Aye Matey! Welcome aboard the Liberty Clipper for an adventure into the past.

 

We be the motley crew

I’m home, after a week of being on the Bahamian seas aboard what is called a clipper ship. Dorothy and I flew to Nassau where we boarded the Liberty Clipper along with her crew of nine and 13 other anxious passengers.  The next morning we set sail from Nassau for the high seas on our 125 foot clipper. We were housed in our tiny cabin in the foremost section of the ship.  The room was so small that we had to take turns getting out of the bunk beds and the bathroom served as both a shower and toilet, which proved to be interesting.  Several times I accidentally turned the shower on watering myself down. But we did not board the Liberty for a luxury cruise in the Bahamas, we boarded her for a trip into the past, for an authentic journey on a real sailing clipper, and that is what we got!

We loved the dolphins
The scary looking iguanas were quite friendly.

 

One BIG ray almost 6 feet across!
And the occasional shark

 

Captaining our ship was, kid you not, Captain Noah.  He was a true man of the sea and the enjoyment he displayed as the sails unfurled and the ship lurched forward in the crystal clear Bahamian waters made it clear that he was truly in his own heaven.  His excitement was infectious and we lowly landlubbers all gathered to lift the huge sails whenever he asked. As we headed out of our harbor, our starboard view was filled with the decadent monstrosity, Atlantis, on Paradise Island, which represented everything we 15 passengers and crew were trying to escape.  Slowly, as we cleared the harbor under motor power, the towering monument, a pinnacle of American vacations, drifted out of sight, and the beauty of the sea unfolded before us.  There are no words that adequately describe the beauty of the island waters.  The aqua blue water is so clear that the bottom seemed within reach and the ever-changing sand lines were as clearly visible as the lines on my hand.  The gentle wind caressed us as we raised the sails and began what for many of us was our maiden voyage on a tall ship.

The Liberty Clipper under full sail

Along with the enjoyment of sailing across the seas, there were many other things to do and see.  The amazing cave in which we snorkeled was filled with fish of every imaginable color and size. They seemed to enjoy coming up and looking into our mask, eerie.  The iguana island was inhabited with thousands and thousands of these funny looking lizards from a few inches to over a foot long.  They were anxious to see us because it is a custom to feed these strange-looking creatures. One of the many hikes Dorothy and I took was a short hike across the island from the mild Bahamian sea to the angry Atlantic ocean in little more than a couple hundred yards. Many times we swam in the pristine waters often heading out to open waters until we felt the currents pulling us seaward, at which time we headed back in.  Of course everyone gathered for meal time.  The meals were fantastic and there was always more food than we could eat!  We had steak, shrimp, pork chops ( I noticed one of the pigs was missing from pig island…just kidding) and one evening we even had lobster tails!

 

This is the real thing, sailing into the sunset.

 

The days that followed were filled with wonder and amazement as we visited many small, uninhabited islands and explored their many secrets.  As we walked these old island trails it was impossible not to wonder who had been here before and where the treasure was hidden, but the treasure was not hidden, it was all around us in the rocks, the trees, the water, the blue sky and the wonderful clean air that filled our lungs.  There are no words that can explain the feeling of standing on a desolate beach with the sand in your toes and the water lapping the shore along with the gentle warm breeze tossing your hair about.  I am sure that I was on a trip that many folks spend their life dreaming of and never take the time to actually do.  The feeling that I was given a gift from some higher power seems to be the only explanation I can come to grips with.  According to Captain Noah, there are about ten of these clippers of varying sizes working up and down the east coast, one of which he plans to own someday.  It struck me that when they are gone, the history of these magnificent ships will be lost forever.  This will truly be a loss for all of us.

Yes, there is an island with PIGS, but they are very friendly, and hungry.

These cute guys were on what I will call “Pig Island”.  They were dropped off years ago and flourished, with a little help from curious passers-by who kept them supplied with plenty of food.

 

 

Yeah, that’s me…Cap and I are steering the boat. I could not understand why he wouldn’t let go…smart man…

 

This floating bar was a real popular hangout for the passengers, the crew would have loved to have been there but sailors are banned from indulging in this activity.

This is one time I kept my feet on the ground. 65 feet in the air on a rope ladder on a moving ship…nope…
The wonderful family we stayed with in Nassau.
Beach girl out for a hike.
One of our many hikes

I hope I inspire some of you to write this on your bucket list!  It was an incredible trip and something that will be with me for a long time.

Aye captain, let’s head out to sea!  You can learn more about this at libertyclipper.com.

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Governor Justice, take a hike!

 
It has come to my attention that governor Justice has proposed the selective harvesting of trees in West Virginia State parks via proposed Senate Bill 270.  This is a hard concept for me to fathom as it makes little sense both on the surface and after close consideration.  One of the few reasons people come to our state is to visit our wonderful state parks and enjoy the old mature forest that it took us eighty years to develop.  Nobody comes to see bare hillsides and muddy logging roads cut into once-tranquil forests.  Folks come to our state to walk in our pristine parks and enjoy nature’s splendor.  We have some of the most beautiful parks in the world!  When I go for a hike, I want to see nature the way it was seen before man touched it.  
Some people think, and I will add falsely, that timber can be removed from a forest without damaging the environment.  Let me walk you through the process:
First, if you think fairies come in and gently lift the trees out of the forest, you are sadly mistaken.  It takes large equipment (skidders, harvesters, forwarders, and loaders), which require the cutting of logging roads. This process destroys the soil and the erosion-controlling decaying leaves and humus on the forest’s floor.  I am sure there are folks who might think that the beautiful sound of a chain saw in the woods is a welcome addition to nature, but I beg to differ.  I would rather hear the rustle of leaves as a squirrel scampers away or the call of a bird I do not recognize.
Second, the proposed bill allows for much more destruction than it first sounds like. The proposed limit on tree collection is an average of 4 trees per acre per track of land up to half of the merchantable timber per acre.  Although this does not sound like a lot, it is if you adjust the track size.  In theory, the proposed law would allow for 40,000 trees to be removed from a 10,000-acre state park (like Watoga state park) so long as you called it one track.  Most of these trees would likely be taken from one area as long as they did not go above the 50% mark on any one acre.  The simple reason for this is that it would be the most efficient (and profitable) for the timber companies and the statute would allow it.
  
Proponents of the proposed bill have argued that selectively timbering the parks will make the forest healthier by reducing the wildfire risk and that the revenue from the timber will be used to address a maintenance backlog, improving the parks overall.
 
First, the current risk of a wildfire damaging one of our state parks is statistically so low, that it had never been brought to the public as a risk until this proposed legislation.  It is nearly impossible to find record of any wildfires that have damaged any of our parks in the last seventy-five years, and the small fires did exist damaged far less than this proposed bill threatens to.
 
Second, the harvesting of our old-growth forest to fund park maintenance and man-made park structures forces us into a choice that most of us would not make.  The entire point of a park is to preserve a part of nature.  The buildings and required maintenance of park facilities serve to enrich, add to, and facilitate the enjoyment of nature.  If we chose to put the park facilities ahead of the parks themselves, we’ve effectively defeated the main purpose of the parks, the enjoyment of nature.  People don’t come to West Virginia to look at our beautiful park buildings, they come to enjoy our beautiful parks.  

Our parks were preserved and gifted to us by those that came before us in an act of great foresight.  To throw this gift away would leave us with nothing beautiful for us to give to the generations that follow.  This is our home and we have a chance to protect it.
 
So, if you are one of the people who enjoy a peaceful walk in the park, I suggest that you call your representative as soon as you can get to a phone! Show them that we care about our natural places and preserving them for ourselves and generations to come.
If you want to contact someone who is instrumental in this issue it would be;
Mark Maynard of Wayne county
304-357-7808  Capital phone
304-272-3030  Business phone

Happy birthday to me…yahoo…

Well, today marks the day that this bag of gelatinous water, supported by sticks of hardened calcium, adorned with a chemical battery capable of rudimentary thought has circled the sun 68 times.  For some unknown reason we celebrate this day by eating sugar covered, wheat based dessert with all kinds of chemicals designed to give it a multitude of colors, which for all intent and purpose causes a wide range of adverse reactions in the body.  I have to assume this celebration is designed to hasten the demise of the celebratee (I made this word up).  Knowing that you are now one rotation closer to your demise, all your so-called friends wish you a happy birthday in order to help you to forget the fact that you are celebrating, for some unknown reason, your approaching demise.

All joking aside, thank you few that remembered this sad occasion and know that due to my diminishing mental abilities, I will probably not remember to do the same for you, but I will try.

Enough is enough!

If I have to watch one more “buy your wife or husband a new car for Christmas” TV commercial, I am going to be sick!  To make this even more ludicrous, these are not low-cost cars, they are Mercedes, BMW and Acura just to name a few. I just watched an ad for Jaguar, not a cheap car!  I believe I know a lot of people and I do not remember any of them ever buying a car as a Christmas gift, maybe buying it around the Christmas season to take advantage of one of the many end of the year sales, but not on a Christmas whim.  Just in case you are unaware, cars are very expensive!  Most of these ads are for cars in the $60,000 to $80,000 class, which in my book is a lot of money.

Since I am on the subject of TV ads, let me mention a few more pet peeves.  I’ll bet 90% of the ads on TV are by drug companies, insurance companies and car companies.  This is simple math, it takes lots of money to advertise on TV which means these companies have to make lots of money!  Of these adds, probably half of them are by pharmaceutical companies which I place in my “evil guys” classification group.  This is a limited group made up of companies like Monsanto, BP and Phillip Morris to name a few that are on my despicable companies list.

OK, let me get back to my point.  Christmas is a time of giving, sharing and helping your fellow-man, not time to buy an $80,000 car so that the neighbors think you are rich.  If you can afford an expensive car then maybe you should be sharing some of your wealth with the less fortunate.  Only in this country could a company be so out of touch with the reality of the majority of Americans that it thinks Christmas is a time for buying a luxury car.  Maybe I am missing some point, possibly there are lots of rich people out there who can afford to buy an expensive car as a Christmas gift.  Since the monthly payments on these cars are in the $600-$1000 range, not including taxes and insurance, I know that my meager budget could in no way support a payment of that size.  Maybe it is my geographic location that does not allow me to observe the rich and the famous buying luxury cars at Christmas.  In order to observe this behavior I guess I will have to move to one of those exclusive gated communities in the suburbs of Washington DC and watch the upper class drive in and out of the gate with their Jaguars and such, trying to impress everyone.

I think I can safely say that Santa is not impressed with fancy cars and neither am I.  I know I am rambling a little bit in this article but somehow I must help people understand that the decadence that permeates our society is detrimental to the future of our country.  Life is not about things, even though things sometimes make it seem that way.  Driving around in a new expensive car is sort of fun but quickly becomes just another vehicle over time.   The depth of greed is so pervasive that the damage to several generations may be irreversible.   The inevitable conclusion of this mentality is a total collapse of the ecosystem of this planet and the end of our financial system as we know it.  Yes, our greed will lead to the end of life as we know it.

So, HO, HO, HO, have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and go easy on the presents.

 

Let’s all quit listening

I just had an amazing thought! Just like one of those old star trek monsters, Trump Feeds on attention. Maybe if we all ignore him he will implode to never be seen or heard again. No more reading his stupid tweets, listening to his ridiculous comments or looking at his orange face. Think how liberating this will be! If the leaders of the world join us I am sure he will fall apart in short order…and then we will have to deal with that women hating Pence. If we put him in a room filled with beautiful women without his wife, the devil will surely take his soul. Then there is Ryan, so let’s wait till the midterm to do this.

 

 

The shortest day of the year

The shortest day of the year has become a big day for me over the last couple of decades.  As I get older, the long cold winters become less desirable, which makes the 21st day of December, the day which marks the beginning of the march towards spring, a special day for me. Yes, slowly we will make our way through the cold, miserable months of January and February and sometime in March, spring will peek through the clouds, flowers will begin to bloom and the air will once again be full of the fragrances of life.  Trees will begin to bud, streams will once again flow with a crisp, clean supply of water and love will be in the air. I am getting excited just writing about it!

This march towards the shortest day of the year has been a particularly difficult one for me.  I am forced to watch our nation, under the leadership of a cruel, insensitive, narcissistic man, move in a direction that not only scares me but hurts me deeply as more and more people are going to suffer.  Millions of Americans will lose their healthcare, 10’s of millions of children will not have healthcare.  The wealthy will continue to become wealthier and the earth, our only home, will continue to be the world’s trash bin as we dump more and more trash and chemicals onto her surface and into her air and oceans.

You may have noticed that I have not been writing as much as I used to.  Every time I sit down to write, the weight of what is happening to our way of life weighs me down like an anchor, causing me to stand up and walk away from my terminal.  Since the election of this man I feel as if a large part of my daily routine is spent listening to the horrible things he does or says.  But today is the beginning of our journey towards spring and maybe this day is the beginning of our journey towards the nation we have always strived to be, I can only hope.  We have always been the flagship of the world and even though we have often not lived up to that status, we have always attempted to be that special place on earth where all men and women are created equal. This is the place where, according to the constitution, it does not matter what color your skin is or how much money you have or even who you choose to love, this is the United States of America, a shinning beacon to the world of free speech and human rights!  This is the place we need to go, not to the racist, classed system we are heading to now.  WE ARE AMERICA, LAND OF THE FREE AND HOME OF THE BRAVE, we must never forget that!

Santa Claus

I did not write this but it is great! I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

For the parents of kids who ask the ? is Santa real…
Stole this from another page and I just think it’s the most beautiful way of explaining it!!
Son: “Dad, I think I’m old enough to know now. Is there a Santa Claus?” Not being the world’s fastest thinker, I stalled for time.
Dad: “OK, I agree that you’re old enough. But before I tell you, I have a question for you. You see, the truth is a dangerous gift. Once you know something, you can’t un-know it. Once you know the truth about Santa Claus, you will never again understand and relate to him as you do now. So my question is: Are you sure you want to know?”
Brief pause. Son: “Yes. I want to know.”
Dad: “OK, I’ll tell you: Yes, there IS a Santa Claus.”
Son: “Really?” Dad: “Yes, really, but he’s not an old man with a beard in a red suit. That’s just what we tell kids. You see, kids are too young to understand the true nature of Santa Claus, so we explain it to them in a way that they can understand. The truth about Santa Claus is that he’s not a person at all; he’s an idea. Think of all those presents Santa gave you over the years. I actually bought those myself. I watched you open them. And did it bother me that you didn’t thank me? Of course not! In fact it gave me great pleasure. You see, Santa Claus is THE IDEA OF GIVING FOR THE SAKE OF GIVING, without thought of thanks or acknowledgement.
When I saw that woman collapse on the subway last week and called for help, I knew that she’d never know that it was me who summoned the ambulance. I was being Santa Claus when I did that.”
Son: “Oh.”
Dad: “So now that you know, you’re part of it. You have to be Santa Claus too now. That means you can never tell a young kid the secret, and you have to help us select Santa presents for them, and most important, you have to look for opportunities to help people. Got it?”

A Christmas story

A Christmas story told again and again and….

 

This is one of my favorite stories and it helps me remember what Christmas is really about. If you read it last year or the year before, read it again and if you are new to my blog, I hope you enjoy this touching story. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! You can find Naotaka Maehara on Facebook. Maybe someday parents will sit around the fire and read this to there children…or maybe not…

Naotaka Maehara arriving in Augusta

The other day my friend Steve Bailes called me up to ask if I would be interested in housing a young man from Japan for the evening. He is riding his bike across America, having left from Vancouver 70 days ago. He was coming from Clarksburg and would arrive on Saturday if things worked out. I agreed, and contacted Nao (pronounced NOW which is short for Naotaka Maehara) by email to invited him to stay with us for the evening. He replied that he would like to stay with us Saturday evening. The next two days were interesting as I stayed in contact as much as possible via e-mail. If you remember, this past Wednesday and Thursday we experienced our first major snow fall of the season so Nao was right in the middle of it with the continental divide directly in front of him. To make a long, involved story shorter, he made it across the mountains to our home by 4pm on Saturday. I quickly suggested he take a bath to get warm. He agreed and headed for the bathroom. About an hour later he emerged, hungry, relaxed and anxious to get to know us. Steve had asked if he could come over and meet Nao so I suggested that we do dinner ; at about 6pm Steve and Terry arrived. It was one of those magical evenings that happen so rarely. We talked, exchanged stories and ate until we were ready to pop. Nao turned out to be charming, pleasant and a very gracious guest. I will remember the evening for a long time. With my fading memory that could be months from now. After dinner, us guys went down stairs to give Nao’s bike some tender loving care, which it needed badly. We reattached the front racks, cleaned and oiled the chain, pumped up the tires, and gave it a quick inspection. Later Nao and I went upstairs to spend almost two hours planning his route to New York City. He was ready for his journey to continue in the morning. After I went to bed, Sue stayed up until midnight talking with Nao about who knows what.

Resting after dinner

Relaxing after dinner

The morning came; Nao had several bowls of cereal and began to ready himself and his bike for his journey to New York City where he was scheduled to arrive on December 23. We created a Skype connection so that he could contact us with his computer, if needed. Shortly thereafter, Nao headed down the driveway.

After Nao had left, we found a note in his bedroom. In the note was a twenty-dollar bill. At first I considered getting in the car and catching him to give back the money but after reading the note I decided not to. This is written in Nao’s own words. He has only been learning English for three years. I’m impressed!

“I met woman in that time. (this is before he met us) She listened my serious talking and gave this $20 to me. She gave money and I received money. And also I received her kindness. She said, “I can’t help you now, but use this money and stay in hotel.

I want you guys (me) receive this $20. I mean it is not a staying fee, it means a woman’s kindness.”

I will keep this twenty and pass it forward when the time comes. Experiences like this one only intensify my belief that life is about the people you meet and the memories you take from those meeting. My only hope is that someday I will get to see Nao again!