Alton Pool Ice Flow 2/23/14
Photo by JAL


Great Wave Off Kanagawa’, Hiroshige Utagawa
Courtesy of University of Waikato

Flights into and out of Chicago last week were cancelled due to bad weather. I adjusted my plans by booking a later flight directly to Detroit. The winter weather was ominous. The temperature fluctuated from 43º in the late morning to 72º mid-afternoon. In the Midwest we know this as “tornado weather.” Sure enough, the skies suddenly blackened, winds bucked. Within minutes the temperature plummeted 30 degrees and tornado alerts began crawling across the TV. The evening flight was bound to be delayed and turbulent. I was an unsettled, agitated traveler who was in for a rough ride to the Motor City.


Airplane Vortex
Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Most fliers, with the exception of my husband, detest turbulence, those sudden, violent movements encountered when the plane hits what pilots languidly describe with their Texan drawls as “a little bumpy patch of air.” White knuckled passengers can be divided into God fearing penitents and those who figure their number’s up or it isn’t and smugly chug the rest of their drinks before they’re spilled or evaporated. Nobody wearing a seat belt actually dies of commonplace turbulence because it simply doesn’t have the power to crash planes – it’s lot in life is to just terrify passengers into thinking they’re going down.


Sioux Harbor Storm Brewing
Photo JAL

Turbulence is part of living whether you’ve ever flown or not. Sudden swirls and eddies in routines create great commotion and upset our emotional wellbeing. When relationships depart from the smooth flow of comfortable compatibility to an irregular fluctuation due to miscommunication, emotional unavailability or conflict we get agitated and can’t think of much else. Some people get into a sense of flow regarding the turbulence and focus their motivation on getting the relationship back on course and moving along as it had and should. Whether these relationships are work bound or personal, turbulence can unsettle the most stalwart among us. Like aircraft, we’re built to handle the turbulent flow of life.

Only about 20 out of 800 million US passengers (not counting the flight crews bustling down isles with those essential peanuts) are injured by turbulence in any given year. More people are hurt by emotional turbulence – worrying about things they can’t control, stress, grief, conflict – which prevents them from thinking about and acting on other good things in their lives. It’s estimated that as global warming continues, air turbulence will double – so the older we get the bumpier the ride is going to be. Life, like the wind and water is full of turbulence. Relationships with ourselves and others include regular incidences of turbulence. We’ve got to understand that just as wind turbulence doesn’t crash planes emotional turbulence shouldn’t kill us.

This weekend I heard the river flow. It was full of mini-icebergs jockeying in the turbulent current for position as they raced towards New Orleans. The air was filled with static that was similar to the sound of Ship to Shore or AM radios – agitated, confused, cold and ominous noise. I envisioned the terror of falling in – sinking into the frigid black depths, then bobbing to surface only to have my skull crushed by oncoming ice and being unable to hold on to any of the ice chunks – drowning. It was a scary sound, softer than the winds that blast ahead of a cold front, quieter than shuddering joints of an aircraft as it slams through the jet stream. It was the unsettling sound of nature on the move and the turbulent wind that sent me scuttling off the dock back into Palisades.

Once inside – safe and warm – the view of the ice flow was majestic. A pod of pelicans soared playfully on air currents above the ice flow as the setting sun reflected off pure white light from their feathers. A week ago the harbor was a solid block of ice and today it was disappointing to see the river’s ice-free current carrying trees and debris south. On my next flight, it will be good to remember how quickly icebergs disperse and that pilots are trained to handle rough spots. I’ll relax and think about where most of my life is spent – being in the smooth flow – comfortably in the groove.


Newport RI, Going with the Wind and Air Flow
Photo JAL

Ski the Mississippi: Citius, Altius, Fortius!


Faster, Higher, Stronger

This weekend a band of merry members of Anchor Yankers from the Mississippi Alton Pool swapped their boats for ski equipment. We drove to Dubuque, Iowa, a vibrant community that boasts river boating, skiing, five car garage homes and the new distribution center for Bacon Bits and Spam (the Godonlyknowswhat food stuff invented during WWII). Saturday’s daytime temperatures hovered around 12º (-10ºF wind-chill). Thick snow obscured the river valley and cemented dripping noses with upper lips. Sunday’s mercury climbed to a balmy 21º with pristine skies and 4” of fresh powder. Humans aren’t meant to hibernate – we played games in the snow.


a) Summertime Bonnevile Salt Flats or b) Snow Field in Iowa?
Ans: b


Big G does a Black Diamond run above the River Valley

Summer visitors from northern US states to Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, west of Great Salt Lake often feel chilled rather than fried, as they should. Their brains are trained to recognize wide expanses of pure white terrain as snow and ice, not blistering desert sand that’s white as angel wings.


Doesn’t get much faster or higher than here. Be strong and Ski!
Photo by JAL @ Sundown.

Our family’s first ski trip to Dubuque set off a similar disorientation. Our skiing experiences were in New England where skiers ride lifts up mountains in plain sight. George and I were confused to arrive at a farming region with rolling hills, no apparent snow and no elevations that could even mildly be described as ski territory. We were more befuddled when we arrived at Ski Sundown and looked down the river bluffs at the maze of well-groomed ski trails.

The Olympics’ motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) represents athletes’ aspirations to demonstrate personal bests – the ultimate upper limit of their speed, grace, and strength on ice and snow. This year Bode Miller earned the honor of being the oldest alpine skiing medalist in Olympic history.  He’s only 36 and is considered an elder athlete. Society is weird. It expects skiers to stay fit until age 70 so they can pay reduced Senior Ski Rates but entices 60+ year old people with Senior Reduced ticket prices to sit in movie theaters snacking on buttered popcorn.


Spider Men & Sharon Apres Ski @ Sundown. Thanks for organizing the annual trips for Don’s Gang, Sharon. Photo by JAL

This year George and I, Sharon and Don (Woelbling), elder but not yet senior clan members since the beginning reminisced about our decades of trips to Sundown. Faster, higher, and stronger effects of the sport include a blown knee (darn moguls), a broken nose (darn edge boundaries that separate the slopes from the wild), elegant style (we girls don’t wear darn hats because it musses our hair), updated and stylish ski gear (darn ski shops’ end of season sales), stolen skies (darn bar tender gave me a free beer and didn’t even offer to store my skies in the free, locked corral). We watched the third generation stretch their limits on the Bunny Slope. We spat out mouthfuls of snow while trying to keep pace with last year’s novices. We’ve celebrated kids’ graduations, weddings, and careers.

As life would have it, we’ve also mourned the loss of a spouse, two sons, and a granddaughter who had boated and skied the river.


Advice to 3rd Gen: Don’t eat or make yellow snow!” Yes, those are Gina’s triplets and Zoe! Ski Wee Champs! Photo by Shana

The Winter Olympics gather athletes from around the world to take part in games where winning really matters. When my daughter at four years young first tried Ski Wee she melted down and didn’t want to go back for lessons the second day. Sharon took her aside, ever the schoolteacher, and firmly explained, “Here’s the deal -our families boat in the summer and ski in the winter. Unless you want to be home with a babysitter while we ski, you’d better get back into Ski Wee so you can always be with us.” Great advice. Families who have things to do outside and play with friends are truly blessed. They grow together faster, reach higher aspirations, and savor stronger bonds across generations. Our Dubuque ski trips aren’t about winning. The informal motto of the Olympics is, “The most important thing is not to win but to take part!” Skiing down river bluffs beats sitting home, eating spam on any winter weekend.


Ski Sundown 2014
Photo by Carrie Smith

Just an Old Salt Doing Time


Quartermaster Dick Libby, USN, an Old Salt: “Twenty years in the Navy. “Never drunk on duty – never sober on liberty.” Portrait painted circa 1834 by Charles O. Cole. Image is in the Public Domain of USA


Big G @ Helm of Ex Libris
Mississippi River, Alton Pool
Photo by JAL


Midship @ Narrow River – No Challenge?

Back in the grand age of fighting sail, an oldster was a midshipman who’d acquired at least four years of seniority. Most of the crew on 18th century sailing vessels went to sea as young boys so many midshipmen were generally obnoxious adolescent oldsters.

Seafaring career ladders divided the crew by skills. The waisters, sailors with dim wits and skimpy skills worked at or below sea level doing heavy hauling. Two in ten men earned the rating of Able or Ordinary seamen that qualified them to climb the mast and dance the rat lines. These “topmen” saw themselves as elite sailors because they worked above the officers and perceived waisters, odds and sods were beneath their esteem.

Regardless of where a man had done time aboard– sailors who survived a few tours of duty and had decent story telling skills were revered as Old Salts. Any man fortunate to celebrate 66 birthdays in good health should be thrilled, as my husband is today, to be called, Old Salt.


Smells like love to Me.

 A research study on whether or not we pick our mates according to some magic formula of DNA involved college women sniffing men’s sweaty T-shirts. The study required the co-eds to sniff through two sets T-shirts and rate each  for its intensity, pleasantness, and sexiness. It was a study where guys majoring in science and geography felt comfortable wearing their cotton Ts for a couple of nights knowing a chick was giving it the sniff test later on in the lab. The women were pysch and bio majors. The results showed women prefer the Ts of  men with “dissimilar” DNA from their own – thus variety – viva la difference – rules the Hungryfor Mates Games.  Fuhgetabout birds of the nest flocking together. Women prefer men who are somewhat genetically rather than personality different from themselves. They can detect these DNA differences by scent. We hunt our baby makers by their genomes not their trust funds. It expands and strengthens our gene pool so Baby Einsteins and Walking Dead can flourish. George was a lifeguard when we met – and I confess – the scent of his T shirts were drove me wild. He smelled of sunshine, the sea, and Coppertone.

Years later, I learned that my mother in law had used only Tide detergent for – ever!  All of those years of thinking I’d fallen in love with the scent of a sailor when in real life I was seduced by Proctor & Gamble’s laundry perfume. Perhaps the T shirt study was on to something. George and I were different but powerfully attracted to each other – despite our parents’ cautions. When we met in the summer of ’69, I was a rambunctious art major favoring floppy hats and loose academic pursuits while he favored preppy clothes, criminology, and a serious grad school fellowship. I loved rock ‘n roll – he’d played bass in a youth symphony and the accordion for grins. He loved to relax on a beach while I yearned to be aboard a boat – preferably my own. There must’ve been magic woven into his 100% cotton Ts -we’ve spent 44 of his 66 years together on land, alongshore, and afloat.

George prefers to be a deck monkey and work the winches, take the helm, and weigh anchor. I don’t believe he’s a waister even though he does the heavy hauling – he’s not Ordinary either. Let’s say by virtue of his 66 candles today that he is definitely an Old Salt with a lot of sea miles in his wake and rich with stories to share. And, no matter what detergent we use – he smells better than any topman who hasn’t bathed since the ship left port. In fact – he smells terrific – and does the laundry – like an Able Seaman First Class.


66 Candles w/Amberley & Nick, Houston, Feb. 2014
Photo by JAL

Inboards and Outboards

OB&HandicappedWho among us naps in a public rest room? Last week we joined friends to see make sure our sailboats were secure in their winter berths. The forecast was for the mercury to plummet 50 degrees with 50 mph gusts. There was a great deal of ice in the harbor but the bubbler had kept our hulls bobbing on open waters. It was the flowing of beverages through the tube that connects our nose and toes that motivated a visit to Palisades – the local pub that during floods is located in the Mississippi River (http://www.palisadesyachtclub.com).


Stag on Board

Palisades’ rest rooms are coded for boaters’ ease of comprehension – Outboards and Inboards. Apparently some guys need a visual cue to get them into the right room – so a stag head adorns the adjacent wall. It’s pretty common to give kitschy names to bathrooms located in nautical communities. The names Buoys and Gulls confuse landlubbers – but Out and In seem to trigger universal understanding of the appropriate venue for males and females to find public relief. The Aussie’s have their Dunny. Thomas Crapper gave Americans the Crapper. We have our Johns and TP, the Brits have their Jacks and bogroll.


Comfort Station for the Gulls


Sits one – stands a few good men

Palisades’ Inboard room sits two. While I didn’t venture into the Outboard – it had a distinct industrialized look from the open door. The Inboard is decorated and has a reading lamp to create a restful atmosphere.

The stark contrast between rooms reminds us that men and women are different. While the head is the center of attention in any public maritime bathroom – the brain of a man standing in the Outboard room is very different from the brains of women chatting away in the Inboard room.

Male brains are pretty much wired from front to back and concentrate more on one side of the brain than the other. Listening to the guys play back the same conversation week after week it’s probably the right side – the part of the brain that make sense of the big picture. Because the bulk of wiring in male brains isn’t linked to the center of language guys can sum up a three hour sporting event with just a few words. Some guys criticize men who talk a lot about their feelings and describe them as a clogged head –  full of it. Neural engineering is also responsible for the male phenomenon whereby what ever is seen goes from the eyes to the rear end of the brain that is close to the command center of instinctive bodily functions – like sex. When a man sees an attractive woman the brain automatically fires up the outboard.

Women’s brains are connected from side to side in a way that engages both hemispheres. The wiring scheme of human brains develops during the crazy teen years when guys sprout facial hair and a deep love for their outboards and women begin lunar cycles of cramping. The two sides of the female brain share neural pathways that connect what they see with how they feel. Neither side functions without the other being involved. The right hemisphere is connected with the left hemisphere that commands language. This is why it’s so easy for women to share our thinking and ask for directions. Women’s brains work by keeping both sides in touch. This helps us understand why women often visit rest rooms in pairs and why guys fear their galls are in there comparing the size of their outboards.


It’s not the size of the lower unit – it’s the spin of the prop.