Boys and Their Toys

Just Another Way We Learn

The Gorgeous 23.8m (78’1″) Custom built Buddy Davis Motor Yacht “Plastic Toy” takes at break at Jarrett Bay Industrial Park along the ICW in Core Creek, NC

I’ve always had a love for boats. I think it started when my best buddy in Grade school and myself dragged an old, rotted and wooden skiff out of the woods near the banks of the Tar River in Greenville.

Even though Tom Sawyer was just another book to be read at the time, Mark Twain must have known exactly what the historically strong attraction that young and adventurous boys have always had for boats. Especially boys who had the great fortune of being able to grow up near navigable Rivers, Lakes and Oceans.

The inevitable challenges that boating adventures (and mis-adventures) present to the young minds of boys are just too irresistible for those young minds and I suppose, go a long way toward building the all important self-confidence that would be needed later as they grew into young men and responsible people.

These early challenges and water borne activities may not ever had been experienced or had possibly been forgotten by our parents who, by this time in our growth years, were suspicious but nevertheless mostly unknowing of their offspring’s antics as long as the activities of said offspring didn’t turn life threatening. Besides, They were of “The Greatest Generation” and had much bigger fish to fry as family providers and survivors of a brutal World War.

The dangers and consequences of dragging an old wooden skiff out of the woods to experience a mid-summer, 20 mile trip downstream a narrow, muddy and mostly lazy river was never an issue in our 15 year old minds. Instead, it was the adventure of planning our own expeditions and the accompanying freedom from hot, sticky Summer tobacco jobs that madly drove us in our poorly planned, but (sometimes) successfully executed endeavors.

Of course, as every future Mariner should know, a “shakedown” cruise is absolutely necessary on any newly acquired watercraft and our wooden skiff was no exception. As I much later in life discovered, a shakedown cruise is a very important part of the boat ownership process.

Pushing off from the banks of the muddy Tar River for the first time, we quickly discovered that minor leaks were a part of the wooden boat experience. To remedy that, we made some cut up Clorox bottles to bail out the water if it got deeper than an inch in our vintage watercraft. We didn’t realize it at the time, but these plastic bottles were to be our introduction to the much more sophisticated version of the automatic electric bilge pump we would rely on in the far off upcoming future. Apparently, the saying that “there is no better bilge pump than a scared man with a bucket” still holds true to this day.

Soon after, on our second excursion, we realized that some sort of steering would be needed so we “borrowed” a couple of Cypress Garden water skis from a friend to use as oars or more accurately, as paddles. They did a fair job of keeping our bow pointed downstream but precise steering was yet to be learned as our paddling skills (like 15 yr. old male brains) were not yet quite developed.

The loss of steering control continues to this day, to be one of the most serious emergencies that can occur on any watercraft. The US Coast Guard regularly performs seaborne rescues just off our coast to vessels and Mariners who have lost this vital ability aboard their crafts. We learned this lesson early in our boating lives on the third of our Saturday shakedown series as we pushed to “sea” from our ancient home port on the Tar, known throughout history as Port Terminal.

Port Terminal occupies an important place in Tar River history as it served as a port and warehouse area for the shipping of timber, pine tar and other commodities produced in our area in the early Colonial days

The Tar River gets its name from North Carolina’s history as a naval stores colony, where the dense longleaf pine forests provided much of the tar, turpentine, and pitch needed for shipbuilding and transporting goods throughout the colonies and abroad. Like all coastal rivers, it is also due to this abundance of trees, and the tannins their leaves produce, combined with the stirring and movement of rich sediment during storms that the Tar River gets its brown color.

I can remember, it was a very hot, windless and lazy afternoon. Our afternoon float plan allowed for about an hour or two for fishing for Catfish and just general “skylarking” (a Navy term) as adolescent boys are so well at doing.

Drifting downstream on these shakedown cruises was always an open-ended thing. We never knew exactly where we would end up but were always careful to not stray too far from where we had set off from. The Tar had a swift current. And if not careful, our planned for “passage”, which was still in the planning stages, would get started before we were actually ready for the “Big Day”.

We knew that the Tar became the huge Pamlico River at Little Washington. We also knew that the Pamlico eventually flowed into the vast Pamlico Sound and eventually through Teach’s Hole Channel out into the Great Atlantic Ocean. Never mind the distance. We had already done this first leg (with our parent’s permission) floating along on truck inner tubes. (I won’t go into explaining what they were, just Google it)

The exact place the Tar River becomes The Pamlico River at the Highway 17 bridge (left) in Little Washington, NC

As all 15 year old’s know, we believed we were up to any task and invincible. This was the lofty and overly ambitious route of our future plans and dreams. But we didn’t care. We would make it!

In the time that it would take to get all of this accomplished, we would somehow figure out how to explain how we got so far from home to our parents and they would happily come to get us and our gear in their early ’60’s station wagons. (Google again) The great experience would make all the whippings to our backsides and groundings worth it in the end.

It was on this day that we discovered how important steering was to a well found vessel.

The first sign of trouble was realizing that we had gotten caught mid-stream in the fast current. There had been recent thunderstorms which had brought an abundance of rain which in turn, caused high water and a very fast moving down stream current. We noted that it would be these conditions which would be to our advantage on the first leg of our passage to Little Washington, 20 miles down stream. We also agreed that finding a 16 yr old friend with a driver’s license and access to a car for a ride to get back to Greenville could wait until we got closer to the day of the start of our “circumnavigation”.

Rushing downstream without the aid of propulsion was thrilling. Steering was another matter. We soon found ourselves being pushed to the edges where giant trees overhung their branches into the high water caused by the recent rainstorms.

Unknown to us at the time, really big snakes and water moccasins loved to lay out and sun themselves on the lower branches where they could easily slip back into the water to escape predators or pursue prey.

As we were pushed under one of these leafy branches, the biggest Water Moccasin I’ve ever seen just fell down into our little skiff with us. It MUST have been 6 feet long! The snake dropped in and we all bailed out into the muddy, fast moving water.

We eventually managed to get the boat to a sandy bank where we pulled it from the water and overturned the craft to rid it of the unwanted passenger. We learned a valuable lesson that day that would last a lifetime. A vessel under control is much safer and especially more conducive to pleasant passage making.

Pondering what to do as part of our “great trip”, my lifelong buddy came up with the idea that we could “borrow” his Dad’s outboard motor from his garage to both provide propulsion and steering and would also give us the option of a method for our eventual return. This idea would take time to implement as proper planning for the opportune time to “borrow” it was instrumental to the plan’s success. A few week later, the right moment arrived and we all met down at the sandy beach where our vessel lay in wait for it’s final shakedown and excursion.

Initially, we had a little difficulty in getting the old Evinrude started but being the tinkerers we were, we soon had the old 2 cycle smoking and coughing her way back to life. We had placed it on the transom and were soon ready for shoving off. Thinking back, I believe there were 4 of us who boarded that day.

None of us considered that this day would be our last aboard the old wooden skiff.

We had really come to love our “find” and were even trying to come up with a name for her that all of us could agree on. She had previously provided us with crazy fun, lots of freedom, a new knowledge of watercraft and yes, a few scares which have all developed into one of the lifelong stories that long time friends always share and reminisce about decades later.

Shoving off from the beach in Neutral at a fast idle in a cloud of oil smoke and gasoline fumes, we were modern day versions of Tom Sawyer, Christopher Columbus and Robinson Crusoe. We were 10 feet tall, bulletproof and invisible. Until we kicked the little Evinrude down into gear.

Disregarding that the motor was at a much too high idle to go into gear properly and that our old wooden skiff did have a lot of rot in the transom, we dropped her into a grinding and loud bang forward gear which promptly destroyed the rotted wood on which she was mounted allowing the entire river to rush in and quickly sink our boat along with all of our carefully thought out plans of becoming the first Pitt County natives to successfully cross the Pamlico Sound to the Outer Banks in a 12 foot skiff. The poor motor also sank to the bottom but was eventually recovered albeit with much explanation.

Perhaps the old skiff found it’s own way down the River and eventually became a fixture in a local flower garden.
It might have even made it’s way to the Outer Banks where it became a piece of Yard Art in front of an Island Daycare Center. Here, it could inspire the dreams of a much younger crowd. I’d like to think of this ending for the skiff.

It’s crazy, but we learned a lot with that little boat. Knowledge that has unbelievably lasted to this day. Shakedown cruises are important in that they will bring out most of the weak points in a vessel. Never go out without lifejackets and proper safety gear. Boats are always full of challenges, surprises and fun. And finally, as parents.. to never fully trust the judgements of a early teen.

Now that I am older, arguably wiser and a licensed captain, I still have that dream of cruising and passage making. I still enjoy the challenge of single handing my 38 foot sailboat “Brilliant Cut” in all kinds of weather. I can also see the lust for adventure, and sadly, a lack of knowledge and Common Sense and casual disregard for Safety in the eyes and actions of some new and some experienced boat owners. Being around the water everyday and delivering all kinds of boats provide a lot to observe.

In trying to understand some of the craziness I see on the water, I sometimes think that these folks never had the advantage of being raised close to water or the opportunity to learn from the irresponsible behavior that naturally comes with the freedom of adolescence. Most of us, if we are lucky, live through those times to understand that our actions come with consequences. Never as much as they do with time spent around water or boats. Unlike breathing, responsibility and knowledge is not a natural human trait. It must be taught and learned. Hopefully with as much a lack of pain as possible.

Boating is supposed to be fun and a rewarding part of life. As you go about your Boating fun this Summer, make sure you have the proper training and knowledge to safely enjoy one of the greatest pastimes our earth offers. Your life and the lives of those you love may depend upon it.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

Getting Aboard

Making Preparations Toward Getting Underway

I have been living aboard “Brilliant Cut”, a Catalina 380 Sailboat, now for almost 2 years. I discovered that deciding to Live on the Water is something that was a major thought process for me and many others. Before I was to cut ties with landside living, cast off the lines and get underway, I had a lot of soul seaching to do. In making the preparations to change my lifestyle, there was also a lot on my plate to consider. I had a lot to think about.

“Lost in Thought”

Street Kid
Nikon D700, Baltimore Harbour, 2010

Why, in God’s name did I ever consider doing such a thing at this stage of life?

All along, I had Dreams and Motivation that promoted and influenced the final decision.

There were Dreams of Freedom. Adventure and Challenge. Going places I’ve never been and seeing things I’ve never seen. Learning and doing things I’ve never done. Getting to know people I had yet to meet. And there would be better opportunities for the personal development of my Photography. All of this and more was in my thoughts.

Sure, it is true that having been a Professional driver and Instructor for a number of years, I had traveled and spent time in every state and major city in the US and Canada except for two. That time certainly provided the need for Adventure, Challenge and Travel. Didn’t that effort at “death by vehicle” purge those needs from my system?

Misery on Wheels
Samsung Galaxy S4
Toronto, 2007

Happily, I can now give a definitive answer of “No” to that question. I had not yet done it by way of the water. However, I spent many sleepless nights pondering the new direction I was about to embark on.

Then, there were the inevitable things that were in place that most everyone wants to naturally escape from that motivated me from a negative pespective. For example and to name one, The Great “Rat Race” as it is so often referrred to.

I was tired of having to live on someone else’s schedule to just live my life. Go here. Go there. Be there at this time. Be there at that time. I was just tired of the 18 hour a day grind. Jobs are really good at that. Especially for a Professional Driver back during those “glory” days. During that time, “Big Brother” wasn’t infringing upon the industry as much as he does now. That “Living Hell” is a topic for another conversation at another time. And there was always that traffic. All of which “went with the territory”, as they said. Small headaches you might say. Unless you’ve done it you have no idea how it effects your health and “Mental Hygiene” every single day you live it. Take my word for it. It’s a slow death if you don’t kill yourself and others along with you first.

“Night at The Ambasssador”
Detroit, January, 2014

There were a few other “Negative” points to drive me too.

Perhaps, it was living in places I had to live because of one reason or another that didn’t sit well with me. Mean or Nosey (or anti-social) neighbors come to mind. Or another, Maybe I was there living someone else’s dream, which was not something I wanted to do.(I was really good at this and not being true to myself). Maybe it was just that job that I was committed to that kept me there.

All of the above was motivation in one way or another toward “My Dream”

Then, there were other questions that demanded answers.

The Freedom. What would I do with THAT? Think about that. Think deeply. What would you do? As I recalled those long weeks and months on the road and not having had much freedom before, except just the occasional weekend and holidays that I was able to steal, even more questions were raised.

How about facing the fact that I was going to have to give up most all of my worldly possessions? That was a Big One. Being the sentimental and nostalgic person I am made the thought of getting rid of most everything I owned, a painful one.

“There is no greater sin than desire, No greater curse than discontent, No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself. Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” – Lao Tzu

Holding on to possessions are a strong deterrant toward totally “freeing” yourself in life. Sometimes, and in this instance, Faith and Self-Confidence was called upon to play a huge part in the thought process. Then there is the Ginormous effort of putting forth the thought to truely think about what is really important to you. This is not an easy task, especially for those who have always cared for others and/or worked hard.

I knew it would be a challenge. Heck, it was even a challenge to even think about. It quickly became “The 800 lb.Gorilla in the Room” for me. Had all the years gone by sucked the need and physical ability for this change out of my soul? I was surely not getting any younger.

There was more.

If someone came into my life as a Partner, what would they want? If they wanted to join in the fun, How would I go about handling theirs and my own “Personal Space” at times aboard a 38 foot Sailboat?

Even though I do not have small children that depend upon me, probably one of my biggest concerns was: What about Family? Would they think I had gone completely crazy? I can only imagine how tough this would be for those with children that must be schooled and cared for. But I found out that there are many who do it. Quite successfully.

Next, it was of the more “Organic” type of explorations.

Did I want to just live aboard at a Marina? Or did I want to Cruise? If so, would it be Part time or Full time? There are separate budgets and other considerations for both. Vastly different.

I touch on all of this (and much more) in some upcoming posts and to let you know what it was like for me and possibly to help you decide if living full time on a boat might one day be for you. If not, that’s perfectly understandable but maybe you’ve considered it. I know a lot of people who are doing it or are contemplating doing so. Others are just curious. And if that’s your thinking, I hope I can help.

At any rate, and after two years… One sure fact remains. I still don’t have all the answers. And I do not know if I ever will. I’m long since past needing that to live my life. But at this stage, I just know I made the right decision for Me. And that’s OK for now.

As always, Your comments, thoughts and questions are very welcome and important to me.. If you’d like to converse on the “down-low”, there is a Contact Form in the blog Menu area that you can use to reach me privately.

At the least, I’ll try to make it interesting and worth your time to read.

Hold Fast. And stay tuned.

Working Up Nerve

“Up the Mast” Canon gx12, New Bern, November 2018

….Friendships and a little more on getting started..

There are wooden ships; there are sailing ships; there are ships that sail the sea. But the best ships are friendships—and may they always be.” 

Former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney’s eulogy for George HW Bush.

I debated at some length on whether or not to start this new project. After all, We are all just really too busy with Life, Aren’t we? Building and Maintaining my Photography Web Site can be a very time consuming affair. Especially with my self-taught ways! Add to that, Another Hosting Service to maintain and write, A Journal of sorts, A Blog….And it becomes a monumental affair. You can actually learn most anything about how to do something on the Internet, so Thankfully, that certainly makes it easier.

With all the images yet to be captured and destinations not yet sailed to, Why Do It?

Throughout the thought process during the “self debate” I described above, I kept returning to the fact of how much I love doing these two crafts known as Photography and Sailing.

Admittedly, and After-all, “Taking pictures”and Sailing has for me, been a lifetime labor of Love. At least for about 35 years now.

Long ago, In a Sport’s Editor’s office far away…., I figured out.. that for me, they would be inextricably entertwined.

When I was much younger, I didn’t start out wanting to do either. It all started first with the birth of my daughter, Cameron and a $25 Minolta XD11 Manual 35mm film camera from a Memphis pawnshop. Her Mother and I wanted to document special moments with our newly minted “Social Wonder” and the crazy amount of water skiing and camping we did for years on the Corps of Enginneer Lakes in N. Mississippi.

As the years moved on, We discovered more time on the water with an introduction to sailing that involved both our Kids. (soon we added Logan to the family) With all the new “picture moments” that presented themselves, I’m sure you know where this is going…And back in those days it didn’t help the film budget that they were always a “natural” in front of my lens! (They still are)

My Daughter Cameron, Here, from a Print. Nikon 4004s, About 5 Yrs. Young. Sailing in the Pamlico Sound, about 1989

A little later, (much later) another significant person that came into my life led me to get really serious about my photography. And I have never since been just content to keep my Camera in a locker. . More about that in another post sometime.

As the thought process continued, I realized that there are many things I love about Photography and Sailing and that I would like to share with you.. Maybe you can identify.

For one, They both satisfy that “geek’ factor I think I have when I try (covet) a new piece of sailing gear or Camera equipment. (More budget woes)

Both addictions challenge me. Rigging for a Spinnaker set, plotting a course (in the dark) to an unknown anchorage or figuring out the dozens of menus on Sony’s latest Pro Camera to get “The Shot” just right, Lighting Ratios and Positions… can all be intimidating. And let’s not forget Weather. And The Sea. And Brides. And their Mothers. OMG.

Running from A Squall. Sony a9, Offshore, 2018

For another thing, (and since I am detrimentally sentimental) they both serve and exist to create and document memories, challenges and adventures that would otherwise be lost, unrealized or not experienced.

And the there is “The Fear”. Even though it doesn’t run in my genes, I’ve always had this nagging concern (mostly brought on by 3 years service in a long term care facility) that I could succumb to the inevitable dementia that might surely come with growing older and forget it ALL. (This is something different than just losing your mind, which is only temporary)

At least I would have images to answer the inevitable questions and remind me of Where I’ve been, When was I there? Who I was with, and What did it look like? . And maybe one more.. Why?

Note: Sometimes the last question’s answer can change with Afterthought, Experience and/or Age.

A recent Meme that I saw some months back pretty well sums it up for me.

Finally, with more reflection, Something else came to wine mind.

  The thing that has overwhelmingly meant the most to me about why I love Photography and Sailing so much. Is that it is something that encourages me to “Live in the Now” as Tolle so nailed it. 

FRIENDSHIPS

It came to me how My life has been enriched by the many Friendships that have resulted because of these two Giant Addictions in my life..

Real, Great and Lasting Friendships.

Friendships I never would have had otherwise.

L to R Eric, Me and and JJ (John). Friends. iPhone X. On the Roof at Capatain Rattys, New Bern, 2019

Friendships with Nature, Clients, Students, Sports Heros, Famous People, Everyday People, Families, Other Photographers, Sailors, Cruisers and Artists from all walks of life and from all over The Planet.

“We Be Saggin”, Nikon D700, Greensboro, 2007

Not surprisingly, and what seemed like a lifetime later, it even caused the start of a 3 year relationship with someone (whom I thought bore the features of a “model”) and who just loved having her picture taken. Thinking that I was the Man for the job, I just “dived right in”!

A “Victim” of My Camera, “Miss Miami” Actually, A Jersey Girl., Nikon D2H ,Greensboro, 2006
You may not recognize the Good looking young man on the right, But the Guy on the left is The famous and very likeable Coach, Mike Ditka, of the NFL Football team, The Chicago Bears.
Chicago, July, 2007 Nikon N90,
Photo Credit: Cameron Heinsohn
Jimmy Vaughn, Roanoke, Nikon D700, October 2010
John Lee Hooker Jr. Bluesman, Roanoke, Nikon D700, October 2010

With the aforementioned in mind.. No..I’m not talking about “The Relationship”…

Rather The Friendships.. I was moved to embark on the task of documenting some of these experiences in the hopes that it will undoubtedly lead to even more friendships in the future. Besides, like the old practice of passing around prints, I can tell you much more about an image here, than on Facebook or Instagram.

To have a Friend, You must be a Friend.

By far, I feel that Cultivating, Experiencing and Forming new friendships is the most important of the benefits I enjoy about Photography and Sailing. What could be better than that? (Okay.. I admit it..Another “Model” might come along and that would be nice!)

Yennifer, Model. Nikon D700, Roanoke 2010

Seriously. The last time I checked, No one has “too many” friends!

Wedding Afterparty, Nikon D700, Roanoke, 2012

So. It is my hope that you will come here so that we can get to know each other better. Your visits, Your Hellos and Your Comments along with any “CC” (that’s Constructive Criticism” in Photographerspeak) that you might have are also Welcome and Appreciated. I see it as another way to improve my craft. You may use the “comment” section below and by the way.. Please Share! I would really appreciate it.

It is also an excellent way for you to get to know me, along with these two long-lasting loves of mine called Photography and Sailing. It also might make you more comfortable when, on a sunny day that we “hang out” on a beautiful sail or when you or your soon-to-be-wedded kids end up in front of my lens (as do most of my friends and many others).

As an added benefit, and as another subject of this Blog, on the articles I post about Sailing, I will try and offer insight on Travel Destinations, Mariner”s Concerns and How-to’s for the “Swabs” out there. All complete with Photos for your Enjoyment.

In respect of your time, You also have my promise to (try) and keep these entries brief and readable.

Who knows..You might just make a new friend!

Bailey The Boatdog. iPhone X, New Bern, 2018

How Cool would that be?!!

Comparatively, only a very small fraction of my photography work has been “people” pictures. But as I seek to always improve it, I find that it is the most interesting genre. I hope to get around to sharing lots more about People, Places, Friends, Life on the Water, Life in the Mountains, Boat Tech, Camera Tech and Just about anything else that comes to mind.

Next Week: Learn to Be Still… and Learning the Law of Attraction.