Friday, March 31, 2017

There to here

Sunrise leaving Great Harbour Cay for the crossing
“Department of Homeland Security”...that name has always seemed like “1984” speak to me; something some addle brained bumbler came up with to try and assure other addle brained bumblers that he was in command and doing something useful. It is hard to say if the actual organization is less “Big Brother-ish” than the name implies, or if it is more. In any case the Miami office gave me 24 hours to check in after we got back to the States. I got a new passport since they had issued my local boater card (also called the SVRS - small vessel reporting system) which, somehow, made me a security risk again. So I dragged my weary bones out of the berth the morning after a 35 hour, 140 nm passage, caught the mooring field shuttle, took a couple of different buses over to the Port of Miami, walked up the stairs to the office, and handed The Man my new passport and my old local boater card.

Sailing the first 18 hours of the crossing
He poked around in the computer at his desk, which is likely linked up with every other government computer in the world, along with the computers that my bank, phone, and Internet providers use. And, if someone so chose, I am sure that at least some of those government computers can look at everything on my personal computer. I guess he added some kind of comment to my file about me having handed him my new passport (which they obviously knew they had issued to me) and my old local boater card (which – equally obviously – they knew they had issued to me). Then he handed them back to me and sent me on my merry way.

What I thought odd was that The Man, like everyone behind the bullet proof glass, was dressed in the full black ninja outfit, combat boots, and with a very serious looking weapon strapped to his hip. He, and his compatriots, were obviously very serious people, warriors, those not to messed with; the ones who appear out of the night, breach the barriers, kick the asses and take the names. Since we are constantly told just how deep is the danger we are all in, how close the bad guys always are, one would think the Department of Homeland Security could find some capable clerks to poke around in the computers and make the notes, and let the warriors go about their warring.

Then again, maybe the Department of Homeland Security dresses their capable clerks up like ninjas and lets them carry guns because someone has to look the part. The real warriors, the ones who do the actual ass kicking and name taking, likely don't dress the part. Instead they wear the same kinds of clothes the bad guys wear, carry the same kinds of guns, get the same kind of haircuts, and lurk in the dark places the bad guys lurk. They pick up the rumors, run down the hints, and search though the murk to figure out what the bad guys are planning. They board the ships that need be boarded and force open the shipping containers that need to be inspected. They follow the money, listen in on the suspected phones, rummage through the suspected computers, and stalk the dark recesses of the web and the world.

It almost has to be that way because making a middle aged white guy, who has already signed on for a background check, drop by the office just because he got a new passport is a waste of everyone's time. If the powers that be actually regarded that as some kind of real security the bad guys would have taken over the place a long time ago.

I say “almost” because, well, it might all be a bit of a sham. How else would they pry literally trillions of dollars out of our collective pockets to pay for “security” while under-funding virtually every social program in the country? Americans are generally pretty good folks. We wouldn't normally let kids go hungry, sacrifice our own kid's education, close down research into weather and physics and space, trash the environment, and condemn veterans to homelessness and poverty. Normally. But where the money goes that we would have spent on those things, other than buying ninja suits and serious looking guns, is secret. Most of what they say they do is also a big secret. I know that the Congress and the Senate are supposed to serve us by keeping an eye on such things, but when was the last time any Congressman or Senator did anything in the public's interest? I guess your view of the sham percentage in all of this rests on just how much you trust the Congressmen and Senators to do the right thing.

Sunset the end of the first day

The 35 hours, 140 nm passage from Great Harbor to Dinner Key went pretty well, if an average speed of four knots can be described as doing well. Truth to tell, having Miami in sight for more than 6 hours before finally dropping the hook was starting to get on my nerves. We were doing barely three knots at that point, the Beast struggling to push us against the Gulf Stream. We had a small problem rolling up the jib again and, again, that was an 0300 in dark, dark, morning thing. Even though we were pulling it in because the winds had died away to near nothing, it still rolled in up funky. While trying to fix it later the furling line got all snagged up, again.

So, on the way home from the DHS we stopped by West Marine and dropped about $200 on new blocks. Back at the boat we rearranged the furling line run and added the new hardware. We also noticed that the spare jib halyard, the one we have hauling around aloft for four years without ever using it for anything, lay really close to furling block at the top of the sail, and that it could easily hang up the whole operation. Since we have the spinnaker halyard for hauling the Ding and the anchor (if necessary) there seemed no good reason to leave that potential problem hanging up there.

So this morning I dropped it, only it didn't drop the whole way. The end, in free fall from the top of the mast, somehow managed to tie itself around the upper spreader as it fell. And I mean tie, as in an honest knot, not just snag as one might guess. How that happened is beyond me, except that Kintala still hates me on some days. And, some days, I hate her right back. Fortunately we picked this morning to move from the rolling, pitching, ugliness that is the Dinner Key mooring field in a southeast wind, to the serenity and quiet waters deep inside No Name Harbor. Untangling the wayward halyard was an easy, 10 minute foray aloft on a boat sitting as still as could be.

Land Ho! Miami on the horizon

After that, the deck was secured and the Ding went overboard. We need water, a bit of food, one LPG tank filled, and a good night's rest or two before heading south once again. From anchored off Great Harbor Cay to the weekend party that is No Name Harbor...sometimes we go pretty slow, but it is hardly ever dull.

No-Name Harbor, Kintala front and center

The lineup of boats waiting to depart for the States in the morning

Our neighbor in the anchorage at Great Harbour Cay

The last of the pretty turquoise water pictures for a few months. Stay tuned for more!


Mike Boyd said...

Sorry you are not enjoying your small recurring cameo in Security Theater. It seems to be the lesser of the theatrics going on in recent months. Welcome back.

Latitude 43 said...

Glad you made it back in one piece. Not a fan of the gulf stream. Worst part of our whole trip down to Trinidad. Funny when you think about all the fear I had about all the other bodies of water and the one that was the worst was in my home waters.

Says a lot

TJ said...

Mike, it wasn't too bad. I was just tired and jumping through DHS hoops wasn't the best way to start the day. On the other hand a boat that took a ball right next to us in Dinner Key had also just come in from the Islands. It was their first time and they were a little unsure about getting to the DHS office, so they went with us and we made some new friends. I agree with you though, most of our "security" is just for show.

Paul, that was our eighth time across the Stream. Though it wasn't bad, it never seems to be easy either.

Marc Tjaden said...

TJ I really hope to meet you someday we have alot in common

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

What Mike said. Also, if your congress people don't do anything for you, it's time to hire new ones. I am reasonably satisfied with my rep, and MA senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. Do you still vote in Missouri?

TJ said...

Jeffrey, we changed our residence to FL, in the 16th congressional district. That only seemed fair since we spent 9 moths there last year and are within a couple of weeks of being back there again for a minimum of six more. Vern Buchanan has been the representative since 2013. The district was forced to be redrawn in 2012 when it was deemed a "raw exercise in majority power" by the courts. It has had 2 democrats and 4 republicans in its history, the last democrat leaving office in 2009, so its is hard to say just how badly gerrymandered this district might be. doesn't show Mr. Buchanan as particularly far right in ideology, and slightly above the middle of the road in a leadership role. From what I can gather from his websight he isn't much to boast about, with the typical bumper sticker "issues", big on security, anti-immigration, law and order, yadda yadda yadda. He is against drilling for oil in the gulf, a bit unusual for a Republican but likely the only stand any politician can take on the Gulf coast of Florida.

I didn't vote for him, but he won easily with nearly 60% of the vote. He is one of 16 Republican representatives from FL, with 11 Democrats. Florida voted for Trump 49.0% to Clinton's 47.8%. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is one of Florida's Senators. Marco Rubio is the other. Republican Rick Scott is the Governor, last elected in 2014 so I didn't vote for or against him.

Scott is a typical multi-millionaire politician, big on money and power, not so big on anything else. He has a checkered history in the health care industry, and supported Trump with little comment. He claims he's "not a scientist" when it comes to climatt and forbade the state's EPA to use terms "global warming" and "climate change" (even as his state battles sea level rise), passed a drug testing bill that was declared unconstitutional, and rejected Medicaid expansion.

So I am 1 for 4 insofar as being "represented" by the POTUS and politicians in Florida, 1 for 5 if you count Scott.

duaneculp said...

Hey Tim and Deb,

This is Cousin Lyana Akey (Culp). We were just in Key West looking at the Sailboats and remembered that you were sailing a lot these days. We thought we would look you up, so we found your blog. It sounds like you guys have had quite the experiences over the last few years. We want to purchase your book, but thought if there was any way to purchase it from you directly and have you both sign it for my dad (Uncle Gene) that would be a wonderful gift for him that he would really enjoy. Is there some way to do this? Also, if you ever need a reprieve from sailing and would like to visit Chattanooga Tennessee and do some hiking, we have a wonderful cabin and would love to have you both visit sometime. Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing back from you!

trevor buhler said...

I love it how in vogue it has become to hate and bad mouth the people who risk their lives and sometimes lose their lives trying to keep us safe from the "real" bad guys. Not everything is a conspiracy. Your naivety is all too commonplace these days as you armchair quarterback your way through life with your first-world problems. Wearing a badge and gun and trying to sort out the good guys from the ones who are going to try to take your life can be damn scary. I wish everyone could have that experience, sure would make my life easier. I hope you have the guts to keep this post on your blog and respond in kind. Respectfully, Trevor.

TJ said...

Trevor, not sure exactly what it is that got you so upset, nor do I have a clue what you expect as a response in kind. You post suggests you are in some branch of law enforcement, and I touched a nerve. Not my intent, but I offer no apology either. Law enforcement is a necessary part of any society, but it is also the one part of any free society that must be kept on a very short leash; for it is but a few small steps from “law and order” to oppression and a police state. History is full of examples of an out of control police force being the first clear evidence of a society that has run its course and is failing. If demanding a high level of accountability and subjecting a heavily armed branch of the government to the extreme scrutiny of an independent agency whose primary concern is the civil rights of its citizens is your definition of “making the job harder” well, try thinking of it this way...that is the only way a free society remains free. It is also the only way we have of keeping some "bad guy" from getting a badge, an attitude, and a free pass on being a first-world problem.

Any person who is carrying a weapon is, to some degree, a threat to everyone around them. A law officer may be less of a threat than some dweeb who worships at the feet of the NRA, but he or she is certainly more of a threat to me than I am to them. Would I like to see law enforcement fade away? Well, I actually wish I were a member of a species that was mature enough, wise enough, and evolved enough not to need a police force or armies. However, I am not naive enough to think that human kind has that much potential, or is going to survive long enough, to become so advanced. Police forces, like armies, are likely to be a necessary evil for as long as people stumble around on this little ball of dirt and water. But that is to our shame, not to our credit.

The Burnhams said...

Wow! Sure hope I don't bump into Trevor while clearing back in! Poor dude sounds like he could "stand" some serious counselling.....lighten up "T" it's not (it cannot be..) as bad as you imagine.