Tuesday, June 14, 2016

“A Real Fungi”

A young mushroom went off to a community dance and as usual the guys were lined up on one side of the community hall and the girls on the other.  The mushroom all excited for the opportunity to dance spies a good-looking red hot radish on the other side of the room and rushes over.  He eagerly invites the radish to dance.  The radish scoffs at him "get out of here I do not want to dance with any mushroom".  The mushroom bows his head in disappointment and returns to the "guys" side of the hall.  The mushroom not to be put off sees a rather hot looking tall a shapely carrot directly across from him.  He figures he will give it his best shot to get out on the dance floor.  Once again he scurries across the room and invites the carrot to dance with his hand extended.  Just as before the carrot debunks him with "get out of here I do not want to dance with any mushroom".  Sadly he mopes back across the floor and in a conversation with the guys he exclaims, "I can't understand why no one will dance with me, I am a “REAL FUNGI"

Fiberglass 101

Admiral Hun had laid down the law about getting on with fixing the hole in the port side of the cabin of our “new to us” m/v Traveling Star.  The hole was caused by hurricane IKE in 2008 when m/v Reverie (the original name) washed ashore.  A piling had entered the side of the cabin crushing the original settee.

She said that I had to at least get the cabin of the boat “weather tight” before our June 2009 down coast trip.  She said the boat did not have to be pretty for the trip, but it did have to be weather tight. I had considered the boat “weather tight” when I screwed a ¼” piece of plywood over the six foot hole in the side of the cabin.  It was a difference of opinion and I never had a chance of winning. 

Fiberglass is not in my resume of talents.  As a matter of fact just about any experience with fiberglass has resulted in poor results and disappointment.  My lack of desire to do the fiberglass repair has only been overcome by the “CBS” (Cheap Bastard Sailor) in me.  There is no way in hell I am going to pay big bucks for a shipyard to fix this hole in the side of the cabin big enough to step through.  Just the thought of paying a shipyard $85 / hour gives me “swimmers in the head” (and wallet). 

I always spend a lot of time thinking about a big undertaking before I start.  Pondering is sort of my foreplay to a big project. Admiral Hun will be the first to tell you that if I ponder a task long enough, the task will usually end with a satisfactory result.   I pondered the fiberglass repairs to the cabin for about five (5) months.  Admiral Hun was patient while I worked on the tasks of my choice, mostly mechanical and electrical improvements, this came to an abrupt halt.  Admiral Hun had decided that pondering time is over and repair time was to begin.  It was not like I had not been working on the fiberglass repairs mentally. It was just that I had been pondering fiberglass repairs and gathering information on how to actually do the repairs.  It is a good thing that I had gathered enough info on fiberglass repairs to make an attempt.

Earlier in the year I had visited with a dock neighbor of mine “Compadre Bob” who is a master of fiberglass repairs.  Compadre Bob owned and operated a large Hatteras that he has redesigned through the years with extensive fiberglass modifications.  When we arrived in the marina he looked at the hole in the side of the cabin and his response was “Sweet!” he got all excited and assured me that it was only fiberglass and the large hole was “No problem”. 

He gave me a list of materials to purchase and some general ideas on how to make the repairs.  In preparation of the actual repairs to the side of the cabin I planned to hone my fiberglass skills.  I would build a simple project, just for practice.  I decided that I would manufacture an all fiberglass shelf for my new diaphragm bilge pump to sit on in the engine room.  The shelf need to be approximately 7” x 9” with a 4” flange to attach it to the bulkhead.  Compadre Bob had told me magical stories of things like mold release wax, stitch matt cloth, wax paper, and 6 mil plastic.  Armed with limited information and a gallon of fiberglass resin and some leftover cloth from previous attempts I decided to give it my best shot. 

I nailed two boards together at a 90-degree angle (so I thought) in order to form a mold.  I did not have any wax paper or 6 mil plastic so I substituted some Tyvek house wrap (left over from the house construction) and some “press and seal” Saran Wrap (it was completely logical at the time).  I precut my stitch matt cloth to the desired size pre resin mixing.  Precutting was a lesson that I had learned years earlier in previous unsuccessful attempts. I fabricated a small tray out of aluminum foil large enough to lay the fiberglass cloth in while I applied the resin.  I carefully measured out the desired 6 oz. of resin into a paper cup and proceeded to add the 11 drops per ounce of hardener (a specification I got off the internet).  After mixing thoroughly I poured the resin over the cloth.  The 6 oz of resin was not enough to soak the cloth properly.  I hurriedly poured an additional 6 oz of resin in the already sticky paper cup.  I applied the required 66 drops and once again thoroughly mixed and applied the resin.  Using gloved hands I lifted the resin soaked cloth from the homemade foil tray on to the Tyvek covered mold.  With the first of four layers in place it was time to repeat the process.  This time rather than pouring 6 oz to begin with I poured out 12 oz of resin.  Two times 66 equals what? It is really hard to do any type of math while you are covered in sticky resin.  In a panic I fell back on the old standby method of hardener application, more is better.  I gave the container of hardener a random squirt, mixed it up and poured it on to the fiberglass cloth waiting in the foil tray.  I repeated this cycle two more times.  By the time I had the fourth layer was in place the pile of fiberglass resin and cloth was beginning to smoke.  In an effort to dress up the surface of the project I decided to change gloves, tear off a piece of Saran Wrap, and place it on the top of the smoking mass and smooth it out.  As the project hardened I relaxed and pictured this really great very substantial shelf for my new diaphragm bilge pump.  I poured copious amounts of acetone on a rag and began to clean off the resin residue from my upper body and head.  I can really sling some resin when I am in the mood.  Meanwhile I realize that a great portion of the resin had oozed off the project, over the workbench and on to the plywood floor of the workshop.  By this time I was no longer liquid, it was semi hard and sticky.  In true (what the Admiral would call) “Guy” fashion decided that it would be easier to clean up the mess at a later date when it was fully hardened.   I turned off the shop lights letting my first adventure in fiberglass fabrication harden as I went off to the house to shower. 

The following day I rushed home after work to release my project from the “mold”.  The fiberglass project had cooled to room temperature by the time of my return.  I lifted the project from the base and the Tyvek came with it.  Thinking that this was normal I attempted to peel the Tyvek off the backside of the shelf unit only to end up with white fuzzy stringy residue covering more than 50% of the project.  Undaunted I attempted to remove the “Press and Seal” Cling Wrap from the side that I had decided needed smoothing.  The Cling Wrap had actually melted to my project making it almost impossible to remove.  The end result was another fiberglass disappointment.  As a matter of fact the project was so ugly I made sure that it was completely hidden in a black plastic bag before throwing it away. 

Lessons learned!
No matter what do not panic and add more hardener that recommended.
Do not continue to apply more resin to the project if the temperature is elevated or the resin is thickening. 
Gather all the information you can on how to execute fiberglass work properly and then get someone else to do it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Big Helen

Big Helen


I worked at ARCO Oil and Gas Company in Sabine Pass, Texas as an Expeditor in the 1980’s.  The Expeditor is a person who both receives shipments and initiates shipments of all types of materials to and from the Sabine Shore Base.  If it was any type of material, big or small, it went through me, the Expeditor.  The modern day Expeditor’s job is the equivalent to that of a 1700’s Spanish monk manning the gangplank of a sailing vessel loading goods.  When I was the Expeditor (monk) at ARCO I hand-wrote everything that got loaded onto the boat, truck, or helicopter on a bill of lading for each shipment. As the sole Sabine Shore Base Expeditor, I either received or initiated about 1900 shipments per month. 

The Sabine Shore Base was made up of several notable characters, one of which was a lady from the second floor known as “Big Helen”.  I am not altogether sure what Big Helen’s official title was, but from my point of view she ruled the second floor of the building, that floor being mostly dedicated to “Engineering”.

I met “Big Helen” on the first day of my employment with ARCO Oil and Gas.  I needed an ink pen so that I could begin logging the components of shipments to each of the offshore oil platforms onto the bills of lading.  I was told that Helen was in charge of all office supplies, so as a new hire I marched right upstairs with full expectations of all my office supply needs being met!  I arrived at Helen’s desk, which was central to the second floor, and noted the padlocked double door steel storage locker directly behind her. 

Helen (known as “Big Helen” downstairs) was a 350-pound business-dressed woman that sat behind her desk with the receptive scowl of a prison warden.  I politely introduced myself as the new Expeditor and explained that I needed an ink pen to complete my assigned duties.  She asked me if I had an empty or nonworking pen to turn in.  I know for certain that I must have had a puzzled look on my face as she continued to explain to me that it was “company policy” to not issue any ink pens without receiving the old one in trade!  I proceeded to explain to her that I was a new employee and was never issued an ink pen.  She proceeded to tell me that she did not care about my problems!  No old pen to trade in, no new pen for me!

With my head hung low I returned downstairs to my desk empty-handed.  Duke Nesgoda, the ever present prankster-dispatcher, was in my office to greet me upon my return.  “Did Big Helen fix you up with your supplies?” he kibitzed.   He already knew what the result would be before he sent me up there for my supplies.  He just laughed, and then loaned me an ink pen that I could use until I was able to get one of my own from home.  

Previously I mentioned that all material shipped either to or from the ARCO Shore Base went through me the Expeditor.  As the Expeditor, I was often the target of bribery (known to some as “Baksheesh”) from the trucking companies.  The truck drivers would often bring pens, pads, cakes, cookies; you name it…, they gave it to me trying to influence my choice of trucking companies.

One fateful morning I arrived at my office at the usual time of 6:00 a.m.  In the middle of my desk sat a large Hershey chocolate bar box.  Upon inspection I found the newly arrived box contained about a dozen homemade chocolate cupcakes.  I paused for a moment and thought: “how thoughtful was that of someone to leave these for me?” Not bothering to look for the usual business card attached, I stuffed the larger portion of a cupcake into my face.   Still trying to choke down my first bite, I picked up the box and gestured to Duke the dispatcher to see if he would like to partake in the bounty.  Duke took two!

It was just a typical morning at the ARCO Sabine Shore Base!  As usual, David “Dave Boy” Peltier, the yard foreman, came in the office to get a feel for how the day was going to shape up and have some coffee.  Not far behind Dave Boy came Jimmy “Gimme” Johnson, the crane operator, looking for coffee as well.  Needless to say the dozen cupcakes were disappearing at a fast rate.  We were down to just a few cupcakes when Bill Yeadon, the manager of the Materials Department, came by and picked up one on his way to his office next door.  It was just a typical day in the life of the ARCO Oil and Gas Expeditor.

Shortly after 8:00 a.m. I received a call from Helen inquiring about a package I may have received for her from one of the production platforms working offshore.  Still holding the phone to my ear I leaned over and shouted to Duke: “Have you seen any packages for Helen?”  Duke, on the phone with one of the company oil platforms, shouts back “nothing here”.  I relayed that message to Helen, letting her know that I would keep an eye out for anything tagged for her. 

The morning continued on in a normal fashion until I received a second call from Helen inquiring about the elusive package.  Once again I queried Duke about any arriving packages and the response was the same: “still nothing here”.  I again relayed the information to Helen and continued on with my daily duties, not knowing that Big Helen was about to place a phone call to the production platform.

My phone rang again a few minutes later and I was Helen for a third time.  This time her question was more on point than previously.  She asked: “Have you seen a box of cupcakes that High Island 467 sent me?”  My heart stopped! I glanced down at the box to see the last remaining cupcake sitting alone in the once-full box.  I responded: “No sign of it here” and hung up!  In my mind there was only one thing I could do at this point.  I ate the last cupcake in two big gulps and put the box in the trash! 

The next person to come into my office was Bill Yeadon, the manager of the Materials Department.  He came in and said that he had just gotten a call from Big Helen about some cupcakes delivered from a rig for her and wanted to know what was going on.  There was nothing left for me to do but come clean.  I wiped the chocolate frosting from the corner of my mouth as I confessed to Bill.  I said: “Bill you know that cupcake you had this morning when you came in?  Well, that was one of them.”  Bill, looking down at the floor, mumbled something like: “There is going to be hell to pay”.  Bill disappeared down the hall and up the back staircase to the second floor to break the news to Helen. 

It could not have been more than two minutes after Bill had left my office to break the bad news to Helen I heard a huge commotion going on upstairs!  The noise was caused by all of the engineers from upstairs scrambling down the front and back stairways as if the building was on fire! The only question on their minds was: “Who pissed off Big Helen?”

For weeks after that I was the most unpopular guy on the shore base.  As a result of me (and other guilty parties…) eating food that was intended for someone else, Charlie Woods, the shore base manager, banned any and all food from being brought in from offshore for shore base consumption.  The only reason that I was ever redeemed for my errors was that eventually people went back to their old ways and the rigs started sending food into the shore base personnel.  All was forgiven, but Big Helen never forgot!



Thursday, August 15, 2013

Laundrynaut (repost from October 2010)




The day I turned 16 years old and I got the keys to my $100 wonder (it was a wonder that the thing ran at all).  The $100 wonder was a well used and worn out 1956 4 door Chevrolet Bellaire, also known as the “Green Apple”.  The “Green Apple” was aptly named for its verde hue of “GT Green” (also known as Goose Turd Green).  The Green Apple was my passport to an almost incurable case of wanderlust.  By the time I graduated high school, my best friend Roy Henslee and I camped all of east Texas, western Louisiana, and some of southern Arkansas.  There is nothing like a good road trip. 



I was talking to a couple of my young co-workers and the conversation reminded me of some of the odd things I have done in my past.  I asked my two (2) young co-workers “How many of us in this room are Laundrynauts?”  I found myself the only one in the room with his hand extended.  Not only were Andy and Coy not Laundrynauts but they actually had never heard the term.  I recounted a road trip to Deep East Texas not long after turning 16 years old.  We were camping in a Corp of Engineers park named Magnolia Ridge between Woodville and Jasper and just north of Town Bluff Texas.  The only reason that we were camping at Magnolia Ridge was that the State of Texas would not allow us to camp in Martin Dies State Park since we were all under 18 years of age.  It was no doubt a dull evening around the campfire when Roy begins to talk about becoming a Laundrynaut.  He had heard that if you make three (3) consecutive rounds in a commercial clothes dryer you get to attach Laundynaut to your personal list of accomplishments.  The reader must realize that man had not walked on the moon at this time.  On this particular road trip there were three (3) of us, Roy Henslee, Ricky Holmes, and myself.  Since Roy did not have this accomplishment attached to his resume the vote was unanimous.  We jumped into the Green Apple (aka 1956 4 door Chevy) and headed to town.  Calling the location that I became a Laundynaut a town would be a stretch of the truth.  Town in the case was several old and some abandon buildings on a farm to market road north of Town Bluff Texas.  One of operating buildings was a washateria.  The procedure for becoming an official Laundynaut was to climb into a commercial clothes dryer while your buddy stood outside with the door open (safety first) and held down door button simulating the door being shut.  Your buddy places a dime in the coin slot and turns the knob and activating the clothes dryer.  Ricky was first to “blast off”.  Ricky was the tallest of the group at around 6’-0” he went in to the dryer head first as Roy and I pushed his lower extremities into the dryer drum.  I am sure that Ricky had the very same look on his face that Chuck Yeager had when he nodded his head indicating ”ready” in the launch of the experimental rocket X-15.  Roy dropped the dime into the slot, turned the knob placing the dime into the cash box, and quickly pushed the button.  Ricky braced for take off quickly made a successful three (3) round orbit.  I was next up for the honors.  We removed the dizzy and disoriented Ricky and I climbed in with the help of my “buddies”.  Roy, not wanting to waste any of the prepaid dryer time, hastily pushed the launch button again.  The only problem with that was that I did not get a chance to give one of those Chuck Yeager / cowboy up  / I am ready nods.  I was just launched when I was not actually in the launch position resulting in me falling from the top of the drum to the bottom of the drum with each cycle just like wet laundry.  I successfully made the required three (3) rounds of orbit but was pretty beat up and bruised from falling in the drum as it rotated.  Falling and hitting the drum was not nearly as painful as those flat bars that help agitate the drying clothes. I exited the capsule a little on the mushy side but still proud of my accomplishment.  Roy, learning from previous launches, quickly entered the dryer drum and assumed the launch position, bracing himself between the dryer drum and flat bar agitators.  I reached for the launch button as quickly as possible to return the favor of an unprepared launch to Roy, but he was way to fast for me still whirling from my orbits.  Roy made his entry into the roles of Laundrynauts unscathed although by the time his fligt took place the capsule (dryer drum) was beginning to heat up. 



This is just one of thousands of great (great?) memories of my past.  Imagine of having an evening of fun in town for just a dime.  Reflecting back a helmet would have been a nice addition. 



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wayne (Shifty) Mulloy, Physician, Lawyer, and TMCA “Bad Boy”

Admiral Hun, her step mother Jean, and I were in Galveston Texas on an Easter weekend boat cruise. We were participating in the Texas Mariners Cruising Association (TMCA) cruise to Moody Gardens Marina.  The social director of the cruise had made arrangements for the group to have dinner at Saltwater Grill on Post Office street in the Strand District.  The social director also had made arrangements for Moody Gardens to provide the dock to door and return transportation in one of their shuttle buses.  Donning white and pink Easter Bunny ears we embarked on an evening on the town.  

The group meal, which usually has a tendency to run long because of the size of the group, went exceptionally well this particular evening.  We found ourselves with additional time left before the Moody Gardens shuttle was scheduled to pick us up and return us to the marina.  The Admiral, Jean, Doc Mulloy, Monica Mulloy and myself found ourselves on the street with time to spare.  Doc suggested that we all go down to the Tremont House Hotel for a nightcap.  He said that he knew the piano player down there named Omar.  Doc boasted that he guaranteed that Omar, a talented musician would play the song “Three Coins In The Fountain” upon the sight of Doc.  Doc related to us that ever since he put a rather large gratuitous tip in Omar’s tip jar it was a sure bet that Omar would come through with the song as he had so many times before.  We all agreed on the idea of an after dinner drink and scurried down Post Office street and down three blocks like a covey of quail.  We arrived at the entrance of the grand hotel that was housed in a historic 1879 Victorian building, complete with a horse drawn tourist carriage out front.  The antique vehicle was the fancy type with a floral and garland decorated carriage, decorated horse, and oil burning lanterns on each corner, which are so common in the Strand District of Galveston. 


I held the entry door for the other revelers.  Being last in line gave me the opportunity to negotiate the few steps up into the grand foyer and admire the beautifully appointed foyer with fine furniture and detailed marble floor.  Just as Doc had predicted there was a piano straight ahead, but it was not Omar playing.  The scene seems almost surreal to me as I recall it.  The piano player was seated at the piano facing the entry door and a very attractive young lady, to his left, also faced the entryway. She was attempting to sing whatever tune it was he was playing, and an old man sitting in a single easy chair to the girls’ left intently listening to the slightly off key singing.  I caught up with the group just as Doc whispered, “That is George Mitchell over there, he owns the hotel”, looking at the old gentleman seated in the chair.  Doc continued to look back over his shoulder as he walked toward the lobby bar located on the left side of the foyer.  I gave Doc my typical disbelieving “Yeah right” response.  All facts being known, George and wife Cynthia Woods Mitchell own about half the buildings in the Historic Strand District.  Doc has been known to stretch the truth on occasion and all the more reason for my scoff, indicating my disbelief. 


The five of us arrived at the lobby bar just about the same time and gathered like a heard of cattle at the water trough anticipating a quenching drink. The bartender was a white haired, rather distinct looking older gentleman dressed in a tuxedo.  Doc caught me by surprise when he struck up a conversation with the bartender and made some reference about the formally dressed employee being Irish.  Damn, if Doc was not right.  They struck up a short conversation about their ethnic backgrounds, and I think Doc even finished the conversation with some Irish saying.  The bartender took our drink orders and began to walk away just as Doc kibitzed “ I would pay that girl over there $100 just to stop singing”.  The bartender stopped mid stride and turned on his right heel and spun around facing his newly acquainted countryman.  “I would not do that if I were you, sir” he quietly cautioned. “That’s George Mitchell’s granddaughter singing, and that is George Mitchell sitting in the chair”.  He did not have to tell us who George Mitchell was, because if you are a Texan from these parts you know who that is.  This caution was just enough to ignite the “bad boy” in Doc.  Doc got up from his bar stool just as the serenading Granddaughter finished the tune.  He began to praise her and ask who she was and where she was from. Before she could even respond he was requesting that everyone in our party have their picture taken with her because he was sure that she would be famous and Hollywood bound.  The twenty something young lady was overcome with joy that someone outside of the family would take notice of her singing ability.  Several pre-success pictures were taken of the young woman as her smiling Grandfather looked on. 

Doc has another link to the Tremont House Hotel besides Omar the piano player and the song “Three Coins in the Fountain”
 Doc tells me that the bar in the Tremont used to be in 7th Street Tavern where all the medical students went to drink Pearl beer after tests every Friday. A lady named Judy owned 7th Street Tavern and she helped float the medical students through school by actually loaning them money.  He tells me that he would write a check and she would ask –“Shifty (aka Wayne Mulloy), do you want it in the cash register or on the mirror”. He would say “On the Mirror” and she would stick the check on the mirror; and give him the cash.   At the end of the month after working some side jobs, he would come in and say Judy give me that check off the mirror, and he would hand her the cash.  Then Saturday evening he would go back and start studying.  “What a way to go”, Doc says.   Doc said that he owed a debt of gratitude to Judy.  The mirror that held his checks is the same mirror at the Tremont House bar today. 
Dr. Wayne Mulloy is the man that saved my life in 2004.  I attribute his availability to me, and quick diagnosis of my health that has extended my time here on earth.  

In conclusion I would like to pass on Doc’s typical salutation,  “Happy Trails, Never Call Retreat”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sailing with the Admiral

Sailing with the Admiral


Sailing with Peggy is not like any other person I have ever sailed with.  I have raced sailboats with people that thirst for the taste of victory at any cost to man or vessel.  I have sailed with people that do it for the entertainment (social) experience.  I am not too sure that I have ever sailed with someone who has the love of water that she has.  The first time we went out she actually doubted that I could sail at all.  She had never been exposed to sailing or people that do it.  The first time we sailed together was a warm Fall day in October.  I am not actually sure that we sailed (we might have just motored).  I remember a short trip out of the marina, out through Clear Creek channel and out into the bay.  Upon our return we opted to stop at the restaurant just under the Kemah Bridge, now named Outriggers.  I landed the boat on the dock parallel with the channel.  With my dock lines already in place, I approached the dock I slowed enough to step off on to their dock and tie the boat off single handed style.  It was a single handed docking that even an Americas Cup contender (at least in my mind) would be proud of.  After a few drinks it was time to depart.  When I returned I found the boat pinned to the dock by a stiff southeast breeze. This explains how the arrival docking could go so well.  The wind had me pinned to the dock, the boat could not have gone anywhere.  I reviewed the situation and figured I was about to get some rash on my fiberglass hull or at least some big time demerits with the woman (Peggy) I was trying to impress with my seamanship.  I have always contended that God looks after drunks, sailors, and drunken sailors.  It was my lucky day.  I had recently read the article on the TMCA web page under Link and Features / Seamanship /Undocking Tip.  I placed a line going aft from the bow of the boat to their dock cleat and forward back to my bow cleat.  I gave Peggy instructions to let the line go and pull it in when it got slack.  I idled the boat forward making the line tight, turned the helm hard to starboard in turn swinging the stern to the port.  I re-instructed Peggy on what and when to do it.  I put the boat in reverse, the boat eased off the dock, she untied the line from the cleat, and brought it back to her.  A textbook maneuver completed with, grace, style, and no shouting.  She never knew that I had never tried this before.  The sad part about it was she was so new to boating, that she never realized what a thing of beauty she had just witnessed.    


Later we were talking about sailing and I told her that there were dolphins in the bay.  She gave a youthful “Naught Ahhhhh”, indicating that I might be pulling her leg (for some unknown reason Peggy always thinks I am stretching the truth).  Several weeks later on a sailing trip one of those non-existent dolphins just about came into the boat while surfing on my stern wake.  The first time this happened she screamed for fear that it might have been Jaws or maybe Nessie.  The second time the dolphin sounded she had time to recognize the friendly playful visitor.  I bought her a pair of gold dolphin earrings to mark the occasion. 


Have you ever said anything that when the words came out you wished you could reach out into the air, grab the words, and stuff them back into your mouth?  It has happened a couple of times in my life to date.  The last time it happened was Friday, June 13, 2003.  Don’t you find it amazing that I would actually remember the day and date?  The reason that I do, is that I have lived to regret it so much, it is burned into my memory.  Here is the setting of the stage for the disastrous event.  Luke Sterling was leading the “Summer Solstice” cruise set for June 14 – 22.  Peggy is almost always in favor of getting an early start on most trips.  On this trip she had pushed for a Friday after work departure for the Baffle Point anchorage.  How many people reading this know to never start a voyage on a Friday?  How many people reading this know better than starting a voyage on Friday the 13th?  It was just like spitting in the face of all those superstitions.  The departure from the marina went well that warm and fateful evening (the music changes to a chilling tone).  We were motoring down the ship channel when the first weather alert came over the VHF radio “Severe weather alert for areas of northern Harris County”.  We took the weather alert with little concern since we were in Galveston County, and continued along our way.  A second weather alert came over the VHF radio, “Severe weather alert for areas of southern Harris County”, why should we worry, we are not only in Galveston County, but now we are in southern Galveston County and we continued on our trip.  We arrived at the Baffle Point anchorage just as the sun was setting.  I set the Bruce anchor in 8 feet of water and let out a good 10 to 1 scope on the rode.  While setting the anchor I checked the northern sky and noted with caution the dark ominous sky (more chilling music).   I fine meal of spaghetti with homemade meat sauce, salad, and bread was at hand in the galley below deck.  At dinner we enjoyed discussing our plans and routes for the pending down coast cruise.  After dinner around 2230 hours I went on deck to check the set of the anchor.  That is when I saw it.  The severe weather they had forecast for the northern counties was just about to arrive in southern Galveston County.  I scurried below to make all the preparations I could for what looked like the worst weather I had ever experienced.  I explained the situation to Peggy and she asked if severe weather could roll the boat over.  I paused the storm preparations and said something to the effect that the only reason she would ask such a question was she was ignorant.  I felt like I could see the words coming out of my mouth and crashing into her questioning face.  Just as I saw the pain of the words coming across her face, New Life took a giant lurch and rolled 45 degrees to starboard.  The anchor drag alarm on the GPS began to sound immediately as the weather hit.  I scrambled to put on my foul weather gear and dashed out the companionway into the storm and the Admiral was not far behind.  I started up the engine, placed the transmission in forward and headed into the raging seas from the North.  My goal was to hold my position in relation to the Bolivar peninsula directly to the South.   The oncoming waves were so high that when the bow would plunge into the South bound waves the bowsprit with the navigation lights mounted on top of the pulpit would disappear into the waves leaving a red and green glow underwater.  I put the Admiral at the helm with instructions on how to interpret the GPS readings and our relationship to the nearby, lighted oil platform.  The goal was to hold a position in the same general area as I was anchored in originally.  The Admiral, now at the helm, had realized the meaning of my ruthless words spoken previously.  Similar to other severe storms crossing the bay the weather only lasted about an hour.  The boat began to settle down and we were once again on the hook secure.  Although the weather storm has passed I still (on occasion) experience the storm that the word ignorant caused in the relationship.  In my own defense it was just a poor choice of words at the time of pending disaster.  What I really meant to say was “the only reason you would ask, “would the boat  roll over in severe weather” is that you are inexperienced.”  I guess the morale of the story is live, learn, and pay for your mistakes. 





Monday, September 26, 2011

Losing the Dream

I am one of those people.  Yes I will say it again; “I am one of those people”.  I am one of many people who once had a dream and now feel that I will not be able to fulfill it.  I have had few dreams in my life, few goals, or even objectives.  I am one of those people who just rock along in life without much problem or cares. 

When I purchased s/v New Life and moved aboard with my 12 year old son in 1997, I never had any aspirations to do anything more than raise my son and sail on the local waters

My dream did not just appear one day.  It was years in the making.  It was kind of like when you open a frozen soda.  At first is comes out slowly and it gains momentum, and before you know it, after making a big mess, it is over. 

I actually adopted the dream from an old couple that I met at a TMCA meeting that was held at the Houston Yacht Club.  The meeting was an unusual one in that it was a fancy dinner meeting.  We were seated at the same white linen covered table and engaged in a light conversation.  They were talking about going cruising.  They said that the last thing they had to sell was their Lincoln Town Car and then they were free to depart.  Being polite I asked the old couple when they planned to return.  Their answer was shocking to me.  They responded with a simple “never”.  What? I questioned, did I hear you right, you are never coming back?  In a matter of fact tone their response was “Yes, that is right”.  They explained further that they had no reason to return.  Their kids were grown and had moved away from the area and they had no more ties to the Clear Lake area.  They would simply sail off into the sunset, never to return.  This per chance meeting had a profound impact on me.  Sometime, shortly after meeting this couple, I formed a goal to sail off into the sunset.  Furthermore I adopted their philosophy of never coming back.  I was delighted to finally have a goal in my life.  “I am going to sail away and never come back”, wow what a goal.  I used this statement when and wherever I could to get other peoples reaction.  Most, if not all of the reaction I got was lack luster at best.  Most people just gave my goal, my dream a “yeah, yeah” reaction.  I held and flaunted this goal to the best of my ability for quite sometime.  One day I thought that the reason for the less than enthusiastic reaction I was getting was because it was an unreasonable dream with no planning.  I modified my dream to “I am going cruising for 2 years, until it is not fun any longer, or I run out of money”.  You know the dream, you have heard it plenty of times.  Okay, my dream was not unique, but at least it was my dream, and a goal to obtain. 

I set my departure for late 2005 or early 2006 and I began to plan.  The boat would need several improvements.  As you well know boat improvements are always measured in “Boat Bucks”.  All improvements would be in increments of $1,000.00.  The improvements were to be as follows:
2002 – autopilot, depth meter, engine gauges, cockpit speakers, and replace two (2) portholes. 
2003 – propeller and propeller shaft, inverter, new electric panel, additional fuel tank, and replace two (2) portholes. 
2004 – roller furling, dodger, and bimini
2005 – GPS, solar panel, wind generator (maybe), and alternator / regulator
2006 – while in Florida purchase and install a water maker. 
There it was my boat improvement plan.  The boat improvement plan also had a matching money (cruising kitty) goal spreadsheet.  It was simple, just follow the plan and you will arrive in a certain spot at a certain time.  The departure date was set to coincide with the year that my youngest son, Michael, would graduate from high school.  I had one more thing to gather prior to departure and that was a first mate.  I began to search the Internet for likely candidates through several Internet dating websites.  I also would follow a guideline I had learned earlier in life and that was, “know your resources”.  I had a local resource available to me known as TMCA and began to explore it.  After exhaustive research I found out that if you want to have any female company when attending a TMCA event, you had better bring her with you.  TMCA has always been pretty much a couples club.  There were four (4) single women members at the time and I dated three (3) of the four (much to some TMCA members entertainment).  The efforts resulted in a 0/3 score so I went back to the larger pond (the Internet). I posted a personal ad on two (2) free sites.  I would not say that I received a lot of response, but I did receive some.  One of the women that responded to my ad is the person that you all know by now as Admiral Hun.  Peggy joined into my dream quickly after being introduced into the world of boating.  The plan was in motion everything was a go, until, (now is when you hear the music change) the fateful day of January 4, 2004.  I woke early feeling just a little bit off center and unable to sleep on my right side.  It felt like I was holding a golf ball under my arm.  It was not painful, just uncomfortable.  I thought I might have pulled a muscle at the TMCA planning meeting the day before when I went to put up the chairs.  What I did not know was this was the beginning of what would change my entire life plan and all of my goals.  I am proud to tell you, thanks to early diagnosis (Thanks, Doc Mulloy) I am a Stage 3 Melanoma survivor.  Although I have survived the biochemotherapy and surgery, my dreams have been dashed. I no longer monitor the progress of the boat improvement checklist or cruising kitty spreadsheet.  (This would be a good spot to milk all the sympathy that I could from the readers, but I will not waste your time.)  Yes, I am one of those people.   I am one of many people who once had a dream and now feel that I will not be able to fulfill it.  I am one of those people who have been to deaths door and returned.  I am one of those people who have been prayed for by people I have never met.  I am one of those people who have been loved and cared for by friends and family.  I cannot help but quote one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs: “Some of it is Magic, some of it is Tragic, but I had a good life all the way”

I read very little, but once I read about a man that was not able to fulfill his dream of sailing off to exotic locations for years on end.  Or was it that he had tried cruising long term and did not like it, I am not sure.  His solution was to cruise for two (2) weeks at a time in different locations in the world.  I now share his goal.  This goal came to fruition in June of 2005 when I successfully planned and executed the TMCA Past Commodores Cruise to the British Virgin Islands.