Ericofrockport’s Weblog


July 4, 2015
July 5, 2015, 9:35 pm
Filed under: History, Travel | Tags:

July 4, 2015

Oh, the myopia of youth! I never really considered that someday I would be living in the 21st-century, but as I write this I am even more surprised that a decade and a half of it has already slipped by. I pondered America’s Independence Day yesterday amid all the many festivities, which included contacts with both old and new friends. To begin with, Nathan Shenk, Word Adkins, Nora Brett and Isabella (David Brett’s sister-in-law who is visiting from Germany) joined me for an early-morning sail. It was her first time on a sail-boat, and because of that, I suppose, we all focused on Isabela. I asked her to steer and as she eagerly embraced the helm of North Wind, we barraged her with questions. She responded vivaciously and articulately, even though English is her third language (after German and Italian), and enlightened us with her first hand European experiences, clear observations of current events, and fresh view our own country through the two states she has briefly visited: California & Texas (suburban LA , Austin, and Rockport).

Later, after a busy day of yard work, hospitality, and more sailing, (including a dramatic “kedging off” of North Wind), I arrived home after dark and sat out in the yard listening to the end of a conversation between Sheila Murray and Georgianna about Shelia’s experience in Holland learning Dutch and attending college and medical school. Can you imagine a more daunting task than attending college classes (and med school!) in a language one is just learning? I was greatly impressed as I sat in silence and listened to these two very intelligent, well-traveled women converse. Then, to add icing on the cake, Shelia began to share that her new husband, also a doctor with a specialty in radiology, had taken a job in Rotarua, New Zealand where she will be joining him after she finishes the last of her training in Holland. Thus, I started the day with Germany and finished with New Zealand via Holland and our neighborhood, four of my absolutely favorite cultures!!

Finally, for several days I have been thinking about a particular memorial plaque that hangs in an old church in London, All Hallows by the Tower. Yesterday I had not time or will to send it to you. I certainly did not want to make you sad on the Fourth, for this plaque brought me to tears 13 months ago when I arrived in London. I was on my way to the jobs in Spain and Africa when I stopped briefly in Greenwich, England to acclimatize to the European time zone. On my way from the airport to Greenwich my underground train changed lines at the Tower of London. It was noon, so I surfaced to see this iconic sight and have a quick lunch of fish and chips. While wandering about I stepped into an old church nearby.  The Anglican service had just finished and I was invited by the Rector to join the congregation for tea and “bickies” (biscuits or cookies). I was astonished at this beautiful old church and intrigued by the many memorial plaques on the wall. Perhaps because I was extra tired after the overnight flight, the one quoted below, particularly, impacted me profoundly. This plaque reminds us of the great price that has been paid for the freedom we enjoy and which we celebrated especially yesterday, July 4, 2015!

God bless you, children, as you remember the past and the many that died for you, especially Immanuel, Jesus Christ, our Savior!

PS: You may remember that prior to the US’s involvement in WWII, the HMS Prince of Wales was the battleship that transported Sir Winston Churchill to meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. Roosevelt arrived at their meeting point aboard the American heavy cruiser USS Augusta. It is also a noteworthy historical fact that Admiral Tom Phillips was the highest ranking Allied officer killed in battle during WWII.

OH VALIANT HEARTS

WITH PRIDE AND REMEMBRANCE OF

SIR TOM SPENCER VAUGHAN PHILLIPS,

                                                               K.C.B., R. N.

ADMIRAL OF THE EASTERN FLEET

AND ALL HIS COMPANY WHO WENT DOWN WITH HIM

IN H.M.S. PRINCE OF WALES AND H.M.S. REPULSE

AT SINGAPORE IN THE BATTLE OF THE MALAY PENINSULAR

10TH DECEMBER 1941.

THIS TABLET IS PLACED HERE BY HIS WIFE

AND HIS SON IN THE YEAR OF VICTORY 1945.

PEACE BE TO YOU SAILOR AND A SOUL AT REST

IN YOUR GREEN MANSION SILENT IN THE SEA

THE DOORS ARE OPENED TRUTH HAS TURNED THE KEY

AND JUSTICE ENTERS – A BELATED GUEST

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First Grade at Rockport Elementary (1954-55)
April 26, 2015, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Family, History, Philosophy

With great detail and mixed emotions I remember my first days in the first grade. Honestly, at the time there were no mixed emotions at all; I hated it. After years of daily exploration of our yard and the nearby beach on South Live Oak or the fish house and my dad’s shrimp boat, I was now cooped up for 6 hours a day with a young teacher barely older than my sister, Mary Faye. It wasn’t Miss Crawford’s fault, somehow I knew that; she, I believe, was from west Texas, had just finished teacher’s college, and was probably as unhappy as I was, but for different reasons. Raised without humidity and mosquitos, she no doubt found our climate difficult in those days before air conditioning. The summer after that first grade year she married a local boy named Schuster, and they eventually moved back to west Texas.

As I said, that first day was a rude awaking, but I suppose there were some fond memories, mainly having to do with recess and the boys I played with. From that first grade I remember Jackie and Jimmy Russell, Rusty Kline, Charlie Cady, and Bob Dye. Steven Russell and George Pearson were older, but I remembered them from our bus stop. I spent many a recess and lunch hour running, swinging and playing “king of the mountain” on some sort of concrete sewer manhole structure behind the 1st grade building. It was about 12” high and 2’ by 4’ with a curved top – a mountain indeed to us small flatlanders! The school building housed three first grade rooms: ours, Mrs. Eller’s and Mrs. Davis’s, and two restrooms, which I unhappily discovered that first day were locked at lunch.

I do not know where the rest of the class went to eat their lunch, but I hung out behind the old high school gym that first lunch hour with at least one other 1st grader and two young custodians: Valentino and Manual Flores. The rest of my classmates may have ridden the bus to the cafeteria at the new high school campus, but I am not sure. Later I did this on several occasions and as we marched in through the high school halls I was looking for a glimpse of my older sisters.

During the spring, Miss Crawford took us for a walk behind the school house and taught us to skip. I think I was her greatest challenge in that endeavor, but I noticed that all the girls skipped with no effort at all, just as they mastered the mystery of reading. One blustery  day as we skipped and gazed up at the blue sky our faces turned into the strong southeasterly wind and away from the afternoon sun we noticed long spider webs floating vertically in the breeze. At some point I found out that these webs originated in the jungles of the Yucatan and floated across the Gulf of Mexico on the strong spring trade winds.

I don’t remember much more about that year except a small amount of discouragement about my academic progress. We received report cards each six weeks and mine were mediocre, C’s mainly, but always a “U” (unsatisfactory) in the “finishes tasks assigned” line item. My mom always signed them in black ink and one time my little sister, Patricia, graciously signed one with a beautiful array of Crayola colors.

Toward the end of the school year Miss Crawford began reading a story book to us. It was about a man who had a terrible burden on his back. He tried to get rid of it and it caused no little distress to his wife and family. He eventually left his home and went on a journey. That is the last I remember, because I think the end of school came and the story time stopped. Even though this time of reading was after lunch and we listened with our heads on our desks, I remembered this story and though I wouldn’t say I was haunted by it, I did ponder it over the years, and often wondered how it ended. Years later, after I had received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I was reading a children’s version of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress to my own children and it dawned on me that this was the book Miss Crawford had been reading to us. What a joy it was to meet her years later at a church supper and to be able to tell her that the book she read to us had planted a seed that eventually bore fruit to eternal life for me.

It is interesting to note that John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated in to more languages than any other book except the Bible, as well following it as the second best-seller of all time. Literary critic Roger Sharrock said: “A seventeenth-century Calvinist sat down to write a tract and produced a folk-epic of universal religious imagination instead.”

George Grant & Gregory Wilbur describe the irony of history in their account of Bunyan’s life in The Christian Almanac (p. 32):

“Today in the center of Bedford, England, there stands a statue of Bunyan carrying a tinker’s burden upon his back and a Bible in his hand. It marks the place where that great Puritan spent long years of imprisonment for the offence of preaching without the permission of the state. Near the foot of the statue is a little bronze plaque. On it are engraved the words of the prosecutor – the Lord Judge Magistrate of Bedford – spoken at Bunyan’s sentencing on [January 11] in 1673. The Judge said: ‘At last we are done with this tinker and his cause. Never more will he plague us: for his name, locked away as surely as he, shall be forgotten, as surely as he. Done we are, and all eternity with him.’ Of course it is not Bunyan who is forgotten. Instead, it is the Lord Judge Magistrate of Bedford who remains unnamed and unremembered. “



Spanish Parentheses
October 27, 2014, 12:27 am
Filed under: Family, History, Marriage, Travel | Tags:

The country of Spain will always be a set of parentheses in my mind. I suppose the left parentheses would be Arcos de la Frontera in Andalucía and the right parentheses. Tarragona in Catalonia.

In May of 1977 we departed New Zealand for the last time.  As the southern winter approached our project was complete and Georgianna flew to Texas and I to Singapore. I joined the ocean going tug Ruby which soon departed for the Persian Gulf and after about 10 days we arrived in Manama, Bahrain. For the next two months we tended a construction barge off the coast of Saudi Arabia. In August it was time for my vacation and Georgianna and I decided that we would meet in Spain for a month.

We enjoyed southern Spain for about three weeks as we traveled from one parador to the next, occasionally having to beg for a room at the crowded, but wonderful historic inns. Our favorite was the parador in the quaint town of Arcos de la Frontera of which the guide book says:

“One of Andalucia’s most dramatically positioned pueblos blancos (white villages), Arcos balances atop a rocky limestone ridge, its whitewashed houses and stone castle walls stopping abruptly as a sheer cliff face plunges down to the fertile valley of the river Guadalete below.”

Parador de Arcos de la Frontera

Parador de Arcos de la Frontera

The idea of Spanish parentheses came to my mind recently when we were planning to go back to Spain. In early October we departed for two lovely weeks in Tarragona, Catalonia of which the guide book says:

“The eternally sunny port city of Tarragona is a fascinating mix of Mediterranean beach life, Roman history and medieval alleyways. Spain‘s second-most important Roman site, Tarragona has a wealth of ruins, including a seaside amphitheatre. The town’s medieval heart is one of the most beautifully designed in Spain, its maze of narrow cobbled streets encircled by steep walls and crowned with a splendid cathedral.”

During this trip, I was working and Georgianna was enjoying the language, the people, and the incredible Roman ruins of this ancient 2200 year old capital of the Roman province of Hispania. As I pondered the timing of our trips I was amazed that the trips occurred almost exactly one year before our first child arrived and one year after our last child left the nest for college. We had gone to Spain in August 1977, a year before Kristin was born. Then came Bethanie, Stephen, Susanna, Kathleen, Michael, and Abigail. At the end of August 2013 Abby moved out to attend college and one year later we went to Spain again. When our flight arrived Sunday afternoon three weeks ago I was somewhat disappointed as the airline had lost my bag. Georgianna, as always cheering me up, said: “It’s the parenthesis you have been speaking of, remember when you arrived in Spain 37 years ago your bag was lost that time as well.”

I am reminded by the scripture just how short our life is, James chapter 4 says:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  

I praise God our “mist” has been good. God has surprised me many times in recent years with travel. While I was a young man I traveled extensively, and was a young believer growing up in Christ in foreign lands and non-traditional churches. We were greatly blessed to have many exciting experiences and to meet other Christians of varied cultures and denominational backgrounds. But in recent years I was resigned that there were many places that I had dreamed about visiting that I would probably not get to visit. I am not sure whether this thought was one of disappointment or relief.

However, since 2011 I have traveled to several places of interest to me, all with rich maritime history including: Maine, New Brunswick, Greenwich, England, and Port Lawrence on Bioko Island, West Africa. These were very enjoyable, however the over two thousand years of maritime history recorded and displayed in the Port Museum of Tarragona and the Barcelona Maritime Museum were extra icing on the cake.



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.

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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.

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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.” 

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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 eBay.dad 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.