Run Aground


M/V Kent Reliant grounded on a reef. Photo courtesy of File from Public Domain.

A third of all commercial ship accidents are caused by running aground. That means the vessels connected to the bottom of shallow water. They get stuck. That’s when bad goes to worse – changing tides and currents batter the boat. If there was damage done to the hull by whatever was on the bottom – while the boat can’t really sink, after all it is on the bottom – it is in danger of becoming ship wrecked. Running aground is an accident – whether it was caused by tide, poor visibility, or waves, at a given moment the water isn’t deep enough to float the boat. The ship and crew are in trouble. It’s rarely an option to get out and push the boat into deeper water or swim to shore. Without help or divine providence the potential for loss is great.


Photo courtesy


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Most recreational boats that run aground cause little or no damage to the crew. The number one killer of boaters is excessive alcohol use. Booze trumps bad weather, hazardous waters, and not paying attention to where the boat is or who’s on board. Drinking at the helm of a boat is not an accident – but what happens next is the result of purposeful behavior – and is too often a preventable tragedy.

Festivities during winter holidays have a perilous downside with the power to sink relationships and drown feelings of comfort and joy. The stream of a tear contains the same salt that makes up vast seas. The last stretch of the calendar is the most hazardous of shipping and sipping lanes. If you’ve hit bottom you can’t sink further – you must get yourself up to the surface. Whether you are sailing solo or huddled in the grand salon of a cruise ship – its safer to act as if the helm is in your hands. Don’t just stand and stare at the water expecting it to take you someplace. It will not reward your anxiety nor gift you with contentment. Don’t expect the sea to rest because you are restless. Exercise moderation and you will become strong enough to navigate though these final days of the year. Pay attention to the currents, sky and shoreline so that you don’t get caught in the shallows.

UnknownThe difference between a holiday ordeal and a holiday adventure is attitude. Just as a compass needle seeks the north – position your feelings to find and move toward good tidings. Be and behave. To seek is not the same as to find – but it’s a start – as bright blue fish Dory said, “When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do?”



A bright blue fish. Foam construction paper fish made with Elle when she was two by JAL.

Quotation from the Movie, Finding Nemo

Watching Time


Watch me, Now.


It’s later if you think.

The endless loop of classic and current holiday carols keeps reminding us that it’s the most wonderful, hap hap happiest time of the year. That depends. Adults bemoan feeling that the year went by much too fast and there isn’t enough time to get ready for the holidays. Kids find these days dragging on way too long before it’s time to unwrap presents. As the good Dr. Suess noted, “How did it get so late so soon?”

My grand daughter is learning to tell time. She finds decoding clocks and watches to be very exciting. She also can’t wait for Christmas and can’t understand why it’s time to go to bed when she isn’t tired – just cranky – not tired. Only Peter Pan beat the clock – at the tender age of two he did not understand that children grow up. So he never grew up. Watching Elle telling time makes me feel like Wendy’s mother who cried, “Why can’t you remain like this forever!” Rather than feel sad, I’m passing on to her some things to learn about time.

images-3#1: You can’t turn back time. We can hold fast to memories of finestkind moments but to live is to leave the past behind what’s now and what will be. So let go of hurts, misgivings and anger because to be alive is to be where we are right now. We don’t need to share now with then.

#2: Spend time doing things that will have a hearty return on investment. Our favorite things don’t cost money – they take our time. Like, learning to read,  playing just for the fun of it,  messing with boars, loving others and ourselves.


If you’ve been nice – a wake up call is good. If naughty – it’s not.

#3: If you’re really happy when you’re wasting time – you’re not wasting time. The opposite is also true – if you’re miserable wasting time – you are wasting time – and none of us are given an unlimited amount of time to begin with – time doesn’t recycle and you can’t reuse it. Use it or lose it –  lost time is a shame.

#4: Wearing a watch doesn’t mean you’ll be on time. I should know – I collect watches and am chronically late. Sometimes it’s not better to be late than never.

#5: Jingle bell time is a swell time. Go ahead – rock around the clock – seize the day – it’s time. Take time to make time.

Check the time? Peter Pan was right, it’s like a ticking crocodile isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us. I guess this means – we are all ahead of our time.


Drifting and Dreaming

images-4 Tis the season for Endurance

The basic recipe for making sugarplums takes 13 hours and 45 minutes. That pretty much knocks out any visions of sugarplums dancing in this sailor’s head. We are planning on a Green Christmas beachside in southern California with most but not all of our kids. Travel plans have severely impeded any motivation to swim against the current of Christmas shoppers. Tubs of Christmas decorations are nestled all snug in the basement storage room. I’ve settled into a Sunday afternoon winter stupor just drifting and dreaming December away.

IMGP0437 A quarter of a century after the bread bowl incident, brother Barrett sends his first born down the same hill – with a helmet, knee pads and his doctors’ bag close by.
IMGP0427 On that same day, survivor sister stands a protective guard to make sure her niece lands safely – interesting that she became a lawyer isn’t it?

The Ghost of Christmas Past is amusing me with memories of some of our family’s finestkind holidays. I remember Amberley as a toddler in her bright pink snow suit sledding down our backyard hill with her two big brothers. The gales of laughter and thuds of snowballs pitched at my post near the kitchen window were suddenly punctuated by high-pitched screams. Seems the boys had procured my 10 quart bread making stainless steel bowl, carried their baby sister up to the summit, plopped her in it, provided a quick shove and propelled the vessel down the hill. Bread bowls are very fast. She landed terrified but basically unharmed and like Moses was found submerged in snow, hidden beneath a shrub called a burning bush.

IMGP2611 Pop should’ve posted this in his front lawn – but he didn’t. But we still play in places like this every year.

The Ghost reminded me of other family ventures into snow sailing. We had driven the family, including the dog, all the way from St. Louis to my parents’ log cabin home in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. My recently retired (56 year old) father built my mother a log home in the middle of the mountains. The homestead appeared as idyllic as a Currier and Ives print. It was as far away from anywhere as Shakelton’s Endurance was from Tahiti. George took Amberley out into the thigh high powdery snow for a sledding expedition upon a bright pink flying saucer. Being a good Dad, he went first thinking he’s blaze a trail and show her his best Clark Griswold moves.

IMG_2790 Even the old basket ball hoop couldn’t withstand the weight of this snow. It cracked like George’s ribs.

He learned three things that snowy Christmas afternoon. First, flying saucer snow disks do not steer well. Second, ash trees do not flex when hit directly by flying saucers carrying a 250 pound payload. And third, driving to an ER when mountain roads are not plowed is simply not an option. He later learned that broken ribs heal very slowly.

Then there was the year the dog knocked down the Christmas tree while George and I were at my grandmother’s funeral and the kids were staying next door. Grandma died in balmy Florida, but being creatures of habit, the family buried her beneath a think bed of snow about 30 miles from my parents’ log home on the 23 rd of December. We returned home early on Christmas eve to find that exactly where our six foot fresh pine Christmas tree had been, stood a puny foot-high fake tree with a couple of busted ornaments. The little train set we had left under the big tree now looked huge on a circle of track around the tree. All I could whisper was, “Honey, They Shrunk the Tree.” Not really. When our neighbor and a friend had come to check on the house, they saw that the dog must’ve been very thirsty and tried the minty water of the tree stand. The tree was sprawled it on its side, it’s dish empty, and sappy pine needles covered the carpet. They graciously watered the dog and pitched the tree out the back door. It was a great Christmas as the train still went ‘round the Christmas tree.

Go with the flow. Drift away. Dream on. The holly daze is not complete without a bit of drama, a touch of humor and warmth that comes from simply believing.

IMGP1778 Randy also opted for a law career – but is okay with pink sleds and his girls flying down the Bread Bowl hill. We of course carry extra liability insurance.

Storm Force 11


Come all ye young fellows that follows the sea To me, way hey, blow the man down Now please pay attention and listen to me Give me some time to blow the man down

Winds are measured by their speed and the conditions they create over land and sea. In terms of damage and havoc rendered by strong winds – the difference between a Gale Force 10 (GF 10) and just a notch higher on the Beaufort Scale – Storm Force 11 (SF 11) – is the white knuckle – am I gonna survive? – factor. GF 10 winds howl at the about double nickel miles per hour creating very high tumbling waves, lots of foam and a very heavy impact all around. Over land, these winds can break off tree branches and blow away barricades. But the violent winds of a SF 11 can reach 117 mph, severely limit visibility, and will most likely cause widespread structural damage. In either case, boaters simply can’t see where they are going – and most likely wish they were in a safe port splitting the main brace.[1]

images-2We must carry wind and flood insurance on our shore property to limit our liability for storm induced losses. Tomorrow our property will be tented and fumigated to kill termites that invaded the structure during the aftermath of a Force 12 Hurricane that tore off the roof.  Wood infesting, ingesting bugs became squatters. They’ve done untold dollars worth of unseen damage but there’s no such thing pest insurance (if there was our neighbor would be history). It’s the price we pay for an ocean view.


Against the Wind

For the past few months my homeport of St. Louis has been damaged by an ill wind that blows no good. Relentless gusts have leveled business, fueled the fires of distrust, and bedeviled community spirit. No answers to problems blow with these winds. We seem to be caught in a high pressure zone of ongoing Storm Force 11 winds generated by a lot of hot air not associated with the Jet Stream. It is a brutally frigid wind that is blowing our communities into a winter of discontent.


All we are is dust in the wind? Seriously? I think not.

True wind and termites are Nature’s children. The conditions that winds create in many ways are acts of God. The ill winds hurling across the country are not. These are human-generated winds of war. Many a captain and crew are struggling to weather this relentless storm. Perhaps the most prudent action for all is to batten down the hatches and pray that this SF 11 too shall pass. These winds of change are blowing hard – adjust your sails, keep a weather-eye open, and pray for calm.

[1] A double ration of rum.