald Trump’s, so it leaves me more than a little confused how groping and humiliating women, Hispanics, and special needs persons fits into organized religion.
Now that the dust has cleared, I’m wondering why someone like Jimmy Buffett didn’t run for office. He’s smart just like Donald Trump. He’s funny, unlike Donald Trump. He’s engaging unlike Donald Trump. And he’s a good businessman just like Donald Trump. Look at how he’s packed his concerts city after city over the years. Margaritaville restaurants and stores which grew systemically from his songs are thriving. Even though the music poohbahs who give out awards have largely neglected his achievements, his loyal parrothead fans now include their children and their children’s children.
Because Jimmy’s trademark is pirates and parrots, I have no trouble seeing the White House filled with these colorful creatures. Jimmy has always been a pirate. There’s a story about how in his earlier years, he stole peanut butter and sardines from a local supermarket to keep from starving. I believe he made restitution a long time ago. His story is recounted in his song The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.
I bet Donald Trump was never hungry a day in his life. Judging from his physical appearance, he sure doesn’t appear to have been. In fact, he received a nice little nest egg from his dad to get him started. Jimmy, on the other hand, had to endure a lot of hard times before he finally made it big. No nest eggs from his family. Just good family values and a pirate heart that told him he could do anything he set his mind to. Arrrgggh! Continue reading →
It’s been almost two weeks since hurricane Matthew limped out to sea, an exhausted tropical storm that took its toll on people and property alike.
The clean-up is well underway in South Carolina and elsewhere. I can actually see my backyard and my palm trees again after clearing away fallen branches and trees of small oaks, chestnuts, and the like.
My sister-in-law wasn’t so lucky. A storm surge coupled with marsh flooding encroached on her condo with devastating consequences. Yet the clean-up proceeds even amidst mountains of ruined furniture, bedding, walls, and rugs. Hopefully, she’ll have her home back before the holidays and life will return to normal for her.
What’s particularly troubling are the properties that line the beaches up and down the Eastern Coast. Many are humble bungalows and others stately mansions that look out on the breathtaking beauty of the sea that brought so much destruction. No walk to the beach for these folks. The beach is their backyard.
The only problem is after a storm of Matthew’s magnitude many people rebuild right at the dune’s edge knowing full well the wrath of the sea will one day again destroy part or all of their property. How can they afford to do this you may well ask.
And the answer is twofold. One, high insurance rates, part of which is paid for by federal subsidies paid for by taxpayers like you and me. Two, they revert to petitioning, cajoling, or suing their state and federal governments to indulge in one of several projects to try to keep the sea at bay.
Some of these projects involve the construction of groins more commonly known as jetties. Another is the construction of sea walls. Many are made of stone, others of metal, or other materials.
Other common techniques used to preserve beach, dunes, and homes butted up against the sea include beach restoration with sand, dune building, and in some places the planting of native plants in the water to slow or alter wave action.
The truth is none of these solutions really work very well. In fact, since I’m supposed to be telling the truth, I’ll give it to you straight. These projects work terribly or not at all.
For example, it was jetties built in 1879 that led to the demise of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Traditional patterns of the sea determining where sand would be deposited shifted because of these manmade structures, and now Morris Light stands destitute, a half mile from shore.
Because jetties interrupt the normal flow of sand, when one neighbor builds a jetty, it encourages a neighbor to do the same to protect his property. And the domino effect continues all along the coast.
The wall built along Sea Bright, New Jersey to protect the homes of a few hundred home owners starves the federal park of Sandy Hook of tons of sand. This is a recreational area where millions of people from New York and New Jersey flock to every year. How fair or sensible is that?
Every year municipalities all along the coasts of the United States spend millions of dollars to protect public and private property that will only be undone sometimes even before the project is completed.
It’s a complicated issue, so I’m not going to pretend there are simple answers, but people who live on top of the beach and those who live in places like Iowa and Kansas and New Mexico need to understand there’s a grave price to be paid for encroaching on the sea, And make no mistake about it, it’s humans who are encroaching on the sea, not the other way around.
The sea wants what is hers, and she means to have it. Every time a sea wall or jetty is built, we are frustrating the plans mother nature has for maintaining her beaches.
Humans have drawn a line in the sand, a line the sea does not recognize. She has her own line, and it is live and dynamic, ever shifting with each turn of the tide. In some places, that line shifts daily; in other places it may be monthly or yearly.
The reality is the ocean shifts sand around like a small boy at play. She puts it where she wants, scooping it away from places miles away and placing it where she will, and not the Army Corps of Engineers or anyone else on the face of the earth will thwart her.
Building in the zone where Mother Nature plays is dangerous business. We can’t keep trying to keep her at bay, no pun intended, and when we build sea walls, groins, and other structures, it only sends the sand she intended for one place elsewhere, and often that’s out to sea.
In some places in the United States, too much has already been invested in infrastructure and population making it impossible to even think about abandoning the area. But in other places, we need to reconsider what we’re doing to the beach. We think we’re doing good by restoring an area when all mother nature wants to do is build her beach as she sees fit.
One of the darkest and dirtiest secrets of beach restoration is that it’s self-defeating. The ocean works in a very complicated way, and its wisdom and rationale is not easily understood.
Sea walls are a good example. They’re often built at great expense to protect million dollar homes and not public beaches that hundreds of thousands of people might use.
Because of the way currents run and because wave action during a storm erodes the base of the wall, sand must be pumped along the wall, and a beach appears perhaps a hundred yards wide. Till the next storm snatches the sand away, leaving a pathetic swath of beach a few yards wide as is the case in Sea Bright, New Jersey.
Then the madness begins again: the rebuilding of sea walls, more jetties, and more pumping of sand. It’s a vicious cycle attempting to check a force almost as old as time itself.
I encourage you to learn as much as you can about the topic and enjoy the beach if you live near one. If it’s devoid of groins, sea walls, and boulders, you’re very lucky. And say a prayer that the next time mother ocean sends a storm ashore she’ll be gentle with your favorite beach.
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Hurricane Matthew has long blown out to sea, and I know I speak for millions when I say good riddance. What began as a category four hurricane finally limped out to sea as a tropical storm after a week of spreading death and destruction to millions and creating havoc in the lives of millions more.
We should be particularly mindful of the folks in Haiti who lost over three hundred sons and daughters, parents, and grandparents when it crossed through the Windward Passage, the strait separating Cuba from Haiti. Ironically, it’s the same route buccaneers and pirates took hundreds of times when they wreaked havoc on passing ships in the eighteenth century Caribbean.
The Bahamas, as vulnerable as they are with their mostly low lying country, were spared the deadly impact of Matthew. Since Nassau was once a pirate stronghold with the ships of Benjamin Hornigold and Blackbeard filling their harbor, I’d like to think maybe they were keeping a watchful eye over the islands.
As for my wife and I, after two days of preparation, we finally evacuated our home in Murrells Inlet. At the time, Matthew was a category four hurricane still tormenting Haiti and the Caribbean, and Governor Haley of South Carolina was issuing evacuation orders.
Though the storm was downgraded to a category one when it arrived on my front door step, I don’t regret leaving. It gave my wife and I the opportunity to reunite with her cousin and his lovely wife in North Carolina where they were gracious enough to host us for five days. The laughter and memories we shared were priceless, and Johnny’s stories about his time in Vietnam gave me an even deeper appreciation of the Vietnam vet. Thanks Johnny and Peggy. I hope you realize how much it meant to us.
People ask me, “Don’t you feel a little bit foolish leaving when all that South Carolina had was a category one storm?” We all know Monday Morning quarterbacks are pretty common, and their insights worthless. As a writer I’ve done much research not only on pirates and shipwrecks but hurricanes as well, and I know how devastating a category four hurricane can be.
Governor Haley and I don’t share much in the way of political perspectives, but I have to give her credit. She gave everyone ample warning and was right to issue an evacuation for her state when she did.
Had Matthew moved a little faster and hugged the coastline a little tighter, the devastation and loss of life from Florida to South Carolina would have been catastrophic.
The folks who chose to remain behind would have been caught in massive traffic jams while a horrific storm bore down on them. How do you explain to your kids when your car is suddenly swept away in flood waters that you were too stupid or obdurate to evacuate earlier?
Hurricanes are merciless. They don’t care how smart you are or how rich; they don’t care how busy you are or how important. They don’t care how many storms you’ve survived in the past. Stand in the face of one often enough, and one day it will be your last.
Soon the cleanup will be complete, and the storm a distant memory. I hope neither the countries of the Caribbean or the United States have to endure any more for quite a while. Many of us need time to deal with Matthew’s aftermath. As for those unaffected by the storm, they might want to reassess their wait-and-see strategy for dealing with hurricanes. One day it will save their lives.
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World Maritime Day was celebrated this year on September 29. Personally, mariners do so much for the billions of peoples on this planet, I think one day is not enough to thank them for all the sacrifices they make. Even if you’ve never seen an ocean, you owe them a huge debt.
Here are a few facts about mariners and the industry that you may not be aware of. It’s a tough business to be in whether you’re just starting out or the VP of a huge shipping company.
World Maritime Day was first established as an arm of the United Nations in 1978.
There are over a hundred thousand merchant marines in the United States alone. There are over a million worldwide.
The International Maritime Organization is an agency of the United Nations responsible for the safety, security, and pollution of ships globally.
Living and working on a ship is a dangerous job. Every year hundreds of mariners die in mishaps aboard the ship.
Last year this time twenty-eight crew members of the Faro sailed straight into hurricane Joaquin and perished.
Over 75% of casualties at sea are due to human error. Some sources put the figure closer to 95%.
One of the greatest challenges to the shipping industry is a shortage of engineering officers. These are needed to run ships far more sophisticated than they were just a few years ago.
Close to ninety percent of goods used around the world are delivered by ships.
Over 50,000 ships are out there on the high seas right now, or have just arrived in port, or are now getting under way.
The Maritime Labour Convention protects 1.5 million mariners globally by setting the gold standard for regulations for living and working on a ship.
According to Maritime Insight, the busiest ports in the world in descending order are: Singapore; Shanghai; Hong Kong; Busan, South Korea; Ningbo, China; Guangzhou, China; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Qingdao, China; and finally Rotterdam. This is based on total tonnage shipped through their ports.
Based on the most recent statistics of the United States government, the top five busiest ports in the United States are in descending order: Port of South Louisiana; Houston, Texas; NY and New Jersey; Beaumont, Texas; and Long Beach, California.
Nature, the International Weekly Journal of Science revealed that 1.12 billion tons of CO2 comes from ships. That’s four percent of the world’s output, double of what everyone previously thought.
A huge trend toward using LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) is underway in an effort to help clean the oceans.
The average container ship has a crew of around nineteen.
According to the website of Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association, WISTA is an “international organization for women in management positions… in the maritime transportation business.” Unlike the days of pirates, the maritime industry doesn’t exclude women from any facet of its business. If you have something to offer, don’t hesitate to check them out.
At this very moment on thousands of ships out there on the seas and in ports around the world men and women far from their families are making very real sacrifices so the goods you take for granted on the store shelves are delivered safely and timely. Say a little prayer for them tonight. Moreover, if you know a mariner personally, email or text him or her. And when they complete their journey, hold them just a little tighter before they go back out to sea.
The Uncommon Mariner
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