O Captain, My Kaplan
Last week, I mentioned that I have a cousin who lives in Venice, Jim Kaplan. He grew up in an area known as Miller Beach on the shores of Lake MIchigan, near the Indiana Dunes. It's the outskirts of Gary, but was a very nice area, just a few blocks from where my beloved grandmother (and his aunt) Rose lived, as well as several other relatives. He's always loved boats, and for the past few decades even works in the boating industry -- at first on the commercial end, though later for a company that dealt with more technical, business and Navy-related matters.
Several decades back, during our younger, more carefree and idiotic days, when he was working for the commercial shop, he did a favor for a client and was paid to take an old, small boat from Los Angeles down to San Diego, which would have been a long and overnight trip. He needed a few friend to help crew , and I joined in. We started out very early, and the first day was enjoyable, and late in the day we even came across a school of dolphins. (Sorry that they are mostly underwater here, I did my best...)
As for the second day --
Well, did I mentioned that during that by the end of second day we had re-christened the bought "Kaplan's Folly"? During the night, the creaky vessel sprung a leak, though we were able to contain it well enough. But the early morning, however, that became more problematic. And bailing out the boat because less-occasional, and more of our daily routine.
By noon, we figured that we had done our duty, because the alternative was sinking. I think we had as far as San Pedro (which is near Long Beach) not quite half-way to our destination. We pulled into the marina, called the boat's owner to explain the situation and say that we would be leaving the boat there, and it was now up to him to get it and figure out what to do with the dinghy. And then we called one of the wives to drove down and get us back home. It has remained a fond memory from afar, and something we still joke about from time to time.
This is the most-memorable Kaplan's Folly at a time when it was still afloat...
Anyway, a few months ago Jim decided to act on his love for the lure of the seas, and bought a boat (not a big one, but nice, a sailboat/motorboat), and he goes out one afternoon a week like clockwork from Marina del Rey. (Also at other times, including at night, but those are random.) I join him from time to time.
This is me joining him about a month ago on board the good ship Flying Fish III.
As I said, he always goes out at least one afternoon a week, and that day was yesterday -- and once again, I joined him.
It was quite nice when we took off – that’s a couple of pelicans sunbathing. (I wanted to get a photo of the large clan of seals we always pass by in the channel, but I always remember too late to have my camera ready, and by the time the boat has passed them the photo looks like you took a picture of a lot of duffel bags. I had my camera ready this time -- but there were only two seals on the dock, perhaps the others were out fishing, so I let it pass. But I was at the ready for the pelicans, at least --
As we headed out, there were also a lot of ominous, billowing, dark clouds in the distance, but from how the wind was blowing (which admittedly was strong...) it appeared like we would likely miss them, seemingly being blown in another direction. As his wife later said in a bit of wonderment, “Didn’t you hear the storm warnings? It was on the radio.” Short answer – no.
The good news is that Los Angeles meterologists do a pretty fine job at predicting storm warnings.. Or at least did yesterday. We were out in the channel for about an hour, most of the time it being in a windy squall with a few patches of lightning. Fortunately we’d put in a sot of tent cover two weeks ago, so we were somewhat protected. With emphasis on the “somewhat.” Basically, as we said to one another, hey, we’re on the ocean surrounded by water – if it’s coming down from the sky, too, so be it.
This photo below doesn’t come even remotely close to doing it justice. It just looks like an overcast day. In fact, it was torrential at the time. The camera just doesn’t pick up pouring rain, wind whipping, periodic thunder and distant lightning. But if one looks close, you can see the left bench glistening (which is actually a pool of water) and the spread-out towel on the right, trying to soak up water to make sitting habitable. And what should be a calm, blue, clear ocean not totally covered by pockmarks of rain -- isn’t. And what you can also see is that no one else was devoid of sense to go out at the time. (That’s Ship Captain Jim explaining that All’s Well.)
To be clear, It wasn’t even marginally dangerous in the slightest. Just very wet. And actually reasonably fun. Just…well, very wet. It was fairly calm, never got much waves, and the lightning was rare and far away. (Maybe just three bolts in the hour at sea.) And most-happily, if we hadn’t put up the tent cover two weeks ago – which whimsically enough was not for protection from the rain, but rather to keep the sun from beating down… -- it would have been far more uncomfortable (In fairness, too, I could have gone underneath in the small hold, but chose not to – if my fellow shipmate had to be out there steering, I would not forsake my captain! And on the plus side we did prove that the makeshift Kaplan Ship Co. tent cover is Storm-Worthy. As are we.
It's the evening now, and I'm all dry.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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