Ericofrockport’s Weblog

Upon Visiting the Famous Tea Clipper CUTTY SARK, Greenwich, London, England
August 24, 2014, 10:13 am
Filed under: History, Philosophy, Sailing, Travel

Recently while on a business trip to Spain and Equatorial Guinea, I stopped in Greenwich, England for a few days. My purpose was to let my body “catch up” to the European Time Zone, but near my hotel were several historical sites which I wanted to see: the famous clipper ship, Cutty Sark, the old Navy War College, the National Maritime Museum, and the Greenwich Observatory/Prime Meridian.

I spent three nights in Greenwich and through the miracle of the internet and a laptop computer I spent my days preparing for my meetings in Spain, but each morning I would arise at five AM and get my coffee at “St. Arbucks”, Greenwich when they opened at 5:30. By 6:30 it was light enough to walk one hundred meters toward the Thames River and take pictures of the famous tea clipper, Cutty Sark, which has been completely restored. During the restoration the ship was raised 3 meters above the bottom of the dry dock where she has rested since 1954. Whereas her waterline used to be about level with the street, it is now about level with the glass roof of the museum structure which encloses the dry dock. The museum allows access to all three decks, the Lower Hold, the Tween Deck and the Weather Deck. In addition to access to all of the ship’s three decks, museum visitors can visit the café and other exhibits at the lower level at the bottom of the dry dock and literally stand under the keel of this amazing ship.


Thus I spent my early mornings, lunch times, and evenings taking pictures of the topsides and rigging of this old ship. The length of the many lines that make up the rigging of this ship add up to eleven miles of cordage and cables. As I marveled at the myriad of lines and realized that each has a specific purpose, I recalled a “relationship” diagram I once drew to illustrate to my children the many relationships that existed in our family of nine members. I traced a large circle on a sheet of paper and marked a dot on the circle circumference to represent each family member. Then I drew lines between each mark, the first one was bolder than the others and it connected Georgianna’s and my dot. This primary relationship line is key to all the other 35 lines. I like to think of this myriad of lines in our immediate family as somehow forming a graphical image of a flower that represents our family.

I spent one afternoon inside the museum and learned many things about this famous tea clipper. Just below the bow was a collection of figure heads from many sailing ships. The figurehead is a carving placed on the vessel’s bow under the bowsprit that represented the spirit of the ship. The Cutty Sark‘s collection of figureheads showcases some of the finest examples of this unique maritime art. This collection includes a whole host of characters from history, legend and literature, such as: Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Fry, William Wilberforce, Disraeli, Hiawatha and Sir Lancelot.

The Cutty Sark’s figure head is a carving of Nannie, the witch, from Robert Burn’s famous poem Tam O’Shanter. The ship’s name also came from this poem, Burns wrote in the Scottish vernacular, describing a drunken farmer, Tom, who is returning home late one stormy evening on his faithful horse Maggie. His curiosity gets the best of him when he notices a band of witches dancing to the pipes in an abandoned Kirk aflame with torches. He creeps close to get a better look and notices one young witch dancing in a short skirt, and overcome by his passion, he cries out “Weel done cutty sark” (well done short skirt). The church becomes immediately dark and Burns likens the witches’ egress to angry bees buzzing out of their hive after their foe. Tom is quickly on his steed fleeing the flying witches which Nannie leads:

Tom lost his reason all together,
And roars out: ‘ Well done, cutty-sark! ’
And in an instant all was dark;
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees buzz out with angry wrath,
When plundering herds assail their hive;
As a wild hare’s mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts running before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When ‘ Catch the thief! ’ resounds aloud:
So Maggie runs, the witches follow
With many an unearthly scream and holler.
Ah, Tom! Ah, Tom! You will get what’s coming!
In hell they will roast you like a herring!
In vain your Kate awaits your coming!
Kate soon will be a woeful woman!
Now, do your speedy utmost, Meg,
And beat them to the key-stone of the bridge;
There, you may toss your tail at them,
A running stream they dare not cross!
But before the key-stone she could make,
She had to shake a tail at the fiend;
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie pressed,
And flew at Tam with furious aim;
But little knew she Maggie’s mettle!
One spring brought off her master whole,
But left behind her own grey tail:
The witch caught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

Most people know this famous tea clipper for the Scotch Whiskey named after it, but I do not believe it ever carried such a cargo of “John Barelycorn” as Burns refers to whiskey. Built in Scotland, it was designed for the China tea trade, but she later carried wool from Australia to England. Near the end of the famous tea clipper’s life and near the end of the US prohibition a British distiller named a new brand of Scotch Whiskey Cutty Sark after the famous ship.

The final evening in Greenwich a full moon was rising over and through the rigging of the Cutty Sark and as I took a few last photos I reflected on the romance of the age of sail: “ships of wood and men of iron”. I thought of the ship’s interesting name and figurehead, the Robert Burns poem, and the Scotch whiskey that bears its name today and the inseparable tie between seafarers and the addiction to alcohol. As a second generation professional mariner I have seen firsthand this unfortunate relationship, and as I gazed on the top of the Cutty Sark’s main mask I thought of what Proverbs 23 says about alcohol addiction and seafaring three thousand years ago (verses 31-35):

Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.
“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall awake? I must have another drink.” 


Mimi’s 90th Birthday Party
November 16, 2013, 11:18 am
Filed under: Family, Philosophy

Recently our family celebrated my mother in law’s 90th birthday. It was with great joy, love and appreciation that we, about 40 of her children: natural, adopted, grand, and great grand, joined with another 30 or 40 of her longtime friends, to honor the legend.

There are several attributes of this life that help explain its legendary quality. The first that comes to mind is her faith in Jesus and the contentment she practiced as she walked with Him through many trials and many blessings.

Now in her last years she doesn’t remember much in the short term, but she remembers with striking clarity many aspects of her life including the day Jesus walked through her house; and she recounts it with the vivid detail that I recall the very first time she shared it with me 30 years ago.

It seems that our behavior in old age reflects the habits we make throughout our life. Mimi is such a joy to be around because she is content, and she is content because she has practiced contentment all her life. She is a living example of one that has “rejoiced always, in everything has given thanks”. What a great legacy to leave us her children. Whenever I think of Eleanor Craven, I wonder, “Oh Lord what have I ever done to deserve a wife, like Georgianna” and when I think that I’m not such a bad guy and so on, then I ponder “Oh Lord what have I ever done to deserve a mother-in-law like Eleanor Craven” and the heavy answer settles on me, grinding me into the dust of the ground: “God has had mercy on you”. To me Eleanor and her family have fulfilled much of the exciting scriptural promise:

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

As we drove home from the party the 3 hour drive seemed just a few minutes as Georgianna read to her mother and I the many kind words of appreciation, love, and fond remembrances written by her old friends. Many of these friends included coworkers from Bible Study Fellowship where she served for 18 years, as well as neighbors and many others that her life had touched.

In these last years I have often called Mimi in the afternoon and asked her to pray with me about some need in my life or someone else’s. And I behold the glorious mystery described in scripture:

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Our conversation goes something like this: she might ask me where she is; but then a moment later, when I ask her to pray with me about something, I see this great mystery: the instant transformation in one breath from a perishing elderly lady to a vibrant strong prayer warrior able by faith to cast down great principalities and powers in high places and every vain thing raised up against the knowledge of God. I see with my own eyes the invisible trumping the visible.

I will end with Mimi’s favorite extra biblical quotation: “Dance like no one is watching, work like you don’t need the money, and love like you’ve never been hurt”.

Sixty-fifth Birthday Adventure
August 2, 2013, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Philosophy, Sailing

I have always been interested in extreme sports. For most of my life we did not call it extreme, sometimes they were referred to as dare devil behavior and practiced by only a few.  The first group that comes to mind were the Acapulco cliff divers, then maybe mountain climbers, and finally sky divers. I was somewhat enamored by Richard Halliburton’s book about travel and adventure, The Royal Road to Romance, though I never really understood the definition of romance until I read the forward to G.K. Chesterton’s book, Orthodoxy.


“How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world, and yet at home in it?…I wish to set forth my faith as particularly answering this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly named romance. For….nearly all people I have ever met in this western society in which I live would agree to the general proposition that we need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.”


So on my 65th birthday I was looking for something to do that was different, Halliburton swam the Panama Canal, about fifty miles; Chesterton wove an interesting tale to illustrate his definition of romance. He urged his reader to imagine himself as a great explorer going forth from his home in England to discover new, exciting, and profitable lands. After a very long time at sea he finally discovers a new large island. His great excitement soon reaches a fever pitch as he finds evidence that the population of this new land must be well advanced and there will probably be many opportunities for trade and the introduction of new profitable products into the British and European economy. And yet this explorer soon discovers that this new land is the island of Great Brittan and after months or years away from home, he is actually a few days from his own home, wife, and family. What contrasting emotions one would feel in a short interval of time.


I’m sure that some would consider Golf a romantic adventure, but nothing short of playing 16 holes at Saint Andrews with George MacDonald, John Knox, & Eric Liddell would move me.


In my quest for romance and adventure on this birthday that some consider a milestone I had scheduled vacation and had planned 6 months ago to work up to swimming 4-5 miles in the pool then swim across Aransas Bay (5.5M. Well I swam 3M the week before at lunch and got a good sunburn (I usually swim early or late). I was wiped out for several days as much from the sun exposure as the swim. I asked my good friend, Steve and his family to go with me: one of the four kids would be kayaking with me following and the dad and the rest of the family circling in our Ranger29 sloop in a stand-by mode. Things began to go south when the weather forecast turned windy after a month of no wind till noon and minor engine failures put the our boat out of commission. So we canceled.


When I awoke at 5:30 on my birthday I saw the wind was up early from the SSW and I decided to go for another adventurer. For some years I wanted to circumnavigate St Joseph Island, the barrier island seaward of Aransas bay. So I hauled my sunfish to Port Aransas and launched between the pier and the jetty though a pretty choppy 3-4′ surf. I almost gave up, but I eventually got through the surf and sailed around the ends of the jetties and north just a few yards off the St. Joe beach in the first gut. The 20 mile run down the beach was uneventful except for a capsize about five miles north of the jetty. This is normally par for the course, but since this was a spur of the moment adventure I failed to check the mast float which turned out to be holed and the rig sank and the hull turned completely over. The situation was acerbated by being in the surf zone with frequent 3 – 4’ breakers pounding us. Both spars were broken along with the rudder and fortunately all the sail rings let go, which was a blessing and kept the sail from ripping.


After two hours of tracking down floating parts and jury rigging the sail, I rigged the longest spar remnant as the upper spar and loose footed the sail. I continued on and made Cedar Bayou by 6:30 PM. I drug the boat across the 200 yards of sand with the help of a full sail and the succulent sand verbena that grew thickly on the sand. I must say that after an hour in the surf trying to right the overturned boat and 5 hours crouched in the cockpit I was in no shape to have pulled it across on my own.


Once I was sailing downwind through the serene peaceful Cedar Bayou I celebrated with the last of the saltwater soaked snacks. As I entered Mesquite Bay, turned west toward Live Oak Peninsula and home, I realized that I would not arrive untill well after dark. I was hoping that I would be able to cross the 3 or 4 oyster shell reefs ahead before complete darkness, and that I did. As I crossed Carlos Bay during twilight, I was hoping to round the last spoil island adjacent to the ICW near Black Jack Peninsula before total dark; this was achieved as well, due to the unusually high elevation and its flat top.  The dark profile was visible as the last rays of light kept the western sky just light enough for me to continue to discern the bank’s outline until I was in the open water of Aransas Bay.  I crossed the ICW and made for the lights of the Kon Tiki resort on the end of Live Oak Peninsula.  I did see what I thought were the lights and sounds of an airboat, which I believed was my friend Steve Meinhausen. I later found out that he and his son Matt were out searching for me. At 10:15 I made landfall on the HEB resort property near the Kon Tiki Resort.  Crossing the bay that night I realized my strength was failing and I made extra effort to avoid capsizing.


I was not looking forward to eating my own words that I advised my friend Steve: “the ocean is an alien hostile environment and when we talk about Murphy’s Law at sea we refer to it is Murphy’s3 (cubed)”.


I made several mistakes:

  • I failed to check my gear; I should have noticed the UV aging of the plastic bottle float. This should be changed at the beginning of each summer, as it cost nothing and takes 5 minutes to change and can save a lot of angsts if or rather when one capsizes.
  • I was not in good enough condition to sail a sunfish for 10 hours, I had not sailed a board boat more than an hour at a time in the past 5 years and I had not sailed one in the gulf surf for 10 – 15 years.
  • I went alone.


Several things that I was glad I did right:


  • I took plenty of drinking water and secured it to the mask.
  • I used sunscreen and kept my entire body covered up.
  • I took an extra rudder.
  • I wore a life vest.
  • I knew this stretch of the gulf beach well and understood how easy it might have been to sail right past Cedar Bayou.
  • I had adequate heavy soled rubber shoes to walk across the oyster shell reefs.


Marsha gave me a Ranger29
December 11, 2012, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Sailing

The most amazing thing happened to me last September (2011). Our dear friend Marsha asked us to look for a houseboat for her and her husband. They had lived in our home town, Rockport, years ago and having previously lived on a sailboat, Marsha wanted to move back to Rockport and live on a house boat.

About a year and a half earlier I had been given a Ranger22 sloop and I realized that because of the economy, market saturation, recent hurricanes and other factors it was a buyer’s market for fiberglass boats. As I pondered this and her request I thought about the internet and eBay; a website where almost everything is sold to the highest bidder. This was unusual for me to do, since I work on the computer all day long and the last thing I want to do at 5 PM is “get on eBay”. But that day I did and I quickly realized that there were no houseboats for sale and that it was stupid to look for a bargain boat on eBay. I was well aware of the folly of this, because if one finds a “as is where is bargain”, what is the chance that the boat would be close enough to pickup, without incurring great expence?

Well since I was already there, I thought I would browse the sailboat listings and soon I saw a Ranger29. This boat interested me only because it was designed by the late Gary Mull, a leading edge yacht designer of the 60s & 70s. Gary also designed the Ranger22, which I was in love with. Gary’s innovative career was cut short when he died of cancer at 55, but he had an unusually productive run designing a string of great boats for Jensen Marine. Jensen did a remarkable job translating Gary’s genus into a reality that stood the test of time. Not to mention that the boats were fast and handled well.

So my interest in this boat on eBay was purely an intellectual one that any Gary Mull “groupie” would pursue while browsing the internet or any old issue of Sail magazine. As I looked at the picture of this 40 year old boat I marveled at how shiny the topsides were, it almost looked like the gel coat was new. I was intrigued by the current bid of $400 and as I looked closer I saw that it was being sold by a nonprofit ministry that took cars and boat donations and simply flogged them on small

I was further amused by what looked like a shrimp boat in the background of one of the photographs. I thought, this boat is not in Honolulu or Ketchikan, Alaska, this boat is on the gulf coast somewhere from Florida to Texas. I felt pleased that this detail had not escaped my casual glance, but as I looked again I recognized a man standing on the dock nearby, he worked for the Navigation District, who operates the marina in Rockport. I see this man almost daily on my morning bike ride. I sat back and drew a deep breath as the realization sunk in my mind: this boat was sitting in the harbor just a half a mile away. I went to bed that night pondering what this might mean.

The next day I looked again and the current bid was $640 and at lunch I rode my bike to the marina and quickly located the boat. It appeared to be in very good condition given its age. The teak bright work defiantly needed to be cleaned up and varnished, but overall it looked great. As I rode my bike back home I began to silently talk to myself: “Why are you so interested in this boat, you have the boat you want to restore and enjoy for the rest of your life?” “Yes, but this boat is very interesting and may be the buy of a lifetime.” “Why would you buy something you don’t need or want, you still have kids at home and in college?” “Because it will probably sell for less than $2000 and it could be sold for much more.” “Do you really have that amount of money to speculate with?” “Oh Well, if I don’t want it I probably have three friends that would love to have it.”

And so the internal dialog went over the next day. I continued to watch it, but the current bid did not change from $640. I looked around the internet and found 5 other Ranger29s for sale. All the boats were about the same age as Jensen only built them from 1971 – 1975. The lowest asking price was $5000 and the pictures indicated that while it was probably operational it had not been maintained very well. There were three others that looked better and they were going from 9 – 12K. Then I found one in great shape and loaded with sails and equipment for 35K.

My conversation with myself heated up as the clock approached 5PM, one full day before closing. At six PM I picked up the phone and dialed my friend’s number, when Art answered I said: “Art, this is Eric and I have been watching a boat on eBay and it is located right here in Rockport and I have decided not to bid on it and I thought this boat would be perfect for you. You might get it for 1 – 2K and it needs an engine, but otherwise is in great shape, especially for a 40 year old boat. I thought of you first because you have already bought two boats, fixed them up, enjoyed them with your family and sold them.” Art quickly got online and said: “Eric, I already bought that boat (pause), I already fixed that boat up, and I already sold that boat.” I thought “what is he talking about?” Art explained that this was one of the boats he had purchased and had owned it about 10 years ago. As we talked we pieced together the picture. Art had sold the boat to a gentleman from Laredo who had also invested time and money maintaining the boat. The owner had cancer and passed away before completing the refit of the interior and his wife donated the boat. Whereas Art had concentrated on the exterior, this gentleman had concentrated on the interior. Art was puzzled at the only detail in the eBay listing that described the boats current condition: No Motor – None.

Art explained that the vessel had a diesel engine when he sold it and that the owner had installed a new marine diesel three years prior at a cost of 12K. Needless to say I was becoming much more interested in this boat. All my life I had wanted to own a diesel engine. As a boy I continually fought with gasoline engines that refused to start; I mowed lawns and the mowers in the 1950s and early 60s could be very cross and uncooperative especially to a 11 year old boy, but the big 6 cylinder diesel on my dad’s shrimp boat, the Conte Bianco, always started. This vessel was also equipped with a one cylinder Lister diesel which was used as an auxiliary bilge pump and generator. This small, but heavy engine was started by a hand crank. My dad taught me how to start it. This cool British racing green engine never failed to start: put the crank on the shaft and turn on the decompression valve, so that the engine turns over easily, crank the engine getting the massive flywheel going as fast as you could, disengage the crank, put it aside, and then turn off the decompression switch: “Pow! Pow Pow! Pow Pow Pow!”, and it runs. This slow speed British made diesel engine was designed to run thousands of hours with minimum maintenance. I wanted to own at least one diesel engine during my lifetime. I wanted a diesel VW Rabbit so bad, but could not afford to buy a new one or find a used one in good condition within my price range.

So now I was sorely tempted, Art said nothing about wanting to buy the boat, but offered to get the key from the Navigation District, since his name was still on file, and we could go aboard for an inspection at 2 PM tomorrow. Two PM tomorrow? The bid was closing at 5 PM tomorrow! What if Art got tied up with his job. The antagonist voice within me was growing weaker and the thought of owning at least one diesel engine was causing a growing aura of excitement and well being to spread over me.

2 PM, the bidding had been quiet for over 24 hours and still at $640, I met Art at the boat and in less than 60 seconds we were below and had opened the engine hatch under the salon steps and there sat a fire engine red two cylinder Westerbeak Marine diesel engine and it looked brand new. We checked the oil and it was full and nice and black as oil always is in a diesel engine. As I looked around at the in-progress restoration of the interior, I found an almost new marine central AC unit, a new sewage holding tank and evidence that the boat’s electrical system had been recently redone. Art was back on deck and reported that the engine console reported that the engine had only been run 21 hours, not even half of the 50 hours break-in period. The salon table and stove was missing, probably removed to make room for the refit.

I thanked Art and as I drove home I was almost numb, in one hour the bidding would close. I called my son Michael who seemed to be always setting his alarm for some odd time during the night to get up and “snipe” something on eBay. I asked: “How do I buy a boat on eBay?” Michael said:”Do you have an eBay account?” and I said: “No.” He told me to sign up for an account as soon as possible, and then he would tell me how to buy the boat. I quickly signed up and got my Ebay login and password, then called Michael back. He said that I should decide what my maximum bid would be, and enter that amount and when the confirmation screen came back: “Please confirm your maximum bid of $1440.00?”, that I should wait to click OK until 10 seconds before the closing. He said launch another window so that you see both screens and watch the time. This I did, but was so excited that I could not wait for the prescribed 10 seconds; I clicked OK at 20 seconds from closing. I then glanced to the other window and noticed that price began to turn and then stopped at $1225. For a second or two I did not understand that I had won the bid. I eventually realized that the max bid allows the system to automatically bid at $25 increments to stay at the top. It turns out someone else had made a max bid of $1200 in the last few seconds and I won with an automatic bid $25 more.

I could not believe I bought the boat. Then I got scared, I was afraid that after this experience I would become a hooked gambler on eBay. It really was intoxicating, but I am happy to say that it has almost been a year and I have bought nothing else on eBay.

I was happy to take possession of the boat and after changing the oil and replacing the starting battery, was able to take the boat out after cleaning the oysters off prop. I have been very happy with the boat and my family & I have sailed and motored many hours over the past nine months.Desktop Background

It was a year or so before acquiring the Ranger22 that I said one day: “I will never have a boat too large to transport on top of my Ford Explorer”. I was not quite sure where this thought came from, but it seemed unnaturally neutral. Since I am a black or white type person I rarely have neutral thoughts or opinions, but in this case I could not discern if this thought carried the flavor of being bitter or relieved. I believe God has a sense of humor, because since I made that statement I have acquired two boats that have a combined weight of 9,000 pounds. This is amusing because I believe the roof of my Explorer would be maxed out with one 14’ Sunfish sailboat which, with accessories and a little saltwater, would only weigh about 400 pounds.

What do you want to be called?
March 16, 2012, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Marriage

What do you want to be called?  Men struggle with a question like this, but women don’t.  They don’t want to be called “grandma”.  So they ask each other this question so they can avoid feeling guilty, like this is submission to peer pressure or the current fad, but certainly not a desire to be young and not a grandma who offers her grand children graham crackers and milk,  though she cannot really remember when Dr. Graham first introduced his Honey Briskets. So she asked me for the umpteenth time: “What do you want to be called?” and since my silence, to this question, had become awkward, my mind went to the latest book that I had been reading to her. A novel Grant and Wilbur describe as:  “big, brash, and boisterous… Moby Dick proved to be a multilayered novel of expansive scope, subtle intrigue, and stunning exploits. … Powerful scenic images, and a rip-roaring series of illusions, cons, ploys, …”.  If the women want to be called after some young French model, then I should be called after some of the heroic men in this novel, the only drawback is they all seemed to be old: Captians Peleg, Bildad,  & Ahab and Mister Starbuck the chief mate. The athletic champion harpooner was Queequeg, but he was a heathen covered with tattoos. So I just sighed and in response to her repeated question I quoted the first line of the book: “Call me Ishmael”. So the news of my grandson’s birth came at 4:03 PM this past Monday; a text from Georgianna: “Hello Ishmael”.

Eagles Play World Cup Rugby Match in Stadium Taranaki
September 27, 2011, 1:49 am
Filed under: Travel | Tags: , ,

My friend recently visited New Zealand and while she was there she drove across the island to New Plymouth to take in a World Cup Rugby match. Georgianna & I lived in New Plymouth intermittently in the late seventies. She brought me a program from the match and I enjoyed it so much the memories flooded back and I waxed eloquent in the following thank you email:

Hi dear friend;
Georgianna told me you had a great trip. What a special place. The program ( World Cup Rugby, Ireland vs USA at Stadium Taranaki) you passed on was terrific! I played five seasons of rugby in college and thoroughly enjoyed it. Four loves of my life crossed in the program: rugby, New Zealand, America, and the Taranaki Peninsula. I devoured the program and it did not escape me that some of the Irish players hailed from the Munster Rugby Club, in Cork Ireland. In the summer of 1970, while our A&M training ship was visiting Cork, some of our group visited this club and played a game of sevens, a casual game with a reduced number of players, with some of the old boys that were hanging around their club pub. Afterward we had a few pints with these old boys, which at least one, “Noisy Noel” ( ), had played on the UK international team, the Lions, back in the 50s and 60s. We young Americans convinced that we were sitting on holy ground, spent the afternoon quietly sipping Gunnis and listening with wide eye reverence to story after story about international rugby.

When we got back to the ship our fellow midshipmen boasted about the charming Irish girls they met, but we silently pondered the afternoon we had with our Rugby Heros.

Thoughts on preparing for Christian Marriage
August 6, 2011, 11:54 am
Filed under: Marriage

From the perspective of a 63 year old neophyte who will celebrate 40 years of marriage this November 19th, who still doesn’t get it sometimes.

This holy covenant between a man and a woman can only be sustained by the power of God’s might. I believe that when Christians marry their union with each other and Christ has great potential for a depth that is unknown to non-Christians. But along with this great blessing comes a real danger that we as Christian husbands and wives must face. Since marriage is a picture of the spiritual relationship between Christ and His bride the Church, Satan is carrying on warfare against marriage, especially Christian marriage. Therefore I offer the following as advice, admonition, and warning from one who has been a Christian 38 years and has been married almost 40 to a Godly woman: 1) Do not enter into this lifetime commitment lightly, 2) Consciously guard your thoughts, and 3) Resist Satan by memorizing God’s Word.
We as an affluent Church in the American culture have not done well in the arena of marriage, as statistics indicate that those who would call themselves “Christians” have a similar divorce rate than non-Christians. So as one embarks on this road to marriage, my council is to take heed of the scripture: 1 Peter 5:8 ”Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
One of his most powerful weapons are the fiery darts that he casts into our minds: thoughts, not our thoughts or God’s thoughts, but lies, lies of the most insidious kind, designed to destroy relationship first with God, then with our beautiful brides, children, friends and so on down the line. We must not believe the lies of the enemy. One way that I urge you to guard your heart and mind is by committing large sections of scripture to memory and meditating on those scriptures.
Only by saturating our minds with God’s wisdom can we clearly identify the lie of the enemy that he sows in our mind. Just like the bank tellers in times past were never exposed to counterfeit money, even in their training programs. They were only to handle real currency, so they would be able to quickly recognize counterfeit bills and reject them! There is no time like the present to begin or to continue to commit large portions of the Word of God to memory. I once heard a man describe how he engaged in this activity while in college and even though he had less time to study his grades improved. No doubt when we do this we are seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness..
One more word about spiritual warfare, although I believe that Satan cannot read our minds, he no doubt has a pretty good record of all that has gone into our minds over the years through the various gates: hearing, sight, touch, etc. Since he watches us, and hears our conversations, he may have a pretty good idea of what we are thinking at any point in time, and therefore his fiery darts, his lies, can be very effective. In fact some people just think these are their thoughts and take ownership, condemning or excusing themselves, while still others foolishly believe they are from God.
But the scripture says we should resist Satan and he will flee from us. By meditating on the scripture that we have memorized, we become very sensitive to these counterfeit thoughts and we should not only reject them, but quickly identify the source and audibly resist Satan and his plan for us. (Don’t try to resist him with your mind and thoughts alone, since I doubt he can hear you). Stand on that promise: resist Satan and he will flee. I have experienced this over the years, and it has been reinforced by Godly mentors. One of my favorite theologians, Major Ian Thomas, pictures our need to saturate our minds and spirits with God’s Word by telling a story about a father and mother who have a son who does not eat well. He always asks his parents for food and says he is hungry, but he never eats a meal. He only dips his finger in one of the courses and tastes it. He then looks full into their faces and cries out, “You do not understand, I am hungry, why don’t you feed me?” When he was a baby his father began to plan for him to one day help him in his work, but now the boy of about 10 has never learned to walk, because he has no strength and his muscles have not developed. He is emaciated and lies on his bed too weak to move. Ian Thomas goes on to comment on how grievous this must be to his parents, but how much more do we do this to God. We Christians in America, who have been saved and experienced the new birth and begun to grow as a spiritual man are intended to bear much fruit in Christ. Knowing this, we cry out to God to lead us, to empower us, to do something great in us for Christ, to feed us. And like the boy’s parents He brings us a feast of the richness of His Word, and we dip in our finger and taste, then we cry out again to God confessing our weakness and brokenness and our need for him, but we do not consume His Word, and so we are weak and emaciated spiritually and can do little.
This passage from 2 Timothy chapter 2, also speaks to our need to commit the Word of God to memory:
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith– to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen
Romans 6:25-27

My Yard: the coolest yard in the world!
June 17, 2011, 12:46 am
Filed under: Philosophy

I know that my house is cool because one Sunday morning a woman from Austin drove slowly down my street and peered out her window and said: “You have a very cool house”.  After I received this confirmation I extended it to my yard, which is  always light years cooler than my house.  There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting out in my yard under the many large live oaks in the early morning reading my Bible and praying. Things only  get cooler when I move my lawn sprinkler and it makes a move on me before I can  choke the water off.   I’m not sure how  old the well is, but it is relatively deep and the water is 70 degrees year  round.  Mix it with my cotton tee-shirt and I’m cool till the sun is quite high.

But nothing is cooler than coming up with an interesting new  analogy.  Last summer I was sitting out  one morning and as I read the Gospel of John I began to think about the Holy Spirit and how in scripture He is likened to the wind.

The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where  it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  –   John 3:8

As I sat under the large canopy of four big trees and looked to the south where two more trees moved to a fresh  breeze I  pondered the miracle of nature that was taking place in front of me.  The trunks of these massive trees bring fresh water and nutrients up from the earth to the branches and ultimately the  leaves. The wind blows through and shakes the branches and the leaves supplying  the life-giving carbon dioxide to the living ones and breaking off the dead  ones. The sun shines down on the leaves that have been supplied with water, nutrients,  and carbon dioxide and the miracle of photosynthesis takes place. Through this  process the branches produce fruit the leaves exhale oxygen as waste. Considering  these things, I could not help making the analogy to the Holy Trinity that is  at work in the spiritual realm.

The massive oak trunks are like the Vine of Christ:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me  you can do nothing.” John 15:5. The Vine gives us Christians, the branches and  leaves, living water and nutrients which cause us to do what the Vine has  planned for us.

The wind is the Holy Spirit blowing through the branches and  leaves, breathing on us the very Spirit of God.  He is a convicting Spirit, and as we desire to breathe in His  forgiveness, we must first exhale, or confess our sin.

The sun is the Father shining his countenance down on us,  approving and sustaining what is happening, and ultimately working the miracle  in our life for which he foreordained us in Christ: that we bear much  fruit.

I have loved analogies all my life, even before that word  was part of my vocabulary.  I remember my first try at making an analogy, in another cool yard.  I was two years old and we lived on the top of a hill in the southern Californian village of El Cajon, just a few miles inland  from the coastal city of San Diego.   It  was a very steep hill and our driveway struck fear in any flat land Texan who visited  us.  We had a small grassy yard and at  the back of it a pile of house sized  boulders crowned the top of our hill.  I  remember saying to my mother with a finger pointed up at these massive  rocks:  “God lives up there”.

Then later in my childhood I loved models, models of any  ilk, mechanical, marine, or both.  I  loved ships, I guess, because my father was a shrimper and had a gulf shrimp  boat with a powerful 671 GM diesel main engine and a one cylinder Lister diesel  auxiliary that ran a 32 volt DC generator and a bilge pump, very cool stuff to a young boy.

One of his deck hands was also a carpenter, boat builder,  self-taught naval architect, and artist.  This surprising man, when not employed or drinking, spent his time  building museum quality models of a particular class of sailing vessels that  traded between the manufacturing center of the northeast and the developing  southwest.  These three-masted schooners  hauled manufactured goods to Texas ports in the late 1800s and returned with  cargos of Texas lumber and cotton. His models were so accurate that they were  almost as good as the real thing. Because of Don Sellers, I too took up  modeling, and in junior high I learned a wonderful formula that would become a  favorite tool in model making.  If I were  building a model of a 65 ft. sailboat with an 18 ft. beam to scale and the  block of wood that I had to carve it out of was 20 inches long, I would  first need to use this tool to calculate the beam of my model:  20 is to 65 as X is to 18, where X is theunknown dimension of the beam of the model.  The means times the extremes would give me the answer!

20/65 = X/18,  360 = 65X,  5.5 in = the beam  of my 20 in model

Years later, when I learned more about analogies, I realized that my favorite equation was also the basic syntax of an analogy.  The wind is to the leaves  as the Holy Spirit is to Christians, and so on.

On that subject, there is one more analogy that is dear to  my heart and home.  I remember when my  children were babies; I found that when one was crying hard, if I blew in its  face that it would stop and take a deep breath.   It seemed that this was an involuntary  reflex.  I thought this must have been  the trigger that God designed in them to breathe that first  breath when they  moved from being submerged in the water of their mother’s womb into the atmosphere  containing oxygen.   So in the same way, at  the time of our new birth in Christ when we are presented with the life-giving  Spirit of God, when the Holy Spirit blows on our life with the conviction of  sin and the promise of forgiveness, we instantly exhale the waste of our lives,  toxic sin, and breathe in the life-giving Spirit.  Thus the cycle goes on until we see our blessed  hope, Jesus, recognize Him as he really is, and become like him: full of the  spirit of God and freed from the sin that so easily entangles us.

All this happened in our cool yard, but when I first saw  this yard 39 years ago, it was far from cool, it was hot, dry and full of dry sticker  burrs and the massive live oak trees were in poor condition and needed trimming  badly.  In fact although my wife  Georgianna wanted to buy the property, I was not so sure.  It needed a husbandman, to care for it, to  pull up the sticker burrs, mow and water the grass, and trim the trees.  As I walked through the yard that day I saw a  well and it was working and produced cool fresh water.  Over the years with consistent care our yard  has become the envy of the neighborhood. During the first year of our residence  I began to catch sight of another well, a well of eternal life, I began to see  Jesus and understand just who he is:  Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

 Have this mind  among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did  not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,   but made himself nothing, taking the form of  a servant, being born in the likeness of men.   And being found in human form, he humbled  himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and  bestowed on him the name that is above every name,   so that at the name of Jesus every knee  should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is  Lord, to the glory of God the Father.                ~ Philippians 2:5 – 11

January 29, 2011, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Travel

All of my 62 years have been lived near the sea, 57 years of them on a flat coastal plain with the continental shelf extending for miles seaward. The  slope of the land here is so infinitesimal that it might have been a parking lot so disgustingly flat that when water is poured out it cannot decide which way to run.

It is ironic that I got started crawling and toddling on the top of a hill in the dry coastal ranges of the Cuyamaca Mountains of southern California, just 10 miles inland from the great deep water natural harbor that we call San Diego Bay.  During this time in the late 1940s this  strategic natural harbor was home to thriving fleets of Italian and Portuguese tuna fishermen which  my father, who was English, French, and Scotch-Irish was able to join because of his dark hair, fishing ability and fitness.  So my first memories outside were in our small backyard on the top of a steep hill.  Behind our house running alongside and behind our yard was a unique outcrop of room sized boulders that crowned our hill.  As a toddler of two I would point up to these boulders, which seemed to tower above our house, and say “God lives up there”.

It was later I learned that just on the other side of these boulders our neighbor had a gold mine with a real tunnel and rail car running  into the side of the next hill.  But I was rudely swept away from my mountain top just before my third birthday when we moved to the salt marches of south Texas, to Rockport, a small fishing village on Aransas Bay. The south end of this bay was connected to the Gulf of Mexico by Aransas Pass.

I would be constrained to this plain existence for the next sixteen years until I visited briefly the fjords and mountains of Norway and Ireland. As our school ship from the Texas Maritime Academy steamed up the Oslo Fjord and I gazed out across the green fields and pastures that sloped up toward real mountains, the view was almost like that from an airplane looking down on the landscape.

Five years later I would get a glimpse of a hot mountain in the wee hours of a hot tropical morning in March 1972.  During the dark hours just before dawn I witnessed  the Kilauea Volcano spewing fire and molten rock hundreds of feet into the air almost a mile above me as I sat drifting off the Hawaiian coast.  I was 3rd mate on the Steam Ship Inger,  awaiting  entrance at the port of Hilo, where we were to load raw sugar. We could not anchor due to the extreme water depth, even close to the shore.  This volcano, one of the most active on earth, rises only 4,000 feet above sea level, considerably less than its dormant sister Mauna Kea to the north, at  13,796 ft above the sea.  What is more staggering is that this island of Hawaii is really the tallest mountain on earth, rising more than six miles above the abyssal plain of the central Pacific Ocean.   The next day I was able to rent a car and explore the lava flows at close range.

Three years later however I would begin a two year relationship with a mountain that has marked my life since.  In the fall of 1975 I began a 8,229 nautical mile voyage that took me through the Panama Canal and the Cook Strait to the foot of Mount Egmount on the Taranaki peninsula of New Zealand’s north island. Now called Mount Taranaki, it towers  8,261 feet above the Tasman Sea.  Because it is one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones  in the world it is often called the  Mount Fuji of the southern hemisphere.  Its peak, covered with snow year round, was ever present to us as we did our pipe laying work off the coast and took time off exploring this beautiful land.

I close my account of my love affair with mountains with a passage on the subject  from one of my favorite authors, George MacDonald, from chapter one of The Princess and Curdie.

A mountain is a strange and awful thing. In old times, without knowing so much of their strangeness and awfulness as we do, people were yet more afraid of mountains. But then somehow they had not come to see how beautiful they are as well as awful, and they hated them – and what people hate they must fear. Now that we have learned to look at them with admiration, perhaps we do not feel quite awe enough of them. To me they are beautiful terrors.

I will try to tell you what they are. They are portions of the heart of the earth that have escaped from the dungeon down below, and rushed up and out. For the heart of the earth is a great wallowing mass, not of blood, as in the hearts of men and animals, but of glowing hot, melted metals and stones. And as our hearts keep us alive, so that great lump of heat keeps the earth alive: it is a huge power of buried sunlight – that is what it is.

Now think: out of that cauldron, where all the bubbles would be as big as the Alps if it could get room for its boiling, certain bubbles have bubbled out and escaped – up and away, and there they stand in the cool, cold sky – mountains. Think of the change, and you will no more wonder that there should be something awful about the very look of a mountain: from the darkness – for where the light has nothing to shine upon, much the same as darkness – from the heat, from the endless tumult of boiling unrest – up, with a sudden heavenward shoot, into the wind, and the cold, and the starshine, and a cloak of snow that lies like ermine above the blue-green mail of the glaciers; and the great sun, their grandfather, up there in the sky; and their little old cold aunt, the moon, that comes wandering about the house at night; and everlasting stillness, except for the wind that turns the rocks and caverns into a roaring organ for the young archangels that are studying how to let out the pent-up praises of their hearts, and the molten music of the streams, rushing ever from the bosoms of the glaciers fresh born.

Think, too, of the change in their own substance – no longer molten and soft, heaving and glowing, but hard and shining and cold. Think of the creatures scampering over and burrowing in it, and the birds building their nests upon it, and the trees growing out of its sides, like hair to clothe it, and the lovely grass in the valleys, and the gracious flowers even at the very edge of its armour of ice, like the rich embroidery of the garment below, and the rivers galloping down the valleys in a tumult of white and green! And along with all these, think of the terrible precipices down which the traveller may fall and be lost, and the frightful gulfs of blue air cracked in the glaciers, and the dark profound lakes, covered like little arctic oceans with floating lumps of ice.

September 26, 2010, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Philosophy, Sailing


The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.                                  -John 3:8

Wind is a manifestation of the sun’s energy as it impacts the earth.  Since the earth rotates once every 24 hours its surface experiences 12 hours of heating followed by 12 hours of cooling.  This temperature inequality causes the horizontal movement of air we call wind. 

If the earth did not rotate on its axis once each day, but constantly presented one hemisphere toward the sun, as the moon does, it is estimated that the sunny side of the earth would experience continuous temperatures in excess of 600 degrees Fahrenheit while the temperature of dark side would remain near -190 degrees.

Given the same atmosphere, this extreme inequality could result in surface winds of 300 to 500 miles per hour as atmospheric circulation attempted in vain to moderate these differences in temperature. Just think what that would do to the fishing!

In the summer the winds in the Texas coastal bend usually blow from the southeast at 5 – 25 miles per hour; the gusty afternoon sea breeze moderating the south Texas heat.  While adjacent inland areas are experiencing temperatures around 100 degrees Fahrenheit the cooler onshore flow keeps Rockport’s daily maximum near 90 degrees.

These conditions make the Texas coastal bend a destination for avid windsurfers from across the USA and Canada. Windsurfing, a young sport, is only about 40 years old and is also very popular in Europe.  During the 1980s it was the fastest growing sport in the world, quickly achieving Olympic status. In France, races are even held indoors in large swimming pools equipped with powerful fans.  In April of 2008 Antoine Albeau set a new world speed sailing record in France. He used a custom speed board and a 4.8 square meter sail to hold an average speed of 49.09 knots (56.5 MPH) over a 500 meter course in a “ditch” specifically constructed for the event.

The windsurfer uses his skill to maintain a delicate balance between his body weight and the pressure the wind exerts on the sail.  As a result the board begins to plane on the surface of the water and speeds as great as 56 miles per hour are possible.

Are the inequalities of life driving you “as the surf of the sea is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6b) or are you riding above these “unfair” circumstances as the windsurfer planes over the tops of the waves harnessing this seemingly free energy?

A fool scoffs or curses God when things go wrong, but a wise man asks the profound questions about life:

Who am I?

Where did I come from?

Where am I going?

How do I get there?

The political climate in Israel two thousand years ago was charged with inequalities.  The Romans ruled the nation of Israel with an iron hand.  A Jewish puppet government was allowed to reign as long as order was maintained and taxes paid to Caesar.  Jesus of Nazareth was gaining a following with the common people.  He explained the scriptures “as one with authority”.  His teaching was authenticated by signs and wonders: He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and raised the dead. The people were saying that Jesus was God’s Messiah the promised Savior who would deliver Israel out of all their troubles (currently the Roman domination).

One night a Jewish leader named Nicodemus sought out Jesus.  Being a Jewish leader he was trained in the scriptures from his youth and he obviously knew the answers to the first three questions:

He was created in God’s image.

He was created by God.

His destiny was to dwell with God in life after death.

Jesus immediately told him the answer to the last question:” How do I get there?” as recorded in the third chapter of St. John’s gospel: (John 3:2-18)

Now there came a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Him (Jesus) by night, and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born again when he is old?  He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”

Jesus answered. “Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless one is born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, you must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the spirit.”

Do you believe the Lord Jesus Christ?   Do you take Him at his Word?

Whether you know it or not you are living your life “Coram Deo” or: before the face of almighty God.

Jesus continued his explanation to Nicodemus in John’s gospel chapter 3:

And as Moses was lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.

The analogy here to the wind is God’s Holy Spirit who is active on earth energized by the bodily death, resurrection and assention of the God Man Jesus Christ.  The energy is God’s love for a lost world that has rejected Him and crucified His only begotten Son.  This energy is the power of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, which God sent shortly after Jesus’ ascension to empower Christians to live lives controlled by Jesus Christ, as the apostle Paul said:

 ”I have been crucified with Christ it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave his life for me”

If you desire to know more about this God who gave Himself to save men, women, boys, and girls, I challenge you to obtain a New Testament, in an accurate translation that you can understand, and read the book of John for yourself.  Ask God to reveal himself to you.

For a New Testament or additional information please contact Eric Henderson at 361.729.5494 or 361.442.4650.