Quote of the Month

"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954.

“We must change our attitudes toward the ocean. We must regard it as no longer a mystery, a menace, something so vast and invulnerable that we need not concern ourselves with it … Instead we want to explore the themes of the ocean’s existence—how it moves and breathes, how it experiences dramas and seasons, how it nourishes its hosts of living things, how it harmonizes the physical and biological rhythms of the whole earth, what hurts it and what feeds it—not least of all, what are its stories.” Jacques Yves Cousteau, 1910-1997.

"It's the glory of the sea that has turned my head." Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1894.

"It is with you as with the sea: the most varied names are given to what is in the end only salt water." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, 1833.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Appropriated Sea



The wind was blowing E-NE, 12 to 15 knots and the sea waves were 2 to 3 feet high, according to NOAA. The sun was shining with very sparse clouds at the horizon. After all the May rains, Vieques, Culebra and the Yunque rainforest were crispy-clean and visible. The sea sparkled. The crew, Francisco, Ishi, Silvia and myself, followed our scheduled checklist—oil check, bilge, rigging lines, motor water exhaust, sails, radio, chart—and decided our sail plan to be full mainsail and genoa. Our goal was the Island of Icacos. We set sail at 10:30 a.m. from Sunbay Marina.
And then, there interposed a fly, as the line in Emily Dickinson’s poem reads. Boat race markers blocked the sea passage to Icacos. Not sailboat races, but cigarette boat races. Cigarette boats are often in the news for their drug smuggling ventures (check Wikipedia, the name originates from their cigarette smuggling days in Canada ). These killing machines disregard manatees, pollute the air with noise, and leave oil in their wake. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the DRNA (Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales) were protecting this race, ensuring that others avoided the race area. They yelled at us to go to shallow waters close to shore, waters too dangerous for sailboats. So much for the CGAux protecting the safety of those at sea. Today, May 31st, 2009, they were protecting cigarette boats, at the expense of other boats.
This race was not well announced in advance. Very brief mention was made on Channel 16. Our marina was apparently not informed. A CG Auxiliarist jet-ski approached us and in the rudest attitude told us that to go to Icacos we had to go close to shore. Our crew agreed that was too dangerous, so we decided to turn around towards Palomino to circumvent the race. As we tacked and sailed away from the area, the CGAux jet-skier approached again yelling at us to move faster, “más rápido.” Obviously, this CG Auxiliarist in his fancy CG Auxiliary jet-ski knew nothing about sailboats. His attitude was arrogant and illogical. Sailboats can only go as fast as the wind blows them.
Trying to accommodate to their appropriated sea section, from Las Croabas, midway to Palomino, we sailed away from our destination. Yet we were still harassed and sent to dangerous waters by those who should be promoting nature-friendly modes of sea enjoyment. Yet, they were sponsoring and protecting the interests of the most pollutant, nature-hating crafts. I am filled with questions unanswered: Why did they plan this race so close to shore? Why did they select an area known to be close to manatees, turtles, dolphins and humans? Why did they select a busy Sunday when most boaters are out? Are the CG and DRNA promoting the purchase and use of these sea-unfriendly vehicles? Do the CG and DRNA despise sailing vessels? Are they not trained about sails? Do they not know that with an E-NE wind, sending a sailboat close to shore, the wind will push it to the shoreline? What happened to the law of the sea? Can the CGAux and DRNA representatives receive training on how to deal with the law-abiding public in respectful ways? As a passing sailor asked me, “¿Quién autorizó a esa gente a apropiarse del mar?” Who authorized these people to appropriate the sea?
The Complete Poems of Emily DickinsonThere is a sailing expression that the moment a sailboat is sailing, it has reached its destination. We never reached Icacos but we still enjoyed a great sailing day. We hove-to between el Yunque and Palomino, in 38.1 feet of water, shared our lunch and enjoyed our peaceful conversation and communion with the sea. We just missed our swim to shore in Icacos. We docked at Sunbay Marina at 4:30 p.m.To heave-to is to set the sails and rudder in opposition, where the bow is being pushed in one direction by the sails, while the stern is being pushed into the opposite direction by the rudder. The result is that the sailboat enjoys a moment of stillness in the madness of the maelstrom. The last three lines in Dickinson’s verse say it best: The stillness round my form; Was like the stillness in the air; Between the heaves of storm. The name of the poem is “Dying.” What would Mother-Earth say?