The Captain and Mr. Shrode: A firsthand account of the voyage of Maverick

The Captain and Mr. Shrode: A firsthand account of the voyage of Maverick

by Tony Johnson


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780615651187
Publisher: Moonmaid
Publication date: 02/23/2013
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

San Rafael author Tony Johnson has been a resident of Marin County, California since 1971. After graduating from the Yale Divinity School that year, he moved west and went to work in the music business, playing drums for such acts as Maria Muldaur, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, Mary Wells, Commander Cody, Hoyt Axton, and Dave "Six Days On The Road" Dudley. His songs have been recorded by a variety of artists including Asleep at the Wheel, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Commander Cody, Hoyt Axton, Charly McClain, and Bette Midler, who sang his song, "Midnight in Memphis" on the platinum soundtrack of the movie, "The Rose." His music was also featured in the film, “A Day In The Life of Bonnie Consolo,” which was nominated for an Academy Award for live action short film in 1976.
After retiring from playing music on the road, he began working at the College of Marin in Kentfield, California, where he has taught philosophy, ethics, logic, and humanities for two over decades including a semester teaching at San Quentin.
His interest in sailing began in 1990. Eleven years later, he began a circumnavigation with friend Terry Shrode that is the topic of his book, The Captain and Mr. Shrode.

Table of Contents


The Crew 1

The Boat 3

The Plan 9

Departure 11

The Pacific

Underway 15

Vomit 17

Marine Mammal Alert 19

The Northeast Trades 21

The Tropics 23

A Bath 25

Crossing the Line 27

Landfall Tomorrow 29

Landfall 31

Damage Report 33

Nuku Hiva 35

Contacts with the Natives 37

Departing the Marquesas 39

On to the Tuamotus 43

Terror in Tahiti 47

Other than That, Mrs. Lincoln… 53

French Polynesia for Gentlemen 59

Bora Bora Bora 61

Dinnertime 63

What's Niue? 65

Friday Night at the Races 67

So Longa, Tonga 69

Pre-Frontal Geometry 71

Savusavu and the Road to Lambasa 75

Kava Jive 77

I Tell You No Lau 79

Malolo Lailai 81

Fijiphilia 83

Vanuatu Tu 85

Missionary Impossible 89

9/11 93

Behind Closed Doors 95

Mr. Shrode's Wild Ride 97

The Kite That Took Flight 101

Bonfire of the Inanities 103

Torres Strait, No Chaser 107

Origin Of The Specious 111

Faith Is the Place 113

Paradise Lost 115

The Muslim World

Bali, Hi 119

Ain't No Bali High Enough 121

Java Jive 125

Gentlemen Don't Do It 127

How We Ran Aground 131

Kumai 135

Gilang 139

The River 143

1000 Miles to Windward 147

Merry Christmas from Phuket 153

What Terry Missed 157

Ceylon 159

Hell on Wheels 161

A Measured Response 163

Uligan 165

High Wind, Heavy Seas 169

Pirate Plotting 171

Oman 173

A Fissiparous Fleet 175

The Bab El Mandeb 179

The Road to Asmara 181

The Night the Sea Turned White 185

The Full Red Sea Monty 189

Send Your Camel to Bed 195

Into the Valley of the Nile 197

Night Train to Cairo 201

Condo Made of Stona: The Sequel 205

Forward Progress 209

On the Hook in the Suez Canal 211

The Med

I Can See Clearly Now 217

Can You Hear Those Church Bells Ringin'? 221

Reunited 223

And a Bad Go-Getter 227

Meltemi 231

Delos 235

City-States 237

The Odyssey 241

The Battle of Salamis 245

Agoraphobia 249

Corinth 253

Ithaka 257

Been Such A Long Way Home 259

The Wandering Rocks 263

Dismasted 267

Rock This Way 273

In a Little Spanish Town 277

The Pillars Of Hercules 281

The Atlantic

The Marrakesh Express 285

The Master 289

And Your Bird Can Sing 295

Christopher Columbus 299

Head Out on the Highway 307

Looking for Adventure 309

The Bung 311

The Dolphin's Rings 315

If It's Going to Happen, It'll Happen Out There 319

Hand Jive 321

Houston, We've Had a Problem 323

Parrot Talk 327

Fixing a Hole 331

Sea Trials 335

A Different Drummer 339

Dreamworld 343

Let Us Cross Over 353

The Great Divide 355

The Final Leg

Homeward Bound 361

The Old Man And The Sea 363

Here Today, Gone Tamale 365

You'll Start Out Standing 369

Two-Lane Blacktop 373

Acapulco 377

T-Shirt Weather 379

With God On His Side 381

Abashed 389

Jiggety-Jig 391

Almost Homeboy 393

The Golden Gate 397

Both Sides Now 399

Appendix 405

Acknowledgements 415


Captain's Prologue

One pleasant January day in a dead calm off the coast of Sri Lanka, the Captain was merrily piloting his craft towards a safe harbor when he espied an approaching vessel. It was brightly painted with a menacing dragon figurehead, but otherwise the boat was of the open, wooden type we had seen often, about 30 feet with a powerful outboard and a crew of eight or so swarthy gentlemen. Their behavior differed from the more common deportment of cheery fishermen selling their offerings from the day's catch, in that their smiles were of granite, and their main sales rep was more aggressive than we were accustomed to.

The spokesperson wanted to come aboard, which was odd, and even though there was a language barrier, it was clear he was insisting on it. He also didn't have the customary fish in his hand. The Captain's adept instincts told him that something was amiss. His knees, he noted in passing, were not so much trembling as attempting to jump overboard. He was reviewing in his mind his standard catalogue of suitable social responses, in the hope of deciding on one that would set just the right tone. Let's see, there's the sizzling riposte, the dismissive laugh, the impossibly dense philosophical analysis, the….When, to an operatic fanfare, manfully into the breach from the companionway strode Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Shrode to deal with these ruffians. Now the reader may presume that at this juncture Mr. Shrode would be armed to the teeth and ready to do battle. But we carried no arms aboard, and had we possessed them, there is not a high likelihood that this particular sailor would have been adept in their use.

No, Mr. Shrode countered with a thespian burlesque worthy of the great masters. Affecting an attitude of airy guilelessness, he projected a Forest Gump-like inability to comprehend the potential for evil. “Can't we get on your boat? That looks so cool! Are you fishermen? Do you have any fish? How do you catch them? Is it fun? Do you have candy?”

In the hands of a lesser man, this offering would have been transparently disingenuous. But Mr. Shrode is not a lesser man, and he relentlessly pressed on, not for an instant tipping his hand. Observing the fishermen's response, the Captain noted bemusement, curiosity, and a hint of empathy for one so diminished in apprehension. There is little doubt that if they had suspected he was putting on an act, or if we had assumed any kind of defensive posture, they would have stormed poor Maverick. These were not your professional pirates, however. Their only weapons were knives, and it would seem that, after a disappointing day, guided by one hawkish soul, they had sensed an opportunity. Yet Mr. Shrode's innocent exuberance had touched a deeper note that resonated with our common humanity. After five long minutes of Mr. Shrode's dissembling, they lost their focus and decided to head for home.

Of all the theatrical performances I have been fortunate enough to witness, this one had an unrivaled impact on my immediate circumstances. Of course, none of the rest took place in real life. But more to the point, none were better acted. Perhaps it's not one of the greatest pirate dramas of all time. But, on the other hand, perhaps it is.

The above story was mysteriously missing from the original email accounts of the adventures of the crew of the mighty Maverick on the high seas. These are now presented with modest editing from the original dispatches sent during a circumnavigation undertaken during the years 2001-2003. Welcome aboard.

You'll Start Out Standing

2:45 PM local time, Sunday, April 6 (1945 April 6 UTC).

15 40 N 096 55 W

Temp. 91, Humidity 71%, Cloud Cover 10%.

Underway near Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

When one undertakes a venture such as ours, he perhaps holds out the hope that the experience may toughen him a bit, make more of a man of him, that sort of thing. He'll walk with a salty swagger and have a certain air that sets him apart from the ordinary man. The last thing one wishes is to be proven a weakling, a fool, a coward.

It's true that the Captain currently has a salty swagger but it has more to do with the fact that he's found the tamales and the question on his mind is “Dónde estan los baños?” than that he's got a few miles under his keel. And about his air, the less said the better, although it does do a rather good job of setting him apart from other men.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that if you live life fully, it will break your heart, probably quoting an old Irish proverb. Similarly, it seems that if you sail enough miles, the sea will turn you into a poltroon. Just what you didn't want.

The crew of Maverick arrives at Huatulco where all the books say it's safe to wait out a Tehuantepecer. The Captain looks at the bay, which is not too deep, and the faxes, which predict 12-foot waves gliding oh-so-gently by only a short distance away. He recalls that waves have the property of refracting around things. (Even particles may act like waves and refract, exhibiting just the sort of duplicity that the Captain abhors in the universe and its miserable doings.) Looking at the headland that protects the bay, he hypothesizes thusly: Here lies the sort of thingamajig around which a wave, if it got a notion to, might refract, sending its mischievous energy into the harbor. The books say no, it's safe. Never one to be reassured by facts or evidence, the Captain has that particular talent of the coward, to be afraid.

Seeking reassurance he asks the port captain if the harbor is safe, if the mean old waves might refract into the harbor. The port captain pats his hand and looks meaningfully into his eyes, having seen his sort before. “No, it is very safe here.”

So then the Captain goes to see the manager of the marina, Andrico, who has the sort of sporty name that tennis pros and ski instructors favor, and asks him the same thing. “No, not to worry,” he says in his best bedside manner, as if reassuring a little old lady.

So the books, and the Port Captain, and Andrico, and the fishermen, and the indulging looks on the faces of all who are brave, say that the nasty waves will not refract around the headland.

But the waves refract around the headland.

On Sunday, when the Tehuantepecer is scheduled to start blowing to 50 knots, the right side of the bay, the one the locals said was safest, starts to look untenable and will be if it gets worse. We move to the other side of the bay and as usual make certain we've got the hook well stuck. Later, the other cruising boat in the anchorage follows.

On Monday, the winds reportedly gusted to 65 knots, hurricane strength, out in the Gulf, and we had gusts of up to 40 in the bay. Every vessel in the bay dragged its anchor, except Maverick. Okay, there were only three other vessels. But one was a 60-foot steel trawler, and another was a large barge. Both craft were anchored by professionals—members in good standing of the “nothing to worry about in this snug harbor” school of thought. The trawler crew was aboard and tried to re-anchor but couldn't and eventually settled for tying up to the pier, which, with the surge, was a very ugly solution. The barge fetched up on the rocks. A local tug attempted to stabilize it at the docks, but when that failed, grounded it on a beach. The cruisers were away in town, so when we saw their boat was dragging in the strong wind and chop, we got into the dinghy with three fenders and clambered aboard to try to keep the fenders between their boat and a huge channel buoy. As the boat dragged past it, we found some lines and tied two to the buoy, stabilizing the situation until the weather died down. They were not ungrateful; the boat would have foundered.

An exasperating fact is that most of the time, the dashing, devil-may-care skipper who throws out 30 feet of rode in 20 feet of water and says, “Who's ready for a brewski?” is going to be fine, while the silly crew of Maverick that spent FIVE HOURS before they were satisfied that their anchor was well set in Mykonos will look like fools. Most of the time even a poorly set anchor will not drag, the boat will not be broken into, the through-hulls will not fail, we will not lose our passports, the lighthouse will be working, the rig will not come down, the hull will not come apart, the navigation will be obvious, the chart will be correct, the oil cooler will not spring a leak, lightning will not strike, the boat will not swing onto the reef in a gale, and all your worries will seem the far-fetched scenarios of a guy with no self-confidence and no sense of adventure.

When we were in Lipari, I saw an excursion boat loading passengers for a day trip. Everyone was in a festive mood, the crew welcoming the visitors, handing out drinks, helping them stow their bags. Only one man stood apart from the rest, leaning on the rail with a worried look on his face, staring down at the mooring lines. Though he wore no uniform, I knew in an instant he was the captain.

It's a little humiliating to feel the need, or even the duty, to be a fussy worrywart. It's really not what you had in mind when you visualized yourself as Captain. There is no dignity in paranoia, when the movies teach us that the hero is like Butch Cassidy or the Sundance Kid, jumping off a big cliff and not getting hurt. On the other hand, in the book, Little Big Man, there is a story about Wild Bill Hickok that I assume is apocryphal, but nonetheless like many apocryphal tales it is a good one. As he approaches a bar to get a drink, a man at a bar stool on the end who seems to be passed out drunk lifts up his head and raises a gun to kill him. Hickok, prepared for that eventuality because he's paranoid, has his gun hidden behind the hat he holds in his hand, and blows him away. Little Big Man is amazed, and asks Hickok how he knew that guy had a gun, and Hickok replies that it was just a hunch, and when he gets hunches like that 99 out of 100 times he's wrong. “But it's that one time in a hundred that pays me for my troubles.”

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