On the water with Jim ‘Geronimo’ and Gary ‘boat-with-no-name’ on Alum Creek Lake near Columbus OH, July 19th, 2016
…until next time…
Water enveloping me, all around
Gurgling past my ears as I swim
Gurgling behind the boat as I sail
Gurgling around the bubbles express by my dive gear
Gurgling from the Baptismal font
Sounds of the water and air mixing is all I hear.
Water around my eyes erases clear vision
A shield of clear glass restores air to my sight, yet
The seal and shape of the swim goggles limit my view
The dive mask too limits, and splits the view into disjointed panels
Sails hide the field of view ahead
In the font of the Jordan all vision is erased again.
Two senses diminished
I feel the water around me
In the pool and the font heat is pulled out of my body
A dive suit holds some water close, yet the heat still drains away
Aboard the boat the damp air and my sweat wet make my hair lie flat,
And I lose the feel of the wind. Now three senses are gone.
I gladly jump into a pool of water to swim
I yearn for the taste and feel of the water of a dive
I long for the smell and the feel of the wind and its pull on a sail
I commit to the washing of myself with the waters of the font
As I touch my mind, my heart, and cross my shoulders each
Time I leave and return home.
How can I go where my vision is impaired?
How can I find my way in the pool?
What do I trust in that I can swim with in the sea?
What do I know that lets me sail with canvass or steam?
What is this water of the Jordan that I wash in
What does it give me that tap does not?
I am filled with the Water of Life
The Water that formed from the four rivers of Eden
The Water that flowed and collected the Seas
The Water that floated sailors from Noah to Galilee and to the World
The Water that was more than a river when HE stepped into it
The Water of the Spirit offered to us all
The Water that gives Life and the Faith required to
I don’t write poetry very often. I think this is the second in a decade. If there is need of interpretation, I leave it to the reader as they may appreciate. ‘Z’ 1-18-15
The moon is bathing the lake with its light
Chilled and still and reflected bright.
Suspended so high
I should be sailing tonight.
My vessel she rests in her silent slip
At her helm I captain a mighty ship.
Sound is her hull
Too short a trip.
Sails the breeze makes flutter and shake
Something within me likewise my muscles make.
Quiet and weak yet I still
I should be on my vessel making a wake.
I took the summer off from school for a mental break. Three years of study, every quarter, every semester, working a new job and learning about that, and trying to make the household run as it should… nope… time for a break.
Then, I threw a wrench into the cogs. Well, maybe the more domestic of you will better understand if I say, ‘I put a fork into the garbage disposal’. Yup, that’s it. I bought six laying hens.
Now, before I get you thinking I’m going to talk about the craziness of the summer that WASN’T a mental break, or thinking I’m going to talk about chickens, let me tell you here that this is about figuring out what I lost in all this entropy. (Sorry) Chaos.
I haven’t been sailing.
Sailing is my respite. Sailing is where I’m doing and thinking a thousand things at once about the boat, yet there is order and expectation that if one tiny change is made the boat will sail better, safer, even prettier. Sailing is where the din of the entropy wanes and the order of the Divine Initial Aims can be seen to be at work, in spite of all that we humans do to block it out in the name of our progress and civilization. Sailing is where I go to find my own Divine Initial Aim. And, when the torrents of the wind and the waves remind me there is such a thing as entropy, that even in nature there is a torrid of energy that pounds against me, I know and trust Lifeline because of all the time and effort I spend with her, keeping her strong, keeping her well, for just such moments. I trust my vessel. I trust the routine created in the times less torrid and less chaotic to see me through the other.
I was reminded of this indirectly and unknown to them. Carin put out a note on our yacht club’s message board she was looking for a small day-sailing boat to ‘dink around in’ on her weekend vacation with friends. I happened to have one sitting in my driveway… sitting in my driveway for four years, waiting for me to get some time to fix her up and get her ready for sailing with, and I hope by, my grandkids. Some of them are old enough to do so, now. But, you know already, I bought chickens, and building a coop takes time, and money.
But seeing Carin’s request, I thought it would be nice to see the small boat used. I wrote her and she responded with all the glee one can see in a modern email/text message. We arranged to have her come by and see it. That meant I now had to make time to work on the sailboat. I came home on Monday and began power washing it. I started after supper and it was a cloudy night. Darkness came and I was still washing. I stopped, finally, when the lights from the garage door were brighter than the dark around me, and I could no longer see the boat.
Tuesday brought sunny skies and Carin was due at 6:30. I got home at 6:00 and pulled out the sails, laying them out for her to see. They were in fine shape. I draped the spinnaker sail, a greyish-blue, over the truck. It’s a fine cloths and laying it on the ground would damage it. The anchor, the lines, the equipment, all in decent shape save for the halyards left on the mast and exposed constantly. None-the-less, when Carin arrive and Regis followed, we three stepped the mast and rigged one mainsail. Cleaned up and rigged, she looked wonderful, my little boat, and that’s when I was reminded of what I had been missing.
The last real sail I had was back in June, under the full moon. I watched the sunset and the moonrise took photos with my cell phone cam and drifted about as the wind fell off for five hours. July brought a motor adventure with family aboard to watch the fireworks. Where July met August, I trailered Lifeline up to Lake Erie and sailed over to Bay Week on South Bass Island. For some, that might be a summer. For me, it was long walks in a hot desert between oasis’ and drafts of cool water. Last year I was on the water twice a week, including the afore mentioned events. Two years ago, I was on the water four times a week, teaching and racing and socializing. This year has been so different.
There’s time left to change all that. There are two weeks left in August, and two months, minimum, after that to spend on the water. There’s even time to go back to Lake Erie if I want to. Yes, I’m back in school. Yes, it has become even more intense at work, now that I have an idea of what my new job is supposed to be. Yes, the chickens need a yard to exercise in and windows, and their boxes filled with straw, and… well, you get the picture. And I’ve probably reminded you of your own chores by now. Stephen Covey told us in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to take time to sharpen the saw. He meant to take a break from driving the machine of our labor to tend to the details that keep it running.
Not so oddly, we were told this long ago by a greater Teacher, “Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath” yet even many of those professing faith forget and fill their Sabbaths as they fill the rest of the week. We need, we all need, to take a step back and let the wonder of the Divine Initial Aim reveal itself in our lives. God said, at least once a week, though we are called every day. He gave me a sailboat to use on that day, so I could spend time with the Ship’s Carpenter.
The little sailboat rolled out of my driveway Thursday evening, after we tested the hull for leaks. She still needs a few pins to fit the rigging properly. The halyards need soaked to clean them up. Some Sailkote on the blocks will make the pulleys run more smoothly. And the lights on the trailer need attention. These are all chores of love and relaxation. Carin’s enthusiasm will make those into a labor of love and she’ll have a good time with her friends on the boat.
Where will you make time this week to meet your Maker and learn or be reminded of your Divine Initial Aim? I wish you well in His presence. Pax Chrisiti
11:17 am 8-29-14
Carin texted me from Michigan “Pretty sure the rudder is still at your house. Can you confirm?” All the work, all the effort, all the fun we had… she pulled the boat all the way to Michigan… oh… damn…”In the corner of the garage, nice and dry.”
Three of four days looked like the picture above. I had a wonderful sail over on Thursday evening. There was a SE breeze, steady for two of the three hours I needed for the sail along the Catawba Peninsula (Lake Erie, south shore) and across the water to South Bass Island. That breeze left when the sun went behind the cirrus clouds stretching out in front of an eastward bound summer thunderstorm. Up came the engine and down went the sails. I wanted to be in the harbor when that came through, and was successfully moored inside the break water along side Tec ……..
Last year I went to sail and Mindy and I had some fun. This year I was there to work and there was a lot less fun. I spent two days on a 15′ Boston Whaler setting marks for the centerboard fleet. The first day was spent at anchor, a lot, as the engine on the first boat ran out of gas (who let this sailor run a motorboat, anyway?) and the second boat’s engine quite while idling. I ended the first day wearing my t-shirt on backwards as I walked the 100 yds to the showers. 2nd day it rained, stormed, lighting showers, and more wind than the ‘big boys’ would handle. Many of them weathered the storm in the lee of Rattlesnake Island’s east shore. Day three went well for the sailors, but for us in the motorboat it was a day to try staying IN the boat as all the power boaters, throwing wakes up 3 and 4 times the freeboard of the motorboat, sped past at the high speeds one may assume a power cabin cruiser is capable of. Sea sick? Thank God (no really! Thank God) No!
Time ashore was the highlight of the weekend. I slept in the comfort of the Put-In-Bay Yacht Club’s chair indoors while the storm passed and we waited to see if we could go out after. I shared dinner with friends in the evenings, as the sailor population was amply filled with Alum Creek members. The Rum Party volunteers? Alum Creek, led by the inestimable Allison Foreman. Phil Verret was about, the Varvarosky’s, the Pyors’, Brent and Sharla, of course, and several of the ‘younger’ members, not all of whose names I know yet were pouring beer, soda, and rum punch by the pitcher, taking tickets, and hauling out the trash.
Bob and Chris Shepherd managed the regatta for I-LYA. Thanks to them for their great work.
Saturday, after waiting out the rain, the docks were filled with sailors anxious to burn off the energy not spent on the water racing. The deck of Maelstrom became party center for Alum Creek sailors. It started about nine and went until… well, I don’t know how late it went. When the ‘second shift’ arrived with a ukulele and five more strapping young men, I took my aging backside ‘down’ to Lifeline’s cabin just astern of Maelstrom. Last thing I heard was some rock and roll song shouted across the water as I fell off to sleep. Thanks for inviting me over, folks. It was nice to be a part of the party.
Sunday morning was great for sailing while the fleet was out. It turned into a typical summer day on the lake, and the air went straight up if there was any moving at all. I motored all the way back to East Harbor State Park on the east side of the Catawba Peninsula. It was a rough ride across the chop of the Western Basin. A couple of hours unstopping the mast and stowing gear, a couple more driving back to Columbus. My bed at home hadn’t felt this good since I returned from my last deployment.
See you next year, Bay Week. Until then…the Old Fox is coming….
My wife and I are cleaning up the house this morning after a family party on our acre-and-a-quarter that lies across the county road from Alum Creek State Park. It’s a happy chore as my siblings and two of our children’s families were here, one visiting from Florida and another from ‘just down the road’. Mom and my brother and sisters have to travel just over an hour to get here so it’s an extra honor they chose to make the trip on a holiday when they all live only a few minutes apart from each other in our hometown. The yard is mostly picked up from yesterday, everyone naturally lending a hand to put away the croquette set, pick up the balls and bats from the game, and clearing all the food and trash away into proper receptacles. The Florida family is off to continue their summer trek, heading for New York State and I head to the basement to see what needs to get put away down there. And there they are, still bright and light in the red, white, and blue pattern hanging on the line.
The glow sticks are still glowing and an instant reminder of the glow of the night before as twelve of us covered the deck of my Catalina 22, Lifeline. Five adults and seven kids, age’s four to eleven (the kids ages and the adults’ equivalent anticipation) were motoring out onto the lake for the fireworks celebration of this Fourth of July. Our local sailing association joins with the local Power Squadron and any other volunteer boats to create a lighted boat parade for those thousands watching from the shore at Alum Creek State Park near Columbus in central Ohio, USA. Red, white, and blue chemical lights outlined the rigging fore-to-aft.
Earlier during the week, my daughter helped measure the distance up the backstay of the sailboat. We tied a quarter inch twisted nylon line to the main halyard and hauled it up to the top of the mast. She held the halyard taut while I pulled the line to the aft rail and marked the spot. We pulled the line down, replaced the halyard, and then wrapped the quarter inch line around a wooden yardstick. Four wraps and one length, twenty-seven feet. We did the same for the forestay and came up with twenty-five. Off to the local big-box store and I counted out twenty-seven four-inch chemical lights in the three patriotic colors. Eight necklace glow sticks were also taken for the package. I entertained some of my family during conversation in the afternoon with the tying of the lights to a section of the line used to measure, splicing an eye in one end of that and an end splice at the bitter end.
Aboard Lifeline, my son-in-law and I managed to get one of the kids to help with each of the tasks. We tried first to get them all to break the lights and shake them. The lights were too tough for the little hands. The wands were a different story, though, and each in turn was snapped and shook with the glee only children know of with such things. The adults snapped and shook the sticks. Then one child in turn hauled up the sticks aft and another the necklace wands, tied parallel to the line they were on, hauled up forward. The sun was still shining over the trees to the west and its rays overpowered the lights. The decorating was done and it was time to get under way.
The boys had said they wanted to handle the helm and with them at ages seven and nine I was excited to let them steer. But sitting forward of the mast is a much more exciting draw for these kids all total, and when the boys were directed by ‘Mamie’ to sit forward they were only too happy to oblige. One of the mothers was sitting all the way forward so they were bound to be somewhat restrained. The girls sat, four of them back-to-back amidships under the boom, just aft of the mast. Mamie was standing in the open hatch, and the other mother and one dad were back aft with me. The youngest, frustrated he could not get forward as well, was fidgeting in the cockpit between the four of us.
A steady stream of boats was leaving the marina to join whatever awaited on the open lake. The roaring of a few more powerful speed boats could be hear through the trees and down the channel. Running at idle speed we were only boat lengths apart from each other and working to match our speeds so as not to run up on each other. Changing motor speed is easy, one just throttles down. Slowing a boat in motion is another thing. Reversing the motor works, but is not so easy on outboard motors on sailboats. Other boaters on the lake were heading toward the beach area to the south and not a few were ignoring the channel markers. Changing speed was a frequent maneuver and when the lead boat in the channel had to slow, the train of boats behind pressed up one-to-another. Still, we were all moving slow enough to avoid the crossing pattern and head up the lake a mile to the marshalling point for the parade.
Alum Creek Sailing Association was well represented and the ‘crew’ on Lifeline had many ‘honors’ to render, saluting ‘Raven’ and Penguin II, Half Baked and La Vita, Lady, JOATMON, and Wicked Pissa. Time and Change sped toward the group and joined those circling. Wind Swept motored along-side Lifeline for some time. Many, many more sailboats were circling off shore from the State marina. A Coast Guard Auxiliary boat was holding station just outside that channel, amber safety lights turning. Some powerboats were with the sailboats outside. The bulk of those came out from the State marina all at once. The USCG Aux boat’s lights switched, and the white and red emergency lights signaled the start of our parade!
Thirty-foot power boats lined in all white, pontoon boats at twenty- and thirty-feet sported flags and red, white, and blue holiday lights. Some boats carried pinwheels, others those tubular kites trailing streamers. Those sailboats carrying similar lights switched them on and all moved as one behind the lead boats. One sailboat was flying half-dozen star-spangled banners from its foremast. Another had red holiday lights strung from its masthead to its boom, and blue ones from the masthead to the foredeck. Still another had electronic controlled lights that shown as comets or fireworks scattering all about its sail area in all the colors of the rainbow. This was Raven, and Lifeline’s crew liked this display the best.
A hundred plus boats all traveling in the same direction on Alum Creek Lake and in the dusk of the night was somewhat tedious to begin with. The sun was behind the trees and the lighting of the boats was unusual, when ahead of Lifeline a boat was showing its port broadside. “What is happening?” ran through my head as Half-Baked’s sun decal shown full ahead of me. There was time and room to slow and motor behind her, but I had to wonder what caused one of my shipmate skippers to come fully about inside the flotilla. My starboard turn showed me the answer. They had lost a cockpit pillow over the side and were coming back to retrieve it! “Curious time for a crew-overboard drill” I hollered at the skipper as we passed port-to-port. He laughed and both of us returned our gazes towards the other boats. His situation was the more precarious and I was happy to be clear of his intended path.
This event filled most of the attention of the space between the State marina and our own inlet, as we were now passing back down the lake to the south. Still more sailboats were heading out and my favorite appeared at the outmost marker in the channel. Sledgehammer was flying what looked to be a U.S. flag to be four or five foot along the hoist. The banner was reminiscent of the original Star-Spangled Banner, so large it was and such a statement it was making! Sledgehammers lights were mostly the lit-up tubular novelties the crew was waving on deck. There was no mistaking what the primary décor was.
Many of the parade boats peeled off the formation as we passed the secured area of the water from which the fireworks would be launched. These headed toward their selected anchorages. I steered Lifeline into the single line that was forming behind the Coast Guard, Sledgehammer some boat lengths ahead of me. The crowds cheered the parade, a gala of flashes from the shore. Yet, more flashes from the water. The parade course steered was flanked on both the shore side and the lakeside by anchored boats and their crews. Lifeline and the other crews were the subject of joyous observation and waved back at those cheering, surprised to be in the focus of so many on-lookers. We followed the several boats that remained in the parade past the four-hundred yards of beach.
It wasn’t over for us yet. There were thousands more spectators on top of the dam that marked the end of our southward course. We came to port and motored across the water, each parade boat to its own chosen point to observe the anticipated fireworks. Lifeline motored for a half-mile past the dam before I turned her back north toward the east side of the lake and left the spectators behind. There is a wake marker along the eastern shore we call ‘B’ for our local sailboat races. We know the water is shallower there and only a few boats chose to watch from that area. It is directly opposite our inlet channel on the west side of the lake.
The air was chilling as the boat turned into the wind. The children began shivering and one sweatshirt was passed around for two of them to huddle under together before it was passed to another pair. The rest huddled closer to one another while waiting their turns. I slowed Lifeline to a stop by idling the motor and turning first to port and then to starboard. She began to move backward in the wind and waves and I had my foredeck crew lower the anchor. Thirty feet went out before it hit bottom. I had them run out another thirty feet. For a longer-term anchorage, I should put out a minimum of five times the depth of water beneath the keel. I decided we would be ‘ok’ for the short term, watched the shoreline at two places, and was rewarded with a ‘holding station’ for the duration of the fireworks.
My shipmates from Alum Creek Sailing Association had not embellished at all when they described the sight of multiple fireworks from the lake. Directly across the lake, a mile off, we watched the sponsored event in full brilliance, doubled in delight by the reflection off the water of every spark and glint! Over the trees, we watched the lights from the cities of Delaware to the north and west, from Powell to the west. To the south and west were the fired delights of Worthington and directly south the city of Westerville entertained. What we thought were echoes of our own pyrotechnics turned out to be a show of sparkling explosions from the area of Sunbury or New Galena. All around the horizon the sky was exploding with color and drumming with sound. Not a child mentioned the chill on their skin, nor the need for the sweatshirt, not a child of any age. It was a wonderful show. And those glow sticks, they are still glowing, but not as brightly as the glow in my heart for the wonderful memory I have of the glowing faces of my crew.
The trip back was uneventful, if we discount the one boat motoring backwards and another crew shining a spotlight in the faces of others trying to navigate the channel. The more profound and important memory I want to share is the comment from one of my adult crew members, about how she hoped those who suffer from PTSD might be able to still enjoy such celebrations. I am career Navy and though I served in the Red Sea for Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I am aware that the Navy has seen little in war-at-sea as compared to other generations. Ashore is a different story these last fifteen years, since the 9-11 events and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands answered this country’s call and no matter the politics, they served and sacrificed. The celebration of this day is due to the same service and sacrifice of our predecessor patriots, who believed in the freedoms written in the Declaration and the Constitution that it bore. I wish too, that those so recently and so deeply affected, physically and mentally, might at some level be able to appreciate that which we celebrated this day.
Wednesday evening I was sailing with the racing fleet, because I could as well as to let them know I was still about the marina. The extended winter and the lateness of getting Lifeline on the water, as well as focusing on graduate school kept me out of the Spring Red Cup series of racing. This is my social group, though, and I missed my shipmates. I wanted to be on the water with the fleet.
This next night, Thursday, is for the broader community, though, and for my shipmate Vicki who is managing our Learn-to-Sail program this year. I did the same two years back. Supporting the LTS Chair is important to Alum Creek Sailing’s association goal of promoting the sport. It’s a good excuse to get down to the marina and onto the water, too, as if I need one of those!
There are thirty new participants in this, the second program of the season. Vicki needs ten skippers and boats. We provide her with eleven, and that leaves me without anyone to take aboard when they are all spread out across the teams’ vessels. I’m single-handing, again. (maybe I have an off-putting aura?)
The other skippers have some teaching to do but I just have myself. The wind is light. The flags on the mast up the hill are wafting lightly. There is no breeze in the marina. My gas tank is back home in the garage, waiting for me to fill it. Lifeline is in her slip, in a ‘crook’ of the docks, by design. I’m not sailing out. I’m not motoring out. Looks like I’m sculling her out to the channel.
Sculling? That’s rocking the boat side to side, letting the shape of the hull and the weight of the keel move the boat forward. It is a small boat technique and Lifeline is just on the upper cusp of being a small boat at twenty-two feet long and two-thousand pounds. At two-forty myself, I constitute ten-per-cent of Lifeline’s displacement and that is plenty of weight to rock her from side-to-side. It takes me ten minutes to go the hundred yards to the channel.
There’s a westerly blowing this evening and the line of trees along the channel draw in plenty of draft from it. I immediately raise both sails at the end of the docks and I’m being pulled along directly. The speed tack reads half-a-knot. It’s a nice, gentle pull. The other skippers with their charges are motoring out and the lessons begin as to the right-of-way of sail over power is raised to their crews. Some motor ahead, others are still coming from behind, others are already to be seen on the water, mainsails up and drawing. All are heading north up the lake.
The wind is gentle and steady. I come to port. Turning left the sails fill. The breeze is strong enough to keep the sails full and the sails are so balanced tonight I can take my hand off the tiller and ride. Picking up my cell phone I have the chance now to take some photos of the activity this evening.
The sun was setting and a couple of the boats turned back south toward the dam and the inlet. I kept Lifeline pointed north with a couple others. There was something to be seen or done yet this evening and I wanted to know what it was. Onward we road the wind.
Day was done. Gone the sun, from the lake(s), from the hills, from the sky. All was well. Safely rest. God is One.
All the other boats were at the south end of the lake. Ralph had La Vita heading back past Lifeline, leaving her and I the sole traversers near the causeway. We came about and waited….
I stayed out late. It was the first day of my vacation and I had no reason to go back in a hurry. A couple hours later, Lifeline and I were still sailing with the moon as our companion.