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Date: 8 May 2023. Rules for Life.


I believe the majority of folks have accumulated great stories. Many of the most interesting can be attributed to graduating from the School of Hard Knocks. Evening dockside chats often turn to reminiscing. Over the years I have accumulated a list I refer to as my Rules for Life. Today I will take you on a trip into the past. Welcome aboard.

The Rules for Life began as a collection of mishaps friends and I have survived. All too often injuries occurred. These are things to avoid. Gradually the list evolved into the current format.

My goal is to have a long life aboard my Seaweed.
I believe these rules will help me accomplish this.


1. Do not swim with alligators. One would assume that once a person is able to swim that they would know not to dive into murky water inhabited by alligators. Alas, you would be mistaken!

When the water is murky, seeing an alligator is difficult.

On the bright side, it is quite amazing how fast a man can swim when an alligator has entered the water.
Credit to Captain Hungry. He spotted the gator and and shouted a warning to the oblivious swimmer.

2. Do not climb trees. Quite naturally once retired most folks would know that climbing trees is not the best thing to do. However, when men are involved, both are over 60 years old, and they have a project, plus are unsupervised... well, bad things can happen.

The tree that is the cause of this rule is shown near the bow of Esprit on the right side of this photograph.

So it began like this: Two retired men decided a tree needed to be trimmed. And who were these men? The younger (at 77 years old) volunteered to climb the tree and help trim it. The other fellow was over 80. Both had lived in the Florida Keys for many years.

You may wonder what the older guy's son did for income. Well, that man ran a landscaping business which serviced condominiums, motels and residential properties, providing lawn care and TREE TRIMMING.

Did either of these overgrown boys decide to pick up a phone and ask the experts to trim the tree? No, of course not! And that ladies and gentleman is the reason why at 77 years old my Daddy went up that tree. Subsequently he fell from the tree. The sudden stop at the ground shattered his pelvis. Though he did walk again, this was the beginning of the end. Daddy was gone within a year.

As an aside, these are older gents. They do not sue for accidents. I suspect both wished to forget about this debacle. WWII veterans were tough.

Many boats have built in furniture which does help prevent the necessity for the following, Rule #3.

Pairadice has a great galley with loads of storage.

3. Do not move heavy furniture. An otherwise intelligent gentleman rented a five-bedroom home to what turned out to be a hoarder. That in and of itself was a royal pain in the transom. However once she, her boyfriend, the feral cats, raccoons and goodness knows what else departed, a house full of stuff remained. Said landowner mistakenly thought hauling the HEAVY furniture and assorted trash to dumpsters by himself was a "good idea". It was not.

Fences have gates for a purpose. I should not have to say don't hop the fence however...!

Memory Lane: The above picture is my back yard in Hallandale Beach, FL many years ago. The muskovy duck in the foreground is Tula (named after Tallulah Bankhead, an actress and movie siren who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, 1944). ←Amazon affiliate link

Remember when AOL mailed out free CDs to join their service? Well, the oak tree out back became the repository of every stray CD from the neighborhood. A box of strings from our boat was utilized to secure the disks to the tree. They spun nicely, reflecting light.

*Hallandale is a small community on the southeastern coast of Florida with Fort Lauderdale to the north and Miami just south of the town.

4. Do not jump fences.  The ability to hop fences usually disappears about the time one graduates from college. This can be attested to by contacting orthopedic surgeons. Doctors see and repair the damage done by folks who are a bit less flexible and athletic than they once were.

House and boat ladders differ.

Ladders utilized at boatyards tend to be wobbly. Though a rope secures the top of the ladder to my port side, going up especially with groceries in hand was definitely precarious. Going down to the ground was worse!


Luxury yachts like Hatteras generally have sturdy ladders with good handrails. Travis loved the flybridge of the Hatt50 Yachtfish one summertime afternoon.



5. When on ladders use the handrails. It goes without saying that folks using ladders should keep safety in mind. Failure to hang on can culminate with a broken arm, wrist and dislocated shoulder. Plus, telling friends you fell off a ladder is embarrassing. Bills are incurred. Recovery takes a long time. The pain is substantial.

Being safety minded and careful is especially important in the boating world.


←I made this image smaller deliberately. IF you are not squeamish, click the picture for the full sized version. The photo was taken a couple weeks after my accident.

6. Do not work when tired. I did, and the result was a broken arm. See picture above. And yes, that's me. It was the end of a day filled with boat projects and I was tired. I did not pay attention and took a fall into the bilge while holding my Skipper. She was not hurt. I was, and frankly for a time I lost my confidence.

Rule #6 means that whenever I am working on a job, if I even feel a moment of tiredness I quit for the day. Frankly, there are too many times when I have pushed through, only to make a mistake that is quite apparent when I restart the job. Now I stop before that happens.


When underway I make it a point to mark my chart with rest stops. These are generally a couple miles apart as I prefer short days. I have pulled off the waterway to anchor for an hour or three. A bite to eat, along with a bit of rest and I am once more ready to go. If not, I hunker down for the night. After all, I am already where I want to be.


7. Pay particular attention to steps.  A dear friend named Lisa took a tumble from the second story staircase to the ground floor. This was particularly damaging and resulted in complications that she is still battling. Get well soon girl!

Engine rooms on boats have lots of things that can cause a world of hurt.

Everyone knows to be particularly careful when working on boats. A moment of inattention can cause life altering injuries.

8. Keep hatches closed unless absolutely necessary for a project, AND be sure to close every hatch each time you leave the job. Falling into a bilge is not the issue. The problem is that sudden stop at the bottom. In my bilge there are a myriad of hard objects that can cause serious harm to a normally careful boater. Stepping into a hole is scary too.

Seaweed is anchored in the Gulf of Mexico a mile off shore one fine summer day.

Naturally after the second fall into a bilge, a thorough analysis by dockside friends was inevitable. There were two accidents, two years apart, affecting two boaters each with decades of experience on the water. Both of us were walking inside boats from the bright sunshine. Neither of us saw that a hatch was opened. We both accidentally stepped into the void. Fortunately the sudden stop did not kill us.

Seaweed is tied up at the American Legion. Lefty, a Gulfstar36, is anchored in the background.


The latest rule is:
9. When coming inside from outdoors, pause a moment to allow eyes to adjust before proceeding.

The Rules for Life were accrued over decades afloat. Thankfully I did not have to personally contribute more than a couple of these for your edification. Though the overarching mantra should be "Use Common Sense" unfortunately that is all too rare at times. Of course you are different. You are smarter than the average and thus should merely read for amusement at the shenanigans some of us get into. My goal is to not have to contribute more to this list.

In the meantime, for your convenience here is the complete collection:


Rules for Life


1. Do not swim with alligators.

2. Do not climb trees.

3. Do not move heavy furniture.

4. Do not jump fences.

5. When on ladders use the handrails.

6. Do not work when tired.

7. Pay particular attention to steps.

8. Keep hatches closed unless absolutely necessary for a project, AND be sure to close every hatch each time you leave the job.

Related to #6 and #8, both cases involved walking from bright sunshine into a boat. I believe that older eyes do not adjust rapidly enough to discern the dangers awaiting inside the boat. Thus the latest rule is:

9. When coming inside from outdoors, pause a moment to allow eyes to adjust before proceeding.


I do wonder if you have picked up any helpful advice regarding safety. It is personal stories that help guide me in making good decisions. Advice is definitely sought. And thanks!!!

Thank you for reading, and for sticking with me. I appreciate that.

Have you made a similar list? Please share.
And, do you have any rules for life that help you?

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A favorite aphorism:  Siblings: Oldest: I make the rules. Middle: I'm the reason we have rules. Youngest: The rules don't apply to me.

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