Rainy Day

On the hard, Clinton River MI, and waiting the passing of rain, not that rain is a thing to stop one from doing what must be done, but this is a time to sit below and reflect on a life of going to sea and how boats have shaped that life.  I think I’ve never seen such a concentration of pleasure boats in my life as up and down the shores of the River Clinton.   It seems every inch of the riverbank is devoted to boats in one way or another, mostly moorage.  They call them “wells” here, with signs proclaiming “Boat wells starting at $399”.   What aren’t in the wells are parked ashore, waiting.   My kind of place!

This brings to mind the adage “many boats, few sailors”.   I ponder it and ask this question  “OK, what is a sailor anyway and when does someone become a sailor?  When did I become a sailor?”  (Mariner, seaman, engineer and yachtsman …lets include them and make no distinction based on prejudice of vessel or billet filled.  I’ve know some seaman better sailors than some captains and some captains that would make you the best deckhand you’ll ever have, in turn.) 

Comparisons are useful but never quite accurate.  Can I say I’m a sailor compared to Captain Lem?  Never!  But he does remain my role model.  “What would Captain Lem do?” helps me find the right answer. 

The Captain had a pig and chicken tattooed on his feet.  “Well, Tommy, ya see” he said “a pig never drowns and a rooster never falls.”  Ok, it worked for him, but for me, I’ve gone to sea one way or another for 45 years yet never felt it necessary to get a tattoo.   I will admit that long ago before it became fashionable, when I sailed with The Captain on the Schooner LISTER, I did try to pierce my ear with a sail needle and wear a gold earring,… but it got infected and swelled up so I gave it up PDQ and never tried that again.

No, it’s not tattoos and earrings that make a sailor, though they do make it easier to recognize one in a crowd at the airport.  Is it rum drunk?  No, let me state right here, right now, drunk and sailor are not synonymous.  So what is it that separates the seaman, the mariner, form the guy who just happened to have enough money to buy a boat?  I have deduced two things.   They are sea-miles, lots and lots of sea-miles, and desire.  When you have some of one and lots of the other, then it will not matter what you call yourself; seaman, sailor, mariner, fisherman, waterman, boatman or yachtsman.  It will not matter the size of vessel or whether the water is fresh or salt, ocean, sea, river or lake.  It will not matter whether you are male or female.  You will know you are a sailor when in your heart you know you are a sailor.  And it is a fine, noble and good thing to be.

It’s time to put the boat back in the water.

"Tiny" Ben Saint

"Tiny" Ben Saint

Josh Landry

Josh Landry

4 Responses to “Rainy Day”

  1. Toni Shaffer says:

    Hi Tommy,

    I have read every word you have written on this trip and enjoy it so much. I think you are bringing vicarious pleasure to so many of us. I get a thrill everytime you mention Daddy and especially what he meant to you. I feel he is sailing with you and he will tell your story to all the angels in heaven. God bless you.


  2. Eve says:

    Still reading every day…sad sad about the Edmond Fitzgerald. Went kayaking today..what peace!

  3. unstranger says:

    You write excellent guides. Start the book.

  4. bob hollingsworth says:

    Greetings Tommy, The Bellingham gang continues to follow your exploits with keen interest. Being a mid-west sailor your trip brings back many memories. Nine of my buddies and I when we were 14 years old launched the mighty 24′ WW 1 lifeboat named Miss Carriage into Lake Michigan and several years of epic trips began. As documented by the USCG our sins and transgressions greatly surpassed your malfunctioning anchor light.

    So, here is to fair winds, maintain a firm grip on the tiller and keep that machine pointed north. Best to you and hello to Tiny and Josh.

    During the first 2 weeks of July I’ll be doing a gig on Chisik Island in Cook Inlet, Alaska at a 1920 vintage cannery which holds promise of another fine event.