Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Love My Boat and a Rant

Of course, everyone loves their boat. They may say otherwise but they still mention it with pride. Certainly I was that way. But the other day I was sailing to Northport in a convoy of friends. The winds were light and I set the staysail. As my friends Herb and Gina passed by, they took some pictures.

Ignore the fact that I'm hanging on like an old man. I had just lifted an 8D battery out of a box and my back was killing me.

But the point here is that when I saw this picture my heart jumped! That big ol' tub of a boat at the dock is really pretty under sail!

Since this picture was taken, I've put the Pelican logo on the bow and hope soon to have the new main sail and spinnaker with the same logos. It may be too much, but I don't think so.

Anyway I've had this picture since Memorial Day and it still tickles me every time I see it.

Life on the docks during the warm season is pretty interesting. There is or could be a party every evening. There is definitely a gathering every evening as we each see what happened to the other that day. It's really pretty nice. After dusk, when the no-see-ums come out and start being annoying generally we'll all disappear into our boats.

Since the mast pulpit installation I've finished the basic holding tank set up (there is a little more to finish for being at sea) and started the SCADTech Tank Level Monitor installation. Also, I've purchased tubing for replacing the water tank vents and suction lines. They're all old Tygon tubing that's degrading at an alarming rate and they have no reinforcement. There is always something to do. But summer is for sailing and I'm having a really hard time getting myself together to work on the boat.

Fuel prices are out of this world, as everyone knows. I get one or two 5 gallon cans filled each week depending on what I've done over the weekend. I don't like doing that because the fuel tax for marine fuel goes to the Wallop-Bureau act spends the money on things all us boaters need or want. However, the marinas here are charging 6+ dollars per gallon, clearly more than necessary. Especially when marinas up the Hudson River are charging just a little more than the price at a gas station.

I've probably ranted about this before, but if you're in a business that depends on discretionary dollars, you'd better not charge so much that your customers leave. Last year used boats were selling pretty well; not so much the new sub-million dollar boats. At this point, however, the market for used boats isn't moving and there is a glut. People are leaving boating because it just isn't worth it.

True, there are some die-hards. But more and more, anchorages are full and transient moorings empty. Permanent moorings are full in yacht clubs and marina slips are empty. There is a trend here. This time, because I don't expect fuel costs to go down significantly, the trend will not reverse easily. This has been coming. In the northeast, you can very easily pay $3.50 per foot per night for dockage plus $5 or $10 per night for electricity! I don't know about you, but if I go to a hotel for $140 for a night, I don't expect to pay extra for electricity. So, if there's someplace ashore I really want to go, I'll drive there or dinghy in.

There's also another disturbing trend I read about recently in a Boat US magazine. Outdoor activity participation has decreased almost 50% since the 1980's! National parks attendance is down by that much over the almost three decades. Child obesity is almost at an epidemic. Heck, adult obesity is an epidemic. It seems no one wants to go outdoors. When did that start? Think about it - mid to late 80's - video games. Online services. 24 hour television.

Is it any surprise, then, that our disregard for the natural world is increasing? That we can't get a government together that actually cares more about the future of our country and world than big oil and the military-industrial complex?

In a recent Scientific American, Japan is researching the technology of bringing power from space to earth via laser or microwave. We're setting up a missile defense system that's doomed to failure. Northern Europe countries are setting up wind generators at sea. We're suing companies that want to do it because 'it will spoil the view' (this applies to the wind generator farm proposed for the Nantucket Sound - a barely navigable stretch of water for boats with a draft over 10 feet). We, in New York, have to petition the government to not allow the Broadwater project in the Long Island Sound - an LNG station in the middle of the Sound (see and ).

Europeans stress conservation and have for decades. They have some extremely nifty cars that get 40 miles per gallon. What do we want to do? Drill offshore in environmentally sensitive areas. Drill in places that won't produce oil for 15-20 years! Last evening on National Public Radio's (NPR) Morning Edition there was a piece "Big Oil's Alternative Energy Ads Scrutinized". Even though the big oil companies are getting huge profits, they are spending tiny amounts (relatively) on research for alternative energy.

Well, if you're an oil company, you want to sell oil.

And if you're an oil man president and vice president, you want to sell oil.

It's really, really clear that we, you and I, are witnessing the last days of America. Every great civilization has followed a clear path of violent rise to power, golden era of prosperity, and either violent fall or a just fading away to a lower status.

Is there anything we can do? There sure is. We can get off our fat lazy asses and get back on track with education, outdoor activities, energy conservation and stop our collective whining. We are or have become a nation lead by fear, not bravery. We think of ourselves and not others. We want to be taken care of rather than taking care of ourselves. We can aspire to greatness, not wealth. We can use diplomacy instead of force. And more than anything, we can learn to laugh at ourselves again.

Sorry about the rant. I usually don't do that here because sailing isn't political. I don't care who you are, when you're at sea you have only one thing to do: stay afloat. Democrats and Republicans and Independents all drown the same way.