Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | August 4, 2011

Booze and Boat Bits #3 (5 short items of interest)

1:  Move over Somalia, there’s a new pirate hot spot:  Nigeria.  An article for the AFP indicates that there is a surge in maritime attacks in West Africa, and specifically in the Gulf of Guinea.  Fact is, this is neither surprising nor new…just new to me.  After only a quick search, I found online articles about Nigerian pirates going back to at least 2008.  There’s even a short Wikipedia entry.  Nigeria is well known for its organized crime, from drug trafficking to international fraud.  This is one of the things that makes piracy here very different from piracy off the Horn of Africa.  I’m learning (see my comments about Jay Bahadur’s book below) that the Somali pirates are opportunistic and do not have what could be called long-term structure.  The Nigerians, in contrast, are all but militaristic.  They have to be:  Their prime targets are oil tankers, and they’re not after ransom but the cargo itself.  The Nigerians, heavily armed and working in organized groups of high-speed boats, seize ships which they divert to waiting facilities so that the oil can be sold on the very busy, lucrative black market.  Although the pirates are Nigerian, their safe harbor appears to be Benin.  The navies of both countries seem to be unable–or unwilling–to handle the problem.  I’m curious to see what the international reaction is going to be.  Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil-producing nation, supplies a full fifth of the United States’ imported oil.  Guess what, we’ve got more modern pirate news to watch for.

2:  Over on the east side of Lake Washington in Bellevue (a suburban area I try to avoid as much as possible), a 42-foot boat burned.  As reported in the Seattle Times, the owner heroically (or at least responsibly) got the boat clear of the marina and swam back to shore with minor burns.  The boat was lost.  While this came across my radar via Three Sheets Northwest, it also popped up with my Google News tracking of the Kalakala.  How, you ask?  Because some fool posted a comment to the Seattle Times article saying, “Too bad it wasn’t the Kalakala.”  Non-sequiturs aside…WTF?  Even replies to this dude let me see what Steve and his crew are up against:  There are people out there who don’t just lack support for our dear, old ferry but actively and publicly want to see it destroyed.  WOW.

3:  Washington State, as us locals know, has no idea how to sell liquor.  One place that does is Houston, Texas, which I have traveled to twice to visit Zanne’s family.  While there, we NEVER fail to visit Spec’s.  This place is as big as a department store, and it’s all booze.  A whole aisle is dedicated to rum:  big, cheap bottles just for mass mixing, rare vintages, and cool stuff from all over the globe.  Their online store alone lists 456 different bottles of rum.  This is lush Heaven.  An article pointed out over at Rum Talk states that Spec’s, which has already expanded its empire to include Austin, San Antonio, and even El Paso, is now invading Dallas.  Liquor laws in Dallas are bizarre and arcane to say the least, because not only do county precincts run over city lines but also temperance laws from the 1800’s in some areas have yet to be overturned.  A members-only club may be across the street from a public restaurant with a full bar.  Distributors can’t deliver to some parts of the city.  The same article says that some of of this craziness is finally being dealt with, and formerly dry areas have gone wet.  That’s bully for Spec’s and for Dallas’ drinkers, so cheers to them and the city I lived in (or, rather, north of, in Lewisville) for two years as a kid.  Now if only Washington could get its head out of the 19th century, too.  Ah, and if only Spec’s could come up here…

4:  I am about halfway through Jay Bahadur’s Pirates of Somalia, which was published, conveniently, only a few days before my birthday.  I can already give it a rave review.  Bahadur writes engagingly, has spent enough time in the place to give me, an anthropologist, pause, and is more than willing to call bullshit on the media mythology surrounding the Somali pirates.  It is this last that is making me as an amateur commentator question some assumptions.  I’ll blog fully when I’m done…which shouldn’t be long.

5:  The question I get asked most often is, “Are you with the Seafair Pirates?”  No, I’m not.  I have nothing against them.  I’ve met a few, and those I’ve met seem cool.  It is not a crew, however, that I want to join.  One, it’s a club, and I do not feel like enduring a year’s apprenticeship to ‘prove’ I’m a pirate.  Ye can tell I’m a pirate when I outmaneuver yer creaky boat and ye feel the point o’ me cutlass!  Two, doing charity activities and being in endless Seafair parades is not my idea of fun.  Researching, sailing, telling stories, drinking:  That’s what I enjoy.  Three, in essence, the Seafair pirates are clowns.  They are not sailors, they are not reenactors:  They ride on a float and say “Yarr.”  I hate clowns.  They can do as they will–a crew will sail under articles of their own creation and accord–but I will not serve.  Nothing personal. I just steer my own course.


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