Thursday, February 25, 2021

2021: John M. (Bing ) Grimsrud a brief personal profile

 

I live with my wife of 51 years, Jane, in our ecologically friendly home of our own design in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico. Being minimalists and choosing to live with nature we have no motor vehicles, exclusively using bicycles, no insecticides or commercial food additives. Our home with its jungle garden is all natural with indigenous vegetation. The compost environment provides us with fresh 100% natural tropical eats year round.

We have three Mexican children, Guero Alex 46, Lupita 43, and Grisel 37. They have given us 6 entertaining spirited grandchildren ranging in age from 21 years to 2.

Jane and I have led an adventuresome and rewarding life of diverse traveling and educationally rewarding experiences by bicycle, canoe, sailboat, shrimp boat, camper van, cruise ship, freighter, train and airplane. We have lived in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Yucatan, Mexico. Touring across, Canada, the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and extensively across Europe from Norway and Sweden to Spain and Portugal plus from England and Ireland to the former East Block countries with annual tours averaging from three and five months.

Our various adventures and travels required expanding our knowledge base. Here is a brief list of some of those cognitive enhancement of learning we acquired: business management, architectural design, structural design, electrical/electronics both commercial and industrial, metallurgical properties, machine tool operations, cutting, welding and brazing, seamanship, boat handling, three semesters of sailing, coastal navigation, celestial navigation, atmospheric phenomenons, basic survival at sea, cabinet making, carving and joinery, diesel engine operations, seafood procurement and preservation, heating and cooling/residential and commercial, ceramic tile/carpet instillation, philosophy/personality profiling, history studies/American, Mexican, European, Viking and family. Our quest for knowledge is ongoing.

Still keeping physically active at 80 years of age and Jane at 76. we continue to bicycle every day. Ten years ago were were still averaging 40 to 60 miles of biking daily and gray hair was just beginning.

We are very happy to be quarantined together in our tropical sanctuary home with never a dull moment.



Books and blogs generated by our travels and studies:

Books available on Amazon.com, both digital and paper

Dursmirg travel series:

Sailing Beyond Lake Superior

Sailing the Sea Islands

Sailing the Florida Keys

Sailing to St. Augustine

Yucatan travel series:

Yucatan’s Magic

Yucatan for Travelers

Jane’s historical books:

Looking for a New Frontier, by Jane Pearson Grimsrud

Brule River Forest and Lake Superior, by Jane Pearson Grimsrud.

Our blogs:

Bingsbuzz

Note about our reading: Jane and I are avid readers averaging more than a book a week plus listening to audio books every night in our hammocks. I publish book reviews of books that I deem worthy of a five star rating and post them on my bingsbuzz blog.

Yucatan by Bicycle

Bicycle Yucatán – Yucatán’s Magic


Sunday, January 31, 2021

Life of Secotan


In 1947 on the banks of Albemarle Sound at Manns Harbor, North Carolina and a short distance from Kill Devil Hills, the spot of the Wright brother’s historic flight, a very special creation was brought into this world. West of town in a canal next to the old ice plant, Clarence Holmes contracted Belove Tillet to build a forty two-foot party boat.

Manns Harbor, North Carolina; the post office where the postmistress, Inez Gibbs gave us the information on the building and history of the Secotan. The builder of the Secotan was a half brother to Inez Gibbs’ grandfather.

Manns Harbor fish docks where the “Secotan” docked.

Manns Harbor fish docks where the Secotan docked.

The boat was built “by the rock of the eye”, with special care as it was designed to spend its life in and out of the most treacherous inlet on the East Coast of the United States, Oregon Inlet at Cape Hatteras. The talent that went onto this special vessel can only be appreciated by a person that has piloted it through the crashing seas of a deadly raging and unforgiving inlet…like a little duck in love with the water, the Secotan bounces and bobs along in the wildest of torrents…trust me for I have been there.

The Secotan had a long record of service, and at the federal museum at the Cape Hatteras lighthouse you will find, to this day, a photo of this vessel. The only place I was able to find this name Secotan was in North Carolina and it was the name of a local Indian tribe. 

After many years of service and several owners, the boat was outfitted with a 671 Detroit diesel engine and a three to one reduction gear. It was double rigged to shrimp fish with power take-off, winches and electronics. All were installed and this little legend lived on.

It is an interesting mystery how this wonderful creation came into our lives…for many years passed and Mac Mcleod and his wife from North Carolina were living aboard and fishing the winter season in Tampa bay when they got to know an old friend of Jane and mine named George Tappin.


Mac and Audrey Mcleod the previous owners of Secotan onboard in St. Augustine, Florida 1982.

A quick background of George Tappin:  Jane and I met him when we were delivering brand new seventy-five foot shrimp trawlers manufactured in St. Augustine, Florida back in the early nineteen seventies. George had no formal education and grew up in the wild backwaters of the St. Johns River at Manderin when north Florida had no roads and transport was by boat or horseback. As a child his parents lived in a log cabin, his mother from the state of Maine and his father from Barbados in the Caribbean Islands.

George’s father owned and operated a freight boat that plied the St. Johns River and it was the only real link to the outside world, which was Jacksonville. George got his early boat handling experience on his father’s freight boat with frequent stops in the wooded outback of this wild frontier. As George got older he got his living from the water by fishing and carrying freight and passengers up and down the river. As a young man in prohibition days he did the natural thing and went into production…George loved cars and women.  Later in life he confessed to me that women had gotten the first half of his life and that GM had the rest.

This is the humble backwoods home where George Tappin was born and grew up. The house was almost 150 years old when I took this picture back in the 1980s.

This colorful person was as natural on the deck of a boat as a naval commander. He gave Jane and I our first experience on a shrimp boat as we worked side by side with him our first winter in Florida.

On my first day out with George on his boat, the Terry, which was a fifty-five foot converted World War II mine sweeper, we went offshore of St. Augustine, Florida to trawl for shrimp…would you believe it, he actually had seven bilge pumps and all failed. Yes, he at the last minute made a provisional bilge pump by shutting off the seacock to the engine cooling system and diverted the pickup hose to suck the bilge water and we beat a hasty path back to the dock.

George Tappin’s shrimp boat, Terry in St. Augustine, Florida.

George Tappin aboard the Terry.

On my second time out with George, my wife, Jane, came along and her comment after a few minutes was that she felt bad that she had wasted so many years in an office when she could have been here. Well, as the nets were going overboard I happened to notice that sparks were flying off the starboard block at the top of the outrigger. I told George and although we were rolling in a heavy sea he quickly climbed to the end of that outrigger boom with a hammer in one hand and a grease gun in the other…a difficult task for a young healthy and strong man in a calm harbor. Up and out he went as the boat pitched and rolled violently, one second he was directly overhead and forty feet up over the deck and the next second he was plunged below the breaking seas. At that moment I knew for sure that I had never met such a powerful person as George.


George Tappin’s boat Terry heading out to sea to start the fishing day.

My job on the back deck was to assist in hauling back the nets, and as each one was raised and swaying over head suspended in the rigging, I had to go under and find the trip line that was buried within the heavy covering that was used to conceal the catch from the hungry sharks. As the small end of this large funnel shaped net opened, it gushed with a strange and interesting collection of sea creatures kicking, snapping and bristling with spines.  The net was emptied, closed and returned to the sea. Next thing was to sort this living mass as it sloshed with each roll and pitch of the vessel. Well, in this mess was a seven-foot plus shark, leaping like a bucking bronco and snapping its mouth full of razor sharp teeth at everything in sight. I instinctively and instantly leaped up in the rigging and called out for George who had returned to the wheelhouse to throttle up and reset the autopilot. George came running with a large razor knife and with a leap he flew through the air and landed on the sharks back like a football player making a flying tackle. He next slit the underside of the shark from mouth to anus and the innards spewed out onto the deck. With that the shark seemed even more furious than before and took a mouthful of net and began violently shaking his head trying to snap off the net. George was back in an instant and this time with a hammer.  He made mush of the shark’s head. The shark dazed, slackened his vise grip hold on the net and George then tied a line to the shark’s tail, winched it high up in the rigging and as the boat rolled in the open sea this grisly thing with it’s head smashed in and it’s guts hanging out was thrashing violently as it swung overboard and into the sea…within ten seconds all of the sharks following our stern had this one completely devoured in a bloody caldron of boiling seawater. That was a sight etched into our memories and a lesson well learned about what happens in the wake of a shrimp boat…hang on at all costs!

The Terry with the empty trawl net ready to go back to fish again.

The Terry pulling in the full net with porpoises following.

Back to the Secotan story:

Some years later in the late 1970s Jane and I had just finished constructing a dock in Hospital Creek at a piece of property we were developing adjacent to the “fabled Fountain of Youth” in St. Augustine, Florida. The river, Hospital Creek, was the very same place that Ponce de Leon sailed up on April 2, 1512 in his quest for the Fountain of Youth on his first voyage. To this day you can visit the monument constructed there.

Well, our dock was a natural place for a commercial fishing vessel as we had enough water depth for the boat and the spot was protected from the weather. No bridges obstructed our entry to the ocean and in a few minutes we could make the passage from the dock to the sea buoy.

Jane and I had just about gotten a huge project that we had undertaken under control, which was the renovation of a twenty-six-unit apartment complex, so naturally we had our eyes open for the next adventure to come along. As our old friend George told us he was looking for a smaller fishing boat and a partner, we listened as he told us of his find.

On May 15, 1980, George, Jane and I found ourselves in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Jane and I got our first look at the boat that we had just bought, sight unseen, and only on the good faith of our friend. After a quick lunch and the signing of the transfer papers we took our new boat to the fuel dock and began our trip back to St. Augustine, some five hundred miles at ten knots of speed.

Out into Tampa Bay we went. Jane and I were no strangers to this place as we had made several trips there on boat deliveries, even though we are still impressed with the immense size of the bay. Looking across Tampa Bay is like looking out across the ocean, you cannot see the other side. As we went down the bay the Sunshine Skyway Bridge came into view. Just four days before a large ocean freighter coming up the bay in bad weather slammed into the bridge, and there before us was the collapsed bridge and the freighter still there with a large section of the bridge laying across its bow…a chilling sight, and a reminder that this could be a dangerous place.

Before we were able to get off of the bay we were stopped by the marine patrol to check our papers…we then took the “for sale” signs off the boat and weren’t bothered again.

A strange thing was that the previous week the price of silver had gone over $20.00 an ounce and I sold mine so the proceeds quickly were put to use in our new boat…very good timing and I was sure that I would derive a lot more fun out of the boat than I ever would out of owning the coins. (My coin collected began in grade school when I looked through $50.00 bags of pennies from parking meters every lunch hour.)

We had also gotten a partnership agreement drawn up by our mutual friend Sonny Weinstein…sure glad we did, as our partnership didn’t last as long as George had thought.

Our first night out we tied up at a very swanky restaurant and treated ourselves to an elegant feast.  We could have stayed the night right there but we quickly discovered that if we wanted the peace and quiet that we loved so much we would just have to head down the waterway to some quiet cove and drop the anchor…and so we did.

Our trip home was south through Sarasota Bay and Pine Island Sound and finally to Fort Myers where we were able to make our first turn towards the direction of home across the Okeechobee Waterway through five locks and across the big lake in the center of Florida, Lake Okeechobee. On the East Coast of Florida we came out at Stuart and were able to head north up through the Indian River, past Cape Canaveral, Daytona and home to our new dock at St. Augustine.

Secotan arriving at our dock in St. Augustine, Florida 1980. George Tappin is standing on the bow and Jane on the stern.

Secotan at our dock in St. Augustine, Florida and our 46’ sailboat Dursmirg.

It turns out that we had acquired some tenants with the purchase of the boat. When I got the different storage areas cleaned out the eviction began…rats! Next to sanitize and preserve the boat I sprayed a wood preserver called “Cupernol” into every crevice and crack with an exterminator’s sprayer. The result was utterly amazing…the next morning the decks were several inches thick with dead cockroaches. I was still not done with tenants; I found that living inside of the bilge were barnacles. It turns out that the boat leaked so badly that there was a steady stream of seawater entering, enough to sustain this colony. One of the first things that I learned in my boating career was that the water was supposed to be on the outside…to say nothing of the barnacles. I must admit that this was a first for me (barnacles inside the boat).

Numerous leaks were found and repaired, none were due to the boat or its construction, but rather things like through hull fittings that hadn’t been tended to in years. When I finished the bilge was actually dusty due to its dryness.

On one of our first fishing expeditions out of St. Augustine as Jane was out on the back deck she happened to notice small traces of oil coming out of our deck hose. She told George and I what she had found. Well, we soon came to the alarming conclusion that our vessel was half full of water and headed for the bottom. George looked at me and said “better head for the hill.” We immediately came about, picking up our rigs and made a rapid course for the inlet. It is far better to sink in shallow water than deep. We made the inlet, with our home and dock in sight and into water shallow enough to risk a slow down for a quick inspection of the bilge. I ran from the wheelhouse to the engine room and began pitching out floorboards…there it was, a rusted off coupling between the raw water pick up and the intake pump. With the engine running the suction was enough to hold the parts together…with the engine slowed the gushing water made a sizeable geyser. I told George to hold the coupling together and I went forward, gave the engine its full throttle and with a puff of black smoke we were off and going. On the way to the dock I had Jane retrieve an assortment of tapered plugs that I had come across when I was cleaning the boat out. The plugs are meant for temporary emergency repair of the hull.

When we were tied to the dock I wrapped the proper size plug with a rag and drove it into the raw water pickup and ran down the dock, got on my bicycle, went the two blocks to the plumbing shop, got the new part, came back and installed it and we were on our way back to the ocean and finished out the day fishing. Another strange coincidence was that just the day before I had reworked the electrical system in the bilge and had gotten both of our electric bilge pumps working…the first time both had ever been in service at the same time since we owned the boat.


 
On the back deck of the Secotan, Jane pulls the “Try-net” onboard.

On the back deck; George Tappin sorting our catch. Shrimp and squid were the best money makers but the variety of living creatures was never ending and everything that came aboard had pinchers that pinched, teeth that snapped, spines that poked and even electric shocks that startled. 

A couple of other surprises came with the initial cleaning of the vessel. One was that a LP gas line running from the top of the wheelhouse to the bilge and on to the galley had a bad connection that when touched hissed heavily and could have sent us together with the boat to the moon. Also under the console at the forward part of the wheelhouse was located our autopilot plus a nightmare of wires twisted together and without insulation. I showed George and he said,” what’s wrong with that.”  Well, I just touched one of the wires and a blinding shower of sparks filled the cabin…case closed. So, all new insulated wires complete with fuse panel and current limiters were installed.

Secotan hauled out on a marine railway at Usina’s North Beach fish camp.

Secotan after haul-out and new paint job, berthed in our front yard in St. Augustine.

Jane and I quickly found that an ice machine was a must in this business, so we made the purchase of a unit that would produce seven hundred pounds a day. The man that sold it to us said that it wouldn’t produce seven hundred pounds a day unless we locked it up…he was right.

The quality of seafood deteriorates rapidly and it is never any fresher than when it is caught…aged fish is worthless.

 Jane and I had attended several seminars on commercial fishing and the treatment of the catch. Two things were stressed above all and they were; cleanliness and freshness. It takes one pound of ice for each pound of catch…we also found out that it took eight pounds of diesel fuel for each pound of catch, but that was another story.

Another thing that we did was to put in fuel storage facilities so that we could fill our fuel and meet out ice requirements at our own dock. We also found that it was to our advantage to anchor out every other night as to save precious fishing time during the height of the season.

Jane had decided to pick up the squid that we caught; George said it was a waste of time to bother with those “slimy little buggers”.  Jane replied that it was OK with her but that then the squid were hers. One cooler of shrimp weighted one hundred pounds but one cooler of squid weighted one hundred seventy five pounds. Well, as it turned out the squid turned out to be one of our best moneymakers.

Each night when we would anchor out we would receive a call on the radio from the bait shop asking how much squid we had and how much bait shrimp. In a few minutes a boat would arrive with big coolers and a check already made out to us…everyone was happy and Jane made her point. As it turned out the money that we received for the squid paid all of our fuel and maintenance expenses…thank you Jane.

We had a very good agreement with our partner George, he was to take care of all of the nets and rigging plus teach us the art of shrimping. As George loved to say, “you can’t learn it all in one day”…that was a profound statement that we learned over and over.

Another friend loved to say, “If you want to catch a shrimp you have to think like a shrimp”…another profound statement.  My job in all of this was to make sure that the boat was in top operating condition and provide a place to dock it.

After our first season George came one day and informed us that he wanted out. We knew that he hated to give up his way of life but we made out a check on the spot and paid him off. Well, we had just lost our fisherman and teacher…what to do?

We laid out a plan of action.  First we would go with camera, clipboard and tape measure and pick every brain and scrutinize every shrimp boat and fisherman between St. Augustine and Savannah. Our first stop was Standard Hardware Company at Fernadina Beach, Florida.  Billy Burbank is a legend in his own time and also the brains behind the net shop there. Billy is a walking encyclopedia of facts on the shrimp industry. Besides knowing all of the fishermen and the names of all of the boats from Key West to the Carolinas he can tell you off the top of his head what type and size nets they all use.

Just to back himself up, he kept a card index with the information. This is a science that requires knowledge of the fishing habits of the fisherman, type of boat, size of rig, type of engine and power train and where it is used plus the type of shrimp they are after. Example: white shrimp fished in the fall require a balloon net and brown shrimp caught in the spring season require a semi- balloon net, each has a special cut and shape.

Oh, by the way!

This is a good time to explain just how this whole net thing works; pulled through the water by a cable extended from a boom and riding on the bottom of the ocean are two “doors”, in our case wooden panels thirty inches by sixty inches with a heavy steel ski-shaped skids running along the bottom. Attached symmetrically at the corners of these “doors” are four chains, all adjustable, these converge and are shackled together and attached to one side of the towing cable that is divided in two. The purpose of these “doors” is to hold the net against the bottom and at the same time using the force of the water it is being pulled through to spread the mouth of the net open. The adjustment of the chain lengths on the doors is crucial to make the net opening just right and not dig too deep into the bottom…a practiced eye on the wear pattern of the bottom of the “doors” will tell the story and thus tell just how to calibrate them. With the doors on both sides of the net opening it is spread and across the top are fastened floats to hold the top up and open. On the bottom is fastened a chain that weights it down and thus we have an opening.

Just ahead of the chain on the bottom is an other chain called a “tickler”, this lighter chain bounces along the bottom just ahead of the net opening, scares the shrimp into jumping and as the shrimp jumps off the bottom there is the net to snatch it up. At the trailing end of this funnel shaped net is a heavier portion known as the bag into which went the catch. Covering this portion was chafing gear consisting of lengths of rope looped and frayed at the ends to add bulk so as to keep it from wearing through on the ocean bottom and also to keep the sharks from attacking the catch within.

The procedure for putting this overboard and retrieving it is a story in itself and you won’t learn it all in one day.

The “bag” portion of the net is closed with a half inch braided rope tied in a loop and woven through the opening end of the net drawn tight, and overhand knotted so it can easily be undone by first tugging one side of the loop rope and next the other until the bag is slacked open and the catch is allowed to exit on to the deck from the net suspended overhead in the rigging. We witnessed several times porpoises clever enough to open the net…I still love them, maybe even more.

There was a third net called a “try-net”, small and independent of the other two. It was pulled back on board every fifteen minutes to sample the catch. In the small net we would multiply by approximately one hundred and come up with a good idea how the big nets were doing. Times, positions, results and notes were recorded in the ships log. On occasion we would discover the try net full of jellyfish…not good, as they only interfere with the catch and if the big nets are allowed to fill excessively the weight becomes unliftable. One week we replaced three snatch blocks that exploded in the rigging due to the extreme load. Another story too long for this article is the variety of catch that came on board and the surprise that came with it all. One example was when  a giant sea ray twelve feet across and almost two feet thick we loaded onboard our boat that was only twelve feet wide. Remember these were living things, and yes the ray was delivered back to the sea alive and unharmed and we hope still out there enjoying old age.

We never killed a sea turtle although our partner George used to say that they were nothing but a nuisance. Many a time a turtle of five hundred pounds or larger came out of out nets. We emptied our nets every hour or less and the turtles always came out alive, although some times groggy and needing a rest before we sent them back to their own environment. Some of the corporate owned boats unloaded their nets when the spirit moved them and most everything that came out of their nets was dead on arrival.

This turtle came out of our net and we gave him a rest on our back deck before returning him alive and happy to the sea.  The beer cans were also dragged up from the sea bottom.  The nets were always full of surprises….at times even dollar bills!

Jane and I were eager learners and our friends Greg and Mariann Vaccaro spent a day filling our minds with all that they knew…and that was a lot as they both had worked under the tutorage of one of the best in the business; Dominic Tringali owner of the Miss Joan, a sixty-eight foot fiberglass state of the art shrimp boat and he had spent a lifetime out to sea and was a real gentleman that shared his knowledge and was eager to help one and all. His knowledge was passed to Greg and Mariann and they were good enough to share it with us. We filled our minds and that helped us fill our nets…so many thanks!

Over the time that we owned the boat we were in a process of continuous upgrades. For example, our wheelhouse that was six plus feet wide on the inside and some fourteen feet long underwent many changes. The forward part was rounded with five ports (windows that dropped down to open) and was covered with a generous overhanging roof that kept out the rain and scorching sun. We painted it white and gave it an accent of Dutch blue to the trim and put on a protective cover of wood--grained Formica to the console, galley and dinette. All was highlighted with varnished tropical fruitwood.  Above the console was a twenty-four mile Decca radar that had excellent resolution and could distinguish different types of vessels and even depict waves breaking on the jetties, the only problem was that our repair bill brought the cost of operation up to about $25.00 an hour. The console top had our compass and gauges for the electrical and engine. Under the console was located our autopilot compass and drive motor plus the electrical fuses and current limiters. A fold down dinette table on one side with an Aladdin oil lamp above and mirror behind was across from the galley with its two-burner gas stove and salt-water sink…all was very compact and functional. Just aft was a double bed that served as a seat for one side of the dinette. The aft end of the wheelhouse cabin had sliding glass windows on three sides and the bed could be dissembled in less than a minute to expose the engine and engine room…many times hasty repairs were performed on the engine and we kept on going.

I always used to say about the Secotan, you could run the boat, cook in the galley and sleep in the bed all with one foot nailed to the floor.

Secotan tied to our dock in our front yard with lots of drop-in-company.

One nice sunny Sunday afternoon in the summer time we had just hauled our nets up and were headed for the inlet and we noticed on the radio lots of frantic conversation with the Coast Guard at Jacksonville concerning a capsized boat in the St. Augustine inlet. As we arrived on the scene we saw there was a capsized boat and men in the water. It was amazing that a dozen or more sport fishing boats were hovering about but not one was making the first attempt to pluck any of the survivors out of the water…it was like they were all standing around to witness someone drowning. Well, I took immediate action and left the marked channel with extreme caution through the ebbing spring current and kept an eye on the rise and fall of our vessel in the strong surge that lifted and dropped our vessel four to six feet with each passing wave. All the while we knew full well that one crash of our vessel on that hard packed bottom could be the last for our beautiful little boat. We managed to pick up the three survivors even though one was very heavy and weak, going into shock and had to be slung and winched onboard. We winched their sixteen-foot outboard boat up in the rigging very carefully as not to pull it to pieces as it was awash and full of water.

When we came about and started our careful trip back to the channel one of the survivors wanted us to go back for some of their possessions bobbing in the breakers. They still had absolutely no idea of how close they were to death and had not really grasped the gravity of their situation.

I called the Florida Marine Patrol on the radio to have them rendezvous with us inside the inlet and pick up the survivors; they wanted us to take the survivors to the nearby boat ramp…that was impossible because we were just too large a vessel to enter that channel.

That night we anchored and the next morning when I hit the starter button found that all our batteries were dead. Not one single boat would stop to help and we were with out a radio as well because of the dead batteries…I spent the day rowing the batteries in to our dock, charging them and rowing back. Jane had to stand by the boat the whole day.

This was a very good lesson in what to expect when you have boating problems and although we were thanked and remembered for many years after by the survivors I could remember only one person that ever came to our assistance and that was Dominic Tringali on the shrimp boat  Miss Joan. He offered help to us several times when we were in distressful situations.

One winter after we had sold our apartment complex and felt the need for an escape we put our bicycles on board, cast off and headed on a five month sojourn down the East Coast and over to St. Petersburg, Florida. We went slow, saw all of the sights along the way plus took the time to stop and visit many of the friends that we had cultivated back in our cruising days aboard our forty-six foot motor sailing yacht  Dursmirg.

As a commercial fishing vessel we were given a slip to tie our Secotan at Pinellas Sea Foods, a division of Red Lobster, in downtown St. Petersburg. It was great. We put our bicycles ashore, plugged in the electric, got a post office box and proceeded to live a low stress high self-indulgent existence. We had lots of time to enjoy the concerts, the library and to explore to our hearts content. We did go back to St. Augustine for two weeks to finish a duplex we were having built and rent it out. And when fishing was slow we took off for three weeks for a vacation in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico…that is another story.

As we retraced our steps back home in the spring we went at a slow and enjoyable pace and one of the highlights was a windstorm that we encountered at Hobe Sound south of Stuart.

Anchored behind a narrow piece of land close to the inlet we were secure with two anchors off the bow and one off the stern. We got a real sand blasting as the wind piped up to the point that it blew off our antennas and even threw the sea buoy up high and dry on the beach in front of us on the ocean side of the sand bar we were anchored behind…a snug harbor can be a priceless thing. As the radio announcer proclaimed on a local station…”if you are out in a boat today you are out of your tree!”

We started the shrimp season that spring but the catch was poor and it must have been worse other places as the usual fleet of St. Augustine shrimpers was now accompanied with many of the Georgia and Carolina shrimpers. The competition for this puny catch was too much and Jane and I both decided to put an ad in Boats and Harbors. The boat was sold July 28th, 1983, the check cashed, and four days later we were on a jet headed to Europe to pick up our new VW camper van and tour there for four months.

The deal we made with VW included our insurance and license plates for Europe plus the shipping of the van back to the US.

Upon our return from Europe, we traded the van for a piece of waterfront property, built a house with the rest of the shrimp boat proceeds and rented it out for some years and eventually sold it and then carried the mortgage…so you see my childhood coin collecting and the wonderful little “Secotan” gave us much. And, from them we had many years of rewards and lots of fond memories.

This story contains the roots for many more stories and over time I hope to bring it all together, so stay tuned.

Sitting on the back deck while at Pinellas Sea Foods dock at St. Petersburg, Florida.

A thought about where the fishing industry is headed; as population grows; so grows the competition for the world’s resources. In 1972 when we came to Florida there were seven million people, last count close to eighteen million. The new residents all want to have their own garden spot in the sun and they all march down to the shopping center and purchase all sorts of bug sprays, weed killers and lawn chemicals…years ago the impact wasn’t too profound but when you stop to consider that all of the inventory in all of the supermarkets is sold out and renewed every three weeks on average the problem starts to become obvious. All of the new home construction in Florida is required to be chemically treated. All apartment houses must be exterminated each month. And all homes with mortgages must be under bond to be commercially exterminated. Of course this doesn’t mention the fact that the huge agriculture industry pours millions of tons of lethal chemicals on also. Now consider this; each time you see it rain, all of these exotic chemicals designed to do nothing else but kill are running directly into the water that is the aquifer and the water that is the life blood of all of our marine life.

We all in the end are the final filter of these toxins and are at the top of the food chain.

Something must change if we, the people of this planet, wish to enjoy seafood in the future. Fish farming is a start and soon will be a must…eight pounds of diesel fuel for one pound of shrimp just isn’t acceptable anymore. 



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Warrior Dynasty: The Rise and Decline of Sweden as a Military Superpower

 


A Warrior Dynasty: The Rise and Decline of Sweden as a Military Superpower by Henrik O. Lunde

A niche in European history when Sweden's Viking heritage exploded to make the Baltic Sea into a Swedish lake.

I loved this historical turning point and the powerhouse personalities that made it happen. An amazing true life story especially for those of us that love to fill in the gaps that form our present day world.

Excerpts:

The kingdom of Denmark-Norway. Even if the distant territories of Iceland and Greenland are left out, the kingdom covered an immense area from northern Germany to the extremity of the European continent. The total length of the coastline was huge, providing easy access to both the Atlantic and the Baltic. To the south, the duchies in Jutland added a considerable German-speaking population. The nearby secularized bishop-rics of northern Germany were attainable objectives for the ambitious Oldenburg dynasty. The entrance to the Baltic was completely in Danish hands, and this not only brought great wealth into the royal coffers but gave the Danes great leverage with the western maritime powers. The islands of Gotland and Ösel, off the southeast coast of Sweden, were controlled by Denmark and posed a threat to Sweden, since they were stepping stones to the eastern Baltic, and locations facilitating naval control of the Baltic.


Kristian II was crowned king in Stockholm in November 1520. Before the ceremony many of the Swedish nobility were summoned to meet the king in the palace, and those who had fought against him were given unrestricted letters of amnesty. In a double-cross, these Swedish nobles were then summarily accused of being heretics and after a perfunctory trial by church leaders, led to the main square in Stockholm and executed. In less than two hours, Sweden lost at least 82 of its most prominent nobles. This incident came to be known as the Stockholm Bloodbath.


The Swedish army stopped for a week in Windsheim. After deciding that Wallenstein was no longer a threat, Gustav Adolf marched towards Swabia, intending to spend the winter there. Wallenstein abandoned and burned his camp on 21 September. He had so few horses remaining that 1,000 wagons of supplies were left behind in the inferno. He also abandoned all his sick and wounded and some of these perished when the camp was burned. Wallenstein marched north past Nuremberg to Forchheim, laying the countryside waste as he proceeded. The garrison of Nuremberg attacked the imperial rear guard and inflicted a large number of casualties, but this event was ignored by Wallenstein who continued into the rich farming area near Bamberg.


Sunday, January 10, 2021

To Selena, with Love by Chris Perez

Book Review - Five Stars

To Selena, with Love by Chris Perez

A real life love story with Selena beginning from the bottom and steadily climbing the ladder of success. I loved this story that had real impact on me and two of our adopted Mexican half sisters, Lupita and Grisel. Those two young children were born into poverty. We rescued Lupita when she was eight years old from the orphanage. They both had artistic roots and positively loved music with a beat. Selena and her group captivated our girls. My wife and I encouraged them.

Tejano music had became an integral part of American/Mexican culture. We loved it, and Selena had something very special to offer.

l recommend that you listen to Selena on YouTube and judge for yourself...she has a magical infectious attraction all of her own...we miss her.

Excerpts:

We were in the right place at the right time. Latin music seemed to be everywhere that year, playing on radios all across the U.S. and not just in our corner of the southwest. Billboard magazine had even started “Hot Latin Songs,” which tracked Latin music in the American music market. This chart was based on airplay on Spanish-language radio stations, but the songs didn’t have to be in Spanish. Selena’s idol, Rocio Durcal, put out the first song to reach number one on that chart, “La Guirnalda.” Since then, the chart had featured hits by Chayanne, Luis Miguel, Marco Antonio Solis, Ana Gabriel, Gloria Estefan, and Selena herself, whose duet with Alvaro Torres, “Buenos Amigos,” hit number one the year we were married. Within this mix.

Selena put her soul into singing. We were poised and ready to cross over into the international music scene like Gloria Estefan.

“Music isn’t a very stable business,” she said. “It comes and goes, and so does money. But your education stays with you.” “If you have a dream,” Selena added, “don’t ever let anybody take that away from you. The impossible is always possible.”

“The real way to think about marriage is that you have to each give one hundred percent.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World

 

BOOK REVIEW - FIVE STARS

God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy

Intensely thought provoking, this extremely in-depth and well researched book covers more than a thousand years of mind control and takes you up to the present day.

Recommended reading for all free-thinking people.

Excerpts:

Torquemada, who was the head of the Inquisition.

No series of events in recent times has produced more invocations of the Inquisition than the prosecution of the war on terror since September 11, 2001. The enactment of tough new legal instruments, the use of extralegal surveillance, the detention without trial of suspected enemies, the reliance on torture in interrogations, the pervading atmosphere of religious suspicion: taken together, these developments help account for the fact that a Google search of “inquisition” today yields upward of eight million entries.

In the year 1231 Pope Gregory IX appointed the first “inquisitors of heretical depravity” to serve as explicit papal agents. Thus began what is called the Medieval Inquisition, which was launched to deal with the menace posed to the Church by Christian heretics, notably the Cathars of southern France. The newly established Dominican Order, whose priests and nuns are identifiable to this day by their white habits, was instrumental in combating the Cathar heresy. Its founder, Dominic Guzmin, is the man celebrated in the 1963 song “Dominique,” by the Singing Nun (said to be the only Belgian song ever to hit No. 1 on the American charts). The inquisitors solicited denunciations and, as their name implies, conducted interrogations. Their efforts were highly localized, there was no central command. The inquisitors were aided in their work by the papal bull Ad extirpanda, promulgated in 1252, which justified and encouraged the use of torture, wielding philosophical arguments that have never wanted for advocates and that would eventually echo in the White House and the Justice Department. Within a century, the work of the Medieval Inquisition was largely done. One modern writer, reflecting on what makes inquisitions come to an end, calls attention to a simple reason: an eventual shortage of combustible material. The Dominicans were nothing if not thorough. As a Catholic growing up with many Jesuit friends, I remember hearing a comment about the difference between Dominicans and Jesuits: Both orders were created to fight the Church’s enemies, Cathars in the one case, Protestants in the other.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It

Book Review - Five Stars

The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It by Shawn Otto

Snookered: Corporate greed of Big Tobacco contrived an ingenious end game to bank forty years worth of ill-gotten gains at the expense of untold suffering by people from cancer caused by tobacco. An industry was born that would plunder the world into of an era of science deniers. It was discovered that the American public could be sold anything, even a war, and buying politicians was cheaper than paying taxes or employees.

This huge but fast moving book gave honest answers to why anti-vaccination, climate change and a host of other happenings led to a science denying divided country.

I loved this profoundly honest and extremely well researched book. I consider it to be a “must read.”

Excerpts:

Political and religious institutions are pushing back against science and reason in a way that is threatening social and economic stability.

Inaccessibility makes science and technology more into a matter of belief than know-how, making people more vulnerable to disinformation campaigns.



Throughout 2009 and 2010, raging battles were fought in GOP primaries throughout the country as energy-industry-funded groups recruited and promoted Tea Party candidates to run against Republicans who had voted for the cap-and-trade bill, utilizing evangelical Republican foot soldiers, and knocking the offenders out with relatively small investments. Climate science became equated with Obama and socialism in Republican talking points, and the technique of bashing science or promoting brazenly anti scientific positions became a political identity statement. By late 2010, fully ninety-four of one hundred newly elected Republican members of Congress either denied that global warming was happening (it was all a vast hoax by scientists, they said) or signed pledges to oppose mitigation.



A classic example is the intellectual flight from fascist Europe in the years leading up to World War II. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Berlin was the world capital of science, culture, and art, and these aspects fed off one another. Persecution, particularly of Jews, homosexuals, and artists’ spurred emigration that turned the United States into an intellectual mecca.



Science took an important leap in public consciousness during World War II, when it transformed from an exploration of nature into a means to win the war for democracy and against the tyranny that had overtaken Germany, Italy, and Japan. Radar and the atomic bomb were both Allied inventions that had major impacts on the war’s outcome, as did sonar, synthetic rubber, the proximity fuse, the mass production of antibiotics, and other key wartime innovations, with many of the efforts led by emigrants from an increasingly antiscience Third Reich.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Savages & Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire through Indian Territory

 

BOOK REVIEW - FIVE STARS

Savages & Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire through Indian Territory by Paul VanDevelder

An in depth look at the driving forces and historical powers, both religious and political, behind the mentality that drove American founders to expand and perpetuate their greed for expansive land acquisitions they called, Manifest Destiny.

This book is a classic of historical revelations that needs to be read and comprehended. I loved its numerous comparisons to humanistic worldly happenings.

Excerpts:

The southerners, including President Andrew Jackson, were hearing none of it. They wanted the Indians’ land, not their trust and friendship. By 1830, southern legislatures were determined to remove Indian tribes from their midst, and they were ready to use whatever means were necessary to accomplish the task. As historian Morgan Gibson has pointed out, nineteenth-century America was a sociopolitical environment controlled by fiercely ethnocentric leaders and followers who, despite all rhetoric to the contrary, regarded all other races and peoples as subhuman.


On July 8, 1970, Richard M. Nixon became the first president in history to deliver a speech to Congress on the subjects of federal Indian policy and Native American rights. After characterizing the termination era of the Eisenhower administration as “a national disgrace,” Nixon challenged lawmakers to join him in writing a new story for Indian country. “The American Indians have been oppressed and brutalized, deprived of their ancestral lands, and denied the opportunity to control their own destiny, yet their story is one of endurance and survival, of adaptation and creativity in the face of overwhelming obstacles.


The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 prompted an abrupt and dramatic return to the nihilistic paternalism of the past. The cause for that turnabout was neatly summarized in an article published in Forbes magazine that observed, with searing, atonal irony, “Now, at a time when the United States seems to be running out of practically everything, Indian reservations constitute one of the least-known repositories of natural resources on the continent.”


a secret committee made up of industry experts and their counterparts in conservative think tanks, such as the Rand and Heritage foundations, called the Strategic Minerals Consortium. The SMC was charged with the task of studying the problem of mineral scarcity and finding a way to gain easy access to mineral treasures in Indian country, Secretary of the Interior James Watt came up with a plan of his own, one that was eerily reminiscent of the strategy devised by Congresswoman Beck, Senator Watkins, and Commissioner Myer thirty years earlier. Watt proposed that Congress use its plenary power over the tribes to declare all treaties null and void. Then, the Indians should be moved off their reservations and into closer proximity to white citizens, in urban centers, where they could be more easily assimilated into mainstream society.


By 1983, however, most tribes had stepped into the modern era. By then, thanks to the Indian Education Act passed by Congress a decade earlier, thousands of young Indians had been trained as chemists, biologists, and lawyers in the white man’s colleges and universities. Rather than disappearing into urban America after graduation, many returned to their reservations with the intent of protecting their natural resources, their treaties, and their tribal sovereignty.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Our 51st Wedding Anniversary - December 20, 2020

 


Our 51st Wedding Anniversary

Jane and I were married December 20th, 1969. It wasn't the shortest day of the year but the longest night.

The very best years of my life have been spent with my very best friend and my sweet loving wife, Jane. We have actually been together for more than fifty five years and have lived our dreams to the fullest.

Ongoing adventures inspired us for even more and more of these marvelous shared escapades.

We began with canoeing, fishing, and camping and trips around Lake Superior to Niagara Falls, Florida, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Hawaii...never a dull moment.

Next I had an over-powering inspiration to to sail away, I knew this was going to be doable. The kind of boat I wanted was simply beyond our financial limits, so we would just build a boat. Easier said than done. Jane and I researched the subject and came up with a realizable five year plan. We were going where the wind blew, when the spirit moved us, and the price was right. I became keenly aware of the fact that youth only comes to you one time.

This intense life altering episode of our lives ultimately generated the Travel of Dursmirg series of books available in paper and digital editions, Sailing Beyond Lake Superior, Sailing the Sea Islands, Sailing the Florida Keys, and Sailing to St. Augustine.

I was laughed at behind my back and nicknamed Noah. My good friend Skip Koloski said to me, “Anybody that criticizes you has never had an original thought in their entire lives.” My dear old dad gave this useful bit of philosophy; “Friends are happy for your success, your enemies are jealous.”

Amazingly we encountered people who would say; “You are so lucky to have that 46-foot yacht, how did you get it?” My response was “We just didn't watch TV for five years.”

We lived aboard our dream boat for fifteen glorious years, the best years of our lives.

As the years advanced we had to change our game plan because of 22% runaway inflation devouring our hard fought savings.

We bought a handy man special apartment complex on four acres of park-like land adjacent to the tourist attraction, The Fountain of Youth, in Saint Augustine, Florida, with owner financing. Jane and I bought ourselves a huge job that paid about a nickel an hour with no vacation days. The first two years we owned the business every cent that came in went directly back into upgrades that we did ourselves. We only increased rents when we had a turn over and had renovated that apartment...there were 26 units. Our first year we had 26 turnovers, and the second year none. The Arab oil embargo gave us a real financial jolt. Heating oil was 16 cents a gallon when we bought the apartments. It then shot up to $1.30 a gallon. Our boiler burned 22 gallons an hour. This could have put us out of business. Our good friend Ed Weber was an instructor of heating and cooling systems and came to our rescue. With his ingenious innovations and adjustments we were able to cut the fuel consumption by two thirds, and he saved our business.

We needed a convenient place to dock our boat that was also our home. Each day we rowed ashore and then had a long bicycle trip to our new apartment business to start work before six a.m., not returning until after dark exhausted. We did extensive research on the subject and amazingly found what we were looking for across the street from our apartments. One glitch was that we would need to build a 540 foot long pier through the marsh. The land we would buy was contingent on our procurement of a dock building permit. We did our own soundings of the ground strata, and hired Harbor Engineering Company for the permits. I had done all of my own surveying, designing, and materials lists. Each pressure treated piling would need to be jetted down with water pressure to solid strata. The decking would be of prestressed concrete that was actually springy like our ferrous cement sailboat.

Three months of dock building while at the same time managing our apartment business, and we had our own private dock for or 46 foot sailboat that was also our home. Amazingly from our new dock we could sail out into the ocean in twenty minutes without having to go through any bridges.

Another interesting thing was that this creek was the same one that Ponce de Leon had sailed up looking for the Fountain of Youth more than four hundred years earlier.

Read about this amazing story in our book Sailing to St. Augustine.

The dock building project soon opened up even more adventures for us. We became commercial fishermen with our own shrimp trawler, Secotan, purchased a go-fast 26 foot Colombia sailboat El Barco, and we enjoyed several years more of fabulous boating adventures.

The tuning point in our lives came with another handy man special. We bought a VW camper van.

Traveling across the US, Canada, and Mexico plus extensively in Europe where we would keep one of our three camper vans and spend three to five months each year mostly bicycling using the van as our home base. From Norway and Sweden to Spain and Portugal and the British Isles to the East block countries. We biked, hiked, climbed the mountains, and sampled the beer, wine, and fabulous foods.

Living in Mexico has also been a part of the over half-century of our lives together.

Read more about our Yucatán adventures in our books, Yucatan’s Magic and Yucatan for Travelers.

Then click to take a tour of our house.

Now the corona virus has taken the lives of more that 3,000 American lives in a single day, that is more casualties than the entire terrorist attack on New York 9/11. These numbers continue to escalate each day and are expected to quadruple after the Christmas/New year festivities….thank you Donald!

Jane and I continue to enjoy our lives together appreciating every precious minute in our lovely tropical sanctuary in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.

Photos from our two-week honeymoon trip to Mexico City and Acapulco.  We flew from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Dallas, Texas, and then to Mexico City. 









Saturday, December 12, 2020

2020 OUR YEAR IN REVIEW

2020

Our year in review, sharing more than 55 years together with my best friend, my wife Jane.

We started the year in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico, on the Caribbean coast where we booked an apartment with all the amenities for two months, from mid-November to mid-January, escaping the clamorous Mérida holiday season. This was a six hour bus ride south of Mérida, we traveled light, but as always brought our folding bicycles.

Our location was fantastic. With the central market a block away we indulged ourselves in fresh produce, sea food, and numerous great eats. Every morning early we biked to the nearby bay front to enjoy our sunrise breakfast in perfect serenity with nature at at it’s finest. Great Mexican coffee is conveniently available all across Yucatán at OXXO convenience stores, and we got our daily fix there.

Days we biked, exploring the areas many historical places, visited our grandchildren, sampled local eateries. Afternoons and evenings we stretched out in our hammocks reading books on our Kindle readers plus listening to audio books and noteworthy podcasts. We had a giant screen TV we didn’t use once, but the internet connection kept us tuned into the world and connected with family and friends.

Returning back home to Mérida our daily routine of biking out to breakfast and shopping the local markets for fresh food was a slice of paradise, and preparations for our annual Europe trip were set in motion.

Then corona virus arrived in Mexico from Spain and Italy and next a private jet and two charters of Mexican skiers arrived from Aspen, Colorado, infected with the virus and promptly spread the bug.

The American president confidently assured us that the China virus as he called it would disappear when the weather warmed up and everything would be back to normal by Easter...it was just the sniffles! As casualties increased daily with no end in sight, the Mexicans began to call this the Trump virus.

America became the world’s number one hot spot for virus with daily deaths reaching over 3,000 in a single day by early December. This is more deaths than from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The number is expected to quadruple after the Christmas/New Year holiday. Private hospitals in Mexico are now demanding huge deposits for admission that have driven many to sell their cars and homes.

Compounding this problem is the fact that Mexico does not require quarantine on incoming air passengers and the secretary of health did not order sufficient flu vaccine medicine for this year.

This will be a very interesting time in history, if we live!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Word of Honor: A Peter Wake Novel by Robert N. Macomber

 

Book Review: Five Stars

Word of Honor: A Peter Wake Novel by Robert N. Macomber

The author delivers again in this breathtaking ongoing progression of America's naval influence as it expands into a world superpower. I especially loved the book’s fast moving pace of action taking the reader on a wild roller coaster ride of history. Peter Wake’s struggle, from heart warming love to poisonous personalities, kept me glued to this enthralling and mysterious narrative.

EXCERPT:

United States had invaded at the wrong place in Cuba at the wrong time of the year: the jungles of eastern Cuba during the summer fever season. Malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, typhoid, and dysentery had greatly weakened the regiments.

Word of Honor is part of the award-winning Honor Series of historical naval novels featuring Peter Wake.