current events

Why Didn’t We Put a Real Pirate in Office?

Even pirates have their limitations, but there arrrgghh  just some things a pirate will never say.

Putting a Real Pirate in office isn’t as hard as you think. 

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 →

In the Wake of the Storm

When the next storm will gather is anyone's guess. We still have five more weeks of hurricane season.

When the next storm will gather is anyone’s guess. We still have five more weeks of hurricane season.

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.

                                          Bill Hegerich

                                            The Uncommon Mariner

to leave a comment, please click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/in-the-wake-of-the-storm/

 

When the Big Storm Blows

Miami waits as storm clouds gather.

Miami waits as storm clouds gather.

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 has learned to deal with pirates and hurricanes.

The Bahamas has learned to deal with pirates and hurricanes.

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.

The stumps of these trees look out over Pond Road like cannons awaiting the next broadside.

The stumps of these trees look out over Pond Road like cannons awaiting the next broadside.

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.

                                          Bill Hegerich

                                            The Uncommon Mariner

 

To leave a comment, please click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/when-the-big-storm-blows/

World Maritime Day 2016

 

Whether out at sea or in port, the mariner is like a doctor. Always on call.

Whether out at sea or in port, the mariner is like a doctor. Always on call.

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.

                                          Bill Hegerich

                                            The Uncommon Mariner

 

To leave a comment, click on https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/world-maritime-day-2016/

Tragedy Fells Five Mariners on High Seas

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 →