Fall Up, Sail On


Avast ye Scurvy Crew – Pirate Day on the Alton Pool


Fleet Admirable Jerry with Commemorative Bucket water bucket. Sioux Harbor.

Fall winds bring sailors out to frolic on the Alton Pool of the Mississippi River. Small powerboats have been cast aside as soccer moms, the NFL, and the Cardinals’ boys of summer command summer boaters’ weekends. Hearty sailors who laid low during the spring into summer floods, when summer breezes that barely misted a mirror thus declaring sailing about dead, greet autumn with zeal.

There’s an adage in southern New England to beware of crazed Mainers Down East in the early spring because they’re all crazy with cabin fever. River folk take notice – sailors assume the persona of an Indy 500 driver who spent the final weeks of summer in Jamaica. Fall brings forth their need for speed as they trim the mainsail to capture the winds, fill balloons and canons with water, and fill their holds with fermented libations to enhance yarns told ‘round harbor bonfires. They become Mississippi River Pirates.


Best or Most Not Johnny Depp Pirate Costume Winner – A Simple Man.


Which Wench?

MRPs are the polar opposites of those not deserving of the moniker “pirates” who hail from east African ports. They amuse rather than terrorize other vessels. The only booty they ever plunder tends to be legitimately purchased and paid for with VISA cards. Their wenches are often captains or majority shareowners of the boats and comfortable bunkmates for decades. While they consider most rules to be “guidelines” – they’d never arrive unannounced in a cockpit – they always ask permission to come aboard. They flat out do not take hostages – most secretly revel in their empty land nests and note that while the Captain will sail safely with six to 10 passengers and crew – and may well have berths to accommodate 6 – the boat ONLY sleeps two.


Cap Mike’s NotAwardWinning Couture & Motley Crew aboard his S2.

Some people fall into a mild depression as the days grow shorter, trees shed, grasses dry up and daily highs mean its too chilly for flip flops but just right for donning cords and sweats. These sad souls think the third season is a precursor to the third and final act of the dramatic play, Life Span. Snap out of it – some never live beyond a day and some wish they’d been dead for years. Life is at once a tragedy and comedy with plot lines crisscrossing pleasure and pain, starring the characters Joy and Sorrow, set in rain and sunshine with a mysterious theme. Heed the wisdom of the philosopher Horace and the fictitious teacher John Keating – Carpe Diem – Make Your Lives Extraordinary. It’s not just the events of a day that create memories to carry us through the year but our perception of the meaning of those happenings that silence or give voice to our power to sing – “It’s been a really great day.”


Work Like a Captain – Play Like a Pirate

Pirates of a Certain Age


Rags Raised

Our second son is an attorney who specializes in elder law. He often counsels families on fine details of Granny and Pawpaw’s estate planning. The grandparents are often in their 90s, the kids in their 70s, and grandkids in their 50s. He says the 90s are a hot time in life – most folks got the math down pretty good and know a thing or two about saving for rainy days. They’ve got enough stashed away to give the great grandkids more than just good advice.


Chicken Sheet

I spent the weekend surrounded by other grandparents and two of our own grand kids. We whiled away Saturday aboard the Ex Libris, our sailboat, playing pirates on the Mississippi with a rowdy band of grandparents. There were a dozen other boats flying Jolly Rogers, flinging rubber chickens, and drenching opposing crews with water cannons. All of the scally wags were in proper attire and the letter right between Q and S (if I hear it one more time I’ll scream) was yelled more times than a hip-hop rapper can drop the F bomb.


Big G Won a Cutlass for Best Pirate Costume

When I was a kid during the middle of the last century it was politically correct to play cowboys and Indians. Our six shooters were filled with bright red rolls of caps. The pungent aroma of burnt power was one of the best smells of childhood, followed by a fresh can of Play Doh and the sugary scent of a slender slab of bubble gum that came free with baseball cards. We built forts in the woods and played baseball in back yards with out any adults tending to our super egos. If someone cheated he or she was summarily chased, caught, and pummeled.  Although the rules of any game changed depending on who’s house it was played – it was a given that somebody would break the rules. Wondering who and when was part of the fun. Getting away with breaking the rules and winning was pure ecstasy.

By middle age the smell of a new car pretty much topped burnt caps and our weekends were consumed watching our kids play games. They were very organized games with referees and red cards that could eject a player who broke the rules or a parent who dropped an F bomb (rather than the letter right smack between Q and S) right out of the park.


Cap’n Bloody Bruce’s Boat

But during all that time there was one toy that was ageless. A boat. Whether it has an engine, paddles, oars, or sails, a boat is simply one of the best toys ever invented. Boats enable people to play on or in water, dance with waves, float a dream, and drift way.   Donning a pirate hat, slipping into a worn pair of Top Siders, and raising the main sail piques the same imagination we had as kids. Pirates get to break the rules all the time! It’s their job to play dirty and Cheat! Grandpas leer at nauti-wenches and are rewarded with a sly wink and a soaking shot of river blasted from a PVC water cannon. Flasks of personal choice poison are quaffed and by day’s end the booty is surrendered.


Pirate by Day Grandma by Night

Boats bring forth one of the best scents of the good life – water. Playing pirates allows anybody to break the rules and play make believe on real boats. Eventually, I’ll have to sit down with my heirs and plan for rainy days when we can no longer float our boat. But thinking of Randy at work today – I am pretty confident that being only in his mid 30’s he is not expecting to inherit a boat for another quarter of a century. Who knows whether playing pirates today will be thought of tomorrow as yet another politically incorrect game of a generation who simply never grew up? Who cares? We got to keep the rubber chicken as a souvenir and I passed on my foam cutlass to our oldest granddaughter. Heck, maybe I’ll make her the captain someday and break the rules of inheritance etiquette. Argggghhhhh.


Nice Heir