Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Underway, South of Isle of Wight

As the sun was slipping under the waves, I happily headed the Wildebeest III on a course of about 180 degrees, magnetic. Our goal was to make the Alderney Race with slack tide which would enable us to safely traverse that exciting bit of water. Alderney Race is the water that flows between the Channel Island, Alderney and the North French Coast. There are no beaches, it is rocky cliff and deep, fast and treacherous waters. This was a trip of about sixty miles, we should be able to maintain about five knots, so it should be about eleven hours and we will be there. We gave a cushion of about two extra hours, to be sure of making it for the tidal gate.

The tidal flow is probably about three knots and if you get a situation of water flowing on an Easterly course with winds from the East, well, you will get towering waves and all the adventure you can ever dream of.

About 0200, as we were trying to keep awake while avoiding the criss-crosing commercial traffic, I noticed us getting a little close an avoidance area. All this while keeping the dinner down, since we were both feeling seasick from Westerly winds and accompanying chop. No problem, Mon!

The Wildebeest III was keeping up gamely as we motored south. We hadn't had a chance to do a shakedown sail, so we were motoring and trying to make miles. The watch was about an hour on and off for the both of us, depending on level of fatigue. Sleep was in fits and starts, while trying to hang on to the cockpit settee and not fall onto the deck..

About 0600, the sun began its rise and we began to feel the rejuvenation of the new day. The Perkins 4/108 continued the 2000 RPM drone with nary a murmer or complaint. We tried to make a snack and some coffee, but She Who Will be Obeyed was having a tough time. I asked her to take another Stugeron pill and that tiny pill did get stuck in her throat which inspired her to to do a technicolored yawn into the bucket.

You could see the little pill sitting triumphantly in the mess, have done the opposite of its intended use.

She was never sick again, for the next year or so. Darn her!

Every hour we marked our position on the paper chart and we noticed by 0800 that we were not going to make our intended goal. So I raised the Genoa sail and we turned on a course that would take us to Cherbourg, a major port city in Normandy.

That was when the motor decided to burp and die. My fatigued mind foolishly decided that we were in the midst of a catastrophe. Oh, if only I knew what was really in store for us...!

It could be that fatigue was talking crap again, but what did I care? Something I knew was gonna happen, happened!

So like the proverbial chicken with the missing head, I started running about, with my appearance being like I was accomplishing something, but in reality was doing nothing. The classic "Chinese Firedrill", with much yelling and screaming. I had not quite reached the "Clusterpluck", but trust me, it was coming.

I looked at the engine, yes. It is indeed an engine, hot, with no apparent leaks or obvious damage. In fact, the engine looked good as new, so why won't it start?

Outside, the wind was picking up, and the swells were obligingly increasing in size. The lovely Bride was finding it difficult to keep a course, and was telling me that her ankle was hurting and she needed a break.

I am a wannabee sheep dog in life, having served our Country for years and in this situation, serving "She Who Will Be Obeyed". I went completely out of my mind with growing anger with the boat and especially my unhappiness with Her feeling any kind of discomfort. I went straight to Clusterpluck.

There was a bleeding of the fuel system, and a changing of the fuel filter. I did this in record time and pumped the fuel lift lever to repressurize the system. I ran back up to the cockpit and tried to turn the motor over.

Back to the moter to bleed. Pump the lever about 35 times, repressurize.

Rinse, repeat, Rinse.

By now, the wind had picked up to about 20 knots, and we had too much sail out, which made the heavy Wildebeest difficult to handle.. Being the one legged man in the ass kicking contest, I allowed myself to make some more poor decisons.

You probably noticed a bad trend, right? It was getting worse, and alcohol was not a contributing factor. Just more bad headwork stacked on top of ungood breaks. Usually, we had the benefit of extra hands, or crew, which meant that they would have differing viewpoints and we could come up with sensible solutions to emergent situations.

Not this time.

The engine finally fired up, and for a brief moment I began to relax. Now, time to roll up the sail and continue to head into Cherbourg.

The weather was blustery and there was a bit of fog and cloudiness. You could see the shore of Normandy on our right, about three miles away. I turned the boat to the North to roll in the 130 Genoa sail.

Rolling! The boat reacted to seas and wind by rolling strongly from left to right.

The sail complained, as it was still holding tight to the wind, and the port sheet (Which was about 5/8 inch thick) began to snap and whip in the wind. The starboard sheet was doing the job and stayed taught, but the excess line from the port side began to snap dangerously near our heads. I began trying to roll up the jib with the roller furler.

This is an illustration of the roller furler concept. Not to be confused with my actual experiences; this one works.

Back to the Wildebeest in '99;

What I should have done was ask for someone to tighten the loose line. But noooo, I was quite busy trying to pull in the sail that I assumed that SWWBO would read my mind...

This is when the roller furling line departed the hub of the roller furler. Our brand new sail had stretched, and there was not enough furling reel line to continue rolling sail, so the furling line disconnected from the freakin' hub, and the Genoa started unrolling out in the wind at lightning speed.

Now, the port sheet had tied into a huge knot and started flogging the boat and equipment! A sine wave formed on the forty foot line, and the one pound knot would would head away then build speed and with a snap! it would strike the boat!!

First victim was the bimini frame, which is about head high. The knot struck a blow which caused the metal to buckle and snap apart. We had to pull back to keep from being struck.

The seas were too rough to turn into the wind, so all we could do was run before the wind and waves, all the while the lines were flogging the boat. I ran forward to drop the sail, ducking and dodging the flailing lines. This was the first real emergency we had ever faced while sailing, and it was not fun.

First thing was to identify the halyard that holds the jib/genoa up. I grabbed the blue line and untied it. The wind pressure was holding the sail up and I had to pull on the sail to ease it down. The Spousal Unit was doing a bang up job balancing the boat in the wind and waves.

The sail got about half way down when those damned lines began whipping about me. A mighty tug and the sail completely fell down!

Into the water.

While moving at five knots.

Lines were now in the water, threatening to get tangled in the prop. The Sail was partially stuck on the mast and in the water, filling with water. This condition is know as "shrimping", watch this video and at 1:27 you will see some shrimping. We were having the same sort of malfunction, but only one person to pull the monster in.

This video will show "Shrimping" and how a crew brings the sail in. Disregard the moronic commentary. "Oh my Gawd", and all that. These guys do a pretty good job of keeping it together.

Switch back to the Wildebeest III in French waters, enjoying her own shrimping experience:

...Now was full panic time. I yelled for the motor to be pulled out of gear, we drifted with the wind and waves while I was pulling with everything I had to get the sail back onboard. Or be ready to cutaway $4500 bucks of new genoa. We had been underway for about nineteen hours and already this.

I pulled, dragged and quietly went about making this happen. No, I was wailing and gnashing teeth. All my wife could see was sail somehow piling up slowly, and could hear the occasional curse and squawk of my favorite word, which just happens to start with an "F". Finally, I got the entire sail out and tied it down to the deck, there was no more energy. I crumpled on top of the sail and had a breather.

"Darryl,..... Are you ok?" "Are you having a heart attack?"

"No... I'm ok, just trying to get my breath!" I yelled back.

"Oh. Ok, I couldn't see you. That was an amazing effort you put in!"

Just like her. Has to say something nice and loving. While I huff and puff like a scared little girl.

Time to Man Up! I crawled my way back to the cockpit, we put the motor in gear and resumed heading to Cherbourg. This was when we opened up our Cruising Guide book to see what the harbor actually looked like;

View Larger Map

If I had known that the entrance to the harbor had a West facing break water, I could have just sailed in with the entire sail up, got into the calm harbor and taken down the sail without any drama, and we would have looked like heroes. Nope, we had to learn that complacency and jumping to false conclusions will cause us to make decisions which will not have good results. Piss poor planning does indeed cause poor performance, I should have planned on secondary ports and had charts and guide books ready. We could have avoided all that silliness by just planning to take a little bite at a time, have gone straight to Cherbourg and waited for a good weather window of opportunity that would be two hours away vice fifteen hours away. Plus, Cherbourg is a wonderful nautical city.

Oh yes!

We got off lucky that day and were able to motor up to the Port de Pleasance. We spent the next couple days thinking about causes and effects, fixing our roller furling and planning better. Our learning curve would have to be steep, but we had just gotten a great lesson about the sea and we had a much better times after this harrowing day. I make it sound more scary than what it was, like a drama queen would do. But I am trying to illustrate what was running through my head at the moment.

As for our team work and mutual support? Never stronger. We worked off of each other's weaknesses and strengths, and the bonds of great marriage were becoming bonded with the concrete of shared adventure. I wouldn't think of sailing with anyone else.

The next post will have pictures of Cherbourg and the local sailors. This trip was not only exciting, but it was getting better by the minute!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Now that I have the Navy thing finished, Off to Lymington!

We gathered our stuff and rented a car to bring us to Lymington, where Wildebeest III was on the hard getting serviced.

I left instructions for the mechanics to replace all hoses, fluids and fix that pesky oil pan leak. We return to find they did most of it, but blew off fixing the oil pan leak because it was "Too Hard." Despite my whining nothing ever did happen about that. But they did spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning the bilges, which the mechanic did exceedingly well.

The tough thing was having Berthon technicians install the Windhunter self steering.

Background: I have the mechanical acumen of a small soap dish, so I can be trusted to use tools on small things, like replacing something or tightening a nut. Creating something out of nothing, even with careful instructions, is a sure path to failure. I just cannot imagine how to attach anything if the holes aren't already there.

The windhunter had three main components; A Fluid Logic device that looked like R2-D2 that sits on the rail. A generator that hangs over the side and a Ram piston device connected to the rudder. The manufacturer claimed that it could all go together with minimal tools.


It took Berthon at least seven working days to install this contraption at a cost of two thousand pounds. But it was solid work, since the railings would have been ripped right off had I followed the instructions and merely tied the contraption on.

Sorry for the crappy photo.

Look; The whole reason for going to a high cost yard like Berthon was to get quality work. They failed on the engine work, and they were making us mad that the install of the self steering was taking so long. Of course, any contractor will try to get a good deal like cost plus time. Then, they will take their time in doing a good job.
Lesson learned? Firm fixed price. Firm time of work completion with punitive costs for time over run. The contractor will cry and wail, but they will take two weeks to do what can be done in three days.

When we got the bill, I about puked. It was Ten Thousand pounds!!! I had a conniption and went straight in to talk to the owner of the yard. I complained of the time it took and that I was paying craftsman rates while I knew for a fact that it was a junior apprentice doing the work. My next bill was equally outrageous, but it was for L5900.00. I paid it and the owner was grateful for us paying and kindly gave us a 12 bottle case of champagne for our troubles.

Berthon was a good yard, just be ready for the high expense. They did work with us and treated us very nicely. I would use them again, just not to install a Windhunter.

We did the bottom paint ourselves, and I took the time to rebuild all the winches, install an electronic and traditional compasses, new instruments for knot log, wind direction and log and depthfinder. We had a tuneup for our new Hood sails and a dodger was purchased and installed. (A dodger is the windshield on a sailboat).

Funny thing about the UK and the pricing schemes; Anything boat related is generally priced about one and a half times what you pay in the Land of the Big P.X. The glaring exceptions are Dodgers and Life Rafts. I got a custom made dodger made and installed by a Craftsman for about four hundred pounds (about $650). Amazing, since the criminal class who make the same thing in the U.S. will charge $1500. Same with the life raft. In America you can expect to spend about $4K for a decent raft. UK it was 900 pounds. We supposed that it is because more people will buy a liferaft or Dodger in the UK since these things are considered a requirement vice a luxury. Most UK sailors have formal classroom training whereas U.S. sailors tend to learn on the job.

Not to mention the fact that Dodger and Bimini stitchers are paying for their children to go to Harvard. Or greedy.

We were going through cash like a Philanthropic Congressman spending tax money on Social Services.

We purchased about six hundred bucks worth of canned and dry foods, figuring a year without seeing American prices. The rental car was riding so low that the shocks were inoperative. I had to use a hoist to bring all the food aboard. Our gear and spares were jammed into every little storage space, so much that we had no idea where everything really was.

I had hoped to have about twenty to thirty thousand bucks in the cruising kitty when we left. But the preparations cost us about thirty grand, so we actually had about $6K for this trip of a lifetime, and my paycheck was about to get cut to half of basic pay on 29 October. Bummer. I really had no idea of how we would get piled on from every direction.

Note: Today, with hindsight I know how to do all this at a quarter cost. We paid for some really stupid unnecessary services and equipment.

Finally, after a month we were dumped in the water and told we had to leave. We were only about three weeks behind in our schedule, little did I know the effects would be felt in the coming months.

In the week up to departure, we made careful plans for our itinerary; Our first crewman, Chris Nicholson, was available in a couple weeks. We planned on him joining us in Brest, France. This would happen in Mid September. Our other crew for the crossing, Richard, would meet us in Rota Spain.

My pass port was due to for renewal in November, and I had to come back to do my final check out from the Navy at the end of my terminal leave. I thought we would be in Rota by end of October, so I could get a military flight to the UK and wrap up those loose ends.

With that plan we got underway on Labor Day 1999, at sundown. We passed the Isle of Wight for the final time, with the Needles on our port side as we headed south to Guernsey, Channel Islands.

The little rocky things in the background, we passed about two hundred yards to their right.

Photo from The Needles Park, UK.

The sailing and cruising life I had hoped, prayed and planned for over fifteen years was now beginning.


We were heading for Guernsey:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Retirement Ceremony and more

This is a Watercolor of the what had been formerly named "Queen Victoria Rifles" Officers mess. WE all had the grand idea of buying this on the spur of the moment, had everyone sign their name and box it up and mail it to Holland Michigan. We did not see this painting for over a year, and did not realize that there is a cryptic hostage note written up top, by Emma's Kiss. More on the kidnapping in a moment!

Back to the story:

We were getting the Royal Green Jackets hall on Davies Street. The only catch was that we could have as many people as we wanted as guests, but they had to have the names for the security check. Also, anyone staying for lunch would have to pay 21 pounds, and the limit of people attending would be to 26.

No problem there, as most of the guests were military. We did have a contingent of Little Ship Club people, so the crowd looked like a wedding.

In order to reduce costs, I talked the Corporal in charge of dining into letting us bring a case of Port in without paying the crazy prices that were normally charged.

What a party!

I have video, but I can't figure out how to down load VHS to a computer.

Everyone showed at 1130, the four Captains were shown in and the Commander was the MC. I was given the normal roasting, then Norman Hummerstone (Representing the Queen Victoria Rifles and the Royal Green Jackets Regiments) gave a short speech about American and UK relationships, and a thorough explanation of just what a Regiment was.


Spousal Unit receives award

Gives Speech

The final speech was mine. My comments were with humor, with the main points being that I had been in the Naval Service since I turned seventeen. I mentioned that I had nightmares of not being in the Navy, and I looked forward to nightmares of being IN the Navy. (I still do!)

I closed out my comments with a reading of this poem, by Don Blanding:

Mystery South of Us

Florida thrusts like a guiding thumb
To the southern islands of rumba and rum,
To the mystery-cities and haunted seas
Of the Spanish Main and the Caribbes.
Where the ghosts of Columbus and Pirates Bold
Seek the islands of Spice and the Streets of Gold.
Where the wandering phantom of Ku-Kul-Kan
Haunts the temples he builded in Yucatan,
Where the jaguars prowl and the lizards crawl
On a broken altar and sculptured wall,
Where Mayan rulers in arrogant pride
Dreamed and schemed and suffered and died.
The inlaid thrones and the sacred urns
Are filled with orchids and stag-horn ferns,
The witching moon of the tropic skies
Caresses the lips and the dead stone eyes
Of fallen idols of lust and blood
That lie in the mold and the reeking mud
Of fever-jungles The dust and bones
Of men who quarried and laid the stones
Of fabulous cities are turned to earth,
The echoes of prayers and chants and mirth
Of vanished people and priests and kings
Are heard in the night-wind’s whisperings.

Florida thrusts like a guiding thumb
To the southern islands of rumba and rum,
To the lands of mystery that lie below,
To the places I know I’m going to go.

Don Blanding
This is a Copywritten poem from 1941 Don Blanding

They whistled me "ashore" for the final time and I headed out the door with my Spousal Unit and walked over to the Running Horse Pub.

Once there, all you could see was an ocean of White Navy uniforms, as my shipmates hoisted up pints in my honor, toasting my transfer to the Fleet Reserve. After an hour or so, we were called back to the Royal Green Jackets Mess for the celebratory luncheon. There were more than a few Lieutenant Commanders who tried to use their influence to get an invite for lunch.

"Look, I told you to RSVP, let me know if you were coming. None of you had any idea of the good deals I have been involved in and my connections in the Community."

You see, because I was an Enlisted cat, most people thought that I was "Just Like any other typical Enlisted Dude". Meaning that I kept to a routine of coming to work, go home and get loaded on beer. Come back to work and do it all over again.

These nice Officers never really took the time to get to know me and my career. This is why they were all stunned that I had twenty years in (They really thought I had maybe thirteen/fouteen years in) and was able to leave on half pay!

But the Lieutenant's knew. I worked very closely with a number of 0-3's and they were very aware of my off work shenanigans. This was why we had five of them present for the Lunch. They would never let a good deal pass by, especially if it involved me and the Little Ship Club.

A proper roast beef was presented to us all, and the wines and waters flowed. Finally, it was time for Port and toasts. We destroyed twelve bottles of Sandeman Port that afternoon.

And we were just getting started!

Someone has forgotten to leave the figurines on the table!

They asked us to leave the Green Jackets Mess at 1600. We moved next door to the Running Horse, had another pint and had the grand idea of returning to the Little Ship Club itself, for final cocktails.

View Larger Map

Double plus bad headwork.

No matter. We all caught cabs and headed to the Club, where the Staff was trying to pull a fast one on us Members.

Get this; The LSC is supposed to be open on Fridays, until Eight PM (2000). THey may shut down at Six PM if there are no members present.

Well. It was Five Forty-Five PM (1745) and we twelve were present and accounted for wanting our drinks.

In our midst was TWO former Commodores, ONE Life Vice President, One very Prominent City of London Solicitor, One US Navy Commander, three US Navy Leftenants, and me.

The staff tried to say they were closing, and Norman was hearing none of it. We took the bar by force (of our personalities!) and hoisted up the drinking flag.

While all of this was going on, the Manager was arguing with Norman and Tom, one of the Lieutenant's slid over to a large easy chair and passed out.

"No matter! Keep the beers coming every five minutes, until someone pukes. Then come every seven minutes." (To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield in "Back to School")

Finally, the Club got us to leave and we headed back to St Katharines Dock, where the
good ship "Fran" waited with a barbecue and even more beer and wine.


But first, Norman wanted a few private minutes with us, so we went to another pub for a couple more ESB's. The pub was an old one, one of Norman's favorites that was due to be demolished for some project. I remember two more pints with Norman and Peter, before I knew it I came to in the cab at St Katharines dock.

I stumble back to the boat and I see all of our friends from the club (Minus the Commander and the three Lieutenants) barbecuing spareribs on the deck of "Fran".

"Oh no... I gotta sleep I mumble", as I climb into bed in the Vee-berth.

A few minutes later, the Spousal Unit rouses me out and says, "look, these people came here for you, the least you can do is sit with them!"

And with that, I walked back to the salon and sat up for another couple hours and had even more beer and wine.

What a party. The next day was "Eleven" on the hangover richter scale. There were bodies strewn everywhere. We began the clean up and my new career as a civilian.


The Lieutenant who passed out at the Little Ship Club was brought back to the building, by his drunken peers. Thusly, did our young Officer did make his way to the Command Center, where he was found by Roving Marine Guards, passed out by the door. A Security Alert was sounded and the entire building was put on Lock-Down, since a Lieutenant in whites had to have been assaulted if he was out cold in a passage way.

His career was over but he did not care since he had planned on resigning his commission in the next month.

I received a phone call from the Corporal at the Green Jackets; Someone had apparently "nicked" a sterling silver custom made figurine from one of the tables.

WHAT THE F-Bomb!!!!!

"How much is this thing worth?" I asked.

"About six thousand pounds, it's custom made, depicting a Queen Victoria Rifleman in WW1 attire".

I went nuclear.

There was a rapid cab ride back to the building, where I publicly chewed out those Lieutenants and threatened them in front to a very stern and equally upset Commander.

They protested their innocence and I stomped off to my office. A few moments later my boss came in and said that he had a few words with the Lads and said they would help to pay for the figurine, though he believed that they were innocent.

I went over and apologized to the Corporal and assured him that we would get that Statuette back, if I had to make everyone suffer. He was actually nice about it, he said people swiped those centerpieces, all the time! Usually, a day or so later, the piece shows up after the thief realizes it is worthless to any one but a Royal Green Jacket/Queen Victoria Rifles member.

A very strange phone call was received by me about three o'clock, Someone very close called to say "hi". I casually mention that we are missing a very important item... He admitted that he was aware of its location; I got real quiet and said, "I don't care where, or who. That Statuette gets Couriered to the Royal Green Jackets, IMMEDIATELY!" "I DON"T F^#@ing CARE IF IT COSTS YOU A THOUSAND POUNDS, DO IT NOW!!!"

What had happened, a practical joke was devised early in the afternoon. The object was carried out and hidden carefully. The problem was that we had all gotten so hammered, they forgot about the running gag until I mentioned the missing silver! They didn't know why they had that thing!

I think it is entirely hilarious, nowadays, and it was a great joke that really worked too well. The main problem with their plan was that the ransom note was written on the painting that wasn't seen again until July 2000 when we were in Michigan!

This was a legendary end to a okay/fair career.

Stay tuned for more Rock and Roll.

London to Calais and Back to Lymington

Finally, I return to talking about boating. Current events are such a drag on a person's initiative and motivation, aren't they?

Back to May of '99:

There was lots to do in '99. First, at work we were still deep in the Bosnian campaigns, so we had planning work with the Ministry of Defence and our Joint Staff/EUCOM brethren in Stuttgart. I made several trips to Germany in support of our "not" war effort. Aditionally, I had to plan the trip to Calais and the transportation of kitties to California, where they would stay until we collected them.

We had paid off the boat, so all the money coming in was allotted to boat projects and equipment. We also knew that some yard work would be required (although I had no idea the true costs), I let a Little Ship Club member talk me into bringing the boat to Berthon Yachts in Lymington.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Didn't I learn anything from the time our boat was in South England (Hamble) in 1996?

Evidently, not. We planned a trip to Calais, with us departing right after dropping Mogwai and Jellicle at Heathrow airport for the long trip to San Francisco.

Out the Thames we headed, with Chris Nicholson, East Coast Rear Commodore as our crew, with the first stop in Queenborough. There was much fun and frivolity at the Queenborough Yacht club and our second crewman (I forgot his name) met us there. The normal 0400 departure came the next morning, into very windy and choppy conditions. It was so rough that I refused any relief from the helm from 0400 to 1300, after we had made it to the Calais port entry.

The charming Spousal Unit on the helm in the Thames, with the Star of the Miniseries, "Hornblower", 'The Grand Turk' approaching for a pass to port side.

Pass completed.

We arrived in Calais, tired but with invigorated, and Chris needed to leave to get his car back in London. After Calais he was headed to Sweden for a vacation.

The running gag at the LSC was that the senior East Coast member (Chris, as Rear Commodore) was going to all the sailing rallies via auto instead of by boat which was the expectation.

When Chris returned the next day, the crew and I conspired to get Chris to park is car on the quay next to our boat. Then we got him occupied on another boat while Jonathan and myself tied his car to the dock like a sailboat.


Chris. Was. Angry.

Oh, the entire marina came by to laugh at the car posing as a boat. Chris mellowed out when he saw that it was in good fun and that his car was undamaged. But he was a little miffed that his position of Rear Commodore may have not been getting proper respect.


The normal parties and dinners were held and we were much more disciplined, so no outrageous antics for this final visit.

We were underway for Lymington by Monday morning, 0500, following a nice tide which shot us forth like a Wildebeest heading for an oasis. The seas were smoother and thought we had to wear full foul weather garb, we were fairly warm and comfortable.

Me taking a nap on top of a chart.

One noteworthy thing; The winds became steady out of the South, we had the sails set that we could use the small self steering unit which kept the boat on a easy Westerly course. I felt so comfortable that we turned on the RADAR and had dinner down below with no one on the helm.

Ok, I popped my head up every five minutes and kept an eye on the RADAR for traffic.

We made Lymington at about 2230 that evening. This was a fantastic, fast sail! We had planned on taking until the next morning, so this threw our plans out the door. We tied up and were on a train to Waterloo, arriving about 0130, tired but ready to face the next challenge.

The Berthon people brought the Wildebeest in and craned her out and began work on the engine as requested. They also set her up in a part of the yard which was convenient for staying aboard, which I felt was very nice of them to do. I don't think they allow people to actually stay over night while in the yard, but that was why we had friends from the club who were close to the owner of the Marina.

Meanwhile, I had two more months in the Navy and we had to stay on a friend's boat. Very inconvenient.

By this point in my career, I was totally through with the Navy. My lovely Spouse could not bear with the idea of me just walking away with my paperwork. Oh, no. That would not do at all!

Most of the retirement ceremonies were held in the basement bar of the 7 North Audley building. I had been to Captain's ceremonies, Commanders and Master Chiefs. All got the same treatment.

Bell rings the guests in, walking by "bullets" with a white rope and Side Boys. A Bosun would whistle the Retiree in.

Retiree walks in front of podium, where the Chief of Staff or his Designate (Usually an 0-6) would salute the retiree and ask him to be seated.

The Chaplain (Another 0-6) would lead the prayer and the Colors would be paraded in.

Afterwards speeches and a keg of beer with snacks would be served.

All in a room that holds fifty people and has a bar.

No. F%*$@#. Way. Was I going to do all that. I would rather walk away with a kick in my ass than go through that canned and undignified event. I had seen heroes and villains get the same "good bye".

Enter Norman Hummerstone and the Royal Green Jackets Regiment.

My Lovely and Caring Bride got with Norman (right in front of me) and said that I should have a proper ceremony, one with dignity and style, reflecting our life and the future that we would soon be living.

Norman agreed and he was nice enough to call on his friend the Major, who was in charge of the Green Jackets drill hall.


Little ol' enlisted puke me, a retirement ceremony at a proper Drill Hall, off of Oxford Street in the shopping district in Westminster!!!

Free of charge.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I support Chicagoans for Rio 2016

Hands down.

I have never visited Rio de Janeiro, but I am sure I would prefer Rio's beaches and tropical flavor over the crowds and traffic of the Second City.

This website, "Chicagoans for Rio 2016" have a great "Head to Head" window which extolls the great stuff from each city; For example... Beaches: Rio has Copacabana and Ipanema versus Chicago's 63rd Street and Calumet. Statues: Rio has Christ Standing vs. Chicago's Lincoln sitting, and so on.

I support anything that keeps deficits down and confounds any political machine.

A slogan for the Chicago Olympics says, "CHICAGO 2016 = Diversity, Green & High Profile Games !!!"

Nonsense. Diversity is the opposite of Unity, which would seek to show how divided Americans are, especially by Race Creed and Color.

If any of you have seen the results of any "Green" event/protest, you will be able to remember the piles of trash and plastic water bottles that our Environmentally aware brethren love to leave laying around.

Finally, "High Profile Games"? Viewing of the Olympics is reduced by the many options people have on their three hundred channel cable systems.

I think I would rather visit Rio. Like Delta Airlines said last year; "It's different down there".

This just in: Click on "I Support Rio's Bid for the 2016 Olympic Games" and click on the appropriate support button. We have to help our neighbors to the South win this prestigious event!

I'm a giver.

I stole this nautical photo from another site

Those zany Chinese!

This is probably warning us consumers that truly, we have "heavy seas" ahead of us,

Stolen from Theo Spark

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekend Fun

Saturday saw the Barco crew reviewing our victuals list and doing a replenishment of potent potables. We mustered over to the Wine Warehouse in Murray Hill and traded three hundred multi-colored beer trading units for a couple cases of bubbly French wines and other such bottled spirits.

After a rushed lunch of leftover steak which was pressed between bread slices and coated liberally with horseradish, we decided that Hyacinth probably wanted to visit her boat. We gathered cat and went to the Barco Sin Vela, tossed ashore the mooring lines and sped away (At an ear blistering eight knots) towards Doctors Lake. We stopped at the Naval Air Station to pick up "Phil".

There is no photo evidence, since we forgot the camera.

After doing the grand tour of Doctor's Lake, we repaired to the Yacht Club for dinner and drinks, as we were parched.

Last week, I brought in the Spousal Unit's car for service; Oil Change, rotate tires, check why there is a pesky air leak in the left front. The Goodyear Shop on San Juan Avenue said that the left front tire had a metal object in the sidewall and could not be repaired.

"I suppose you want to sell me a replacement for the Michelin Hydroedge tire, hmm?"

"Well, actually, we don't have a replacement on hand. You would need to buy the Goodyear blah-blah..."

I lost him at what I heard was "Blah".

So I picked up the car and brought it home. I also ordered the matching tire from the Sam's online site, which is where I had purchased the set a couple years ago. $147.00, and I can come in and pick up my tire on Sunday.

Sunday arrives, and I drive to the local Sam's, fully expecting said establishment to be chock-a-block with customers and no staff to mount my tire. I drove the truck over and presented myself to "Donna", the fine lady what sat at the front of the tire section.

"Donna" found my order and brought my tire up for my inspection. She asked me to bring the car around to have it mounted.

"I brought the truck, so I will pay you and just take the tire home... Thanks," I casually mentioned.

"Sir, you have to have us mount the tire in order for your warranty to be effective." Donna was firm and adamant!

"Well, I figured this would be a bad day to have your busy technicians mount the tire. Besides, that tire is replacing another tire that has sidewall damage. So I don't know how your "warranty" works, but I am having to replace another tire that should have been covered."

"Why didn't you say so, " said Donna, "I can save you this $147.00, because we prorate your tire".

Did I mention that I was beginning to enjoy my Sam's Club visit? Oh yes I was!

I called home and asked The Boss to bring her automobile for a tire replacement. She brought the car down in fifteen minutes and the technicians were spinning around our tires doing a rotate, balance and inspection.

There was no metal damage on the tire, just a bad valve stem. "Donna" and her good crew at Sam's club did all that work at no charge, on tires I had purchased over three years ago. As I was leaving, Donna asked me to keep an eye on the tires and if there was any problem to get hold of her.

In honor of that little bit of kindness, I spent three hundred bucks on other Sam's club stuff.

I am not happy with Goodyear at 4593 San Juan Avenue, Jacksonville Florida 32210. Not. At. All.

So my weekend turned out quite nice, and I hope yours did, too.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who is up for a BALTOPS?

BALTOPS, a Baltic Operation, which is a combined NATO and "Partnership for Peace" exercise to test communications and maritime cooperation between Northern European and Eastern Navies.

Digression alert!: The link to Commander Salamander is there because he mentions BALTOPS, although for a different reason. I wouldn't know about going to Denmark for any other reasons than good food and beer. I would prefer to go with the Spousal Unit, since she is superior company. The nice reader might want to go for their own reasons. Your mileage may of course, vary.

BALTOPS? It's also a grand excuse for wonderful port visits to places our Navy would ordinarily not visit.

Back in '95 and '96, I was working for the Surface side of Naveur OPS and was responsible for preparing the BALTOPS planning meetings. In other words I herded a group of cats and helped get their hotel rooms, coffee, donuts, per diem checks, and take them to hospitals when they were sick or injured.

It was great fun back then, and I got to meet some interesting and funny folks from the other Navies. Commodore Raimundas Baltuska, of the Lithuanian Navy being most memorable. He had the appearance of a malicious Uncle Fester, who had been a Soviet Navy Captain, commanding Juliet Class and Echo Class missile submarines. Looks are deceiving, Commodore Baltuska was a great storyteller and seemed pleased to be working with the USN and UK Navies. He gave me a Lithuanian Flag Letter of commendation for my small efforts in helping the conference to successfully meet. The pleasure was all mine.

Would I like to do a BALTOPS? Damn straight! In a fantasy world, I could get my yacht club friend DESRON 14 to authorize Barco Sin Vela to piggyback on a Frigate for the Atlantic crossing and return, we could crane back into the water in Europe and easily make all the port visits. None of the ports are more than a couple hundred miles apart, easily making Barco's maximum range of six hundred miles. Summer time in the Baltic would be wonderful, especially if I had some of my readers along as crew on the Barco Sin Vela!

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Interesting envelope from Great White Father in Washington, D.C.

A large buff colored envelope showed up in today's Uniformed Government Messenger drop-off.

Now, a regular human might ask, "What the frap is/does Buff color look like?"

Ah, I would tell you but then... Oh well. Every Military wannabe or be knows that anything mailed by the gubmint is wrapped in a made up color envelope.

I suppose this is a rambling way to make fun of Buff. Or, this is something that might explain why indeed, did Lucky Strike Green go to war?

Anyway, I get this offishul envelope that reminds me of other times and places.

The good news is, no header saying, "Greetings..."

From: Commander, Navy Personnel Command (PERS-912)
To: Barco Sin Vela II, USN (Ret)


Ref: (a) Title 10 U.S. Code, Section 6331

Blah, blah, blah.

"Your dedicated service to the Navy and your country is deeply appreciated. May you enjoy every success and happiness in the future.

Signed, S.H. Chaney, Director, By Direction (PERS-91)

At first glance, all I saw was the header, and suddenly had a feeling that I was being recalled to Active Duty.

That, my friends, would be one of those Good Deal/Bad Deals. Today, all this letter does is let me know that:

I am off the hook.



I am vapor.

I am the baloney without the mayo.

The flash without the BANG.

"Don't go away mad... Just go away!"

Friends; I am oh-yew-tee of the service, subject to recall only if the J.R.O.T.C and the Sea Cadets run out of fresh Swabs during a large scale action!

Too bad I don't have the inclination or urge to smoke dope. This might be a good time to try it all out. So many of my friends from the seventies and eighties were tossed out of the service for just that little issue, they feeling that it was a horrible little inconvenience to not be allowed to smoke wacky tabacky or snort foreign substances up their nozez. Following regulations wuz just. too. hard.

Since I kept away from the illegal substances, I get to keep receiving that nice little check every month; As a thanks for the twenty years, ten months, twenty nine days, fifteen hours and thirty minutes of loyal and honorable service. Or as my esteemed friend Phil might say, "Twenty years of undetected crime."

This could be a good time to explore "Living an Alternative Lifestyle". The only problem is that I already have a girlfriend. We don't bicker and fight, so that is about as alternative as it gets. Perhaps we could break some UCMJ regulations in the privacy of our home. Like Beer to Whisky; Mighty Risky.

I feel like an outlaw, already!

Fuhgeddaboutit. We will just keep on, keepin' on, with no adjustments to our clarity, vertical or horizontal.

No congrats or acknowledgement of this thirty year milestone is required. Little care other than some humor is all I care to have today. I hope all of my fellow retiree's share the laugh I am enjoying concerning this little letter. It was all no big deal on my part, but we must all be dilligent in protecting the rights of the future Military Retiree's. They are the ones being asked to shed blood and lives, today by a Government who might decide soon that half or three quarter pay is far too generous a retirement plan for these fine Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Air Force Zoomies, and especially Coast Guardsmen who are providing that Thin Red Line of protection from the Terrorist Savages who threaten civilization.

Of course, Congress and the Senate will continue to draw their own very lucrative pensions, since they had to Work. So. Hard.

This evening, it will be a Commissary run to reload our food supplies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We are still here, just working up the words...

Tuesday is here, and I am trying to come up with a post that will be readable.

Work is busy, I am trying to sell some Life policies, but the economy has got most of our customers unable to consider spending a few extra dollars for the inevitable funeral costs.

Our friend Phil, from California has returned to Florida. He purchased a 35 foot C&C sailboat which he will spend the next couple years preparing for cruising. The talk and planning took all weekend and not less than a couple cases of beer to lubricate our sailing thought process. I am very envious and look forward to sailing his boat.

More later...

Here are a couple of photos of the C&C 35 MK1

Friday, September 11, 2009

God Bless our Country

Now that we are past Friday, let's hear my newest favorite Buffett tune. "We gotta a lot to drink about!"

Jimmy doesn't say anything that we all haven't thought of. I'm refreshed that he is upbeat and doesn't bad mouth "W", and he hopes that "O" and "Joe" can help the sinking ship.

Great song, and I agree; We gotta a lot to drink about!

Have a great weekend, shipmates!!!

Love and Luck

11 September 2001
Not a favorite day to remember or think about. It was a day where Americans were at their individual best while we as a nation took a huge bloody nose.

I still hold a grudge, even if the "Move On" crowd feel that we should let bygones be bygones...

July 1999

Ten years ago, when my retirement date was imminent I received a call from a Navy Captain in DC, who wanted to know my post service plans. If I was available for work, they had a position in DC at the Pentagon as a GS11 (To become GS12 in a year) working for the same people I worked for in London. (Don't bother asking)

This would be an incredible opportunity, decent pay and another pension when I reached retirement age. We could still live on our boat in Annapolis and we would be able to enjoy boating in the Chesapeake. I was kinda for taking the position, since I wouldn't have to actually look, apply and interview for an unknown job in an unknown location.

"It snows in DC, and the Traffic is world famously bad," sayeth the Spousal Unit. "Also, we planned on sailing for an undetermined time... I say no."

So I called DC back and declined their generous offer.

December 2001
Three months after the attacks, Spousal Unit and myself took a little vacation to London, naturally, we stopped by the old office to say hi and ask if our friends in DC working at that office were ok.

My old buddy "Tin" pulled us into the SCIF and shared this news; The "office" took a direct hit.

I was floored.

"How many made it out?" Was all I could stammer out.


Here is a vague description; Two members of the Staff were out on the road doing the meeting thing. The Captain was across the Pentagon at some mundane powerpoint brief. One other person was down the hall in the head.

The plane struck the building and fire damaged the office.

The safes were all open and all the materials were unsecured. When the airliner hit it caused a huge hole in the outside wall, and all of the "stuff" we can't mention was strewn about! They had to post guards during the clean up.

If I had been working for those folks, I would have been at my desk on the computer or talking to the European folks on the phone. Especially at 0900.

The Pentagon folks always had a reputation for being completely anal about information security and proper physical stowage. But the attack showed what really happens when things turn to sh1t, and what is really important. People.

There is much I have sanitized in the above tale, but the truth is stranger than fishin' and I can end this with how love and luck kept me from being in the middle of the greatest tragedy we have faced in this Generation.

It's better to be lucky than good. I have made a good life in the time since, and I live it for those who can't.

The real heroes of the tragedy are the first responders, they have to make critical assesments and pull people out of harm's way, at great personal risk. The Fire Departments, the Police, and the Military made everyone proud and stood tall.

I don't feel very worthy, today.

Never forget and keep honoring those who were lost by keeping their memory close. Go to Babalu Blog to see the names of the 2900 persons of all nationalities that perished in that dastardly sneak attack.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Big Welcome Aboard to Diego Pat!

Pat and I were friends back in the bad old days of HSL-84, North Island. Pat is a squared away family guy, retired as a Navy Nurse and is making a name for himself in Southern California. And he still looks as good as when he was a model for International Male catalogs. He always knew the secret to life, and the happiness therein.

If I played a guitar, I would sing this:

"Ahh, the stories we could tell. I wish that we could sit on a bed in some Motel, and listen to the stories we could tell."

No, there are no "bad" stories, only good ole family type of stuff.


But the 80's were a crazy time and he knew what to do. He got married to the right girl while I ran off to have fun in foreign places.

We are going to have a great laugh in October!

I just had a new energy saving curlicue bulb fail

Oh yes, one of those florescent bulbs, guaranteed to save energy and last a zillion years. It made it a year, hooked to the stove. Naturally, I threw it in the kitchen garbage, despite me knowing the law which requires us losers to safely recycle or dispose such bulbs in with the hazardous waste trash, not the landfills.

This bulb cost me about $3.50, and was supposed to last three years. Oh well, a year is longer than most Hollywood marriages.

This nonsense of the Government and Industry working together is pure Bull Honey. It is not all about saving power, no; It is about clipping you and I tree-fiddy versus fifty cents for a good light bulb. That is more revenue and more taxes, and ultimately, more Government control over our lives.

For the greater good.

Read this Wall Street Journal op-ed piece.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I got on a jag watching Zappa videos

And came upon this great video of a Frank Zappa spin-off band, "Missing Persons". Former Zappa Drummer Terry Bozio and his lovely bride Dale Bozio created Missing Persons with Zappa guitarist Warren Cuccurullo (My spelling may be off). These musicians were highly talented professionals and the music is as good now as it was 26 years ago. US Concert 1983;

It must have been a hundred degrees out there, but the band stays tight.

This next one shows a great band in the middle of summer, performing in leather jackets and having technical problems. US Concert 1982;
Note: During the Song "Shock Treatment", you can hear Joey Ramone reacting to getting shocked by the microphone and it blows the song. I like how the band plows on.

I tried to get to the 1982 US Concert, as I was stationed in San Diego. I went to LA and nobody could get me directions to the Concert site. So I hung out with my old friend Geno in LA that weekend.

As for the 1983 US Festival, I was traveling with the Navy, somewhere. I don't go to concerts anymore. Too crowded and I hate not being able to get away fast when the concert is over. I prefer these videos.

Sunday morning middle of holiday SITREP

For those who don't know, a SITREP is a SITuation REPort. Ours is as follows;
In honor of Labor Day weekend, we have reduced our traveling about on the roads. More people are killed on Memorial Day/Fourth of July/Labor Day weekends than on "regular" weekends. Something about that 72 hour weekend that causes people to do just a little bit more to expose themselves and others to riskier behaviors.

Like driving eleven hours to go see family, after a hearty night out with the homies. Or cruising down a two lane highway, well rested but getting creamed by the drunk driver trying to make it home after an all-nighter.

Jacksonville is doing its part to keep up with the bigger cities when it comes to body counts.

Saturday morning, She Who Will Be Obeyed saw an advertisement for a bedroom set at a local Furniture store. We drove to Orange Park (Oh, how I hate Blanding Blvd in Orange Park...) and looked at the "lossleader" furniture and purchased another, more expensive set. Only two and a half times the cost of the advertised furniture, so I think we got away lucky; She started admiring a beautiful dining room set so I started walking.

The purchase process is not unlike buying a car. I have no idea why it must take such a long time, especially in this day of rapid computer communications. I think the goal is to make us all dopey and wear us down for the final solution, where we give all the fruits of our labor to the finance companies.

"Do you have an account with us?" Says the nice Sales Associate.

"Why, yes." Says Spousal Unit.

"And it has been dormant for the past two years, since I paid off the last bunch of furniture..." I added unnecessarily.

The Sales Dude does his thing and walks us over to the admin desk, where a surly looking citizen gives us a squinty look, the kind of look a Matron will give a pile of fish, looking for the least rotting example. Maybe we should have dressed more presentably; Boat shoes, khaki shorts and a t-shirt from the Schooner Wharf Bar in Key West does not make me look too credit worthy. The nice admin assistant obviously couldn't see the Rolex Datejust hanging on my cat-scarred left wrist, so that must be the reason she isn't thinking "Quick and Easy Sale".

The Lynnester says, "We would like to put this purchase on the 12 months 'Same-As-Cash', since using OPM (other people's money) would be most convenient."

Sales Associate agreed.

Counter Lady agreed.

I jokingly ask Sales Dude if I could be considered for employment, if just to pay for this furniture?

He actually started asking me to come by at eight-thirty tonight, and we could see about a position for me at the furniture store.

(Note: This is how I get most of my job offers. People really do want to help the jobless become productive members of society. God Bless America!)

I nervously replied that I still have a job, but that I would keep them in mind when I get laid off. Gotta keep those options, right?

Back to the nice Admin Lady talking quietly on the phone to Citifinancial, Credit Company to Furniture buyers;

"Yes... they are still at the same address..."

She looks at the Spousal Unit and asks, "Has anything changed on the employment?"

"No. Still working".

I of course chime in, "Yeah, remind them that we pay off our accounts early." Lord, I am such a jerk in public.

A few more moments pass when I hear;

"Oh. I'm sure they don't know about that..."

The phone gets hung up and the lady looks at me and says, "Your account was closed two years ago... Did you know that?"

I almost went straight to freak out mode, "What do you mean closed?"

You see, sometimes, when making a car or furniture purchase, a business may say that "Your credit, while good enough to buy our goods, is not good enough for the great-deal finance plan, and you will have to pay 26 percent annual finance charges".

It is pure Bravo Sierra, then they expect you to meekly take your beating and walk out happy.

This scenario was running through my mind at warp speed when I heard the nice lady reply, "Oh no, not that way. Someone closed your account at your request after you paid off the loan amount. "You can fill out the application and you qualify for the 24 months same-as-cash." As she proffered a folder with a six page credit application.

"Ohhhh... My bad." "I forgot that I closed the account, since I was so happy to have paid it off and wanted to not have dormant accounts lying around in the ether." I sheepishly admitted.

I looked at the length of the application and handed it back and asked to use a credit card. This folder had as much paper as a DD-Form 1966, which was the Enlistment Application to join the Armed Forces, back in 1989. No way am I going to fill this out for twenty six hundred bucks of furniture. It's just not worth twenty minutes of writing down personal information, which will be faxed on an unencrypted line to some minimum wage person in Bhopal, India.

SO I surprised everyone, (Especially the Lovely Bride) when I tossed the card out and quickly signed the slip.

"I'll just pay this card off on Monday. Let's just get going and continue our mission". I just wanted the pain to end.

The bed is back ordered to November. The rest of it will be here on Wednesday, which coincidently, happens to be the day I will endure a dentist visit.

No deed shall go unpunished!

Off to the Target, to buy some cat litter and Naan bread for the Raita dip and a stop for lunch at a local eatery. Then we went home for television and movies until the middle of the night.

Safely tucked away in our home with our loving kittehs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sorry to be a Buzz Kill

The viral Obama video has gotten me quite nervous. The children are literally pledging allegiance to the President.

No one did this for President Bush or for that matter, President Reagan. I commented on another blog and said that it reminded me of "Cabaret", a fine film from 40 years ago.
I stole this video from Theo Spark's Site.

Look, I have no problem with teaching loyalty to our country. I don't remember any teachers being particularly fond with LBJ or Nixon. Or for that matter Ford, and Carter. I do not doubt that my teachers back then were for or against, but they did their jobs and tried to teach us all to be discerning citizens.

I am ok with students being proud of their/our President. The former video is indoctrination.

P.s. I hope to not have anyone invoke "Godwin's Law". I haven't called anyone a National Socialist. I let the Cabaret video do the entertainment.

weekend review

I apologize for the long recess.

There has been much busy-ness around these parts, a trip and return from South Carolina, work being crazy and finally; The Weather.

I am glad we have a couple of boats, because an Ark will be necessary if we intend to stay dry.

Another issue I have is the inability to get pictures uploaded from our Mac.

This is one of many from the Graduation.

Here is a nice view of downtown in the early evening.

Young Steve driving the Barco towards downtown. It was nice to let him drive, I was able to catch a little nap.

We dragged Steve to Singleton's Seafood Shack in Mayport. It seems that all Michiganders prefer Singleton's to any other purveyor of Fish. There was a great dining and then I sent some phone pictures to Steve's family for the "Bragging Rights".

Then, it was off to Jacksonville Beach. We brought a boogie board for Steve so he could try his luck in the little surf.

These are some of the local talent cruising up and down the beach, pretending to not be looking at the pretending not to notice Lad's.

We dropped Steve at the Amtrak station for his return to Fort Jackson, Tuesday evening. Steve was a genuine pleasure to have around! Never complained, laughed at my bad jokes and enjoyed all the food and entertainment we dug up.

Let's see; Dinner on Friday evening, Filet Mignon and veggies. Satellite tv and watching a shuttle launch on the front lawn.

Saturday was a day on the Barco Sin Vela, with Steve doing most of the driving. Saturday evening was dining at the Yacht Club which finished up with sitting under the stars in Pirates Cove.

Sunday was Singletons and the Beach. Afterwards, we dropped by my Mom's for dinner and funny film.

Steve can come back anytime. Next time though, I will have to show him how to use varnish.