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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A mariner died recently on a cruise ship when a lifeboat he was testing in a safety drill malfunctioned. According to reports, he was in the boat along with four others lifting it up and down when suddenly the cable broke and the five mariners were thrown. Two others were seriously hurt and taken to the hospital. Two escaped with minor injuries.
Never at any time were passengers onboard at risk of injury or death. The Harmony of the Seas, owned by Royal Caribbean, was docked in Marseilles, France when the tests were being conducted for the crew. Muster drills for passengers are usually held within an hour or two of sailing and do not involve them entering lifeboats.
All cruise lines that I know of conduct safety drills for the crew when in port while most passengers are off ship enjoying themselves. Conducting these drills are essential for the safety of everyone on board. No one wants a crew that doesn’t know exactly what their function is in an emergency.
After investigating the incident, authorities discovered two disturbing things that helped create the situation. One was a rope wire that was corrosive despite being coated with plenty of grease. While you might think a wire cable lathered in grease would be protected from salt air, it obviously was not the case. In fact, authorities determined that it covered up the problem, preventing anyone from seeing just how corroded the cable really was.
Authorities fixed another cause of the accident on the way the cable was wired. Because it was not mounted properly, repeated friction and tension caused it to prematurely wear. The lifeboat had actually been manipulated up and down several times with the mariners in it to make sure it was properly functioning. It was during this time that the cable malfunctioned. In essence, the workers in the lifeboat risked their lives for passengers who one day might have had to use that very lifeboat in an emergency situation. Continue reading →