Letters

Letters 12-05-2016

Trump going back on promises I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve been conned by our new president. He’s backpedaling on nearly every campaign promise he made to us...

This Christmas, think before you speak Now that Trump has won the election, a lot of folks who call themselves Christians seem to believe they have a mandate to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Think about doing this before you start yelling about people saying “happy holidays,” whining about Starbucks coffee cup image(s), complaining about other’s lifestyles…

First Amendment protects prayer (Re: Atheist Gary Singer’s contribution to the Crossed column titled “What will it take to make America great again?” in the Nov. 21 edition of Northern Express.) Mr. Singer, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Evidence of global warming Two basic facts underlay climate science: first, carbon dioxide was known to be a heat-trapping gas as early as 1850; and second, humans are significantly increasing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. We are in fact well on our way to doubling the CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere...

Other community backpack programs I just read your article in the Nov. 28 issue titled “Beneficial backpacks: Two local programs help children.” It is a good article, but there are at least two other such programs in the Traverse City area that I am aware of...

A ‘fox’ in the schoolhouse Trump’s proposed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos (“the fox” in Dutch), is a right-wing billionaire; relentless promoter of unlimited, unregulated charter schools and vouchers; and enemy of public schooling...

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The Old Boat

Robert Downes - July 6th, 2009
The Old Boat
Robert Downes 7/6/09
I bought an old sailboat a few years ago and have since been soaked with the thrill of discovering the ‘other’ side of Northern Michigan that starts at the waterline.
“Missbehavin’” is a 31-year-old junker with an appalling number of broken, missing, loose or frayed parts. Since I don’t know enough about sailboats to know exactly what should go where or how, I’ve taken to patching Missbehavin’ up with bungee cords, the greatest invention known to man this side of duct tape.
Built in 1978, Missbehavin’ is a CL-16 dinghy, meaning a Canadian version of the 16-foot Wayfarer, which was a popular racing boat prior to the invention of the catamaran and the Laser. I bought it used from the Traverse Area Community Sailing club; apparently the dinghy once belonged to a well-loved sailor who used to ply it up and down Lake Leelanau. Since it‘s bad luck to rename a boat, I’ve kept the original name, even though she’s been behaving pretty good so far.
Since I’ve only had a couple of lessons from my much braver brother Mike, I approach the idea of sailing with a healthy sense of cowardice. Forget racing. The truth is, I’m mostly a self-taught sailor, and when the boat heels way over with the wind, I’m more likely to be filled with the terror of tipping over, than the exhilaration of ripping through the waves.
Especially since I sail out on East Grand Traverse Bay, where you seldom see another sailboat. And since no one is crazy enough to go with me, I’m generally “testing the waters” alone.
But that mix of terror and exhilaration is what gives sailing its edge -- otherwise known as fun -- and you always feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment after an hour or two of bouncing on the surging back of the world.
That’s the other thrill of it: feeling the power of nature in a very primal way. The shock of the waves pound at the hull, through your feet and up your spine.Out on the bay, you get the sense that the earth is a wild, mysterious living creature that could gobble you down in a twinkle if you fail to respect its power. You get the feeling that despite all of the bad things we do to the earth -- overpopulation, global warming, polluting the seas, fouling the groundwater -- the goddess Gaia could shrug our effects off in an instant of geologic time, if and when she ever decides to get rid of us.
Like sailing itself, that raw feeling of being a part of nature is something you can’t learn from a book. I’ve puzzled over ‘how to’ books and can never remember a lick of advice; you’ve just got to get out on the water and learn first-hand how to dump the wind from the sail when the boat is going over, or how to tack your way back to port when it seems hopeless that you’ll reach home.
There are many hoary, cliche-filled books and articles on sailing as a metaphor for life. I saw a new one at a bookstore just the other day. So I won’t disappoint you by not including some here:
• Always turn into the wind; if you luft and turn against it, you risk flipping over. Meaning, what seems to be the easy way out is often the worst direction you can take in life.
• Know your knots to keep yourself and your boat safe and secure. The same is true of your relationships with family, friends, work and spouse.
• Beware of tangled lines: they cause distractions and accidents. The same as in your personal life.
• Don’t be a slacker and count on bungee cords to get by. Unless you pack a bunch of extra bungee cords in case one breaks.
(I threw that last one in, hoping to add to the store of nautical wisdom.)
My genes have always been hardwired to the land, so I’m amazed by people who have sailing in their blood. You hear of people who decide on a whim to build their own sailboats and cross the Atlantic Ocean to England; or teenagers who sail around the world alone.I know of one local sailor whose dream is to pilot a small boat up towards Greenland.
Then you think of the Vikings who made their way to our shores in 50-foot longboats, or the Irish monks who supposedly made it to South America back in the Middle Ages in round boats covered with animal skins. Or the Polynesians, following the smoke of distant volcanoes across the seas in their outriggers.Or the Ojibwa, who made epic crossings of Lake Superior in birch bark canoes. Surely, true sailors must be among the bravest of the brave.
On that score, I’ve yet to become a ‘true’ sailor, or to pass the test of flipping my boat, which is a rite of passage. While mooring my boat the other day, a passing teenager assured me that “turning turtle” is loads of fun.
I’m not so sure. So if you ever see some guy hanging onto an upside-down boat out on East Bay, please be sure to stop by and say hello.
And for you landlubbers, give some thought to getting out on one of our local sailboats this summer: the tall ship Malabar and Nauti-Cat in Traverse City come to mind, as do Sunshine and Bay Breeze Charters in Charlevoix, among others.With the wind in your hair, the sun in your eyes, a wave in your face, and a beer in your hand, you’re sure to experience the best that the ‘other’ side of Northern Michigan has to offer.
 
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