A Freaky Vacation

I didn’t just spend my whole life on a riverboat. Most people will tease that I did, but I can ensure you that I didn’t. One of my favorite vacations was when I went to Massachusetts with my late wife. We went to Cape Cod, walked along the beautiful white beaches and sang karaoke all night! It was truly great fun. I had a friend I had met in the Navy, his name was Richie. He now is the owner of a Worcester Limo Rental Company (props go to him), but back then he was dazed and confused. Anyways, we stayed with him and his girlfriend. I remember one night in which we all bought lobster from the local shopping center and played poker… Richie and I may have even gone out back to to have a few tokes from his pipe, if you know what I mean!

Life Saved you may be wondering … What does this have to do with boats or barges. Its a fair question. But, it was on this trip, that I had a firsthand experience of what can go wrong on boats, and that everyone needs to take precautions before getting on one- no matter what!

On the first Sunday of our trip, we went to this island off the coast called Martha’s Vineyard. We were able to walk around it and experience all of the shops in no time. there was a brewery and fine restaurant we visited. Being a proud southern boy, I had no idea that New England could be this beautiful. I was used to a diet of :

  • Grits
  • Fried chicken and gravy with cayan flavoring
  • Yams
  • Soda

I never before had a clambake with chowder and fresh sourdough- just incredible. Then we decided to leave the island and head back to Richie’s house in Gloucester.

In sailing terms, it wasn’t a far sail to his house- maybe about an hour and a half to this area on the cape. He only had a 16 foot Four Seasons with a twin-rev motor, that we would trim down. It was about 20 minutes into the ride home, when it started pouring on the water. The visibility was terrible. Richie’s sails were up when they should have been down and his lights weren’t on yet. Next thing I can remember was that Monica (Richie’s girlfriend at the time) was walking up the side of the boat, when the sail jarred loose, swinging back hard into her head, knocking her unconscious overboard. She didn’t have a life preserver on so she began sinking instantly. Richie hadn’t even noticed. I ran up and shouted at Richie, he stopped the boat instantly- Her body had started sinking down to the bottom of the sandbar. I jumped overboard and swam underwater about 20 feet, I grabbed her hair and pulled her up to the water’s surface. Richie threw us a rope and my wife started crying, because she saw all of the blood. We got back to shore in 45 minutes, and an emergency crew was ready to take her to the hospital.

Monica didn’t wake up from her coma for 2 months. She has since fully recovered, and it leading a completely normal life. In any case, I have never been so scared for my life, and someone else in my whole life. But never mind that, I was in my element (I loved boats, jet ski’s, all forms of watercraft), how had I never been in an emergency situation before? This intrigued me into taking numerous safety courses including deep dive training, shipwreck training, coast guard training, CPR and medical training.

This just goes to show anybody out there, that you need to take safety first at all times. This should be paramount in your life, whether you captain a Barge, Riverboat or canoe.  

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Planes, Trains, Autos- And Boats!

boatSo, this post is about the breadth of knowledge I had picked up about boats in the last 20 years. I have always been a major fan of transportation. My uncle used to be a train conductor, and I used to ride along with him on cross state trips. We would come back and talk about trains.. But never-mind that, he also had the world’s best model trains set, that I would play with for hours. It wasn’t until just after that, when I got into planes- I would buy model planes, paint them and fly them around. Now, they have these super high-tech drones that I love to play with. Come to think of it, I never really got into cars (something that is very common with mechanics, auto salesmen and limousine companies)- Owners of those business’ love their cars!

So why am I talking about trains and planes when I am now into boats? Good question. The other modes of transportation got me into learning about transportation, which eventually led me to boats. I didn’t really get into boats until I went on my first one. I remember standing at the front of the boat and the feeling of the wind in my hair- there was nothing like it. From that point on-wards, I knew I wanted to be a boat captain.

It was at this point I started learning about the history of boats. I became deeply involved with, and wanted to learn about the Titanic. What made it sink? Why did some boats float, others sink? I decided to take many science classes off at college…I wanted to become a buoyancy professional. It fascinated me. I was able to convince 5 of my closest friends to come out on a boat that I was resurrecting from the dead (renovating), and my love for bringing people out to sea was born- I was age 22. In studying about the titanic, I had the opportunity to be aboard one of the research vessels and voyages  out to dig up the remains. With the underwater robot Alvin and its incredible capabilities, I was able to meet Dr. Robert Balllard- one of my childhood hero’s. After the high of that expedition had worn off, I was able to get a grip of my ripe, old 25 year old life and finally figure out what I wanted to do.

I headed back home to Pushcott, Louisiana and stayed with my uncle for 6 months- to save up money for a boat. I was determined to do this- but then kept running out of money so quickly…Why? Too much beer and women! I decided it was far easier to become a captain of someone elses boat.So I applied for jobs.

Finally, I heard back from one. A management group, that was a part of the SS Tobogoan had gotten back to me, and said that they had a last minute deckhand position come available, due to seasickness. I jumped for joy, geared up, and boarded the next morning. This was quote the experience. It was on this vessel, that I met the love of my life- Alexandra Dumante.  Aside from being my late wife (one and only) whom I miss dearly, and will see again someday- we had a blast! I remember that they always separated the boys from the girls at night as it was strict back in the 70’s. I was at teh front of the boat, alexandra at the back where the women worked. I would throw a towel out my porthole every night around midnight, and she would see it float by, that was the signal. I would “go to the bathroom and complain of minor sea sickness, she would as well”. We would meet near a mesh over-throw near the lobster traps and make love for hours, returning to our beds at 2 or so every night without getting caught! These we’re the good ‘ole days.. I remember them so well, and I miss her so.

But I digress- It was like my own Titanic story. It make me realize I loved boats, and her. She stayed with me through subsequent careers moves for the next 25 years, in working for the Navy, the Catamaran Cruise line, and my last 10 back home for the Bayou Riverboat Company. It was sweet times! Until later….

I’ll Never Forget The Day

I remember being on the riverboat not too long ago. It was when I was stationed off Plum Island and did a stint in Rhode Island. It was a normal day. I arrived early to the SS Marsha to do my normal pre-sail checks. I checked the rutters, the engines and walked around on board. I spoke to the assistant captain and crew, the staff and waitresses. Nothing was different for me that that morning- except one thing. His name was Alexander Jackson- Might as well have been James Bond.bond

I was walking back to the galley, when I spotted a man in a white suit, sitting in my chair. He looked like the kind of guy who smoked fine cigars and drank whiskey. He looked like he had money, I could tell he did because I saw a limousine on shore, I think from this local company-http://www.lavishlimousineprovidence.com/

Anyways, I saw this man lurking around. At first, I was caught off guard- he was such a peculiar character to be on a riverboat in RI. I approached the man and said, “Hey, what are you doing”. This was the most interesting conversation I have ever had. He explained how he was in RI for the FBI and he needed a lift across the bay. We spoke a bit about heist’s, international sports, fine wine and the women we’ve slept with. I even popped open a flask on the way, something I only did on a rare occasion with certain guests. It was a jolly time.

Towards the end of the trip, about 3 hours long, we could start to see the shore line, about 2 miles away. It was at this time, that he stood up and proclaimed that he needed to know where the bathroom was. I patiently awaited for him to come back, to keep our conversation going as it was so fun and exciting. 10 minutes went by. Next 20. then 30. We had docked. I walked around the boat to say goodbye to my new friend, but there was no sight of him. Where did he go?

I walked over to the bathroom that was closest to where the cockpit was located. I knocked a few times. Could my mystery friend ( I think he said his name was Martin), be sea sick? I knocked on the door a few times, until I realized that it was open. When I opened the door, I saw nobody.. But something in the corner did catch my eye. It was a perfectly folded, nice, white suit- the same one that Martin was wearing. I saw that the port hole was open as well. What the hell happened? I cried and screamed man overboard! I pulled the SOS lever in the cockpit to look for Martin, but the search crew ended up combing the shoreline and local water all night and couldn’t find anything.

I sat down for drink later that night with some of the crew and we talked about what could have happened, until we found out later that night. Their was a hundred million dollar home being built for a local drug lord, taking place on plum island. The arrest of the drug lord had occurred that night and I saw our mystery friends picture on the cover of the newspaper, in charge of the arrest. What had happened, was that he was undercover and must have changed into his disguise in the bathroom. Jumped out, changed on land and arrested the drug dealer. Incredible really. Such an interesting day that was.

First Glimpse

So I want to start this blog off about explaining just how could incredible my life has been. But it was set up and down the Mississippi River over and over again and fulfill my lifestream. I listen to Otis Redding, Animals and other  Motown favorites up in the cockpit and thoroughly enjoyed. However my favorite thing was all the people out get to meet at this wonderful and illustrious career.billy

So my favorite people including Martha Jenkins and deckhands Paulo Dominguez and Stefan Marshall. I really got to know over the years and bond and make everlasting relationships with these people. Heck I even went to Martha’s son’s wedding and was able to speak at the wedding as we are such great friends.

But I also was able to learn a time about boats. From the antique days of steam vessels down to the propeller powered ferries that we have today, I knew it all. It really breaks my heart when I see horrible Cap’ns, like the one who crashed into the shore with his vessel, not know how to drive a stinking boat. The kind of people like this that should be riding dinghies not passenger ferries and boats.

See what I mean with this post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/hudson-river-boat-crash/)

But I digress. In his life really just comes down to meet banking the lone superhero in my life. Have you ever considered somebody to be your superhero? Have you ever considered Jesus Christ the one who all superheroes are based off of? He had superpowers that allow him to raise the dead. He fought and triumphed over evil and the most unique unperceived ways. He is the ultimate protector of the weak and the faint of heart. Is disguised as his glory analogous to the brightness of the sun by cloaking himself in humility. Ultimately 2000 years after his birth the exploits he is more powerful than ever. According to global Christianity airport on the size and distribution of the worlds Christian population there are 3 billion Christians around the world, which represents nearly a third of the estimated global population of 7 billion. That my friends is a true superhero.

Jesus Christ is the one who has brought me to where I am and allowed me to pursue my glory days on boat. Just a glimpse my next post will be more story based and have all the pictures and fun times of the riverboat that I was stationed on for nearly 15 years the SS more and, and the next boat after that was the incredible Lucille Ferry it was most remarkable boat and Ferry ability that I’ve ever had.