Monday, January 2, 2017

Jackie, the movie

We saw the film 
Jackie last night.
It was fascinating. It was as if you were actually watching history being made first hand. 
I was at sea on an aircraft carrier when JFK was assassinated. So I missed a whole lot of what was actually going on ashore.
The pilots on the carrier were convinced that Castro was behind it, as I still am, and wanted to go bomb the crap out of Havana. It didn't matter that they probably didn't carry enough fuel to go from the Pacific Ocean to Cuba and then get back to a air station to land. They just wanted their pound of flesh.
We remained at sea for about three weeks after the shooting probably for security purposes being nobody actually knew, and still don't, what was going on in Havana and Moscow.  
By the time we returned back to North Island, most of the worst was over. The president was dead and LBJ was the new POTUS. Oswald was apprehended and Jack Ruby gave the poor schmuck lead poisoning. I don't remember whether, or not, JFK was buried by then. Parts of the whole wretched affair are somewhat blurry in my old head by now.
We all muddled through life for a few months and then I got orders to go to new construction in Seattle where I was part of the precom crew for Waddell. The veil was lifted up in Washington state and life took on meaning once again.
If you are too young, or too old, to remember those gray days, you should go see the film. It will maybe fill in a few blanks for you.

2016 END OF YEAR LETTER

We left on a “Bucket List dream trip” since my last EOY letter.
In mid summer last year, we were talking about a trip to Alaska with a travel agent, but by then the extremely small window for non-snowing in Alaska was almost closed. While talking to the AAA travel agent, I casually mentioned that the Panama Canal would be OK. So it was with great expectations that we signed on.

On 22 November 2015, we boarded Ruby Princess in POLA for a dream trip through the Panama Canal and what a dream it was.
So off we went with two days at sea to Cabo San Lucas. We both had been to Cabo many times so it was almost like going back to Cleveland only with mariachis and cervesa Pacifico. Well not really. We had to make the obligatory trek to The Giggling Marlin and Squid Roe and like all good sailors, walk around town. I bought a cigar and could smoke it anywhere. Life was good. Next, another two days to Nicaragua. Along the way, we had our Thanksgiving celebration while under way. Not a bad way, I must say, to spend the traditional eat until you drop off into slumber day on a cruise ship.
We pulled into San Juan del Sur a somewhat small, for a hundred thousand plus ton cruise ship, bay and anchored. After anchoring, the captain got on the 1MC and announced that the weather was too rough to lighter folks to the town pier, so off we went to Costa Rica which we really liked. We took a tour bus high in the mountains to a rain forest. As an aside, I have now reached the age where I no longer scoff at the codgers who take a tour bus instead of hitch hiking to parts unknown. I am actually very comfortable with it. After the rain forest, we lunched at a waterfront bistro in Punta Arenas. Fresh fish and Costa Rican beer made the day complete.
Next we transited “the Canal”. This has been a bucket list item for me even before the term bucket list was invented. Back in Ft Lauderdale we went to the Everglades to ride an airboat and shoot some alligators, with a camera that is.

In 2016, Jamie had her cataracts removed in February. The good news is that she has excellent vision. The bad news is that she has excellent vision. She can spot me walking around with my fly open and see me stuffing a bottle of rum under my shirt at Trader Joes.

Also in February of 2016 we drove to Houma Louisiana for a three week machine upgrade. If you’re going to Louisiana you better go hungry because those folks eat up a storm and it’s all good. We stayed at a La Quinta and visited the Gulf of Mexico and other nice places on the weekends.

In March, we flew down to Loreto BCS to go to Bahia San Ignacio to view and pet the baby Gray Whales. We first stayed at the La Mision Hotel on our birthday. Third floor room overlooking the beach. It was like heaven and you didn’t have to die to get there. After two days there, we took a van to the Bahia stopping on the way at Santa Rosilita for lunch. More about Santa Rosalia later. We spent three days there in semi-caveman style. The “cottages” had no electricity and the outhouse was far enough away to severely think about getting up at 0200, two AM.  The food was fairly simple Mexican fare, but good. There was a no-host bar with plenty of tequila and cerveza so the stay was most tolerable. After two and a half days at the whale camp, we went to the town of San Ignacio to sleep in warm beds and eat warm food and drink cold beer. All of which we had at the whale camp but it is a very nice little town. Next we took the van back to Loreto and stopped at Mulege for lunch and more cerveza. Upon returning to Loreto, we stayed a few days in the Oasis Hotel on the beach on the south side of town.
For the last twenty five years, or so, after making a trip down to La Paz to bring a 70 foot power boat back to Long Beach I started talking about retiring in La Paz. It was a smallish town with paved streets, running water, telephone service and electricity. All of which were on my must have list. But that was in 1987 after a few more trips down to La Paz to bring other boats back “up the hill” I started to notice changes in the place. In about 2011, Andy May and I drove his Dodge pickup truck down to la Paz with a Boston Whaler in tow on a trailer. By then, La Paz was no longer that cute little town in Baja. It had a Home Depot, a Walmart and a Burger King Etc. Etc. all of the things that I want to get away from.
In Loreto, we were walking down the street right on the Sea of Cortez at 0900, nine AM, and there wasn’t a car or truck moving on the whole street. All of a sudden, I had an epiphany and said out loud “I could live here”. My first inclination was to move down there on the boat, but the nearest harbor is Puerto Escondido which is twenty five miles to the south. I didn’t want to live 25 miles away from anything, so plan B was take the motor home down to Loreto and find a RV pad to rent. We did just that. We spent the next two days seeking a nice pad in location that was not over populated with snowbirds. We signed a five year lease on a RV pad immediately behind the La Mision Hotel that we had stayed at and about 100 yards from The Sea of Cortez. Now we had to get back to Long Beach and there wasn’t two seats on an airplane available for quite awhile.
So what did we do, you may ask. Simple, we took a bus. If you have never taken a 600 mile bus ride on a Mexican bus through Baja, you really haven’t tried some of the finer thrills in life. The trip took about sixteen hours through the night and made stops every mile, or so. There are about a dozen federal checkpoints between Loreto and Tijuana and everyone has to get off of the bus no matter what time it is. My personal highlight was the bus station tacos at 2 AM. Emm good. From TJ to LB is a walk in the park, figuratively speaking. Van to the border.  The red Tijuana trolley  to downtown san Diego and then an Amtrak to Fullerton station. A nice Uber ride to the marina and we were finally home.

Three weeks later we flew back down to Loreto for a week to take care of details like mail, telephone service, water and a dozen other mundane issues. We, now as old  Mexico hands, got along like natives. We stayed at the Oasis Hotel while there and this time flew back.
In May, after thirty four years in the same slip on Gangway 33, we moved into a new slip on Dock 10. When I say new slip, I literally mean new slip. The marina has been undergoing a renovation project for the last five years and we were forced to move because as of right now there is no more gangway 33. The dock is gone and the pilings are being pulled out after sixty one years of being stuck in the bottom. The new slips are made of concrete, no more splinters, this is very good because we can now scurry around barefooted. We are also away from that filthy shipyard which also raises the quality of our lives.

If it’s May this must be Alaska. We flew up to my old hometown of Seattle. I say hometown because Waddell was built in Seattle by Todd Shipyard and I was transferred off of the aircraft carrier Constellation in February of 1964 and moved to Seattle as part of the precom crew. In fifty years, the old town has changed. We boarded Coral Princess at Pier 91 the old Navy Supply Center and off we went. Up through the inner passageway to Ketchikan. In Ketchikan, we took a tour of the town by land and water in an oversized duck truck.
We got underway that evening and early in the next morning we were in a fjord. The ship got amazingly close to a glacier and small icebergs were floating all around us. These cruise boats have triple bowthrusters and three more thrusters aft and can go sideways if needed. The fjord provided quite a show. Next was JuneauJuneau is the capitol of Alaska and the second largest city in the USA by area. Sitka is the largest and the largest outside of Alaska is Jacksonville FL which is fifth. LA which is huge comes in at twelfth. In Juneau we took a tram up another mountain and enjoyed one hell of a view. After Juneau came Skagway where we took a train up through some of the most harrowing in North America. The distance that we traveled in an hour on the train took prospective gold miners months to travel by foot with pack animals. As we rounded a bend and I looked up a cliff there was another train in front of us precariously on a cut in the side of the mountain. I said to myself dear God please tell me that isn’t that way we are going. But it was and ten minutes later we were right there clinging to the side of that mountain. Just past the summit, the train stopped and decoupled the locomotives that were shunted around us and recoupled on what now was the front of the train for our ride home down that same damned mountain
By now, I was starting to overload on Alaska. The real reason that I went is that I had been in all of the 48 contiguous states and Hawaii with Alaska as the only holdout. I had to visit Alaska to make it a clean sweep. By now, I was starting to long for some California sunshine but we had one more, albeit a brief one, stop which was Victoria BC. We stopped in Victoria on Waddell back in 1964 on our way to our new home port of Long Beach. It was a nice stop and then we headed back to CONUS.

In early May, Cassy who is Ed’s wife came down from Berkeley where she is enrolled in the UCB law school. She was here to be a summer associate which I still think of as an internship. Cassy stayed with us on Phase II for a week, or two. I think that the daily commute to downtown LA was too grueling for her so she ended up staying at various Air B&Bs in LA. 

In July, we finally got a chance to stir up the coffee grounds and leave the slip. I won’t bore you any more with the mundane trials and tribulations of converting from having a schooner for over thirty five years to going over to the dark side. We finally made it to the Isthmus at Catalina. After four days of lying about with a chilled drink in one’s hand we had to get back to that sucky of all things reality. On the darkside, in a power boat all one needs to do to go from point A to point B is twist a key and point to the desired destination. After turning the key and pressing the START button, I was startled with the deafening sound of silence. OK, we’ll try the other engine. After all, we do have two of them. More silence. As you may, or may not, know my life’s motto is I don’t believe in luck. But I do rely on it. Having said that, the very next thing that I did was stare out the door and on the very next mooring was another power boat getting a jump start from Relief Valve the Avalon based Vessel Assist boat. I asked the guy on RV for a jump start so he came over to us when he was done next door. We got the two engines fired up and hightailed it for Long Beach at eight knots. An hour and a half out of Two Harbors, the starboard engine shut down so we pressed on at six and a half knots which added maybe an extra half hour to our trip. As we approached the marina, I wondered how well I could put this big boat into the slip with only one engine. Maneuvering a twin engine boat is a chinch, once you get the hang of it. You can turn the boat in it’s own length. If you want to turn to the left, you put the starboard engine forward and the port engine in reverse.  I thought about how I’d been putting sailboats with one engine into slips for fifty years and nothing has really changed. The Whaler was tied in the front of the slip and I stuck Phase II into the slip without even touching Sadie Maru, the Whaler. FYI, it was so rough out on the way back that whatever water that was in the bottom of the tanks got stirred up and was spun out in the Raycors. The starboard had more water and once it’s filter is 100% water, no more engine. All is well once again. Filters replaced and fuel systems purged all systems are Go. Later in July Cassy was made an offer by the downtown LA law firm where she had her summer job. She then started  talking about getting a sailboat. Jamie had an old high school friend who is a somewhat shellshocked Vietnam vet who wanted to emigrate to Oregon. He was selling his Airstream trailer and had a thirty foot Newport sloop the he wanted to unload fast. He shot Cassy a very good price and wham bam, she bought it. Subject to the usual sea trial(s) etc. She is an aspiring lawyer after all. Everything looked good so off we went to the yard for a haulout and survey. While on the hard, she had the bottom painted and the hull and transom painted. On the transom, she wanted white and the hull seafoam green. Many years ago, a very old salt told me that the only proper colors for a boat’s hull was white and dark blue and only a damned fool would paint it blue. She also had the name changed to Coeur de pirate. So much for tradition on the sea. The boat is berthed in Wilmington and she is delighted with it.
Maybe soon we can go to the Isthmus where I can drink my Green Label each day.




Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Getum up Scout

I bought my son an International Scout when he was in high school. If you don't know what a Scout is, it's a forerunner of the present day SUVs.  It was two, not four, wheel drive with a manual transmission and a Nissan diesel. I thought that there was no way in hell that kid can hurt this International truck.  
WRONG  
The diesel quickly went south three times so I found a used Nissan diesel salvaged from a forklift. That engine lasted maybe six months. The kid was really a careful driver and he drove so slow it would drive me nuts. He wasn’t the problem.
I found a Chevy 3/4 ton panel truck that had been rear ended with a 350 V8 and a truck Hydramatic.  This combination proved to be magic. It was bullet proof and went like a scalded assed ape. We never had problems from that day forward. We had the Scout for maybe twelve years with no problems.  
It is one of the many vehicles that I wish I still had.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

EOY

I yam putting the finishing touches on our SECOND ANNUAL CHRISTMAS LETTER, AKA EOY or End Of Year 2016. I am posting this 2015 EOY about one year late just for the hell of it.

THE FIRST ANNUAL CHRISTMAS LETTER
From the CIC of M/V  PHASE II
13 November 2015
I am writing this a tad bit early because we will be out of touch from civilized world as we know it from 22 November until 7 December, Pearl Harbor Day 2015.
We are fulfilling a huge bucket list item of mine. We are taking Coral Princess from San Pedro to Cabo San Lucas. No that’s not the bucket list part. From Cabo, we’re gong to Nicaragua. No that’s not the BL part, hang on, I’m getting to it. Next port of call is Puntarenas Costa Rica and than, drum roll please we’re transiting the Panama Canal. Then on we go to Cartagena Columbia, then Aruba and end up in Ft. Lauderdale.
Now for this year, 2015, it has been a busy one.
In case you never got the memo, we have gone over to The Dark Side. Although I still consider myself a sailor, I am really a power boater. There, I said it.
There are four phases in a boater’s life. The first is the Sail Boat. The next is the Motor Boat. The third is the Motor Home and the last is the Rest Home. We have named our  39 foot Trawler Phase Two. She is a modest little two bedroom, two bath vessel. One head even has a bathtub. I can sit up in bed in the morning and not conk my kopf.
In January, we hauled her out in the yard. We had a lot of deferred maintenance work done and we changed all of the through hull valves from gate type to ball valves.
Early in February, we made an endurance cruise out to Oil Island White. About eight miles as the crow flies. The starboard overheated and we limped home on one engine.
March came in like the proverbial lion. We found out Sadie Marie had inoperable cancer on her scull.  
We lost Sadie on 16 April and I am still mourning my loss as are Jamie and Lady.  To help snap me back, we went on a three day cruise on Carnival Imagination. Jamie asked me if I’d ever been on a cruise before. When I replied that I’d been on many, she asked if I’d been on one where nobody was shooting at me, and I had to answer no. It was all I had hoped that it would be. We got a call from a guy who knew a guy who had to move his 28 foot motor home out of a storage lot. It is a ’88 Itasca with a 454 Chevrolet gas engine which hadn’t been started  in ten years. It was sorry looking on the outside but the inside looked brand new and it only had 22,000 miles on it and the price was right. Free. So we now own two motor homes. A 22 footer and this 28 footer. It needed a new battery and when I installed it. It started right up. Since then we have had the oil changed, put on six new tires and had all of the hoses and belts replaced plus a new double DIN AM/FM radio with CD player and GPS.  So we’re a bit ahead of the curve on phase 3 of a boater’s life.
In May, we drove to Denver to look at a used machine for a customer. I approved of the machine and loaded it onto a flatbed semi truck. While there, we spent a week with our good friends George and Melinda Arrand in Tinmuth, CO. A nice visit on the hard.
June and July were pretty uneventful. I was busy supervising a rebuild of a large rotary machine with my trusty associates Jamie and Lady.
In August, we saw Leon Russell at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. You don’t know who Leon Russell is? Go to your room and Google him and say fifty Hail Marys.
We finally got the starboard engine put back together. The head and fuel injectors were rebuilt. New hoses and a new heat exchanger.
We started up the starboard engine and it sounded fine. When I cranked the port engine, It sounded like it had asthma. When it fired up, it didn’t sound good at all. I had a mechanic come out and do a compression check on the engine and #4 cylinder only had 200 PSI of pressure. The other three cylinders had 400 Lb. which is normal. So just like Henry VIII, I said off with it’s head. We took it to Dumas Diesel West Long Beach and Joe rebuilt the head and injectors. We are now in the process of putting it all back together.
On 6 September, we rented the same Nissan Versa that we took to Denver and headed east. We went to Muncie Indiana and I did a quick job and then on to Ohio to see my sister and her husband and attend my fifty fifth high school reunion.  We visited with Jamie’s family in Michigan and went up to Mackinac  Island. It was very quaint and memorable. In Saint Ignace, MI, I had some fresh water perch for the first time in fifty five years. It was to die for. We then drove up to Sault St Marie to see the Soo Locks. Unbelievably good  and worth the drive to the UP. Next we drove to New England and stayed in Bennington VT one night, We went on to Nashua NH to see Jimmy Boyd, Dave’s  Godfather. Jimmy’s in bad shape. He’s been fighting brain cancer  for years and he is still fighting the good fight. Positive thoughts and prayers are in order. On to Biddeford ME to do a job, We stayed right on the Atlantic Ocean in Old Orchard Beach. It was just past the season and some places were still open. A Sunday’s jaunt up to Camden ME to see the schooners was fun. We subsisted entirely on lobster except one breakfast while in Maine. On 28 September, we stayed at a B&B in Mystic CN. We went to Mystic Pizza which fulfilled one of  Jamie’s bucket list items. The next day, we went to Mystic Harbor and went on lots of old whaling ships and fishing schooners. They have a working shipyard that does nothing but wooden boats. Back to Muncie for another job and on 8 October we finally set a course west again.
We stopped one night in Amarillo TX and ate at the Big Texan Steakhouse a don’t miss place. The next day, we stopped at the Cadillac Ranch which has gone down hill the last few years.
The next night we stayed at The El Rancho Hotel which is much the same as it was when it was built in 1939. The El Rancho was built by D W Griffith’s brother as a civilized place for movie people  to stay in Gallup while on a filming. Everybody who was anybody in the 40’s, 50’s and sixties stayed there including The Duke himself.
On Columbus Day, 12 October, we moored in the marina, dropped anchor and secured the engine. Home at last after six weeks on the road.
A few weeks ago, we joined the Seal Beach Yacht Club and have become very active. On Sundays they have GYO, grill your own. For five bucks, you use their grill and they furnish the plates, potato, salad etc. Monday night is football. Once again five bucks gets a burger or spaghetti, salad etc. Wednesday evenings Donald, the baritone, goes to choir  practice. We will be performing at the SLBYC Christmas Party on 19 Dec. Friday evenings is dinner at the club.
On 7 December, we’ll be back from Panama and will begin Christmas madness in earnest.  I’ll be chopping down our six foot aluminum tree and erecting it in the salon. Then the dreaded shopping sprees will commence. I plan on self-medicating myself with copious doses of rum.
On 23 December Ed, Dave, and I are taking grandson Alex to see Starwars. Ed, and now Alex are both absolute addicts of Starwars.
New Years Eve we’ll be partying at, where else, the Seal Beach Yacht Club.
For now, we are all tucked in until 22 November when we put to sea again on the cruise ship.
Lastly, not to get too political, don’t forget to vote this year. Preferably moderately center, not liberal and certainly not for Hillary.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

JFK

Ask anyone over the age of sixty where they were fifty three years ago when Kennedy was shot and you're in for an hours worth of stories.
I was at sea aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation. Some sailor said that he had just heard the the president was shot. I thought, but I don't actually remember weather I said it or not, that's stupid. How in the world could POTUS, the president of the USA, get shot. Who in the world could pull that off. 
A few minutes later, the captain announced on the 1MC that the president not only was shot, he was also dead. This news was just unbelievable. There must a mistake or maybe it is a cruel joke. 
Back then, even on an aircraft carrier there was no live TV. We had closed circuit TV but nothing else. It was about a week before we came back into port. JFK was dead, Lee Oswald was dead and Jack Ruby was in a Texas jail. My wife was in utter shock and I wasn't there to hug her and hold her tight. She had seen most everything over and over on the TV and couldn't comprehend how far out of the loop we sailors at sea were. We, the Navy, flew the American Flag at half mast for thirty days and watched JFK's funeral.
Kennedy was our instrument of change. I don't remember Franklin Roosevelt at all. I was three years old when he died. I remember Truman somewhat, but who I really remember is Eisenhower. Ike was like your grandfather. He was well liked but in my mind, he was dull.
In 1960, the year I graduated from high school. The year I went in the Navy was the year JFK was elected. He looked much younger than Ike, which he was and he had a gorgeous wife Jackie. This was the big change. The beginning of the swinging sixties and the beginning of  Vietnam. 
In spite of this, JFK wasn't particularly popular. I've told my kids that the best thing that ever happened to him was Oswald. Now he is a hero. The symbol of what could have been. But no, he never had the chance.
Well that's my rant for today.
Sayonara. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Bridges of Long Beach,

If you were a sailor homeported in Long Beach in the sixties, or before, you probably remember the floating bridge. It was the gateway to downtown Long Beach from Terminal Island.
Downtown Long Beach, in my humble opinion, was the very best place to be home ported. It had locker clubs, the Pike, and mobs of beautiful California girls. If a cargo ship was heading for the Cerritos Channel, the two halves of the bridge were floated back out of the way and traffic was backed up for ten minutes. About 1970, a new bridge, the Gerald Desmond, the "new bridge", was built to replace the old floater.
Now another bridge is being built to replace the older new bridge. This "new" bridge will have much more vertical clearance to allow the newest cargo ships to pass underneath. Why wont the big ships just enter LA harbor at San Pedro and go under the Commodore Heim bridge to access the terminals on Cerritos Channel you may wonder.
The answer is very simple, they can't. The big green Commodore Heim has been torn down and replaced with a new fixed span with only 41 feet of vertical clearance.
Now, aren't you glad that I cleared everything up?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2010

Don't Spachcock that bird my Friend

Just pass it over to me.
I don't know who devised the Spachcock technique but he must have been a Mexican and he, or she, deserves at least two pages in the Testament of Food. Spachcocking, in case you're wondering just what in the hell I'm talking about, is the way El Pollo Loco BBQs their chickens. They lay flat on the grill so they cook fairly uniformly. I bought a chicken on Sunday and ended up braising half of it with a can of mixed veggies made a gravy with the juices and poured the gravy over some instant mashed potatoes. Good comfort food as it was somewhat chilly on Sunday. I saved the other, Spachcocked half, and today it is in the nineties. Good BBQ weather. Let's light off the Q.

Throw the bird in a container and season with Seasoned Salt, Pepper Medley and Chipotle .
Put some fresh briquettes in the Magma, light them off etc. etc. When nice and hot place the boid on the grill and toss on a few dry Mesquite chips right outta the bag. Meanwhile soak some more chips in some water.
Let's stop and digress for a moment the rule is, pork gets Hickory. Everything else, IE Beef Fish and Chicken gets Mesquite. Commit this to memory, it will never fail you. Toin da boid occasionally to cook evenly and I swear this will be that best chicken that you ever stuffed into your piehole. If you don't agree, just send the unused portion to me for proper disposal.