Monday, 27 January 2014

Humour and Adventure

    The folks who we identify as living on an isolated ranch in "Extreme Central Texas" are compelling, complicated yet plainly good and straightforward as any two can be.  We are including a bit of political humour (contradiction of terms?) and a bit of the adventurous life they live.   They are the poster-children for "Whom to Hate" among the Obamaoids.  Well-to-do, philosophically religious, conservative, Americanites, generous to a fault, and totally unpretentious are adjectives that can be reasonably ascribed to them.   As with El Zorro and Wife, these two people are also very comely folks who are always the ones who dress up the place.

Two submissions.  To wit:

Barack Obama discovers a leak under his sink, so he calls Joe the Plumber to come and fix it.

Joe drives to Obama's house, which is located in a very nice neighborhood and where it's clear that all the residents make more than $250,000 per year.
Joe arrives and takes his tools into the house. Joe is led to the room that contains the leaky pipe under a sink. Joe assesses the problem and tells Obama, who is standing near the door, that it's an easy repair that will take less than 10 minutes.
Obama asks Joe how much it will cost. Joe immediately says, "$9,500."
"$9,500?" Obama asks, stunned, "But you said it's an easy repair!"
"Yes, but what I do is charge a lot more to my clients who make more than $250,000 per year so I can fix the plumbing of everybody who makes less than that for free," explains Joe. "It's always been my philosophy. As a matter of fact, I lobbied government to pass this philosophy as law, and it did pass earlier this year, so now all plumbers have to do business this way. It's  known as 'Joe's Affordable Plumbing Act of 2013.' Surprised you haven't heard of it."
In spite of that, Obama tells Joe there's no way he's paying that much for a small plumbing repair, so Joe leaves. Obama spends the next hour flipping through the phone book looking for another plumber, but he finds that all other plumbing businesses listed have gone out of business. Not wanting to pay Joe's price, Obama does nothing. The leak under Obama's sink goes unrepaired for the next several days.
A week later the leak is so bad that Obama has had to put a bucket under the sink. The bucket fills up quickly and has to be emptied every hour, and there's a risk that the room will flood, so Obama calls Joe and pleads with him to return. Joe goes back to Obama's house, looks at the leaky pipe, and says, “Let's see - this will cost you about $21,000."
"A few days ago you told me it would cost $9,500!" Obama quickly fires back.
Joe explains the reason for the dramatic increase. "Well, because of the 'Joe's Affordable Plumbing Act,' a lot of rich people are learning how to fix their own plumbing, so there are fewer of you paying for all the free plumbing I'm doing for the people who make less than $250,000. As a result, the rate I have to charge my wealthy paying customers rises every day.
"Not only that, but for some reason the demand for plumbing work from the group of people who get it for free has skyrocketed, and there's a long waiting list of those who need repairs. This has put a lot of my fellow plumbers out of business, and they're not being replaced - nobody is going into the plumbing business because they know they won't make any money. I'm hurting now too - all thanks to greedy rich people like you who won't pay their fair share."
Obama tries to straighten out the plumber: "Of course you're hurting, Joe! Don't you get it? If all the rich people learn how to fix their own plumbing and you refuse to charge the poorer people for your services, you'll be broke, and then what will you do?"
Joe immediately replies, "Run for president, apparently."

     I have had a memorable December and feel compelled to tell about it.  Ten years ago, Xxxxxxxxxxx, a classmate, and his wife bought a new Island Packet 485, christened Xxx Xxxxx, and commenced their circumnavigation.  The S/V Xxx Xxxxx is a cutter rigged sloop, 51.6 feet OAL, a 15 ft. beam, drawing 5.5 to 6 ft. with a fixed keel.  We helped them sail from Ft. Lauderdale to the Panama Canal in February 2004.  Along with their son in law, they sailed across the Pacific.  Later, in 2006, my wife and I sailed in Xxx Xxxxx up the coast of Australia to Cairn.  Then in 2009, I embarked in Xxx  Xxxxx at Salalah, Oman, and sailed past Somalia and Yemen through the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea to the Suez Canal.  Thus you might conclude that we know each other in many ways.
     After the family Thanksgiving at the ranch, Nancy, my wife, and I drove to Florida in early December.  On 9 Dec 13, I flew Air Berlin from Miami to Tenerife via a plane change in Dusseldorf.  Tenerife is a prosperous island of about 800 square miles with a population of 900,000, and the highest point in Spain with a volcano of 12,000 ft. and plenty of snow at the summit.
     We departed on 17 Dec 13, heading WSW with 12 ft. swells and 20 kt. ENE winds, to 20N x 30W, then a slight course change to 15N x 40W, and then to 270 degrees to the north end of St. Lucia, 15 miles south of Martinique.  The total distance was about 2850 nm.  We had 15-20 kt. ENE winds increasing to 20-30 kt. ENE winds the entire 19 days and routine 15 ft., 8 sec. ground swells as well.  Sometimes local weather fronts from the north caused some cross swells.  Rolls of 25 deg. were common with endless 15 deg. rolls.  Sleeping was difficult forward or aft, thus Bob and I ended up sleeping on the settees in the main salon amidships.  We used a heavy #3 cruising genoa as our only sail for the first two weeks and routinely made over 6 knots with many 145 mile days.  While we generally had a favourable current, it rarely exceeded a knot and was less than expected.  The generator ran at least 4 hours each day to charge the batteries, mostly used for the autopilot, refrigeration and communication.
     The first casualty of note was the furling line on the genoa that chafed until it parted.  Xxxx ably re-rigged the remnant and we proceeded on.  Early one morning, shortly after daybreak, we noticed the genoa had a slack luff and 5 minutes later the whole sail was over the port bow in the water.  The halyard had parted at the masthead sheave.  Fortunately it was daylight and soon the genoa, was clawed back on board and lashed on deck.  We had a spare halyard, but were not sure that the fleet angle was aligned with the forestay.  The Xxx Xxxxx has a main that is furled in the mast.  It was then 80% deployed as a reefed main and back to 6 knots with an improved, slower roll period.  With about five days to go, we still had 80 to 90% of our 300 gallons of fuel and commenced motor sailing.  Running the main engine at 1600-1800 rpm kept the batteries charged, let us make water, stay above 6 knots and still not use much fuel as the main at 90% did the heavy lifting.  We arrived with well over half our fuel.
     Christmas and New Year’s Day were very ordinary days except for Xxxxxx Xxxxx preparing special meals and serving delicacies hidden in the freezer and other niches only known to her.  Daily at 0800Z and 1900Z, there was a “Net” on the SSB (Single Side Band) with five or six other sailboats in port or in transit.  Weather, sea conditions, progress and problems were discussed.  One boat spilled their chili on the cabin sole but raked it back in the pan for continued consumption.
     One of the most unbelievable aspects of this voyage was that we did not see a plane or vessel until on the 17th day when we finally did see a passing freighter.  On four or five occasions, a school of porpoises would frolic alongside for an hour or so.  Until one sails the ocean, you cannot comprehend its magnitude.  While man has been able to alter the shape of the land, he has managed to merely transit the oceans by floating or flying over them.  In 2004, Xxx Xxxxx transited the Pacific.  The longest leg was from the Galapagos to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, about the same distance from Tenerife to St. Lucia, 2850 nm.  The sheer volume of water 10,000 ft deep and 3000 miles wide with the associated energy is mind boggling.  Standing watch with large following swells can be mesmerising.  Will this be the wave that breaks over the stern or will it lift in time and how will the steering handle the twisting, corkscrew motion as the wave passes under the hull?  A couple times we did have gusts to 40 kts, which Xxx Xxxxx handled well with brief bursts to 8+ knots.
     Now the difficult part, Why?  To be honest, I am still not sure?  Perhaps, at my age, introducing a challenge of uncertain outcome is a good thing.  With only wind in the rigging, contemplating the cosmos under the Almighty’s hand at 0400, with the Southern Cross and countless stars on a vast ocean is humbling and good for the soul.
     By pure coincidence during the passage, I started reading 1421 by Gavin Menzies, a retired Royal Navy submarine skipper and improbable historical author.  More than any book that I have read, it challenged everything I had learnt in school about the European age of discovery by altering my perspective of who first mapped the world and when.  Additionally, it has further diminished my respect for the academic community.  Why has it taken so long when so much of the evidence was obvious with much improved tools?  I approached the book with guarded scepticism, and encourage the same by others.
     After three weeks in steady 25 knot trade winds, I expected to see rotor to rotor wind generators on St. Lucia where the average income is $4350/year and unskilled labour is available for US$200-300 per month.  Such was not the case.  Apparently, only countries with large federal governments can afford the efficiencies of green energy.  Solar heating of hot water was effective and common.  English is the official language of St. Lucia, which received its independence in 1979.  Fourteen times ownership of the island changed.  Most streets and names are French and older citizens also speak a French patois.  The island, while not prosperous, is beautiful, lush and fertile; but I did not see any commercial agriculture other than some small banana plantations.
     After arriving at Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, on 5 Jan 14; my wife flew in and we spent four days at the small, 26 room Calabash Cove Resort, owned by two Germans.  It is a great place to relax, swim and read.  We expected to eat out, but found the food so tasty that we ate all four dinners in the open air dining room.  Questions are welcome.
     As an aside, El Gringo Viejo's eldest brother was a Ph. D and for a good while, the head of the College of Geography and Geology of Louisiana State University.   He was an accomplished expert in historical and cultural patterns of migrations of humanity, an expert linguist, a published author concerning matters of archaeology and anthropology, and many other accomplishments.  He was disturbed by the "longbeards" unyielding and dogged demand that matters always be regarded as "settled science" even when such knowledge would be found buried under tonnes of contradictory evidence.
     For instance, the stone projectile points classified under the monikers of  "Plainview", "Clovis",  and "Folsom", and to some degree the "Castroville", are essentially identical to other stone projectile points that have been commonly found in the Celto-Gallic areas of pre-historic France.  They would have to be at least 10,000 years old, yet they were found at surface washes and/or fairly shallow trenching sites in the places named above in and near Texas.   Those places gave the points their names.
     There were hundreds if not thousands of points that my brother and his accomplices would moan and bellyache about, and for good reason.   This business of "3,000 of the World's leading scientists agree that man-made Global Warming is a unanimously accepted as incontrovertible fact" is an example.  Of course, statements such as those are untrue, and the untruths that they represent are absolutely false on many levels.
Thanks for your attention, as always!
El Gringo Viejo