Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Island


This picture is of an island near where I live and work. It is a couple of square miles large and completely undeveloped. The current owners used to let people camp out on the island overnight.

Those days are gone now and no trespassing signs are prominently displayed right above the high water mark on the beach. I can’t tell you how depressing it is to see such a beautiful place be declared off limits.

I do understand how it came to be off limits, though. It seems modern civilization started leaving more and more piles of garbage in the area on the island formerly used for camping.

Then there was the irate father whose daughter went to the island with a teenage boy and some beer to join a group around the campfire. The father seemed to think the owners of the island should be held responsible for his daughter being there, not the daughter!

I remember the times I have explored the island’s interior and seen the tracks of wild animals. I still love to watch the eagle’s nest and the osprey’s nest when I can get around the backside of the island by boat. Many times when the osprey hunts, the eagle hangs back and waits for the osprey to catch a fish. Then, the eagle swoops down and tries to steal the fish from the osprey. It takes a while, but the eagle usually ends up with the fish.

Oh, and there was the lady whom, upon returning from the island, gleefully showed me the large Indian arrowhead she found on the beach there after a storm. She said it was laying there in the sand where the tide had gone out, fully exposed to the naked eye. I must say I was a little envious of her find! LOL!

The best story about this island, though, is the time a group of about six teenage boys camped out on the island. At night after all had retired to the relative safety of their tents, they heard a noise coming from the middle of the campsite. Peeking out, they saw a large boar rutting through their possessions that were left outside. They were six very scared teenagers.

So, what does a scared teenager do in this modern day when frightened in the wild? They used a cell phone to call one of the fathers and told him about the wild boar. What else?

Now, you’ve got to appreciate the fact that during hunting season it seems that every male above the age of 12 is a hunter in these parts (those days are long over for me by choice). This little camping trip was in the fall hunting season and, of course, the father had to wake up three of the other fathers instructing all to get their guns and meet at the dock.

It would have been simple for the boys to take their boat and go pick up the brave and fully armed Dads, but they were too scared to leave the tents. So, at Three Am on this Fall Sunday morning, four grown men are scrambling to get their boat launched to, (What, you thought save the teenagers? Ha!), track this boar down and bag him! Visions of sitting around the campfire the next day roasting fresh game filled these suburban fathers’ heads.

Here’s a secret these Dads should have known. Boars are very smart creatures. They have excellent hearing and even better eyesight. The boar took off at the first sound of the outboard motor being fired up across the marsh grass. By the time the dads got there it was long gone and any hope of tracking it down was to no avail.

You should have seen this tired mess of humanity stumbling back to the docks the next morning with absolutely no sleep. It took a while for them to live this story down at the marina.

How did everyone know what had happened? Remember the teenager who had the cell phone? Yep! You guessed it! Seems he couldn’t wait to call all his friends and tell them about his brave Dad, LOL!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005



Well, it’s just been too darn long since my last post, and I apologize! A member of my family who lives here in the same town has needed some help and it’s taken a huge chunk of time. Add to that the fact that my computer just up and died over a week ago. I was fortunate in that it was a bad power supply and not very expensive to fix. After sitting in the shop for a week it is back up and running. Now, I’d like to give an update on a few items.

Woody, the sailor in a previous entry, says there are two different magazines interested in his story. Woody sent me the story he wrote himself and I must say it will make for good reading if it gets published. There are two different magazines he is talking to. If it gets into print, I will let you all know here.

A lot of you wanted to know if the Coast Guard ever found the EPIRB signal I wrote about in my "Victory at Sea" entry. No, they did not. That same helicopter did, however, rescue two men that same day whose boat had sunk offshore. These two were interviewed the next morning on the "Today Show."

It is not that unusual for the Coast Guard not to find the source of the EPIRB signal. These devices sometimes go off by themselves if they are bumped or dropped accidentally. When the owners find them on they will turn them off and not report to the Coast Guard that the signal belonged to them. I think, sometimes, they don’t report it because of a fear of a huge time delay once they call it in. Also, there are big fines for setting these signals off when there is no emergency.

Once an EPIRB signal goes off, the Coast Guard MUST search for the source of the signal. They have to keep looking even after the signal disappears if they have not yet identified the source of that signal. Most of the EPIRB signals float. If it has been set off and floating, the Coasties almost always find it. If the signal stops, the unit has been turned off, or theboat it is attached to has sunk and pulled it under the water. The signal can no longer be picked up once the device goes underwater.

There were no reports that day or the next of any vessels missing in our area. I would say it is a good bet that a passing boat realized that their signal had been activated, turned it off, and kept right on going. It happens!

The photo that appears at the top of this entry is one I snapped while out on the water a few weeks ago. It bears no significance to this entry other than I thought it was interesting and decided to share it with you.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have Emailed me or left comments expressing concern over my absence.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Rescue at Sea

I woke up to rain today. A Nor’ Easter was coming through and the forecast was for rain all day here.

A rainy day for a Dock Master can be miserable and boring or exciting and busy. In my profession, you hope for the boring because the other means there is a crisis going on. You know, little things like boats sinking, or docks floating away. Yeah, little things!

I get to work and put on my full rain suit and walk the docks in the pouring rain. Everything normal… it’s going to be a boring day. WRONG!

I get back to the dock shack and I hear a Dock Master at a marina near here talking on the VHF radio with the Coast Guard and a boat out at sea. The Dock Master is relaying communications between the two. The boat can’t hear the Coast Guard, but can pick up the signal from the other marina, so they are helping by relaying messages back and forth.

It turns out that the boat in trouble can’t hear either the marina or the Coast Guard and a boat near them is sending their messages to the Dock Master who is passing them on to the Coast Guard.

The boat is in trouble. The seas are really rough and there are three people on board. The Captain, 64 years old, has suffered a back injury in the rough conditions and needs help. The name of the boat is the "Carol Lee" and the messages are being relayed by the "Crystal Sea."

The "Carol Lee" is a thirty- five-foot sailboat. There are three persons aboard. The Captain is out of commission with his back injuries and the other two passengers, ages 62 and 63, are very, very seasick.

I know all the Coast Guard radio frequencies, so I get out all my radios and switch them to the different channels and sit back to listen in.

The "Crystal Lee" is a 130’ motor yacht. She can’t get close enough to the sailboat to help because the rough seas would slam the boats together and cause even more problems. Her captain continues to relay messages until the "Carol Lee" is finally heard by the marina and can signal without the go between.

The Coast Guard now picks up an EPIRB signal from the area and immediately launches a rescue helicopter. EPIRB stands for: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. No boat should ever go offshore without one of these gadgets aboard.

After a while, it is becoming clear to the Coast Guard that the EPIRB is not coming from any of the boats mentioned above. The ‘Crystal Lee" is out of the area now and out of the picture. A NOAA research vessel named "Nancy Foster" is nearby and takes up radio communications for the Coast Guard relaying messages back and forth. The other Dock Master is also out of the picture and, I’ll bet, listening in just like me.

The helicopter finds no other vessels in the area, abandons the search for the EPIRB, and heads for the "Carol Lee." Once on scene, the pilot reports the seas are 8 to 12 feet high and the pitch and roll of the sailboat is too great to safely drop the EMT swimmer to board the sailboat.

The plan now is for the "Nancy Foster" to launch her small boat and send a NOAA EMT over to the sailboat, but the "Nancy Foster" is five miles away. Suddenly the helicopter pilot radios that his EMT is onboard and they are returning to base for fuel. They had successfully dropped the EMT to the sailboat!

The Coast Guard has a forty-one footer speeding to the scene. The plan is for the 41Ft. boat to take the "Carol Lee" in tow and head for the nearest calm water. That would be St. Catherine’s Sound on the Georgia Coast. This situation is being handled jointly by Coast Guard Station Charleston, (South Carolina), and Coast Guard Station Tybee, (Savannah, Georgia).

Once they reach the calmer waters of the Sound they plan on either airlifting the Captain off the boat, or, towing the boat to a dock to get the Captain off. Because of the nature of the back injury, they decide to tow to a dock.

What an admirable display of professionalism was shown by everyone involved with this rescue from the Dock Master, to the boats that relayed information, to the coordination of effort by the two Coast Guard Stations, to the courage and bravery of the EMT dropped to administer aid to the injured Captain. I love it when a plan comes together!

Boring day? Not today!

Post Script

After the Coast Guard Helicopter refueled, it returned to the area and continued to search for the EPIRB. I want these guys on duty if I ever get into trouble out there!

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

The Cat Tent

In my last entry I promised I’d explain the comment I made about building a tent for a cat. Okay, here it goes.

As I have traveled through J-Land, I have sat on more than one back porch listening to you tell me a story about a beloved pet. Yes, there are so many pet stories here in J-Land that I would not have believed it a week or two ago had you told me that I would be adding one more to the mix. No, I am not tiring of your pet stories, I just didn’t think I would be writing one.

Many of you know that we moved into a new house shortly before I started this journal. One of the best features of the house we moved from was the screened porch in back. It was perched over the pond behind us and we loved to sit and watch the wildlife from our protected vantagepoint.

My wife’s sister lives with us these days and she brought with her a little friend whom we have all grown to love. He is a black cat named Blanca. Yes, we do know Blanca means white, LOL!

Blanca loved the screened porch and would spend hours sitting out there soaking in the scenery and watching the critters through the screen. It was his favorite place.

The new house has a concrete patio slab out back, but no screened porch. After exploring and getting to know his new environs, Blanca would see us go in and out the back door, but was not allowed out. Blanca has been an indoor-only cat since he was a little kitten. He is fourteen now.

Thinking that this back door led out to a porch like at the old house, Blanca started sitting at the door begging to be let out on what he thought was a porch. I have to admit it broke my heart not to be able to let him out.

So, Sister and I put our heads together and came up with an inexpensive solution. I went shopping and found a screened tent enclosure that would fit over the concrete patio slab. We got some industrial strength velcro and velcro’d the bottom of the tent to the slab so Blanca could not get out under the sides all around.

I spent one full evening after work last week putting up the tent and positioning it over the slab. The next night was spent putting down the velcro and securing it properly. Sister then got some carpeted mats and laid them down and put our patio furniture inside the enclosure. Voila… instant-screened room for the cat right out the back door. He loves it!


I must confess that after sitting with Blanca in his new screened room, I really like it, too. The bugs can really be bad in these parts this time of year and sitting in the screened enclosure has allowed us to really start enjoying our new back yard every evening. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!!!


Tuesday, May 3, 2005

 I know it’s been at least a week since my last post. I didn’t mean for it to be so long, but it’s been a busy week at work with me staying overtime due to the blessing of the fleet and our annual dock party. I also had to build a tent for a cat. Yes, I said cat, LOL! I’ll share more about that in my next entry.


I want to update you all on Dan’s great adventure. I think I can safely start using Dan’s real name: Woody Norwood.

Woody called me every night last week and left a voice mail for me to let me know he was okay and how the trip was progressing. He and his sailing partner made it safely to each day’s destination and had a ball doing it.

Woody has informed me that there is a strong possibility that the whole trip will be featured in next month’s Sail Magazine. How about that! Yes, Woody successfully completed his trip. He made his dream come true! Way to go Woody!