Thursday, November 3, 2011

1 November. Got a break at sea

Boy, this little cartoon says a lot.

Sometimes I wonder where I am and what I am doing, but I guess I won't have it any other way.

At least it makes life interesting and it is satisfying entering something on your own terms. I have done this pretty much with my recent entry into ham radio among countless other things I have done in my life.

When I bought my sailboat half a lifetime ago I had no real desire to go for little day sails and play yacht club games, my boat was a cruiser, dammit and I cruised it. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when I started modifying things for ocean voyaging. Many of the yachttie types looked at me like I was insane when they saw me installing combings and other things. They were appalled when I yanked the head out and threw it away. A five gallon pail would serve as a replacement.

Not only would I get another 8 cubic feet of storage for food and water, but I eliminated two thru-hull fittings and thru-hull fittings are just one more thing that can fail and sink the boat.

Of course the few serious cruisers grinned with approvement as they knew what I was doing and they were the ones that were helpful. There were few cruisers that didn't understand simple and primitive. Simplicity is the watchword of small sailboat ocean voyagers.

The Whale Gusher pump was not in the prettiest spot and I suppose it looked ugly to a yachttie but it was where I wanted it if I needed it and was ready to go in a second.

When I had her rigged she was, well the word is utile. She was set up in such a manner that she was ready to perform her mission which was open ocean cruising. An open ocean cruiser is generally pretty spartan.

Half a lifetime later I am quite satisfied as to how I set her up and I can say that wile the yachtties were sitting on their little boats in some protected little bay I was out in the middle of the froth being a real sailor and thirty years later I know I made the right decision. There are a lot of people that had far bigger and more expensive rigs that are probably still sitting on board planning their next excursion around the bay.

Sure, it was fearful at times and I had a few close calls but it was worth it.

Someone once asked me if I would feel the same way if I had lost her at sea and I have to say that I would not really regret it if what I had to look back on was the adventure because unlike those timid baysailing souls I could have at least say that I had tried.

Old Teddy Roosevelt once made a statement about the man in the arena that wins or loses. His victory or loss is his and his alone and not one single part of it belongs to the spectators. They can talk about it all they want but it doesn't mean a damned thing. It is the man in the arena that owns the victory or the loss.

(This is another thing I hate about professional sports. When the home team wins the hometown claims the victory as theirs. It isn't. It belongs strictly to the players on the team and no one else whatsoever. Of course, when they lose they are a bunch of bums. The hell with a bunch of sports fans, most of which are in no shape at all to play the game. The only shape most sports fans are in is that they are fit enough only to run their mouths.)

I have had a few failures but one of the neat things about my failures is that they were mine and mine alone. They are the products of trying and even though I have had failures with half-baked ideas, I have had successes, too.

I have had a couple poeple over the years why I chose my path the way I did. While I have played many of the games of life by following the herd, I would often see something along the trail that interested me and vector off to check it out. Often I would see something pretty mainstream and find that that there was a little offshoot that interested me.

I think this started really young, even in school. I remember a history class I had and while we covered the Revolutionary war, I remember finding a couple of interesting little offshoots that caught my fancy and I looked into those even though they were hard to research because most of the stuff in the library was pretty mainstream.

The things that interested me were not the armies run by aristocrat types like Washington and the like. I found myself interested in little things like the Battle of Kings Mountain and the exploits of Francis Marion down in the Carolinas because the people involved struck me as grass roots types and that struck me as the spirit of the entire revolution. When I researched this and brought it up in class I guess it blew the teacers mind as although he was aware of Marion, he knew very little of King's Mountain.

When we discussed the Battles of Lexington and Concord (The locals say the battle of Lexington was fought in Concord by the men of Acton) we covered Lexington in detail but little of the return to Boston which is often referred to as the battle of Concord. We went toe to toe with the Regulars at Lexington and got clobbered, yet the return to Boston cost the British a third of their forces because they were constantly sniped at by little groups and individuals the entire way back.

When I thought over competitive shooting back in the 70s I went to black powder competition which at the time was a splinter group in the shooting sports. It was interesting seeing what I could do with a primitive rifle as opposed to a modern one. While I never really won anything, it was fun trying.

I had to leave the sport when I moved to Alaska. There wasn't much activity there. Later when I got back to the States I decided to take up shooting again and discovered service rifle competition, a sport little known of outside of the shooting sports world. It interested me. Part of the reason was that it was a lot less costly than having a serious competitive rifle made for me, and part was that I like service rifles.

I entered ham radio recently with my own set of terms. I looked at the hobby and decided that I had no real desire to set up a humongous shack with a bunch of powerful sets and linear amps that could service a small city radio station. I chose a low powered backpack rig as my main set. I already know I made the right choice. It's been fun.

I started off on the road less traveled as a kid and of course, my parents were more than a tad worried about how I would turn out. My mother once mentioned it to my Aunt Pat, whose entire brood eventually achieved success in the mainstream. My aunt looked at my mother and said, "For God's sake, at least he's interesting! I often wish one of mine would strike out and try something a little different! He'll do just fine."

She was a neat aunt and although their family wasn't much in the drinking department, she kept a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label hidden under wraps for my infrequent visits. It was funny watching my younger cousins look surprised when my aunt would tell them to get the bottle when I showed up. She sure didn't short-pour a drink for me, either. I believe it started shortly before I turned 21 although it was rare that sheoffered drink to anyone, it was totally unheard of and completely out of character for her to offer one to a minor.

When my cousins listened to us chat it was funny because they were in awe of the concept of catching fish for a living or living in a camper in Alaska or whatever off the wall things I was doing at the time.

All of my cousins eventually chose mainstream careers except for one who embarked on a life of crime. He did this by going to law school, passing the bar exams and obtaining a license to steal. That's OK, every family needs a shady character.

While I spend a lot of time on the road less traveled frustrated, scared and wondering what is going to happen next I can say that at least it is interesting. I have no regrets.

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