Monday, November 28, 2005

A Close Call

"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!" It was Wednesday, a week before Thanksgiving, and I had just arrived at work after having Monday and Tuesday off. I had checked the gas pumps and retrieved the daily printout from our fuel tank monitoring station. The voice on the radio was shrill and high pitched. I first thought the voice sounded like a child playing on the radio.

I hurried into my dock shack to hear this on the big radio. I was sure the Coast Guard would come on and tell the kid to quit playing on the radio.

"Vessel hailing Mayday, this is the United States Coast Guard, Section Tybee, do you copy?" I thought, "Gee! Are they are taking this child seriously, or giving him enough rope to hang himself?"

"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the "Dauphina!" We are taking on water, possibly sinking! The bridge just closed right on top of us. U. S. Guard, Mayday!"

A chill went up my spine almost causing my hair to stand on end! This was no child, but an obviously hysterical lady shouting into the microphone.

This is every boater's nightmare who operates a boat tall enough to need draw bridges to open for safe passage. There is a drawbridge just south of our area and also one just to the north of us. This boat had tried to go through the drawbridge to the north of us as it headed south, coming towards us.

I settled onto my stool and turned up the volume. I was compelled to listen as this played out.

"Coast Guard! This is the 'Dauphina,' we were heading south under the bridge and it closed right on top of our mast! Our cockpit was pushed completely under water and we are taking on water! We need help!"

Coast Guard Tybee: "Yes ma'am! I understand the bridge came down on top of you and you are taking on water. What is your current position, ma'am and how many people are on board?"

Dauphina: "We are at the Causton Bluff bridge and are taking on water! The engine quit and we are trying to get our bilge pumps on and to get clear of the bridge. There are two adults on board. The bridge tender closed the bridge on us!"

Coast Guard Tybee: "Delphina, I understand you are taking on water and there are two adults on board. Ma'am at this time, I'd like you toput on your PFD's (life preservers) if you haven't put them on yet."

Dauphina: "Coast Guard I understand. Yes, we are putting our life vests on now. Our situation is stabilizing, the water is being pumped out and my husband just threw out an anchor. There seems to be a lot of damage, our engine quit."

Coast Guard Tybee: "Dauphina, this is Coast Guard Tybee. Ma'am, I understand you have thrown out your anchor. Please give me your current position."

Dauphina: "Coast Guard Tybee, we are right at the bridge and, hold on, here comes my husband. He can update you on our situation." (Voice of husband) "Coast Guard, our pumps seem to have cleared our cockpit of water, we seem to be stabilized now and I can't see any more water coming in. We need to be towed to a facility to assess our damage and get the boat out of the water. Please send a tow boat as fast as possible."

To make a long story short, (this dialogue went on for over forty-five minutes), The Dauphina was a sailboat heading south on the Intra Coastal Waterway. It had approached the bridge right behind another sailboat. The first sailboat hailed the bridge on the VHF radio and requested an opening for passage through the bridge. The Drawbridge operator complied and the Delphina followed the first boat through without contacting the bridge operator. The bridge tender, as they are called, must not have noticed the second boat, or grossly misjudged the timing of closing the bridge for a safe passage by both boats.

I did some follow up investigating a couple of days later, as I have friends working at the facility where the boat was eventually hauled out. There was very little damage that actually occurred. The boat is of a type that is built for offshore racing and was strong enough to survive this punishment. I was astounded.

According to my friend, the bridge came down on the top of the mast and literally pushed the boat down into the water. This caused the cockpit to go below the surface of the water and it filled up immediately spilling water down the companionway into the cabin and engine compartment of the boat.

Fast work by the captain of the boat got the pumps on and the water out before complete floatation was lost. No damage to the deck where the mast was stepped occurred and very little damage happened to the rigging.

If you were looking for a holiday miracle, well it's a miracle that no one was injured and that the boat was able to weather such a blow and survive.

I'm proud of the Coast Guard in the way that they handled this event. They had a launch on scene much faster than I had thought possible. They got a commercial towing outfit to respond to the situation and got the main channel to the Intra Coastal Waterway cleared for navigation in what seemed like record time.

I've said it here before, and I'll say it again. Thank God for our boys in blue! You can all be proud of the way the Coast Guard operates in my area, and I'm sure how they operate around the rest of the country as well. Well done, U. S. Coast Guard!

Just a note to explain the lighthouse that now appears in my "About Me" space. Recently, AOL began putting advertising at the top of our journals without any warning whatsoever. Many who have journals on AOL left AOL and set up their journals via different service providers as a way of protest to AOL's actions.

This lighthouse was created by Nightmaremom, (Donna), over at The journal "This That and Hockey." The lighthouse is to represent to our friends who left that we have left a home light burning so that they may find their way back to read and comment in our journals, or to come back and journal here at AOL again.

We will always cherish the friendships we have made in this community and respect the decisions of those who both left and those who stayed. We just wanted to let them know they are welcome back anytime!

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Fall of 1967

It's fall now, even in the Deep South. I lost a bet with a VIVI Award nominee and my payoff, if I lost, would be to write about the strangest or most unique fall I've ever had and to show a picture of me doing a fall activity.

I know, you all want to know what the bet was over. I bet this fine journalist and friend would win a VIVI Award after being nominated in four different categories. The award never came and I'm paying off on my bet. You can check out her excellent journal at this link.

The most interesting or unique fall I've experienced would have to be the fall of 1967. I had just started my junior year at Hampton High School in Hampton Virginia.

When my father, an officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force got transferred to Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, I had just graduated from the eighth grade in Smyrna, Tennessee. I was popular in school, played trombone in the school band, and loved the house we lived in that was set on one-and-a-half acres near Stuart's Creek. Life was pretty good and I did not want to move.

I knew that I would have to move whether I wanted to or not. My father was a career officer in the military and we moved every three years. It was just a fact of life as I grew up. There was nothing I could do to change it.

When we got the assignment to Langley, I got a map of Virginia and found Hampton on the map. All my doubts about the move vanished when I saw that Hampton was on the Atlantic Coast and surrounded by water. I loved the water and we had a boat. I could already slalom ski better than any adult I had met. This move might be fun after all.

During the school year, the first two years of living in Hampton were hell for me. They wore different clothes than the kids did where I had come from. No one told me about that before the school year started. I stood out like a sore thumb and the kidding and weird looks started immediately. One of the school bullies found me an excellent target and my life that first year could not get any worse.

By the time the fall of 1967 came to pass, I had found my way out of the situation with the bully adjusted my wardrobe, changed from the Junior High School to Hampton High School and was just starting to really fit in. I was in the High School Marching Band and was the first to letter on the Swim Team that year. I had even learned to play the guitar.

I usually dreaded the fall. A new school year with new teachers and weather that just got colder every day for months on end. I hated cold weather! The fall of 1967 was different! I looked forward to the school football games. I liked my classes. I was no longer bothered by bullies or teased by thoughtless kids. I wore my letter sweater with pride!

I had a mad and passionate crush on two of my teachers that year. Nancy Orcutt was my English teacher and I had never met anyone quite like her. She was an attractive blond with a brilliant mind and made her classes interesting to her students daily. My other crush was on my history teacher, a short and stunning brunette, who was fun loving and made her history lessons come alive.

We had just moved onto the base and I had to make new friends with the kids I met in base housing. When we transferred in, base housing was full. What made the difference was that dad got promoted to the rank of full colonel and there was a vacancy in base housing for that grade of rank.

The house we moved into was an older Victorian two story house of red brick with ivy growing up the sides and front. It was on the part of the base that was on the water and I was thrilled. My room was upstairs and I had a dormer style window that I could sit in facing the water while I played my guitar and day dreamed. This house really looked like a building straight off the campus of an ivy-league college. That's the feeling it gave me, anyway!

My sister had already gone off to college. Johns Hopkins University's nursing program is where she was that fall. She lived in Baltimore, Maryland and I felt kind of strange living in a house without her daily presence.

I had a strong crush on her best friend at college whom had come home with her on a previous visit at the old house. I used to sit in that upstairs window seat composing letters and songs to send to Pat Carpenter as I gazed over a beautiful vista of the Back River. Pat was a wonderful person whom I've always regretted losing contact with over the years.

Thanksgiving was the time everything came to a head that year. We knew something was in the wind, we could just feel it. The Air Force usually gave new assignments with promotions at my father's level. We were waiting and worrying.

My mother wanted to go to the Officer's Club for Thanksgiving dinner. There would only be three of us at the table and my father was about to give in to her wishes when he got his new assignment papers.

Dad was to report to Vietnam the following March. He would leave his present assignment in January and report to Washington DC for spy school and counter insurgency training. No, Dad would not be a spy or counterspy. He had to go through the training because men assigned to his command would be doing these jobs. The commander of these units would need to know what these jobs entailed. Notice I said units ... plural. Dad would be the commander of two helicopter outfits, a group of C-124 Caribou aircraft built for short takeoff and landings, and an outfit of C-130's that had Puff The Magic Dragon cannons installed on some and some with The August Moon equipment that could light up an entire battlefield as it flew overhead at night.

I can't tell you anymore about what my father did in Vietnam. Almost everything he did was classified and my father would never discuss classified information. Period. That was the kind of officer he was and one of the reasons, I guess, he rose to such a rank as he did.

Because of his impending departure, Mom decided that we would have a home cooked meal after all for Thanksgiving since Dad would not be with us for at least one full year. Mom was a first rate cook and she surpassed her previous achievements that Thanksgiving. There were some tears being shed as we bowed to give our thanks at the table that year. I didn't know how to act, so I played the brave one, ready to be the man of the house while dad was gone. But I saw the tears and never forgot them.

We started making plans that fall as to what mom and I would do and where we would live while dad was gone. We still owned the house in Tennessee where we used to live and I wanted to return to my old friends. So, we started to get our affairs in order and plan our move back to Tennessee.

The general who lived down the street from us offered to allow me to move in with them for the remainder of the school year so that I could finish my swimming season with the team. His son and I had become friends and it was a very generous offer. I turned it down, though. Losing my father for a year was going to be hard enough on Mom. Jan, my sister, would remain away at school in Baltimore and if I stayed behind Mom would be alone. I chose to move back to Tennessee with her.

As fall turned to winter and Christmas plans and decorations were being made; we all dealt with the impending future in each of our own way. Yes, it was a strange and unique fall that year of 1967 and one that I will never forget.

Dad made it back safely from Vietnam over a year later. The experience changed him and it changed us, as individuals and as a family. We seemed closer when we were all together again and we no longer took anything for granted. We were so very thankful to have him back and to have each other! Oh, and one other thing happened. After his return, Dad and I were never too embarrassed to hug anymore.

As an aside, those of you who read this journal regularly and like to read the comments can gauge my sister's reactions to what I write. She comments using the screen name Ltcjan. She does not have an AOL account so you can't email to that screen name. If anyone ever wants to contact her, send me an Email and I'll send you her Email address. Ltc Stands for Lieutenant Colonel. She may be changing that screen name soon because she is pinning on her Eagles this week. Jan is now a full Colonel in the Army Reserves. Congratulations, Sis!

As you sit down to the table this Thursday on Thanksgiving Day, think about the things you have to be thankful for. I will be giving some very special thanks for having become a part of this community and I will give thanks for all of my friends and family online and off. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Short Break

I know that, once again, it's been too long since my last post. I've answered the inquiring Email saying everything is okay with me, I have just been busy. That is true to a point. I am fine, and everyone in my household is fine, but there has been some trouble with my Stepson. There are some problems he is having to deal with right now. My Grandson Trenton moved in with us yesterday and it may be for a day, a week, or a month. I just don't know right now.

Please know I have not abandoned this journal and bear with me. I have an entry three fourths of the way written that I have not had a chance to finish yet, but will soon, I hope.

As for my thoughts on AOL adding advertising to these journals without our prior knowledge, I have not had time to fully digest that bit of news. I knew the AIM accounts would have an advertising banner across them, AOL said so right up front. To add advertising to regular AOL journals is a surprise.

I really have come to love writing this journal and being a part of this community. I just can't afford the time to really weigh this out right now. So, for the time being, I am here and will stay.

This is my first post since the VIVI Awards presentations which I really enjoyed attending. My heartfelt congratulations to all the winners. The VIVI Awards Committee did a superb job and put in so much work. Thank you!

Now, I may be able to post again in a day or two, or it may be another week or two. I may lose a lot of my readers for being so inconsistent, however, my family is more important right now and they need me. I do promise, though, that I will be back and remain a part of this community for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for bearing with me and I hope to be writing again sooner rather than later.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Vacation Day Two

I’ve gotten a few Emails from my J-land friends and even a phone call from my pal Ken reminding me that I promised to post day two of my vacation over a week ago and still have not done so. My apologies to all and my thanks to those who expressed concern on my behalf.

If you remember, I went to visit my friend Ken in Vero Beach, Florida. I was to stay six days and nights. On the first morning after my arrival Hurricane Wilma was predicted to pass over this area and they were calling for the evacuation of the Florida Keys. We went boating and fishing that first day and would make the decision on what I would do that night after we returned.

I did not want to get caught in the massive traffic jams heading north if a major evacuation was called. I decided I would leave early or ride the storm out with Ken and Joyce. A call home to Paulette settled that issue. I would leave for home on Thursday, giving me one more full day to enjoy before I bugged out.

We had planned on Ken’s dad, Tom, fishing with us that first day but something came up and he was not able to join us. We decided to do a repeat of the previous day’s activities since that was my favorite routine, only this time Ken’s dad would be able to come with us.

I’ve known Tom and the rest of Ken’s family almost as long as I’ve known Ken. I’ve become part of that family through the years and when I talked with one of Ken’s sons over the phone during my visit he still called me Uncle Sam. It was going to be great having Tom along.

Here’s a picture of the bait house where we started our day.

There is a public boat launch across the street, next to what was once The Flagship Marina and Restaurant. The building is still standing but the docks that were once filled to capacity with boats are now just a bunch of pilings thanks to Hurricane Jeanne that swept through this area last year. An ominous reminder of the force of the storm predicted to come this way in just a few short days.


As we headed out from the public boat ramp, the sky to the south showed the first hints of the rain bands that would make their way here as a result of Wilma heading this way. These bands were predicted to pass us to the south and we would have fair but partly cloudy weather for the day.

Ken is a director of information and technology for a major manufacturer in Vero Beach. His department would carry the weight of getting all the communications and computing capabilities back up and running in the event of a major storm. The corporation was holding an emergency-planning meeting that morning and Ken would join the meeting from the boat via a conference call using his Blackberry Palm type computer/cell phone. That’s Ken’s dad, Tom, fishing behind him while he’s on the conference call.

As the meeting ended, I caught the first fish of the day and was off to a good start to win almost all categories in our never-ending personal fishing tournament. Even though Ken won yesterday, this would not sit well with my competitive friend.

Then Tom caught an unusual inshore catch, a Scamp. It’s part of the grouper family.

While we fished, an Osprey circled overhead for the longest time fishing the same area we were. He was there so long I was able to snap this picture. Ospreys are fish hawks and are excellent at catching fish for their sustenance. They are truly magnificent creatures and I love to watch them any chance I get.

I went on to catch this mangrove snapper, otherwise known as a gray snapper. Another unusual inshore catch to round the day out.

We knocked off fishing and went back to the Wabasso State Park beach where Ken and I swam the day before. I was able to get a picture of the wood storks that live in and around the parking lot there. The birds are interesting to look at and to watch the social behavior within the flock.

After our swim, it was back to Captain Hirams for lunch and some adult beverages. The bartended was kind enough to take this shot of the three of us.

We didn’t have the same bartender as the day before, but she was every bit as friendly and eager to keep those margaritas flowing.

After lunch, we went to explore one of the islands that dot this part of the waterway. I think Tom wants to come back and live like Robinson Carusoe on this one. I don’t blame him; it was really a neat place.

On the backside of the island, a line of trees was still in the same position they landed when Jeanne came through here last year and knocked them down.

The root systems were huge and we enjoyed playing and having pictures taken in them.

Ken reads this journal regularly and he really enjoyed the Horizons game I played a while back. He wanted to do a horizons type picture for this entry so, here is Ken standing at a point on the horizon.

I waded out and handed Ken the camera and he turned the camera back to show you were I was standing to take the horizon shot.

I had a final beer as I waded around and soaked in the ambience and the friendship. I counted my blessing. Even though I would have to cut this trip short, I had more fun and relaxation in those two days than I had had in years. To be back in the company of my best friend and his family was an experience I will have to always remember and I am thankful.

I left the next morning and beat the bumper to bumper traffic that would follow me the next day. Hurricane Wilma passed over this area on Monday instead of Sunday as was originally predicted and hit Vero Beach with sustained winds even more powerful than Jeanne the previous year.

I finally got through to Ken on his Blackberry Tuesday night and learned that the family made it through okay with only minor damage to his house. The company that he works for sustained significant damage and Ken would be working around the clock for many days to come to restore communications and computer networks.

We had those two days and, for a while, we were transported back to a time when we fished every week and explored Islands every weekend.