I love boats and I taught my family to love boats. Boats are an important part of my life. Boats are an important part of my family’s life. Every time the kids come home to visit, they come knowing that an outing is a certainty . . . Chris: to fish . . . Courtney: to do her photography . . . Ali and Abi: to just ride on one of the boats, wear their sunglasses to look good, and just have some fun (and enjoy some special snacks prepared just for them by Nana). They are the subjects on many photos.
The truth is that it is actually something of an oddity that I love boats so much. I grew up at scattered locations across West Texas and New Mexico and never set foot in a boat until I was 22 years old. Yet, when I did it, I had a radical transformation and within a week of that first-time experience, I bought my first boat! Actually, there has never been a day since then that I have not owned a boat and most of that time I have had at least 2 boats. There have been times when I owned more, but 4 boats at one time is all I am willing to confess to owning (and only because Sandy knew about those 4). I have learned a great deal about life from my boating experiences and studies. A few examples are:
. . . It is critical that one has an anchor that will hold in a storm . . . and a storm is always coming;
. . . It is essential that a vessel be sea-worthy;
. . . A small problem on land can become a huge problem at sea;
. . . There are about five seconds between “a glorious day at sea” and “a crisis situation”;
. . . Regardless of what “feels right,” the compass is always accurate and should be what is used in decision making;
. . . Celestial navigation is fun, if we have properly identified the “correct” North Star;
. . . As you move from deep water into shallow water, it becomes rougher and more dangerous;
. . . You lose the horizon at 12 miles off-shore and you are then dependent upon a compass or GPS;
. . . The deeper the water, the prettier and clearer it becomes (it is amazing what happens upon crossing over the intercontinental shelf under the Gulf of Mexico);
. . . If you lose power, you are tossed about at sea . . . without direction . . . with no control . . . and in danger of crashing upon the rocks, or being pulled out to sea, with no way back;
. . . It can be hard to get the anchor to set upon arrival . . . and ever harder to get it free when ready to move; and
. . . A means of communication is a very important link.
Soon after purchasing that first boat, I launched it at Lake Meredith (in the Texas Panhandle) on a bright and pretty Saturday morning. It was in the middle of the afternoon that the wind seriously kicked up and I experienced my first emergency on the water. I was green as grass, but somehow managed to get the half-full boat and my water-logged passengers safely back to shore. I learned a number of important things that day . . . a couple of them are:
. . . A good, bilge-pump in working order is a most basic and necessary piece of equipment, but a plastic bucket and a willing worker are handy; and
. . . There are a few places where it is okay to save money, but the quality of life jackets on your vessel is not one of those places.
As I reflected on that experience I realized that I had much to learn and was duty-bound to do so if I was going to own and operate a boat and be responsible for other folk’s safety. So, I set out on what has proven to be a life-long learning process. I have read many books, manuals, and boating magazine articles written by expert seamen; I have spent many hours at sea, much of which was with skilled sailors, and I have done extensive research on my own. I am a member of the local Power Squadron of the Coast Guard auxiliary and have reluctantly taken a few classes and earned various certifications (sadly, those classes are very poor quality and taught by poor quality instructors).
My family’s love of boating and fishing has greatly influenced our vacations. We have spent time at some wonderful ports such as Rio de Janeiro, Cancun and Cozumel on the upper Yucatan Peninsula, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas on the Gulf of California (where we fished the Sea of Cortez), and all up and down the Gulf of Mexico coastline including New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida (including Key West), Galveston, Port O’Conner, Brownsville, Port Mansfield, and Port Isabel/South Padre Island. We have taken every cruise available out of Galveston. Sandy and I have also visited Alaska several times, and I have fished there each time, in a number of different places and for different species. I think my favorite is fishing for Halibut in the Bering Sea (an amazing experience in that there is a 30’ tide exchange!!)
I have had the privilege of operating vessels ranging in size from that first ugly little 15’ orange and white boat up to a 54’ Bertram; which, in my opinion is the greatest sports vessel ever built. That boat was named “The Wildcatter” and was owned by an O & G firm, of which my friend was attorney and had use of the vessel. To read about Aftermath, my current boat, go to:
To Sandy’s frustration, several walls of our home boasts a number of fish mounts from a 27” Redfish up to a 550-pound black Marlin and a number of others in between caught by Chris and me both. Chris’ house also boasts some such fish.
This morning as I opened AOL to check my e-mail, my attention was instantly captured by a news flash that read, “85-foot yacht sinks at launching in Washington.” The vessel was new and cost $10 million. That is the sort of headline that grabs my attention. As I read the story in shock, I learned that it capsized as the yacht manufacturer set it into the water for its maiden voyage. Instantly, in the water and released from the straps, it rolled over and sank! The vessel has been raised and the Coast Guard is investigating what happened.
One of the nautical terms and principles I learned in my studies of vessels and seamanship is a nautical term known as “The Righting Moment.” Every vessel has a righting moment . . . that item and timing of physics which occurs from the interaction of forces and laws of nature . . . those being buoyancy, weight, and gravity as the vessel heels and then corrects itself to its normal, upright floating position. At sea, a vessel puts these physical laws into perpetual war as the battle rages to either pull the vessel to the earth’s surface (weight and gravity) or to restore the vessel to its upright position (buoyancy).
Tragically, as this vessel was being launched these forces were never put to war . . . something happened instantly that precluded buoyancy from ever coming into play . . . and gravity instantly prevailed!
As I pondered this disaster, it causes me to wonder about another “Righting Moment” I fear must be made in Washington . . . that moment where we as a nation must make the necessary correction(s) that will return us to the upright position (adherence to the Constitution and the Biblical principles upon which we were founded) . . . and our failure to do so might very well result in our rolling over . . .
It Seems to me . . . that the One . . .
. . . who scooped out vast sections of the earth and filled those places with water and marine life, and then called them the sea and the oceans
. . . who then hung the stars, sun, and moon in space and commanded them to do his bidding (to provide warmth, light, energy, and gravitational pull between each of them which is necessary to control the tides and hold His creation in place . . . and then declared they were to continue doing that until He told them to do something different . . .
. . . who is the Master of the universe . . . the One who controls all physical laws . . . and will one day judge the entire human race . . .
. . . who also promised, “If my People . . . who are called by My name, will humble themselves . . . “
Each of the points which I identified above that I (along with every sailor worth his salt) have learned over the years . . . also has a historical application to our nation . . . can you connect those dots?
A troubling question . . . The Righting Moment . . . is it still out in front of us . . . or has it come and gone and did we miss it?