All Hands On Deck


November 9, 2021, San Diego- Three teams of fourth grade students manned a rope each, and carefully maneuvered the empty steel safe into position, in the hold of the Star of India, a barque that is the world’s oldest active sailing vessel and is the centerpiece of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Below is a photo of the ship’s miniature, taken during my last visit to the Museum, in 2012.

It is always a joy to see children engaged in an activity that involves a fair amount of thought, and all the better when that activity requires teamwork. There were four sets of students each involved in ship-related activities, during the time I was aboard. It was the only place in the museum where face masks were required. With the children’s safety in mind, all but two people were in compliance. Fortunately, the teachers and parent chaperones made sure those two got nowhere near the kids.

There are two ships that have been added to the Museum’s collection, since 2012: The galleon, San Salvador, a replica of the vessel which Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo used to sail into San Diego Harbor, in 1542 and a Patrol Craft Fast (Swift Boat). I took a fifteen-minute walk around San Salvador, joining a party of visitors from Mexico. Here is a view of the galleon.

It is notable that Cabrillo, one of the wealthiest men in Spanish America at that time, contracted food poisoning either whilst in this area, or shortly after leaving. He never got to see the successful settlement, which was fostered sixty years later, by Sebastian Vizcaino (Viz-ka-YEE-no), who gave the settlement the name, San Diego.

One ship will soon leave the Museum: The B-39 Soviet submarine. I made one visit aboard this vessel, in 2012. Here are the way it looked nine years ago, and how it looks now.

After visiting or re-visiting several of the vessels, I headed over to Little Italy, which lies between the waterfront and San Diego’s downtown core. There, a stop was made for lunch, at an old favourite: Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. It was the first restaurant I visited in San Diego, back in 1979-then, as now, accessible by entering through the market and kitchen.

This was a most gratifying day, made all the more so by the presence of so many young people, who are enthused by embracing their city’s maritime heritage-and learning teamwork in the process.

The Moon Is Green


March 16, 2016, Prescott- I’ve had an affection for things Celtic, since long before things Celtic became trendy.  My half-English mother forbade the playing of Irish music in the house, but she’s come around to at least allow its play, on the music channels of her cable service.

My own affection for such is part of a lifelong connection with those who are close to the soil.  So, I feel bonds with the indigenous- not only my Penobscot ancestors on my paternal grandmother’s line, but all Native Americans, Inuits, Siberians, Hawaiians, Australian aboriginals and those whom I called, in my childhood ignorance, “the natives” (tribal Africans).

I associate Celts, ancient Teutons, Slavs and the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppe with the land, also.  It seems they ravaged one another, in wave after wave, and usually just as the one group was settling into sedentary life, there came the next horde.

That’s been the way of humanity, since we headed up, out of Africa, and wherever else we may have mastered the art of upright mobility, and spread across the continents.  We have so often looked to the other’s yard, for prosperity- or at least for a change of scene. Indigenous people had these conflicts, too, though when the Europeans came to these shores, with visions of commerce and gain, the American peoples were in the process of establishing a peaceful network of trade routes, from southeast Alaska and the taiga of Canada, to Tierra del Fuego, and so many points in between.  It is highly likely that there was trading between the Aleuts and the people of Japan; between the Greenland Inuit and the peoples of Scotland and Norway (even before Iceland was settled); and, possibly, between the seafaring people of what is now northeast Brazil and the kingdoms of western Africa.   Then, too, nobody could hold a candle to the masters of the ocean:  Those who went east, from the Malay Peninsula, and became the Micronesians and Polynesians, or west, and became the Malagasy.

We face, possibly in my lifetime, if not in my son’s, a decision about the proper use of the resources on our planet’s Moon, then those of at least the near planets of our solar system.  Green- the colour of many of our wardrobes, tomorrow, will continue to have different connotations to different people.  Mean green, or gentle green?  Commerce, at any cost, or careful stewardship?  It seems this has gone on, since Croesus minted his first coins, or even since the nations that pre-dated the Great Flood, if one believes in such things.

Where are you, in this debate?  (My Xangan friends, in particular, please know that I don’t take umbrage at contrary opinions, even if I get a little spirited once in a while.)  Express yourselves, and Erin Go Bragh!

Old Blue


gin, delicate, hook, basset hound, pearls, hibiscus

February 10, 2016, Prescott- Rafe was understandably flustered.  For the third night in a row, some Bible-study group was sitting in his cafe, talking nonsense about Race Unity. “Race Unity?  The White race IS unified, as far as I’m concerned”, Ralph Waldo Emerson Tucker muttered, as he turned on his heels and walked out the door.  “Next thing ya know, they’ll have some Black Eee-mahm leadin’ the festivities!”

Rafe headed back to his makeshift camp, at  the edge of a ramshackle wharf and threw his backpack on the old cot he called Slumberland.  He had to lay down carefully on the single bed, lest its legs collapse.  Slumberland was always on the delicate side.  Before he brushed his remaining teeth, Rafe had himself a healthy swig of gin.

That’s when Old Blue, his trusted basset hound, came wandering over.  “Here ya go, buddy boy”, Rafe cackled, as he poured a bit of gumption into Blue’s bowl.  The aging hound, with one good eye, lapped up the gin, in several slow, somewhat agonized slurps.

The dog belched, then Rafe followed suit.  One more chore remained, before the snoring.  Rafe and Blue went down to the bay’s edge, and checked the baited hook, and their traps.  “It’s a helluva great day, after all, Blue’s Clues”, Rafe snickered, as he counted the two dozen oysters in the trap.  The grizzled fisherman placed the day’s catch in a lizard-proof container, set it up on a high shelf, in the locked shed, and headed inside to crash.

That night, Rafe interrupted his snoring, tossing and turning, to dream, deeply, that a lithe, lovely young pearl diver was walking past his camp.  He could smell the lush, sweet hibiscus in her hair.    Rafe may have been a bigot, but he had an eye for beauty, undeneath that snarling, very scruffy, countenance.

He woke, to see the stars still sparkling, high above.  Hearing Old Blue murmuring contentedly, Mr. Tucker got up and looked out on the hound’s dirt sleeping area. Old Blue was lying, happily stretched full-out, his snout resting on the lap of a young lady, dressed in a floral print muu-muu, her hair sporting a fresh hibiscus blossom.  Carlota had a habit of catching some sleep here, when her father and brother got to drinking and fighting.  Rafe was a drunk, but he was no lecher.

“Yessiree, Bob”, Rafe mused, “The best decision I ever made was moving here, to Iloilo.”  Old Blue couldn’t have agreed more.


The Road to 65, Mile 264: Ferry Life


August 19, 2015, Prescott- No, I am not embarking on another far-flung adventure.  Today, I am ruminating about the process of getting from one place to another, by boat.  Ferries have been around since before Egypt or Sumer were kingdoms.  Probably, as soon as a Neanderthal or Peking Man was able to fashion a log large enough to hold one or two other people, he or she would have had the bright idea to charge them a fee, in the currency of the day, in order to get across the river or lake.

My own experience with ferries goes back to 1966, when my parents took us to Martha’s Vineyard for a day.  I remember the salt air and the rather smooth ride from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, across Vineyard Sound.  We visited some Wampanoag people, in Gay Head, on the western end of the island, and being 15, I wandered off for a bit, by myself, to try and meet up with some local kids and hang out to see how life was there, day to day.

Since then, life has taken me across many bodies of water, either by watercraft or by plane.  I’ve tried my hand at rowing, and paddling canoes, with varying degrees of success.  There was one time, when I worked for Villa-Oasis School, now defunct, when one of the students and I slept on opposite ends of the Headmaster’s boat, while at Cholla Bay, in Sonora.  When we woke up, the next morning, the boat had drifted about a half-mile out to sea.  We rowed it back in, but I was never invited to go back to the hacienda.

Large ferry operations, like those in Alaska, Washington State and British Columbia, are staffed by young and old alike, working twelve-hour shifts.  Alaska’s ferry crews are state employees, and no tipping is allowed.  My tendency is to tip, fairly generously, for good service, so this was a new experience.  Then again, the prices of their fare make not needing to tip, a blessing.

Having spent 6 1/2 days aboard a U.S. Navy vessel, last Fall, I wondered how the crew members on various ferries regard their lives.  I listened to people talk back and forth, during the four Alaska Ferry rides, and the trip to and from Victoria, aboard a Washington ferry.  The dining staff and purser’s office folks seem to work the hardest, never seeming to catch a break, with several hundred, and sometimes over a thousand, people to keep fed, and secure.  As with any vessel, the engineering people, in the hottest part of the ship, have the most thankless working conditions; even if they are sitting, they are doing so in a heat capsule.

The sleeping quarters for the Alaska crew, are below decks, under the engine room and car deck, which, for safety reasons, is off-limits to passengers, for most of the journey.  Four scheduled and supervised car deck calls, per day, are allowed the passengers, mostly to check on caged pets which are secured in vehicles, with the windows rolled down for ventilation.  The crew members did tell me it was sometimes hard to sleep, with the dogs barking, off and on.  It’s definitely a life that one would have to choose out of love for people and for the sea.

Many of my fellow passengers chose state rooms as accommodation.  Being me, I rolled out a pad and a sleeping bag, though on top of a cot, so as to not have to get soaked, lest a wave came up over the bow or, as happened a few times, rain water leaked through the canopy.  I have mentioned, in one of the Alaska posts, how a woman sleeping to my left did get an unwelcome bath, from just such rain water.

One of these days, I will be on a ferry again.  I might do the state room experience, or just remain myself, and exult in the canopy of stars.  Either way, the sea and I will remain friends, as will the crew.