Developing Leaders Through the Lessons Life Gives Us

Stray Voltage

I can’t imagine

Posted by on Oct 22, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 0 comments

“I can’t imagine living on a boat.”  That comment is from a friend of mine at work last week. I got to thinking about it, wondering what it might be that makes living aboard seem so untenable. It’s a tough question, so I fixed a nice gin and tonic and sat on the back deck, watching the sun paint the water with a thousand different shades of yellow and red. I remembered getting ready for my first hurricane onboard – everybody knows I’m a newbie, and it seemed like everybody came by to check on us. As the light faded, the call of herons and seagulls and the occasional splash of a mullet splashing in his escape attempts interrupted my contemplation. As the gentle movement of a moored boat rocked me to sleep I still hadn’t found the answer. When I left the boat the next morning, about thirty minutes before full sunup, I was still thinking about it. A thick fog had settled on the water, lights of neighboring boats haloed, seemingly in the distance. The normal sounds, water lapping against the pier, the never-ending birds, all sounded muted somehow. Within thirty feet my boat had disappeared behind me. The heron didn’t know I was coming and cawed their anger at my interrupting their sleep, the sound coming from everywhere and nowhere. That weekend, as we moved through the water at a comfortable 7 or 8 knots, I could hear the conversation of my friends behind me and realized that I can’t imagine not living on a boat. I just wish we had made the move sooner. Share this:FacebookLinkedInTwitterPrintEmailLike this:Like...

Read More

Ten things about living on a boat

Posted by on Jul 26, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 3 comments

Boats are awesome. Living on one is downright groovy and I say that with confidence because I have a whole two months experience in doing so. Even so, there are a few things I wish I’d known before we moved onto the boat. We have lived in a lot of different houses, but houses are different. They are neutral; a house doesn’t care if you’re there or not. It simply is, and you live there with little interaction. A boat is almost a living thing. It’s like a cat, alternating from ambivalent to your presence to demanding attention to plotting to kill you, and the shift between each one can happen without warning. Stupid cats. Anyway, here are the things I wish I’d known before we moved onto a boat. Forget navigation, engines, all that sexy stuff. You want to understand how the heads work. Not just basic function, but the whole thing, plumbing, electrical and all. Trust me on this one. A 35 gallon holding tank (onboard sewer) isn’t very big for a live aboard.  When you realize your holding tank is full at 2am on a Saturday morning and you won’t be able to get it emptied till Tuesday it becomes supremely important. Marine air conditioner systems work great! They do, however, need maintenance on a regular, routine basis. Fail to do that, and the gods of the sea will ensure that your AC fails at ten am on the hottest day of the year. Give your AC system love and attention they way you do your wife or your mistress; check on it frequently, do the little things that keep it happy, and remember that it grudgingly suffers your presence, always looking for an opportunity to ruin your day. Fail to tend to it at your own peril. Marine plumbing is illogical. In a house gravity is key for plumbing. In marine plumbing gravity is a nice concept but generally not important. Unlike your AC systems, plumbing on a boat requires brute force and aggression. You can never fit as many people as you think on a boat. Make your best guess and reduce it by at least 25%. Take care of your power inlet cables. Getting water in the cable can cause a short that cuts out all power at midnight after a night of partying. At least that’s what I hear. Being close to a bath house is a good thing. Some things simply shouldn’t occur in a small, enclose space, especially the morning after really good Mexican food. Be respectful of whoever is on the boat with you and of your own nasal passages, find a slip with a nearby bath house. Water is important. Not what the boat floats on, but what you drink. Boat water systems can comfortably handle 30-40 lbs of pressure. Some docks have 60+ lbs of pressure. I found out the hard way. Find a regulator to control pressure and find a filter that can accommodate drinking water needs. You...

Read More

Moon over troubled waters

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 0 comments

A couple nights ago we had been working all evening on the boat, stowing stuff away, trying to figure out which breaker had to be in which position so that switches on the walls actually worked, that sort of thing. Fun stuff for new boaters. After dinner I decided to take a shower. In the middle of getting into the shower I decided to check something in the engine room first. Translation: I went stark naked from one end of the boat to the other, hoping that no neighbors were outside of open windows, to check on something I had worked on earlier. I flipped on the lights for the engine room and noticed water on the inside of the window. My knowledge of boats is limited, but I am pretty confident water is supposed to be on the outside of the boat, and that was definitely water and definitely inside. I cracked the door open and saw that a water line had come disconnected at the far end of the engine room and was spraying all over like a poorly attended fire hose. “What the hell”, I thought to myself, “at least I’m not gonna get any clothes dirty” and I advanced into the spray. A quick side note: if you hook your boat up to shore water, ensure there is a regulator on there somewhere. Boat plumbing ain’t high pressure. The errant line was of course all the way at the back of the engine room. It is a walk in space, 5’6” ceiling. I am 5’8”, which explains all the cuts and bruises on my head, but that’s a different story. I crawled up on the battery box, grabbed the water line, found where it was supposed to be and took it all apart so it could be reassembled, hopefully to hold together. As is normal in these situations, I dropped something and it went down into a couple inches of bilge water. Crouched down on my knees, my head and arms well below knee level as I tried to find this little piece of brass by feel with water spraying across my back, I heard my wife yell down the stairs. “Honey, is everything ok?” I could hear her coming down the stairs, just steps from looking into the engine room. Imagine her view. With muttered apologies to Ray Stevens I yelled out “Don’t look, Ethel!” But it was too late. She done got a free shot. I heard the scream and I think she fell in her hurry to get back up to the salon. I thought it was funny and started laughing, dropping that damn brass thingie again. It took a while but finally the water was under control, everything cleaned up and I headed back towards the shower. As I stomped through the salon, the remnants of my dignity dissolving with her barely controlled laughter, she said “Honey, you promised me we could watch the moon over the water. I hope that’s...

Read More

The good ship Liberty – Pt 1

Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 0 comments

Buying a boat is somewhere between the nuisance of buying a car and the irredeemable pain in the ass of buying a house. And that’s just the paperwork. We closed on the good ship Liberty on 10 June. It is a 44 foot DeFever trawler, slow as Christmas to an eight year old but reliable and sturdily built.  Most importantly, it has lots of storage, and my beautiful bride the beauty queen needs every bit of it. The inspection of the boat went well, no real issues, and we were ready to take possession on 11 June. Then that whole “reality” thing . . . . The morning of 11 June the starboard motor wouldn’t start. We tried to boost it with the generator, which started first try. That didn’t work, so we shut down the generator. Using jumper cables from the trunk of my car, we jumped the starboard engine from the port engine, and finally both were running! Except the damn generator wouldn’t start back up; we had shut it down just because it was loud, now it wouldn’t even tick over. Clearly there was a reset button somewhere in  need of attention, but damned if I could find it. I was desperate to see both engines and the generator all running at the same time before I let the broker completely off the hook, and to some extent I succeeded.  I mean, all three engines ran till we turned them off.  Then that stinkin’ starboard engine still didn’t want to start. And by the way, the center bilge pump quit working, we had nasty bilge water deck deep in the engine room. The survey (a fancy nautical term for inspection) said the fore and aft bilge pumps were questionable.  Be damned if they don’t both work perfectly, it’s the center one that’s fried! Day two of boat ownership involved several hours of bilge pump replacement, switch trouble shooting, bilge switch replacing, cursing and alcohol consumption, more switch trouble shooting, breaker replacement, another freakin’ bilge pump replaced, a couple hours trying to figure out why there are two switches for one bilge pump, more cursing, a lot more alcohol, and finally, against all logic and common sense, the damn thing started working. Yea verily, the angels were singing. There was a day three of boat ownership, but the after effects of day two render it un-rememberable. There was a day four of boat ownership as well, but we’re not gonna talk about that. Not now.  Not ever. Just . . . don’t ask. Ever. Day five through ten of boat ownership was strangely reflective of day one. Too much water in the bilge, electrical systems not working, moving stuff onboard, cleaning the deck, moving more stuff onboard, moving more stuff into storage. This is so much more fun than worrying about lawn sprinkler systems, watering the garden, mowing the grass, and maintaining the pool.  I’m really gonna enjoy living on a boat.   Share this:FacebookLinkedInTwitterPrintEmailLike this:Like...

Read More

Memorial Day

Posted by on May 20, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 0 comments

It was the week before Memorial Day in 2013 when I was asked to write a Command Message commemorating that weekend. It was written with an audience of uniformed service members in mind. The below is the result. As our Army emerges from a decade of war we are rightly focused on the future and the myriad challenges that it will bring.  The unstoppable march of time brings change, but despite that change one thing remains constant – the courage and dedication of our Soldiers.  For over 200 years America has given its sons and daughters to the unending cause of liberty. From the freezing winds of Valley Forge and the Huertgen Forest to the blistering heat of Khe San and Iraq, Soldiers have given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today. The fought for the flag and they died for their fellow Soldiers, men and women no different than you and I. Their sacrifice deserves to be recognized. This Memorial Day take the time to commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  It was 1868 when GEN John Logan, Commander of the Army of the Republic, designated 30 May as a day to place flowers on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Today in parades and celebrations all around this great land the tradition of remembering our fallen heroes continues. To many Americans Memorial Day is a welcome day off from work, a time to celebrate the arrival of summer with barbeque and fellowship. For some it has a deeper meaning. Memorial Day rekindles the pain of losing a loved one, a friend. It makes the prideful fires of knowing a true hero burn even brighter. It tightens the bonds that hold us together as brothers and sisters in uniform. As you read this, remember the names of friends, fellow Soldiers, lost in the past decades. We should celebrate this day with pride, representing the Military and this Nation to all who know us as Soldiers.  Keep yourselves safe. Reach out to your fellow Soldiers, make sure they know that our military family is always there. The only thing worse than losing a brother to war is to lose him at home. Do your part to take care of our brothers and sisters in uniform. In General Order #11, GEN Logan stated “If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us”. That solemn trust has passed through generations and now lies with us. Keep your heart warm in that trust, and God bless our Soldiers. Share this:FacebookLinkedInTwitterPrintEmailLike this:Like...

Read More

Bubbas

Posted by on Apr 19, 2017 in Stray Voltage | 4 comments

After my last post I got a message about my use of the word “Bubbas” to refer to my fellow Veterans. Someone thought it was kind of funny, and I guess maybe it is. There is a story behind it. Let me tell you what happened. In 2003 I was assigned as a full time Soldier working at a Reserve Center. At that time the ground war in Iraq had just ended and Mother Army needed augmentees to fill all the random jobs that inevitably cannot be anticipated. One of  my responsibilities was filling those jobs. They came in as requisitions to be filled, and we referred to the individual positions  in a requisition as “fills”. We would review personnel rosters to find the right people with the right skill sets, give them a call, and cut orders to send them overseas. If you got a call from me it was a bad thing; you would soon spend 400 days away from home. The most common response when we called to send someone overseas was “When do I leave?” There was complaining, sure, but rarely did anyone try to get out of it. I was truly impressed by those men and women who, with normally less than thirty days’ notice, were uprooted from friends, family and job to go into harm’s way. One young man we sent came home early. He had a wife and two kids. I met them at his funeral. They are good, good people, the kind of folks you want as friends and neighbors. After the funeral when I got back to the office it started again – “Sir, we have another 8 fills.” I realized we had become complacent, inured somewhat to what we  were really doing. We had stopped taking it seriously; our culture had shifted subtly and we needed realignment.  The people we selected were husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and their lives would be forever changed. They aren’t fills. Referring to them that way diminished the importance of their sacrifice and in so doing diminished our responsibility to them. We as Veterans have a near  familial responsibility to each other, and none of us should ever do anything to minimize that role.  They, my fellow Veterans, are and will always be my brothers and sisters. My bubbas. Share this:FacebookLinkedInTwitterPrintEmailLike this:Like...

Read More
%d bloggers like this: