On My Mind

25 Apr


This time out:  Things I Don’t Like

  • Drifters. You know; the kind of people you see walking towards you who suddenly go to the left and then to the right after you have already changed your direction. I mean, come on, what’s up with that?
  • People who smoke. Go no further.
  • Walking behind people who smoke. I said, go no further.
  • Boaters who don’t know what they are doing. Now that’s something that really sends me around the bend.

Many years ago now, some friends implored, begged and pleaded with me; “Ah come on Cap, it’ll be fun!” referring to the upcoming New York City Harbor July 4th extravaganza. It was the one and only time I would ever do anything like that again.

Among the many horror shows on the water that evening were more than one pinhead actually trying to anchor up in the East River! There he was, down on his knees, baring his plumber’s crack to all, sporting a black WhiteSnake t-shirt, up on the bow of his 24-foot something or other, waiving back at his wife/significant other/whatever, who was at the wheel, imploring her to, “Put the #!+*#”-ing boat in reverse already, will ya, huh!” as he slipped out yard after yard of anchor line, hoping beyond hope to get a grab on some pay dirt below.

If there is one thing you do not do on the East River, with a rip-roaring, four-knot ebb getting ready to dump and squeeze a bazillion tons of water out of Long Island Sound and send it down the river in its inexorable run to the Atlantic Ocean, is try and drop your hook with hundreds of other boats on your bow, your stern, and to port and starboard on July 4th. You just do not try and go up against something like that. And, of course, trying to get a hold of a piece of prime bottom-of-the-river real estate is yet another story for another time. If you catch my drift here.

Now, it was just before sunset and with the lights of Gotham burning bright on what was shaping up to be a very clear evening, completely devoid of clouds and a perfect scenario for the magnificent fireworks show, this scene was being played out for all in the area, and within earshot, to witness.

“Ladies and gents,” I distinctly remember saying to my friends that early evening as I carefully stemmed the outgoing tide. “This is about to get real ugly.”

Jockeying the throttles while an attentive eye was on what was going on all around me, and keeping my distance, I watched as the boat began a down river, pin ball odyssey, courtesy of the ebb that had begun to flow in earnest, and the fact that now, his many yards of anchor line had somehow gotten itself wrapped around his outdrive, most likely because he had tried to settle his boat in the wrong direction. As the now-drifting craft and its hapless crew bounced, knocked, smacked, thumped, bumped, whacked, rammed, collided, and bashed itself in quite a rude fashion to almost everything in its careening path, the ensuing ruckus soon escalated into a cacophony of salty sailor’s epithets and language that can only be described as, short of sinking in shark-infested waters, of being something out of your worst nautical nightmare, which it most certainly had become for this particular mariner and his wife/significant other/whatever.

The take-away here shipmates is that being out on the water is no joke. Yes, it’s a wonderful way to go; enjoyable, exciting, adventurous, stimulating, and a whole lot more that can, and as quickly, get very serious. As I’ve often said to those who have enlisted my services as nautical teacher over the years: “You can’t get out and change a flat tire. So you better know what you are doing because there are lots of others who haven’t a clue.”

I still stand by that. While I won’t bore you with the latest 2012 statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard’s reports—even one fatality is one too much, which is something I think we can all agree on—feel free to Google the site. And if you just key word in BOATING ACCIDENTS 2012 in your search engine, you’ll come up with about 628,00 pages on the subject. Enough said.

How about a mandatory safe boating class for every one buying any kind of boat? Here’s the first kicker. I know, I know. “What about us veteran ‘captains’ with so much water in our wakes that when we look in the mirror we see Admiral Nelson smiling back.”  Okay, so there are a few wrinkles to work out. But I’d like to go one step further in this discussion. If you need a license to drive a car, then why not one for a boat? There’s a lot more to it than just Red Right Returning. Hey, it’s an economic stimulator as well. Jobs are created, fees are collected, boat dealers can hold the classes right at their dealerships, or you sign yourself, and for that matter, the whole family, up at a reputable ‘school’, whether online or in person.

Before some of you get all bent out of shape about this and start into whooping and hollering at me, give it some real thought. The last thing you want to do is be out there on the water, confident and knowing what you are doing, and dealing with someone who doesn’t know what the responsibilities of priviledged and burdened vessels are nor the allowances of the Rule of Good Seamanship.

Fair winds and following seas, and I’ll see you on two whistles.

Photo Credit: Jim Raycroft

Capt. Ken

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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


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