Monday, April 25, 2005

Victory at Sea

Sometimes in my line of work, you come across some unique individuals, usually accompanied by unique circumstances. This happened to me yesterday. I’ll change the names for the purpose of this entry. This story is about a man and his dream.

Dan had called more than a month earlier to check on our facilities and to see if he might use them to launch his boat and store the boat trailer on our property for a week. He had a sailboat and wanted to sail to Charleston, S.C. No problem, I figured, so I give him the thumbs up.

The big day arrived and so did Dan and his sailing buddy. Turns out, the boat they are launching is a 12.5 ft Herschoff, a beautiful little day sailor. This one had been completely refurbished and looked brand new. It also turns out that we were experiencing 30 knot winds yesterday with gusts much higher. You can’t tell from the picture, because of the angle and the way it’s cropped, but it was rough out on that water!

Dan knows about the conditions but will not be deterred! We get the boat in the water and I watch as several people try to talk Dan out of sailing that little boat in those strong winds. After Dan gets all the sails rigged and is in his final preparation for departure, I pull him away from everyone else and have a talk with him.

Dan has almost fifty years of sailing, and his buddy is just as experienced. He had planned this trip for over a year while refurbishing this boat. Nothing was going to keep him from his plan.

Sometimes, when you look a man right in the eyes, you can judge the mettle of the person. I saw confidence and calmness in Dan’s eyes while we talked. I also saw that he was going, no matter what.

Most of us professionals on this part of the waterway know each other. I got reports throughout the day on Dan’s progress. It became clear that he was going to successfully complete the first leg of his trip without mishap.

I have to admire a man with a dream. Someone who will not let others stand in the way of his accomplishments. My hat’s off to you Dan! May you have clear skies and calm seas for the rest of your journey.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Artsy Essay Contest

I surprised myself today.  I did not think I would have the time to enter Judith Heartsong's Painting for an Essay Contest this month.  I had forgotten that I had requested to take this day off from work.  It was a case of use the time by my anniversary date or lose it.  We can only carry over so many vaction hours from each year to the next and my anniversary date at work is tomorrow.  I had to use six and a half hours or lose them.  What the heck, I took a whole day!  I got up and did my chores early then sat down to write an entry.  Here it is:


                                   ARTSY ESSAY CONTEST

"I can hear it, but I can’t see it!" Steve Ray said, as he made his was up the hill. Steve was tall for his age and muscular. He was a good athlete and was the first pick by either side in the weekly sandlot baseball games. His blond hair and dark tan made a striking contrast and, at the age of twelve, he was already attracting more than his share of attention from the girls in his school.

Wearing blue jeans, sneaks and a tee shirt, Steve felt warm and wished he had worn shorts. The sun bathed the lush, green grass on the hillside in a golden glow. It was an unseasonably warm spring day and He knew summer was fast approaching. Since he was planning on hiking that day in unknown territory, he had felt jeans would be safer if they ran into brushy terrain.

"Neither can I!" Pete Thomas, two months shy of twelve years old, was close now, just behind Steve and a little to his left. Pete was a skinny kid with short brown hair. Tall for his age, he was a bit awkward looking, but could hold his own on the ball field and Steve Ray was his best friend. Together, they loved to explore and spent most of their free time either hiking new ground or planning new adventures. Pete had followed Steve’s lead and waswearing blue jeans,a long sleeved blue checked shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and his brand new hiking shoes.

They had never been to this area before. Getting to the far side of town, away from the jumble of civilization and into the country was quite a hike itself. Open fields dotted the landscape, with small to medium stands of trees scattered here and there. Gentle sloping hills gave way, in the distance, to higher elevations. The boys were excited. They were breaking new ground here and could imagine future adventures this countryside might offer.

The boys crested the hill together and looked down at a long, sloping valley covered in tall grass accentuated by the purples, yellows, blues, and reds of wild flowers spread rampant across the unfolding vista. Movement caught both their eyes at the same time.

"Whoa! Hit the deck!" Steve shouted. They dove into the grass and lay there, slowly inching their way back over the hilltop on their belly, using the tall grass to keep from being detected. Once safely out of view on the other side, Pete looked up and exclaimed: "Did you see that?" What in the world is going on here? Do you think they spotted us?"

Steve answered, "I don’t know! I’m gonna take a quick peek." He inched back up and, careful to keep his head down, peered over the top of the hill.

Down in the valley a helicopter was on the ground with rotors whirling. Four men had just exited the chopper and were huddled close, apparently shouting over the noise, as the motors wound down. Steve could see one man pointing to a spot on the side of the slope, off to one side and away from the hilltop where he and Pete now lay.

"They seem to be interested in something down the side of this hill, over there! I can’t quite make it out, but it looks like some sort of blue ball, or sphere." Steve was pointing off to his right. Pete edged towards the top to take a peek. Just as he spotted the men and the chopper he heard a loud voice behind them. "Okay you two, freeze. Do not move! Put your hands behind your heads!

Steve and Pete froze in place, hearts beating rapidly. "I said hands behind your head. NOW!" the voice had the ring of authority and both boys complied. "What’s this about?" Pete finally managed to get out.

"Shut up! I’ll do the talking. Stand up slowly!"

As the boys stood up slowly they heard the voice saying into, what Steve assumed, was a two way radio, "Red Leader One, this is Dragon.I’ve got two kids up here on the hilltop. The rest of the perimeter is clear." Instantly a voice came back on the small speaker. "Okay, we’ve located the target! It’s half way down the hill to your right. We are moving up now, bring them down and meet us at the target."

"Okay, boys. Start moving down the hill. I’m right behind you." Steve half-turned and realized the stranger was not holding a gun.

"Why should we do as you say? You don’t even have a gun!" Steve said. At this, Pete swung around and faced the voice. The man he was looking at was medium height, solidly built and casually dressed. Tan trousers, polo style navy blue shirt and black belt. At first his shoes appeared to be a pair of nice loafers, but Pete realized they were custom made walking shoes in a natural leather finish.

The stranger didn’t miss a beat: "Do you really want me to take out a gun? You two are kids! We have no real beef with you, but you must do as I say for now. If you try to run, we out number you and have a helicopter ready to chase you down. Do as I say and you won’t get into trouble! Now! March!"

Steve stared at the man in disbelief! His fear was well concealed, but he knew that if the stranger looked close enough he would see the sweat beads breaking out on his forehead. He asked, "May we at least put our hands down? We are unarmed and I don’t care to fall while walking downhill."

The stranger came close and did a quick pat down on each boy. "Okay, put them down, but no sudden moves. Now, let’s go!"

They met with the group of men from the chopper on the hillside. There, on the ground, was a blue sphere with what looked like a tiled uneven surface. If you looked closely there were a couple of red and yellow spots of what at first appeared to be paint. In the distance behind the orb was a stand of trees with the fresh green color only an early spring could give.

The men were all dressed like the one who had surprised them on the hilltop. No names were mentioned in conversation and they were very businesslike. The one whom the boys took for the leader pulled them a little ways away from the group and started questioning them. Thirty minutes later, the boys felt drained from explaining who they were and describing their every move for the last six hours.

Finally the leader relaxed visibly. The boys were led back to where the group was standing by the round, blue object. The leader said to the group, "They’re okay guys,justa couple of kids hiking in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meet Steve and Pete." Silence.

After a moment or two, Pete spoke up. "What is this thing, and why are you here on this hillside?"

The inquisitor looked directly at him. "I guess we owe you a little explanation, so here it is, boys. This is all top secret and you can’t repeat it. Ever! Do you understand?" Both boys nodded. "We are a recovery team for a non existent military agency. If you try to research us later, you’ll find that we don’t exist either. Not officially, any way."

"This sphere is a fuel source for an aircraft that officially does not exist. Fortunately there are two of these in each engine, or that non-existent plane would have plowed into the ground right about where our chopper is sitting. For reason’s yet unknown, it fell out on a test flight. We are here to retrieve it. End of story. If you repeat this to anyone, and I mean anyone, The local sheriff will come to your house and arrest you on charges of grand theft. You won’t even know what you were supposed to have stolen, but the Sheriff’s Office will have proof and a solid case against you. Do you understand what I’m telling you?"

Both boys nodded vigorously. Steve blurted out without thinking: "This is some sort of sophisticated, futuristic fuel source? It looks as if it was stored in an artist’s loft! Look at the paint that has dripped on it."

The leader, the man who was their inquisitor, looked at Steve with steel like eyes. Finally he said: "I don’t owe you any explanation, but Heck, I don’t think this will hurt to tell you. The two yellow spots are actually a form of lithium grease used to keep moisture out of the contacts. The two red spots are used to line it up for placement into the engine. Now, that’s all! We have to get out of here! Do we have your solemn oath of secrecy about all this?

The boys agreed and the men loaded up the sphere and took off in the chopper. Exhausted from the excitement, Steve and Pete headed towards town. After walking for a while in silence, Pete asked Steve, "Are you going to tell anyone about this?"

Steve looked at his friend. "Pete my good man, I think this is going to have to stay just between us forever. I mean, you could tell someone and risk the Sheriff coming after you, but what’s the point? No one would ever believe this happened, anyway!" With that, the boys walked home.



Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Ken and Myself a few short years back aboard "Halcyon"

I’ve been thinking of friendships lately. I suppose this stems from the new friends I’ve made here and the feeling of how lucky I am to have them. Sometimes we are blessed to have lifelong friends.

As I was growing up we moved a lot. My father was an officer in the Air Force, so the longest we stayed in any one place was three years. I made many friends across the world, but after I moved on it was hard to maintain contact. Letters would come regularly at first, then trickle, then stop. Most of my friends from growing up I’ve totally lost contact with.

Sometimes, though, we get lucky and a friendship blooms, is nurtured and becomes life long. I have been blessed by one such friendship. No matter where we are or how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, we are friends and neither time nor distance can lessen these bonds.

I met Ken in 1978 when we both moved into the same apartment complex in St. Petersburg Florida within a week of each other. Ken was in the Air Force and stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, which was right across the bridge from our complex. I was a producer/director at WTSP-TV located just on this side of that same bridge. We were both married and had similar interests.

I met Ken after I had analyzed my transportation needs and purchased a motorcycle for my short daily commute to work. One week later, Ken went down to the same dealership and purchased his own motorcycle. His bike was bigger! We’ll go into that another time, LOL!

We started riding together, playing tennis together and fishing together. What a time we had riding those bikes all over that part of Florida with the ladies on the back seats. We stopped at out of the way hole in the walls, parks, attractions, and any establishment that had the word oyster as part of its title.

In sickness and health, family crisis and family deaths, we have always been there for each other. We didn’t live in that apartment complex for more than two years. Ken got transferred to Germany and my wife and I bought a house in St. Petersburg. We wrote occasionally, mainly at Christmas. Then three years later I get this phone call. Ken’s tour was up, he was back in St. Pete, and was getting out of the Air Force.

We loved fishing. I got a little Jon boat first. Then Ken got a runabout. I got a slightly bigger runabout and Ken went out and bought a cabin cruiser. You get the picture. We loved it! We fished the heck out of every boat we owned and left no island unexplored while we were at it.

Through the years our jobs and careers have changed and we have moved around at bit. However, we always kept in touch and took the time to visit every chance we got.

Ken is now a corporate executive with a company on the East Coast of Florida. He is a very busy man with a lot of responsibility and yet, he always takes a few minutes to chat when I call him.

I was going to take a week at the end of this month and go see him. We were going fish, laugh, and even share an adult beverage or two. Right now it looks like I’m going to have to postpone my trip. Again!

When we scheduled this visit originally, I did not know I was going to be moving into a new house at the beginning of this month. Well, life happens and I need to postpone. We are in the house but there is still too much to do.  I am a little sad and I guess that’s the reason for this post. On the bright side… I will go later this year. I will not let another year pass without seeing my friend!



Monday, April 18, 2005

Ship Wrecks


What a sad sight greets me every morning now as I report for work.

This shrimp boat showed up on the waterway one day at anchor within sight of the marina facility where I work.  No one seemed to know anything about it and it stayed just on the edge of the Intracoastal waterway for three weeks.  Then one morning the tide went out... and when it came back up, this boat didn't!

It happened on one of my days off, so it waqsn't me that alerted the Coast Guard.  No, it was my well trained assistant.  The Coasties came and inspected, then left.  The next day a commercial salvage operation came and pumped all the fuel out of her tanks.

She has stayed in her resting place for three weeks now.  From what I have been able to find out, she was purchased just before she showed up at anchor there.  The new owner left her swinging on her hook unattended and she sank!  How sad!

I saw three men board her this weekend and seemed to try and pump her out to no avail.  I realy believe her planking was stoved in and pumping her out will prove futile with even the best equipment.

I do hope the owner gets her raised and moved.  She is on the edge of the waterway and every visitor to our area by boat will pass right by her hull.  I don't know about you, but it gives me the creeps when I am in a boat and I have to pass right by a boat that sank in the very spot I am now floating.

Well, unless the DNR steps in and finds the owner, it's anybody's guess as to what will happen to it.  I just thought Y'all might think the PIC was interesting.





Welcome to those of you who have found your way here! This is my very first post.  I have been a silent, (well, almost silent) reader in J-Land for almost six months now. In that time I have laughed, cried and shared a part of your lives. The experience has touched me and made me want to join your community.  My name is Sam.

There was much trepidation on my part about starting a journal. I have never kept a regular journal and really did not know if I had anything to say. I was also leery of being committed to something that would surely command a good chunk of my time. So I continued to just read. I can't tell you how long it took for me to actually comment in one of the journals I read.

When I finally did comment in a journal I was pleasantly surprised to get a polite thank you note and was invited to share a little about myself, so the journaler could get to know a little about me. Hmmm ... scared again. But, I got over it and slowly opened up a little to some very nice people.

They are two of the most talented people I have ever had the pleasure to acquaint myself with and I must thank them both right here and right now.

Pennie, your kindness to me and your encouragement I shall never forget. Your talent with the written word is absolutely awesome! You have such a gentle soul and kind spirit.  I would want to read anything you ever wrote.  Any of you who do not know BlondePennieRae yet must take a visit to read her at:

 Judi, your spirit soars strong and high. Your talents are many, but as an artist, you cannot be equaled. Your journal is fun, informative and gives one a great insight into the person that you are. I thank you for sharing yourself with all of us so generously. Your writing abilities are superb. All of J-Land knows of Judith Heartsong. If there is anybody who has found his or her way here who has not visited Judi's journal can follow this link and be enriched:

The friendship of both of these ladies will always be special to me, for they helped open the door to becoming a member of this most talented community.  I look forward to many more friends and acquaintences as now I, too, make my way in J-land.