Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wisdom on Parade

Back in the late 1980s, The Aspen Daily News ran a nationally syndicated weekly column titled "Wisdom on Parade" by Joe Bob Briggs. It presented a satirical look at social and political issues, and I couldn't wait to read it each week. Joe Bob was fearless in his skewering of all things stupid, and though he could sometimes take it a little too far or get a little too weird, his opinions were mostly right on the money.

I still think about Joe Bob once in a while, and I have been known to say out loud, after seeing a particularly stupid act: "Wisdom on parade!" I was reminded of this today while Nan, Scout and I were out for an afternoon sail on Biscayne Bay, something we try to do almost every weekend, weather permitting.

Getting out into the Bay requires us to motor through Dinner Key Channel, which should be a straightforward operation, but we have close calls and borderline ugly encounters with power boaters almost every time. Last weekend, we were heading out while a family in a power boat was heading in. I was at the helm, hugging the green markers that designate the starboard/right side of the channel, and doing about three knots. Despite having plenty of room and a much shallower draft, the oncoming power boat was aimed directly at us, like we were in some kind of an impromptu game of chicken. I held course, because to deviate farther to starboard would run us aground. As we closed on each other, the operator of the power boat must have finally realized that in order to avoid a head-on collision, he would need to steer to his right slightly, which he did. As the boat passed, the entire family gave us indignant looks, signifying that we had somehow disrespected them. I ignored them and continued on, chalking them up as yet another group of boaters who do not understand the rules of the road.

This type of behavior is rampant here. Instead of granting right of way and offering a little common courtesy, it's might makes right, as power boats go absolutely as fast as they can, every which way, while pretending not to see the sailboats they are barely missing. I think I read in the news that South Florida leads the nation in fatal boating accidents. No surprise there.

The scariest experience we have had so far was when one of the water sports concession operators pulling two people in a parasail rig passed us with the power boat on our starboard side and the parasailors on our port side, the thin rope connecting them just barely missing the top of our mast. We shuddered to think of the potentially fatal accident that would have resulted. I reported the incident to the Coast Guard.

This afternoon, it happened again. The parasail parachute you see in the photo passed directly over our boat. I can't figure if the guy driving the boat doesn't know what he's doing, or if he is trying to give the couple up in the rig an extra thrill. Either way, he's risking their lives. "Wisdom on parade."