Skinny Waters

Who knows what Captain Francesco Schettino was thinking when he altered course, driving the magnificent Italian liner Costa Concordia onto Isola del Giglio’s off-lying rocks? The usual course for the weekly cruise between Civitavecchia and Savona had been entered into the ship’s computers, and explanations for a later, manual over-ride of the system have been confusing at best.

Schettino first claimed to have been on the phone with a retired captain living on Giglio, a friend he hoped to impress by deviating from his course, cruising near shore and offering a salute. Under increasing pressure from investigators, Schettino himself tacked, insisting the course change was meant to satisfy Costa’s managers. “It was planned,” he said. “We should have done it a week earlier but it was not possible because of bad weather. They insisted. They said, ‘We do tourist navigation, we have to be seen, get publicity and greet the island’.”

Whatever Captain Schettino was thinking, he’d made one of the worst mistakes a sailor can make. He’d headed for skinny water.

Most encounters with skinny (shoal or shallow) waters and the dangers they contain aren’t so dramatic. Leave a channel, miss a buoy, neglect the depth sounder or forget tide tables and the worst that will happen is a travel delay while you pull yourself off a sandbar or wait for a rising tide.

On the other hand, when a grounding occurs in the middle of an open channel for no apparent reason and a skipper still learning the ropes isn’t smart enough to refuse help from an stranger, she may end up feeling like Schettino.

When it happened, we were no more than ten minutes out of a favorite marina on the middle Texas coast. The stop, just hard enough to slop coffee from cups tucked into holders or cradled in hands, jolted the coffee-drinkers into wakefulness. “What was that?” said one. “Beats me,” said another. “Maybe that last storm rearranged the bottom.”

Assuming we’d made a soft grounding in a familiar and clearly marked channel, we  tried without success to back out.  When the engine proved inadequate, we tried hanging first on one side of the boat and then on the other, hoping to free the keel with our weight. Nothing happened. A pair of young boys in a jon boat circled and watched, finally offering to tie off our halyard and pull us over. They seemed sincere enough and may have known what they were doing, but they couldn’t stop giggling. We declined their offer, with thanks.

Finally, a fellow showed up in a larger fishing boat with twin Mercury outboards. “Well, well,” he said. “Guess you win the prize this morning.” We looked at one another, then at the fisherman.”What’s the deal? We’re not out of the channel, are we?” “Nope. There’s been some shoaling the past few weeks. We stuck a couple poles out here, but somebody’s run ’em over again. You just managed to come along before we got some more out here. Throw me a line and I’ll pull you off.”

Relieved, we tossed over a line, assuming he’d pull us off easy, steady and slow. We were wrong. When he opened up the throttle and took off at a ninety-degree angle, the boat came free, but we ended up with no steerage.  Limping under tow to a local boatyard, we clutched our cold coffee and feared the worst.  As the boat was pulled from the water, we  saw our suspicions confirmed. The rudder had become a fiberglass jigsaw puzzle with more than a few missing pieces. It would take some time and effort to manufacture new pieces and fit them together properly.

Luckily, Jack Threadgill, owner of Sunrise Marine, had some space in his shop and some time to help out. We spent our first night ashore doing what sailors with a problem often do – drink beer and ponder. After a night of calculating, discussing and sketching out options, we had a plan.

Jack concurred,  and the work began. Using the undamaged half of the rudder as a template, a fiberglass duplicate was produced and hung in the shop to cure while the propeller and shaft were checked and new zincs mounted.

Once the curing was complete, the new rudder was attached, fittings were sealed, and a new coat of bottom paint was applied.

As I recall, it took three weeks of grinding, molding, fiberglassing and painting, but in the end the rudder was good as new. Standing in the boatyard, watching the last coat of paint being rolled on while I tried to decide if it had been lack of judgement, inexperience, simple stupidity or pure bad luck that ended the cruise and brought us into the yard, I must have seemed dispirited.

“Guess you’re ’bout ready to get goin’,” one of the onlookers said. “Ya oughta have a smile on that face.” “Right,” I said. “But it sure has been an aggravation.” The old man pondered. “Look at it this way. You may’ve torn up that rudder, but you did it sailin’, not sittin’ home. Remember, if ya ain’t run aground, ya ain’t been anywhere.”

And isn’t that just the truth?  Any time we set out on any sort of cruise – whether we’re cruising through our day, cruising into a new job or cruising into an unknown future – inattention, lack of experience, bad advice or unexpected circumstance can leave us grounded, hard on the shoals of frustration or defeat, our spirits shattered and our vessel dead in the water. Still, as the old man implied in his colorful way, the joy of going far exceeds the risk of grounding.

We just have to avoid skinny water.

Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.

73 thoughts on “Skinny Waters

  1. Fascinating to get a story from this part of your life, which I, at least, hadn’t read about on the blog. As for me, I have no idea what I’m doing on the water–have managed to get stuck on sand more than once in a canoe. Still, there is nothing quite like being out on the water. A vantage point on the world like no other.

    On the other side of things, what happened on that cruise was awful, and I’m not certain it was in the least forgivable, are you?

    1. Susan,

      Sailing’s been a big part of my life. I’ve lived aboard, done some open ocean sailing, taught for a while, helped to run charters on the Texas coast, and so on. I turned myself into a boat varnisher just because I loved boats so much.. There are quite a few sailing-and-varnishing posts scattered through the archives. One of these days I’m going to get my tags cleaned up so they all can be found!

      You’re right about the exquisite pleasure of the view from the water. Even a houseboat can provide that view – as you so well know! I love it all – the ocean, the swamps, the streams. I confess I feel differently about lakes, though. It’s not rational – lakes just seem less interesting. I suspect lack of familiarity is the culprit.

      As for the Captain and his cruise – I might be able to forgive him the jumping ship, the apparent desertion and all that. Just maybe. Fear dictates bad decisions sometimes. What I can’t forgive is his decision to put his vessel and the passengers in danger – whether by his own decision or his refusal to stand up to management, if in fact he was being pressured.


  2. The big city slicker reporter was interviewing a crusty old salt about his seafaring career.

    “I guess you know every rock and reef here abouts,” the reporter said.
    “Nope,” the old salt said, “but I know where they ain’t.”

    It’s also a nautical truism that the skipper who’s never banged a wheel or gone aground has never gone anywhere, either.

    1. oldsalt,

      Love that one! There are so many great sayings and one or two line “stories” that sum up so much wisdom. Another of my favorites that has applicability far outside the seafaring community is “Any fool can fly too much canvas”.

      I can’t find it just now, but a young woman – perhaps a passenger? – was being interviewed after the Costa Concordia incident and said, with a perfectly straight face, “That rock wasn’t supposed to be there”. Ah, yes.

      There are unbelievable things that happen “out there”, for sure. A couple who lived aboard a steel boat in Galveston once scraped their way down the side of a tanker in the middle of the night. As he said, when he was able to talk about it, “Thank goodness we have a steel boat.”


  3. I’ve got a few islands and rocks painted on my different bows in my history. The islands and rocks are still there but the boat has changed.
    Working for some years on a destination Island near here we were involved in a number of “rescues”and observed some mighty strange techniques. Everyone involved is stressed and the best practices are not always followed.

    I guess the one that come to mind is trying to tow a 40′ “Renta” Sail boat off the rocks with a 16′ outboard runabout with a too short tow line. The “Renta” was full bore just behind us and we put everything we had in. What we did not know was that another “Rescue” boat came along and bunted the stern of the “Renta” and she came loose all of a sudden and ran us down. We would have been fine under full power but when things started to move I asked the helmsman to cut the throttle assuming everyone else would react similarly.

    It makes you start to understand why the Coast Guard has such strict protocol.

    1. Ken,

      Your story of the Renta isn’t funny at all, and yet – I’m laughing. I suppose it’s because we’ve all had those experiences, and the laughter is more rueful recognition than anything else. Well, that, and a reminder of those times we’ve escaped true disaster.

      A quick Coast Guard story: there was an old guy here who built a ferro-cement boat, decades ago. He was going to circumnavigate. He got to Galveston, went out the jetties for the first time in his life, got seasick, turned around and came back. He anchored in the boat and set up housekeeping.

      Every time a norther would come through, he’d end up on the rocks on the lee shore. The CG station was just a quarter mile away – they would come over, pull him off and get him re-anchored. After a gazillion of these episodes, they finally told him he could stay, but he had to be secure. So, they got – what? Cement blocks, I think. Big ones. And they tied him down good. The boat never moved off its moorings again, until he died and they cut it loose.

      The last time I saw him, he was 80-ish, I suppose, and still rowing to shore every day in his wooden dink. He’d discovered the wonder of audio tapes, and was teaching himself Japanese.

      So that’s the human side of the CG. But yes – when it comes to their procedures, there’s not a group any more well-trained or dedicated. They understand the stakes.


      1. A few years ago we lost the Queen of the North.

        I don’t know if I ever took that ferry but when I ride something that big with that many people I expect the Command to know and do their task exactly . There are no excuses and no need for inquirys. There is only one Captain on any boat.

        1. Ken,

          “There is only one Captain on any boat” – exactly. And in the end, that may turn out to be the fatal flaw re: the Costa Concordia, with management trying to usurp the role of captain, and Captain Schettino refusing to assert his rights in that role.

          In the recreational boating community here, many accidents occur either because (1) everyone wants to be the captain, or (2) nobody wants to be the captain.


  4. As someone who’s never sailed I appreciated your thoughts of the accident in Italy. Will we ever learn the truth of why he sailed so close to shore?

    I’m amazed to see that the rudder on your little boat was so badly damaged. You’re lucky you didn’t spring a leak eh?

    When I read your comment:

    “I’ve lived aboard, done some open ocean sailing, taught for a while, helped to run charters on the Texas coast, and so on. I turned myself into a boat varnisher just because I loved boats so much.”

    I found my mouth hanging open in sheer admiration. You’ve led such an interesting life Linda.

    [btw the photo on the top of my blog was taken while hiking in the Cinque Terre just down the coast from the accident.]

    1. Rosie,

      Like so many things in life, the explanation for the Captain’s actions may boil down to something we’ve all experienced -“It seemed like a good idea at the time”.

      Who knows? Ego? Over-confidence? Wanting to impress the lovely lady who was with him? It could be any of those, or a combination of them all. There’s always a chance of something happening on the water, but he increased the risk immeasurably by his actions.

      An interesting life? Yes, that’s true – although it’s also true I’ve stumbled into some of my most interesting times. As for the sailing… One reason I quit a secure job to do some of those things was almost rational. It occurred to me I should do my sailing while I was young and physically fit – so I did.

      There are plenty of people who live their lives waiting to go cruising, or whatever, and then when the time comes their vision is gone, or they’ve had a stroke, or whatever. I had twenty years of boats and sailing, and now I’m ready to move on to other things. It’s far better than having a dream snatched away after years of waiting.

      That’s a beautiful photo, and so interesting to know where it was taken. I liked your way of refreshing your “About” page, too. I need to do that, and you just gave me a nudge to get it done!


  5. Remember, if ya ain’t run aground, ya ain’t been anywhere.
    Oh, how I love this! Thank you not only for sharing these words, but for giving the context to fully appreciate them. Gorgeous.

    1. Deborah,

      You and I both know how many ways of running aground there are. One of the reasons I loved learning to sail is that every single lesson could be applied to life-at-large. “Be sure your rescuer knows what he’s doing” is right up there at the top!

      Text and context – literary BFFs!

      Good to see you – thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words.


  6. Linda; Another wonderful piece of writing and story-telling!

    “…Remember, if ya ain’t run aground, ya ain’t been anywhere.” This is right up there with John Shedd’s: “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Shedd’s saying impressed me so much that when I was a teenager I made a poster of it to hang on my bedroom wall. Had I heard the quip about running aground, that probably would have graced my wall, too.

    Especially since I was a fisherman’s daughter, brought up on the water and in all kinds of boats I can relate to nautical mishaps; they seem to happen to even the most careful captains and crews. Besides my own experiences, I’ve heard many stories; some funny, some scary, some tragic, but they all represent mankind’s love of the ocean and his constant attempts to conquer (or at least tame) it with his fragile vessels.

    I’m glad to hear that your story had a happy ending. :o ~ Beth

    1. Beth,

      I’ve not heard Shedd’s saying, but how true it is.

      On the other hand, sometimes a harbor is the worst place to be – especially in a hurricane. After Ike, hundreds of boats that were snugged up in harbors and marinas were damaged or destroyed. A local couple who made a run for an anchorage ended up with nothing more than a bent shaft and slightly damaged prop after being picked up by Ike’s storm surge, carried over three tree lines and dropped in a cane field!

      It was the same for friends who were anchored off Phuket when the tsunami arrived. Like most of the cruisers there, they headed for deep water, and were fine. It’s counter-intuitive. Shallow water “feels” safer, but deep water is.

      What’s wonderful about it all is that you don’t need hurricanes or tsunamis for “good stories” to pop up! Just sitting around an anchorage watching the latecomers arrive can be good for a tale or two. All these stories probably gave rise to another of my favorite sayings:

      “He who will go off to the sea for pleasure will go off to Hell for a pastime”!


      1. Linda; You are so right when you say that harbors can be a very bad place to be during a strong storm! When my parents were still working their schooner as a charter boat and were on their way south from Cape Cod to the Florida Keys, they met up with Hurricane Lily and had a rather lumpy time of it, bow into the wind and every anchor they had (five) set. But they survived just fine- although my mother later commented that the cacophony of wind shrieking and howling in the rigging, the roar of the ocean as it sped by and cadence of crashes from the lockers as pots, pans and other misc. stuff as it shifted with each gyration of the boat was unreal.

        When at harbor, my Dad always said he figured it’d be safest to take his boat up unto the marshlands and anchor there during a hurricane where at least everything was soft so he wasn’t apt to end up with a wreck after the storm was over. Luckily, he never had to put that plan into action.

        My mother would have loved that saying: “He who will go off to the sea for pleasure will go off to Hell for a pastime”! She and my Dad had many wonderful adventures at sea together, but there were also plenty of times when it was more akin to a chapter from Farley Mowatt’s “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float”. I think remember that book was once in your stack of Books-Waiting-to-be-Read; have you read it yet? It’s one of my favorites!

        ~ Beth

        1. Beth,

          As so often happens, Mowatt’s book ended up being forgotten. No longer! It’s on the list for this year – and near the top. I’ll report back when I have it read. I think I want to re-read some of Tristan’s books, too. Whatever the truth about him embroidering some of his sea tales, he’s still one of the best writers about sailing there is.

          I think the noise is the worst – although I never was particularly fond of the lumpy and confused seas we can get here in the Gulf, even absent a real storm. People always have said if you can sail the Gulf you can sail anywhere, and I think I believe it. I was amazed on my one North Pacific trip that we never saw more than 35 knots and had a few days under spinnaker. Still, we made the 2401 nm in ten days – no wonder Alaska Eagle won the Whitbread!


          1. Linda;

            I think you’ll enjoy “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float”; it’s a hilarious misadventure, as are many of Farley Mowatt’s books. I can’t wait to hear your take on it!

            I’ve re-read Tristan Jones’ works many times- he’s my absolute favorite writer. I’ve read some of his answers to the charges that he heavily embellished his stories and also made up a fake identity for himself and he had some plausible retorts but he admits to using artistic license to make the tales more readable when the actual yarn was dull in places and he often admitted to combining characters into one to make it easier to follow the cast without having to remember a large number of names and events. All the same, he managed to accomplish many incredible feats and his talent for story-telling can’t be denied.

            Do you ever think about sailing again?

            ~ Beth

            1. Maybe Tristan read William Zinsser’s “Inventing the Truth ~ The Art and Craft of Memoir”. He’s a perfect example of a skill Zinsser recommends, shaping the raw facts into a narrative line.

              Sailing again? No. My vision’s not good enough for night watches, and the hard work of sailing seems more like work than pleasure now. I was lucky enough to experience life on the water, but to quote the author of “Last Mango in Paris”, “there’s still so much to be done”.

  7. More alien speak. This landlubber has never been further ‘out there’ than on a ferry crossing the Channel. Before the time of functioning stabilisers I was regularly seasick on the ‘voyage’.

    It will be interesting to find out what made the Costa Concordia run aground. An acquaintance, who is first mate on a commercial ship and her husband, a captain on another ship, have explained to me that modern navigation equipment, computers and on-board safeguards should have kicked up a heck of a fuss before the CC ever got into skinny water. (I love that expression)

    1. Friko,

      I knew we’d bump into one another eventually, and here it is: the Channel crossing. I’ve done it twice, Dover to Calais. I don’t remember much about the trip – both were at night, for one thing. It must have been calm, or I’m sure I’d remember. That was ten years or more before I stepped foot on my first sailboat.

      Your friends are exactly right – there should have been a fuss kicked up. I don’t know, but suspect that modern cruise ships have the same safeguards required on the tankers, cargo ships and such that ply our waters. If the autopilot is manually overridden, there’s an alarm that sounds. It may be that the alarm can be overridden as well.

      Whatever the details, I’m convinced there was human decision-making involved in the Costa Concordia’s fate. A ship that makes the same run every week, with the course pre-programmed into the navigational system, doesn’t just run itself into rocks that were significantly off the planned course.

      The best analogy I can think of is an acquaintance who lost his very expensive and very beautiful sailboat during a race off the Texas coast. He thought he’d shave some time by running much closer to the coast than the rest of the fleet. The onshore currents were stronger than he’d calculated, and the weather was worse. He ended up on the beach or the rocks. I can’t remember which, but it doesn’t matter. The boat was gone.

      Beware the skinny water!


  8. Avoid the skinny water. Yes, good words to live by. I guess I finally got tired of learning lessons the hard way. Now, I’m trying to find a good balance between playing it too safe and being open to new adventures.

    1. Teresa Evangeline,

      It always comes back to balance, doesn’t it? I used to be quite a planner, analyzing every decision to death. When I began balancing that with a little impulsivity, things didn’t fall apart – they got more interesting!

      But those hard lessons? We all learn them, and live with the consequences. And, if we’re lucky, there are fewer of them as we make our way through life!


  9. As is your wont, you did a fine job of cruising from all the specifics that make up most of the article into that last and more-philosophical paragraph that generalizes from what came before.

    Your closing and your nautical theme as a whole reminded me of the ending of Tennyson’s “Ulysses”:

    It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
    It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
    And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
    Though much is taken, much abides; and though
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    1. Steve,

      It’s been a while since I’ve read that passage, and I couldn’t help but smile.Today’s “it is what it is” may be ubiquitous, but it’s only a faint echo of Tennyson’s “that which we are, we are”.

      It reads so beautifully, and although the final line may be best-known, I’m particularly fond of the phrase, “though much is taken, much abides”. And I can’t help but long for the days when, however imperfect they may have been as individuals, politicians and elected leaders had the ability to turn hearts and minds by turning a phrase.


  10. I wasn’t familiar with the term skinny water, so I did a search on The farthest back I could find the phrase was 1970. I’d been wondering if skinny water might have influenced or been influenced by skinny dip; based on the Internet search, it seems that skinny dip came first, and by a good margin.

    1. Steve,

      It might be fair to consider “skinny dip” an antecedant, particularly on the Texas coast, where the influence of Hippie Hollow reaches far and wide!

      Another possibility is “the skinny”, defined by the OED as “slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.) – Detailed and especially confidential information about a person or topic, the low-down”.

      The earliest published reference in the OED for “the skinny” used in this sense is from “The Rolling World”, a 1938 autobiography by the adventurer and writer Richard Matthews Hallet: “Had she really given me the skinny of an actual legend from the archives of her race, or was she wafting me the native poetry of her soul?”

      At one point, the US Air Force “provided an information sheet to briefers on data like runway length, aircraft, equipment, etc. The four-inch-wide sheet was known as “the skinny sheet,” and one of the briefers referred to its information as “the skinny.”

      It’s possible to imagine a captain asking crew members for “the skinny” on what coastal waters contain.

      But there’s a third possibility for the origin of “skinny water” as I’ve used it here. I’m going to tease just a bit and ask – can you figure out what it is? Hint: you don’t need a book!


      1. One possibility that occurred to me is the use of skinny to mean ‘thin.’ From that would come the notion of skinny water as “thin” water, which is to say shallow water. Now, whether that’s what you had in mind for your third possibility, you’ll have to tell us.

        One plausible explanation that I read about in one of my reference books yesterday for the skinny comes from the sense of skinny as ‘down to the skin,’ therefore ‘naked,’ as in skinny dipping. Following that line of reasoning, the skinny would originally have been ‘the bare truth’ or ‘the naked truth.’

        1. Here’s the unvarnished truth – I came up with skinny water, in the sense of “thin” water, out of thin air. I wanted a word that would catch people’s attention in the title, so I chose “skinny” and added, parenthetically, that skinny waters were the same as shoal or shallow waters.

          I’ve heard people refer to shoal waters (the most nautically correct term), shallow and thin waters, but skinny? I’d never heard the phrase. After I finished the piece, I got curious, went snooping around and discovered other people do use “skinny”, like this outfitter down in the Laguna Madre.

          As it turned out, it was just the right word!

  11. What wonderful words of wisdom, although no one wants to run aground. I’m glad you could get things fixed, but it just felt frightfully expensive and sad in that way. I can just feel Rick cringing as he reads this (being from a long line of sailors!)

    Skinny water — I must remember that one.

    1. jeanie,

      Out of curiosity, I pulled out the actual invoice – I was amazed at how little the whole thing cost in dollars, even adjusted for inflation. The aggravation, lost time and chagrin? Something else entirely!

      We were extraordinarily lucky that half of the rudder remained intact. It was much easier to re-create because of that. And I must say – the whole process was fascinating to watch. I have many more photos – and even a bit of the rudder fiberglass – in my scrapbook.

      The good news is that incidents like this one taught me a lot about problem-solving. But that’s a whole other post!


  12. Linda,
    Actually I read this yesterday but could not leave a comment until today. You know I LOVE your stories and look forward to each one, and now I get the email notification which is great when I am not on WU as often as I would like to be..

    You made me think, perhaps we should not rush to judgement, but then again, perhaps we should?
    But who knows what is the real truth of the matter.

    I love that your stories think we are going in one direction then take us in another directions and it all seems to fit…

    I just love it. Another great story!


    1. Patti,

      A rush to judgement doesn’t benefit anyone. There needs to be an investigation, an accounting for all the information available. On the other hand, it appears this wasn’t an “accident” in the usual sense. It could have been prevented. i’m sure we’ll learn more as time goes on.

      It’s fun weaving together these little “stories”. One of these days, I may get myself settled to the task of trying a “real story”. If I’m going to do it this year, I’d better get cracking. January’s already gone!

      Thanks for stopping by – it’s always fun to see you.


    1. Andrew,

      My first sailing instructor once told me all of safety at sea can be reduced to these two precepts. First, learn, remember and follow the rules. Second: keep asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”, and prepare for it. I’m not sure the Coast Guard would put it exactly that way, but the intent seems the same in both cases!


  13. Linda,

    I’ve been at sea on boats and ships, but never in a sail boat. So this was facinating to read. I was surprised to learn that you salvaged and rebuilt the rudder. In this age of replacing everything it is gratifying to know some things are actually rebuilt/crafted.

    I’d say the only thing you had in common with Francesco Schettino was running aground. Whatever his real reasons for deviating off course he had to know he was violating safe practices and putting at risk the lives of his passengers and crew. That is unforgivable. Surely he cannot claim ignorance.

    1. Mike,

      Most sailors I’ve known are heavily into rebuilding/recrafting. For one thing, there’s no “Rudders-R-Us” to pop into for replacement parts. And while things like bow lights are essentially interchangeable and easily replaceable, many things, from rudders to stanchions, need to be custom made and custom fit.

      Besides, the general rule seems to be, “Whatever breaks will do so at the most inconvenient time and in the most inaccessible place”. There’s a reason my first sailing instructor included diesel mechanics along with navigation and sail trim.

      As for the good Captain – of course he “knew” what he was doing. Either he was in serious denial, or he was playing the odds. Neither’s especially advisable.


  14. One has to smile about the “drink beer and ponder” solution to those groundings in life, Linda! It sounds so cool, calm, and collected…which most of us aren’t in such situations. In my own life I have often believed I’ve had such frustrations precisely because I’m supposed to learn how to “drink beer and ponder.” The older I get, the easier it has become, believe it or not. It helps living with someone who’s worse than I am in reacting to frustration. I see her bent-out-of-shape frustration and say, “So that’s what I look like!”

    HA! There’s always more than one way to learn one’s lessons…especially on avoiding skinny water. Why do I love that term so much?! :)

    1. Ginnie,

      This is off-the-cuff musing, so how true it is, I don’t know. But it seems my frustration level shoots up when I think I’m not in control of a situation. When it’s up to me to find a solution to a problem, I focus on the problem-solving. So – perhaps part of the reason I experience much less frustration as I grow older is that I’m far more confident in my abilities to problem-solve. And, when frustration does arrive, I find myself asking, “What in this situation can I control”? That’s the point where the beer-and-pondering can be especially useful.

      I’m glad you like “skinny water” – it means I picked a good word!
      Have fun this weekend. I can’t wait to hear the reports and see more photos from the studio!


  15. I just love to read your stories, even if it is about something I could not care less about: boats :-) I don’t get the point with them. And if I happen to be in one my brain plays spooky tricks with me reminding me what happens if it sinks. No, I rather stay off the water completely.

    I heard a story from one of my sailing colleagues about a couple that had found an empty boat stuck on a – I don’t find the word – small shallow place – and figured that they would do a favour to pull the boat off. But the shallow place had been a rock smashing the keel up inside the boat, so when the helpful couple pulled the boat off, it sank. It was left stuck on that rock for a reason.

    1. Désirée,

      There are lots of people who feel exactly as you do, and prefer to stay off boats. Sometimes it’s disinterest, sometimes it’s fear. I suppose most people who spend time on the water come to the same point we do with our cars. When I take my car out in the morning, I don’t think about all of the horrors that could befall me on the highway. I’m just careful. When something bad happens, we get the cars fixed or replaced, and get back on the road.

      That’s quite a story you tell. After Hurricane Ike, there were a lot of boats piled up on one another – they might as well have been on rocks. The people who were sorting out the mess had to be very careful that they didn’t sink more boats in the process of removing them.


    1. Ellen,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I don’t know Steve – but I work primarily in three marinas, and there are a lot of boats here. Of course, there’s always the possibility I know his boat. Many times folks will ask, “Do you know so-and-so?” and I’ll say “No, but what’s the boat name?” Tell me “Andalusia” or “No Egrets” and I’ll say, “Oh, sure!”


  16. Interesting article, definitely want to avoid skinny waters!

    funnily enough, though i can’t drive a car i have rudimentary boat knowledge and have on occasion steered a boat! Enough to know how incredibly complicated it is and to know how much more i would need to learn before i would be allowed out on the high seas alone!

    1. Juliet,

      Well, for most of us that “being on the high seas alone” business isn’t terribly appealing. Besides, there’s lots to do at sea – navigating, cooking, maintaining the boat, changing sails – all good reasons for a captain to have a crew!

      I have to laugh – every time I head out on the Houston freeways it crosses my mind that some of those people shouldn’t have been allowed out in their cars alone!


    1. Gal,

      Most of the time I do manage to come full circle, although there have been instances when I felt I was going in circles – not so good, that!

      Thanks for stopping by – hope the cookie sales are going well!


  17. If you’ve been on the water long enough in a boat eventually you will find your “hang up”. The trick is to not take it personally. Of course being familiar with an area helps, but the trouble with this is that it can lead to overconfidence. Things change in wet environments whether you are sailing rivers, big lakes, or the oceans. And the trick is to remember that.

    Quite a rudder you have there. A bit larger than I am used to. The draft on that vessel must be something else.

    Nice post. I’ll remember to give any stranger some free advice before I let him tow me.

    1. Wild_Bill,

      That’s exactly right – in the natural world, constant change is the most important constant. I was thinking about your post about the ice – from one day to the next, conditions can vary as much as they do on the water.

      As for not “taking it personally” – isn’t that just the truth? When I was learning to dock a boat, that’s one of the first lessons I learned. I certainly had plenty of opportunity. They say you can tell a sailor by the cut of his jib, and for a while, I was pretty much jibless!

      The boat the rudder belonged to was a Morgan 38′, with a draft of 5’6″. Talk of draft reminds me of yet another ironclad rule: Know your boat. I remember the tale of the fellow lost his boat because the manufacturer said it drew 5′ 6″, but it turned out to be 6’1″. There’s another good rule – assume nothing.


    1. Martha,

      It’s true – you could adjust the saying to fit every sort of life circumstance. I’m sure some of those skiers we knew in Utah have something similar, probably involving trees or broken human limbs!


    1. Marcie,

      Sometimes I think I should frame the piece of fiberglass I saved in a shadow box, and keep it on my desk – just in case I forget!

      Thanks for stopping by – and thanks again for the opportunity!


  18. A story everyone can relate to. I can see you waiting there. There’s nothing like being stuck and waiting for help to sail by. We all run aground sooner or later. The only time it’s a tragedy is when we run aground in the same place twice… or more.

    The old man’s lesson was a good one.

    1. Bella,

      You picked up on the most interesting moment of the experience, which really got short shrift here – that “in-between” moment between the event and its resolution. I remember an identical feeling the day my timing belt went out and I silently cruised to the side of the highway. Some people call it the “Oh, *$^#” moment. Sometimes, it’s just the “What the…?” moment. But it’s always interesting.

      Your comment about running aground in the same place brings to mind a certain marina that had problems with shoaling in their entrance channel. Most people adjusted, and simply timed their comings and goings for high tide – or didn’t go at all. But there was one sailor who was certain he could make it through, no matter what. He grounded, and regrounded, and….

      His shenanigans weren’t so much tragedy as comedy – people would gather just to watch the show. We never understood it. If you know you’re going to run aground, why would you do it? As you suggest, there are plenty of places in life to watch the same dynamic. Some people don’t seem to learn.


  19. Do you know anyone racked with regret because of not sailing? I do.

    I can tell her face was once beautiful, but the lines that can only come from the narrowing of the eyes and the pursing of lips are permanent scars from years of criticizing. And there will always be plenty to criticize as she watches us sailing, running aground, sailing, running aground, sailing…

    1. Claudia,

      Ah, yes. I do know her. I once thought to myself, “That woman has an infinite grudge against the universe”. Unhappy to have been born, resentful about death and unwilling to put up with what comes in between, she spends her life grounded, and doesn’t even know it.

      At least she has us to criticize! See what a service we provide?


  20. Hello again, Linda.

    I’ve just searched your blog for an email address without success. Doing that has also introduced me to the person behind the blog, glad to meet you; I wish we lived a little closer. There is a lot we share and I am sure we could have long and animated conversations.

    Why I wanted to get in touch is because of your comment on my last ‘little’ post: if you really want dogwoods like the ones in my photos, don’t buy the American kind, which are Flowering Dogwoods (cornus), but the ones called ‘Coloured Bark Dogwoods’. The Flowering Dogwoods are much more popular in the States.

    1. friko,

      The reason you couldn’t find an email address is that I hadn’t added one. When I began the blog, I still was nervous about all the axe murderers, stalkers and general nuisances said to be lurking about the cyber-alleys. Lots of people said: don’t add your email address! Once I got comfortable, I just forgot to go back and add it. That’s been rectified. “About Me” now is “About Me – Contact Me”. Thanks for the nudge.

      I’ve done some searching of my own and am amazed at all I’ve learned about the “red twig dogwoods”. I’m even more amazed to learn they’ll grow in my zone, will make do with partial sunlight if they have to, and are drought tolerant! I’ll be off to my local garden shop for some potting soil tomorrow – I’ll ask them about it. They’ll know if I can make part of your world part of mine!


  21. Good topic. Guess I have to toot my Dad’s horn. He was a commercial airline pilot years ago when flying was more instinct than instruments. He was given the go-ahead to taxi into take-off position when the wind changed. It was not normal for that area. He felt that the cross wind could cause a plane to lose control and crash. So he positioned his plane in the middle of the runway where no one could take off and shut the plane down.

    A top exec was on his flight first ordering, then shouting. Police were called. He would not move the plane until the wind changed. Yes, he lost his job but a few weeks later that odd wind came in. A plane crashed and lives were lost. He was immediately hired by another airline.

    This is what a Captain does.

    1. Nanette,

      Exactly – and good for your dad. That “instinct” you mention isn’t something magical. It’s the result of years and experience, and the best know the importance of factoring it into the decision-making process.

      The parallels with the Costa Concordia incident are obvious, particularly the willingness of management to take risks with other people’s lives. I’m not yet cynical enough to suggest all management is devoted to the bottom line, regardless of risk, but there are plenty of parallels there for discussion. Here in Houston many of us keep an eye out for truckers and try to avoid them, Far too many are driving bombs-on-wheels without enough sleep, for example.

      I had a customer once who was a senior pilot for an airline. The stories were endless.


    1. Now there’s something I’ve never imagined, Terry. Sailing in Idaho? When I think Idaho, I think mountains and potatoes. Of course, I’ve only been there once, and that was to scoot across the northern edge on my way from Minnesota to the Columbia Gorge.

      I’m sure the biggest difference is the season. One of my readers has a sailboat, but he’s up in Canada and putting the boat up for the winter and refitting it for spring is a ritual.

      There really is nothing like being on the water. I’m so glad I took the time to do some open ocean sailing when I was younger, and more physically fit. No one would want my pair of eyes on a night watch these days!


  22. What an adventure, and not even on the highs seas. And, since you wrote this post, there has been the disastrous Korean ferry boat accident. When I was researching my latest post, it seemed almost routine for the little scows of yester year to strand or lose rudders or have various misadventures. Another of my step great great grandfather’s ships, Emma Sims, had a very eventful life before she finally met an event from which she could not recover.

    1. I can’t believe I didn’t respond to your comment, Amanda. I suspect I followed your link, got interested, and went merrily on my way, link-hopping like the very Easter bunny. In any event, I enjoyed the history very much, and have to affirm that those shoal waters still are a problem. If you look at the map atop my current post about Rockport, you’ll see that various wrecks have been drawn in. There’s a reason.

      In fact, I had an entire section in that post that I finally pulled out because it didn’t really belong. You may enjoy knowing that I ran aground very near the spot when a far more famous and consequential person did the same. From the Texas State Historical Association site:

      “The Zachary Taylor Oak is a massive live oak tree located at the southeast corner of South Pearl Street and Bay Street in Rockport. This tree marks the spot where Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor, with three companies of United States occupation forces headed for the Rio Grande, camped with his men on August 1, 1845.

      A landing party had visited nearby San José Island on July 26, and had officially planted the United States stars and stripes for the first time in Texas. Low water in Aransas Bay barred a landing by the steamer Alabama, which had brought the force from Louisiana. Even the lighter steamer Undine ran aground when Taylor and two companies of his men attempted to land.

      On the evening of August 1, a fleet of fishing boats rescued Taylor and his stranded men and transported them to the mainland, where they camped under the oak tree.”

      1. Were you rescued by a fleet of fishing boats? Thanks for rescuing my comment, although its existence had already sunk to the murky depths of my forgettory.

        1. No rescue by fishing boats. I only was thinking of the general coincidence of having intentions confounded by Rockport’s shoal waters. Now that I think about it, my rescuer actually was the pair who had the skills to repair a significant “Oh, whoops!” And to think all of that was done without smart phone or computer — I still have the paper towel on which the repair was drawn out.

  23. Loved reading this Linda, even though it was written long ago!
    I’ll think of skinny water when I’m next at the coast – the shipwreck coast that is!

    1. Well, when I was down at Rockport last time, I watched some kids trying to get their sailboat afloat again. They’d just gotten out a channel, so they probably didn’t have any problem with it. It certainly was an interesting experience — thank goodness it involved skinny water rather than rocks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.