Setting Sail in 2020

Believe it or not 2019 is about to sail into history, and like you, I can’t really believe it. If I didn’t know better, I’d think those scoundrel pirates stole it. And with a new year ready to sweep over us, that can mean only one thing. New Year’s Resolutions.

There’s something deep in the soul of every human being that strives towards a better life. Something that makes a person want to be better, do better, and achieve more. Even the slackers who sit back and collect welfare for a living, or use their time and talents to scam others, like those shysters who keep calling my house trying to sell my wife devices for her back and legs, all the while pretending to be from Medicare.

Making New Year’s Resolutions seems to be part of our DNA… even if we only make them in our head. As a pirate and a writer, I can’t help but wonder what kind of resolutions some of the more famous pirates might have made.

First there’s Blackbeard. Before assuming that name, he was known as Edward Teach, or possibly Edward Thatch, but somehow that doesn’t have quite the zing to it that Blackbeard does. That must have been one of his resolutions early in life.

Blackbeard died in the shoals of North Carolina where he had been hiding out. The night before he threw a massive party, and had an incredible hangover the next day. And it got worse. Lieutenant Maynard, who had been sent by the governor of Virginia to track him down, discovered his hide out and initiated an attack. If you ever had a headache from imbibing too much the night before, imagine how painful it must have been when cannons roared. To make matters worse both ships were stuck in muck and both sides had to wait for a rising tide to maneuver.

Outgunned by Blackbeard’s cannons, Maynard was in a precarious position. He ordered his men below deck, and Blackbeard, his head throbbing but certain of victory, swarmed Maynard’s ship. Suddenly, a door burst open, and Maynard’s well-armed men swarmed the deck. Fighting was vicious, and it took a combination of almost two dozen pistol shots and sabre cuts to bring Blackbeard down.

Ironically, the only thing that stopped him was a sword that separated his head from his shoulders. Well, that’s one way to get rid of a hangover, but not highly recommended.

I’m willing to bet my last doubloon that had Blackbeard lived, he would have made a couple of resolutions. One, go a little lighter on the rum. Two, Never underestimate your enemies. And three, arrogance can be your undoing.

Then there’s the situation Bartholomew Roberts got himself into. Also known as Black Bart, Roberts hounded shipping in the Caribbean pretty much freely till the British Navy got tired of his antics. He even went so far as to have a flag drawn up with the initials AMH on it as a warning to the governor of Martinique that he would kill him if he caught him. Roberts eventually succeeded.

Roberts targeted the governors of Barbados and Martinique after being hunted by them. The initials stand for A Martinique’s Head and A Barbadian’s Head

Unfortunately, Roberts got into trouble when he got over sure of himself and chased a ship that turned out to be a British man-of-war. Oops. His smugness no doubt turned to dismay when he realized he was trading broadsides with a ship better armed than his. Roberts died in the battle and his men threw his body overboard at his request. No doubt he didn’t want to be placed in a gibbet and his remains left hanging for everyone to stare at.

I bet if Roberts had to make a New Year’s resolution or two one would be: “Keep a low profile. Drawing a lot of attention to yourself isn’t a good thing.” I bet his other resolution would have been: “You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.”

Then there’s Captain William Kidd. He’s often described in some books as one of the most evil pirates in history. That’s not true. Kidd was a businessman who entered into a partnership with some very influential businessmen in New York, including the governor himself. With sea water in his veins, he went to sea to hunt pirates, not become one. During his voyage, his recalcitrant men, hungry for booty, became rebellious and forced him to attack ships not on his list.

When Kidd finally made his way to the Caribbean, he was shocked to discover he was a wanted man. Partners with some of the most powerful people in the British government, he was certain he could easily clear his name. Was he wrong! Embarrassed to be associated with Kidd, everyone denounced him and let him die on the gallows in England.

Want to guess what Kidd’s New Year’s Resolutions would be? “Don’t be too naïve. Politicians are about as good as their word, and when the caca hits the fan, you better not be standing too close.” I bet he wished he had stayed in the Caribbean a little longer, working on Plan B.

As I welcome 2020, I realize I have a lot of good resolutions I never quite got around to executing from last year. I also have a few new ones I’m sure will make my life better in the new year; maybe there’s something you might be able to use too.

One. Plan your day. If you’re a wandering generality, as Zig Ziglar likes to say, tomorrow’s going to look just like today which looked just like yesterday. But a plan changes all that.

Two. Don’t over plan your day. Leave time for fun and adventure. Otherwise your life is going to look like a boring checklist from the back of some How-To book.

Three. Have Hope. You must believe All things are Possible.

Four. Always appreciate what you have. Practice this every day. If you think you got it really good, God is going to say to you: “If you think things are going great for you now, wait till you see what I have planned for you next week.” He’ll also say to those blind to their blessings: “If you think you have something to complain about now, wait till you see what I’m sending you next week.”

Five. Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. Learn from yours and move on.

Six. People will betray you. You’ll think they’re in your corner, and one day you awake to find out they’re gone. It’s life. Don’t let it stop you. The power of how far you will travel in life is determined by you, not your enemies.

Seven. Never stop dreaming. Your dreams are what keep you young. I count my age by my dreams. Years are a chronological fact like the United States was born in 1776.

Eight. Never stop believing in yourself. No matter how old you are, there’s a vast, untapped potential waiting to be discovered. What are you waiting for?

Nine. Don’t listen to “No,” when your heart says “Yes.”

Ten. This one is for you to fill in. Please tell me one resolution you think would be invaluable for everyone to make this coming year.

I don’t know what storms will blow my way or yours this year, but if you take just one or two ideas here, they just might help you have a little more fun navigating the Seas of Life. I wish you Health. I wish you Fun. I wish you Love. And I wish you Adventure.

Happy 2020!!!

 

            Bill Hegerich

            The Uncommon Mariner

Dorian to Broadside Pirate’s Paradise

This Guardian Angel is keeping watch over the storm. She’s lost her right hand defending our house, but doesn’t mind as long as she has flowers.

It’s 1:45 pm on a Thursday, but this is no ordinary Thursday. Hurricane Dorian is bearing down on my house in M.I.S.C. Horrific rains are whipping the roof and sides of my house relentlessly, looking for the smallest crack so they can enter.

The eye of the storm is churning furiously in the sea just 40 miles from my front door. During the night my wife and I rose and went to her Creativity Room where she breathes life into amazing things, like shell wreaths and delicate fairy books that she spent thousands of hours creating.

This beautiful canvas is just one of many things my wife creates.

Afraid that Dorian might have his way, she asked that we move them to a safer place in the house and wrap them in plastic. Three hours later the job was done, and we slept soundly while the winds raged outside our window.

You’d think that the storm would be further along by now, but it’s a bully, taking its time, beating anyone and anything exposed to its fury. Just look what it did in the Bahamas.

Forecasters are predicting that winds will increase to anywhere between 45 and 75 miles-per-hour later this afternoon. Torrential downpours are accompanying the terrifying winds, so we haven’t seen anything yet.

My weather station indicates conditions ripe for a hurricane. There is no mercy from this one.

I’ve done what I can to prepare for Dorian. I hope it was enough. I’ll tell you about it in a minute, but first let me relate a true story that happened three days ago at a local Home Depot. While picking up supplies, I overheard customers and employees discussing the impending storm. Everyone seemed to have their opinion about how bad it would be.

Some based their opinion on the forecast and logic; others were talking… let’s see, how can I put this delicately? Others were talking out of the seat of their pants.

“It’s not going to be bad.”

“We’re not going to get anything.”

“It’s not going to be as bad as they predict.”

“They always say that to scare you.”

I wonder if those who voiced those optimistic forecasts are sitting safely in their own homes now or in a shelter. Hurricanes can be so unforgiving when you don’t prepare for one.

While standing in line, I couldn’t help but hear something else that was pretty stupid. “There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m here to pick up paint for my daughter’s bedroom.” Someone else chimed in: “You got that right. They tell me I need to sandbag my house, but that ain’t gonna make any difference.”

Well, the first man was half right. There is absolutely nothing you can do to direct the storm or mitigate its intensity unless you’re a devout believer, and can talk God into helping out a little. But there’s plenty you can do to prepare for the worst. I don’t live in a flood zone, so I don’t have to worry about sand bags, but I’m smart enough to know there are other things that need to be done.

I would almost feel silly admitting this to those numbskulls at Home Depot, but I spent four days turning my house into a virtual man-of-war. I didn’t roll any cannons out; my neighbor across the street might have been terrified had I done that, but there were a number of key things I did do.

First, I climbed onto the roof of my sunporch and caulked the seams of the metal sheets to keep out rain that always seems to find a way in. While up there, I inspected my roof and found two cracked shingles and a vent that needed caulking. Done and done!

On Sunday, I cleaned out gutters, far from a glorious job. Hauling a ladder around the house and having to keep climbing it is hardly my idea of fun. Sticking my hand into rotted leaves and muck is even less so. My friends at Home Depot, no doubt, were home drinking beer and watching football.

I spent Monday screwing three-foot anchors into the ground around my shed so I could tie it down. Without tiedowns, it was likely to blow into my neighbor’s yard or worse into the next county. I use the word tiedown, but it’s probably the wrong word. Chaining it down would be far more accurate.

Let me explain something to you about these tiedown kits they sell. They give you four sturdy anchors and a strand of wire that a pencil neck like pirate Stede Bonnet could rip with his bare hands. The strands might be good for flossing, but that’s it. So on Tuesday, I got the heaviest chain I could find and had my friendly Home Depot associate cut an 8-foot length into four sections. The whole thing probably weighed about forty pounds. I then spent the rest of the day chaining my shed to the ground.

Yesterday, I spent the morning disassembling my pirate paradise, so pieces of it wouldn’t end up in North Carolina near the shoals where Blackbeard deliberately sank his Queen Anne’s Revenge. Screens, conch shells, pirate flags, two skeletons (one with a wooden leg), and furniture all had to be packed into the shed.

Of course, that didn’t include twelve flamingos that roam my pirate paradise. Boy, did they squawk when I corralled them up.

When I finished, I thought of the numbskulls who said there was nothing they could do, and I wanted to drive to Home Depot and hit them over the head with one of my flamingos. They would have been upset. My flamingo would have been upset, so I had a shot of rum instead.

It’s getting close to three o’clock, and that means I have an hour before Dorian fires a vicious series of broadsides that’s bound to shake the rafters of my home. I hope I did enough to prepare for the attack. As for the two knuckleheads who couldn’t or wouldn’t help themselves, God help them. Oh, wait! God helps those that help themselves. So I guess that’s not going to happen.

As the ever-vigilant Coast Guard who has been doing so much for so many in this storm says, Semper Paratis. That’s Latin which literally means always prepared. Or as the United Coast Guard says: Always Ready.

What do you do to get ready for a monster storm? Let me know, and I’ll pass your ideas on. Stay safe out there.

            Bill Hegerich

             The Uncommon Mariner

P.S.  We should never forget the huge debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard during this crisis. They have sacrificed so much and given so much of themselves to keep everyone safe.

 

 

 

Dorian Strikes Terror in the Heart of the Bahamas

It’s no secret by now that the Bahamas have suffered a series of devastating blows from Hurricane Dorian. With twenty dead and many more victims to be counted, well over 13,000 families are now homeless, and that’s a modest estimate. It’s hard to find a strong enough word to describe what happened to our neighbors just a stone’s throw from Miami. Horrific doesn’t come close. Catastrophic is not much better. When looking at the open wounds of these island people, those words seem too sterile or impotent.

Authorities have yet to estimate the cost of this devastating storm. More importantly, entire towns were obliterated, but the storm was non-partisan. Dorian has forever changed the lives of rich and poor, black and white. Many whose ancestors have called the Bahamas their home for generations now have no home to go back to.

The Bahamas, unlike many other Caribbean islands, is largely flat. So when the raging waters of the storm filled the home of one Bahamian family, mother and father and their children climbed to their attic. There they hoisted themselves onto the rafters of their humble house where they huddled in fear. Then the unthinkable happened. Dorian, with its 185 mile-an-hour winds, peeled the roof off, and spit its wrath onto the little family clinging for their lives. Merciless, the hurricane whipped wind and rain in their faces. Exposed to the full fury of the storm, children clung precariously to the rafters while mom and dad looked helplessly on.

Minutes later, another threat became obvious. Pieces of sharp metal ripped from the roofs of another home hurled themselves mercilessly at them. Other debris found their mark, ripping fingers that clung for life, and gouging faces that looked for mercy from a storm that would give them none. For over 24 hours the eye of the hurricane slashed at them, gloating in its torture.

Multiply that scenario by thousands of homes where, in some cases, three generations of Bahamians clung for dear life. The storm is past, and the families of the islands are left to pick up the pieces of their lives buried in the rubble of their homes.

If you believe in God, I urge you to pray for them. But don’t think that prayers are enough. Some one once observed: “More precious than the hands that pray are the hands that help.” The hurricane is past, and now it’s a time for doing. Pity, prayer, and thoughts of the devastated are all fine, but help is what these island people really need.

I’m not a wealthy man by any means, but I encourage everyone reading this to make a donation to the Red Cross or any other group directly offering help though you need to watch out for little known charities who far too often put your donation in their pocket.

If I were a Warren Buffett or a Bill Gates, or one of thousands of sports figures making millions of dollars every year, I wouldn’t hesitate to take one of those millions to help the people of the Bahamas rebuild their lives.

If I were the President of the United States or an influential politician, I would waste no time stepping up to the plate offering massive aid not just for relief, but to help the people rebuild their homes and their lives. We’re not talking a few million dollars which would be nothing but a band aid on a hemorrhaging artery. I’m talking about a massive infusion of cash. Twenty-five to 50 million dollars would be great for starters.

Maybe some of the millionaires who recently got massive tax breaks would be interested in returning the money that they never really needed, so they could help those whose only fault was being caught in the eye of a storm, incredibly brutal and cruel.

What’s your opinion? Do you think it’s enough just to pray for our neighbors just 50 miles off our coast? Or do you think we should do something about it. What would you do? Here’s a better question. What ARE you going to do?

                                  Bill Hegerich

                                  The Uncommon Mariner

The ABC’s of Being a Pirate

Pirates have often been accused of being illiterate, ignorant thugs whose only interests were rum, booty (spell that gold, silver, and pieces of eight), and booty (spell that hot babes), but that simply is not true. Okay, on some ships it was, but if you sailed with Captain Benjamin Hornigold, William Kidd, or Thomas Tew, you had better know your stuff.

The fact is, navigators had to chart their course literally by the stars, and unlike sailors today didn’t have the guess work taken out of a tedious and dangerous journey by GPS equipment and computers. That’s not to take away from the modern sailor who still must be an expert to bring a ship safely into harbor; it’s just that these ancient sailors had to be so knowledgeable and skilled, that common sailors referred to them as Artisans.

I’ve compiled a small tribute to pirates and mariners whether they graduated from the Yale of their day, or never saw the inside of a classroom. I hope Hornigold, Kidd and Tew approve. Maybe even today’s sailors will see a little something of themselves in this “Verse”-a-tile poem.

A is for anchor pirates throw out in a storm.

B is for booty, just the thought keeps me warm.

C is for cannons that boom and then blast

It’s also for slow crew who move just half fast.

 

D is for the ever-dangerous Davy Jones;

He lies in the ocean ready to rattle your bones.

E is for every able-bodied sailor at sea.

There’s hardly a port that they’d rather not be.

 

F is for flags and the pirates who fly ‘em.

They’ll steal yours if they can,

Cause they’ll never once buy ‘em.

G is for gibbets that cage rotting bodies;

Soon only vultures will think Pirates are hotties.

 

H is for harbor and halyard and hammock;

Sleep in one too long, and you’ll want a bed,

Oh, by damn it!

 

I is for island where wenches are waiting;

The bawdiest ones get the highest of ratings.

J is for journeys that surely must end;

With endless horizons, it’s just hard to say when.

 

K is for Kraken, a horrible beast;

He loves salty sailors as good as roast beef.

L is for lighthouse that shines out at sea;

For centuries it’s filled sailors’ hearts with great glee.

 

M is for marooned pirates abandoned on shore

With a dram of hot rum and a rusty, old sword.

  1. is for New Providence, the wickedest city on earth.

Here pirates are promised rum, women, and mirth.

 

O is for overboard when the plank is withdrawn.

Better be a good swimmer,

Cuz ye could be swimmin’ till dawn.

 

P is for plunder and pieces of eight

Spent on wenches and rum,

You know I can’t wait.

 

Q is for quarters, and none will be given;

Best fight to the death; ain’t no time to be quittin’.

R is for rum or a wanton sea rover.

On ship or in port, ain’t one that is sober.

 

S is for shipwrecks, but it could be for sin;

pirates are naughty wherever they’ve been.

 

T is for treasure. I blew mine in port

Gamblin’ and wenchin’ and rum by the quart.

U is for Uncommon Mariners at sea,

Far from all land, they’re just thrilled to be free.

 

V is for vaporing pirates who curse;

Resist and they’ll turn you into

Dainty hors d’oeuvres.

 

W is for shipwrecked with me nothing to wear;

And all I can think of it’s Five O’clock Somewhere.

X marks the spot where pirates their treasure did bury,

After feasting and gambling and making all merry.

 

Y is for yawl, a small vessel afloat,

In South Carolina, they call it a boat.

Z is for zero; it’s what’s left of me booty;

I spent it in bars, romancing the Cuties.

 

                        Bill Hegerich

                        The Uncommon Mariner

 

 

 

Seven More Stupid Things You Can Do Out on the Water

If the pirates on board this ship had bothered to check the forecast instead of their rations of rum, they might have avoided this frightening weather maker.

This past week we’ve been celebrating National Safe Boating Week, and I talked about stupid things boaters do out there on the water. The whole point of Safe Boating Week is to make boaters more conscientious of exercising common sense and diligence not only this week but throughout the summer and beyond.

One of the things I mentioned was carrying and using life jackets. A second was the failure to check the weather forecast. After all, do you really think a member of the Coast Guard should not go home to his/her family tonight because they died getting you out of a dangerous situation you should never have put yourself into?

The third stupid thing I mentioned was operating a boat while intoxicated. Pirates used to do it, and the consequences were often devastating. Blackbeard’s head was hanging from the bowsprit of Capt. Maynard’s ship when he brought survivors of Blackbeard’s crew to Williamsburg. Nothing glorious or funny about that. In fact, the only place where drinking and operating a vehicle is funny is in the movies. Everyone in the audience has a great time, and then the words The End flash on the screen and everyone goes home happy. Except in real life, where after a DUI or a BUI, there’s a wake of dead and mangled bodies and a swath of broken lives.

Playing it forward, I think the next stupid thing boaters do is to fail to make sure all their systems are functioning properly. That funny noise you heard your engine make last time you were out.  Well, are you going to check it out before weighing anchor tomorrow? That funny smell coming from below deck that smells oddly like burning wires, did you give that any thought when you got back to the marina?

Did you know it doesn’t cost you a red cent to have your boat inspected by someone who is a qualified expert, as good as any you’ll find in the best of marinas? These men and women are professional, friendly, and knowledgeable. And they won’t try to sell you on repairs you don’t need. Have you ever heard of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary?

You’ll find them across the United States, in marinas, bays, and channels, and they will inspect your boat for free. The only thing you need to pay is a little respect and attention. Contrary to what some boaters say, the Coast Guard and their right arm, Coast Guard Auxiliarists, who number over 26,000, are not wet blankets with the sole purpose of ruining your plans for fun out on the water. By 2017, the 200th birthday of the Coast Guard, these men and women, who serve in this unique military branch, saved over 4,188 lives and performed over 16,907 rescues. Maybe one day, your life or one of your loved ones will be added to that number.

To find out more information on this dedicated group of men and women who still serve their country without pay, or to request an inspection of your floating bucket of bolts, go to http://www.cgaux.org/vsc/ .

The fifth stupid thing boaters do is to fail to learn the basic rules of boating safety and navigation. Taking a basic course with neither your head nor your heart in it can be dangerous for the simple reason that you think you know all about operating a boat. The British poet, Alexander Pope was right 300 years ago, and he’s still right. “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” And nothing’s more dangerous than an arrogant, know-it-all boater except maybe a drunken, arrogant, know-it-all boater.

There are all kinds of courses you can take. Some of them excellent, and some pretty pathetic. If you want a fair recommendation, ask the experts who have to deal with the mess, ignorant and stupid boaters leave in their wake. As if you couldn’t guess, contact http://www.cgaux.org/boatinged/ and look for boating courses.

Another stupid thing that annoys the bejessus out of safe boaters are the fools that operate their boat recklessly. They’re the ones who hot dog it in the bay and marina, cross your path, leaving you little time to react, while you have to deal with their wake. It’s the equivalent of someone crossing three lanes of traffic to make it to their exit ramp. Everyone else be damned. Many of these boaters are either so drunk or are texting and don’t even know they’re bearing down on you, leaving you little time to react. When these guys get caught, they should be used as chum by the local fishing fleet.

Letting your Uncle Joe, who up to now has only seen pictures of a boat, take the helm, is probably just as stupid as being a hotdog. Why would you do that? You have an expensive piece of equipment, and you’re letting someone with no experience take control, while you’re aft getting ripped on vodka and orange juice?

The eighth stupid thing you can probably do is to go out without filing a plan with someone. If you fail to come home at the end of the day, your wife is going to sound pretty stupid. “Where did he go?” “I don’t know?” “What time did he weigh anchor?’ “I don’t know.” “Was he expecting to stop somewhere?” “I don’t know.” “Do you know anything?” “I know I’ll be happy if you wait four weeks before starting a Search and Rescue.”

Seriously, bad things can happen out on the river as well as the sea, and the sooner the professionals know they should be looking for you, and as soon as they have a clue where to look, the better are your chances of being rescued.

The ninth stupid thing a boater can do is fail to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. The weather looks overcast, muses many a boater as he weighs anchor at 7:00 am. “Aww, shucks! I left that stuff in another bag in the car.” Two hours later the fog and mist have burned away. Want to know the next thing that’s going to burn away? The epidermis on a boater’s exposed skin. With no hat, a bald man’s head is a solar panel for the sun’s rays, and his nose, ears, and neck become ground zero for melanoma. And with no covering for his eyes, he is about to inflict serious damage on his retinas. And I’m betting it won’t be the first time either.

That brings us to the tenth stupid thing that boaters do, but I’m done. I’m leaving number ten to you. What do you think is a stupid, stupid thing that a stupid, stupid boater does? This piece won’t be complete without your contribution. So whether you’re an inveterate boater, an armchair sailor, a Navy frogman, or a member of the USCG, let me hear from you.

My pirate ship is moored at an undisclosed location, and I’m sitting under a palm tree in my Key West Garden here in Murrells Inlet. A bottle of Repel 40 deet sits on my table next to my Panama Jack 70 sunblock. My Margaritaville glass, once filled with water, is nearly empty. It’s important to stay hydrated in this humid SC weather, so I think my refill is going to be a Foster’s, mate! I’m in dock, my bare feet on terra firma, but the dreams of the sea still call my name. Maybe I’ll answer tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s looking at you, kid! And stay safe out there on the water. And don’t forget to behave yourself. Or you may be reading about yourself in this blog next week.

                                     Bill Hegerich

                                      The Uncommon Mariner

The Three Most Stupid Things You Can Do on the Water

 

The three-man crew, er, I mean two man and one woman crew, of the Silent Lady out of St. Thomas, USVI. First thing they made sure of was where our life jackets were. The second thing was where the rum was. Arrggh!

Boating season is in full swing here in South Carolina, not that you won’t find impassioned boaters active here and elsewhere in the United States year-round. But somehow the warm weather seems to attract more than the water’s share of wackos who think they are impervious to their really bad choices. Once we get into the dead heat of summer, it’s hard not to pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV and learn about the antics of some moron that brought about someone’s serious injury or death.

Below are three really bad things to do with your boat, though I’m sure seasoned boaters and the United States Coast Guard can easily add to this list. Before reading any further, maybe you ought to take a couple of Dramamine tablets and a life jacket. It won’t keep you from getting seasick, but when you sail with some of the characters I’m about to introduce, you might be tempted to jump overboard.

First, there are the boaters that don’t carry life jackets or bother to use them. I know the Coast Guard would agree with me 100% on this. While laws generally vary from state to state, generally, children, operators of personal water craft, and water skiers are supposed to wear one. They should also fit snugly which is why adult life jackets are deathtraps for children.

A lot of operators of boats always assume a boating accident isn’t going to happen to them. Assumption is the mother of all Screw-ups. Actually, I wanted to use a more colorful phrase because I can’t make this point too strongly, but I think wordpress would banish me even if it saved a life. A lot more than collisions can cause a person to drown. Losing balance and falling overboard while fishing, for instance. Or rough seas that end up swamping your boat.

A lot of people complain wearing a lifejacket is too restrictive. Well, if you think wearing one of those things is uncomfortable, imagine how comfortable it is to be gasping for air underwater while your lungs fill with water. If you want a thorough list of Do’s and Don’ts for lifejacket usage visit the United States Coast Guard at http://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/life-jacket-wear-wearing-your-life-jacket.php. 

Another common yet equally stupid thing for boaters to do is not check the weather forecast. They got their sandwiches packed; enough beer to float their vessel, enough ice to sink the Titanic, and a wide variety of fishing tackle that would make Ernest Hemingway look like a namby-pamby. Yet somehow checking the forecast doesn’t fit into their idea of a fun day.

What these knuckleheads don’t realize is that Mother Nature changes her moods out on the sea as frequently as the weather in Miami in the middle of a hot August afternoon. As my good friend, Jimmy, from Miami says: “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” When you’re a few miles offshore, and a weather maker blows up from nowhere, it’s a little too late to run for shelter. There’s really no excuse for not checking  the forecast when you have an expert site like https://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm to go to.

You can probably guess at the next thing stupid boaters do. That’s why I’m lumping them with drunken pirates. A third of boating accidents are alcohol-related. Blackbeard would probably still be alive today, raiding ships off North Carolina if he had a clear head the day Lieutenant Maynard sailed into the shallow inlets of Beaufort, NC looking for him. Instead, with a false sense of bravado, fueled by his nightlong rum-swilling, he pursued Maynard’s ship after it was grounded. (His own ship was freed only minutes before by the rising tide.) Had he been sober, Blackbeard might have weighed anchor and escaped.  Instead, he led his drunken men aboard Maynard’s ship, where the lieutenant surprised him with well-armed men concealed below deck.

When you’re out on the water, anything can happen, from a malfunctioning engine to a man overboard, to an encounter with an intoxicated boater mindlessly bearing down on you. It’s true you probably won’t meet any pirates out there, but the point is you have to be ready to deal with any crisis. Being three sheets to the wind because of two much rum is hazardous for both you, your guests, and your boat.

While the irresponsible boater may think it’s no big deal to get caught while under the influence, he might consider penalties could include suspension of driving and boating licenses, fines, and possible jail time. Not a lot of fun if you sober up in jail and realize you got Bubba for a cellmate and he’s been lonely for a long, long time. Visit https://www.uscgboating.org/recreational-boaters/boating-under-the-influence.php  where the Coast Guard gives you a whole lot more to think about before taking that first shot of rum.

Boating Safety Week is held this year from May 18 to May 24, in the effort to make boaters a lot more conscientious about their choices out on the water. I think boat safety is so important, it needs more than just seven days. I think it needs to be extended throughout the summer and beyond. Visit me again here and find out the next three stupid things even pirates wouldn’t do with their boat.

Until then, smooth sailing on the high seas, and if you get on board someone else’s ship, be sure you get your fair share of rum, but first make sure to ask for your life jacket.

 

Bill Hegerich

The Uncommon Mariner

PS. Want more fun out on the water? Want to join a pirate crew that’s saavy and safe? Check out https://www.coolboatsusvi.com/silent-lady.html

 

Fifty Things You’ll Never Find on a Pirate Ship

After a hard voyage of plundering and pillaging, pirates are always ready for a little fun. Here’s your chance to mess with them and win some of that booty they pilfered. 

You might not know the answer to the following riddle, but it’s key to what you’re about to read. What’s a pirate’s favorite game at a birthday party? Ready for the answer? A Scavenger Hunt. Well, you can bet your very last doubloon you’d win a load of buried treasure if you could snooker drunken pirates into looking for the following items on a pirate ship.           Let’s get started, shall we?

  1. Washing machines.
  2. An ironing board.
  3. Clean dishes. What’s a dish, a pirate might well ask. These guys are the ones who invented the expression, “Finger-licking good.”
  4. Linen napkins.
  5. Bottles of deodorant.

 

  1. A prayer book.
  2. Bible Study Class
  3. An unopened bottle of wine.
  4. Love letters to their wives. Not only were many pirates unmarried, but when they captured ships and recruited men to serve on their ship, they often refused to let married men join their crew. The thinking was that married men would miss their wives and not have their heart and soul into the job.
  5. A savings account.

 

  1. Virgins. I don’t think we need to go into that one.
  2. Clean sheets. The closest thing pirates had for sheets were the grungy hammocks they slept in. And they only got washed when a wave accidently washed into an open port hole.
  3. Tooth brush.
  4. One look at Blackbeard would tell you this. The gnarlier and unkempt your appearance, the more ferocious you appeared.
  5. Fresh towels.

 

  1. Mouth wash. Let’s face it. Pirates weren’t particularly fond of g-aarrrrgggh-ling. Unless of course it was with rum.
  2. A copy of Roberts Rules of Order.
  3. A roll of toilet paper. But how did they……..? Don’t even ask.
  4. A barber. What’s the point of growing a beard, if you’re going to get a haircut? That’s why a lot of men walking around today would fail the initial test for being a pirate. So many have all these shaved, bald, shiny heads and a little pointed beard on their chin. Blackbeard would howl with laughter.
  5. A copy of The Eight Habits of Successful People. Pirates didn’t think in terms of long-range goals. Success to them was gold, rum, and lots of hot wenches.

 

  1. An English Teacher. Having taught 37 years, I think I can safely say, some of my worst students would have made great pirates.
  2. A book of etiquette.
  3. A copy of the Ten Commandments.
  4. A financial advisor. I’m afraid any financial advisor that worked aboard a pirate ship probably starved to death unless he got hired as a comedian and told them out important investing for the future was.
  5. A bottle of Febreze. Pirates had their own way of freshening the air below deck. When the stench from the bilge water became overwhelming, they lit sulphur and brimstone to kill the smell.

 

  1. Dental floss.
  2. A 12-step program. The only steps pirates were interested in were how many steps to a bottle of rum or their favorite wench.
  3. A piggy bank.
  4. A game of Scrabble. Every pirate would be an automatic winner since they spelled words any damn way they liked.
  5. Gourmet meals.

 

  1. Hand sanitizer.
  2. A copy of the New York Times.
  3. A library card. Most pirates would have been at a loss to read the books in a kindergarten classroom. Unless, of course, it had pictures.
  4. A subscription to Better Homes and Gardens. Though I bet there might have been one or two pirates who might have subscribed to Better Bars and Taverns had there been such a publication.
  5. Condoms. You don’t really want me to draw you a picture, do you?

 

  1. A box of Tic Tacs.
  2. An unopened six pack of beer.
  3. An AARP card. I’m afraid the organization for retired persons wouldn’t have thrived on a pirate ship. You can be a member of AARP at 50. Most pirates didn’t make it out of their twenties and thirties.
  4. A handkerchief. Seriously! That’s what hairy arms were for.
  5. A checkbook. Words like checking, deposit, investments, interest, and balance were foreign words to the typical pirate.

41. A bar of soap.

  1. A tattoo that says, “Mom.”
  2. A Life Insurance policy.
  3. Matching Gucci luggage to store belongings on a long voyage.
  4. Room service. The fact is, pirates slept below deck with the cannons, their hammocks stretched out within feet of each other. No private suites here. And there was no Wake up call either. The only wake up call a pirate got was the loud boom of a cannon followed by the splintering of the hull above their head, if they still had one.

46. Clean underwear. If you got that kind of a wake-up call, would you still have clean underwear?

47. A five-star chef. If you’re fussy about how your meals are prepared, you might want to reconsider your aspirations as a pirate. The cook was often the guy who lost his arm in battle or got his leg mangled in the lines and could no longer do regular jobs. He knew as much about cooking as I know about astrophysics.

48. The board game, “Sorry.” The only thing pirates were sorry about was when they ran out of rum, or didn’t have any more doubloons to pay the wenches in port.

49. A bottle of Mr. Clean. Come on, get real. Why would a pirate want to keep anything clean? That’s the whole point of being a pirate. The only exception was their guns. These they were expected to keep in pristine condition.

  1. Tofu or quiche. If food didn’t, at one time, walk, cluck, moo, or poop, pirates weren’t crazy about putting it in their mouth. I can’t blame them, I’d rather walk the plank than have to touch quiche let alone eat it. Remember that book, “Real men don’t eat quiche?” Well, that applies to pirates a 100 fold.

So if you come across some real live pirates this coming week, go ahead and take advantage of them; challenge them to a little treasure hunt. A word of warning, however, Make sure you haven’t worn deodorant for a few days. You don’t want them to get suspicious.

 

                                       Bill Hegerich

                                       The Uncommon Mariner

Aaaarrrrgh!

Aarrrgh is one of the defining words in our common psyche when we think of pirates. My wife says two mature, normal grown-ups can’t help but smile when they utter that word to each other. You can be a pirate aficionado, a parrothead with 50 years of partying and pirating under your sash, or just plain nuts like me, but the response will always be the same when someone greets you with “Aarrrgh!”

I don’t know why that is. As Johnny Depp says, “Enjoy the ride while it lasts.” Don’t question the gift of Aarrgh when someone brightens your day with one.

I taught school for over 37 years, and it’s the one word that’s practically impossible to misspell though I know a few people who would come close. Despite what you think and what you’ve seen in the dozens of pirate books you’ve read, there really is no one way to spell Aarrrgh.

Here are some of the more common ways. Aarrrgh!  Aaarr! Arrrr!  Arrr! Arrrgh! For the sake of consistency, I’m using Arr, though there are times when Arrgh is better.

Some historians assert that pirates never once uttered the word Aarrgh or anything like it. They assert that the word is a Hollywood device that can be traced back to Long John Silver in the story Treasure Island. I don’t think they would argue their point so loud if they were looking down the barrel of a Caribbean pirate’s cannon, or dancing a jig at the end of a pirate sword.

The fact is, many pirates were Irish, Welsh, and English. All three spoke with distinct accents that gave Aarrrgh a delightful flavor. Count among Welsh pirates, Henry Morgan, the inspiration behind Captain Morgan rum, and Black Bart aka Bartholomew Roberts. I don’t think a lot of people reading this would have wanted to sail on Roberts’ ship. He preferred to drink tea instead of rum.

Captain William Kidd was Scottish. I think his Aarrgh would have been as good as anyone’s in history. Blackbeard and Edward England were both English as was Calico Jack Rackham though his shipmate the notorious Anne Bonny was born in County Cork, Ireland. Anne delighted in revealing her breast to the men she conquered. Talk about wild Irish lasses! That alone deserves an Aaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

That’s not to say there weren’t French, Spanish, and Dutch pirates. Boy, there were plenty of those too. But I just don’t know how you can put a French or Dutch accent on Aarrrgh! Awkward!!!

The following are thirty pirate riddles with the word Aarrr in the answer. I have no doubt even Henry Morgan, if he sobered up long enough, would surely be amused. Ready or not, here they Arrr!

1.How do pirates like their eggs? 

Arrr boiled

2. Where in the Caribbean do pirates go for vacation?

Arrr-uba

3. What’s a pirate’s favorite game fish?

Sh-arrr-ks!

4. Why was the pirate voted most valuable player in baseball?

Because he had the most Arrr BI’s.

5. What happened to the movie about pirates who plundered a ship with scantily clad wenches?

It was raided Arrr!

6. What music do pirates listen to?

Arrr and B

7. What’s a pirate’s favorite musical instrument?

An Arrr-monica

8. What was the pirate’s explosive secret weapon?

F-arrr-ts

9. What were pirates doing in the dollar store?

Looking for a b-arrr-gain.

10. What do pirates like to smoke after a day of pillaging and wenching?

Cig-arrrs!

11. What does a pirate do after brushing his teeth?

He g-arrr-gles with rum.

12. What did Blackbeard do when fuses got hopelessly tangled in his beard?

He went to a b-arrr-ber.

13. What do pirates like inscribed on their tombstone?

Arrr I P

14. Why didn’t the pirate say anything at his own trial?

Because there was no use in Arrr-guing with the judge.

15. Why did the pirate interrupt the band in the middle of the song?

He didn’t like the Arrr-angement.

16. What famous pirate appeared in Star Wars?

Arrr 2 D 2.

17. What’s a pirate’s favorite part of the boardwalk?

The Arrr-cade.

18. What do you call a muscular pirate with a German accent?

Arrr-nold Schwarzenegg-arrr

19. What vegetable does a cook never serve on a pirate ship?

Arrr-tichokes.

20. Why did the pirate drink unsweetened iced tea?

He didn’t like Arrr-tificial sweeteners.

21. Where do pirates hold their tailgate party before a night of plundering?

In the p-arrr-king lot.

22. What TV show do pirates like to watch when they get up in the morning?

C-arrr-toons.

23. What job did the pirate volunteer for on Thanksgiving Day?

C-arrr-ving the turkey.

24. Why was the pirate limping?

Fallen Arrr-ches.

25. How do pirates spend their Saturday mornings?

They go to yarrr-d sales.

26. If God is a pirate, what’s the first thing he’s going to ask to see when you reach heaven?

Your sc-arrrs.

27. What kind of toilet paper do pirates use?

Ch-arrr-main.

28. What’s the smelliest part of a pirate?

His Arrr-m pit.

29. Who was the best pirate to ever play golf?

Arr-rnold Palmer

30. What did God tell Noah to do when he turned pirate?

Start building an Arrr-k.

How about you? I bet there’s a little pirate in you yearning to break free. What arrr you waiting for? Let me hear your best aarrr jokes.

 

                            Bill Hegerich

                            The Uncommon Mariner

 

Signs Your Cruise Ship is actually a Pirate Ship

 

You may think you’ve signed on for a fantastic cruise in the Caribbean, but you may be in for the surprise of your life.

My wife and I recently booked a Caribbean cruise with the Royal Caribbean and were shocked when, at the last minute, it was canceled. Whoever heard of a cruise being canceled where hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake? In all fairness, the cruise company refunded our money along with some malarkey about renovations, but I think a whole lot more than that was going on. Just between you and me, and please don’t tell anyone this, because I don’t want it to get around, but I think it had a whole lot to do with pirates and less to do with making a ship looking good for a bunch of tourists, most of whom are half in the bag for seven straight days.

Think about it before you take another sip of your rum. Our ship was supposed to be travelling in the Caribbean. The Caribbean! The epicenter of piracy during the Golden Age of Piracy. I’ve studied this topic pretty intensely, so it’s hard to pull the wool over my eyes. Maybe an eyepatch but not wool. Let me put it this way. The spirit of Blackbeard and his kind is alive and well in the Caribbean. If you doubt that, you obviously haven’t been to a Jimmy Buffett concert or heard his song, A Pirate Looks at Forty.

At the risk of betraying my brothers under the black flag, I’m going to say no more. What I will do is give you a list of thirty signs that the next cruise ship you sign up for may not really be a cruise ship at all. You can do your homework, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. My wife and I know that firsthand.

  1. Your travel agent’s name is Black Bart Jr. or Black Sam Bellamy.
  2. Crew members refer to passengers as Scurvy Dogs.
  3. The navigator of the ship uses a treasure map instead of navigational equipment to set the ship’s course.
  4. All the crew members finish their sentences with, “Aarrrgh!”
  5. Pirates are constantly doing cannonballs in the swimming pool.
  6. Every itinerary ends up the same way. On a desert island with you and a shovel, digging for treasure while 50 pirates look on, sipping rum.
  7. Half the crew members have one leg. The other half wear an eye patch. And the other half have a hook. {And before ya go correctin’ me math, quit yer bellyachin’ because I gave ya an extra fifty percent. It’s the pirate way!)
  8. If you’re awakened every morning by the thunder of cannons, it’s a good bet you’re not on yer typical cruise ship.

 

  1. The black flag flying from the topmast is another good sign yer not gettin’ a normal cruise experience.
  2. When your ship pulls into a foreign port, instead of receiving a hearty welcome, everybody’s firing cannonballs at ya.
  3. No matter what drink you order at the bar, ye always get rum.
  4. The ship’s dress code is pirate-casual. For the uninformed of you, that’s wearing the same t-shirt you had on last month complete with stains from every dinner ya ate.
  5. Instead of presenting you with a menu, the head waiter wears a shirt with stains from all the meals of the last cruise. To order, all ya have to do is point to the appropriate glob.
  6. Your bed is a hammock stretched out next to 2,000 other hammocks.
  7. Bathroom facilities are at the very fore of the ship where a single seat with a round hole perches over the sea. Magazines are considered amenities so expect to pay extra.
  8. If you sign up for a deck activity and find yourself swabbing it, you need to have a little talk with yer travel agent.

 

  1. If ya still think yer on a pirate ship, see if ye have a Sail and Swipe card. If not, then yer going to have to pay with pieces-of-eight or doubloons. Lacking that, everything’s going to cost ya an arm or a leg.
  2. On the upside, every itinerary includes three visits to Port Royal, “the wickedest city on earth.” Tell ‘em Captain Morgan sent ya.
  3. Every night, it’s always the same movie, Pirates of the Caribbean.
  4. Normal cruise directors don’t wear a tricorn hat and wave a sword wildly at the passengers. Ya could complain, but it’s going to be a long swim back to port.
  5. Unlike real cruise ships where they’ll confiscate any rum you smuggle on board, a pirate crew will regale you as a hero.
  6. But be forewarned, mate. If you smuggle deodorant on board, expect to be clapped in chains.
  7. On a pirate ship, be prepared to swap omelets and bacon for grog and hardtack. That’s a dried piece of bread that’s had the life baked out of it. Any weevils that crawl out of it are complimentary.

 

  1. There is no art for sale on a pirate ship. But don’t be surprised if you find things in your luggage being auctioned off.
  2. Instead of attending mandatory muster where everyone is taught how to abandon ship in an emergency, passengers are taught how to dodge flying cannon balls.
  3. When you win a trivia game, you get a choice between a shot of rum and a little booty.
  4. Your beverage package consists of light rum, dark rum, and ale. In fact, it consists of anything except water. With all the disgusting things fish do in it, pirates aren’t taking any chances.
  5. There are no slot machines on board a pirate ship, but there are dice and card games run by dealers with a hook. But don’t try to cheat. The next hand that’s dealt might be yer own.
  6. Real cruise ships have deck chairs, so if you have to sit with 14 others on a Dead Man’s Chest, you’re probably not on the Celebrity or the Carnival.
  7. Finally, remember the galley doubles as the infirmary, and the cook moonlights as the ship’s doctor. And they don’t accept Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

That’s it, folks. If you’re planning a cruise in the near future. I suggest you pay close attention to this list. And if you talk to Black Bart, tell him the Uncommon Mariner sent you! Maybe I’ll be seeing ya out there on the high seas. And remember me motto: A little booty, a little rum, and me saucy wench make for a lot of fun.  Aarrrgggh!

Bill Hegerich

                      The Uncommon Mariner

 

What’s Really Keeping America Safe

It’s with a heavy heart and a whole lot of angst that I’m writing this blog. The United States is now in its 34th day of a government shutdown that Donald Trump, our ersatz president gleefully takes credit for. The scenario has the emperor Nero written all over it. For those of you who were smoking in the boy’s or girl’s bathroom during that history lesson, Nero was the sadistic emperor who played his fiddle while Rome burned. Sound familiar?

The Coast Guard along with countless thousands of others are now facing the second payday without a paycheck. Part of the strumpet’s coterie suggests these hardworking folks go to their local grocery store and tell the manager, they can’t pay now, but they’ll pay later. That would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. As if the grocery stores don’t have to meet their own overhead and pay salaries.

Or how about this. When your credit card bill and your mortgage payment come due, the president wants you to pick up the phone and tell the nice person at the other end you are a government employee and you’re sacrificing yourself so he can build a wall for his supporters. Do you know how stupid that sounds?

Imagine telling 40,000 Coast Guard men and women that the sacrifices they make day in and day out is not enough. “Now you must sacrifice even more so I can build a wall.” And this coming from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. If I wrote a book with this stuff in it, my agent would laugh me out of her office.

Of course, the Strumpet isn’t the only one to blame for the terrible predicament the Coast Guard and other federal employees are in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell evidently thinks his job is to be head cheerleader for the president of the U.S. Now there’s someone who must have been smoking in the boy’s bathroom when civics was being taught.

Our forefathers set up our government with three branches. The Senate and the Congress are supposed to make laws. Not the president. If the president doesn’t like what’s put before him, he can veto it. It’s then up to the Congress and the Senate to get enough votes to override his veto and make their proposal into a law.

Instead of assuming the unpleasant task of confronting the president, McConnell has, instead, decided to climb into bed with the strumpet. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would be infuriated if they could see this scenario being played out.

I don’t know how long this shutdown will continue, but I want to put a few salient facts about the Coast Guard before you. And if you’re not angered by what is being done to the members of the USCG, you’re part of the problem. If you are angered, then let the politicians know how furious you are, and let them know you have a long memory, a memory that stretches to the next elections in 2020.

If you do nothing, then when planes begin dropping out of the sky because air traffic controllers can’t do their job properly, when security at our ports falters, when the USCG can’t buy the gas they need to run their boats and helicopters to perform their Search-and-Rescue missions, you really must accept your part in this fiasco.

Maybe you know a Coastie who is struggling to make ends meet, maybe you know an air traffic controller whose mind is distracted because he can’t pay his kid’s medical bills, or maybe you know some other government worker who’s been told to take a job as an Uber driver or get a loan which will have to be paid back with double- digit interest while the billionaires in Washington waddle to their five-star restaurants and hotels, insulated from reality.

Support our unpaid patriots in whatever way you can. They’re hardworking folks just like you and me, and they don’t deserve to be betrayed by their Commander-in-Chief or other politicians in Washington. A couple of bucks, a gift card to help them through the crisis, a donation to a local food pantry; it’s all good. Contact the Coast Guard in your area. They’ll give you some ideas. Donate to the USO who’s also involved in assisting these dedicated men and women, being treated like shameless pawns.

Did You know…

  1. The Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security and not independent like the Navy, Army, or Air Force. During war, the Coast Guard comes under the Navy. The Coast Guard keeps us a lot more secure than a wall ever will.
  2. Semper Paratus is the motto of the Coast Guard. It means Always ready. I wonder if the men and women of the Coast Guard were ready to be betrayed by the politicians in Washington.
  3. The Coast Guard was founded Aug. 4, 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury. There was a lot of turmoil in the government then, but they managed to work things out. I bet if he saw how the clowns in Washington are acting today, he’d come after them with a horsewhip.
  4. The Coast Guard not only provides security around the world as well as rescuing boaters, but they employ ice breakers and provide for safe navigation by tending buoys all over the U.S.
  5. If you’re a bad dude, better watch out for the DOG, the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group. This counter-terrorism group hits fast and hard. I bet their job is a lot harder with the government shutdown. I wonder if the president cares.
  6. On average, the Coast Guard conducts over 100 Search-and-Rescues a day and saves ten lives. Since the government shutdown, that’s 350 lives saved on average. Is a wall meant to flatter an over-inflated ego worth that many lives?
  7. In an average year, the Coast Guard interdicts over 100 tons of cocaine. I guess Trump wouldn’t be interested in knowing the Coast Guard didn’t sail their boats into the middle of farmland bordering Mexico to do that. They actually did it on water which means security on the seas and in ports is what is key to keeping America safe. Not a wall.
  8. Every year the Coast Guard conducts over 1,400 boardings of ships suspected to be high risk to national safety. Remember, that’s just in one year. If the president is so concerned about the safety of America, maybe he should spend a hell of a lot more money providing the Coast Guard with the tools it needs to do its job.

 

                                  Bill Hegerich

                                   The Uncommon Mariner