Beach Blusters: Old Men and Hurricanes


In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the opening sentence introduces the narrator with an air of self-deprecation and humility by simply identifying himself: “call me Ishmael”; which, appeals to me, and if it’s good enough for Herman—-so, with as much modesty as Ishmael, call me Roy and I would like to share with you a Cape Hatteras Tale……………….. The annual beach trip was prematurely terminated due to the high velocity, violent winds forecasted to trounce Cape Hatteras. The true vector is still under investigation: a single source, Hurricane Earl; or a synergism of “blowhards”, old men reminiscing with the concomitant window shattering gust of wind of a meteorological squalor.  The general conditions to engender the inception of these inimical tempests are warm surface water temperatures, and low pressure difference; wherein, the lower the barometric pressure the faster the wind blows; however, the propitious conditions of loquacious blowhards putatively are chairs and beers: thrones and the elixir of truth and wisdom, which can, and did, catalyzed into an explosive chaotic vortex of farcical tales. This is not to infer that this was a man’s only club, because apparently, the women, Mary, Kathy, and Jamie were doing their best rendition of The View with assorted wines and Margaritas: salted and unsalted.

The beach stay was punctuated with activities of marathon reading, surfing, plankton tows, frequent jaunts to the local fish market for fresh seafood and a purported golfing foray.

The commencement of every morning was living the lyrics of George Harrison’s song, Here Comes the Sun:

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it’s alright

Mary and I would at dawn, the harbinger of sunrise, brew coffee, grab a cup of jo and beach chairs, trek over the dunes, and with each step bare the titillating cool morning sand oozing between our toes before arriving at the ocean’s strand line, where we anchored ourselves firmly in the sand, careful not to spill the ink black, caffeinated elixir.  All comfy in our beach chair sipping the piping hot nectar, enraptured by a balmy brine zephyr during the twilight diffuse light, we would witness silhouettes of the shore break denizens engaging in a game of tag with the swash; the mole crabs were swept up on the beach and when the cloak of the foamy white swash receded back to the ocean, she, predominately female because males are small and parasitic to the female, quickly dug for cover to flee the grasping tong-like beaks of the rapacious team of the willet and sanderling; ubiquitous shore birds, which constituted one willet and two flanking sanderlings. Why that particular combo, it’s an enigma. Inevitably for Mary and me to reach our desired designation, the strand line, we had to trespass with a tippy-toe negotiation through an “archeological dig” of holes excavated by the fleet footed ghost crab.  While we sat besieged by innumerable shaft sites, the indefatigable decapods would fastidiously shovel dirt from their burrow-shafts, which can reach depths of four feet. Not to be distracted from our original intent of the sublime sunrise experience; which incidentally, is a misnomer because in actuality, it’s the earth’s planetary axial tilt and rotation that gives the illusion of a sunrise…..but I digress, it was gorgeous, as was the woman sitting beside me.

Surfing was an escapade in humility; I did more paddling than actual wave riding. With the oncoming hurricane, the waves were cresting from chest to head-high manifesting a plunging break: the break is from top to bottom forming a barrel or tube of air as it collapses. This particular type of break is fast and punishing to the hoary seasoned surfer who deliberates a maneuver; conversely, the sinewy youth who engages instinctually is recompensed with dividends of a long ride and spared the embarrassing crest smacking, and subsequent tumbling plunge to the wave’s trough. Regardless of the countless wipeouts, I was still out there paddling. When I’m too old to do that, it will be time to lie with Davy Jones locker; however, with contemplative reflection, there is a good chance, I might be a touch premature, hasty if you will, and besides, I still have my books, microscopes, beer and coffee: I will adapt and adjust.

The brains of the group, the women, were enthralled in lofty cerebral pursuits: a book smack down of how many books can be read in three days. Two strategies were observed: the sprinter and marathoner reader.  The sprinter would burst read: intense interludes of book consuming; conversely, the marathoner would leisurely luxuriate in an immersion of the extolled written word: Kathy excelled in this strategy, wherein, she would stroll down to the water front, stake out the beach terrain that suited her capricious fancy and decorate it with the eclectic shore line furnishing of a towel, chair, and the “bag” of assorted incidentals; to include, the book. Whereupon, she would assume a Yoga-like body alignment conducive to sustain lengthy motionlessness, which insured assiduity to the book’s content at hand and precluded a potential loss of place on the book’s page by repositioning. With sunglasses and lotion, she endured the oppressive heat, and completed the book/s.

The politically charge juggernaut issue of global warming that is inextricably linked to anthropogenic fossil fuel retrieving processes; mining and ocean floor drilling, and ‘energy gleaning burning’ has resuscitated my passion for bio-indices monitoring techniques to ascertain water quality: Sampling the zooplankton communities with plankton net and the aid of the microscope for taxonomic name tagging, afforded me a venue to harvest  the plankton population, miniature, body- transparent arthropods, reveling diversity and species dominance, which is indicative of water chemistry, and a reflection of its health. “The Plan”, still in its embryonic phase, and myself dubious of how to proceed, I solicit James assistance for the first boat run and plankton tow. Once a reliable, economical, small watercraft was secured— James and his long time Coast Guard friend had engineered several convoluted plans to insure that I would readily have a boat at my disposal, an exerted effort immensely appreciated but, beyond the conceptual ecological project: and, violating the edict KISS: keep it simple stupid; a Henry David Thoreau philosophy recapped by the Marine Corp.  I adjudicated to renting a Jon boat, which placated to my principles of KISS and a personal responsibility to support the local small businesses; providing a crutch of currency for a gimp economy.  After a cursory what is and how to of the outboard motor by the proprietor, James and I were off; careening turns, increasing and decreasing speed with wrist flipping executions, and barking out communications to override the droning incessant roar of the propeller twirling outboard that left a signature trail of rippling waves whose ephemeral life spans were terminated by the proximal shore.  Paraphrasing George Harrison’s lyrics: if you don’t know where you are going, then any and every road is the right road, as it was for James and I, plotting our course to “somewhere” in the estuary.  In the same capricious fashion lottery numbers are chosen, we selected a drop site for the initial plankton trial tow. Empirically we toiled to improve our plankton-net towing method with our gut as quantifying calibrators; by tweaking the boat’s speed corollary depth adjustment was achieved, and striving for expediency and efficiency James’ broadside retrieval strategy of the net was employed. Once established, we were no longer sampling the substrate detritus (estuary’s mud), but the water column where the elusive zooplankton jerked and flittered in their anemic, feeble attempt at mobility. I was interested specifically in the group of marine water fleas: Podon and Evadne, which does not have the same canonical status as the great white sperm whale of the 1851 literary classic Moby Dick; however, I do feel, as established in my open sentence, a kindred relation to Ishmael, the autodidactic, philosophical narrator of the nautical tale of Captain Ahab and the leg chomping leviathan—and, James does harbor demonstrable manifestation of the character Starbuck , the level headed, conscientious first mate of the maritime saga. After bagging the planktonic prey; which was neither ominous nor thematically Moby Dick evil, we headed back to shore.  In our zeal to disembark, I failed to make a mental note of a shoreline benchmark of our docking site, and hence, cruised right by it. We finally recognized some landmarks and made it back to port safely avoiding the finality fate of the Pequod.

The Colonel had intimated to us he had scheduled T-time at a local golf course. So, early one morning, he busied himself with the logistics for this endeavor:  Apparently, he had his golf paraphernalia stashed in his car; this strictly was an assumption because his frenetic animation was expended on rifling through the cooler for beers and the refrigerator for rations. Now that I mentioned it, I never did spy any golf clubs. What really transpired is an alleged golf foray. No one can really vouch for the Colonel’s absent time: espionage, maybe, and naturally, he had countless alibis of golf tales to corroborate the truancy. A Sherlockian caper is a foot. Speaking of tall tales, the Colonel is a gifted story weaver and when we three brothers get together there is an anthropogenic engendered barometric pressure drop and blustering spurious epics are spunned: one knows to shutter the windows of veracity when the Colonel prefaces a yarn with, “you might not remember this”…..henceforth, gusts of winds, and as my son in law Dave, said, “one shouldn’t let truth get in way of a good story”.

With all this wind, and riding on its currents, ‘family love’, reminds me of another George Harrison song ,”Blow Away”:


All it’s got to take is some warmth to make it

Blow away, blow away, blow away

Winds blowing clouds dispersed

Rainbow appearing, the pressures were burst

Breezes a singing, now feeling good…