Long May They Wave

Neither the U.S. Navy nor the Royal British Navy destroyed a pirate flag of mine just like this one flown by Calico Jack Rackham. Mother Nature did.  

While cleaning up in my pirate hideout the other day, I realized I lost three pirate flags. It’s not what you think. They weren’t the victim of a broadside. Or stolen by some stupid tourist who wanted a souvenir. It was Mother Nature who claimed them. They were so worn they literally fell apart.

A gaping hole was all that was left where the skull and cross bones once flew on one flag. Another was just a mass of tattered threads. That one looked like it had been shot to hell and back by the Royal British Navy. In fact, its battle scars made it look like the genuine article. I even told my wife about selling it on Craig’s List. Seems like you can find anything on Craig’s List from some really nice stuff to some pretty bad relationships. She didn’t think too much of the idea, and after 50 years of marriage, I know she’s right in these matters, so the remnants of pirate history were placed lovingly where they belonged. In the garbage can.

I’m telling you this because flags mean so much to folks. Many have cute little garden flags. Some with the sunshine on it. Others gnomes. Even flamingoes wearing straw hats though I imagine if you ever tried tying one onto a flamingo, it would get pretty annoyed. You have to be careful though when you display a flag if you live in a community governed by an HOA or Home Owner’s Association. Most of them are really nice people, but there are some who are downright nasty. One HOA forced a family to take down the American flag because they thought it was too big. We live in America for pity’s sake. No American flag can be too big. I suspect people who object to the American flag are really secret spies for Putin.

Of course, flags have been around for centuries. Countries all around the world have flown them. There were flags of the Crusaders who killed lots of people in the name of God. Of course, the so-called heathens killed back. Then there were the Swastika flags that Hitler flew everywhere he could. Even today, most decent folk rankle when they see a picture of one. Even the Pope has a flag though I’m not sure why. People talk about Soldiers of Christ, but that suggests killing. I don’t think Jesus would approve of that, just like I don’t think he’d approve of the Crusades.

Generally, flags are a good thing. They remind people of their identity whether it’s a state or a country. Lots of Irish fly the flag of Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, and they’re citizens of the U.S. The flag reminds them of their heritage, culture, and history. Flying a flag like that doesn’t mean you approve of everything that went on in your country’s past. Look at Japan, Germany, and even the United States. They all did some horrendous things. I still shudder when I see pictures of black men lynched in the South, their bodies hanging in the trees while white families, children included, stand around nonchalantly enjoying a picnic. Decent folks, generations later, are angry and disturbed over that part of our history, and so they should be.

Of course, there are some great flags. The state of South Carolina has one with the motto: “Dum spiro, spero.” That’s Latin for “While I breathe, I hope.” I bet the motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, would approve of that message. In fact, anyone who takes exception to it needs his head examined.

Then there’s the flag of the United States Coast Guard with its motto: “Semper Paratus.” That means “Always Prepared.” I’ve known quite a few members of the United States Coast Guard over the years especially my daughter who’s dedicated over half her life to her country, and I don’t mind telling you, they couldn’t have a better officer serving or a better motto.

Not all flags evoke such positive feelings, however. One of the more controversial ones is the confederate flag- the flag Southern states rallied around when they attempted to overthrow the United States government in an effort to keep black people enslaved. They claim it was for the right of states to allow individuals to own slaves. A number of people still cling to that flag. I guess if the South had won, black people would still have shackles on their hands. Whenever I see it, I can’t help but wonder does the person displaying it realize the South lost the war and the only appropriate flag to be flying is Old Glory with her fifty stars. I suspect the person flying that flag would secretly love to return to the good old days when whites subjugated black people. I’m pretty sure I’m right about that when I see the voting laws the new Republican party carefully crafted to make it as difficult as possible to keep black folks from voting.

But not all flags have a serious connotation. I’m thinking particularly of the flag of the Conch Republic adapted April 23,  1982 by the folks of the Florida Keys. In the early 80’s, the United States saw the Florida Keys as a hotbed of drug smuggling, so some federal agents in their profound wisdom decided to set up a roadblock and search the cars traveling from the Keys to the Mainland. As you can imagine, the traffic backups were horrendous. Evidently, someone in Washington thought it was a good idea to treat U.S, citizens like a third-world country.

The people who live in the Florida Keys are pretty openminded and friendly, but this was just too much for them. So they declared war on the United States, seceded from the Union and marched to Fort Zachary in downtown Key West where they threw stale loaves of Cuban bread at the fort’s wall then immediately surrendered, asking for foreign aid. The farce was picked up by the nightly news networks and suddenly the feds had egg all over their face. It didn’t take long for the blockades to come down, and the folks in the Florida Keys got back to living their life again which consists mainly of minding their own business, fishing, and for a few, drinking.

The Conch Republic flag is ubiquitous in the Florida Keys. Maybe you recognize it. On a background of deep, deep blue is a Queen Conch shell with its beautiful pink interior. It sits in the middle of the sun whose rays spread across the flag. Some of the flags even have a saying at the bottom. “We seceded where others failed.”

I’d like to talk to you more about all this, but frankly I don’t have time. I’ve got to dig into the bottom of my Pirate’s Treasure Chest and find replacements for my pirate flags. While I’m at it, I’m going to hang a new flag from my wife; it’s a flag of the Conch Republic and it’s going in my Key West Garden. Meanwhile, you think about what I said, and tell me what your favorite flag is. Next to Old Glory, of course. If you’re an American, it should always be number one whether you live in the Florida Keys or in a quaint fishing village in Maine. Happy Fourth of July. And remember that freedom is a precious thing, and bigots shouldn’t spell it “ just us”, but “justice for all.”

           Bill Hegerich

           The Uncommon Mariner

No Better Way to Wake Up

How will you start your day tomorrow? It will make all the difference in the world.

I was in the grocery store last night with my wife, and by chance on the way to the potato chips I passed the bread aisle. You’d be amazed at the different kinds of bread they have. Whole wheat, pumpernickel, white, potato bread, rye with and without seeds, and a host of others. Why there were enough kinds to feed a hundred different pirates a hundred different breads.

But there was one package there that caught my eye. It was one I’d bet my last piece-of-eight that you’ve heard of. Thomas’ English Muffins. They used to advertise it on TV years ago, but I don’t think they do anymore and that’s a shame because I think everyone ought to get some of them for two reasons.

One they taste so good. If you ever had one, I don’t need to tell you how good they are with a cup of coffee. If a pirate ship had as many nooks and crannies as they do, pirates could have hid in them when they got attacked and they’d still rule the seven seas. And I’m not sayin’ this because Thomas’ is paying me. Nobody is holding a cutlass to my throat though the more I think about them, the more I’d like to have one of those muffins sliding down it.

The second reason buccaneers and wenches ought to get their hands on this particular brand of muffins is the package they come in. On the plastic wrapper is an old-fashioned sign of orange with the name Thomas’ on it. Underneath, outlined in matching orange ink are bold white letters with the phrase, “Wake up to what’s possible.” What a great message to see as you begin a day of pillaging and wenching or whatever you do for a living or relaxation. I kind of wish I had thought of that for my book. I’d put that at the top of my page introducing Black Beard.

Of course, Thomas’ is in the business of selling English Muffins, lots of them, not bankrolling brazen buccaneers looking for a little fun and adventure. Nevertheless, what could be more empowering than to start your day making yourself aware of all the great things you could achieve.  I bet the world would be a better place if more people did that.

I bet your world would be better if you did that, but I’m guessing that since you make it a habit to stop by and visit the Uncommon Mariner,  you probably already do something similar.

When you wake up every day to your possibilities and have a plan to make them happen, you’re way ahead of the sluggard who’s still in port fumbling for his boots.

When you wake tomorrow morning, do me a favor. Enjoy a toasted English muffin with your favorite topping. For me, it’s a schmeer of butter though my doctor doesn’t need to know that.

And while you’re enjoying it, spend a moment waking up to just one more thing that’s possible that you haven’t considered. It beats cursing the alarm clock, and for sailors of yore, it beats the nasty hardtack filled with weevils and bugs that they chowed down for breakfast.

The tide is turning, and I’m ready to weigh anchor, but first things first. My coffee’s needing a refill and I’m ready for the other half of my English muffin. Maybe this time with a little extra butter. See you out there on the High Seas of Life.

                            Bill Hegerich

                            The Uncommon Mariner

Tricks Pirate Moms Play on Their Sons

Pirates are never happier than when playing tricks on each other. Pirate moms are no exception. 

April Fool’s Day may be over, but pirates never get tired of trying to pull a fast one on each other. I learned about these first hand during a brief voyage on a pirate ship which I’ll leave unnamed since pirates aren’t completely stupid and even half-sober ones can figure out who spilled the beans. Nevertheless, you might be amused by these shenanigans. It only took a week for me to discover the safest place to hide my money while on board. Can you guess? Under a bar of soap.

So where does a greasy, grimy pirate afraid of a little soap and water hide his money on a ship? One pirate I know chose an empty cannon. He stuffed it way down in the belly to hide it really good. Unfortunately, he was- hmm, how shall I put this delicately for my younger readers- he was visiting the head at the fore of the ship, getting rid of excess body waste. Suddenly, a cannon boomed so loudly, he nearly fell off the seat and into the sea. He pulled himself back up just in time to see what was left of his shredded loot fall into the sea. He was not amused.

If you think pirates are cruel to each other, wait till you get a load of this. The history books don’t tell you this, but some moms of pirates sent their sons care packages when their careers weren’t going so well. I don’t think they meant any disrespect, but when one buccaneer opened his package, he found a razor and shaving cream in it. Another pirate mom included mouthwash which the pirate took to be rum. He was retching for hours before his stomach settled down.

Another pirate mom sent her boy notepaper and stamps, so she could hear from him. Unfortunately, he intercepted his report card so she never knew he spent most of his time in the boy’s bathroom when they taught reading and writing. Know what he was doing? Going through an old Sears catalog looking at pictures of sabers and pirate flags and saucy wenches decked out in their tricorns.

Then there was the mom who sent her son want-ads from a local paper. She even circled the ones she thought her boy would be a good match for. One included managing a marina, but in all honesty, she should have seen it wasn’t a good fit. No one wants to wake up on Saturday morning and find his yacht missing along with all the other vessels in port.

One mom skipped the want-ads altogether and told her son to collect disability. He was the perfect candidate since he wore an eyepatch, a peg leg, and a hook. When his claim was denied, she got him a lawyer who made a federal case out of it. Authorities listened to his counselor argue passionately about how he sustained injuries on the job. They were so impressed with all the evidence that they took it and tried him for grand larceny, hijacking on the high seas, and just plain smelling bad. He never did get disability, but he does have job security cleaning out the potties where he’s doing time. Mom even sends him a bottle of Lysol every month.

Being a pirate is a tough job, especially if you’re a stupid one, so the next time you see one, take it easy on him, and by all means don’t give him a copy of the want-ads. You’ll not only be wasting your time, but annoying him to no end.

Want to read a little more about April Fool’s Day and why some people can’t help being jerks when playing jokes on others? Go to https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2021/04/02/april-fools/ .


                                   Bill Hegerich

                                   The Uncommon Mariner





National Clam Chowder Day

This pirate looks depressed. Want to know why? He couldn’t get the clams open he was going to have for supper. Don’t be like this depressed pirate. Read this blog and find out how to safely open a clam and other secrets only they know.

Nobody knows when clams were first eaten by humans. Common sense tells me it was native Indians somewhere around the world who smashed their way inside the home of one that was resting comfortably maybe watching TV or playing solitaire. What that curious person found was a salty world of pink and white pleasure.

The reason I mention this is that opening up the shell of a large clam can be a real challenge to the inexperienced. Even if you get the hang of it, you have to be careful or you’ll be sitting in an ER room in South Carolina or New Zealand because the knife slipped. So here’s what you do. Hold the clam firmly in one hand and an oyster knife in the other. Find the spot where the muscle opens and closes the shell. It’s a small, black protuberance close to the hinge. With your sturdy oyster knife gently but firmly pry your way between the two shells. Some of these guys have been lifting weights at Gold’s Gym or Planet Fitness so you might have to apply a little extra pressure because they’re going to resent you breaking into their house.

I can’t stress this enough, but don’t use a knife with a sharp blade like a steak knife. One slip and you could sever your thumb from your hand. Using a butcher knife is even stupider. The shank of an oyster knife is sturdy so it wont break and go flying across the room and land in Uncle Ned’s beer.

I have to admit I have a real problem with opening clams. It’s not that I can’t get them open. It’s that once they are open, I can’t resist sucking those salty, plump things into my mouth along with their juice. That’s the real nectar of the gods!

There are all kinds of recipes for clams so I’m not going to bore you with mine. I’m completely happy putting a dozen chowder clams on a plate and slathering them with a schmeer of cocktail sauce. The spicier the better unless my daughter, Jennifer, makes it. She believes mixing any more than half a teaspoon of catsup into a cup of horseradish is anathema.

There are two kinds of clam chowder. New England chowder is white and has a milk or cream base. Manhattan clam chowder uses a tomato base. My wife is strictly a New England clam chowder person. I don’t understand why. Since she’s a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, you’d think her loyalties would kick in.

As for me, I enjoy both kinds as long as they’re packed with clams. And if  the chowder isn’t, and I don’t have time to make it from scratch, I add a couple cans of clams to it. If it’s Manhattan clam chowder, I’ll even add some of the tomatoes I put up from last season’s harvest. Wow! Even the clams get excited when that happens. Why they’re as happy as, well, as happy as clams.

Some people say Manhattan clam chowder didn’t originate in Manhattan at all but in Rhode Island with Portuguese families. As far back as 1831, mom and grandma made their way to Fulton’s Fish Market at the end of Fulton Street in lower Manhattan, New York City to make their purchases.

I used to live in New Jersey in a seaside town, and I knew this fish market on the corner of Main Street. The owner was a big guy, built like a grisly bear, but with a smile that could melt the snows of the harshest winter. After a hot summer’s afternoon on the beach, I’d stop in and ask for a dozen chowder clams. Those were huge clams, bigger than the palm of your hand.

He’d go inside his walk-in refrigerator in the back and haul out a huge 50-pound sack of clams and dip his hands in and pull out several clams and dump them on a bed of ice. Then he would take one in each hand and knock them sharply against each other to make sure they were alive. If he heard a hollow sound, he discarded it. The only thing that prevented me from eating one before getting home was the mud and sand still covering them.

I moved to South Carolina since, and it’s hard to get chowder clams like that here. Actually, it’s impossible. I’m not sure if it’s because the folks in South Carolina don’t like chowder clams so fish market owners don’t carry them. There is one other possibility and to think about it makes me feel as guilty as sin. It may be that I ate so many of them in New Jersey that they became extinct.

I’d like to talk more about this with you, but it’s getting close to dinner time, and I hear some clams calling my name. Enjoy National Clam Chowder Day and remember you don’t have to be from New England or Manhattan to enjoy a delicious bowl of either one. In fact, you don’t have to wait for February 25. Bon Appetit. That’s Bob Appetit’s half brother. If you see either one of them, tell them I was looking for them.


                                                 Bill Hegerich

                                                 The Uncommon Mariner



Tales to Set Your Hair on End

To pass the time on the darkest and loneliest of nights, mariners have been swapping tales of the unknown since the first boat went to sea. Those rooted in science and practicality reject all of them. “There’s a reason for that,” they quickly proffer, but I suggest otherwise.

You most likely have heard of the Flying Dutchman, a ship that sailed around the tip of Cape Hope and made such great time that sailors and landlubbers alike swore the captain had sold his soul to the devil. To this day, it can never dock in port. What it  does, however, is carry the lost souls of the damned for eternity.

Off the coast of Chile, the Caleuche is involved in a more positive event. According to one account, mermaid-like figures take the souls of drowned sailors to the ship. Once on board, it’s not a hell that awaits them but the chance to continue to live their lives contentedly. I cover this and numerous other incidents in a book  about pirates, mariners, and the eternal sea that I’m close to finishing. In my extensive research, I’ve come to realize there’s just too many incidents like these to just summarily write them off.

But the sea isn’t the only place where the unexplained occurs. I’m reminded of stories my mother told me for years. One incident occurred when she was about five in a row home in the 1920s Philadelphia. It was Easter and her brothers and sisters were all huddled in bed expecting the Easter bunny to come. Excited, she had a hard time sleeping. Then peering out from the blanket drawn to her chin, she saw him. A white form glided through the wall and stood at the foot of the bed bending over as if studying her. The five-year-old suddenly realized this was no Easter bunny at all as she squinted, shut her eyes then reopened them only to see the figure continue to stand there for several minutes before gliding backwards and disappearing through the wall.

A child’s imagination run amok? It’s not that easy to explain away when you consider several other incidents just as bizarre that occurred in the house. Not much later, my mother was home with her six-year-old brother John while the rest of her brothers and sisters were in school. Her mother was in the kitchen doing what stay-at-home moms have been doing for centuries. Kneading dough for several loaves of bread. With fingers deep in the dough and flour covering her arms, she didn’t hear her two children creep down the steps.

The little girl and her not much bigger brother heard the piano in the living room clunking as they came down the stairs. Mommy is dusting the piano, the little boy and girl thought, but as they descended the stairs and the piano came into view, they realized it wasn’t mommy at all. Terrified, they flew past the piano and into the kitchen where mommy was elbow deep in flour and dough. Her mother was as shocked as they were as they told her about the piano.

Several other incidents occurred in the house that finally provoked my grandfather to find a new home in the suburbs. Many of the older homes in Philadelphia were lit by gaslight in those days, and the little five-year-old always insisted my grandfather leave it burning at night. The first night in her new home, my grandfather was surprised as he tucked his little girl into bed. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she whispered, “You can turn out the light, daddy. I feel safe here, and I don’t need it anymore.”

What about you? What was the strangest thing that ever happened to you? It’s comforting to have a reasonable explanation when the bizarre happens, but mariners and landlubbers alike know we sometimes have to live with the uncertainty of the bizarre and the supernatural.


A Hanging Offense

While doing research for a writing project, I came across a disturbing incident that occurred over a century and a half ago which costs several teenagers their lives. A Hanging Offense: The Strange Affair of the Warship Somers recounts a tragic event that unfolded on an American warship when several teenagers threatened mutiny while on training exercises. The story has a lot of twists and turns, and we’ll never really know what was in the minds and hearts of those who participated.

Several teenagers confided to their shipmates that they were going to commit mutiny, murder the officers then sail away to a country that would offer them asylum. Was it a few teens feeling their oats, boosted by an unhealthy dose of bravado? Was it just talk by malcontents full of hot air? That was the key question facing the officers when they uncovered the plot.

I paged randomly through this book by Buckner Melton, Jr., and I have to tell you, as tragic as the story is, if you love stories set against the backdrop of the sea, this is a book you’ll want to read. I’m proud to have it in my library right between Robert Kurson’s Pirate Hunter and Scourge of the Seas by Angus Konstam. I think they’re going to get along just fine together, swapping tales of mystery, cunning and betrayal.

It’s a tragic story, but one rooted in history, and if you gravitate towards stories of the sea, you should get yourself a copy because you’re not getting mine.

                                                Bill Hegerich

                                               The Uncommon Mariner

Key West Light: Guiding Mariners and Drunks Home Since 1825

If you ever get to Key West, you’re pretty lucky. If you’re a lighthouse aficionado and you wake up in Key West, you’ll probably think you died and went to heaven.

I have to admit that for most people, seeing the Key West Lighthouse is not at the top of their list when visiting Key West. But turn on to Whitehead Street, one block off Duval Street, and go far enough, and there it stands. It’s almost across the street from Hemingway’s house, about a minute’s walk if you’re sober. If you’re doing the Duval Crawl like some of the permanent residents of Key West and visitors, it could take up to an hour or more.

When Hemingway told a friend that he had bought a house in Key West across the street from a lighthouse, his friend replied: “Now you can crawl home from Sloppy Joe’s Bar just by following the beam from the lighthouse.”

The lighthouse that stands in Key West today was not the original lighthouse. The original one was 65 feet high and was completed in 1825. Its purpose was to guide mariners through the dangerous reefs to Key West harbor.

The original keeper was Michael Mabrity, assisted by his wife, Barbara. When he died seven years after it opened, she continued caring for it. Unfortunately, the powerful Havana Hurricane of 1846 wiped it out, killing 14 people who were hiding from the storm. Barbara survived. The current lighthouse stands proudly at 73 feet and is made of brick. It became operational in 1848.

It’s hard to look at the Key West Lighthouse or any other one for that matter and not feel a longing for something deep in the soul that is nameless and eternal. Sometimes I think each of us is called to be a lighthouse and harbor for others. Just as we need shelter from Life’s storms, sooner or later, we all need the light of a friendly soul to guide us on our way.

Just as important, we need to remember that we carry within ourselves the light others need, and it’s as comforting and certain as the light from a lighthouse standing firmly on a dark shore, pointing the way. Did you ever visit Key West Lighthouse or any other one for that matter? Did you climb those ancient steps till you finally reached the top and could gaze at the watery horizon alive with a million blinding beams of light? Breathtaking, wasn’t it? Whose breath will you take away tomorrow when you share your light?

                                                     Bill Hegerich

                                                     The Uncommon Mariner   


Welcome to National Trivia Day

 Welcome to Stump the Pirate!.

January 4 is National Trivia Day, and everybody I know loves a challenge which is why Jeopardy as well as Trivia Pursuit has been so popular all these years. I’ve got a little game for you called Stump the Pirate, and it tests your knowledge of four categories. Pirates, Explorers, Shipwrecks, and Mother Ocean. There are five questions for each of the four topics. If you score perfectly, I promise to share my next haul of doubloons with you. Answers appear at the end of the quiz. Good Luck! Aarrrgh!


One. When there wasn’t a physician on board a ship, who served as surgeon? a. the captain b. the quartermaster c. the cook   d. the gunner

Two. What was once considered the most evil pirate haunt in the world? a. Madrid, Spain b. Port Royal, Jamaica c. Santiago, Cuba   d. Murrells Inlet, SC

Three. Who was Spain’s most famous buccaneer? a. Sir Francis Drake b. Ferdinand Magellan   c. Ponce de Leon   d. Jose Cruz

Four. Which of these was the only pirate who retired successfully? a. Blackbeard b. Black Bart  c. Capt. William Kidd   d. Henry Every

Five. Which place became a pirate stronghold known as the Pirate Republic?  a. Nassau, Bahamas b. Jamaica c. Cartagena   d. Santo Domingo


Six. Who was the first to use the name America on a map? a. Gerald Mercator b. Amerigo Vespucci c. Christopher Columbus    d. Abraham Ortelius

Seven. Which explorer was lost at sea after his crew mutinied?a. John Davis b. Ferdinand Magellan c. Henry Hudson   d. Joseph Bannister

Eight. Which one of these was a ghost ship guided by the devil?a. Celeste b. Davey Jones c. Flying Dutchman   d. El Diablo

Nine. Who was the first navigator to sail completely around the world three times? a. Francis Drake b. Ferdinand Magellan c. William Dampier   d. John Davis

Ten. Who discovered the Hawaiian Islands? a. James Cook b. Henry Hudson c. John Franklin   d. Henry Morgan


Eleven. On which ship was the policy of ladies first into the lifeboats adopted? a. Titanic b. Birkenhead c. Lusitania   d. Rhone

Twelve. What did the collision of the Imo and the Mount Blanc in 1917 result in? a. Total destruction of Halifax, Nova Scotia b. a minor explosion   c. an oil spill   d. the cause of World War I

Thirteen. What is a ghost ship? a. A ship rumored to be haunted b. a ship denied access to a port c. a ship wrecked on a foreign shore   d. a ship afloat but with no one on board

Fourteen. What ship sunk off Nantucket Island in 1956?  a. HMS Pinafore b. Andrea Doria c. Franklin   d. USS Enterprise

Fifteen. The ferry Estonia sank in 1994, killing over 800 people because: a. The captain fell asleep b. a bomb on board went off  c. an explosion in the boiler room ripped through the hull  d. someone forgot to close the bow doors

                                                                 Mother Ocean

Sixteen. What causes tsunamis? a. Typhoons in the Pacific b. earthquakes c. volcanoes   d. rogue waves

Seventeen. What’s the only male sea creature that gives birth to its young? a. Lemon sharks b. dolphins c. sea horses   d. box jellyfish

Eighteen. Sawfish sharks aren’t really sharks at all but: a. dolphins b. pirates looking for a meal c. stingrays   d. an octopus

Nineteen. Which turtle has no shell? a. Olive Kemp Ridley b. loggerhead c. hawksbill   d. leatherback

Twenty. What’s the biggest creature in the sea? a. Mako shark b. blue whale c. humpback whales   d. killer whales

Time’s up, Kiddies. If you got five or less correct, you need to spend more time chasing pirates. If you got six to ten, you’re better than a landlubber, but I recommend an extra week’s vacation at the beach this year. If you scored, eleven to fifteen, you’re a pretty good mariner. Keep hoisting those sails. If you scored sixteen or above, I know a couple of sea captains that would love having you on board chasing adventure on the High Seas.

  1. c. the cook. 2. b. Port Royal, Jamaica  3. a. Sir Francis Drake 4. d. Henry Every   5. a. Nassau, Bahamas   6. a. Gerald Mercator  7.  c. Henry Hudson  8. c. Flying Dutchman   9.  c. William Dampier  10. a. James Cook   11.  b. Birkenhead  12. a. Total destruction of Halifax, Nova Scotia   13. d. a ship afloat but with no one on board   14. b. Andrea Doria  15. d. someone forgot to close the bow doors  16. b. earthquakes    17. c. sea horses   18. c. stingrays    19. d. leatherback   20. b. blue whale

                                               Bill Hegerich

                                              The Uncommon Mariner


What Are You Doing This New Years Eve?

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to be done with the old and worn-out and welcome a New Year with its promise of a new chance at Life. Maybe it’s the reason some pirates liked to rename their ships. Perhaps they felt it would give them a new lease on life. At the very least, it confounded the authorities if only for a little while.

The very mariners who deliver the goods you snap up in your local stores represent a wide variety of countries with some very interesting New Year traditions. I suggest you check them out. They may very well bring you the luck you’re looking for if not radically alter your life.

This New Year’s Eve besides watching the ball drop in New York’s Times Square, you might want to consider adopting one or two of the following customs. Let’s start with Italy. There and in some Hispanic countries, it’s a good idea to put more than a little thought into what color underwear to put on. If you want to attract money, wear yellow. Guys, stains don’t count. Ladies, if you’re looking for love wear red panties. In some countries, red underwear is given as a gift though I wouldn’t recommend you try it with your next-door neighbor.

In some parts of Columbia, South America, people carry travel bags or other small pieces of luggage with them so that travel will be an important part of their life in the New Year.

Brazilians have a unique custom that is easily adapted to anywhere in the world. For luck, they swim in the ocean, diving into the waves seven times in honor of Yemenja, goddess of the ocean. Each time you jump in the waves, make a wish. How much fun is that unless you live in Anchorage, Alaska or the South Pole?

In some parts of Latin America and Europe, you are sure to have luck if you eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape you pop into your mouth represents a month of the New Year. And don’t forget to make a wish with each grape you eat.

Many Filipinos keep round things near them for good luck as they begin the New Year. Some wear polka dot clothing, or eat 12 round fruits, one for each of the 12 months of the year. At the very least, keep change in your pocket and to encourage wealth to come to you, jingle it frequently throughout the day.

You don’t have to wait for St. Patrick’s Day for this last one, nor do you have to be Irish. Put a little mistletoe under your pillow and your future loved one will appear in a dream.

However you celebrate the New Year, I wish you not only health, good luck, and wealth, but the fulfillment of your most precious dreams. Happy New Year.

                                    Bill Hegerich

                                    The Uncommon Mariner






A Merry and Blessed Christmas

          May this Christmas bring you all the joy and peace your heart can hold. And may all your Sail-Away Dreams come true this coming year. For those mariners on cargo and cruise ships, tankers and tugs, far from family and friends, remember how much you’re ;loved and thought of. A special thank you to all the men and women around the world who stand and serve their country, you are remembered with love, respect, and gratitude today.

                                         Merry Christmas

                                         Bill Hegerich

                                        The Uncommon Mariner