La Riposte

Published Works

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hoist High the Colors!

A Questionable Standard
In days of yore, it was often necessary for the seagoing scoundrel to be prepared to repel boarders, but today one is more likely to be obliged to welcome them...

This was the case a few days ago when I had the good fortune to bring aboard my first guests - my sister-in-law Anya and her mother, who was visiting from Ukraine.
To prepare for their visit, I spent the better part of the day engaged in running up the Jolly Roger, scrubbing the Gypsy Danger 'til she shined (or was at least presentable) installing a pair of tatami mats from Japan and a nice set of Persian rugs and pillows from Bahrain, obtaining the necessary victuals – rum, vodka, assorted mixers, strawberries, bananas, and a lovely pumpkin roll... The piratical ensign was a souvenir from the birthday cruise to the Bahamas, and a salute to my lovely guests' purpose in visiting my nautical abode enroute to a Pirate Festival on Tybee Island.
The visit was quite fabulous, and over all too quickly, but I do hope to entertain many more guests in the days to come, so if you're headed for the Lowcountry, be sure to drop me a line. On Sunday, as I sat finishing up a post for my general-purpose writing blog, I heard a tapping, gently rapping a'la Poe's Raven upon the side of my vessel. It was my new neighbor, Bill Kelly, a retired Coast Guardsman on his way South to the Bahamas inviting me over for drinks and conversation on the Sea Chantey, a 36-foot Sea Trader which he, his wife Tamara, and their son are sailing along the Great Loop.
During our conversation, I asked if it was considered bad form to fly a skull and crossbones on your vessel, and was informed that some folks did indeed consider it to be a bit outre; delving a little deeper into the subject, I discovered that there was indeed a range of thought on the matter – one digest of flag etiquette began its discourse with “Rule No. 1—There are no real rules. Customs observed in various foreign waters differ from each other...” In another forum, a fellow asking "Where would I fly a pirate flag if I wanted to do so with proper flag etiquette?" received answers ranging from “You wouldn't. Any member of a civilized society would have opened fire on a pirate ship and sunk it on sight.” to “I was always under the impression that pirates didn't pay much attention to etiquette of any sort...”
I'm rather leaning toward the latter sentiment, myself, and may perhaps compromise by flying the flag of the Swedish Pirate Party, as I am rather fond of Swedes, pirates, and parties in general - but it does raise an interesting subject about which I promise to wax philosophic in some greater detail at a later date. Piracy – is it a bad thing, or could it really be, in net terms, a good thing? Before you answer, consider that The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has grossed about 3.72 billion dollars to date, and that without historic piracy, not a penny of that would have been realized.
A military mna with piratical sympathies - shocking, no doubt, but there is a historical precedent - Major Stede Bonnet, "The Gentleman Pirate" was an unlikely, unlucky, and not entirely unsuccessful pirate... A one-time confederate of Edward Teach, the notorious Blackbeard, Bonnet was hoodwinked by the cannier, more ruthless Blackbeard and, having broken his pardon and returned to piracy, was captured after a hard-fought battle on the Cape Fear river, taken to Charleston in chains and eventually hanged.
Well, I shall look forward to a happier end than a long drop on a short rope, but back to the question at hand - is modern piracy (a term applied with equal opprobrium to nautical raids on merchant ships and downloads of electronic media) a global good, or a global ill?
It's estimated that modern piracy around the Horn of Africa cost 6 billion dollars in 2012 – but the majority of those “costs” were in fact payments to working folks in the security industry and extra pay for sailors traversing dangerous waters – thus, pirates are contributing to jobs and higher wages for blue-collar workers, which is a goal to which many of the world's governments might well aspire to!
But I'm all verklempt – discuss among yourselves!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Le Premiere Poste!

The Gypsy Danger in her old berth near Folly Beach, SC
Greetings and salutations!

Welcome to my latest literary project, a journal of a year spent living aboard my latest acquisition and project, a 32-foot motor yacht!

I found this little diamond in the rough on while I was still over in Afghanistan, and made an offer on her when I returned to the U.S. in mid-July...

It took a while to get everything sorted out, but I finally took her on a maiden voyage last weekend from her old berth near Charleston to our new home at the Lady's Island Marina in Beaufort, SC. This was a 66-mile cruise through the Intra-Coastal Waterway, which proved at times peaceful and relaxing (cruising with both engines) to worrying (losing an engine) to white-knuckle terrifying (docking for the first time at night in tight quarters with one engine and the horrifying prospect of crashing your floating home into someone else's!)

All's well that ends well, as the Bard said, and now we're happily ensconced in a cosy berth walking distance from a great restaurant, a couple of dive bars, and a yoga studio. Downtown Beaufort is just over a tall bridge, a long walk or a short bike ride away, and work is a 15-minute drive with no traffic to speak of... All in all, it's a pretty great spot, and rent, when you're living on the water, is quite inexpensive - I'll probably pay less than $400 a month, including WiFi and electricity.

This whole week I left and returned in the dark each day, and wasn't able to do much besides sleep and fix lunch - work has been terribly busy of late and shows little sign of abating. So, this morning it was quite nice to sleep until I felt like waking up, spend the morning cleaning out the salon, going to a yoga class, and then sunbathing on the forward deck with a good book.

During the afternoon I got a haircut and signed some papers for a real estate transaction, and then enjoyed a light supper, poured a glass of Apothic Red (a rather delicious vintage, to which I was recently introduced by my lovely sister Kaiti) and got cracking on putting up this blog.

I spent a good bit of time putting together the art for the header, and a few more minutes before bedtime in scribbling out this little post. Tomorrow I'm making a run up to Charleston to say hi to the nephews and my lovely sister-in-law, and to catch a matinee with my brother Joe, pick up some stuff I had mailed to their house, and come on back down to (hopefully) do a bit of writing before bedtime.

I'll be updating this blog weekly, putting together the material for another future book, perhaps...

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!