Book Review – Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken Book Cover

Unbroken Book Cover

I’ve been postponing writing this for a few weeks because I wanted to post it on Memorial Day. Today, here in the ‘States we honor our Armed Services members who died while serving our country.

As our greatest president Abraham Lincoln expressed it after the civil war during the cemetery dedication in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania over a 100 years ago, Americans (and citizens of the world) owe a debt of gratitude to those men and women who “gave the last full measure of devotion” so “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.

Laura Hillenbrand has written a book about a single serviceman’s war in the Pacific during World War II.  In “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” she has managed to tell a complete story, not just of one man, but of an entire generation of soldiers.

Don’t take my word for it that this is a great book.  (although, on second thought, do)  Look at what other customers think.

Unbroken Amazon Reviews

Unbroken Amazon Reviews

Even though Amazon seems to be having a little math trouble, that’s an amazing number of 5 star reviews, and this is is an incredible book.  It has so many things that I like in a book.  History, flying, survival at sea, historical background & great storytelling.  One thing it doesn’t have is my favorite theme of a common man rising to meet the occasion in uncommon circumstances.  The subject of the book is clearly an exceptional man who persevered through unimaginable hardship, yet managed to come through it and be able to lead a great life – something many returning veterans struggle with.

The author doesn’t just tell us what happened, but she puts it in context so as to help us understand the bigger picture.  It’s not just a “he did this, he did that” story.   We feel what he was feeling, and what the families of the missing men were feeling.

It isn’t my style to rehash the story in a formal review.  If you want that, there are plenty of them on Amazon to look at.  Instead, I tell you what I think, and I think that maybe this book may not be for everyone.  I won’t declare that you must or should read it, but if you do there is a possibility that it will impact your life for the better and in a lasting way.  I am glad that I did.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars on the CapnRehab book review scale.

If you decide to read it, and you buy an eBook, I suggest going to the back first and reading the interview with the author.  In it, you get a sense of the struggle it took for her to write the book, her dedication to telling the story, and the impact it has had for family members of Pacific theater of war veterans.  It helped frame my understanding of the story and I wish I had read it first.

This story has had a big impact on me.  I keep thinking back to various points, especially their 42 days in the life raft and what it takes to remain optimistic and survive under such hardship, when someone else looks at the same experience with hopelessness and despair.  There are lessons here that anyone can take and use in their life, no matter who they are and what their situation.

Thanks to all our veterans who have given their lives so the world might live in freedom, thanks to all U.S. veterans (my dad, father in law, brother in law, and friends included) who have served to help protect that freedom and thank you Ms. Hillenbrand for writing this book,

Like a hole in the head

Earlier this week, as I’m wont to do from time to time, I spent a few minutes browsing craigslist.   First, I just went to the “boats” section and looked at all the great boats out there.  I became annoyed with all the powerboats, crab traps, and commercial licenses listed so I narrowed the search to “Sailboat”.  That produced listings for some real beauties.  I also saw a few Catalina 22’s in there ranging in price from $180 to $7,000.   This emboldened me so I narrowed the search even further to “Catalina” and came accross this:

1975 Catalina 22 Sail boat MUST SELL – $900

Who wouldn’t click on a link like this?

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One of the conversations I have been having with Mrs. CapnRehab the last few years goes like this:

Mrs. CapnRehab: When are you going to have the boat ready to sail?
Me: Probably not till next summer.
Mrs. CapnRehab: Oh…

Mrs. CapnRehab: It sure would be nice if you had a boat you could sail now
Me: Sure would.

So as I saw this ad I thought, wow.  I could get this boat – sail it now and fix up the other boat over the winter.  So after a bit of trying to talk myself out of it and failing, I sent this message.

I probably shouldn’t be sending this email, because I need another boat like I need a hole the head.

I have a catalina 22 I’m repairing, but it’s in my garage and wont’ see the water for at least another year, maybe more.
I could buy your boat, but then I’d have two.   HOWEVER, I’d also get to sail this summer in it.
If you’ve already sold the boat, I’m happy for you.  If I buy it I’ll have to explain to my wife why I have 2 boats ..

I also made him a tentative offer for 1/2 what he was listing it for, to make sure he’d say no.  He was ungracious enough to txt me this reply.

reply

reply

So apparently not wanting something is a very effective negotiation technique.

I went out to see her this morning.  Thankfully, other than having an attached keel, it isn’t in any better shape than my boat.

attached keel, so that's what they look like!

attached keel, so that’s what they look like!

I also noticed his keel lifting cable hose was new.  Now that’s putting your money where it will do the most good.  This is a critical piece of the lift assembly.  If this fails, your boat is not a boat anymore.  It’s a sieve.  It also looks like that’s not a marine grade hose.  I think that makes a difference.

new keel hose

new keel hose

One interesting thing about this boat is that is has been filled with foam for flotation.   That sure cuts down on storage.  I’ve seen people rehabbing boats take this out.  I guess if you spring a leak and you don’t have it, boat sinks completely?  Anybody know the scoop on this?

Filled with flotation foam

Filled with flotation foam

Bottom line is that this is just another project boat.   I told him no thanks.

With a big sigh of relief at having sidestepped a bullet, I headed down to the marina.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  Perfect for small boat sailing and lots of boats were going out.

Sailing on the Potomac near Washington DC

Sailing on the Potomac near Washington DC

Can you spot the Washington monument in this picture?  You’ll have to zoom in a bunch to see it.

Hope you have a great Memorial day weekend and don’t forget why we have this holiday.

Keel Winch Cable Eye Bolt – trouble in paradise

So you know how well the welding went fixing the hole for the keel pin.  I’m still very excited about it.  Sometimes I go out to the garage and just stare at it.  It’s so perfect.  The pin fits solidly, yet spins easily.

fixed!

fixed!

Then I look at the other end.  Things didn’t go so well there.  Not a disaster, but not fixed either.  Here it is before we started.

Pre-grinding

Pre-grinding

Both the welder and I figured he could just build up around the pin.  But knowing what I know now, and looking at this with a more discerning eye, I realize it never could have worked.  Anyway, he started by grinding away around the bolt.

clearing rust around the keel eye bolt

clearing rust around the keel eye bolt

It took about 2 seconds of grinding off the rusty coating before he realized it wouldn’t work.  Look at those exposed threads.

uh oh - exposed threads

uh oh – exposed threads

No amount of buildup is going to fix this.  Fortunately, $tingySailor had pointed me to a forum post where the owner cut out the bad part around the bolt, redrilled, cut new threads and was good to go.  So I asked the welder to cut away the bad parts.

He cut into it with a zest for cutting.

Cutting begins

Cutting begins

Bolt being cut out

Bolt being cut out

The cut looks pretty deep, but it is as far as was needed to get past the thin part.

Then he banged it with a hammer but the chunk he was trying to cut away wouldn’t budge.  He suggested we try to unscrew the bolt, that maybe it was helping hold it in place.  Surprisingly, it came right out with just a vise-grip.

Well, maybe not too surprisingly, because it was only hanging in there by 1 thread!

No eye bolt

No eye bolt

Here is a better picture of the final cut.  The bolt is barely in the hole.

eyebolt fix

cutaway cleaned up

So now I’ve ordered an eye bolt from a well know Catalina parts company.  They sell a tap set to make the threads for $56.  That’s pretty steep for a one time use!.  The welder said he’d come back and re-tap it for me.  I’m expecting that the hole just needs a bit of cleaning up, I don’t think I have to drill it any deeper.  I also think this is a newer keel already set up for the newer bigger bolt.  We’ll see when it comes.  It shipped today.

Happy Keel day

It finally happened.  The day we’ve all been waiting for.  I found a welder to fix the keel.

Before I show what happened though, I’d like to review a bit and explore why this took so long.  This boat has now been at my house (either in the driveway or the garage) for 2 years.  I initially bought a replacement keel but didn’t want to do any work until I got clear title to the boat.  Then I didn’t want to do any work on the boat until I was sure I could fix the weldments that hold the keel on.  (they are partially fixed, but I’m sure I can finish)  Then I didn’t want to do any work on the boat till I was sure I could get the keel fixed.  I “assumed” that I would have to have it done at a machine shop, and wasted some time finding one and getting them to quote the work. Finally, after some prompting by $tingy$ailor, I went back to my old standby, Craigslist.  There I found 3 welders and emailed them all.

One never replied.  I got into a discussion with the other two about the job.   I sent them both pictures and asked about welding cast iron.  One said welding cast iron couldn’t be done and he wanted to build a brace around it:

“No.  As I stated that will not work.  Here’s why: 1) cast iron is extremely hard to weld properly because of the nature of the metal itself, 2) old cast iron cannot be welded, especially in the condition of your keel, 3) drilling cast iron is really really hard to do because the metal is so hard itself, 4) how can anyone weld the bushing in without blocking the pin, 5) rusted metal of any type cannot be welded, etc., etc.”  

When I told this to the other, he said

“Lol cast iron can be welded for sure. Let me come by and look at what u have and c what can be done “

Here are welders that say they have 30 years experience telling me the exact opposite information!   How is anyone supposed to know what to do?

I had heard of people welding cast iron before so I went with the second guy.  He came by two weeks ago and we scheduled for him to come over and do the work yesterday.

First he ground out out the old rust, there was a lot of deeper decay in there too.  He said it was like a dentist starting to fill a cavity and then finding out the decay went deeper than first appearance.  He ground out a bunch until there was room for the new stainless steel bushing.

Grinding old rust

Grinding old rust

Then he started welding in some fill above where the bushing would go.

Adding Fill

Adding Fill

I watched most of this remote on the GoPro.  I didn’t want to accidentally blind myself by looking at the spark.  He was kind enough to let me interrupt him for pictures.  Here is part way through the fill.

Filling the space

Filling the space

I have lots of pictures of flames coming out of the keel.

Keel on fire

Keel on fire

He got a little carried away, and had to go back and grind out some of the fill to fit the bushing in the hole.

bushing inserted

bushing inserted

Then he tack welded the bushing in place.

tack welded bushing in place

tack welded bushing in place

Seeing the bushing burned and melted was a bit worrisome too.  I wondered if the pin would still be able to fit..   A little more welding, and then grinding smooth.

Welded in and ground smooth

Welded in and ground smooth

And my concern was realized!  The pin wouldn’t fit.  No big deal though, bring out the grinding drill bit and worry-no-more!

fixed!

fixed!

Before we started, I was a bit concerned about getting the bushing aligned correctly, but even though the hole was worn away, overall the bushing pretty much only fit one way.  It looks pretty straight to me.

The job cost $240.  I think that’s a bargain.  The welder’s name is David Pinkney.  He’s a certified welder and can be reached at dapinkney1@comcast.net

So there you have it.  Keel fixed.  Or is it?  What about the keel winch eyebolt?  Stay tuned for what happened there.

So far costs are:
$250 – keel
$    9 – bushing
$ 43 – video
$131 – keel hangar casting kit with pin
$240 – repair
——-
$673

With the refinishing supplies estimate provided by $tingy$ailor, total costs should run around $1400.   Wow, this free boat is getting expensive!

Victory in Europe 70th Anniversary

Sometimes I work in downtown DC and yesterday just happened to be there when the VE day celebrations were going on.  I didn’t stay outside for long but had a chance to see a few old planes flying over.  They weren’t as loud as a cigarette boat on the bay, but they were pretty loud.  I like that I was able to get the flag in as well.

Thank you WWII veterans.

VE Day Washington DC Flyover May 8, 2015

VE Day Washington DC Flyover May 8, 2015

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VE Day Washington DC Flyover May 8, 2015

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VE Day Washington DC Flyover May 8, 2015

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VE Day Washington DC Flyover May 8, 2015

Resolute – Annapolis & Whitehall Bay

In keeping with the theme of sailing on other people’s functioning boats, I had the fortune to spend last weekend on “Resolute”.

Resolute

Resolute

She’s a 35′ Ericson sailboat.  At 7′ longer than my Catalina 22, she is very roomy indeed.  Capn “B” invited me to come sailing, so I did!

I can barely stand to be on a boat with a camera in my hand and not take a selfie, so here it is.

Me on Resolute

Me on Resolute

As you can tell, not much wind when we started out.  We sailed out from Galesville and up around Thomas Point lighthouse.  Since it was a Saturday near Annapolis, there were races waiting to start all over the place, and it was quite busy.   Eventually the wind died completely, and despite my protests, Capn “B” started the engine and we motored in to a mooring in Annapolis harbor.  It was just as well, a lot of the races were cancelled too.

Day 1

Day 1

This was a first for me.  First time to be on a boat on a mooring, and first time to sleep on a sailboat.  (Cruise ships don’t count in this “first” category).  We rowed the dingy into the “dingy dock” and walked around town a bit.  Got some cigars and ice cream and then headed back.

What a surprise to hear someone call me while I was rowing back!   Not something you expect in a busy town like Annapolis.  “J” from the “Old Shoes” crew was visiting with friends and a family and saw me from the wharf and hailed.  I rowed over and we said hello.  It was great to see him again.  That of course triggered the story of the time he lasso’d the piling on “Old Shoes”.  But that’s another story.

Here is the view of the city dock from our mooring.  It’s a great area to visit and they’ve done a great job making it pedestrian friendly.  There are tour boats going out every hour or so, and a rowdy pirate ship full of kids steams by pretty regularly.  Yes, all the kids are practicing “args” at the top of their lungs.  It’s much easier to tolerate with a beer in your hand.  We took the water taxi to the other side of the harbor and I had steamed shrimp, crackers and two Fat Tire Beers.  Yum!

Annapolis City Dock

Annapolis City Dock

We had another crew member on board who was assigned Chef’s duties for the morning.  So instead of just a bagel and coffee, we started the day with this.  Thanks “S”!

Breakfast

Breakfast

It’s not surprising I ended the weekend about 4 lbs heavier than when I started.  “S” is an interesting character and it was fun getting to know him.  I was sad to see him get picked up by his wife in Annapolis.  (And not just because that meant I was now designated cook)

After a trip to the fuel dock to empty out the head and take on fuel, we were off to Whitehall Bay.  The wind wasn’t much better Sunday but it held enough for us to sail up to the Chesapeake Bay bridge.

Nearing the bridge

Nearing the bridge

Then the wind died completely, leaving us bouncing around  near the channel right in front of the main span.  I had to let Capn “B” fire up the engine to get us out of there, but then once we got away from the bridge it picked up again and we went back to sailing.  We headed towards Whitehall Bay, but then heard the Coast Guard cutter Eagle on the radio saying they were on their way to Annapolis.  We turned back out into the bay to see if we could see them, but a later radio message from them gave their location as way down the bay so we turned back and went in.  This entrance was VERY tricky, narrow and shallow.  Capn “B”s pucker factor was pretty high going through the entrance.

We tried the left fork of the river first, where the engine gave a warning signal and Capn “B” shut it off just as I dropped the anchor.  We waited there about an hour while the engine cooled and he trouble shot what was wrong.  He was very concerned about the engine and was not interested in beer, so that hour out of respect and not wanting to interrupt him I didn’t have one either.  Fortunately, that was soon resolved and we got to go around to the right fork and anchor and have a beer… or two.

Day 2

Day 2

Here is a picture of some crab boats based there.  They probably go out for oysters too.

crab boats

crab boats

Here we are peacefully at anchor.  Resolute is almost dead center in the picture.

Anchor - night 2

Anchor – night 2

Capn “B” rowed us over to Cantler’s restaurant.    He had a soft shell crab sandwhich, and I had a grilled rockfish sandwich along with fries.  And a beer.  Yum!  He made me row back on a full stomach.  argh!

Back to the boat for a peaceful night sleep, where we woke up to this view.  Very peaceful morning. It looks like scum on the water, but it’s actually pollen.  Spring has definitely sprung here.

20150504_080752

The next morning we picked up “M” (also an “Old Shoes” alumni) and head out into the bay for the sail back to Galesville.  The wind was ripping pretty good at around 15 knots.  We hit 7 knots boat speed a few times too.  Very much fun.

Sailing fun!

Sailing fun!

Day three was a Monday, and boy what a difference a day makes.  There were very few boats in our way.  However, there was this big one.  We headed straight for it, and since it had been over 48 hours since my last one, I took another selfie.

Me and Eagle

Me and Eagle

Yup, the Eagle had come up the bay in the night and anchored right out in the bay.  We went right across the bow and around the other side.  It was so great to see it.

Coast Guard Cutter Eagle

Coast Guard Cutter Eagle

Then I steered us home.  Across the bay, back and forth a few times (once to avoid a barge) then right into the West River.

Day 3

Day 3

It took us about 4 or 5 hours, I’m not exactly sure.   I need to start noticing things like this.  It was a blast!   Here is how I spent  most of it.

Putting the Capn in Capn Rehab

Putting the Capn in Capn Rehab

Capn “B” took us in and skillfully docked us with a 17 knot wind blowing us across the boat slip.  A smooth end to a great weekend!  Thanks Capn “B”!

Luchador

Red Boat

Red Boat

Weekend before last I had my first sail of the year.  I was invited by “B” to go out on red boat (aka Luchador).  I met him last year on “Old Shoes” and really enjoy his company.

As most of you know, I like Florida so much, mostly because I hate being cold.  But I have a new perspective on that.  He informed me that there is no such thing as cold weather – just cold clothes.

We put this to the test and went out in “brisk weather.

At the helm, not shivering too bad.

At the helm, not shivering too bad.

Turns out, he was right. I had put on only thermal long john top and bottom, windbreaker pants with insulation, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, ski gloves, ski hat and my REI rainjacket. I was definitely shivering. Once I put on another pair of sweatpants I warmed right up to only feeling cold. I think some kind of warm/waterproof footwear would be appropriate here too.  (Before next winter gets here I definitely need to get some warm clothes!)

It’s always fun to see catamarans on the water, and we got a special treat to go right by the start of a race.

Catamaran race

Catamaran race

The moral of this story is “it’s good to have warm clothes and friend with working boats”.