The Coast Guard

At some point along the way in high school I did a report of some kind on the Coast Guard Academy … and I suppose I entertained some notion about going there.

After graduating from Brandon, I ritually trotted within the “preppie” herd and headed for “college.” In two rich and rewarding terms I demonstrated convincingly that I was “not ready for prime time,” … so to speak. I found a totally unexpected and welcome social group … numerous talented, bright, open people … and I hung out there, in “The Lounge.” More about that elsewhere.

Now … I like to say that my “Uncle” … y’know, the one with the red white and blue top hat? … white beard? … points a lot? … always on about who he “wants?”… you’ve seen’im … yeah … that one. Well, he was stalking the land in those days in search of able, young men … and conscripting them, training them to kill or be killed, and sending them about half way around the world to a place where they died by the hundreds weekly.

I was about to become what you call “1-A” … fresh, strapping, steerable meat. I knew it, too.

… and it scared the shit outa me.

Now, I had been raised by two (count’em … 2) United States Marines, one of whom was in combat with soldiers of the Empire of Japan contesting possession of a remarkable island we call “Guam” as part of a little dustup we all called “WWII.” I did understand honorable service and … I always wondered if it was just me but … it seemed there was a certain glorification of “war” in the culture. It seemed to me that the fact was, you just weren’t a “Man” … if you didn’t end up in combat somewhere. For me, the notion of combat was … I think … very much an expected “Rite of Passage” to manhood and that was strong in me.

… so was the abject terror of knowingly placing myself somewhere I knew there were armed, capable people waiting to do their very best to kill me.

… and as strong as the abstract “killer duty” was … the horror at killing someone … being expected, trained, required, … tasked … to kill another person, along with the urgent terror at the prospect of putting myself where I knew people were trying to kill me … uhhhh … mmmmotivated, I think is a good word … yes … yes … most definitely: motivated me to Find Another Way to handle the Fact that I WAS going to be required to be in the military … I could choose: I could “volunteer” … orrrrrr … be DRAFTED!!

Yes, sir … it seemed a rich field of choices that lay before me. Oh, I can see now that I did have “other alternatives” … but I din’ WANNA live in Canada … and that “beat–my-knee-with-a-two-by-four” thing? … that … naaahhhhh … The whole point is to avoid physical injury … itnit ??

… and I … I had a “Superman” cape … it completed my (Thank you, Paul for this exquisite visual.): Savior Suit …

In my fantasies and in my dreams throughout my childhood I was a magnificent superhero … rescuing damsels (yes … I knew what a “damsel” was in utero, I think …) I flew and acted with irresistible strength intervening and steadfastly thwarting the most powerful “Evil” to protect and recover the cherished … and hence, adoring … Tender Young Woman.

… and there … was the Coast Guard … you know: Stout Boats with Strong Men braving the Fury of the Sea to act in the rescue of People in Trouble.

Flying spray … leaping boats … grateful people … (no one was shooting at me) … military service … (no one was shootingat … me… )


To this day, there is a twinge … “Coward” … and, y’know what? … I’ll own that.

Yes, I was a coward … still am in some ways … and I looked at my situation and I calculated a choice that I deemed in my best interest. I was not pissed off enough at the Vietnamese people to travel nearly half way around the world to kill them. I have since discovered that I am capable of being that pissed at someone, and at the time … nahh …

… so I enlisted. Went to the office, took the tests, signed, and I was in the Coast Guard. I was in the military.

There ensued a tenderly touching, heart-rending, and lengthy “Goodbye” to that community, to those people I had met in “110 Southcourt Lounge,” including one tiny fascinating woman with whom I had become utterly smitten … and that’s a whooollllle other story … then I stood with hand raised and took the oath.

I guess I flew to Philadelphia. Now … I think the farthest, up to that point in my life, that I had ever ventured from my home … alone … was the day I wandered off in North Bergen and ended up in the police station being entertained by a Sergeant who drew things, while we waited for my family to come and collect their three … four? … year old, so boarding an airplane and flying to Philadelphia … alone … one way … was prêt-ty damned “freaky”…

The instructions were to go to the bus station in Philadelphia and board a bus to Cape May, New Jersey. I think it was a cab ride from the airport into downtown but, hell … I was just barely conscious by that time …

… and I was walking around in the middle of Philadelphia … my cracker ass effectively incandescent as I rubbernecked and pulled pieces of paper from my pockets to peer at street signs and numbers … and I could NOT find the bus station …

I had no iDEA where that thing was … and I was standing on the sidewalk peering first one way and then the other up and down the rumbling city street, trying to figure out where I was when from very close behind me there was a blast from an air horn …

It was a bus

… I was standing between the bus and the street, in the “Departure” drive of the Union Bus Station in Philadelphia … PA.

Oh …

There’s the bus station …

It seems like a dark bus ride to Cape May … but that may have just been my mood … because I remember arriving at the United States Coast Guard Recruit Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey on a grey, drizzling, VERY chilly 26th of May day. Grey … 46 degrees … raining … May 26, 1966.

We left the bus under the … instruction … of several khaki-clad gentlemen with very very clear notions as to what precisely must be done and what is absolutely, emphatically NOT to be done.

Reality began to blur and the rather shy, smart, suburban cracker kid from White Bread, U.S.A. increasingly became a highly attentive and compliant, even eager … military trainee … I became a guy living in a room with fifty-some other guys … maybe more, I don’t remember … a guy with clothes that looked exactly like everyone else’s clothes and a shaven head … just like everyone else’s.

… a guy who either ran, or gathered a “squad” and marched to called cadence, at any time he was outside moving from one place to another … which was almost constantly.

The physical aspect was very nearly brutal. Early on we, we recruits, we stood in ranks, many companies, all the incoming companies … in a single huge formation and we did calisthenics, “brisk” and extensive calisthenics in sets, long, vigorous sets … and if someone fell out of rhythm, failed to carry out a movement or maybe didn’t stop at the correct time, the set was repeated … and … y’know … repeated … and … y’know …

for a lonnnnnnngggg time. In that way I became so completely and stiffly bone-deep and painfully sore that I would not sit down if the opportunity might last less than maybe ten minutes, because it took me about that long just to sit down (especially on the floor (DECK, SIR!!) because if we were in the squad bay … one did NOT sit on the “racks.”) and stand back up.

I lived in that squad bay with those men for a while, long enough to have our “Recruit Company Commander” … fail and have the D.I. call me to the desk and offer me the position … and for me to decline.

I had been told “The Way” to go through boot camp was to get into the Honor Guard and there was a tryout where anyone who wanted to could perform certain specific things for review and potentially be selected to be in the Honor Guard. Down to the shady end of the huge three story block barracks and put in formations of four, we marched … for form, pace, bearing … to “silent cadence.” Then we lined up, shoulder to shoulder along the walk, ”dressed right,” and the squad stood before us, one holding a Springfield ’06 bolt action rifle with a bayonet affixed. The “drill” was … “He’s gonna toss you this rifle. YOU are going to catch it in your right hand.”

OK …

… and I watched out the corner of my eye as they progressed toward me down the walk along the rank and it was just an underhand toss from alongside the leg. No big thing …

He stood in front of me and the rifle flew. Short … and low …

I set one foot crisply forward, bent at the waist, reached out and down and seized the rifle in midair by the front hand grip with my right hand, about three inches from the concrete, caught it cleanly, stood and stepped back with the rifle butt on the deck beside my right foot and the bayonet along the front of my upper arm, at attention.

I was in the Honor Guard.


    What had begun in the cold, rainy, damp-gray late May adjourned in the humid, stifling-hot mid-July in Cape May, New Jersey in 1966.

                                                   “Boot camp.”

    Eight weeks, abbreviated from the twelve or more week peacetime regimen to meet the demands of the Vietnam War. Eight weeks of some of the most intense experience this lifetime offers. At last complete. I was IN the Coast Guard … I was “G.I.”

    I don’t even remember my own graduation.

    The airlines were on strike. Nothing was flying from Philadelphia to Tampa. I never even considered a train. Whatever moved “South” first … I wanted to be ON IT. Dad had tried to get the company jet to come get me and fly me to Tampa, an AMAZING thing for him even to be ABLE to request, but at the time, the honor the man was paying me never registered.

He was trying to get me a private jet to take me home from boot camp.

That’s what y’call, “Cool!”

    Anyway, the first thing smokin’ southbound was a Greyhound bus out of Philly. Sea bag, “AWOL” bag, “Parade” dress whites and spit-polished “Drills,” Seaman Apprentice John E. Gillmore, Jr. fresh from eight weeks of military training (that put the final patina on the previous 19 years at home with two (that’s “2” …) World War II veteran United States Marines) did eagerly climb aboard a Greyhound Sceni-cruiser one late mid-July afternoon in 1966 at the Union bus station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

    I don’t remember leaving … hell, I don’t remember getting on the bus … or being at the bus station, except as brief, still flashes of individual moments, like vivid but fleeting slides. What do I think I do remember? It was HOT … Mid-July-in-the-coastal-northeast sopping, oppressive HOT … and I got on that bus … that bus that was leaving toward home!

    I swear, if a “honey wagon” with no air conditioning had moved toward Florida in those moments, I would have jumped aboard the tank and clung to the dripping hoses.

    There are sharply focused, intense little pictures of rose yellow street light and headlights and deep black sky, and of the inside of the bus, which seemed in those early hours pleasant enough, not much different from my few brief experiences of airline cabins. I seem to remember “blue-gray” … upholstery, and shiny light gray plastic window frames set in a sort of fuzzy side panel the same colors as the rest of the interior.

I got the window seat, deep under the overhead racks.

    Beside me? At first I have no idea and, soon, we stopped, it seems, and a young black woman and her toddler girl got aboard. I remember a crisp white little dress on the toddler and little white shoes. She was beautiful … as was her mother.

    I had read a novel, I think it was “Eternal Fire,” in which there was a supremely “evil character” named Harry Diadem. It was a very powerful … “stimulatingly” impactful … story for a guy just out of high school. Harry was the most utterly corrupt, amoral, IMmoral, criminal character I had ever encountered, and he was definitely the most powerful, sexually predatory character, with his numbered conquests and scoring system for his exercise in psychopathic self-gratification actually hand-written in a journal. In one scene that galvanized my testosterone-blazing Id Harry sat beside a young, innocent woman on a bus. As the trip progressed he began to shove his hand under her as she sat. You may conclude the scene at your leisure … the novel was more intense than that.

I know that by now you may be able to see where this is going … you may wish to return to your previous activity.

    Here, the recollection seems to occur in two clearly incompatible streams. On the one hand I remember that beautiful young black woman and her angelic toddler daughter boarding the bus in what seems to be the early morning sunshine. I also recall that, as we cleared Philly I started to sing “Sloop John B” … strictly manipulative behavior … even up to the point of asking “… if you mind if I sing.” Deep into it …

“No.” was the answer … “In fact you’re quite good.”

    This portion of what was developing into a karmic vision trek becomes a bit … segmented? Suffice it to say that I did, indeed, attempt to put my hand under this young woman’s buttocks as she sat beside me, rumbling along.

    Y’know, I have no idea what happened. I think she chose to simply, utterly and absolutely ignore me. My own approach/avoidance to my outrageous behavior was such that I don’t think it took much to persuade me that this really wasn’t a good idea, and it was ab so LUTE ly NOT going to play out as did the scene in the book.

    We rolled along … scenes flash by. Down a highway through the mountains in, I guess it was, North Carolina, in a driving rainstorm over roads that appeared to the eye as a jet black glistening ebony sheet. I was near enough the driver to be able to read the big, round speedometer: Eighty five … or just a little better … miles per hour that is, down the winding mountainside Interstate in the pouring rain over the broad ebony-mirror pavement among the cars, trucks … a bus … careened through the dim stormy … hot … afternoon. We passed a horrid, meat-rending, obviously high-speed wreck and as we crawled by I got to look down at the mangled, now-bloodless leg hung from under the white sheet, still crumpled into the dark remains of the demolished car. We crawled past … and resumed our hurtling flight through the pouring rain.

    The air conditioning aboard had failed, at least partially, and the passengers had popped open the tilt-in top vent windows. It brought a continuous buffeting flow of saturated, heated air and an almost constant spray of light mist into the bus and so we rolled: wilted, heated, in the constant bluster of the open windows, increasingly damp in the blowing mist.

    The driver insisted that the air conditioning would cool the cabin. All we had to do is close all the windows, he said. All we had to do was seal ourselves, careening along the ebony slick in a mid-July rainstorm, into the bus with the other … I really don’t know how many, but I don’t remember any empty seats … passengers, sealed in with the damp, the heat … people … lots and lots of people.

We did.

Uh uh … nnno … nope … huh uh … that was NOT happening. It was a hurtling sauna packed with one-day-past-fresh travelers and there was little tolerance for the resulting, uhhh … air quality …

… and soon … quite soon … the vents were once again tilted open and the blustery, saturated, spray-laden summer afternoon was among us.

    Among my fellow travelers, riding in the center of the seat that crossed the very rear of the passenger cabin, was a black man who boarded in Philly carrying a nice, nearly full-sized, suitcase. It was, it turned out, filled from side to side with fifths of Johnny Walker Red, which he proceeded to open, and drink. The result was just what you might expect and soon we were southbound with an utterly, insensately, ramblingly typical drunk. He continued to drink the Red label scotch, I suppose just as you would a Coke, and benumbed himself through drunkenness into unconsciousness. There was quiet at the rear of the bus.

    When he awoke … regained consciousness … he reached into his nice new bag and began again.

    We stopped from time to time. I don’t recall much other than a brief bright frame of inside light spilling out through a diner’s window past a dark brick wall onto the floor of the inside of the bus station, a sort of cool, lemon-yellow lamp in the dark. As we boarded, ready to resume the already-tedious trek, the drunk dropped an unopened fifth of Johnny Walker Red in the back of the bus and it shattered. The bus was unfit for human habitation.

That’s all.

… and we had to change buses. Greyhound had to locate another coach, offload our luggage and reload and … hell, I don’t know how long it was.

The bus we ended up with?

… was the one aboard which we’ve been careening, stifling, down the rainy mountain asphalt luge.

He was a popular guy.

    At some point I did get to talk to that young lady, astonishingly enough. As we talked her beautiful toddler daughter watched and commented from time to time and became very much a part of our conversation, scrambling back and forth between our laps. I think I tilted my seat back in the dark and she reached for me. Momma looked over and said, “Is it OK?”

    “Yes.” and, in a moment of life that floats free of all time, independent of all geography, that child came to me and lay upon my chest … and fell softly asleep. I can still feel her heartbeat and the sweet, clear warmth of her at my heart, the small arms akimbo and the hands at rest on my shoulders, my chest as her pillow.

    It transfixes me to this day. There is no language adequate to offer the … I’m sorry, I wish there was another word, this one being so very overused … utter profundity of those hours.

… and through the night, naps and brief glimpses of dark interior and streams of light flashing, a beautiful child slept in utter trust in safety, her heart upon my heart.

In the sunny next morning, mother and child reached their destination and left our grimy trudge.

    In Savannah I got off the bus. My sparkling “Parade” dress whites looked like I had successfully camouflaged myself in a dust pile, or had perhaps just wrestled someone on the floor of an abandoned factory. We were headed for Jacksonville. I was nearing Florida.

“How long between Jacksonville and Tampa?”

“Eight hours.”

… another “night in th’ box.” (“Cool Hand Luke” reference … One of the perks of being on a ship is they send you first-run flicks … which we projected on a screen on the fantail and all lounged around on the deck and lay in hammocks to watch … “Cool Hand Luke” … at sea, at night … but, I both digress … and get over a year ahead of myself … try that … ;<)

    No … fucking … way! That particular shit is NOT happening!! I am NOT reaching Jacksonville deep in the second dark night of this now fetid, rumpled and bone-weary trek and still have eight …hours … to ride.

I found a phone.

    “Hey … It’s John … look … I’m leaving Savannah in just a little while headed for Jacksonville? I am getting OFF … THIS FUCKING BUS … in Jacksonville. If you’re there, I’d VERY much like a ride home. If not … I’ll WALK!!”

    So, I never got my ride in the Weyerhaeuser corporate jet, but their top Florida account manager and his wife swept from Brandon across the Florida summer late night in his company “limo” to Jacksonville, met me and carried me home.

    I changed uniforms in a toilet stall in the bus station “Men’s Room” in Savannah, a feat that required the balance of a Wallenda and the balletic precision of a Nureyev, and arrived in Jacksonville for the “Marine Reception” in starched, creased whites and only sliiiiiightly scuffed “spit” shined Drills, shouldering a regulation-rolled sea bag, gripping an AWOL bag with the crossed, bayoneted Springfield rifles of the United States Coast Guard Recruit Training Center Honor Guard emblazoned thereupon, a suitably raked “salty” hat, and a freshly-melted, blown-wide-open heart, of which, incredibly upon reflection, I remained almost utterly unaware for many, many ensuing years.

… and that, I guess, was the end of that beginning.

10 9 12

“Being” (on a team) in the Rain

I learned to “be” in the rain on a small, beautiful, green island in the Carolines we called “Yap.”

Oh, sure, I had been “CAUGHT” in the rain, but generally, rain was something to get OUT of.

We were stationed on Guam aboard the Mallow, a 180’ multipurpose, seagoing buoy tender, ice breaker and cargo ship, and part of our mission was to handle logistics for a huge piece of the western Pacific Ocean. For reasons I never knew, there was a need on that beautiful green island for as much 145 octane aviation fuel … “Avgas” … as you could pile onto a 180’ buoy tender.

                                  The United States Coast Guard Cutter Mallow WLB 396

So we went to work.

Steel 55 gallon drums, each weighing somewhere near 500 pounds … in this case full of one of the most explosively flammable fuels in the world … are handled in sets by a steel chain device we called a “barrel chine.” The chine is devised so that it can pick up as many as four 55 gallon drums at a time, on their sides. Each drum we loaded had to be tipped from standing to lying on its side and rolled into place among three others. Then the chines were hooked over the rims of the barrels and 220 gallons (about a ton) of 145 octane Avgas was lifted, suspended, swung through the air and placed on the steel deck of the ship. Each barrel was then rolled across that steel deck and tipped back upright into its position among the growing load.

We started as far aft on the buoy deck as we could, right up against the turtleback, and we stocked 55 gallon drums of Avgas snugly against each other in a growing uniform blanket forward across the deck. We tucked as many of them on that buoy deck as we could, right up under the fo’c’sle.

Then we stacked another layer on top of that one. One hundred twenty six lifts.

Five hundred and four steel 55 gallon drums of Avgas sat strapped down on a steel deck in the tropical sun. Twenty seven thousand gallons of Avgas, in steel drums, sat either on a steel deck, or stacked on another layer of steel drums, in the sun, in Guam.

We dragged out every single fire hose and fog nozzle aboard. A fog nozzle is a fire suppression tool that turns water from a fire hose into a fog that is actually dense enough to cause difficulty breathing. It smothers flame. We lashed them to the stanchions along the aft edge of the 01 deck on the foc’sle. We lashed them to the boom, facing both directions. We lashed them to everything we could possibly lash them to and we hooked them up to the VERY high pressure VERY high capacity salt water fire fighting pumps.

… and we “set sail.”

There was “No Smoking on the weather decks.”

Clearing the sea buoy out of Apra Harbor we turned for Yap. Crossing over the Challenger Deep in the Marianna Trench, we bore south through the afternoon and the drums heated on the buoy deck as we shouldered our way across a beautiful calm Pacific Ocean under a full tropical sun. As the Avgas evaporated in the heat, pressure built in the drums and their steel ends would “reset” under that pressure, producing a loud, deep, resonant, metallic “PLANNK!”

Those drums that reset were now pressurized containers full of Avgas, each holding a head of heated vaporized aviation fuel under pressure.

After the sun set, throughout the relative cool of the deepening night, the pressure dropped in those drums and the steel ends would “reset” again, with the same resounding, loud, metallic “PLANNK.” It was audible in every corner of the ship except the engine room, where the two eight-foot-high gray Buddha engines cranked away.

We reached Yap in the afternoon of the next day.

… and as we arrived it started to rain.

Now, people who’ve lived in Florida for a while have seen this kind of rain. Water cascades from the clouds in volumes that seem to fill the air to near capacity. There is no wind … there is no lightning … just a constant, unchanging, rushing straight down pour. Distant sounds simply don’t reach through the cascade, and the location becomes very close as the rain also restricts visibility to a few dozen yards. Everything past the near distance is simply a uniform silver gray. It seems impossible that that much water could fall from the clouds that constantly for that long.

… and it does.

As a Florida native I had seen such rain … but it was something you “came in out of” unless you “didn’t have enough sense.” If it was raining like that, things didn’t happen. People didn’t go to church. Eighteen wheelers pulled off roads seeking safe shelter. You only went out there if … say … your house caught fire.

“Rain” like that was for “getting out of.”

… and we reached Yap in the afternoon, and it rained … it just … poured … and it was time to offload five hundred and four 55 gallon drums of 145 octane aviation fuel, tipping them onto their sides, rolling them into place, and hooking them up four at a time to be lifted off the steel below them, either the first layer of barrels or the steel deck itself, and swung off across the rail and onto the dock, where each load of four was set down on the concrete, and each barrel rolled into place and set back upright.

There was no “rain gear.” It would have been useless, almost like wearing a poncho in a swimming pool but not quite. We just walked outside into the rain dressed in dungarees and hardhats and shirtless except for “working” life vests … and were just about instantly soaked to the skin, almost as fast as if we’d just jumped overboard. Even our steel toed boots were full.

… and we tipped, and rolled, and hooked up, and lifted, swung, set down and rolled into storage 504 500 pound, steel 55 gallon drums of Avgas in a rain that would have drowned a catfish …

grinning like mules eating cactus.

It … was … WONDERFUL! A nice warm tropical downpour, and … you couldn’t have struck a spark out there with an arc welder.

It was almost a dance and we grinned and dripped and wrestled and tipped and clinked and swung and easily, efficiently, swiftly and expertly got that 27,000 gallon bomb OFF OUR SHIP.

Five hundred four ON … 126 lifts … five hundred four OFF … another 126 lifts… flawlessly. Two hundred and fifty two lifts. Not one … single … slip … drop … bump … not … one.

… and that was the day I learned to “be” ( on a team ) in the rain.

10 3 12

A Night on Duty at Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet

Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet sat on what was largely a spoil island that resulted from the dredging of the shipping channel, turning basin and Port of Palm Beach, just inside a gap in the Atlantic coastal barrier islands, which were decorated north and south with the manors and estates of Palm Beach. The inlet had been dredged into a ship channel and there was a jetty at either side, huge rocks stacked from the ocean floor to form ship-shredders that reached offshore into the Atlantic Ocean. The inlet drained a section of the “inland waterway” that was probably fifteen or twenty miles up and down the east coast of Florida and at times a LOT of water coursed into and out of that narrow channel.

It was an idyllic setting, really it was … and the current through that inlet combined with the winds periodically turned it into a thrashing, crashing, pounding chaos … and the Coast Guard had deemed it sufficiently dangerous that it bestowed upon the station a brand new 44 foot, self-righting motor surfboat:

Ours was 44371

Tough as nails, two Jimmy diesels powering twin bronze screws, built for the rough seas, tested across the Columbia River Bar. If it capsized … turned upside down … it was designed so that in seventeen seconds it re-righted itself. All the seats had seat-belts. The diesel engines produced a roaring throaty note under power, being exhausted into an 8” pipe that crossed the boat and opened to both sides so the engines could not be drowned. They were designed to be able to run inverted.

Late one chilly winter evening a tug pulled out of the Port of Palm Beach towing an oil barge. It was headed for Miami overnight south along the coast. As the passage progressed the weather deteriorated and a powerful onshore wind carrying a chilly drizzling rain rose off the Atlantic driving a rising sea and surf.

I was “Deathly Ill.” It was a flu-ey thing I think and I had a parching fever, a sore throat and I had chills and aches and pains … and

I had duty.

I was on “The Duty Boat Crew.”

At about eleven P.M. (2300) we received a distress call. A tug with a barge in tow had lost power at sea and they were being blown onshore.

We didn’t have one of those signs over the door like they do at some stations … you know:

“You have to go out.

You don’t have to come back.”

… and we understood it anyway. A tug and barge were adrift in a strong onshore wind and rising sea down the coast from us.

We were underway, roaring. I don’t even remember going out the inlet or turning south. I recall taking the message that the barge was aground on the beach and the tug had set an anchor near, but outside, the surf line. We were to reach the scene and “stand by” to render any further needed assistance.

I was in foul weather gear and so sick that once we were on scene I simply curled up on deck right there … and drifted in and out of sleep listening to the diesels below …

At three in the morning, after a night idling in the bitter wet Atlantic wind, just outside the surf line near an anchored tug, the radio cracked open.

“The tug has lost anchor and is being set onto the beach … toward the barge.”

The two Jimmys howled in the exhaust port and we turned for the beach at flank.

I ran to the stern to ready the tow line for passage as we rode before an increasingly steep swell toward the tug, now partially turned abeam to the seas. The coxs’n turned alongside and I passed the line to the tug crew, who fastened it to the towing bit on their stern. They tossed it over the first solid thing they reached. If the old man’d had a hard-on, they’d’a lassoed that at that particular moment …

… and we powered up, turned offshore into the sea and took a strain on the tow line.

… and the tug turned sideways in the swell and we realized that we were attached to their stern bit and they still had the beached oil barge in tow. We were laboring in a head sea, against a high wind, tied to a tugboat turned in the troughs, nearly in the surf, laboring to pull a grounded oil barge off the beach.

It was hopeless. We could keep a strain on the tow line and maintain a stationary position, or sweep side to side, head or bow quarter on to a steep pounding swell, holding the breached tug off the beach .… until further help arrived … or the fuel ran out.

We labored there for a while … I don’t know for how long … and the problem resolved:

I guess the tug surged in one direction and we in another in the seas … and the tow line parted with an explosive crack.

… and there we were, maneuvering in a steep sea, trailing an unknown length of nylon tow line, approaching another unknown length of nylon tow line to reach a broached tug, now just peaking on the surf break, and try to keep it and its crew from being rolled through swells and against the barge in the roaring surf.

I ran to the stern and found the tow line and began to haul in the cold soaking double-braided nylon in six foot bights. We were maneuvering toward the tug, which we had to reach with our stern, where I was standing, and pass that length of soaked nylon line to them. The stern was bucking and tossing underfoot as we backed down onto the tug. Someone had woven their arms around my ankles.

I wound up from the very soles of my feet and threw the coiled line as hard and as far as I could.

… and missed.

… and there we were again, maneuvering alongside a tossing tug in the rising surf with a coiled towline in the black water off the stern near the props.

I pulled it in as hard and as fast as I could and ended up with it coiled in both hands as the coxs’n rode the rising seas backward toward the tug … the stern rose … and then plunged … my ankles were tightly held, I remember the warmth …

… and the 44 hit bottom and shot back upward, and as we rose above them I threw the line as hard as I could and as far as I could and it landed on deck inside the rail alongside their wheelhouse. If we had struck bottom the tug almost HAD to be pretty much aground in the surf.

They secured the tow line around their forward bit, threw off the barge, and we took a strain as smartly as possible and we … began … to PULL …

… into the surf … into the wind … on a grounded tug beam-on inside the line of breaking surf.

… and she turned … her bow swung into the swell … and I saw her stern rise as the sea passed under it.

She was afloat.

She was under way … they were in tow.

We moved out of the surf, offshore and turned for home.

We towed them through the rest of the dark morning, north toward Lake Worth Inlet and the Port of Palm Beach. We swung far out to sea to shoot the inlet as swiftly and in as straight a line as possible … I don’t remember taking the tug alongside for the passage, so they must have had steerage.

The night seems to have settled somehow by then. I don’t recall any anxiety at towing the tug through the inlet so things must have settled some, perhaps the tide was running out.

… and then we were inside the harbor, in the calm. The sun was just below the horizon in that part of the day when the bronze just shows some rose in the sky but there’s no heat in it yet, and the rest of the sky is still a crisp cold black, and we brought them into the safety of the turning basin and gently put them alongside a pier and they tied up.

There were handshakes … and we went home

… and so did they.

Another Day in the Boats

He came to Lake Worth Inlet from somewhere up in “The Great Northwest,” another life boat station but along the Pacific Coast. He was an “Engineman.” (aka: a “snipe.”)

He looked around at “Peanut Island” and our cozy, very affluent surroundings … at the nice, gentle, blue-green Atlantic Ocean out beyond the inlet … and scoffed.

HE … was a “salt” … HE came from where the “Real Weather” was. We were just shallow water sailors in pretty boats on a calm tropical island chaperoning the upturned noses of the pre-teeners roaring up and down the Intracoastal Waterway in daddy’s V-8 Donzi.

Why, we even had a ski boat. Pfffff … reeeally??!

Seventeen feet long, the glass runabout was powered by a Chevy six cylinder mill that turned a MerCruiser stern drive. It was the “update” for what was basically a powered rowboat we had been using as a “liberty launch” to and from the island.

… and it did have a “ski bar” fixed across the stern. We all took one look at it, looked around at each other and said, “Pursuit boat …” The throttle was “governed” to limit … velocity … and the engineers quickly learned to “UN” govern that bitch … and let’er rip … a few hundred pounds of fiberglass floating a six cylinder engine. Someone who understood these things had installed a thick stainless steel grab bar on the dash forward of the passenger seat … heh heh …

She was a rocket, a skipping stone. Being among the “Duty Seamen” and a striking coxs’n I frequently enjoyed handling her. Oohhhh, yes … I did enjoy that!

So, “Salty” the Engineman had been there a little while, a little, uneventful “while.” Just a liiiiittle longer a “while” than it took to get totally over listening to his “salty dog” crap and his scoffing derision.

He and I had the pursuit boat. We were between the Port and the Station in a cold, nasty, choppy Intracoastal Waterway. It was an “inland” waterway … and when the wind and tides ran in just the right directions, it’d “stand up” pretty good. It was walkin’ around on that afternoon. It was windy and it was cold and it was cloudy and we were bouncin’ around out there … doin’ … somethin’ … who knows …

… and the radio lit up: There was a man in the water, clinging to a sinking overturned boat east of the channel down by the Flagler Bridge.

“10-4 We are en route.”

I turned south … it was three miles down there … and I had a boat that could cover it in somewhere near three minutes … in the flat.

It was not … flat … and I took off.

I knew the boat. I knew the water … and I let rip everything I could, and we screamed down the Intracoastal, pounding and bounding and leaping.

It’s hard to describe exactly what that’s like. You have to watch the “incoming” seas and make adjustments in throttle and steering to pilot safely and the boat leaves the water a lot … and comes thumping down in huge spreading sprays … you try to keep the prop in the water … that’s important … and there are brief but repeated instances of … reduced gravity? …

And we did literally bound down the channel. She was a tough, powerful boat and we had a man in the water.

I was pretty much … taken up … with the job at hand and committed to the fastest possible approach to the scene, so I didn’t have time to look around at much … and I did get a “grin” in the midst of all that, when I glanced over to see two white-knuckled fists welded around that grab bar in front of the passenger seat … heh heh … eeyeah …

We reached the scene. There was a man up to his ears in the water reaching and clinging to the keel of a capsized boat awash in the chilly chop, and we slid alongside and pulled him out of the water, cold and pale … and alive.

… and the crew of Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet were only rarely thereafter regaled with tales of rough seas in distant places.

“Yeah, yeah … Wanna go f’r a ride?”  ;<)

“Aids” to “Air dales”

Sometime during my tour at Lake Worth Inlet, maybe after I made Bosun’s Mate Third Class, I was assigned the maintenance of the aids to navigation inside the Intracoastal Waterway between St. Lucie Inlet and Boca Raton.

Seems to me that’s about thirty miles. It’s a section of what’s known as the “I.C.W.” which runs along the entire East Coast of Florida. A charted channel, inside barrier islands and hence sheltered (for the most part), it is maintained at certain depths and is marked with day boards and with lighted markers on pilings along its length. Red triangular markers and square green markers define the channel in the daytime and red and either white or green flashing lights guide at night.

This day marker has an … accessory…

Here’s one with a light … no platform. Has to be reached from the boat.

You could navigate the channel through the dark by shining a light forward and searching for the Scotch-lite reflective borders and numerals that beam back at you, marking your course. A chart aboard will show each aid and mark the depths and the courses that keep you in the channel.

There are a LOT of those markers. Many are only wood or concrete pilings with plywood shapes mounted on them painted red or green and bordered and numbered with reflective tape. In critical places … turns … narrows … intersections, a light is mounted on the marker and it flashes in a certain color and pattern to identify that location at night.

They are called “Aids to Navigation.” or “Aids.”

Pretty original. huh?

Anyway, all along the coast someone is responsible for maintaining them … y’know, making sure they’re secure and facing the right way and that everything that’s supposed to be readable is … and … making sure the lights work:

The lights are triggered by sensors, come on at night, and have bulb changers in them which are motorized devices that sense whether the light is burning when it’s supposed to be. There are four bulbs in the changer so if a bulb fails, the changer rolls the next one around and the light continues to serve, unless all four bulbs burn out. They used to be run on batteries … lead acid batteries … that were sealed in a box on a platform. The batteries would go dead unless they were monitored and changed as needed.

… and I was given the job of seeing to it that every single one of those aids to navigation along a thirty mile stretch of the ICW was working properly.

Each and every one had a “sheet.” It was an official form, government, y’know, the ones with the numbers on’em? When I took over the job the paperwork on the station’s assigned thirty miles of aids to navigation looked as though it had been salvaged from a flood.

Every single visit to, and all the work done on, each and every aid was to be noted on a page for that aid. The dates on the forms I could find were almost as random as if they had been chosen by throwing darts at several years of calendars spread across a wall … utterly incomprehensible. There was no way to know what had or hadn’t been done, or when, or since when, or what might be due.

So I started fresh.

I had a boat: The “T.I.C.W.A.N.” … “Trailerable Intracoastal Waterway Aid to Navigation” … I think it was 19 feet long. Cathedral hull, big black square-lookin’ thing about 7 feet wide with a platform mounted over the coxs’n like a roof, just about at the bow for either reaching the day boards or climbing up to get onto the platforms to reach the lights and batteries. It was kind of a “Bow Rider” on steroids. Same six cylinder Chevy engine as the pursuit boat. Same MerCruiser out drive.

The TICWAN from astern in the boat.  This is not me.

This is SN Dan Yurcik and “Buster in the ”TICWAN.”

Same power … just not as fast … built for muscle, carrying and stability.

… and an engineer and I would careen up and down the ICW wide open and visit marker after marker … assessing the conditions … making notes … doing repairs … and that was pretty cool.

One evening, though, well after dark in the Florida mid-summer we got a call. There was a light out up in Hobe Sound … all the way at the north end of the territory. It twas the muggy, buggy, sweltering Florida summer … in the middle of what was at that time a vast salt water “coastal wetland” … a marsh …

The engineer rigged the “Thousand Yard Sealed Beam Lights” and we took off north. It was flat, glassy calm and I just let it eat, the engineer picking out green and red reflective markers with the lights and me flying among them … noting the conditions of the lighted aids as we passed them …

“working” … and we reached the bottom of Hobe Sound, slowed and began to search for the reflective borders and numbers on the board with the failed light.

“There it is.”

I throttled back and slipped into “neutral” and let the boat fetch upwind toward the foot-square concrete piling with the dead light on it … backed eeeeeassy to a stop as we reached it, and the engineer threw a line around the pile. I stood up, picked up the tool belt and the heavy flood/flashlight to work by up on the platform and climbed up onto the “roof” of the boat, then up onto the light. I switched on the flashlight and began to loosen the fasteners on the lens to check the changer and bulbs. There was an audible buzz … it grew louder. It was a high-pitched buzzing whine every Floridian knows.


A cloud … of mosquitoes … salt water, marsh mosquitoes, whining noisily … and swarming … thick … everywhere. They covered my face … they covered my hands … the back of my neck under my collar. It was nearly impossible to breathe without inhaling them … mouth … nose … it didn’t matter … wave them away and many would fly … most didn’t … like a coating.

I had to open the dome of the light, a plastic lens about the size of an old galvanized bucket, check the bulbs, and check the voltage from the batteries at the changer to make sure the thing was getting the right power. The mosquitoes covered every exposed trace of skin and I spit and sneezed them out and the engineer was flapping frantically and cursing with a fluency that only non-lethal torture can induce.

It seemed forever and I got the light returned to service, scampered down off the marker and plunked my ass into the seat with the wheel in one hand and the shifter and throttle under the other. He cast us off and I backed hard about three seconds with the wheel all the way against the stops on one side. When I knew the stern would clear, I spun the wheel over to the other stop, shoved the transmission “forward” and opened the throttle. The stern dug deep and swung, the boat leaned into the turn and we pivoted until we were pointed at water deep enough to run. I brought the wheel amidships and shoved the throttle open wide and we … took … OFF.

The warm, moist night whistled around our ears, accompanying the roar of the Chevy and the urgent “shushing” of the water under the divided hull … we fled.

… and we went home. There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about our condition as we left.  Once that boat reached speed and the air rushing past swept away all the mosquitoes and we were running in the flat at flank speed I would have been a lot more attentive to coxs’ning a hurtling 19 foot hulking cathedral hull through the dark at top speed than I would to any mosquito bites at that time … and I don’t remember anything about the ensuing days that seems related to being swarmed by blood thirsty, stinging insects … I’m a Florida native … mosquito’s nothing new.

A new Engineman came aboard the station, second class I think he was, from up the coast somewhere. Tennessee boy, very businesslike, very “Coast Guard.” Good at it. He and I got on pretty quickly and I used to like him engineering my boat. He told me a story about his wife teaching him not to hit. He said he slapped her once one night pretty early in their marriage. He was satisfied he’d made his point and went to bed.

Said when he woke up the next morning there was a lock of his hair … and a straight razor … on his chest.

Point taken.

He hadn’t been there long and we took a call that a lighted marker was out down the waterway from us. I took the chart and I took a temporary marker buoy in case the thing was down. We rambled down there and looked around. I couldn’t find the marker and so I dropped the buoy where I thought it should be, made sure it was working and then we took off for home, radioing in the fact that “Marker (such-and-such) was down.”

The call went out to “District” that a lighted marker was down and a temporary buoy was on station in its place. District called in the crew of an inland construction tender stationed in Miami. It was a pusher and barge thing and they got underway and came up the ICW, ducking under bridges and waiting for the tenders to swing up center spans all the way from Miami to, I think it was, somewhere around north Lake Worth itself …


Something like this one.

… and they arrived on scene to find the marker in question standing right on station, just where it was supposed to be, with all the bulbs burned out.

They had come from Miami. They had brought the pile to drive and all the new markers and lights and batteries to replace what they thought was a downed aid to navigation in the Intracoastal Waterway, and arrived to find the marker intact. The bulbs were burned out.

I had misread the chart and called a whole ship fifty miles north up the Intracoastal Waterway to do something I could have done in an hour.

… and I think it was Christmas. Really …

Now … the Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet was a Warrant Officer … a man who had worked his way up through the enlisted ranks past Chief Petty Officer and become an officer. He didn’t much care for me anyway, probably owing, at first, to the general suspicion that I was an undercover Coast Guard Intelligence officer sent to his unit to investigate a cook who pretty clearly was … misusing funds. Add to that the fact that I was an arrogant asshole and you have the basis for our working relationship. There had been a few other … episodes:

I had come to the Port to pick him up one morning in the station’s forty foot steel utility boat:

A “Forty Boat”

The “Forty Boat” was an iconic and cherished working boat throughout the Coast Guard. Ours was 40485: twin engine, twin screw, steel hull, pull Hell right off its hinges if you could get a hitch over it.


A twin screw boat with rudders, like a forty boat, will waltz, ballet, polka or foxtrot under the loving and nimble hands of an experienced coxs’n. If you’re alongside a dock and you turn the rudder toward the dock and ease the engine on that side ahead while easing the other engine astern, that boat will “walk” absolutely sideways away from the dock.


I did that on the morning I picked up the “Ol’ Man …”


He looked at me as though I had just cracked a bean fart during the prayer at his daughter’s wedding.


I thought it was “Cooool!!!” … him? … not so much.


Sometimes as you navigate a shipping channel there will be a “range” to guide you. This is two huge rectangular billboards set on end, each with a stripe down the middle. To stay in the channel, you line the “Rear” and taller range up directly over the “Front” and lower range, lining up those two separate vertical stripes to form a continuous vertical line. Doing this keeps you in the channel. At night, there are two lights blinking in idiosyncratic patterns and you keep THEM lined up one above the other and accomplish the same thing.



See how they’re placed in the lower corner?


If the lights go out at night, the range is useless. If you’re in charge of maintaining the station’s aids to navigation and a light goes out … YOU get to fix it. Since the lack of either of the range lights renders the channel “invisible” … YOU … get to fix it … quickly.

… and sure enough, daarrrrk and eeeaaarly one morning I was awakened from my sleep and told the rear range light in the Port of Palm Beach was … “extinguished” … and it was my job to “UN-extinguish” it.


The rear range light in the Port of Palm Beach was on top of a building … on top of a steel tower on top of a building … on top of a steel tower “in excess of” 100 feet tall … on top of a building … on top of a steel tower in excess of one hundred feet tall, on top of a building up a steel rung ladder with no “back” … just two steel rails with rungs between them welded to the side of the tower in excess of 100 feet tall … on top of a building …


… and it was pitch-assed black, and “dewy” … and I notified one and all that the likelihood of my scaling that bare assed, wet steel ladder over one hundred feet up that tower in the black-assed dark was VERY … slim … in … DEED.


They promised me a court martial.


Sooo … I asked for one critical piece of information: Was there ANY ship traffic inbound that channel before dawn? There was a lot of sputtering and fuming and I was emphatically assured that such information was totally irrelevant to the fact that I had been ordered to climb that tower.


Well, I didn’t think so.


In fact, I insisted. Was there ship traffic?


Wellll … No … there wasn’t …


Then you don’t need my ass to scale that slick-assed wet ladder in the pitch-assed black dark to fix something no one’s gonna use … now do ya …?


I thought my logic was flawless in the matter.


The officer of the deck was much less impressed and utterly unconvinced and assured me that, “There are legalities involved.” and that I would be in the very middle of said “legalities” if I failed to carry out that order. I decided further inquiry was in order … just after I noticed that the sky was lightening out over the Atlantic …


… and we discussed the matter very, VERY thoroughly … until I was comfortable with not only the details of the situation, but, it turned out, the ambient light level … at which point I acquiesced humbly … and went over to the Port and climbed that tower in the very cool early morning light.


I must say that there was a point, probably seventy five feet or so up the ladder, when “climbing” gradually became a very … very … very … thoughtful … and … quite … deliberate … sequence … of … movements. First one hand released, reached up and firmly tested the next purchase, then, utterly welded to three points, weight was taken from one foot and it was raised to the very next rung and planted … firmly … traction tested … and with three new points of contact welded onto the ladder, the other hand released (This, it turns out, requires VERY firm instruction and VERY deliberate muscle command … and the mental urging against the action is VERY loud between the ears, something like a scream, actually.) and reached upward … et … cetera.


There was a rail around the platform where the light was, in excess of 100 feet up a steel tower, on a building. I don’t know who decided how high that rail should be, and I’m pretty sure whoever it was was WELL below six feet tall. The “rail” reached the part of my legs quite far beneath my center of gravity, such that leaning on it at all INStantly imparted the sensation of cartwheeling over it into freefall.

… and I “relamped” the rear range in the Port of Palm Beach, returned it to service, and spent a lovely hour at the top of the steel tower surveying my domain in the clear bright early morning. Most invigorating. Reverse above procedure for descent.


Another part of our normal duty was to sit watch in the radio room of the station, monitoring four radio frequencies, a telephone or two and a teletype machine (yeah … really … TTY) and regularly overnight we were to walk the couple of hundred yards down to the boat docks and open the hatches on the boats to prevent flooding and the loss of the boat. It was a pain in the ass and most of us more often sat in the watch room and drank coffee and bullshitted with the other guys on watch up and down the East Coast by TTY or gossiped with the local “Palm Beach Marine” operator by phone.


One night they “taped” the hatches … stuck tape across’em to show if they’d been opened. If ONE of us had gone to the boats overnight and opened the hatches the seal would have been broken.

No one did.

One at a time we were all called before the Ol’ Man. I absoLUTEly inSISted that I HAD checked the boats …


I lied …


… he didn’t buy it and he told me as much, but all he did officially was delay my weekend liberty by giving me two hours “Extra Duty” one Friday afternoon.


I was however, by that time, more or less enGRAVED very near the tippy-top of his “Shit List” and remained so from that time on, and despite my EXcellent official “on air” radio presentation, my flashing 100 WPM TTY speed, my genuine skill with the boats and my general affability, the cumulative effect was to motivate him to get me off his crew as soon as he possibly could.

… and so I ended up at Coast Guard Air Station Miami … at Opa Locka airport west of the city and just east of the Everglades. I became “General Service” on a unit of “Air dales.” “General Service” are the people who “support the mission” … onna counta we can’t DO “The Mission” … and barracks need cleaning, and buildings need painting, and parking lots need stripes, and switchboards need operators, and Detex clocks need to be punched through the night watches and … well, you get the picture.


I went from “Joe Coast Guard,” braving the seas and gales in dashing rescues, to “coxs’ning” a swab down a corridor in a barracks full of men who flew around in and worked on airplanes and helicopters and didn’t … give … a … SHIT … about “boats.”


It was quiiiiite an “adjustment.”


A Dios

         Early in the gray dawn, wet and dripping rigging frames the tattered, sullen, iron-gray sky.  Gray decks and rust-flecked white bulkheads pitch and roll deeply.  This has been a long, dark, restless night.  In the black morning hours the rain drove down hard, rushing and roaring on the steel decks.  Just walking has been a breathless adventure as I’ve gone along the ship tugging, checking, making sure nothing is working its way loose under the strain of the constant pounding.  Seas came smashing, soaring upward in black mountains draped and capped in luminous snowy foam, and water, tons of water, rising bridge-high and crashing down, often on deck, adding spice to my travels.


        Now the sky and sea are misty in the gentle, soft-gray light.  On the bridge, high above the deck, a ragged, circular expanse of ocean is emerging into sight, edges chopped with splashes of white.  The chilling rain has gentled now.


         In the water, away toward the edge … a contact.  Something is floating.  Something small and dark riding the surface.  The Captain is called and everyone who can lifts glasses from the rack and steps out onto the bridge wings. The helmsman, left at his wheel, attends to course changes and rudder commands as maneuvering begins.  Sharp eyes gather intently behind binoculars.

     An inner tube, a very large truck tube, can be seen now floating high on the surface, rocking and pitching crazily on the gray-green sea.  The engines slow, the all-pervading rumble falls in pitch and intensity.  Activity deep in the ship quickens.  Sailors stir in their bunks, fuzzy-eyed crewmen, called from their sleep by the changing engine sounds, begin to dress and make their ways topside. They are not particularly hurried.


         The tube, now easily in sight, is rigged.  Lines and coverings can be seen, nothing else.  Engines at stop, the ship slides slowly ahead, and the tube is laid along our port side.


         From the deck I can see the tube is sewn inside a burlap cover and a thin, frayed hemp line is sewn around it. Inside, slogging drunkenly in the shallow pool. are three green glass bottles tightly corked with palm heart.  They are unbroken, and full.  A bicycle pump is submerged and lying in the burlap bottom of the pool.  One well-worn glove, the kind used in punching a heavy bag, floats soggily within the tube.  A long white line trails down into the sea.   I cannot see its end beneath the ship.

        A long boat hook reaches the line and it is lifted into my hands.  Inside my head I beg softly and intensely that the line stays light,  achingly, urgently petitioning that somehow the someone who rode this insanely bouncing craft is still near….still well.  The line is wet, and cold, and long.  The end appears…it is empty.


        The waterlogged burlap is heavy and several of us struggle to lift the tube aboard.  Reveille has sounded and now the whole ship’s company is awake except those who stood watch from midnight till four A.M.  They are drifting sleepily, motionlessly conscious waiting for the uproar to subside and the lights to go out again.


         Business . . .stow inner tube and attendant gear after close inspection . . .

breakfast, . . . tend the caffeine habit on the bridge (including mine) . . . relieve the watch . . . announcements . . . check the ship once again . . . back to the bridge.  We have immediately begun to search from “here” in ever-expanding “squares”.  There are two or three extra lookouts above deck constantly and everyone, from stewards to enginemen to the executive officer, will at some time appear on deck to peer off into the distance . . . looking.


        How long and black was that night!  A rough, taxing, tedious night even aboard our 210 foot cutter. Where did he . . she . . they slip away?  When?  Was he there when I first saw the tube?  Did he see us?


         2:30 P.M. (1430 if you like)  We are charging now, headlong, covering the ever-increasing length of each side of each square quickly.  The day has broken to light winds, low choppy clouds and intermittent bright sunlight.  A high cloud cover adds brass and the ocean shines with it.  The air is translucent and I sit high up and forward in the bows.  The engines, laboring at full strength vibrate my perch and I rock side to side, forward and back, riding the familiar motion as the ship gallops through the moderate sea.


         And I look . . . quietly . . . off to starboard, scanning the choppy surface.  The sun is warm and the air rushes past in a roar.   Inside me is a low heavy ache, also a tiny, gemhard spark, that which “springs eternal” in humans . . . hope.  Slowly and deliberately scouring with sea-sharpened sailor’s eyes, reaching out over the hundreds of square miles of ocean . . . sitting.


So now . . .


         I hoisted your broken dream from the sea.  I am sad and felt alone, as though I knew you.  In the crude stitches and waterlogged burlap were written your determination, hope and courage.  I call upon you from time to time to remind me what freedom means to those without it, what courage is, how safe the world is for me, and that some dreams are worth the life that dreams them.  A Dios.


You are free.