Tag Archives: Essay

Back to the Future, Harbor Branch, Dolphins & Me


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I was just accepted as a volunteer working on the Dolphin Photo ID Program at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Yippee!

Since attending David Starr Jordan Junior High School in Palo Alto which had a marine biology emphasis based on the donation of Jordan’s ichthyology library to the school, I have had an abiding interest in ocean science.

I learned to SCUBA dive in 1962 at age 13. In high school, I pursued science fair projects involving detecting electrical impulses from fish in a free swimming environments. I was also part of the team that designed and installed a 1500 gallon splash-zone salt water aquarium in our high school biology building entrance in 1966/67. (You can just buy these now!)

I was educated as a Chemical Engineer at Texas A&M University and specialized in ocean sciences and microbiology. There I taught SCUBA to university marine sciences personnel to include black water and recovery diving. I was part of the group that enticed Jacques Cousteau to visit A&M. As a graduate student in desalination thermodynamics, I sub-specialized in hyperbaric physiology (and was a guinea pig). During this time I also acted as an engineering diver for a Hydrolab habitat project under the auspices of Sea Grant and the NSF. My career vector toward oceanography seemed set, and then my very low Draft Lottery Number came up. [This was not a lottery you wanted to win.]

In the military, I supervised recreational diving in Florida for a few years, but my duties and post-military careers moved me away from the ocean for nearly 40 years. Retirement to Vero Beach has returned me to it.

I in-processed yesterday with Harbor Branch, so now it appears I am back to the future as I saw it in 1970. As I said, yippee.

Quid Agatur??? (“Whazzup,” circa 500 BCE)

FlamingosAt a recent social event, someone asked why we even bothered to have a boat given Florida weather, poor water quality, and shallow depths, etc.


Weather. On the Chesapeake we winterized from December through April. With upkeep visits through the period, that’s five months. Here we “hurricanize and lightningize ” July through November with a lot more flex on the ends depending on tropical realities (with marina socializing year round). That’s five months, and they are generally better weather than up north in sailing season. I think what surprises people is we actually leave this little bit of paradise during The Season.

Water Quality. In forty plus years, we have rarely, rarely gone swimming off our boat. Too many localities use coastal sailing waters as the final dilution phase for sewage treatment. Underwater maintenance we have contracted out for a couple of decades now. Vibrio vulnificus and mycobacterium marinum infections are the local bad actors.

Shallow Depths. Aye, and there’s the rub, literally. For deep water, we go to the Bahamas. Admittedly, that leaves us figuring out what “sailing” means for the other months, but that is more a matter of which boat rather than why boat. When we consider the number of hours motoring in the last three years of cruising compared to those sailing, there may not be that much difference unless we go offshore locally.

417 Resolutions in One

klaxonstrongIt’s important to remember that virtually every image on TV is put there to bring eyes/ears to ads. The same is true of the Internet and the “services” it enables. This is nothing new; it was and is still true of newspapers. And I bet, if we could go back and listen, we would find several millenia of town-criers who finished up with a shout-out for a pub or a farrier…

What’s the point? Whether the images are acoustic or graphic or textual or a mash, they are chosen and they are written and they are edited to get us to look at/hear embedded or peripheral ads for something. Therefore, the news, the editorials (hard to distinguish these days), live or die on the basis of their popularity not their utility to the hearer/looker/reader.

Stories are killed when they don’t bring eyes/ears. Stories are dragged far, far down the road past boredom as long as they do. And in some cases, non-stories are created to fill the gaps on slow eye/ear segments. Facts are the first casualties, and retractions and apologies, if  forthcoming, are usually found by journalistic archeologists, not the rest of us. And even if factually correct, much of what is offered as news is carnival freak show stuff.

Some media appear to pander to whatever appetite will bring those eyes/ears to the ads. This is nothing new, but is is greatly more visible as technology prevents us from escaping the deluge of drivel. Sadly, bad news sells better than good, and if we are left with nothing but headlines to inform us, then angst is the only emotion we need. (OK, add disgust.)

“Follow the trend lines, not the headlines,” Bill Clinton* is said to have said.

The trends are hard to dig out. They seldom have the neat clean edges of a skillfully crafted eye/ear-grabber. But there is something interesting about trends these days, the majority of them are good. Is there room for them to be better? Always. There is something interesting about that too. There are lots of qualified, committed and seemingly tireless people working on those improvements. But their stories don’t sell ads.

dollarFor New Year 2015, add one more resolution — click on one less lurid eye-grabber each day, and dig into one more trend each week. By year’s end, you will have wasted your emotional energy 365 times less (times the number of ads per look!) and you will have educated yourself 52 times. You will have benefited 417 times. If you pay yourself $1 for each, that’s a pretty positive trend too. Remember:

Look up and not down; Look out and not in. Look forward and not back; Lend a hand! ― Edward Everett Hale

*Also attributed to Bill Gates


T-Shirt Lizard

Who needs hi-tech wireless thermometers to know what’s going on outside? We have a trusty band of geckos and anoles, inter alia that let us know what’s what — biotech if there ever was some.

The smaller the lizard the sooner they hide from the drop in temps. There seems to be a scale.

  • No lizards sunning — it’s cold for here, wear a sweatshirt (or it’s too darn hot even for lizards and stay in the shade with a cold drink)*
  • Only big lizards sunning — it’s cool, wear a long sleeve T
  • Medium lizards sunning (well away from the big ones) — T shirt weather
  • Little lizards sunning (well away from every mouth in sight) — stay in the shade
  • Lizards panting — stay in the shade with a tank top and a cold drink*

Seems tech enough for us.

*This minor ambiguity can be resolved by stepping outside for a moment.

Vanity Plates

statetagI suppose when one starts thinking about what one might put on a vanity plate one has well and truly returned to the ranks of seasonal cruiser.

Our trusty Toyota has a plate which reads SAIL-4VR. I’m not sure whether it is going to retain its relevance or not. It would only take a sailing dinghy (where do we store it?) to keep the plate relevant. It would only require us to beat, reach or run with the seabreeze once a year with Brilliant Star. Since we are heading toward the Bahamas in mid to late winter, the issue needn’t be heavily addressed at the moment.

But we have returned to the realm of two vehicles. SAIL-4VR will go to the new one — Janet’s. The (now my) Toyota will be in need of something. Certainly the State’s choice would do the job, but I have enough of that in my life right now. So I have put my mind to the task. Unfortunately, plates which aid or honor entities or interests that appeal to me can only have 5 characters. Regular vanity plates may have 7 — or ~1300 times as many choices. Of course, one has to account for the various prohibitions the State places on micro-memes it doesn’t want flaunted around on its roads.

I have a few crypto-acronyms in mind, but will keep them to myself as I might actually decide to use one. At the moment, my favorite is too crypto. I don’t want someone rear-ending me trying to figure it out (yes, that does happen). Some, such as any variation of CLOD, are out. I really prefer something snicker/smile inducing, but sadly those same things can induce road rage in someone whose context is vastly different than mine. I could do something meaningful only to me, but then I might as well just write that on a sticky note and stick it on my dash and go with the semi-random State issue. Nah.

The one word that I know would get a knowing nod around here is trademarked by a litigious defender. So…

Mr. Carey’s Informative Apology to Cruisers in the Bahamas

BNEMr. Eric Carey = Executive Director Bahamas National Trust
His initial remarks Short form = “They come down there they anchor and they pay absolutely nothing and they come fully stocked. Half of the time they don’t even spend $5 in the Bahamas and what do they eat? Our fish,”
His apology Short Form = “The Bahamas National Trust’s (BNT) top executive yesterday made an “unreserved apology” to international boaters infuriated by his comments that many of them were ‘el cheapo smoochers’, who this nation should not mourn if they “p….. off” when charged minimal anchorage/mooring fees.

Eric Carey told Tribune Business in an exclusive interview that he wanted to “retract” comments made in a posting on this newspaper’s website, which resulted in incensed boaters threatening to take their cruises – and business – away from the Bahamas.

Expressing hope that his comments, and the fiery reaction, would not cost the Bahamian tourism industry and wider economy much-needed dollars, Mr Carey said his remarks – both on The Tribune website and at the Exuma Business Outlook Conference – were “ill advised”.”

Both Quotes from Tribune 242


In the course of my (continuing) evolution as a social being, I have said things for which an apology was appropriate. Some were eventual and some were needed instantly.

I remember one in particular. I insulted a three star general in front of his peers from a position of (great) juniority on my part. His peers fled the room before he said a word in response, and boy did it get cold in that room.

He was carefully calculating what he would say when I blurted an apology. That’s when he got really mad. “What the **** are you apologizing for?”

I must say the question set me back. I thought it was obvious. I thought he meant “why.” He really meant “what” just as he said. He was a very precise man.

He told me I couldn’t apologize for insulting him, because I didn’t have his permission to insult him.

He told me I couldn’t apologize for how I felt about him, because he didn’t care how I felt about him.

He told me I couldn’t apologize because I had my facts wrong because what I had said was largely correct — although seriously lacking tact.

He said I could only apologize for having lost control of my mouth.

His stern look never melted. “Chris,” he said, “an apology is lubricant for the social machine, but just as often it is a passive-aggressive tactic — get your message out there and then pretend the devil made you do it — and you inform the conversation in ways you may not have intended.”

“So, what do we have here?” He said. I immediately apologized for losing control of my mouth. A week later he invited me to lunch and that began a mentoring process and a friendship that lasted for years.


I read Mr. Carey’s message and received it loud and clear. I read his apology, and I believe he is sincerely sorry he voiced his opinion so clearly. He got his message out there — whatever made him do it. We know where he stands on cruisers — that stance didn’t change overnight because of the reaction, and isn’t going to change much over time. We know what will be going on behind the scenes on this issue when he is involved. He has informed us.