Smile broadly, you’re sailing on a tooth ferry
How many things are there which I do not want.
Socrates said that. Or maybe his PR guy said it.
There are things I want and many things I don’t want. Many people want fewer things to carry or dust.
One of the things I want is another Alaska ferry ride. What do I like about a ferry ride? Everything. If you like a room with a view, the ferry has one big, beautiful view. It’s breathtaking and as I’ve been told by wall hangings everywhere, it isn’t the number of breaths I take that matters. What matters is what takes my breath away.
The ferry is a place to be alone or a part of everything. I can sit when the world is walking or walk when the world is sitting. It’s a perfect place for both navel-gazing and naval-gazing. I was on a Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) ferry passenger in November. I’ve been there before. Was it deja vu? Boy, you can say that again. I don’t have a black belt in ferrying, but I’ve been there and done that.
I enjoyed a cup of hot tea made from what might have been the morning’s frosty dew and the whiskers of a harbor seal as the ferry floated over the perfect spot for an ocean.
The rules for ferry travel are simple: Don’t drop anything. If you drop something and you don’t hear a splash, it’s a victory.
The AMHS connects 32 communities on a 3,500-mile route from Bellingham, Washington to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. More than 320,000 people and 97,000 vehicles travel the AMHS annually. In Southeast Alaska, it runs through the Inside Passage, a splendid panorama of mountains, fjords and forests.
I sailed from Juneau on the Kennicott, which is 382 feet long and can hold 499 passengers, 80 vehicles (even more if they’re Hot Wheels), 72 cabins and 24 roomettes. I have all the albums of the Roomettes. “I wish I Were a Cabin” is my favorite. A future president could be born in one of those cabins. I departed Haines on the LeConte, 235 feet long and capable of holding 225 people and 33 vehicles. School sports teams use ferries to get to games. AMHS has been hit by budget cuts — ferries eliminated and port calls cut.
My ride was a 4 1/2-hour trip up and 4 1/2 hours back on the Lynn Canal, traveling at the speed of solving a calculus problem: 16 knots or about 18 miles per hour. A knot is one nautical mile per hour, approximately 1.15 miles per hour.
A fellow traveler who was more beard than body (perhaps he used his beard as a calendar) began to tell me about a fathom. He was one of those guys who burst into words without “hello” being one of them.
“Nice beard,” I said.
He said he kept yesterday’s breakfast in it and went back to informing me about a fathom. I learned that fathom comes from the Old English faethm, meaning “outstretched arms.” Fathom, which commonly refers to a depth of six feet, was originally used for the distance from fingertip to fingertip of one’s arms stretched straight out from the sides of the body.
He was a commercial fisherman. I told him that if he should encounter Moby Dick, it’d be best to avoid making eye contact. He didn’t hear me as he was busy telling me there are two kinds of people in the world and fishermen are better than either one.
I teetered about the deck on rickety legs made from Tinker Toys. I needed to take some photos. That’s how we are. We need. I practiced my gull calls. “Here gull, here gull, here gull.”
Joni Mitchell sang, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now. From up and down and still somehow. It’s cloud’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all.”
That’s how I feel while looking at mountains; those mysterious giants that never block the view. I’ve not moved any mountains, but their beauty moves me.
The seas weren’t angry, but strong winds created waves — potholes in the water. The ferry moved with the speed of a lame glacier. It was wonderful! For a short while, life slowed.
Someone asked what time it was. I replied, “Where?”
No one ever asks me that question. We are surrounded by timepieces. The winds caused the 4 1/2-hour trip to become 5 hours. That was a bonus.
Each day is a bonus.
© Al Batt 2018
I “Took the Stick”!
Maury, about twenty five years ago Grandpa piloted a plane – well, not really, but sort of – I’ll explain:
Don Palmer, a friend with whom I used to play tennis and an ex fighter pilot during World II, bought a University of Dubuque single engine Cessna training plane. At the time he was the purchasing agent for A Y McDonald Co. in Dubuque.
He loved to fly but would become bored going solo all the time, he explained, when he invited me to accompany him on different occasions. Two or three times a month we’d fly to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin to dine at a supper club (I can’t recall the name) located directly across the highway from the local airport. This was approximately a forty-minute flight from Dubuque and I learned from Don, we did “visual flying.” He explained to me, on these trips, that we followed the Mississippi river as our “flight map.” Looking down I recall it appeared as a beautiful winding silver streak!
One time on one of these flights Don said “Take the stick but be gentle — no sudden moves!” In a matter of seconds I was “steering” the plane and following the river. Grandpa quickly learned to be “gentle” and felt real good when Don said: “You have a nice touch!” As I look back on this, Maury, flying could have easily gotten into my blood as I really enjoyed these flights.
Incidentally, Don used to also string tennis rackets and your Uncle Dave, when he was the tennis pro at the Dubuque Golf & Country Club, did business with him. Hope you enjoyed this.
1. In 2017, the Dodgers’ Corey Seager became the fourth player in major-league history to have two three-homer games before his 24th birthday. Name two of the other three to do it.
2. Name three of the four teams managed by Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog.
3. In 2016, Brad Kaaya became the all-time career passing yards leader (9,968) at the University of Miami, Fla. Who had been No. 1?
4. When was the last time the Washington Wizards won an NBA playoff game against the Celtics in Boston?
5. Of the 31 NHL teams, how many are based in the U.S.?
6. Since the current World Cup format began in 1986, how many times has at least 10 European men’s soccer teams advanced to the round of 16?
7. When Triple Crown winner Justify triumphed in the Preakness in 2018, it put Bob Baffert in a tie for the most wins at that race by a horse trainer (seven). Who else did it seven times?
1. Mookie Betts, Juan Gonzalez and Boog Powell.
2. Texas (1973), California (‘74), Kansas City (‘75-’79) and St. Louis (‘80-’90).
3. Ken Dorsey, with 9,565 yards (1999-2002).
4. It was 1982.
6. Six times (1986, ‘90, ‘94, ‘98, 2006 and 2018).
7. R. Wyndham Walden (between 1875 and 1888).
© 2018 King Features Synd., Inc.
I’m not sure in twenty two years of calling Iowa football and basketball on radio I’ve experienced a week of success like this past one. It started with the Hawkeye basketball team carving out a defensive identity and whipping two basketball blue bloods in Oregon and the U Conn Huskies and ended with a football blow out of Illinois on the road. Oh by the way, in between was wrestling dominance of a good Princeton outfit and a 12th ranked Hawkeye women’s basketball blow out of North Carolina Central.
In New York City, on the big stage that is Madison Square Garden, freshman Connor McCaffery repeatedly hopped off the bench to rescue the Iowa guard court, ripping through double teams, helping to limit turnovers at critical junctures. In the title game of the Wounded Warrior benefit, he was the difference maker. Jordan Bohannon and McCaffery continually fed the post. Waiting for those passes were Tyler Cook and Luka Garza, big and powerful and fast maturing. Both carved up opposing interior defenders. They couldn’t handle the brute strength of Cook nor the fluid movement of the seven foot Garza. 6’10” Ryan Kreiner — performing admirably off the bench — served to keep Cook and Garza fresh, what with two games in less than 24 hours. What happened in the “city that never sleeps” should help this team immensely moving forward, because now they know they can play defense and sustain it!
Speaking of defense, Iowa football smothered Illinois’ vaunted running game. The Illini were averaging 262 yards a game on the ground. Rayvon Bonner did end up with 120 but that was essentially it. Illinois ran the ball when it was down 35-0. It could not throw what with quarterback AJ Bush running for his life most of the afternoon. Rising star AJ Epenesa, the Big Ten co-defensive player of the week, forced a fumble, scooped it up and scored a touchdown. He blocked a punt that led to six more, had 8-1/2 tackles, 3-1/2 for loss and 1-1/2 sacks. The defensive end was the catalyst for a unit that allowed Illinois little consistency on a cold, windy and rainy day.
Iowa’s four losses are by a combined 23 points. The Hawkeyes look to close out the schedule with a 4th consecutive win over Nebraska in the HyVee Hero’s game Friday at Kinnick Stadium. Hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving and Xmas holiday.