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From the Pilothouse-Stay Safe Out There

The world is changing and we're all going to have to face facts: Life in this country will be a bit more complicated for awhile. Travel in general carries more risk, real or imagined, and businesses that support that industry, especially the charter companies, find it a harder sell now. Some insist it's just a short-term thing, while those who tend toward gloom and doom feel we&rsquove fallen off a cliff. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

But out of these chilling times comes hope, and the brave and talented men and women who protect us at home and abroad deserve our prayers and respect. This is especially important for me and those I love. PMM's own Rene McMahon is fortunate to have a son who is one of these valiant protectors, an F/A-18 Hornet pilot on the Teddy Roosevelt. Duffy is a special man, a graduate of the USNA, and one fine individual. He sailed with me to Bermuda years ago, and I've always been impressed with his intellect, focus, and ethics. They don't make them any better than Duffy.

To bring this full circle, the Roosevelt's crew has asked us for the names of people we knew who were involved in the 9/11 disasters. Their names are being written on the ordinance Duffy and his fellow officers reach out and deliver to terrorists overseas. It is an intensely personal gesture, involving many tears and memories.

My sister-in-law and her coworkers lost friends, as well as the building they worked in, just across the street from the WTC. It's gone now. Chris and her group went on that list.

We also lost a member of our boating community, Ralph Kershaw, a well-respected marine surveyor from Massachusetts, who was on one of the aircraft that struck the WTC. Last year Ralph was on our panel discussing the perfect boat at our TrawlerPort event in Newport, RI. We'll miss him.

Ralph Kershaw was added to the list.

At home we continue to bring a bit more normalcy to each day. And many people at the shows told me they are finally going cruising. Choosing to pursue the trawler lifestyle now rather than wait for the future, they have purchased a boat they can afford now, and figured out how to make the dream real now.

As much as our lifestyle may not be the panacea for the masses, there are things to learn from cruisers, especially in terms of self reliance, camaraderie, and spirit.

When we go cruising on our trawlers, no matter what brand or hull shape or size or budget, we join a family of like-minded folks. And we invariably care for each other, lending a helping hand when there is need. It's always been that way, and it is essential to the magic of the experience. Perhaps the 270 million people who make up this great country could take a lesson from the cruising community.

I learned as a child that America was a melting pot of people coming from many lands to join together in the American experience. That was the reason, I was taught, why the fiber of this country is so rich and strong. Unfortunately, in recent years it's seemed less of a melting pot and more like a buffet. Perhaps this will change in light of our new challenges. As never before, we need each other.

For those of you heading into the sunset, please go with a heightened sense of awareness. Stay alert to your surroundings, and keep focused. You are on your own, for the most part, except when cruising with buddies.

I also strongly recommend you reread the security article in the Winter '99 PMM called "Condition Yellow." It addressed the issues of maritime security as seen through the eyes of one special and experienced professional. Gary Stubblefield's advice was right on, and remains so today. (By the way, that article made center stage at an international IMO conference on global piracy. It is valid, useful, and timeless information.)

We're still trying to nail down likely customs and other changes that will affect pleasure boats, but it is proving difficult. The Coast Guard is currently evaluating what changes they may implement on pleasure boats in terms of leaving coastal waters and returning from foreign waters, even Canada and Mexico. As they ramp up enforcement and security, there will no doubt be some changes, so stay tuned. Peter Swanson is maintaining dialog with the officer in charge at the USCG, but so far he's finding it is hard to get definitive recommendations and procedural changes from the Coasties.

Such things will no doubt unravel, and we'll let you know when we have something to share. It is hard to imagine that things will remain business as usual.

For now, let's hunker down and get on with life. Be sure to give those you love a hug, but don't worry.

Duffy's on watch.

Bill Palatore