Chapter 1

As a youngster, I met the Lifeguard, through no particular fault of my own. I was at the beach, cavorting in the shallows when I took that one step too far. I could swim something other than a dog paddle and Mother was walking up to the concession stand. She didn't notice until the action was over.

That single step too far was the step that took me from the smooth sandy to the 'just a little deeper' area between the beach and the first sandbar. It was also the only place for three miles that had a rip. That I had made that single step at the beginning of the outflow instead of the end was one of those things ... fate? kismet? nope ... that step was karma. Karma will get you every time.

Murphy's Law states the when you have taken every possible precaution ... you didn't.

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.

When working toward the solution of a problem, it always helps if you know the answer ... provided you recognize the problem.

Nothing is as easy as it looks.

Everything takes longer than you think.

If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will.

Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.

Every solution breeds new problems.

The legibility of a copy is inversely proportional to its importance.

You cannot successfully determine beforehand which side of the bread to butter.

The chance of the bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet ... hunger enters this ... If you are very hungry it in inevitable which side will fall down. The area the bread chooses is always the spot that Spot uses to be sick. If you do not have a dog, the bread will land on the cats fresh hairball.

Notice: The importance of each Law is dependent on the situation ... there is NO number one. Murphy's Law is not singular.

Karma is the part of Murphy that is YOUR fault. Something I'd done ... of all the things I'd done ... needed retribution. (I was older than fifty before I caught on to that ... things you do need paybacks.) In this particular case I'd been rushing and knocked over mom's pop ... it was grape Nehi ... I'm allergic to grape ... and I was out in the water to rinse off the soda. Mom would have been mad if it had been a warm sip left in the bottom of the bottle ... but no ... it was ice cold and just opened. That's why she was on her way up the beach while I was on my down.

Before I knew it I was carried out the rip channel past the second sandbar ... out where I couldn't stand ... it was so deep six of me couldn't stand and keep number sixes head out of the water. That's when I had a personal confrontation with the Lifeguard.

"Why did you do that?"

"I took a step to far."

"I can sympathize."

"Thank you ... Mom won't."

Through no particular fault of my own, I managed to disrupt the continuum and successfully reached the the age of ten. My father decided to give Murphy a better chance. He bought a used sailboat.

A nineteen foot Lightning is NOT the boat to learn on. There are smaller ... and slower ... boats better suited to the education of the neophrite sailor. It was after I had mastered the art of righting a capsized sailboat that my father decided that the Lightning was mine ... and my sisters. Never forget my sisters.

The Yacht Club held regular races for six classes of boats. As long as a bigger boat wasn't available multiple winners were subject to increasing time handicaps. The more you won the more time was added to your finish. This generally meant that the nine foot dinghy was sold to a new member and a new and longer boat was bought. We had the dinghy 9's, 12's, 15's, 17's, 19's and the Star. The fast class was the Star and the last class on our lake.

The smaller boats were built in one of four ways. The local Swede took one on commission. The daddy bought a kit. Popular Mechanics sold plans, or a rich kid imported one from Chicago. Small boats were about one hundred dollars a foot if the Swede built it. A kit varied from fifty to seventy five dollars a foot ... depending. A plans boat could be as cheap as free or as much as ten thousand dollars depending on hospital and ambulance bills. Nobody talked about Chicago boats.

A good Star ... a winner ... might cost as much as a real yacht ... a thousand dollars a foot. There were five Stars on our lake.

Pentwater Lake... (I recommend you Google Map it but I'll do my best.) At the far end is the Pentwater River ... it's not much of a river but it does its best. The east end is reasonably deep ... deep enough for the Star Class but only just. Coming west the length exceeds the width by about two and a half times. At the mill, the lake makes a dog leg north and mostly ends at the channel. There used to be a bridge from the north pier to the south shore ... it's gone now ... and a new bridge was built over the river. Loss of the channel bridge sent property values on the south shore to the bottom. Fire insurance skyrocketed and eventually was denied. South Shore property had no value because no bank would finance a home on the south side.

The Yacht Club was directly across from the channel. A white building with it's own private set of docks. However, most of the racing sailboats were 'dry sailers' ... hauled on trailers to the yacht club ramp, raced and hauled home. Races were every Saturday ... at noon.

At the gun the dinghies raced down the dogleg to the Sawmill side of the Mill buoy and back. The 12's and 15's used the same course but after the dinghies. The 17's and 19's raced from the club, around the Lake side of the Mill buoy, up the lake to the buoy half way to the river ... around the buoy back to the Mill buoy and to the Club gun. On brisk days it could be over quick. On mild days? pack a lunch.

The Stars did it twice.

From the age of ten until I was 12 I raced. Daddy didn't buy a light lightning ... he bought someone else's plans mistake. Popular Mechanics wasn't kidding when they specified eighth inch five-ply marine plywood The one Daddy bought was built with three eights construction grade plywood. An eighth inch boat weighs under five hundred pounds ... a three eights boat weighs a thousand. An eighth inch Lightning can plane ... sail fast enough to lift the bow and sail on about three feet of stern hull bottom. My Lightning came in last and always needed bailing while sailing. The racing got old really quick.

It was when I turned 12 that Daddy's plan came together.

"It's yours David."

"You're not sailing?"

"Nope. Your mother wants a yacht. The Chris Craft 42 will be here this summer."

There's more to this than meets the eye. Yachts cost about a thousand dollars a foot and most of them were built to order. Mom was specific ... Dad was specific. 42 foot, single Chrysler marine, three cabins. He made his deposit ... twenty one thousand and waited on delivery. What came was 48 feet, twin Detroits, and two cabins.

They wouldn't take it back.

Daddy was the county prosecutor. He got the boat for 42 thousand.

That extra six feet? You can not possibly imagine the difference six feet makes in a yacht. The extra six feet in length meant four more feet in beam (width). The stern cabin was larger than our living room. The guest cabin was along the starboard side and it had a double bed. Finally mom asked what the door in the front bulkhead was.

"Crew quarters."

Three small cabins, two with bunks and a single.

Mother used profanity in the presence of her children for the first and last time of her life. She stood in the salon and counted ... twice.

"Two in the master. Two in the guest. Five in the crew. That's nine!! Fuck me!!"

"Actually, Mother," Daddy called her mother. "The two settees in the salon fold out and sleep two each. Four more makes 13. And ... the after cockpit has screens that snap top and bottom and the cockpit seats will sleep four more."

"We can take 17 people?"

"Yes, Mother."

"I want to go to Milwaukee ... this weekend. The sisters will all be in town and it's my turn to brag."

Mother was number one of eight girls and one boy. The sisters were all, everyone of them, beauties ... mom was ... pretty ... if you like the horse face style. Her sisters were married to the military and had, over the years, been promoted from Lieutenants wives to Generals and Admirals ... except for Al. Al was first engineer on the lake boats.

"David ... we're going to Milwaukee. Stay out of trouble."

"Yes, sir."

"Kenny's dad will come haul the boat on Saturday." He gave me a Dad Eye and continued. "Your sisters are slumbering at Jeans. Leave them alone."

The Lightning is a three hander. It takes a crew of three and sometimes four to race. This was my chance. I would sail single handed and have a chance to not finish last.

There was just one problem. Me.

I'd been over and over and over this course for three summers ... well two and a half ... I knew where the wind off the Lake came through the gaps in the pines and where it wasn't blocked by the Mill. Local Knowledge they called it and I knew every inch.

However ... there is always one of those ... however ... I was bored to tears with sailing the same lake over and over ... getting passed by the same boats Saturday after Saturday. Murphy and I wanted something different.

And that's how I met the Coast Guard.

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