Monthly: February 2010

12 Feb

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Havasu Pocket Cruiser’s (or John Owens’ Adventures)

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John Owens has kindly agreed to keep us posted with live updates from the big pocket cruiser gathering at Lake Havasu. Below is his first report. John runs JO Woodworks. You can see his website here. —Eds

Thursday February 11, 2010
Well this wonderful day for a sailor  Actually started at 5:30 PM on Wednesday when American Airlines sent me an email saying that my 7:55 AM flight out of Tyler had been canceled.  I called them and after much ado found out everything from Tyler had been canceled until at least 1:15 PM.  They told me my 9:55 from Dallas to Phoenix was still on so at 4:45AM on Thursday I headed for Dallas.  About 30 minutes into the drive it started light snow.  IT DOESN’T SNOW IN TEXAS!!!!  The farther I went the heavier it got but 3 hours later I was at DFW airport.  Got checked in with no problem and was told that even with the weather everything was close to on time.  All is well.  NOT!!!!!!!!!  About the time for boarding they came on the loud speaker saying that the flight was canceled.  As it turned out, so were a lot of other flights.  I got scheduled on a 12:20 Central time to Las Vegas arriving in Vegas at 1:20 Pacific time.  Keep up with the time zones.  At boarding time they came over the speaker once again and said our flight attendants were on the ground from another flight and would be right over and we would start boarding.  45 minutes later this happened at 12:20.  Remember that was flight time.  We pulled out of the gate at 12:50 and proceeded to wait in line to get to a de-icing zone.  REMEMBER, IT DOESN’T SNOW IN TEXAS!  At 3:40 central time we finally take off and get to Vegas at 6:14 Pacific time.  Oh, I forgot to mention the car!  I had an Avis car rented in Phoenix.  When I called to move the rental to Vegas I found out that they’re entire fleet in Vegas was already rented out so for the next hour of waiting time I was arranging one with Enterprise.  Well I finally got the car and had a tiring drive in the dark on an unfamiliar highway to Havasu.  Arrived at 9:30 PM Mountain time.  Only 17 hours and 45 minutes after I left the house.  I could have driven it in 18 hours according to Google!

Well the good news is I got to the convention center as the movie was ending and met Sean and of course Captain Howie! Got to meet back up with Dorothy and Eldor Eisen from
Ft. Worth who I met last year on Lake Palestine at an event with the Lake Palestine Yacht Club, and the Geeziers Pocket Cruiser club.  Met several others and got all the stuff spread out.
Sleep was not a problem Thursday night! Now it is Wednesday morning and all is well.
I’M AT LAKE HAVASU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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08 Feb

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Man on the River, by fair means

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Giacomo and the Ness Yawl somewhere along the Po.


Roland Poltock in the Art Waiting Room at Lago


Roland at his work table


Shaping planks


The molds set up in the Art Waiting Room


Silvio wields a Japanese saw

all photos courtesy Giacomo Stefano

Giacomo De Stefano was introduced to me by Michael Bogoger of DoryMan. Michael asked if I’d be interested in writing about Giacomo (as he has) and helping him along in his mission. My answer was an enthusiastic yes, but then other things…so, finally, here it is. My apologies to Giacomo for the delay.
Giacomo is planning a voyage from London to Istanbul via an Oughtred Ness yawl, sailing and rowing. His goal is to raise awareness on several fronts, but most notably clean water, low impact transportation and the destructive effects of global tourism. He made a similiar voyage last year, also in a Ness yawl, down the river Po. I’ve had a little correspondence w/Giacomo and I do believe he possesses the passion, intensity and poetry of a true visionary. In his own words:

“According to WTO data published in the report, Changes in Leisure Time: The Impact of Tourism*, since 1998 tourism has become the largest industry on the planet. Nothing produces more, consumes more, ejects more and wastes more. Mass tourism, the real monster, develops at a very fast rate. Is there a way ot traveling, experiencing, and eating without eroding environments and cultures? Is there a way to bring a sustainable, local economy to the river sides society? My name is Giacomo De Stefano, and I am a traveler, a man who is looking for
new ways of dealing with our complex reality. I live on a boat in Venice. I row and sail, with little or no money. With less I try do more. I want to row and sail, on a little boat from London to Istanbul. I am not alone. My colleagues and I are a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual group, and I believe we and you can be of service to each other. You can learn more about us on our web site
unaltropo.com. I am, with the help of some good friends, organizing this journey called By Fair
Means, North sea to Black Sea, to help us save two great rivers and demonstrate a way of intelligent tourism.”

The photos above represent the current progress toward Giacomo’s goal. Shipwright Roland Poltock and his friend Silvio have set up shop in the lobby of Lago, a Venetian design firm. The lobby is synonymous with an art gallery aptly named The Art Waiting Room where the firm brings in artists to show pieces related to waiting. “Art Waiting Room is a container of stimuli to change the experience of waiting in Lago.Inside the waiting room, young artists reinterpret in ever different content to wait. This a project in collaboration with the Foundation March.” Or as Nicolo Zago explains on DoryMan’s blog: “Of course as you know, our reception area has now become the famous “Art Waiting Room” where we host live installations and performances, but until now we have never seen anything like this.” Thus the building of the new Ness yawl becomes a sort of performance piece. In point of fact I would label the whole of Giacomo’s oeuvre as performance art, a very broad work of art encompassing not only the aesthetic but also the social, the political, the environmental and the spiritual realms. Indeed, I believe it is a gesamtkunstwerk. (Please, if you don’t know what this means, link to the definition!)

Giacomo seems very open, gracious and generous, he’s invited Michael and I , and I’m sure many others, to participate in his voyage, and contribute by whatever means available, be it physical, logistical, media related or financial. Find out more at his website Un altro Po.

I asked Giacomo why an Iain Oughtred boat as opposed to a more local craft from his home area. His response is enlightening:

“I decided to use a Ness Yawl because is a very versatile boat. I was so lucky that Roland Poltock lent me the boat last year and I felt in love so much with it. Maybe I am a little bit close to my Norwegian origin, dating 1079, in Sicily or maybe I love too much Iain Oughtred..I miss the Venetian boats but they would not be good to sail along the Black Sea coast, and they are too heavy. Only the MAscareta could be good , and light but not seaworthy enough.
The other Italian boat are too heavy, like all the gozzi, to be rowed upstream decently, or hauled by myself in case of danger.

After all the planet is small and I am a citizen of this small planet. We decided to use names. So Norway is here too, in my crazy mind, and Scotland too.

This is part of a circle. About rivers and seas.

DON’T LEAVE THIS PLANET TO THE STUPID. PLEASE”

I dare not add anything more.

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04 Feb

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Of Mice And Men

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In the days of yore, rats were a big problem on ships. They still are. One of my enduring memories of my navy life  was encountering my first rat guard on a dock line. If you’ve never encountered an Industrial Rat Guard before, its a conical piece of metal, about 3 feet in diameter, that encircles a hawser. Nefarious rodents bent on invading one’s vessel are confounded by the thing and cannot scurry up the rope to the ship proper. It took me a moment to figure out what those odd-looking thingies were when I first saw them. When the realization bloomed I was just amazed that we still had to worry about that in the 20th century. Once I gained that insight, other things began to make sense as well– The  quarterdeck, for  example: It was manned 24/7, and not simply to give the drunken sailors something to salute on their way back aboard.  Maybe the tradition arose out of the the necessity to make sure no 4-legged vermin snuck aboard via the wide gangplank along with the enlisted men.  What better way to prevent that than to station some of your basic junior braid out there, monitoring the quarterdeck and keeping a weather eye for rats attempting to infiltrate?  And it wouldn’t hurt in case some random admiral decided to come aboard and inspect the heads at O dark-thirty, either.

The rat guards seemed to work pretty well, as I never saw any (four-legged) rats on any of the ships I served on.  Too bad they never invented a cockroach guard.  We had lots of cockroaches.  Big ones, little ones, hissing ones, squeaking ones, flying ones, black, brown and yellow ones.  All of them very quick and far too creepy-crawly for my liking. I suppose it shouldn’t have been too surprising considering some of the vermin-infested hellholes we visited during our cruises overseas. Most of the time the bugs stayed well hidden, being sensitive creatures who like us even less than we like them. But if you timed it right, you could come full face with the secondary crew that cohabits any ship. My most impressive such encounter was when I was enduring mess duty. 

On the Navy ships your privilege as an enlisted peon is to spend some period of time as a galley slave. No military ship caries enough cooks to perform all the dirty jobs that feeding hundreds, or thousands of men involves, so the solution is to yank random low-value enlisted me out of their normal assignments and consign them, for months, to the depths of the kitchen to perform all the foul deeds that the real cooks were too busy to handle. Have you ever peeled 500 pounds of potatoes?  If not, you have not truly experienced life, I assure you.  Most of the time, though, the cooks did not trust us to actually handle real food.  Instead, we galley slaves were tasked with cleaning up after the horde had finished each of the four meals served at sea. Much of this was the expected stuff, not unlike being a husband– Take out the garbage, refill the ketchup dispensers, slop the hogs (well, fishes), wipe the vomit off the walls when conditions were stormy, that kind of stuff.  All good fun. I was one of the slaves toiling in the scullery, which was a small steam-filled room right out of Dante’s Inferno containing a large machine whose purpose was to wash vast piles of unimaginably nasty dishware.  The sailors would deposit their trays through a small window; we’d toss the food detritus and leftovers and place the trays in racks.  When the rack was full, we’d shove the rack into the maw of the machine, and with any luck, the beast would scrub the trays and silverware shiny clean, to emerge steaming hot out the rear of the machine.

One quirk of the scullery was when the dishes had all been done, we’d have to clean the machine itself. We found that the best way to do that was to drop a packet of Bug Juice into the water reservoir and run the thing for about 15 minutes.– When finished, the machine was gleaming inside.  Bug Juice, in case you’ve never encountered it, was what passed for  Department Of Defense kool-aid back in the 70’s Navy.  It was green, or red, or kind of yellowish, and tasted like, well, koolaid, I suppose.  I stopped drinking the stuff after I witnessed what it did to the insides of our big stainless steel washing machine.

Anyway, one night after we had finished the job  and closed everything up, one of us peons realized that we hadn’t run Bug Juice through the dishwasher.  Being the most superfluous peon, I got “volunteered” to go back and complete the vital mission. I made my way back to the mess decks, and slid open the door to the dark  scullery.  As I did so I thought I heard something, but as the sound didn’t repeat, I figured I was imagining things.  I fumbled around for the light switch, and when I finally found it, flipped it on.

The secret life of the scullery was thus revealed to me.  The walls were moving. Thousands of large, small, and medium cockroaches were scurrying around every surface of the scullery– Walls, ceiling, benches, floor. I stood there, stunned, and watched a teeming mass of bugs fleeing the light.  It was like a horror movie.  In the scullery, No One Can Hear You Scream, to paraphrase the Alien movie. But the last thing they were interested in was some filthy human, and within seconds they had vanished from sight, save for one befuddled bug who circled around on the ceiling in a panic  before finally breaking loose and dropping to the floor three feet in front of me. Cockroach Fail, dude. In seconds even that poor klutz had disappeared into the nether regions of the scullery.

Never mind 500 pounds of potatoes; if you have not walked into a dark room containing 500 pounds of cockroaches, you have not lived.  Try it some time!

Fast forward 34 years. I was thinking about this because of the sailing trip I took last weekend. You see, about two years back, we picked up a mouse on board the Potter. It seems the rodent snuck into a grocery bag full of provisions that  I had foolishly left in the garage overnight.  Now, I normally try to rescue any critter that won’t hurt the kids, wife, pets, or myself. I am very proud of a humane mousetrap I constructed one time, for example,  to catch a mouse who was living under our oven; using a baking sheet, casserole dish, bamboo skewers, and peanut butter,  I did MacGuyver proud and we were soon admiring a totally cute, and totally terrified little creature the trap had snared.  I released the animal, unharmed, in the yard of a cranky neighbor who was always complaining about everything in sight. That was one of my prouder moments, and one of the few times I have  provided a positive example for the children. 

We won’t talk about my alternative role as Ninja Scorpion Assassin, in which I prowl around the house exterior  in the dark with a UV light and death ray spray can to  dispatch any scorpion I can find. The Wife is adamant that our children shall not be stung by scorpions, so I do my manly duty. Even after Cocktail Hour.  I don’t like killing scorpions one bit, but it’s them or us.

But I digress. As much as I wanted to, I wasn’t likely to catch the mouse using my baking pan-casserole-dish contraption, not on a boat in dry storage 100 miles from my house.  Every time we went sailing, I cleaned up the mouse poop and left the companionway wide open, with stuff piled nearby, so the critter could escape.  But for two years, the mouse remained stowed away despite my best efforts. I don’t know what the thing was eating, or how it survived inside its fiberglass prison, but it did.  (I tell you, anything that lives in the desert is seriously tough, from the plants upwards. Even the grass has spikes).  I finally had enough the last time I took the boat out, and set a trap for the mouse.  Last weekend, I opened the boat up and discovered the dessicated corpse of my little stowaway. 

That evening, Felicidade was securely anchored in Why Cove. I was relaxing in the cockpit, watching the airplanes on their trajectories to and from Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix, 80 miles away. The stars were twinkling, the moon was creeping up from behind the ridge to the East, which was backlit with a soft glow. The land around me was dark and mysterious, with a single light visible far across the lake on the shoreline, probably some campers. Ducks floated by in the still water, and every few minutes, a fish would jump for an insect. It was beautiful and peaceful, and kind of lonely.

 I had decided to come alone this time, not wanting to expose the kids to the murdered mouse. Swinging alone on the hook, I was feeling guilty about the mouse, and for some reason, very isolated from the rest of the world. I thought of my family back at the house, executing the nighttime rituals, and considered calling them, but the phone had no service.  So I sat there and thought about life. My eyes were drawn, over and over, to the solitary light miles away in the distance, as if I could extract some small measure of companionship from people who had no clue that I was hidden in the dark land across the water from their campsite. It was an interesting feeling, the solitude.  It was tolerable, knowing the the next day I would be back at home cleaning up cat barf while the kids raised hell all over the house. But for an hour or two I felt a taste of what a long-distance solo voyager must feel when the land falls below the horizon. Most of the time I am untroubled by such solitude; this time, though, it was kind of difficult to deal with.

I toasted my friends across the lake, and my former stowaway,  with my wine glass. Then I fired up the IPod.  Soon I had rousing music heralding the moonrise, and Two Buck Chuck easing the loneliness.  Dinner was soon ready, and Life Was Good.  Again.  But I was happy to get home the next day.

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