I know I’ve only had this newspaper of mine for eight years (almost nine). I had a little news reporting experience before that, but not a whole lot. So I don’t pretend to be a “seasoned” reporter yet. I’ll accept that moniker when I hit the 10 year mark with the paper, I think.
Meanwhile, I can say with certainty that I have learned a few things with this gig. When I started the paper I thought it would be a fun little gig with coverage of the parades and festivals and meetings. I knew the meeting coverage could get feisty, even nasty. Hell, we had one school committee member call another the “c” word once, and the barely five-foot-tall woman slapped her bear-like fellow committee member and he actually took her to court and charged her with assault. Sources say the DA asked him if he really wanted to go in front of a judge and say he was threatened by her. And, of course, he deserved that slap.
So, it’s no surprise that politics in Fairhaven has the reputation of being a blood sport. It still is. I’m always chasing down stupid rumors about politicians and ex-politicians.
But that’s politics. That’s fun stuff. That goes with the territory.
I didn’t expect a whole lot of murder cases. Inside of six months of starting the paper in January of 2006, Fairhaven had a murder. Young John Garrett Blomgren had a fight with his friend, Fairhaven high school football player Thomas Reynolds, and young Thomas died from knife wounds sustained in that fight. Garrett (he went by his middle name) received a sentence of 15-17 years.
A few months later, in November of 2006, David Ford knifed Dwayne Lassiter to death over a dispute about a parking space.
That same summer, we had the notorious hazing incident involving Fairhaven football players, including my neighbor.
Since then we’ve had three more murders in Fairhaven, all Fairhaven residents: In 2008, Joshua Fitzgerald was killed in a knife fight by Brandon Callender of New Bedford; in 2009, young Kalibe Correia killed his father Keith in a fight; and now Joyce Howland, whose assailant has not yet been identified.
A few other court cases of various natures have sent me to the court house looking for records, straining to hear as lawyers and judges clearly do NOT respect the spirit of the law as to what “open court” means. It means the public has a right to know. But they mumble, they whisper, they do their best to keep us from hearing. It’s infuriating.
But it’s absolutely maddening to the victims and their family members who also have to sit where they can’t hear what’s going on.
After a couple of years of this, I learned one thing, something I share with victims whenever they ask me what they can do to help their cases along. I tell them to go to court, every, single time. Do NOT miss a court date even if the Assistant District Attorney handling your case tells you that you don’t have to go; even if your DA victim advocate tells you not to worry, nothing is going to happen that day; even if you’re sick of the whole thing because they keep continuing it.
I’ve been there when the DA and defense attorney have been mumbling in front of the judge. I’ve seen the judge look up and ask if the victim or anyone from the family is there; then the judge, DA and defense attorney will all turn and look at the benches. No one raises a hand. Suddenly the case ends. Boom…dismissed, some sort of plea with a very light sentence, or none at all.
You can hear it all the time, too, if you watch documentaries about murder and rape and other horrendous crimes. The detectives often say that it was the family member who called and called and called, or went to court every single day that made the difference.
Joyce Howland had no siblings, no children; just a couple of cousins that she obviously wasn’t that close to. Joyce definitely had people who were clearly close to her, good friends, her Goddaughter, and others I’m hearing about as the days pass.
But it’s been 11 days since her body was found and there hasn’t even been a death notice in the paper (which is free).
So, I wonder, who will be there for Joyce? Who will get up early and miss work countless times to be Joyce’s presence in the courtroom? Who will sit there among the accused thieves and assaulters and twitching, sniffling drug offenders for Joyce? Who will be there to speak up when the judge looks up and the ADA and defense attorney turn around looking for a family member?
“Well, it looks like I won’t be getting out on the boat again this year, unless something unexpected happens (I can hope, right?).
It was a weird year with the boat to say the least (but when do I ever say the least?)
It seems that every time I took it out I had some problem with either the engine, operator stupidity, or just plain yucky luck. Nothing serious, though, and always a learning experience. The engine was just fussy all year.
The first time I went out, I hit a rock, good hit, too. But this year, I was prepared. I had my metal file handy and I was able to file out the little dent. That new prop was so light compared to the old one. I think it’s made of aluminum. More on that later.
The first big adventure this season was, we ran out of gas… I know, I know. It’s easier to do than you think, though. Then, well, wait for it.
The day we ran out of gas, my sister met me at the boat ramp. It was a clear, calm, beautiful day. Warm, but not hot. The exact kind of day for using this Little Water Buggy of mine.
I had been having a little trouble with the engine. It kept needing to be choked. The time before when I took it out, it stalled a couple of times. It was okay if I choked it, though, but that wasn’t right. I never had to keep the choke out before. Anyway, on that occasion, I had also kicked the gas hose loose. I had a heckuva time getting a tight fit on the gas tank side after that. I wasn’t sure if it was the hose connection, or the fitting on the old metal gas tank I have. Lots of people told me to get rid of that old gas tank, but I like it. I like that it has a gauge. I like that it doesn’t have a stupid warning about how it swells without a release valve.
So I made a few adjustments and decided to try it out again. We had almost a full tank of gas and I kept checking it…at first. [sigh]
We buzzed around Bella Vista Island and headed east. It was so calm and there weren’t a lot of big boats out there making our lives miserable with wakes. We hit a few, but not bad. One of the reasons I hate going out on Sundays is that I end up running into a-holes who think it’s funny to try to swamp me. One of these days I’ll get a name and look ’em up and expose ’em. Meanwhile, I just try to avoid them.
Anyway, on this day, we were halfway to Falmouth when my sister said she wanted to go back and check out a spot near the Seaview boat ramp that a friend of hers kayaks to all the time. I had never been there in the boat, so I was happy to go exploring. He said it was a little island with a nice sandy beach. So we headed back. That was good, or we would’ve run out of gas while we were pretty far out. I guess I just stopped checking the gas because we were so close to shore. Then the thing just sputtered a bit and… poof! That was it, all gone.
We did find her friend’s little island, though. I thought for sure that I took a picture of it so one of my readers could tell me what it’s called. They all have names, right? Every rock (except the ones I hit) have names around here, so a sandy island should. Unfortunately, as I look at the pictures on my cellphone, it appears I did not.
I did, however, take a picture of this rock that we were very close to when we anchored. Does it have a name? It’s not far from the Seaview boat ramp.
I guess we used up more gas than we normally would have because I had to keep it choked. Makes sense to me.
Fortunately, one of the first things I bought when I got the boat in the water last year was an unlimited membership in TowBoatU.S. So I made a call on my cellphone (I know, I know, I need a real radio….maybe next year), and Capt. Mike and his son Shane came to our rescue.
It was, though, I have to admit, the most fun I’d had on the boat. Sounds weird, but, it was a calm, beautiful day. Look at that sky in the picture! It was warm, but not too hot. The water was flat calm, and we were very close to shore. If we needed to, we truly could’ve walked to shore and just pulled the boat along to the Seaview boat ramp. So there was no stress, no real danger worry. We saw some kayakers (see below), watched the birds, the boats and the tide. If we had fishing poles with us it would’ve looked like we were there on purpose, except we were so close to shore. Maybe we could’ve been quahogging.
So, Captain Mike and Shane dropped off five gallons of gas and some oil and we were on our way. We got chugging along really well, the wind was picking up a bit, but it was still pretty calm, and it was still lots of fun. We were gone a lot longer than I had planned, but, other than that, it was okay.
As soon as I got moving along away from the shore heading back to Hoppy’s, I let the engine out a bit. The guys always say it’s good to blow it out, but I’m a bit of a chicken. Anyway, I cranked it up and got moving, probably about as fast as that old 25 horsepower motor can push that boat, when…BAM! Hit a rock….but just kept going.
I have to admit I was really shocked because we seemed so far from shore. But, the boat kept going, it didn’t make much difference in how it was moving, so I figured it was a little bump. No worries. When I got back I just filed down the prop a bit.
The next big adventure included my neighbor and local celebrity M.L. Baron, the weather spotter. ML is usually awake before the crack of dawn, so I sent a quick email one day and asked him if he wanted to join me for a spin around the coves. He jumped at the chance.
We buzzed all around, just kind of puttering and exploring things. We buzzed around the mooring field at Earl’s looking at all the boats, and ML took some great pictures. Then we went into Jack’s Cove. I’ve been all over Jack’s in the kayak, but never in the boat because the water is so low and there are so many rocks. So, we took our time and went really slow. We buzzed around the boats in the little private marina, and then we pulled into the part behind the big marsh. At some point, though, I decided we couldn’t see the rocks well enough, so we puttered out. Now, I’m talking SLOW, people, really slow. I knew there were rocks so I was being careful.
As we were puttering, ML was telling me a story about someone who had learned to kayak and flipped over and got stuck on an “underwater obstruction.” I swear, no lie…the second he said “underwater obstruction,” we hit a rock. It was a double whammy as I recall.
The prop seemed to be really banged up, too, because the water was roiling all around, but the motor was working great, so I just kept going. We started heading back towards the Seaview Boat Ramp area again. I picked up some speed as we pulled away from Jack’s and suddenly the engine started revving like crazy, but the boat wasn’t moving. ML immediately knew what happened.
“You lost your prop,” he said, but he didn’t mean LOST.
Sure enough, I turned off the engine and pulled it up and the prop was gone. Gone, for real. Not the pin lost and the prop spinning. The prop was not there at all.
ML had his handheld radio and got to use it. If you know ML, you know he got a kick out of using all his sea-talk know-how. AND he got to chide me for not having a radio onboard. He called TowBoat and this time Capt. Brian came to the rescue.
Capt. Brian asked, well, suggested really, that we get towed to the Seaview boat ramp. That seemed like a dumb thing to do since my car was at Hoppy’s. I really had to go to the bathroom, though, and there was nowhere to go…no head on the Towboat boat? YIKES!
Anyway, he said it was getting a bit choppy around West Island and he was too big to go under the causeway so we’d have to go around. The idea of going to Seaview, though, and then getting a ride back to my car to get back to the ramp just seemed too cumbersome.
Live and learn.
So, we headed for Hoppy’s. At first we were really moving along. The motor was banging against the transom and I was starting to get nervous. But Capt. Brian called back to see how we were doing and ML told him that he was okay, but the Captain (that would be me), wanted him to ease off a bit. So, we slowed down, but we were still moving faster than my Little Water Buggy ever went with me in it.
So, picture it. My poor Little Water Buggy getting hauled along ignominiously amid increasing waves plus the wake of the boat towing us, water spraying all around, we’re getting soaked, the little boat getting “tossed” about and ML trying to keep his camera dry. Remember those rocks I mentioned at the tip of West Island? Well, we had to go around them, making the trip longer, and wetter, and…oh my bouncing bladder. I was really worried the boat was going to fall apart, or start leaking. I was more worried my bladder would start leaking.
But we got through it. We even got a couple of pictures as we got towed, but only before it got rough. Okay, rough is a relative term, yes? I’m sure the TowBoat guys have seen a lot worse. I can say, though, that I was delighted when we rounded that corner and the wind backed off a bit.
I learned it takes quite a bit to flip that little boat of mine. We had waves and wakes and wind and water coming from all directions, broadsiding us, and we just jumped right over them. I was really glad I had installed those seats. We would’ve been tossed all around the deck without ’em. We were able to sit and hang onto the windshield as we got tossed around.
I have to say, ML was a cool cucumber through it all, too. I think we both had a great time.
Capt. Brian let me crawl through his boat as soon as we got to the ramp so I could use the portable toilet there. I can say unequivocally that using that bathroom at Hoppy’s Landing was THE worst part of the trip. Ugh….the service that provides that thing should be fired. It’s like they went out back and found one that they were getting rid of because it’s so yucky and decided it would be good enough for Hoppy’s Landing. Disgusting.
Capt. Brian lashed my Little Water Buggy alongside his boat and rode it right up the trailer. He did a better job than I do!
ML has written a bit about his adventure and posted some pictures on his Facebook page.
The prop was gone. I asked my neighbor (you remember Frank, right?) to take a look at the old one for me. He told me not to put it back on. That thing was a mess! I took it to Doug’s Props in Fairhaven and he rebuilt it for me. Even he was surprised that the new one had broken off. The hub just cracked in half and it was gone. The pin and nut were still there. He said they make crap now. As if we don’t know that. Just keep making things thinner and lighter. I noticed right away how much heavier the old one was when I pulled it off a shelf in the shed.
So, I have a new-old prop, and Doug is looking for another used one that’ll fit on my motor.
I suppose this should be the place where I complain about the lousy workmanship of just about anything we buy today. I’d venture to guess that there was a time when getting a new prop was better than rebuilding an old one, but that’s a rant for another time.
Amazing that I haven’t blogged in two months. I’m going to make a commitment to do this at least once a week, but I’ll try for twice a week. Then, maybe I’ll manage it once every two weeks. Then again, I’m the person who has been working on a sequel to a simple little fantasy novel for 10 years.
Procrastination is an art form, I think. I’m pretty good at it, too. There’s just so much to get done and not enough time in a day. I need one day a week, just for me, when the rest of the world doesn’t turn, so I can catch up.
Today I was so sure I was going to work on a one of the Christmas stories I’ve been wanting to write. Instead, I took the motorcycle out and, well, that was that. Just can’t miss these last few summer-like days so late in the season. And I’m still surrounded by boxes from the floor escapade this summer (see two or three blogs from July)
Now it’s midnight and I’m just getting started.
Time is a funny thing. One day, one hour, one minute at a time it goes. Next thing you know, it’s 30 years later and you’re facing more time to look back on than to look forward to. Meanwhile, the bills still need to be paid.
Starting this crazy newspaper of mine sure changed things. No time for anything else, it seems. There’s always so much that needs to be done. I guess I have to stick to the real weekly deadline so much, that I’m not so good at sticking to my self-imposed deadlines.
And now leaf-peep weekend snuck up on me, too. I’m determined to get up north, even if it’s only for a day. Not that I have much choice. There’s nowhere to stay (that I can afford) anywhere up north this weekend. I should’ve booked earlier…but, time trudged on by me. Like the tortoise and the hare. Time doesn’t fly, it trudges, slowly, one second at a time, at its own pace. I just dance around it chasing it as some crazed hare on catnip.
So, New Hamphire here I come…for one day. Another day of not writing that Christmas story…or the sequel…or sorting through these boxes…or fixing that ridiculous toilet that keeps leaking.
Stay tuned for some fun stories about my on-water adventures this season. It seems nearly every time I took the boat out I had “issues” this year. We got towed (have pictures), ran out of gas…hit rocks…lost the prop…
But I got out there. Anyone know a good outboard motor mechanic?
Time to hit the hay.
I’m going to get better at this. Promise. Just don’t expect me to write every day like SOME people do. I wish I could. But I’ve got that sequel to write.