Big Oil Says Spills are an Inconvenience

Big Oil wants to start drilling in your backyard. Enjoy the pristine beauty of the egrets and herons in your neighborhood before they’re covered in black muck.

Most Americans probably didn’t notice it because it happened in the East China Sea, but on Jan. 6, 2018 an Iranian tanker, the Sanchi, filled with petroleum condensate, collided with a Chinese freighter, the CF Crystal, spilling 100,000 tons of oil into the sea. It’s a tragedy when one mariner dies, but 31 crew members from the Sanchi were either killed in the accident or presumed dead.

Because it was petroleum condensate, the spill was extremely flammable and spread quickly across the surface of the water, creating a sea of fire. God only knows how many sailors were thrown into the sea and burned alive.

Chinese officials are having a tough time getting close to the scene to even assess the damage. The consequences for the environment are devastating. Since the area is a known spawning ground for many species of fish, all kinds of marine life along with their habitat are being destroyed because not much can be done to clean anything up.

Chinese authorities were caught off guard just like local authorities and citizens would be around the globe, when such a huge disaster occurs. And let’s be clear about this. Any oil spill is a disaster because it has so much impact on an already fragile ecosystem.

Of course, the first modern mega oil spill occurred in Santa Barbara, CA Jan. 28, 1969. The world had never seen anything like it. Don Craggs, spokesman for Union Oil, told the governor of California that no oil had escaped. He lied. Within ten days, close to 100,000 barrels of oil washed up on the beaches of California. Hundreds of thousands of birds and fish died and beaches were hopelessly contaminated.

And for those who think history does not repeat itself, consider that on May 19, 2015, 100,000 barrels of crude oil leaked from a broken pipeline along Santa Barbara, CA at the start of the tourist season. The oil slick stretched for nine miles. Eventually, the spokesperson for Plains All American Pipeline, Greg Armstrong, said he was sorry for the spill. “We apologize for the damage that has been done to the wildlife and the environment, and we’re very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience that it has caused the citizens and visitors of this area.”

“Inconvenience?” Did he say inconvenience? Did he say that with a straight face or was he just jerking citizens, businesses, and tourists around? Did he just call the destruction of wildlife and the destruction of nine miles of oceanic environment an inconvenience?

I’ll tell you what’s an inconvenience. Inconvenience is when you have to reschedule a doctor’s appointment because your physician had an emergency. Inconvenience is when your four-year old throws up as you’re taking her to daycare. Diabolical comes closer to what oil companies do when oil spills happen.

Most Americans are old enough to remember the Deepwater Horizon debacle that began in the Gulf of Mexico April 20, 2010. In that travesty, over five million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf until the well was capped three months later. That’s five million barrels not gallons. There’s no wonder millions of fish and birds were killed, miles of pristine coastline fouled with muck, and the fishing industry crippled.

Eleven workers died in that explosion. Strange that you don’t hear much about them anymore just like we’re not likely to hear about the mariners who died in the South China Sea. That’s a shame because they were as much victims as the environment, but when it comes to making big bucks, oil companies don’t discriminate between herons, fish and humans caught up in the atrocities it creates.

And now we have oil companies anxious to drill off the Eastern seaboard of the United States. They’ve already testified before Congress, spouting their lies. They claim they have better response plans far superior to Deepwater. The fact is, their plans are pretty much a carbon copy of Deepwater’s. You can put lipstick on a pig and parade it before Congress, but it’s still a pig.

A lot of people think a Deepwater scenario could never happen again. And they’re even more convinced that a replay of the incident in the China Sea is even less likely to occur. Just speed bumps on the road to progress, right?

Not so fast! Oil spills aren’t rare occurrences controlled by fate. They happen far more frequently than big oil wants you to know. On June 03, 1979, an offshore rig exploded in the Bay of Campeche in Mexico and leaked 126 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico before being capped ten months later.

Many Americans remember when the oil tanker, Valdez, crashed along the pristine shores of southwest Alaska, March 24, 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of oil and destroying thousands of acres of coastline and millions of birds, fish, seals, otters and even whales. The salmon industry still languishes because of a spill no one ever believed would happen.

Oil companies now want us to trust them with our beaches and coastlines from Maine to Florida to Texas.  They want us to believe that nothing bad is going to happen when they drill and eventually pump oil from offshore rigs.

They want us to believe there will be no blowouts, that their response to such events will be so much improved that not a drop of oil, not one tar ball will touch our shores.

President Trump, who at every chance has betrayed the common good of the average American in favor of big business, has removed all roadblocks to testing and drilling. However, state governors up and down the Eastern seaboard are not only suspicious but livid that he’s pushing testing and drilling down the throats of residents and business leaders. In South Carolina, the Grand Strand is the Pearl of South Carolina’s tourist industry. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit here each year, pumping millions of dollars into the Palmetto State’s economy while providing thousands of jobs.

How many people do you think will be flocking to South Carolina’s beaches, some traveling from as far away as California, Kansas, and Canada, when tar balls start smothering the beaches and the stench of oil fills the air.

Still the oil industry continues to overwork the old cliché, “This is good for the economy. Think of all the jobs we’re creating.” When they frame the argument that way, it portrays anyone opposing them as unamerican.

But let’s do the math! Suppose big oil does create 1,000 jobs in an area like South Carolina, but then destroys the state’s economy and causes the loss of twenty or thirty thousand jobs. Tell me how that’s looking out for the best interest of the folks who live here.

Oil companies assert that it won’t happen here. But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice a major oil spill is likely to occur somewhere as frequently as every ten  years if not sooner. I could have included in this dialogue many more examples of oil spills, so the problem is actually worse than it appears.

When oil companies say it won’t happen here, I’m reminded of what Mark Twain said: “There are lies, and there are damn lies.” To say the beaches up and down our coast will remain safe is a Damn Lie.

If the oil companies win out and set up oil platforms up and down the Eastern seaboard, South Carolina might want to consider trading in its state symbol of a crescent moon shining over a palmetto tree. Tar balls washing up on a beach blanket might be more appropriate.

What’s your opinion? Would you mind if your favorite beach resort, no matter where it’s located, is destroyed because big oil had its way? Trump has surrounded himself with bobbleheads who nod mindlessly when oil companies ask for a freehand where human lives and the environment are at stake. Don’t be a bobblehead. Learn the facts. Be aware of what’s going on. And question everything big oil and politicians tell you. Let them know you’re mad as hell, then go out and vote.

                                       Bill Hegerich

                                       The Uncommon Mariner




There are four major Tiki gods: Kono, Kane, Kanaloa, and Ku plus numerous small ones. These two Tiki gods apparently are discussing who drank their rum. I hope they know it wasn’t me.

We recently celebrated the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands, January 18, 1778 by Captain James Cook. Surprisingly, there were no tiki bars when he landed, no grass skirts on the women, and no pineapples growing there.

And I’m pretty sure neither Cook nor his men got leied by the natives, though they were surprised to see the visitors appear on the horizon at the culmination of a sacred festival. The natives took their appearance as a sign that they were gods. I don’t think Cook and his men did much to discourage that idea.

Cook named his discovery the Sandwich Islands after John Montague, Earl of Sandwich, a generous benefactor who helped make Cook’s voyages possible. I don’t think I would have called it that especially in front of a crew of hungry sailors.

One of the best books ever written about the islands was penned by James Michener, who once served in the Navy there. He went to great extremes to research his topic so that he got it right. Of all things, he called his book Hawaii. Imagine that. What’s more, the book was translated into 32 languages. I’d be happy if my book was translated into one language.

Though it’s a fictionalized account of the islands, Hawaii is so true to its history that it could be a documentary. One of the things you might be surprised to learn about Hawaii is that among the first settlers were Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands and natives from Bora Bora in the South Pacific. I’m glad they didn’t name their new home Hawaii Hawaii.

Everyone has heard of Maui but not many are familiar with Molokai, Hawaii’s fifth largest island. Its dark secret may be the reason. Unimmune islanders contracted diseases from visiting sailors and foreigners seeking their fortune. A small section of the island was set aside as a leprosy colony in 1866 and operated for over a hundred years. People exiled here were declared legally dead. That’s sad.

I’ve never been to the islands, but my daughter and son-in-law honeymooned in Maui. I wasn’t invited. As you can guess, the islands are breathtaking and all have their own, unique microclimate, so much so that you can indulge in sandy beaches, towering mountains, tropical rain forests, or volcanoes that still grumble.

In case you haven’t heard, the Hawaiian Islands are 2,500 miles from the mainland of the United States. Natives there don’t really use the phrase “mainland of the United States.” They just call it the mainland, and because it is so far away, everything must be imported. Cars, toothbrushes, hamburgers, and Hawaiian shirts. That makes living there quite expensive. You probably know Hawaii was made the 50th state in 1959, but what you may not know is the average home is around $270,000 while the average home on the mainland is closer to $119,000.

Despite the inconvenience and expense of having everything imported, the United States government is not about to close any of its bases. Hawaii is the key to protecting the mainland as well as keeping an eye on things in that corner of the world.

Unless you spend your life in the fantasy world of Facebook, you no doubt have heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On a quiet Sunday morning on Dec. 07, 1941, Japanese Kamikaze bombers came roaring out of the western Pacific and bombed the hell out of the American fleet and the Navy personnel there. Over 2,200 Americans died that day with another 1,200 wounded.  The surprise attack destroyed battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and over 188 planes. The only reason our three great aircraft carriers weren’t destroyed was because they weren’t in port that day. Talk about luck.

Franklin D. Roosevelt called it a, “Day which will live in infamy.” He was right. And it’s why we should always be extremely cagey when dealing with the bastard in North Korea, nuts enough to think he can get away with something similar. When unstable leaders like Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump play chicken with each other, the whole world better sit up and pay attention.

As beautiful and breathtaking as the images of Hawaii are, America’s early involvement in the islands have their root in a dark and checkered past. The United States helped overthrow the legitimate ruler, Queen Lili’uokalani in 1893 after years of wrangling and manipulation, and it wasn’t because the U.S. had a yearning for Hawaiian guitars, grass skirts, or luaus either. The culprits behind the overthrow of the queen were white businessmen headed by Sanford Dole, eager to expand their pineapple plantations at the islanders’ expense.

But non-Americans shouldn’t get too sanctimonious. The Spanish brutalized the natives of South America for gold and silver. European countries like England, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands all had a hand in carving up the Dark Continent and wreaking untold misery on its native cultures.

Mark Twain once said, “There isn’t a foot of land in the world that doesn’t represent the ousting and re-ousting of a long line of successful “owners” who each in turn… defended it against the next gang of robbers who came to steal it…”  I bet Queen Lili’uokalani would agree with Twain’s assessment.

I don’t know if it’s the seductive images of Hawaii or the last few songs from Jimmy Buffett Live in Hawaii, but I think I’m getting a little nostalgic for luaus, Hawaiian shirts, and wahines in grass skirts. If my wife walks through the door wearing one, I’m getting my scissors out and do a little trimming. No sense letting grass grow under my feet. Or anywhere else.

 Bill Hegerich

                        The Uncommon Mariner

Winter in the Sunny South

This is Perry, my attack Flamingo. After losing an eye in battle, he now guards my mailbox.

If Blackbeard were still alive, I’m not sure what he would think of the recent storms that have plagued the south. Though he spent quite a bit of time in the warm, sunny Caribbean particularly Nassau, he also made North Carolina his home. The Coastal Carolinas along with most of the deep south have been battling snow and ice for well over a week now.

I’ve lived here for the better part of thirteen years, and not only has this been the worst winter, but close to the worst winter on record. Folks up North have no trouble throwing me statistics showing how much more brutal winter has been in the North and Midwest. But when you live in Upstate New York or Wisconsin, you’re supposed to freeze your buns off, and you’re supposed to get snow. A lot of it.

Even flamingos aren’t immune to the cold. I had to thaw this one in my shower and give him an extra dram of rum.

To complain about it would be like natives here complaining because they get sand in their shoes when walking the sandy beaches of the Grand Strand.

The last time snow made news along the Grand Strand was in March 2010. It’s easy to remember. My son came to run the Myrtle Beach Marathon along with six thousand other runners. However, when the weatherman forecast snow for the morning of the marathon, organizers cancelled it the night before, even though the first snowflake had yet to fall. I can’t tell you how disappointed the athletes who trained long and hard were. My son traveled all the way from New Jersey. He ran it anyway along with others from New York, Ohio, and states far west of the Mississippi.

The cancellation pretty much reflects the attitude towards snow here. Towns throughout the South are not equipped to handle snow or the icing of roads. Cities and towns in northern cities stockpile mountains of salt and have a gazillion pieces of equipment to remove snow; most cities in the south have little in their artillery to fire back at old man winter.

The recent storm caught Blackbeard and his wench by surprise. Lucky for them, Captain Morgan kept ’em warm.

Normally, any snow or ice that falls is gone when the sun rises the next day. This past week has been far from normal. Last night it got down to 15 degrees. With temperatures barely above freezing during the day, snow and ice continue to hang around for days instead of hours.

Many bridges and roads still ice over at night. Other roads have never melted. When the storm first hit, cars and trucks plowed helplessly into one another because inexperienced drivers didn’t understand the dynamics of a two-ton vehicle skidding on ice. Even emergency vehicles were forced to drive more slowly because of the hazardous conditions.

Despite the ice and snow in my palm trees, I can still hear the songs of the conch shell beckoning me to the Caribbean. Aarrrgh!

Diehard golfers, who have a choice of over a hundred courses to play on, found themselves reluctantly sitting at home when managers covered parts of their greens to preserve them from the devastating effects of the storm.

The good news is that temperatures are expected to rise into the fifties this coming week. It’s not enough to entice the Southern Belles to grab their bikinis and head for the beach, but at least the ice that has clung so tenaciously to roads will be a distant memory, and folks can get back to the business of playing golf and getting their gardens ready for spring. Even the pirates holed up here can start dreaming of outfitting their ships and prepare for a little pillaging, plundering, and wenching.

Whether you’re in the Pinelands of New Jersey, buried under three feet of snow, or basking on a Florida beach working on your tan, I hope the rest of your winter is mild. If it’s not, I hope you have a plan for staying warm. Part of mine includes putting on a DVD of Jimmy Buffett’s concert in Anguilla and snuggling up with me pirate wench. Let me know what you’re going to do to make it through the rest of winter.

                                  Bill Hegerich

                                   The Uncommon Mariner

Twelve Resolutions that Can Change Your Life

The dawn of a New Year is upon us, and I wish you smooth sailing through 2018

The closing hours of New Year’s Day are upon us and by now many of us who made resolutions have broken them. I’m posting this blog which I wrote last New Year’s Day because we all need a little encouragement when making changes to our lives.

Resolve to workout but missed the very first day? Promise to start that diet but answered that holiday candy that kept calling your name instead?

I’m not too concerned about that gym resolution or those few pounds that found their way to your waist. Doctors and psychologists will tell you it’s normal for people to break those kinds of resolutions shortly after they’re made unless they’re tied to a profound commitment to change.

And that’s why I’m offering you a second chance. A second chance to make some meaningful New Year Resolutions that will have a huge impact on your life. These twelve resolutions have less to do with diet and exercise and more to do with altering the behavior that will get you to the Far Side of the World where your Pirate Dreams await.

  1. Don’t surround yourself with negative people. These are people who make you feel small. People who laugh at your dreams. They may also be the people who get real quiet when you talk about your dreams instead of getting excited.
  2. Have a goal to work on every day. You always need to keep your Dream before you and do something small towards achieving it. It’s how you turn goals into GOLD.
  3. Forget the past. Forget the people who were mean to you, who gossiped about you, who failed when you needed help. Their negativity will consume too much of your energy. Don’t give them that power.
  4. When you’re tempted to quit, remember your dreams and why you held on for so long. They’re the reason you’ll hold on when the storms of life blow again.
  5. Have an island to go to. A retreat where you can rest when life is overbearing. It can be a room in your house, a corner of your yard, or simply a chair that offers comfort and a nice view. I’m lucky. I have an alcove in my bedroom with a sofa surrounded by bookcases brimming with books. I also have a sunporch and a backyard retreat with several hidden coves I can lose myself in. I can also retreat to Brookgreen Gardens only a stone’s throw from my house where the landscape and art work is salve to my soul.
  6. Take time to have fun every day. Jimmy Buffett once said, “Having fun is a good habit to get into.” It’s why children are so resilient when they get hurt emotionally and physically. They know how important it is to have fun.
  7. Take time to count your blessings. You’re richer than you think. Recognize all the good things working for you. Touch them mindfully every single day. If you’re not taking the time to savor the small things in your life, you’re killing it off.
  8. Enjoy the journey. If you wait until you reach a goal to be happy, you’re throwing away all the days you’re working to get there.
  9. Forgive yourself. We all mess up. When you fall, get up and keep going. Failure is not permanent unless you stay down. And remember people who remind you of your shortcomings, failings, and mistakes, aren’t your friends. Not to be too blunt about it, but in a sailor’s language, people who do that are scumbags that you don’t need in your life. The New Year is a good time to jettison them just as you would any other garbage mucking up your life.
  10. Raise your sails. The winds of opportunity may blow, but it does you no good if you stay in harbor.
  11. Don’t accept excuses from yourself. Somedays the storms of life never seem to stop blowing, but when your boat get swamped, bail it out, get yourself afloat, and sail on. Sitting your soggy ass in port feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to get you any closer to the Island of your Dreams.
  12. Finally, don’t let fear paralyze you. I always remind my pirate wife that fear always makes the cannons seem louder than they are. The remedy is to act. The smallest action will get you moving and break the chains of fear holding you back.

I hope this New Year holds a world of adventure for you with blessings that you can only begin to guess at. But if you expect to make it one for the record books, you have to hoist that anchor. God may provide the wind, but you have to raise those sails. Good luck and see you out there on the Far Side of the World. Even if you’ve never met me, you’ll recognize me instantly. I’ll be the one yelling and screaming at the top of my lungs enjoying every swell and every dip on the High Seas of Life.

Happy New Year!!!

                                                   Bill Hegerich

                                                   The Uncommon Mariner

The Bridge Between the Old and the New

There is a transition between Christmas and New Year’s Eve that is special. The old year has all but passed, and everyone around the world looks forward to the promise that the coming year brings. I hope this special week gives you a chance to relax while renewing your spirit. It’s time to wrap up loose ends while laying out your plans for the New Year.

                                       Bill Hegerich

                                       The Uncommon Mariner

Christmas Island

Christmas Island is not only a real island but a state of mind. Hope you find yours.

This is Christmas Island in the United States Virgin Islands. If you look closely, you’ll see the pine trees decorated with Christmas balls.

It’s my kind of island, a place where you can have Christmas every day of the year while basking in the warm tropical sun. Santa Claus should be so lucky.

Once in a while, you see a pirate ship laying at anchor. Nobody pays it any mind perhaps because residents and guests there are pirates at heart.

It’s surprising this isn’t the only Christmas Island in the world. There’s also a Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, 220 miles south of Java.

It’s called Christmas Island because it was named by Captain William Mynors on Christmas Day 1643. It’s a territory of Australia, though I don’t think any country should have a monopoly on any island honoring Christmas.

Moreover, I think everyone should have their own Christmas Island where they can be free of the worries and turmoil that seems to be everywhere in the world today.

Albert Einstein once said, “How I wish somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will.” That’s my wish for you.

In this coming year I hope you find your own island to retreat to when life presses down on you. Maybe it’s as close as your own backyard or a quiet corner of your home.

Wherever you voyage this holiday season, I wish you the merriest of Christmases and smooth sailing into the New Year.

                                            Bill Hegerich

                                              The Uncommon Mariner

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Mermaids

Mermaids have appeared in the oral and written traditions of cultures for thousands of years. According to a Syrian myth, 3,000 years old, the beautiful goddess, Atargatis, dove into the sea to become a fish. Smitten with her beauty, the gods intervened and let only the bottom half of her body transform itself.

A thousand years later, Pliny the Elder, a well-educated Roman philosopher and naturalist, not only believed in the existence of mermaids but described them in what was the prototype of the modern encyclopedia.

And though most people are familiar with mermaids, I bet many aren’t familiar with their close relatives, water sprites or naiads. The difference is that mermaids are physical beings like humans whereas naiads are less physical and more spirit. Most will not harm you unless disturbed. I know a lot of women today who are like that.

People who dismiss mermaids as a fairy tale are making a big mistake. Throughout history, quite a few intelligent people have sworn to sighting mermaids. Christopher Columbus in his journal noted that he and his men spotted three mermaids in the Caribbean just off Haiti though he was not impressed with them. In fact, he thought they were downright ugly.

I can’t help but wonder what the mermaids thought of him. The native peoples whom he brutalized weren’t particularly impressed with him either. Then there’s the explorer Henry Hudson who, with his men, spotted a mermaid and described her in detail in his log.

“She had the tail of a porpoise and was speckled like a mackerel…” When she turned over, his men discovered “From the navel up, her back and breasts were like a woman’s, her body as big as one of us; her skin very white with long black hair…”

If someone as sober and serious as the great explorer Henry Hudson is so certain of what he saw, it becomes difficult to reject the notion that these lovely aquatic creatures exist.

A few mermaids have the reputation of being downright dangerous. Some have been accused of dragging unsuspecting sailors off their ships and drowning them. Homer tells how Odysseus, on his journey home from war, encountered sirens. These seductive, mermaidlike creatures sang so beautifully that sailors, unable to resist steering their ship towards them, ended up dying on the rocky shore.

Odysseus was clever though. He had his men tie him to the mainmast of the ship with orders not to pay attention to him when they sailed past the sirens. Next, he had his men put wax in their ears. When they passed the sirens, only Odysseus was able to hear their seductive songs and howled for his men to steer towards them. More people should be as wise as Odysseus. I think the world would be in much better shape.

Not even the sea can quench the love between a mermaid and a human.

Another story recounts a young man taken by a mermaid below the sea where he fathered a family with her. I bet she was a lot prettier than the mermaids Columbus spotted. In fact, for him to father many children, she must have been a knockout.

In Medieval times, mermaids, with their voluptuous breasts exposed, appeared as figureheads at the end of church pews to remind friars to be ever vigilant to the temptations of the flesh. I don’t know about those monks, but if I were in that pew, I would have been meditating on all the fun we would have after a day at the beach.

Mermaids embody both a physical and spiritual beauty that is impossible to resist.

But who knows? Maybe those carvings increased the religious fervor of the monks. I, for one, would be showing up at chapel early, knowing I had one of God’s beautiful creatures to meditate on. At the very least, I’d be praying that she’d come alive.

Some people are surprised to learn that when mermaids come ashore, they can grow legs, though it becomes extremely painful for them to walk. Hans Christen Anderson was following tradition when he had his mermaid walking with great pain in The Little Mermaid.

Throughout history, there have been accounts of mermaids who were captured by men. Eventually, they escaped, but not without great consternation and pain. And I think that’s a shame. No creature should be taken from the sea and be treated as a pet or an oddity. Not mermaids, not dolphins, and certainly not whales That’s why the folks at SeaWorld and those who visit them should be filled with shame. How would you like it if dolphins captured you and made you do stupid tricks for the amusement of their friends when all you want is to be free and with your family?

Mermaids with streaming red hair are beautiful beyond description.

I’ve always been fascinated with mermaids, and I guess that’s why I’ve been married to one for forty-five years. And before you think I’ve been drinking too much of Blackbeard’s rum, let me point out my wife has all the traits of a mermaid. She’s beautiful, mysterious, seductive, charming, and enchanting. Her long, red hair, streaming in the wind or the sea, always confirms my suspicions.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, you should know that mermaids also have the power to grant someone their wishes. I can’t tell you how many wishes my mermaid has granted me over the years. And I’m not revealing what they were either.

The skeptics, no doubt, think I’ve gone off the deep end. But if you want to live with a mermaid, you have to go into the deep where they live. Besides you know what they say. If it looks like a mermaid, sings like a mermaid, and swims like a mermaid, it must be a mermaid.

Christmas and Hanukah will soon be upon us, and I want to wish all the mariners and mermaids out on the sea and those who journey no farther than their living room chair, a wonderful holiday season.

I invite you to let me know if you suspect you’re a mermaid or know a mermaid personally.


                                    Bill Hegerich

                                    The Uncommon Mariner