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Posts from the ‘Nibblings’ Category

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Well, we settled here, approaching a year now, where family has been for decades. Family names on streets and the odds that many of the folks we meet are somehow related. You would think we knew the area. Not so well it seems. It has taken company from our motorhome travels and distant Colorado friends to encourage some exploration. So, here is a quick look at Thurmont, MD and surrounding features.

Within 40mins we have several National Parks including Antietam Battle Field and Gettysburg Battlefield. Both of which should be on every one’s list to visit. The associated foundations have produced amazing films and displays that do everything but put you in the battles. A remarkable look at that piece of history.

 

NPS is doing a wonderful job renovating the facilities and displays at the C&O Canal, including rebuilding the aqua duct, and re-watering to float a canal boat, in Williamsport – which also has Civil War history as a hospital town.

And a walk along the tow path offers assorted photographic opportunities…

Closer to home is the Catoctin Mountain NP with assorted hiking trail (not far from Camp David). Of family interest is the now defunct mountain spring still. During prohibition in the ‘20s, local folk built a rather extensive facility capable to producing large quantities (18 500gal vats) of whiskey …. until the revenuers found them. It seems gunfire was exchange and a revenuer shot dead. A distant relative was found guilty of the murder and incarcerated for some years. The back story says the revenuer was shot in the back, and his partner (behind him) was engaged in an affair with his wife. The subsequent assumption follows that our guy was innocent, and the truth covered up. Always fun to have ‘interesting’ relatives 😊

Then came the tour of the local covered bridges, all three of which have been fully restored and have accompanying parks on beautiful streams. Anyone would provide for a beautiful picnic, and wade in the creek……

                  

 

Then there is the giant slide (covered) at a local church park. Built in the early 1900s.

 

 

Throughout much of this part of the Country, the winery industry has grown. The hard scrabble ground that offers poor farming, makes for good grapes. At least three wineries are close at hand. And a stop at one gave us a great tour and explanation of the wine making process – not to mention an extended sampling of their wares. It pays to go at off times …

On coming Home – a sequel*

While resting on my newly acquired boat and feeling very much at home, I began thinking about the meaning of Home. What is it that draws us to a place that we feel is home? Is there some underlying biology to it? And so, from where did we come that would leave that trace?

Biologists and other scientists work to describe HOW we came to be as a species (along with all other living things). We think we’ve got it. Philosophers try to explain WHY — all absolute conjecture. Yet, seemingly buried in our DNA or elsewhere is some innate knowledge of both how and why – and from where. It’s buried so deep we are never certain, if we’re honest with ourselves, of what we profess to believe, or at least we shouldn’t be.

So, in that buried knowledge, do we have some understanding of what home means?  Why are some of us driven to try to explain? Is there something profoundly important that understanding would reveal? From ‘ashes to ashes’ we simply recycle our beings. Is death the pathway to home … returning elementally from whence we came? In that sense, do we not all return home to the earth in the end?

Most likely never consider these matters, being free then to pursue their lives unhindered by the questioning and frustrations of inadequate understanding. Others choose to leave this all up to one or another god and its associated religion – and accept that dogma.

At the very end of any puzzling of this kind comes the unanswerable question of where did this universe come from and what preceded it if anything. Thus, from whence did we come? Nothing-ness, along with infinity, are concepts our brains seem incapable of grasping in any meaningful way. What do we know but not recognize or understand about this yearning for home? What is different about those of us who feel this yearning so profoundly? Are we the same ones who feel so deeply for the health of our earth?

See, it’s risky to simply sit on a boat with nothing much to do.

‘Coming home’ is a frequent expression having nothing to do with opening a door to our house. What images connote home? Why? What do they have in common? Among many singers/songwriters, Enya sings “I’ll find a way home”, Sissel sings ‘Going home’. Many people will recognize that feeling about a place that they’ve come home to – a comforting, belonging feeling. When asked to explain why, what it is about the place and the feeling, most will struggle for an adequate answer.

What prompted this rambling essay? I’m back on the water after a solid-ground excursion of a few years. It feels like coming home. For me, that’s a sense of ‘rightness’, calm, familiar, peaceful, belonging. My boat’s name Valinor is from Tolkien’s middle earth tale. Valinor is the ‘undying land’ to which the heros sailed at the end of the story – a comforting thought of going home.

All is good when sitting in a boat in a quiet back water with no demands of self except the constant conversation that carries on in our minds, aware or not, and a child’s repetitive question, why? Why does this feel like coming home?

Perhaps it’s just simply that home is the saline sea from whence we came – if the biologists are right. The philosopher’s ‘why’ question is more interesting.

*see the earlier ‘coming home’ post.

Rescue – noun, verb or both?

If one is a dog person, and lives long enough, we have the fortune to share our life with, and the love of, several dogs. The down side, given the respective life expectancies, is having to say more bitter sweet and painful goodbyes than anyone should have to bear. Yet we agree enthusiastically to that deal with every new puppy that comes into our lives. Most are inclined to forget, or simply don’t understand, the pain that our fur friends endure in the reverse situation. Their are numerous examples of mourning among our fellow species.

I’ve said my share of sad goodbyes over the years, and have reached an age that imposes somewhat different choices and obligations when deciding on bringing a new pup into our life. Do the math. What are the prospects of you or the pup having to mourn another loss?

With all that in mind, and the deeply embedded need to share time with yet another dog, comes the choice.  Take on another puppy or adopt a rescue dog? So often those who adopt rescues ask the question, who rescued whom. A question I think borne of the profoundly ancient relationships between man and canine.

It’s that time again for me to choose. I’ve done the math. For none of the advertised pleas or reasons for adopting a rescue dog, I’ve made that choice. I choose to balance the odds for which of us will bear another good bye.

In fairness, I’m not sure I’m willing to expend the energy to raise another puppy 😊 I’m looking forward to a more age-equal partner – one who will adjust their pace to mine. We can commiserate with each other about the limitations aging imposes, share the joyful and the peaceful times with a fellow traveler. So begins the search……….

Puppy Saga

And the story continues…. Maggie was (is) a sweet, adorable puppy. She was also 55+lbs of energy wrapped in a soft, ever-shedding coat. After a considerable investment in pretty successful training, it became clear that she needed a different home.

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With remarkable good fortune, we found an ideal home with the assistance of the breeder. Maggie is now living an unfettered life with a Lab brother, freedom to sleep wherever, and lots of play time at a campsite with a creek. Seems she’s turning into the water dog that I’d hoped. So, all-in-all a successful outcome.

That said, I was again without a dog ….

After some reasonable negotiations at home, we decided to go back to the breed we know well having raised and trained more than a few. And, with plans to move on from sailing to RVing, an upland bird dog became a much better choice.

So, after a number of calls, research on line and with dog friends, we found Cricket. Her litter was just reaching time to go home, and we fell in love on the first visit.  How does anyone resist a Brittany puppy! What’s more, the dad was from the kennel where we had found our first Brit – and, they were taking one of Cricket’s sisters – we had come full circle.

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That was just a couple weeks ago. Cricket is home with us, growing fast and keeping me regular company. In fact, she has developed a very close attachment, and a moderate case of separation anxiety should I leave her alone.  This too will pass, house breaking will succeed and it will be time to start field training for birds!

 

 

Stay tuned for more Cricket stories……..

6 Months this week…

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As we say with kids, ‘they grow up so fast!’ Maggie is doing just that, and continues to be the challenge of an energetic toddler……though one wouldn’t guess that from this picture. She is fast approaching 50lbs and growing more confident every day.

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To help direct a lot of that energy into useful/manageable traits, we are now going weekly to a professional trainer. In addition to all the standard commands of sit, come, stay etc, she is learning the ropes on the agility course. It’s great fun to help her over hurdles, teeter-totters, ramps, tunnels and other obstacles. She’s a quick study, and does all that’s asked of her – if slowly and only when on the lead for the most part. The immediate goal is to get her to obey when off-lead – expected to take some time.

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Over Christmas holiday, we had all the kids and grandkids home, including Tessa. Tessa was my last Brittany and is now being horribly spoiled by our daughter Abby (lower right). It was fun to see Maggie and Tessa together for the first time. They became fast friends, shared toys and probably stories that we couldn’t understand.

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As for her role as 1st Mate, we are now not-so-patiently waiting for Spring and more boat time. Winter is setting in after some early, record-setting warm weather. The short days, and cold make the boat look a bit forlorn. Winterizing was accomplished and we’re counting down to mid-March when we can safely recommission.

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This pic is from last winter, but it’s what we’re heading for soon. Also, Valinor is now in a slip almost directly across the creek, three slips to the left of the black hulled power boat…

Maggie on the water – week 13-17

And the training continues ….  Leaning more about Labs every day. This one in particular is exceptionally smart, AND has a strong will to match!  Prudence says ‘professional help’, and so we signed up with a trainer for once per week sessions. All the basic sit/come/stay and related skills are developing along with my patience (most of the time). She learns fast. The trick is to get her to do what she knows – when I tell her!

All work and no play isn’t for Maggie or me!  She made the trip with me, by car, to the Seven Seas Cruising Association Gam and made new friends while getting accustomed to the car kennel. The following week she guarded the door at the Passport Yachts office while I did my part-time broker work at the annual Annapolis Boat Show.

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Several days living on the boat helped her to learn her way around. I built a carpet covered ramp to make it easier to get up and down from cabin to deck. The following week was committed to boat maintenance that involved a short three day haul while replacing a thru hull valve. That and a couple weeks of not so great weather meant limited boat time, but continued training time. We did sneak in a short day sail with a couple crew friends giving Maggie the first chance to sail – she was a trouper, and seemed to take to the life easily.IMG_7223

Week 17 brought the first overnight sail to a marina. As a club cruise, I had crew help, and it provided shore time for Maggie. It was a great downwind sail on Saturday and a motor sail upwind home.

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A little help with the lines (photo by crew friend)

Sadly, it’s fast approaching the time to winterize – what and ugly word!  Off today to winterize the fresh water system. Holding off on the engine in the hope of another sail or two.

Next weeks/months with boat secured means more puppy  training time and planning for the next sailing season!

MAGGIE’S LOG – Wk 8-12

Notes: Bringing home a new puppy, with all the concerns, hopes and expectations, is always an exciting but tense time – that certainly describes Maggie’s arrival in the household at 8 weeks of age.  She’s a yellow English Labrador of smallish parents. She comes into a home that, for a time, raised and trained Brittanys. Transitioning from upland, pointing bird dogs is driven by plans to include a canine crew on my 30 ft sailboat. So, the inclusion of boat training to normal puppy training is an added challenge.  This will be a very busy few months! This log will follow Maggie’s training and experience, as well as mine…..

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I picked Maggie from a litter of 5 girls and 3 boys at 5 weeks of age.

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She was the outgoing, exploring pup. The breeding was chosen because both parents are on the small size for labs, being 45-55lbs rather than the usual 60-80lbs – much more manageable for a small sailboat. We followed her development in emails from the breeder, and brought her home at 8 weeks of age on August 31st (12lbs). That was four weeks ago as I write this. It’s a good thing I’m retired…..long days, constant attention, and frequent trips out overnight, so sleep comes in short naps – mine and hers.

Meanwhile she is growing fast and fully demonstrating her outgoing personality. Puppy proofing the house is a continuing challenge. Top of the training list – crate training, house-breaking, come, sit, stay, off … and the meaning of a sharp NO.

Meanwhile, we’ve made the beginnings of indoctrination to the boat. With this begins Maggie’s boat log.

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She has made a couple trips to the boat, and begun to settle in. We have not yet left the dock, but that will come shortly. The first overnight found her discovering the salon berth …. A spot she clearly chose to share with me.

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Tomorrow is her first vet appointment to get a checkup, boosts and ID implant (24lbs). Later this week we go back to the boat for another overnight, learn about boat motors and work on using the puppy pad on the foredeck. The weather gods are not cooperating with rain and high winds in the forecast.

…check back for more log entries, meanwhile “woof – think I’ll take a nap” …

Once upon a midnight …

Dreary indeed! Mid-winter always feels that way. The holiday season is over, along with the novelty and joy of magical snowy landscapes. Snow and cold are fast becoming old – as are the regular pictures of sun and sand from luckier friends who have sailed south to warmer latitudes. The pesky groundhog managed to find his shadow, though it was pretty grey here when I looked.

IMG_1028 “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December…”

As a boy, I grew up in the northern snow belt of upstate NY but am only partly relieved by being in the more moderate mid-Atlantic climate now. Waiting now, not so patiently, for Spring and conditions suitable for re-commissioning – still a few weeks off – six, if you believe the furry prognosticator.

Punxatawney PhilMore optimistically, it IS only a few weeks now till sailing season. Days are getting imperceptibly longer. The list of winter boat chores is slowly shrinking. Canvass removed for the winter has received minor repairs in the hope of extending its life another year or two. Bright work sits in the shop waiting to be sanded, stained and varnished. Sails are cleaned, folded neatly and stowed back aboard.
As soon as we’re clear of persistent sub-freezing temps, sails will get bent on, followed quickly by a thorough cleaning of top side and below. Fresh water system will get flushed and engine serviced, including oil change and all new filters.

Meanwhile, other sailing-related activities keep up the spirits. Sailing clubs have winter parties, and seminars are aimed at sharpening skills and enticing new sailors into the fold. That will do for now, and any such distraction helps make the waiting seem shorter.

So, with the season’s sailing calendar filling with club cruises and other on-the-water activities already announced, there’s time to plan. It’s always fun to re-live last season’s time on the water. Spinsheet magazine initiated the Century Club in 2014 to recognize those sailors who managed 100 days or more on the water. Lucky to have made the grade at 149 days, and enjoy the celebration. Look for those new Century Club burgees out there this year!

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See you on the water soon!

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Where do sailboats go to die?

Where do elephants go to die? Everyone’s heard about elephant graveyards, those places where elephants mysteriously go to die, but who has ever seen one? … Steiner says, “when death approaches, they want more earth, of which their skin is most akin, around them, so they withdraw into caves. This is similar to my supposition that the reasons dolphins beach themselves is that they are near death and want to die in contact with the earth”.
“From Elephants to Einstein, byRudolf Steiner”

 

 They’re not nearly as mysterious as elephants, but do aging sailboats seek to go back to the earth from whence they were built or the waters where they lived? We often see them resting on moorings, always appearing alone and uncared for, slowly fading. Perhaps they’re waiting for rot to settle in to their planking that will eventually lead to a soft place on the bottom – a temporary navigation hazard? Those that find a resting spot in a yard seem destined for a different and non-watery fate. Someone recently suggested a trip across the scales at the local landfill – a rather undignified end for a craft that freely and gracefully plied the open waters of the world. And why would we care?

            It was the congruence of a sailing forum comment about the disposition of sailboats that had exceeded their useful life, and my own imminent retirement that got me thinking (not in any morbid way) about mortality and the end of things. For those who love the water and boats that marry form and wind to move across it, I think most focus only on the pleasures of cruises and passages past and anticipation of the future. We don’t give much consideration about the inevitability of endings. Yet they can, and often do, put many present matters in sharper focus and with a new-found perspective.

            So, should there be some formal way to gracefully and suitably conclude the life of our boats? Surely we’ve all participated in a christening complete with a bottle of fine Champaign, and perhaps a renaming ceremony with all the correct appeals to Poseidon and other deities that we believe (or are told) may control our future travel safety. It’s at least interesting that these parallel ceremonies in our own lives. In any event, I could find no such terminal (such a harsh word) ceremony. If one Googles ‘boat burial’, the obvious is returned – -‘A ship burial or boat grave is a burial in which a ship or boat is used either as a container for the dead and the grave goods, or as a part of the grave goods itself.’ In which case, it is not the boat itself that we intend to sink. Does it imply that we must depart in order to take our boat with us?

            Perhaps what’s called for is a dignified ceremony at sea, or a wake depending on personal preferences. We could begin simply by welcoming everyone for the final interment (sinking) of our fine boat. “As we gather on this occasion it’s safe to say that our hearts go out to the skipper and crew, and all their friends and relatives who have sailed here today and to those who missed the weather window and could not”. Then we would follow with assorted eulogies recalling the many great days of perfect winds and following seas, and finally the tossing of wreaths into the waters. Or maybe a series of toasts and roasts would do recalling the fun days. Either way, it would be a much more poignant ending than a wrecking ball at the local landfill.

So, to my colleague on the sailing forum who recommended the landfill scales, I suggest more thought and imagination is due such an important passage and event in our lives, and that of our boats. There may well be some Poseidon-like deity out there who guides boats into the afterlife of perfect weather and calm seas – and who looks ill upon anyone who discards same without due reverence.

Penned on the Ides of March 2011

Published in Spinsheet May 2011

 

 

 

Risk is a four letter word

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Many activities we undertake for work or pleasure entail some degree of personal risk. The legal system has a long and complex history of dealing with risk, especially in the work place, and how/where to assess responsibility for harm. It’s less clear in certain areas of the recreation arena. Recent crises and loses, and the reactions to them in the sailing community, raise issues about risk.

We have become a very risk-averse society. The predominant view appears to be that any bad thing that happens must be the responsibility of someone, and steps must be taken to assign blame, assess for any loss and to prevent such from ever happening again. This view makes moot the notion of ‘accidents’,i.e. no one is at fault, and raises real questions about who, if anyone, should decide for each of us what level of risk is appropriate or acceptable for us to accept.

Two events and recent weeks prompted me to revisit my concerns about this trend, and to try to condense the issues at they relate to the sailing community in particular. First, a family set off to cross the Pacific with two young children aboard. The younger became ill, required a significant rescue effort and resulted in the scuttling of the boat. The family is well and working to recover. Second, four very seasoned blue water sailors were returning a boat across the Atlantic, lost a keel and their lives. Their bodies have not been found.

In the first instance, the parents were severely criticized in the media for putting their children at risk. The criticism came largely, if not entirely, from sources that had no relevant sailing experience. The cruising community has come to their defense, and provided much needed support.

In the second, an extensive and largely futile effort was mounted to find/recover the sailors against severe odds. When the search was first called off, there was a loud and massive cry to continue – long after any reasonable chance of finding the missing sailors. That ‘forced’ a re-start of the effort with unsuccessful results, put more folks at risk, and escalated costs.

There were enormous financial costs and personal risks to the rescuers/searchers in both cases. It can be argued that in neither case were the experienced sailors undertaking any unusual or even unreasonable risks. They went off shore in competent boats with adequate experience.

The questions these events raise with me are in the realm of risk assessment and response, including costs. In no particular order: 1) who, besides me, has any right to decide what level of personal risk I may willingly accept in undertaking a voluntary activity? 2) who should be financially responsible for the costs of responses such as were mounted in these cases? 3) should anyone besides the parents decide what degree of risk to impose on minor children, and if so who and how?

I have my personal answers to these questions, at least in part. 1) no one; 2) probably some combination of insurers, public services and the private party depending on the specifics; 3) ‘No’ should be the default, but as a society we clearly believe in protecting minors from irresponsible parental behavior – irresponsible being the operative word. Who’s the judge?

I believe the case can be made in the sick child instance that where it occurred is irrelevant. There are many other remote scenarios that would likely not have raised the same public response. How is an at-sea response any different from a remote shore-side response where an insurer would pay for an ambulance – other than the magnitude of the cost? Parents would likely not have been criticized in such on-shore cases. And, would the public response have been different had it been an adult that needed medical attention? Clearly history says yes. See the following for more, and a thoughtful response to their critics.

The Kaufmans’ journey on their sailboat, Rebel Heart, comes to an alarming and heartbreaking end, igniting a surge of media attention and fury at the rescue’s estimated $663,000 price tag and raising concerns for the safety of their young children. Charlotte Kaufman, mother of two, speaks publicly for the first time.

http://www.sandiegomagazine.com/San-Diego-Magazine/June-2014/After-the-Rescue-The-Kaufman-Family-Speaks/

In the case of the four sailors lost at sea, the relevant questions are cost-based and who decides, by what criteria, to call off a search. In my view, the professionals conducting the search are in the best position to judge – they did in that case, but unfortunately succumbed to uninformed pressure to continue.

In the end, our personal decisions to accept risk come also with the acceptance of consequences. We shouldn’t have to answer to anyone for those choices. In the case of responsibility for others at sea, minors or otherwise, there is well-developed maritime law. I think the Kaufmann’s made responsible decisions and their public response (see above) make the clear case for them as competent, responsible parents.

The sooner we accept that ‘accidents’ can happen, and that individuals are free to accept risks associated with their personal activities, the better in my view.