Letters from Mike – Ploughing

by Michael Beebe – Rockport, Texas – USA


“The Nan-Shan was ploughing a vanishing furrow upon the circle of the sea…”

The above comes from Joseph Conrad’s book, Typhoon. My antics while out and about here on the Texas coast, amongst the shallows, don’t wax nearly so poetic, yet furrows none the less. Some areas are so shallow the aluminum rudder draws a line showing just where I’ve been.

In the weeds, I pull the rudder up a bit and tie it off. This creates a very stubborn tiller, so I need to take care. With the care needed, I’ve found using the sail, a half-raised leeboard, and laid over on the lee rail, we can crab along pretty good. Getting to where we want to go.

Mostly, it depends from where I start crossing the flats, it gets thin out there. Where I start, and the direction of the wind, plays a part as well. A rudder line, to raise the blade helps with both the boat and the flats bottom. It’s best not to be tearing up or slicing any sea grass.

Often while out and about in the shallows the damage done by props left down is all too evident. What are they thinking, destroying the very habitats from which they hope to fish? Brings to mind live-a-boards in the marinas across the land. Some, always the few, trash the docks, pile personal items all around, a general eyesore.

So, live-a-boards get outlawed because, like their inconsiderate brother fisherman, ruin it for others. Where I keep a boat in the water, there’s two junk cars haven’t been moved in months. The docks are getting full, but the light bulb will never go on.

Let’s get back to Joe’s book. Now, he’s a writer of the ninth degree, him and Jack London, among others, put out some stuff. I’ve mentioned before while reading to my daughters, I’d stop reading and we’d talk and share of the pictures we had in our minds of the story being read. Of course, the shared thoughts and visions were never the same, I tried to use it as an exercise in observation that we all see things differently.

London, while building his Snark, used to have to punch out many a story to keep payroll, down at the shipyard. Then, way before radio, his like, was gobbled up by readers across the nation. Today, me thinks, were Jack to pen the same, he might just get a dinghy built for his story lines; but just a plywood one.

Not to diminish one iota the ability of Jack London, or Joseph Conrad, the fault lies not at their feet, no not at all. Somebody higher up in the education system thought he knew better, or worse.

Get on with it then, while getting counseling care from the doctor concerning my recent minor surgery, my nose is shorter, my wife during the drifting conversation says to the doc, “We got rid of our TV, fifteen years ago.” We’re both on the same page. Even in the same book, views on sailing differ, honestly though, that, is not a deal breaker, not even close.

Best we get to sailing, sailing the old-fashioned way: no electronics. Could we do it? The Navy, I read, is teaching once again navigation with a sextant. What might they be expecting as we go merrily down the road.



I just may name my next boat that, sickness. This thought occurred earlier today while laying about with the real thing. This particular trial started probably when I was the tender age of fourteen, the year I avidly started surfing. They say skin cancer goes way back. Well, about a week and a half ago, my nose was shortened because of that very thing, good old sun shine and plenty of it.

This latest sojourn to the dermatologist is what will be keeping me local instead of sailing with the boys on the Texas 200. I don’t think I could give it the care it needs, two or three times daily, out floating down or up the ICW.

Then the cold came, making it interesting yet more. Now, it’s in the lungs and leaving the doc’s with anti-bodies and an inhaler I’ve turned the corner. Why, just this morning, I uncovered the Summer Breeze from where she’s been hiding and suffering from neglect. Having got that done just as Harry showed up, we set a spell. That was it for today. No sense pushing it.

That’s part of the sickness as well, going outside, doing boat stuff, even just a little, while still coughing and hacking, it’s downright incurable. If one of my boats ends up with the name ‘Sickness’ across her transom, the one’s, after reading, who shake their head knowingly, I will know they’ve got the affliction as well, they’ll know.

They’ll be many reading this knowingly, no need for the wife’s second opinion, maybe a good idea not to let her read this drivel anyway. Safer for all concerned. When this small boat bug bites, it bites hard, leaves a mark never to heal.

I’ve a friend in the northern reaches of Canada, a retired college professor. He used to putter around with a small sailboat, but not anymore. He’s got four small sailboats and came up with a design of his own. Gorfnick helps others with their build, offers plans for free, and sails in the snow and ice to the tip of Florida, wherever he trailers to.

My suggestion, stay away from what I’m trying to kick, and get what my lovely wife endures.


  1. Thanks Carl, in Gainsville presently, we fared better than some, and have some work ahead , have seen pics, many are in far worse shape than us. Our hearts go out to them. It’s a hard one.

  2. Michael,
    Glad to hear you are safe and well. We pray your situation when you get home will be not too difficult.
    Jim and Carole B.
    Sweetwater TN

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