The Evening News Revisited

By Tom Neale

(Note to my readers: This is my last Onboard With Tom Neale column but I will continue writing columns with great advice in BoatUS Magazine.)

Bahamas anchorageBahamas anchorage.

A few years after we first started long term cruising, we heard snippets from BBC (over the wireless radio) and from other Single Side Band sources that something really bad had happened in Chernobyl. As we sorted out the smatterings of news from the static and many foreign languages of the word's many radio frequencies, we heard that a huge nuclear melt down had occurred over in Russia and that the radioactive clouds were blowing our way on the wind. We were in the central Exumas, with our two young children. We wasted no time. We went to a good large abandoned cistern and filled our water tanks, lugging buckets of water. We got all the local veggies we could and filled our tanks with fuel. We headed south, hoping that the radioactive winds, as they had been forecast, would miss us. The information was wrong and we soon returned to our regular cruising grounds.

The evening news not long ago said a guy was claiming that yesterday was supposed to be the end of the world. As I understand it he was going to watch it on TV — maybe on the evening news. People did all sorts of things, including driving across the country, fulfilling dreams and forgetting dreams. We took a short cruise in "Chez Nous." It had nothing to do with the prediction; we were going to do it anyway. Actually it was hours after we had left on our short trip that we remembered what the evening was supposed to bring. "Oh well, this is a good place to see it." We didn't watch the evening news, but I guess we would have known had it happened ... but then, maybe we would have missed it.

It reminded me of another end-of-the-world kind of prediction. This prediction wasn't quite as drastic, but it was bad enough. This was about the new millennium. All the computers were supposed to crash at midnight. You remember it, I'm sure. It wasn't just that the computers were going to crash; it was that everything else was going to crash with them. Airplanes were going to fall from the sky. Word wide financial markets were going to shut down so nobody would know how much money they (or anyone else) had and no one could make money, lose money or rip off anyone else's money. Much of the world's advanced military equipment would be toast. The world as we knew it was going to crash with the computers. From what I heard later, a lot of people also made pilgrimages, went to mountain tops and held vigils (I guess while peering at their monitors). We, on Chez Nous, forgot about that one too.

Chez Nous heading out into mother oceanChez Nous heading out into mother ocean.

We were in the Bahamas. We figured it was a great place to celebrate that particular New Years and we normally were there that time of the year anyway. We anchored near a small special island village, went in by dinghy, and partied with other cruisers and Bahamians. The evening news was mostly about the New Year's Day race the next day. There were a lot of important announcements on the beaches, in the bars, and in the streets. They mainly had to do with things like when the races would start. They always set a time — more or less — but no one really knew whether that was going to be "THE" time because no one really knew how hung over people would be. There were also a lot of predictions in the island's drumbeat evening news such as, whether this boat or that boat would stay afloat long enough to finish the race, since early celebrations had gotten in the way of finishing the caulking. (Early celebration for a New Year's Eve usually begins the first day of the preceding year.) There was a lot of other evening news speculation too, like which boats would collide the next day, how many people would have to be thrown off to lighten the ballast if the wind died, and who was going to shoot the cannon and where was the cannon anyway.

The midnight hour drew close and the partying grew louder; still no one was thinking about computers. I sat with a few old acquaintances on a stone wall on the beach. We looked out over the Great Bahamas Banks. The breeze was gentle and waves lapped teasingly on the sandy shore. We talked about old times, about all the nights and days we'd spent in the islands and at sea and getting our boats ready to take what it took to go to sea and cruise the islands. We were all kind of wondering where the time had gone. We remembered the time as being mostly good, although we all remembered some plenty bad times. We had all been blasted by hurricanes, chased by sharks, busted our bodies trying to fix engines or rigs and looked up from far too deep under the ocean, having spent far too many minutes working an elusive grouper hiding back in a cave, to realize that we couldn't possibly have enough oxygen left in our lungs to make it to the top before passing out. And other things like that. We had all those memories and we were looking forward to many more days at sea and days in the islands. But we weren't looking at the evening news.

Actually, someone mentioned the computer thing, but nobody was interested in talking about it. We'd all covered plenty of water, found many an inlet, avoided many a reef, survived many a storm, had many a good time without any thought of a computer. So we figured that if all the computers crashed it might be good riddance because all the people coming out to the islands dependent solely on GPS and electronic charting might have to stay back on the continent for a few years, concentrating on fixing their computers or, better still, learning to navigate. That extra yearly flip that the computers hadn't been programmed for just wasn't relevant to us.

Next morning, the first day of the new Millennium, dawned squeaky clean. The wind was good. I don't remember who won the race, which boat collided with which, or whether they fired a cannon or a shot gun. Doesn't matter. It was a good day on the water in the islands. That's what I remember. Some poor fool came on the VHF 16 and announced that all the computers were still working wherever people were using them, but it just didn't seem important.

I suppose the world "as we know it" will end someday, some time. After all, people have been talking about it on the evening news for many years. It sells advertisements. It's clear to me that lots of land-people just love to settle down after the day, turn on the TV, and watch some talking head tell them about the end of the world. Go at it, land-people. But for my evening news I'd rather watch the sun go down, the stars slowly brighten, the moon rise, the night breeze fill in for the evening wind, the phosphorous in my wake showing me where I've been and the porpoise at my bow showing me where to go.

And these are the thoughts I'd like to leave you with, as I sign off from this long series of columns in the wide wide world of the internet. In that world, so many of us create what we want others to believe regardless of how good it really is in the real world. In these columns, that's what I've talked about — the real world of boats. 

Tom Neale, who is Technical Editor of BoatUS Magazine, has been writing regular columns and Tom's Tips for BoatUS members since 2004. We greatly appreciate this fine contribution to the enjoyment of boating. You can read his archives here.

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— Published: December 2016

Tom's Tips About Enjoying

  • You don't need a tip. Just enjoy.
  • Get a book, go out on deck, look at the stars, but don't turn on that TV or the computer or "device."
  • And, oh by the way, learn to navigate.



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