About a month before my first son Garrett was born, I started to look for a gift to give him at his berth, to commemorate this occasion. I was at an antique maritime store in Miami when I found the right gift. It was a lifeboat sextant. A small compact sextant that they placed in lifeboats for emergency, if stranded at sea. It is a really beautiful piece of form & function, brass & dials. I felt it perfect for my first son to begin his life with a way to find out where he was, where he wanted to go and how to safely get home. I had engraved upon it, “When’ever your lost, look to the heavens”.

We all aren’t so lucky to begin our lives or journeys with an internal sextant. Every voyage is one of some form of discovery if you are paying attention and looking for signs. Identifying these signs usually requires a teacher/master to point them out at first. Over time through lessons, one can pick them up without them being identified. Eventually you start instructing and passing on your observations as lessons to others. This is how we as humans became the only species to knowingly discover all the Continents, religion, science through teaching of lessons learned passed down through known history.

What has me puzzled and I am concerned about as we move forward towards the future, is all the modern technology actually better for us as a human race? Thousands of years traversing the seas and oceans with only the assistance of heavenly bodies, nature, passed down lessons and observations. The ancient Polynesians could cross vast oceans and hit a distant island with incredible accuracy, without the use of even a now outdated tool like a sextant? When I say outdated, I am only referring to how long mariners have relied upon them and their replacement, first Loran and now GPS. My concern and puzzlement is it is not aligned with the KISS principle (Keep, It, Simple, Stupid). It has added enormous amounts of complexities and reliance upon technology and it’s (tech) demands. Don’t assume that I feel modern technology and it’s advancement is wrong and all hurtful, I just have concerns of losing the knowledge, skills and lessons from the past that simplified the same final objective. To get from A to B, one place to another.

How many other day to day skills have become more technically complex and reliant to tech, that the basic objective was far simpler in it’s basic form? Close observations of nature you can see displays of adaptive and simplified actions, to stream line actions towards an objective. As humans in nature we simplified through time actions towards an objective, until we entered the industrial age. Look at the amount of actions required by individuals and resources to provide a once simple task. How much labor and resources it takes to create a tool to service a simple need, is not necessarily simplifying a process. Simplification of a process in nature could be defined as the least amount of energy spent to preform a task. Energy for a task, is the labor and resources expelled to achieve the task.

I spent years involved with companies manufacturing boats and yachts. Over time I witnessed these companies try to stream line manufacturing through processes like Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing. Bottom line of these principles in manufacturing, was to expend the least amount of energy and resources to a task. Fewer labor hours and resources, greater profit margin. Isn’t this what nature has been doing for biological systems since the beginning? Path of least resistance. It could be quite possible that we are looking at things from the wrong perspective, over complicating the obvious solution to a problem or task?

A question I need to ask myself? If I want to sell t-shirts, hat’s, stuff to promote my Waterman Blog and Watermen Marine, what’s the process to expend the least amount of labor and resources? One would be, promote nothing. But I wouldn’t be expanding/promoting a process to highlight Watermen and their ways. So the next step is to define the process to KISS, “Wayfind” the minimal steps, impact, resources, transportation to achieve our objective. I will document my process in the hope that others if so desired, can use it as a pathway to “Wayfind” their on process to achieve their destination.

I hope you enjoy our journey.


“Hei Matau”

The “Hei Matau” to some people also called a Maori, Tahitian, Hawaiian, or Polynesian fishhook. I first came across this talisman while reading some sailing logs and books back in the early 1990’s, a symbol to the wearer of a safe journey while at sea. I found one made out of shell at a surf shop in Coco Beach Florida, while I was stationed aboard the USCGC Vigilant, out of Port Canaveral. I began wearing it as a symbol, to remind me that to have safety at sea, I needed to play my part and be prepared. I continued this tradition as I furthered my maritime career, next onboard the USCGC Munro out in the Pacific and aboard multiple commercial vessel commands in California.

There is deeper meaning and cultural importance to this symbol passed down from the Maori people of New Zealand. They hold that Maui the Demi-god used the hook to land a giant fish, which is now the North Island of New Zealand. If you have seen the Disney movie of “Moana”, Maui is the same Demi-god and his magical fishhook plays a huge role in this film.

Maui at SUNY Maritime NY (Empire State VI), the day I dropped Garrett off for his MUG Year, Fall 2018.

I have had a fondness for this symbol and back in 2008 my good friends Rich, David and I tried to get a Rum Company started in Palm Beach Florida, called “Watermen Rum”. Some times, timing is everything and it was just not the right time. I designed a “Hei Matau” to reflect our business model using a Polynesian fishhook design on one side with a whales tail on the other, forming a “W” for “Watermen Rum”. Our idea was to promote the Watermen lifestyle through our rum, to “Celebrate the Spirit of the Sea”. Still slowly working towards this concept, hopefully some day.

In 2017 when I left Hinckley Yachts and went to work on my own as a maritime consultant, I used my “Hei Matau” for “Watermen Rum”, as my symbol for my consulting business “Watermen Marine, Inc.”, to provide a safe voyage for my new endeavor and my clients marine assets.

What I really love about this symbol is what is represents as a time piece, a connection of the history of what it means to be a Watermen. Culturally passing down not only skills, but a passion for a life on, in, below this World covered by 70% water. Some people may never get it. The beauty of the worlds oceans and seas, the smell of salt in the air and the feeling of it on your skin. Part of being a Waterman is the passing of the art and artisan ways, of this passion and lively hood. Some of these artisan ways are dying off, some most likely are already forgotten. We need to capture these connections to our past and preserve these art-forms, cultural treasures. It is recorded in some anthropological papers that human kind has been spear fishing for 50,000 years, fishing with nets & traps for 40,000 years. Look back at ancient Sumerian, Egyptian pictographs and we can see documentation of this from 5,000 years ago, as well as fishing with hooks. Ancient navigators crossing oceans and seas, then returning safely, long before GPS. Vessel construction with hand tools, dugouts, viking long boats, proas, dhows, junks and clipper ships, long before modern day CNC machines.

Dhows on the Dubai River 2009

This is the beauty of being a “Watermen”, the passion for this art of a lifestyle of the sea. We need to capture these stories, to share with our future Watermen. If you know someone like this, an ancient mariner, Watermen or just a Watermen still carrying on an artisan skill. Please send me a way to contact them, I would love to find a way to interview and talk to them about their passion. Anything related to a lifestyle around the sea, (spear fishing, boat building, sail making, cast netting, surf boards, cooking, ANYTHING). If they are passionate about what they are doing in their Watermen Lifestyle, I want to talk to them. I appreciate any and all help with this project, please pass on my request.

As always, “I wish you fair winds and following seas.”


“The DUKE”

I always wondered what ever happened to “The DUKE”? You see I have some history with this CA paddle-wheeler. Not just any paddle-wheeler, but one with a historic and troubled past. Found this video on YouTube and will share my story and pictures afterwards.

You see, she wasn’t always called “The DUKE”, that was the name she was given when I came to know her in 1998. I was the Assistant GM and a Captain for a company called Western River Charters. At that time the company owned and operated a paddle-wheeler called the “Petaluma Queen” (later changed her name to the “Grand Romance” seen at top of page) operating on the Sacramento, Napa, Petaluma Rivers and Upper Deltas. “The Duke” had been purchased by our company after she had caught fire and burned to her main deck in downtown Sacramento. She was at that time called the “The Spirit of Sacramento”.

The owner of Western River Charters was an incredible “Idea” guy who could see value in things and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to make them come true. You see Bill Barker knew the history of the vessel and believed he could put her back to her glory, plying the rivers she had been operating on for almost 100 years. He also knew that she was once proudly owned by actor John Wayne after she was highlighted in his 1955 film “Blood Ally”. That is why he decided to rename her “The DUKE”. She started her career as an Army Corp of Engineers vessel, before private charter. After the film John Wayne used her for private charter before selling her into a career of sightseeing and dinner cruises.

When I fist came aboard her she had been towed to downtown Petaluma CA and was moored behind a steel company. Bill had replaced all her super structure that had been damaged during the fire and had actually improved upon her looks with his design. She was all steel and primer see pictures below. I did not spend a lot of time with “The DUKE”, because I was mostly managing the day to day operations of our other vessel and the office. Until….

I believe the date was 21 December 1998, a day my wife will not let me forget. I had driven to SFO airport to pick up by in-laws and brother-in-law, who had flown out to spend the Holidays with us from Florida. As I was driving them back to our apartment in Walnut Creek, I received a call from Bill that “The DUKE” had sunk in the Petaluma River. Apparently she had broke her mooring during the night and had come to rest beam to the shore at high tide. When the tide went out she heeled over on her starboard side and began to take on water, forcing her to come to rest on the bottom at a 30 degree list.

After I dropped my family off I raced to Petaluma as fast as I could. Upon arriving it was utter chaos, news teams, helicopters, USCG, just nuts. Somebody had the bright idea to get a semi-tow truck with winch, to try and straighten “The Duke” out. My first reaction was to confront the driver that the only thing he was going to do was get someone killed when the cable snaps and hit’s someone. I let him know that the vessel before being full of water and stuck in the mud weighted 750 tons and had he ever pulled that much weight? After hanging out for a couple of hours trying to help Bill, I finally left. I knew he had some big decisions to make and there was to many people causing confusion, I didn’t want to add on.

0530 the next morning Bill called me saying that the salvage company wanted $75K to refloat “The Duke”, what could he do, what are his options. I said let’s meet up and brain storm the situation. In our brain storming session he said he thought that at low tide, some of the main deck and hull were visible on the port side. If we could plug up the starboard side fills for all the tank-age which had been left open during construction. We could get some commercial high speed pumps down into the holds and at low tide let them start pumping away. They just needed a diver. Well he got his diver and this is were Leah wanted to kill me.

That afternoon I spent with Bill in a john boat lining me up along side the starboard hull, to dive done in zero visibility to cap off all the tank fills and prep the vessel for re-floating late that afternoon. It was tough work doing everything by feel in extremely cold water for about 2 hours and the vessel leaning over us at 30 degrees. But we were successful with this portion of the plan. The second I was done and before it was time to start the pumps I had to race home not to miss plans we had made months in advance with her family. Tickets to the Nut-Cracker at the San Francisco Opera House. Luckily I am stilled married today so I pulled it off.

I received a call from Bill later that evening that it was a huge success and the vessel was safely re-floated. I was sad to hear that she had sunk again just a few years ago 2016 in the Delta. It is a shame that such a historic vessel has had to en-dour multiple sinking and a huge fire that all most made her history. My greatest thrill as a Captain was to operate her sister vessel “The Grand Romance”, up and down the waterways of Northern California. Their is something magical about these vessels from our past, plying the waters today. I hope this is not the end to this wonderful vessel, I never had the opportunity to be her Master, but at that time in my life was looking forward to that day. Hopefully someday I can have a chance, to at least ride a river upon her.

-Captain Tripper

QB II sitting pretty at Old Bahama Bay.

The new Hunt 80 “Queen Bee II” safely moored at Old Bahama Bay, West End Bahamas.  It was a nice run across from Hinckley Yachts Stuart on Wednesday, the Gulfstream was a nice 6′ to 8′.  Had a nice time talking shop with Capt. Fred, a really good guy.  Best of luck to him and his crew this Summer.     -Tripper


Awesome video of Hawaii by drone. Looks like a lot of Watermen living the lifestyle!

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/156212670″>LANIAKEA – Hawaii by Drone</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/karimiliya”>Karim Iliya</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>



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