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  • Bruce Tate

Ugly

Chroniclers of adventures navigate a tension. People want to reads about exciting or pleasant events, and I'll lean toward that perspective because I am an optimist at heart. Still, sometimes ugly events, circumstances, or behaviors mar the overall experience. Sometimes the events strike close to home. Other times, the news can come from the other side of the globe.


To understand what I mean, you need to know about a time honored tradition among boaters. Since vessels have sailed the seas, there have been big boats and small boats. Mariners throughout the world establish rules and traditions to share the waterways. Powerboats tend to give sailers lots of room to operate because a ship under sail's direction of travel often depends on the direction of the wind. Big powerboats often generate wakes of four feet or more but can employ various techniques to protect slower moving boats. To offer perspective, loopers tend to stay in port when seas are greater than *two* feet. One way to protect smaller or slower craft is to use a marine VHF radio to negotiate a slow pass. Here's how it works.


The driver of the faster vessel hails a slower moving craft, and suggests they both slow down. Then, at marginally slower speeds, they pass one another in relative comfort. The slow pass is a time-honored technique wrapped in kindness and respect for fellow seafarers.


As we worked our way down the Florida coast line, we noticed a disturbing trend. Kindness and respect were shattered. One afternoon when going from Naples to Marco Island, we navigated more than a dozen wakes of four feet or more, with complete radio silence. Often, captains would turn around and watch the results of their carelessness. Instead of a tool for information and respect, our VHF was peppered with communication scolding other boaters. One frustrated commercial tow captain chided a weekend warrior, "You have no manners down here." Our experience was similar. We were slow-passed just four times in three days. After a time, we got used to getting waked, and learned to laugh it off. Still, it disturbed us.


Intentionally waking another boat is sad because it begins to erode the ties of friendship that the sea uses to bind us together. A shared bond between all sailors becomes a weakened knot tying together those with a bigger boat.


The problem is, there's always someone else with a bigger boat.


As I write this post, something deeper is happening, both different and the same. Russia invaded Ukraine. I am absolutely devastated, as Maggie and I are close to several Ukrainians through our work. As this invasion occurs, we look out to see an explosion of flags on boats or pateos saying "Donald Trump" and "Let's Go Brandon", the battle cry that echos the syllables of F**k Joe Biden. Donald Trump came out in support of the invasion of Ukraine, lauding Putin as a genius.


Trump is *waking* us. His words and venom are not a political phenomenon. His is a social toxic wave that batters the gunwales of our fragile democracy and unravels the knots binding Americans together. The wake then pushes out, ripping at the docks of truth. When the docks are destroyed, the wake pushes on, eroding the banks of civility and humanity.


As we enjoy this loop, saddened by the sickness creeping into both the marine community and our world's politics, I *know* the authoritarians of the world are waking us. I just hope they are also *waking* us.


We've slept long enough.




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