Aug 10 2014
Archive for the 'General' Category
Aug 09 2014
Incredible pictures. Such a shame, a Concordia yawl is my dream boat and a true work of art.
Update: she's up
Jul 18 2014
Nice job by Maryjo Wheatley on this video for the Barnstable Land Trust's efforts to save the land around Lowell Park, home field of the Cotuit Kettleers. I was happy to sit and talk with her but didn't expect, well, you'll see... Maryjo is an amazing videographer, she worked for WGBH, the legendary PBS operation in Boston, and was in communications at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute back in my Forbes days. She helped me get a story about the very earliest GPS digital charting technologies back in 1993. Her husband, Capt. Bob Boden is a distant cousin and long-time friend. The three of us sometimes catch the Kettleers together -- but this has not been the most baseball-ish summer for me. Too much client work is keeping me locked to my desk, then add in house guests, bad weather....there's still time.
Anyway. back to the cause at the center of the video. The Barnstable Land Trust has until the end of the year to come up with the money to complete the purchase of the 19-acres of woodlands that surround Lowell Park to the north and the east. At risk is a key part of Cotuit's open space. For the team, what's at risk is a really nice "batter's eye" in terms of an uninterrupted backdrop behind the pitcher so the batters can pick up the ball hurling towards them at 90+ mph.
The BLT is conducting their annual fundraising, auction, to-do on Ropes Field this Sunday afternoon from 3:30 to 7 pm
Jun 25 2014
The Greedheads of Popponesset Bay will not go quietly as far as Richard Cook's oyster farm is concerned . Having failed to sneak in a midnight amendment to the state budget to declare his underwater clam farm a "marine sanctuary," they are falling back on that time-honored last resort of the wealthy which is to out-lawyer the little guy. Sort of like raising the bet in a poker game until everybody has to fold.
Having been denied by every Mashpee board with a horse in the race, the homeowners (a largely anonymous group who have hired Sandwich pettifogger Brian Wall to keep dragging things along), are now appealing to the State Supreme Judicial Court to kick the case to the Cape Cod Commission for their review because it is a commercial venture.
The appeals court already slapped Wall and his waterfront clients down when they said their objections are without claim because the project is outside of the town's zoning authority because it is beyond the extreme low tide mark.
Three years and counting. And all over a clam farm.
Jun 25 2014
With regards to the biting soccer star from Uruguay, I offer the following solution to FIFA's disciplinary committee:
My father , the late Tony Churbuck, had a proven parenting technique for stopping the biting of siblings and friends. This was a man who's life's motto was "Don't get mad. Get even."
He would examine the bitten party, calm them down, and check to see if their skin was broken and if they needed hydrogen peroxide and bandages. After calm and quiet was restored he would call the biter over and ask them to present the same body part on themselves that they had just chomped on the victim.
The biter, lulled into complacency by watching his victim be consoled and examined for damage, would usually approach Tony and sheepishly extend the same body part. At which point Tony would take a nice, firm grip (from which there was never any escape) and bite the biter. Hard. He would do this to cousins, even visiting friends, and always deny it if accused.
If I were FIFA I would hire Mike Tyson to deliver the penalty.
Jun 11 2014
5 am today, sitting down and reading the "paper" on my tablet, the birds waking up and hitting the feeders under the grape arbor and making their usual racket when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I see an explosion of birds scattering in all directions and a grey blur go whistling past the window.
This was the local grey fox who lives somewhere in the woods between me and the harbor on the hunt for a squirrel. Grey foxes used to be the most common fox on the East Coast (they range all over the country from Canada to Mexico, Cape Cod to the Channel Islands off of Santa Monica) but now the more familiar red fox is the one you see around the garbage cans at the beaches the most. They are like little dogs, in fact they are one of the most primitive of the canids, about the size of a skinny beagle with a sort of mongrelish, mini-coyote look to them. Definitely not the more stylish and regal look of the red fox.
The birds fled the scene but the squirrel who had been hanging upside down on the peanut feeder decided to hide in the grape leaves. Because the house sort of envelops the arbor on three sides in an alcove, the escape route is one way across the yard where they can either cross the open grass and duck into the bushes, or cut right towards Main Street, or left towards the back gardens and the chicken coop. This squirrel decided to wait things out on top of the arbor.
The fox circled the arbor for a few minutes. Freezing from time to time whenever the squirrel rustled the leaves and made a move towards the great escape. The fox stood on its back legs and peered into the dense green cover, then dropped back down and sat on the grass, sort of hanging out patiently.
The squirrel made its move too soon. It dropped from the arbor, literally hit the ground running, and took off across the lawn. Total Wild Kingdom scene ensued as the fox followed, about a foot behind the terrified squirrel. eventually stepping on the squirrel's busy tail and causing it to wipe out. I was bummed. I was rooting for the squirrel. The fox grabbed it by the neck with its teeth and started shaking it hard -- right in the open. The squirrel didn't like that.
Then a clutch of the ladies-who-walk came cackling along the sidewalk. The fox froze. They didn't see him. He dropped the squirrel (whom I figured was dead) but no, the Squirrel was resurrected and made another dash for the bushes and freedom.
The fox followed and again, the game of hide in the bush and wait started to play itself out again. Eventually the squirrel hopped from the top of one arborvitae to the next, flung itself at the black cherry tree and headed up. Meanwhile, I'm in Wikipedia reading about the grey fox and learned it can climb trees really well. This one stood up, forepaws on the trunk, looked up and seemed to shrug and say, "Screw it."
Anyway, if the fox can deal with the rat problem under the bird feeders, he's welcome to them If he poses a threat to the Yorkshire Terrier (everything in theory poses a threat to lap dogs) he's toast. And we're all relieved that one of the squirrels -- a ratty, wino looking squirrel with half a tail we've nicknamed "Stumpy" -- was seen on the arbor just a half-hour later. Now to see if this morning's assault victim limps back with any injuries.
Jun 01 2014
The Cape Cod Times editorializes in favor of Richard Cook's Popponesset Bay oyster farm.
I'm still waiting for some official rebuke against the greedhead property owners who are tormenting this poor man. They've got to be made to pay for their treachery.
May 21 2014
I forgot to mention the bluefish are back on the shoals off of Cotuit -- my son and I caught a couple big ones on orange plugs off of Oregon Beach on Saturday -- filleted them on the bow of the skiff and cooked them right up that night in what may be the best bluefish recipe I've come across since adapting Paul Prudhomme's blackened redfish recipe to the oily things. This one is courtesy of the late, great Marcella Hazan -- the grand dame of true Italian cooking who wrote two of the classic cookbooks on my kitchen bookshelf: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
Bluefish are a fairly global species of fish -- and especially popular in the Mediterranean. I've had snapper bluefish in January in Istanbul (cop cop) and legend maintains some unlucky downed American airmen were devoured by schools of monster bluefish off the coast of North African in World War II. So, that Marcella would suggest the oily bluefish as a preferred substitute for fillets of anchovies in her recipe for Genoese Style Bluefish with Potatoes roasted with garlic and olive oil is not a surprise. This is a drop dead simple recipe.
- Take two fillets, skin-on, from a big bluefish. Pre-heat the oven to 450
- Grease a baking dish big enough to comfortably fit the fish with some olive oil
- Peel two pounds of potatoes, slice almost as thin as chips, dry on clean dish towels then cover the bottom of the baking dish with the spuds
- Peel and mince four to six heads of garlic. Go nuts.
- Mince a quarter cup's worth of flat Italian parsley
- Combine a quarter cup of virgin olive oil, with the garlic and parsley. Pour half of it over the potatoes and toss them three or four times. Hit that with some salt and pepper.
- Roast the potatoes in the upper third of the oven for 15 minutes
- Pull the potatoes (leave the oven on) out and lay the fish on top -- skin side down -- and pour the remaining half of the oil-parsley-garlic over the fish
- Roast another ten minutes, pull it out a couple times to baste the fish with the hot oil a few times. Use a spatula to free up the potatoes around the edges and get the less roasted ones some time in the "sun".
- Finish off for another eight to ten minutes. Then let it rest five minutes.
Simple and awesome. John Hersey wrote in "Blues" that parmesan cheese is death to bluefish -- totally toxic. And I agree. Don't get tempted to get all Mama Leone on this dish. Hazan explains that in Genoa the holy foundation of the cuisine is potatoes, parsley, garlic and olive oil -- with everything from porcini mushrooms to anchovies to octopus added as the variable. I hate bluefish but dutifully eat one every summer out of some weird ancestral homage to my grandmother Nellie who truly could murder a bluefish. In past homages to the scourges of Nantucket Sound I related my family's traditional recipe for Bluefish.
"Fish was rarely on the menu in my childhood unless it came out of a box, was pre-breaded, and could be cooked on a cookie sheet in under an hour in a 450 degree oven. My father, the original meat-and-potato man, forbade fish or chicken in the house. Chicken, because he had a phobia of chickens due to his World War II duties as the young keeper of the household chicken coop; fish, because his mother would can bluefish with a pressure cooker in Mason jars to lay up some protein for the winter months.
My brother and I took the tale of canned bluefish as pure Cape Cod legend, up there with stealing coal and catching cabbages that fell off of trucks as part of the "penny-saved-penny earned" Depression-Era lectures we were subjected to whenever the old gent finished paying the monthly bills and decided we would live without electricity for the next month (his favorite economizing move was to make orange juice with the frozen stuff but forbid it ever being shaken or stirred. The idea was to add more water over time, allowing the orange sausage of concentrate to hang on the bottom of the bottle, pale orange water above it).
The canned bluefish was just a quaint myth until I cleaned out the cellar last winter and found a sixty-year old Mason jar filled with what appeared to be a pickled demon fetus from the Omen IV. We opened it on the front lawn while wearing heavy rubber gloves. The grass is still dead there, like some sort of crop circle left by aliens.
Here are some recipes from the Churbuck Culinary Academy of Ruined Food, courtesy of my predecessors who never met a fish they could stomach:
Honey, the Dog Is Eating Grass Again Bluefish
- Take one bluefish, preferably one caught early in the morning and then thrown into the stern of the motorboat back by the scupper plugs where it can curl, get stiff in the sun and baste all afternoon in a rainbow patina of gasoline and two-stroke outboard oil.
- Filet with a rusty knife, taking care to leave scales and the rib bones in the flesh.
- Leave the dark meat in the fish. For that is where the PCBs are most concentrated.
- Take a cookie sheet. Preferably the kind that warps into a pretzel shape with a loud "thwang" when heated. Cover with aluminum foil. I don't know if the shiny or dull side up matters or not.
- Do not grease the foil. The fish must stick to the foil so your guests will have the electric thrill of finding out what happens when foil meets one of their fillings.
- With the meat side up cover the bluefish with a one-inch thick layer of Miracle Whip, the evil stepsister of Hellmans Mayo.
- Bake or broil (it just doesn't matter) until the Miracle Whip is kind of browned like a meringue.
- Serve, and then remember you forgot to make any kind of side dish. Dig out some freezer-burned Tater Tots and bake in the oven until lukewarm while the fish gets cold.
- Eat. Feel bad. Then start drinking. Get angry at nothing in particular and call your nearest relation "a leech who contributes nothing" or "an oxygen thief" and then start a mallet fight with the kids' croquet set on the lawn in front of the horrified neighbors. Ask them what they are looking at."
May 20 2014
This in from the Cape Cod Times:
"The Massachusetts Senate's 2015 budget does not include an amendment similar to one slipped into the House of Representatives' version that would kill a proposed oyster farm in Popponesset Bay."
The article further reports the amendment fight in the House budget, tucked there by Rep. Michael Costello of Newburyport, will move to a conference committee where the local delegation has vowed to defeat it.
May 14 2014
So the response to my screed over the shenanigans in Popponesset Bay drew a lot of traffic into this blog -- about 20X the normal flow over several days and setting the all-time traffic record for this blog since I started it ten years ago as a way to scratch my occasional itch to write. I generally try to avoid politics on this blog. Three years in the statehouse press gallery in the early 1980s sort of washed the taste for Massachusetts legislative politics out of my mouth for life, and as a former bartender, I knew well that religion and politics are the third-rails of civilized conversation. I also am very turned off by the perversion of the medium into very crazed "hate" blogs used to slander local politicians. There are more than enough moon-bats blogging and I don't intend to become one.
But, as the tongue-in-cheek tagline of this blog says, this is a blog about clamming, an attempt to blend my personal and professional writing under one umbrella. A wise man -- Stephen O'Grady -- warned me long ago not to try to maintain multiple blogs. One is enough of a greedy child to feed, let alone several. The result has been a muddy mix of local stuff that I like -- history, sailing, fishing -- and pedantic digital marketing stuff ranging from Olympic sponsorship to tech trends. I avoid blogging about causes or using this to advance some personal agenda. The habits of an old reporter are hard to break, and it would have been unthinkable ten years ago for me to write with the kind of outraged invective I did last week when the news broke that the democratic process was being perverted by some pompous wealthy dickheads.
The story is amusing though. I have to tip my hat to ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of the law firm of Mintz Levin for going beyond the pale and buying off a lameduck State Rep to pull a classic Beacon Hill maneuver of sticking bizarre midnight amendments onto massive things like state budgets. This crap has been going on forever in Massachusetts. The corruption level of the Massachusetts legislature -- especially during my days there when Billy Bulger ruled the senate like some Roman tyrant, and Tom McGee fought reform in the House with every dirty trick in the book -- should never be underestimated. Your average state rep is less likable than a used-car salesman and half as honest.. Massachusetts politics should become the official spectator sport of the Commonwealth, as fun and mind blowing a spectacle as the Bruins or the Celtics. That some rich guys wrote a wicked big check to keep the groundling proles from cluttering up their oceanfront view is the least of our problems. This is a state of bagmen and angles.
But still, people ask me "what can we do?" I've done my time at the microphone at Conservation Commission hearings opposing rich people's applications to build their piers into the harbor. I've written letters and earned the enmity of countless gaping buttholes who have more money than sensibility. Yet I also know people on the waterfront with hearts as big at the Ritz. Some give their beaches to the local yacht club for thirty years to use for a sailing program; others make special attempts to minimize their impact on the environment by banning lawn fertilizers and peeing and pooping into composting toilets.Then there are those who put creepy surveillance cameras disguised as bird houses on their beaches, and make our days just that much shittier by posting stern "PRIVATE BEACH" signs to discourage the kind of free access I knew on the Cape 40 years ago.
I've been rattled by screaming homeowners flipping out at me to GET OFF THEIR GODDAMN BEACH, even though I'm within my rights with a fishing rod or a clam license. I know cases where ancient public ways to water -- little paths designated as a way for the public to get to the water to dig a clam or catch a fish -- are obscured by abutting property owners deliberately planting shrubs, or sliding a kid's swingset over the path, knowing as the years go by that the old timers who know those paths will eventually die or forget and the public won't be trudging through their backyards ever again.
The problem on the beaches and the sense of entitlement started in 1650 when the colonists granted waterfront property owners in Massachusetts the unique right to own all of the land down to the "mean low water mark" allowing public access only in three circumstances: navigation, fishing/shellfishing, and fowling. That means you can't walk on any part of the sand, including the wet sand exposed at low tide. You can swim in front of their beach (as long as your feet don't hit the bottom above the nebulous "mean low water" mark. You can wade in the water if you have a fishing rod. You can dig clams. But you can't sit and technically you can't stroll.
Some beaches say "Private Beach. Walkers Welcome." That's nice of the property owner but also a way to forestall an "adverse possession" or taking by granting the public access through neglecting or abandoning their rights. I empathize with them not wanting some family of recent Russian emigres camping on the beach, tossing dirty pampers into the beachgrass and leaving behind their bait boxes while the men folk surfcast. But -- if we want to get back at these jerks for throwing around their money demanding docks, fighting clammers, posting security guards, and erecting creepy spy cameras we need to repeal the waterfront property laws.
And that is not going to happen. The most powerful advocate of repealing the Colonial beach rights was Billy Bulger, who was outraged when some Chauncy Wigglesworth Ass Clown bellowed at him to get off his beach. Bulger filed legislation from 1976 to 1991 to change the law to permit walking between the high and low water marks and finally succeeded in 1991, only to have the state courts overrule the change as an unfair taking of private property without compensation.
If you want the full story about the shitshow that is beach rights in Massachusetts, take the time to read this superb article about the situation on Martha's Vineyard.
I think the only way to take away the tyranny of the waterfront and to stop owners from building jetties, sea walls, hiring guards, posting signs, intimidating strollers and generally being douchebags is to make beach reform a referendum question and let the voters decide whether or not to take it away from them. The legislature is in their pocket so don't expect a letter to the editor and your state rep to have any impact. Both of them are totally in the service of these people along with the massive real estate industry that encourages them to build commission inflating add ons like piers and cabanas. We just need around 70,000 signatures to force the question onto the ballot the way the bottle bill and Prop 2 1/2 and medical weed were voted in and get ready for a well funded counter-campaign the likes of which the state will never see.
Still, it's a nice fantasy to imagine the democratic process truly having the last word on who owns the berm between shore and sea.
May 13 2014
Cousin Pete and I hit the squid off of Osterville on Friday and brought in a bucket of the cephalopods. He was outcatching me two-to-one but hey, we got the skiff nice and stinky with a coating of angry ink and had the wonderful experience of listening to a guy on a nearby boat keep up a loud, unbroken soliloquy of f-bombs that was so utterly Masshole that it started to sound right, until the f-word was so worn out by overuse that it became like a meditative "Ommmm"
Back at the kitchen I cleaned half a dozen in the sink, cut em into rings and followed Jasper White's recipe for "greasy and spicy Rhode Island calimari" which is basically exactly what it sounds like. Soak the rings and tentacles in a couple cups of buttermilk, roll them around in a flour-cornmeal-corn starch-cayenne mixture and deep fry until golden brown. Then toss that in a garlic butter/hot Italian cherry pepper bath and eat with a habanero remoulade. Take a Lipitor.
Hunter-gatherer season is underway. As the lilacs are out and as yours truly was born 56 years ago today, the bluefish must be back and cruising the flats around Submarine Rock. I see tautog in my future.
May 09 2014
1. The money behind the oyster farm amendment is from Charles "Chuck" Clough, Jr. a Boston stock picker who lives in Concord but who has a starter castle on the Popponesset waterfront. Your standard yellow-power tie wearing Master of the Universe. Oh, and a recipient of the Myra Kraft Award for his good works. He's also Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Boston College (leave it to a Jesuit to figure out a midnight budget amendment). Guess I'm not getting an invite to next summer's oyster-free clambake at the Clough estate.
2. Rep. Costello says its all about the "environment." Really:
"Costello argues that the proposal seeks to protect a salt marsh that serves as an environmentally sensitive habitat for sea birds. The area, he said, is “much like my district in Newburyport. Quite frankly, I think this is a state issue,” Costello said. “The state has a vested interest in making sure that those waterways remain as open space and undeveloped.”
May 05 2014
This cracks me to no end as life imitates art once again. I can just see Chief Brody arguing with the president of the Amity Chamber of Commerce under a billboard with a swimmer being chased by a shark, "But chief, closing the beaches will be bad for business."
It's a matter of time before someone gets attacked by a shark in Cape Cod waters. It's happened recently and it will happen again. Some kayaker, surfer, paddle boarder, or hapless swimmer is going to be mistaken for a seal and get chomped. Not telling the rubes on vacation that the Cape is rapidly becoming a Great White all you can eat buffet is not a way to keep the tourism industry on its feet.
Apr 21 2014
I launched the motorboat yesterday afternoon after two weeks of working on it in the middle of the yard. Some years the boat manages to go in early, other years it goes in late. This year was late because of the winter-that-wouldn't-end. Some years the boat needs multiple visits to the mechanic, other years I get her running on my own. This year I tackled a few overdue projects and one nasty recurring problem which required a sledgehammer. As my Cousin Pete (who lives across the street in the western half of the Chatfield family compound) likes to to say, watching a Churbuck with an internal combustion engine (lawnmower, pressure washer, automobile, chainsaw, outboard motor) is like watching a monkey with a hand grenade. I know he likes to sit on his front porch with a cocktail and laugh at my best efforts to destroy anything that lives on gasoline and I am sure he noted my application of a sledge hammer to my Honda 40 horsepower outboard for future retelling.
Back in March, in a fit of optimism, I dragged the boat out from behind the garage, cut off the useless blue tarp that collapsed during the first snow storm, noted that the trailer's ten year-old tires are still hanging in there (which is good because the wheels are rusted onto the axles forever), and started the familiar recommissioning process which is becoming second nature now that the boat is twenty-two years old and on engine #3.
The battery went onto the charger. I grabbed a broom and swept out the sticks and leaves, sand and shells, dragged out the clam rakes and baskets, and winced at the beard of dried slime along the waterline and the crust of barnacles on the keelson -- proof I didn't do much of a job last fall when I yanked the boat for the season. I had a feeling my neglect would mean the boat would bone me so I drove up to see Dow Clark, my mechanic and asked him if he could tune things up. He pointed out that there was a blizzard coming (this was last month), and he wouldn't work on the boat if the temperatures went below freezing because he needed to run a hose through through engine's water intakes in the parking lot and didn't want to turn it into a skating rink for the other tenants in the little row of garages behind Peck's and the Domino's Pizza place.
The blizzard came and went, I returned to the boat (glad I hadn't launched her in time for an evening of 60 mph gusts out of the north), replaced the battery, and lowered the engine. The first boat problem of 2014 emerged immediately: the steering was frozen, a common occurrence which meant the push rod system that pushed and pulled the motor on the transom was seized. Inside I went to Google and YouTube, read about the problem, watched about a dozen different possible solutions, and returned armed with a propane torch, a hacksaw, a length of rebar, a cold chisel, a ball-peen hammer, a mason's hammer, a grease gun, and a spray can of white lithium grease, another can of "PB Blaster, and finally, a can of carburetor cleaner. I disconnected the motor from the steering assembly, got rid of all nearby gasoline, lit the torch, and started heating the steering tube. For the next six hours I feebly tapped at the end of the stainless steel ram with the hammer, tried a 2"x4" lever, reapplied heat, sprayed various fluids, and finally, in a fit of total despair and destruction, broke out a sledgehammer and started whaling away at the end of the pernicious steering gear.
That did it. If it is stuck, whack it. A couple applications of the precision tool and the ram started to budge a tiny bit with every smack. I finally drove the thing all the way into the tube, then continued the brutal repair with a piece of rebar, clocking my knuckles so hard when the sledgehammer missed that I was convinced I'd broken my hand. After countless attacks on the piece of precision Japanese machinery, the steering ram popped out and I performed a little Dave Dance of Happiness on the brown lawn. I reamed out the tube with brushes and carburetor cleaner, cleaned the ram piston off and regreased it, then reassembled the whole mess until the steering wheel spun back and forth with silken, greased ease. Success. I spared myself a new $125 steering cable and a trip to the mechanic.
Then to the greasy manual for a refresher in changing the engine oil and lower unit lube. I siphoned whatever water I could find out of last year's gas and drained the fuel lines, changed the fuel-water separator, and tightened the drain holes on the three carb bowls. New spark plugs followed, a change in the fuel filter and I was ready to test it. Professional mechanics use these "headphone" sort of clamps that attach to the water intake of the motor and then run a hose through them so they can work the running motor on dry land. The last time I did that I melted the water pump. This year I hooked the trailer up to the car and drove the boat down Old Shore Road and backed the trailer in deep enough to lower the motor without launching the boat (I have learned that launching prematurely always means the boat will not start and will need to be paddled back to the trailer, winched back on, and taken up to Dow Clark two miles inland on a trailer with no lights and an expired registration that is one flake of rust away from collapsing.
I climbed aboard, lowered the motor, inserted the key, said a prayer, and started cranking. It astarted after 15 seconds, a feeble, barely combusting ignition that I nursed to life like a freezing man lighting a fire in a Jack London story. I let it strangle and shudder, then dared to give it a bit more gas, let go of the choke and it LIVED! Do another Dave Dance of happiness, feel like a master mechanic.
I let it run for 15 minutes on the trailer, relishing the opportunity to hog the entire boat ramp by myself on a Saturday afternoon ; a ramp that in three months would have a line of impatient boaters waiting for their turn to launch or haul their boats while some ass clown clogged things up by deciding to clean his Bayliner while everyone waited and honked their horn. The off-season in Cotuit is the season of the Townie Prerogative: when those of us stupid enough to live here from January to April get to put out our dinghies on the prime spots, get to hog boat ramps for as long as we want, drive fast in areas of the harbor usually confined to 6 mph, and then clam in places that get closed on May 1.
I let the motor run for a quarter hour because the second rule of Churbuck Outboard Failure is that a motor that runs well near the beach will fail as soon as it is about 500 feet away from the beach -- generally because of water in the system, or a failed water pump that sets off the dreaded alarm sound which means a $500 repair bill is coming soon. A sub-rule of Churbuck Outboard Failure is that failure in the off-season means there aren't any other boaters around to come to one's rescue and the possibility of being stranded and having to swim in 40 degree water is very real. These are the lessons learned over 22 Cape Cod Springs, proof that wisdom is nothing more than the accrual of repeated failures.
I resisted the temptation to back off of the trailer and bomb around the bay. The bottom was unpainted and there was more work to do. Driving an unpainted boat would definitely draw the curses of the Gods of Maritime Failure and I only get superstitious when I am on the water.
Back to the yard and then off to the marine supply store for the annual BOHICA* (nothing will trash a bank balance faster than a can of bottom paint or any sort of marine hardware). The harbormaster nearly wrote me a ticket last August for being on the water without navigation lights. I had to invest in a new sternlight and green-and-red bow light, wire, connectors, switches, etc.. Back to the boat and my favorite liquid after a smoky peaty single malt scotch -- Hull Cleaner -- an evil solution that is swabbed around the waterline of the white hull which turns brown over the course of a summer like a smoker's lungs. Hull cleaner must be washed off, so down into the cistern under the grape arbor I go -- through a manhole cover into a dank dirt floor chamber under the birdfeeders to turn back on the outdoor faucets. Then back into daylight in search of the hoses, replacing washers and finding a working nozzle while the birds act inconvenienced because I dare interrupt their springtime binge diet.
Hull Cleaner magically bleaches everything away like a blessing from the Pope, but it also eats into the trailer's galvanized frame one whiff of the stuff and the disconcerting sensation of burning lungs makes me believe it is an evil fluods. I hose it off, get the bottom wet, and drag my 55-year old ass under the boat with a scrub brush and scraper to vanquish 2013's barnacles and slime. This results in my being crippled later in the evening, forced to lay on my back on the floor while watching 60 Minutes and moaning that I have strapping sons who should be crawling under boats on wet grass littered with stinky evicted barnacles.
The next day my son thoughtfully volunteered to crawl under the boat wearing a set of disposable Tyvek overalls to paint the bottom with antifouling paint while I masking-taped the boot top line. When we were done the boat looked about as good as it did the day in 1992 when I picked it up from the builder in Vineyard Haven (the best $7500 I have spent in my life).
The wiring of the lights was a sobering reminder that I am a terrible electrician. My first attempt succeeded in turning the new lights on, but my mis-wiring also turned the circuit into one big electric stove top that started to turn red, smoke and melt the plastic insulation off of the wire. Back to the Internet for assistance, but finally I figured out enough 12V electrical wiring theory to get the job done correctly.
By this point in time it is noon on Easter Sunday. Easter dinner starts at four pm. I look for volunteers to join me for the maiden voyage and a quick clamming expedition to secure enough littlenecks for appetizers. No takers, everyone is occupied with deviled egg construction. So I break out the new waders, find the VHF radio, cellphone, clam license, buckets, oarlocks, oars, temporary mooring float, throw it all into the boat, insert the drain plugs, connect the gas tank, back up the trailer hitch, and off I go under bluebird skies and a nice spring day.
The boat started on the first try. I backed off the trailer, brought the boat into the beach and left it there while I parked the trailer on the side of Old Shore Road. Back to the boat, off the beach, restart, back away and head for the winter stick that marks my mooring near the yacht club's beach to tie on a temporary painter until the mooring guy can get out there and swap the wooden winter stick for the regular rode.
The alarm horn goes off just as I pull up to the mooring. SHIT! Off with the engine before heinous amounts of destruction occur. I tie the boat onto the winter stick before addressing yet another spring launching spoiled by Honda. I turn it back on. No alarm. I note the engine "pisser" is not squirting water. Proof the water pump isn't work. Off with the engine, find the hidden paper clip, tilt up the engine, and ream out the little piss-port under engine cover. Restart, long satisfying stream of pee and no alarm horn.
I headed off to Sampson's Island to clam, and opened up the engine all the way as I skipped across the chop of Cotuit Bay, the wind chill plummeting the temperature and bringing wind blown tears to my eyes. No alarm horns No surges in power as the carbs drink in water. Just a well working boat on a sunny day. One month of weekends and one boat is in the water in time for the first stripers, squid and bluefish. Now to start on the big sailboat and another month of messing around.
*Bend Over Here It Comes Again
Apr 10 2014
In the 1960s there was an anti-litter campaign led by Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States. It was the first of its kind. People started hanging little litter bags on the dashboards of their cars. Public service ads with crying Indians and the message "Every Litter Bit Hurts" were part of the culture. In some regards the anti-litter movement and highway beautification efforts led by Lady Bird were a precursor to Earth Day and the beginnings of the ecology movement in the early 1970s.
When I moved to Cotuit in 1991 I was impressed by the example set by Professor James Gould -- a retired college professor who is the village's historian and a dedicated force behind the Peace movement on Cape Cod. Jim would take his daily constitutional from his house overlooking Little River, down Old Post Road past Mosswood Cemetery, and on into the village to collect his mail from the post office and stop by the Cotuit Grocery Store when it was run by his son Steve.
When I drove past him I noticed he was carrying a plastic grocery bag, the kind you feel guilty about throwing out, the kind that festoon tree branches around New York City. I figured at first it was for carrying the mail. But then I saw him bend over, pick up a piece of litter and drop it into the bag. A simple act done as a matter of fact as he walked along on his daily stroll. Usually you see the roadside litter crews in yellow jump suits followed by a Barnstable County Sheriff's van, or the Cub Scouts earning a merit badge, not a guy getting his mail and cleaning up as he went along.
His example got me thinking about altruism and the notion of the unsung, anonymous donor, especially in a village like Cotuit where there are so many causes looking for money -- from the art center to the Cahoon Museum, the library to the Kettleers -- and a long standing tradition of charitable good works from buying open space to preserve the rural character of the village to banding together to ban piers, chase out commercial marinas, or trying (unsuccessfully) to have a historical district implemented to slow down the tear downs of the old houses.
A few years ago I took a plastic bag along with me for a walk and came home wishing I had brought four more. It became a bit of an obsession and I started crawling into the underbrush to fish out beer bottles or styrofoam coffee cup. The amount of empty nip bottles were staggering, indeed most Cotuit litter can be categorized in descending order of frequency:
- Empty nips (this season's most popular brand is "Firecracker," some cinnamon flavored thing I guess)
- Dunkin donuts coffee cups, lids, and straws
- Beer cans
- Poland Spring water bottles
- Cigarette packs
- Snuff boxes
- Empty pints of vodka
- Six pack rings
- Random paper
- Builder's trash, eg pieces of shingles, plastic shutters
The nips are easy to explain -- they are cheap, they are easy to conceal and drink, and if they are tossed into the bushes there is no incriminating open containers should you get pulled over. The prevalence of schnapps, vodka, and cinnamon flavored shots points to the mouthwash qualities of those flavors, as opposed to the reek of whisky. In fact, scotch and bourbon nips are very rare.
The pay off is a clean walk and not that slightly shitty guilty feeling I was getting as I stepped over yet another yellow labeled empty shot of Firecracker during my constitutional. Beach clean ups, especially on the outside of Sampson's/Dead Neck are far more rewarding, with a lot of washed up fishing lures in the wrack line which can be buffed up, given new hooks, and save me $10-$15 a pop during bluefish frenzy (in a month).
Apr 04 2014
- I spent the morning with the Cape Cod Technology Council and delivered my third "First Friday" presentation -- this one on local marketing and local digital media. I get more from the Q&A then they do, each and every talk gives me more fuel and thought fodder than I arrive with.
- David Ortiz and his "cha-ching" selfie with the Commander-in-Chief was an awesome marketing move by Samsung and the genius who came up with their celebrity #selfie program deserves a raise (personally I loathe the word selfie, and am now going to use it as a synonym for onanism, as in "Hey Fred, I see you have the new Victoria's Secret Catalogue! Time for a selfie?" It worked on me, I am definitely going to a Galaxy Note 3 when my current phone is up for renewal this summer.
- Cotuit buddy and US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun's Twitter account should be studied by any public official. The US Embassy's Timberline blog on Tumblr is fascinating reading, to wit: "Never stay in a hotel with the word Palace in its name and never build a road."
- Red Sox open at home today v. the Brewers. World Series rings will be handed out. Moment of silence to mark last April's evil events. Read the transcript of President's Obama's remarks on Tuesday's White House visit by the Sox, an excellent speech that had to have been written by a Bostonian.
- 5. April is the month where the most important man in my life is my outboard motor mechanic.
- 6. I am not into getting my boats ready for the water. This winter trashed the yard, gutters have been ripped off of the roof, the north side of the house needs painting and the lawn is scabrous.
- 7. Google + pissed me off by spamming everybody I know when I posted a picture of last week's blizzard. Oversharing is a sin and I am sick of services that think I am an attention whore by default.
Mar 08 2014
Since beginning this blog in 2001 I don't think I've gone as long without writing as I have recently with a case of blogger's-block. I noticed my last post was January 29 and consisted of a simple notice that I'd finished a historical society paper.
I plead business travel, winter ennui, and general overwork. I'm in the middle of two big projects and haven't had time to lift my head up from either one of them to attend to my personal writing obligations.
Mea culpa accomplished, now to deliver something half-way interesting.
Jan 27 2014
If you want hours of fascinating, informative fun, buy a copy of Kevin Kelly's massive tome, Cool Tools.
Most everyone over 50 remembers the Whole Earth Catalogue of the late 60s and early 70s. A big bible on counter-cultural tools that covered everything from yurt construction to VW engine repair,the Whole Earth Catalogue was the book to have hanging around for hours of stoned obsessing. I can remember hanging out at my hippie cousin's shack in Cotuit and spending hours going through that book (I was 12 and was not stoned!).
Kelly, one of the original editors of the WEC along with Stewart Brand, went on to co-found Wired and has been a leader of the DIY - Maker movement. His passion for the best in tools and gadgets has come together brilliantly in this lavishly illustrated, well designed, brilliant compendium of the best stuff in the world. Best vest? Filson Mackinaw (I own one). Best tweezers, best chainsaw, best book on chickens, best productivity applications ....