Boomtown SE Texas: Let it rain

We had a hell of a rain on Friday. The thunder started booming about 4 a.m. and didn’t seem to stop until nearly 8 a.m. Normally, I can sleep and sleep well through thunder and a heavy rain, but this stuff just kept on rolling. The rain did likewise, falling and falling some more. Some areas in Jefferson County were hit with 4 inches to 6 inches from only several hours of rain. Consequently, some of the same old underpasses went under water.

The city of Beaumont has spent millions to install better conduits for flood water to flow off into the Neches River. The river, which is the Beaumont-Mid Jefferson County-Northern Orange County portion of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, is located on the eastern side of Beaumont. Still the area floods when we get a lot of water in a short period of time. And people still drive their cars into the flooded underpasses. I think I saw a figure of like 36 cars had to be pulled from underwater. Fortunately, no one was killed. Such is the price you pay when you live in an area that is at most about 20 feet above sea level. But, I guess the river can always use some refreshing.

I see different figures but the Port of Beaumont — on the Neches end of the waterway — usually runs from about the 4th largest port in the country to the 7th. I used to like to go down to the port and take a look at the big ships in port. Now they have a more restricted are around the port due to maritime security, a.k.a. MARSEC.

 “The Coast Guard employs a three-tiered system of Maritime Security (MARSEC) Levels designed to easily communicate to the Coast Guard and our maritime industry partners pre-planned scalable responses for credible threats,” says the Coasties.

A liquid natural gas tanker is assisted by tugs on the Sabine-Neches Waterway on the Upper Texas  Coast.

A liquid natural gas tanker is assisted by tugs on the Sabine-Neches Waterway on the Upper Texas Coast.

President Obama signed a bill last month that is meant to boost water projects across the country. Southeast Texas is to get the largest bucks from that legislation, the Sabine-Neches Navigation District said last week. The district said there are 71,000 vessel transits — meaning in and out  each year — in the entire Sabine-Neches complex. Those group of ports are located in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange and Sabine Pass. And since the modern petroleum industry began “right cheer,” as our Cajun Texans say, I suppose it is only logical that most of the cargo sailing around the area’s ports consist of crude oil and it’s byproducts.

 “We produce about 13% of the nation’s gasoline daily,” said Clayton Henderson, assistant general manager of the Sabine-Neches Navigation District 

Oh, and I forgot to mention there are big ol’ liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals at either side of where the Sabine-Neches and its bay, Sabine Lake, empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

If the remainder of the Keystone Pipeline gets allowed and built, it will end up right cheer in Jefferson County. And for something kind of completely different, some of the stockpiles of chemical weapons being taken from Syria for destruction — where do they go? Want to take a guess? Those nasty “weapons of mass destruction” are being sent to Port Arthur.

Now one may ask, why did he start with heavy thunder and rain, and end up with tons of petroleum products and weapons of mass destruction?

To look at it one way there is certainly a lot of stuff to go boom were the wrong people to get hold of all those dangerous product made and transported to and from our area. We would probably need a lot of foam if something caught fire, but we have plenty of water or so it seems.

Texas is a huge state and not even the biggest in the U.S. It is second in size to Alaska. But one gets a feel for its size when it looks at average rainfall from the nearly 60 inches per year we average here in Jefferson County to the 9-something inches received some 800 miles away in El Paso County.

I have to say that the LP terminals at the terminus of Sabine Lake bother me the most. But what can one do? Boosters of the project to deepen the Sabine-Neches channel by 8 feet say this will “promise” 78,000 new jobs in the area. It’s all about the jobs isn’t it? Or at the very least, the promise of jobs.

It seems as if someone needs to use the existing channel to transport to us a big ol’ “paradigm shifter.” Get that sucker rigged up like snappy, and working. Then, we should ask our Native-American friends who live about an hour away to the north on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation if they might be so nice to come down here somewhere and do some rain dancing. Because even with all the rain we already receive if things get rough we might need even more liquid gold.

Will the isolation give up the ongoing Malaysian mystery?

Perhaps Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is located in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps not. After the immense speculation and leads given the public from corporate and government sources one could think the Boeing 777 jet with its contingent of almost 300 lives aboard might just be anywhere. It is heartening to think a possible crash site might finally be spotted, according to media reports.

The strange paths this Beijing-bound flight supposedly took and the elements to which the flight pertains is certainly a mystery worthy of fiction. If indeed this jet is found in almost completely the opposite direction from where it was headed, then that too seals the mysterious flight which headed out just after midnight from Kuala Lumpur on March 8. And while the 24-hour media has raised the possibility the 777 might perhaps had been en route to as far north as Pakistan, the possibility the aircraft and its passengers and crew may lie in the Indian Ocean east of Western Australia seems to make more sense than any other ultimate destination.

It didn’t really hit me at first when a newscaster commented this morning that the missing place could in a place as “remote” as to the east of Western Australia. When one looks at a map it really can understand just how far removed from civilization such a place really is.

I made a trip once sailing out of Fremantle, the Swan River port city for Perth, Western Australia, headed for Jakarta, Indonesia. I don’t remember much about the passage, our two warships alone  out on the Indian Ocean. We had spent the better part of two months visiting ports all up and down the two major New Zealand islands and to three Australian ports in a semi-circular journey from New South Wales, to Tasmania and up to Perth. The majority of us sailors, under 25, had just experienced “sailor-man heaven.”

So I really cannot comment too much one way or the other about the trip across the western Indian Ocean and into the Java Sea. The only thing that really sticks out in my mind about the Indian Ocean is that it was generally hot as hell, it being during the heat of the southern winter. I did notice what appeared to be dirty-looking ocean water, it being one of those odd instances one comes across when at sea after awhile.

Few islands of the Indian to the west of Australia other than Madagascar are noteworthy.  The only place in the Indian Ocean where I have known people to go was Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, home of the major U.S. Navy facility that was built in the 1970s mostly by Navy Seabees. A number of my Seabee friends were deployed there at one time or another. One even sent me a B.I.O.T. T-shirt though I don’t know what happened to it.

Yes, I would have to think that area west of of Perth is pretty remote as many ocean areas might be. Still the ocean is tranquil and desolate in many areas of the world as it is there. Hopefully, this remote area will soon uncover this ongoing mystery and provide some comfort to those with loved ones on Flight 370.

 

 

Some heroes gets their rewards and others get, something else

EFD Celebrates 2,500 posts since 2005. Weird huh?

It was nice, if only for a short time, to view something on TV news other than blatant speculation over what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. I speak of the somewhat solemn ceremony that is taking place in the White House as I write this. Of course, the airing of the ceremony on CNN didn’t last long because Jake Tapper had to come in and talk and talk some more. The White House to do is honoring 24 soldiers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam with the Medal of Honor. These were Black, Hispanic and Jewish soldiers — the majority awarded posthumously — who were originally presented the Distinguished Service Cross. A congressional review upgraded the awards from the nation’s second highest for valor to the top decoration. It isn’t stated on the special “microsite” but because these brave soldiers were Black, Hispanic and Jewish is why they were not originally awarded the Medal of Honor.

First U.S. WWII hero. Dorris Miller, remains without Medal of Honor

First U.S. WWII hero. Dorris Miller, remains without Medal of Honor

It is always a glimpse at a real hero to read the citations for the MOH dating back to the Civil War. Well, some may argue that certain ones didn’t deserve the award. Read the citations and make your mind up on your own. And, it’s certainly not to say that a few of the awards are, shall we say, unusual, such as the Unknown Soldiers of Rumania (now spelled Romania) and Italy, both from World War I.

Speaking of unrewarded heroes, which we were, I see there is a development in getting additional recognition for perhaps the first American hero of World War II. I wrote a story more than a decade ago as to how locals in the Waco, Texas, area had made a push to upgrade a Navy Cross — now the Navy’s second highest — to the Medal of Honor. The award was third highest behind the MOH and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal when Cook Third Class Doris Miller received the medal.

Miller was a Black farm hand from the Waco area when he joined the Navy in 1939 and ended up as a mess attendant and cook, one of the few jobs open to African Americans back then. Miller, called “Dorie” by his shipmates, was stationed on the battleship U.S.S. West Virginia berthed in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Miller responded to the attack along with shipmates. Miller helped move the ship’s captain, whose wounds proved mortal, to a place of greater safety on the bridge. Although he had not been trained to fire anti-aircraft weapons, Miller took over such a gun battery and began shooting at Japanese planes. Stories passed down through the years say Miller even shot down one of the planes, though it was never proven. Miller was portrayed in the 2001 movie “Pearl Harbor” by Cuba Gooding Jr.

There remains a long-held notion that Miller would have been a Medal of Honor recipient had he have been white. To the day, the effort to have Miller nominated for the MOH has failed. It is most fitting, though not a substitute for a Medal of Honor, that the Republican U.S. House member, Rep. Bill Flores, who represents that area of Central Texas, is leading an effort to have the Waco Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital named after Dorie Miller. I used that facility for my VA primary care for some seven years. And I believe that I played a pretty major role as a journalist in keeping the facility from closure. I know that sounds conceited and probably is. But it is nevertheless the truth. The publication I wrote for back then has the hardware to prove it . That isn’t taking anything from them. Papers like rewards and they got recognition for my work and that of a couple of others.

Okay, so now what? We go back to endless coverage of Flight 370? It is a mystery, though one wonders how long it will sustain the coverage cable news is giving it? Only fate and the suits know for sure. So until next time, … “All Right. Good night.”

A “Z-moment” for the Air Force top airfolk

It seems that U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff and his general minions in the USAF bureaucracy recently had a “Zumwalt moment.”

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III recently approved sort of a “Casual Friday” when it comes to certain physical training (PT) attire, according to Stars and Stripes. The newspaper is a worldwide, independent publication run by the Defense Department. Colorful shoes or “moral T-shirts,” the latter of which was worn to help build unit pride, as well as unit patches are among the items which will be okay for exercising airmen and airwomen. I think they are all called “airmen.” Perhaps for a more PC term the collective could be changed to “airpeople” or “airfolks,” the last being a play on words with Air Force. Get it? No?

While subtle changes to help Air Force personnel feel better about what they do and what they’ve accomplished, the reg rewrites pale in comparison with the sweeping Navy reforms of the early 1970s instituted by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt. Bud. Hmm, I don’t think I could ever call such a historic figure and military leader “Bud.” But I might. Bear in mind that Admiral Zumwalt passed died 14 years ago, making such ridiculousness moot.

Zumwalt was going out as CNO just as I was coming in. Almost to the day. He was never my CNO. That was Adm. James L. Holloway III. A.k.a.Trey. No, I was just joking about the nickname. Holloway, had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In Navy speak: “He was around so long that he remembered when Jesus was just a mess cook.”

Beyond a doubt, Zumwalt made some major changes during his tenure as the Vietnam war was winding down. Morale was low and would continue that way for awhile. Zumwalt put beer in barracks vending machine. He had what someone apparently thought was more modern styles of uniforms introduced, doing away with the “Cracker Jacks,” so called because they reminded one of a Florida redneck with a jacked-up pickup off which he was to steal a tire. No, you should know by now that wasn’t the reason for the uniform’s moniker. They were so called because of the little sailor on the Cracker Jack box. Beards were likewise allowed. In the Navy beards were allowed, not on the Cracker Jack box.

Some sailors feel Zumwalt went too far. This opinion was especially held by some of those men who would light up the beer machine at 0630, these were a small part of the career Navy men or “lifer,” as they were so named in an invective.

I recently used a picture where I wore a beard during my promotion to Petty Officer Third Class — minus my commanding officer — as an example for a question I asked a Facebook group. The group is for Navy veterans. I say the overwhelming majority liked growing or would have liked to grow a beard when they were allowed. Even some of the women veterans seemed to mostly like them. One reply, not from a woman, was especially dripping with scorn. Yes, he was a scorn dripper, Sunday driver yeah, It took him soooo long … Sorry. A Beatle  flashback. The scorn dripper said:

 “Zumwalt was the worst thing EVER to Hit the Navy. He screwed us so bad.”

To each his or her own.

Many military uniform regulations are just plain ridiculous. Though I had yet to sail the seas, I initially found a cultural clash between “fleet types” like me and Seabees while stationed on a Seabee base. Seabees could go off base in their, then, green utility uniforms or fatigues. Those of us wearing a blue jumper or dungarees had to change before leaving or wear a dress or semi-dress uniform. A storekeeper I knew gave me a nice, comfy foul-weather coat. It was green, with the Seabee patch. A guy, like a “bouncer” in the dining hall wouldn’t let me in until I finally made some Seabee friends and surrounded myself with them.

Flip-flops and frayed jeans were popular then, I guess they still are in some respects, but the officer of the deck or petty officer of the watch would often not allow a sailor off the ship for liberty with such attire. I always ignored their breach of dress etiquette when I stood the latter. In some places, mostly where great numbers of sailors were on liberty such as in Subic Bay, there were actually Shore Patrol who wrote “tickets” for wearing flip-flops or such.

So these changes in Air Force wear — although I imagine some “old-timers,” now 30-somethings, burn with indignation — are one step toward eliminating the ever-present hard ass culture of the military. I mean, it’s not exactly having breakfast in bed served to new recruits or mints on their pillows.

Five years and yet still no book. What a Dick!

Friends, Romans, Country Boys, lend me your ears. I don’t know quite what to do with them but I am certain I will find a use. Just keep your ear wax, you heah?

As you can see, I have nothing worth writing this afternoon. And, although that has not stopped me before I shall be brief here. That is, less than 500 words, or so I hope.

I thought I would update the writing project. What? You didn’t know I had a writing project? Why I do every day, or so. But other than hitting or missing here I have been continually on the path during the last four or five years of what some people call a “writing a book.” I just don’t know what I want to write a book about. That has been my problem for the last four or five years. That and medical problems. Those problems and financial problems. We’ve had hurricanes. A 32-hour-per-week job that is called “part-time.” And on and on.

I can say that this project will not be a work of fiction. Or for the most part that is. Or maybe it will be fiction that is based on truth. Or maybe it will be an epic poem. Or maybe it will be … Or maybe it will be. Hell. I don’t quite know still. I do have an idea, though it sounds kind of stupid. But perhaps Hemingway thought a fisherman’s obsessing over a large marlin was stupid. I don’t know. People have all sorts of stupid ideas.

My novel will need specific structure to succeed. It must be short. I mean really short. It should be so short that having finished this work might move even a village’s most accomplished nincompoop to boast of his bookish conquest.

My struggle with writing a book is probably my greatest conflict in life. Well, it is certainly one of those. I thought of passing along my idea in this blog. But why would I do that? What if it turns out to be an excellent idea that some smart but unscrupulous writer discovers? Then again, why would a smart writer be reading this blog? I’m just using a little self-deprecating humor there. I know I have smart readers. Especially those who continue to follow my work year after year.

Okay. That’s it for today. The next day I have off that I don’t have to visit a doctor, I will begin on my literary journey — once more with renewed purpose. I can see myself on Charlie Rose. Uh, on his PBS show, not on Charlie Rose himself, my heft sitting on his shoulders beating him upon the ribs shouting “Faster, faster, Rose, you old scoundrel!” Well, that just prevented me from ever appearing on the only interesting talk show to be broadcast these days. Plus, that sentence just kept me from all the rest of the TV shows. Why I couldn’t even get on Jerry Springer, I bet.

Enough grandiosity. I’ve yet to even write my first words. Well, okay, how about these?

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”

That tragic, deadly, ol’ Love Boat

Have you ever wondered how many boxes of toothpicks can be made from a single tree?

Most toothpicks in the U.S. are made from birch, according to Ask.com, the answer to everything, the trut,’ the whole trut’ and nothing but the trut.’

Well, according to one site whose pedigree I couldn’t tell you:

In one cord of wood (logs 8′ in length, stacked 4′ high, and 4′ wide) can be turned into 7.5 million toothpicks.

Reminds me of a cartoon I saw as a kid. The board of directors are sitting around in a board room (where else). A chart is being pointed to at a company called Acme Toothpick by some suit. The suit says: “Unfortunately, we expect a sharp decline in profits this year since the company bought a new tree.”
And we all laughed.
So what brings this up? Why it is the Love Boat. Yes, you remember so many years ago … “The Love Boat promises something new for everyone …. ” Like the prospect that this episode will be followed by “Fantasy Island.” “De plane, de plane … “
The MS Pacific is the ship once known as the Pacific Princess. That was when she embarked from across the way from the Long Beach shipyard in which my destroyer was dry-docked during that magic summer of ’77. Magic? Magic Tragic. It’s just “artistic license.” After all, someone probably made tons of money from that terrible “Love Boat” theme. Get over it. The Pacific limped into a Turkish shipyard last week, listing much like half of my crew on a one-night liberty in Fiji. A ship recycling company bought the ship — the Princess, not my destroyer — for about $3.3 million.
One might think this about the worst ending ever for a 70s icon of love. But, oh no, it gets even worse.
No doubt the “Love Boat” sucked as a TV show. Who knew it was actually lethal?

You can tell a sailor by the shoe that they wear (And that’s a fact, Jack!)

Lately I have enjoyed some of the posts on a Facebook page for Navy members that I joined awhile back. The page certainly reminded me of how firmly my feet are planted in the “black shoe” Navy, one of the monikers for those whose naval service was primarily rooted in the Surface Warfare community.

It might surprise those with little or no knowledge of the service, that “the Navy” is not a homogenous branch of what is now the Department of Defense. Oh, and “homogenous” has nothing to do with the gay and lesbian communities of the armed forces.

The Navy is certainly more than ships even though the surface Navy has its own sub-groups. For instance, the “Gator Navy,” uses vessels such as Dock Landing Ships, or LSDs, that can launch smaller craft inside a well dock. The LHAs, or amphibious assault ships are what many would have years ago referred to as a “helicopter carrier” but these behemoths are much more than a place to land a whirly-bird. The name gator refers to landing ships that have either giant stern gates or small gates on the bow, depending on how you look at it. In any event these gates can literally hit the beach, so the reference to amphibious. These ships are the most likely to have contingents of Marines on board, which is always good for a little culture clash.

I have known and even have friends who are “jarheads” who served on these amphibious ships. But I know few swab-jockeys from the Gator Navy. But I’ve been told these are a wholly different bunch of sailors than say those of the tin-can, or destroyer groups.

Tin-can sailors these dayx are most identified with what are now guided missile destroyers and guided missile frigates. Most destroyer squadrons are usually groups of destroyers, cruisers and frigates, all of which today have a “G” in the ships’ hull names to indicate they are guided missile type ships as opposed to the old “gun ships” of my day. Although, an entire class of “DD ships” have come and gone since I last sailed. But, I was on the last active-duty, World War II-era gun destroyer, the USS Agerholm (DD-826.) She was decommissioned in December 1978, seven months after I left it to separate (honorably) from the Navy. The ship was sunk in 1982 off the Pacific coast of San Diego in a Tomahawk missile test.

The tin-can sailor, at least of my day, were certainly a whole different breed. Why some folks even wondered if some of us were even of the human race.

Other groups of sailors who sail on the water are those on carriers, or “bird farms,” as we called them. Although the regular crew are surface sailors, they are most often affiliated with the “brown shoe” Navy. These are the people associated with aviation, known for their officers and chiefs wearing brown shoes with their khakis instead of black ones. The true “airdales,” another term for aviation folks are those assigned to the various type of aircraft squadrons which rotate on and off the carriers.

Then, there are submariners. They are certainly a breed apart. One of my Yeoman “A” School instructors was a submariner who put it succinctly: “When we are up here (on land), the world stinks. Life is only good down there.” Okey, dokey, Pal!

Of course, there are the special forces types, SEALs and those who operate the Special Ops boats, all of which have grown quite a bit population-wise in just the last decade. I don’t know very many true SEALs. I met way more people who said they were SEALs than who really were in that elite bunch. The one guy I knew who I believe really was a SEAL was a pretty strange dude. However, one didn’t have to be a SEAL to fit that description in the Navy.

Last but surely not least are the Seabees. These are the construction types who also are trained in mostly defensive military combat training. “We Build. We Fight,” their motto, although, “We Drink” could be added to the slogan for most Bees I knew.

The majority of my Navy time was spent with the Seabees, the name comes from “CB” meaning Construction Battalion, which is how most Seabees are organized. I wasn’t in a battalion. I served 2 1/2 years at the Naval Construction Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., one of two homeports for the Bees. These are the Atlantic Fleet Seabees. The Pacific Fleet Bees are based at Port Hueneme, Calif., located in Ventura County  near Oxnard.

I thought I might reside on the Mississippi Coast after I finished my tour in the Navy. I didn’t, I moved to Texas. But because the thought crossed my mind, I transferred to the 20th Naval Construction Regiment in Gulfport to finish my time of about three weeks after saying good-byes on my tin-can. I really didn’t do much militarily there during my very short time except getting my last Navy regulation haircut some scum-sucking lifer forced me to acquire. (Note: Not all lifers are scum-sucking, though I thought that at times of some career Navy back then.)

The Seabees wear mostly combat boots, by the way. The Gator Navy? I don’t have a clue. SEALs? They can wear any damn kind of shoe they want! And that is my point, if there is one to be made. There are a bunch of different types of Navy folks. If you want to know a little bit more about what kind of sailor a sailor is, try looking at his or her shoes.

 

 

Fishing tale: The one that got away didn’t

Some fisherman ply the waters for sustenance while others fish for sport. It has been awhile since I have fished. But I generally find it a relaxing exercise and one in which I care little whether I catch a fish or not. I say “generally.” I suppose if I was paying for a deep sea trip or booked a fly fishing journey in the Rockies I would definitely want some return for my dollar. Some fish freshly caught for grilling would certainly be one return to enjoy. Still, going fishing is many times more than wetting a hook. And sometimes the hunt is better than the capture. For instance, every fisherman worth his or her tackle box has a story about “the one that got away.”

Anthony Wichman may truly have been better off if the fish he hooked had escaped.

A Navy Times story reports that Wichman, 54, hooked a 230-pound Ahi tuna while fishing last week off Kauai island, Hawaii. While reeling in the monster tuna it capsized his 14-foot boat and pulled the man under the water. As if that wasn’t enough, Wichman also managed to entangle his leg in his fishing line.

He managed though to hang on to the overturned hull and used his cell phone to call his wife, who in turn, notified authorities. A Coast Guard helicopter found the capsized vessel and plucked Wichman out of the water. A couple of his friends also showed up to help tow his boat to shore.

A Honululu Coast Guard spokeswoman said Wichman sustained minor injuries. But one important answer was difficult to find out in the otherwise entertaining story.

What happened to the fish?

Well, a picture accompanying the story shows the angler and his friends holding up the giant tuna. The cutline beneath the story explains that Wichman and friends were able to save the Ahi as well as the boat.

What other details that transpired is hard to say: Like whether the giant tuna was worth the ordeal and whether Wichman might have wished he had not even hooked the fish in the first place.

One has to admit though, it is one hell of a fishing story.

Missing crabber found

UPDATE: The body of a missing Southeast Texas crab fisherman was found Monday night, the Beaumont Enterprise reports.

Crabbers fishing near Stewts Island found 57-year-old John Tran of Bridge City about 30 hours after his boat collided with a tug and barge. Stewts Island is west of where Tran’s boat collided with a tug and barge transiting through the Intracoastal Canal and Sabine Lake.

Due to ongoing problems with my blog provider WordPress, I was unable to publish this yesterday. Stay patient!

 

Dealiest Catch not just in Bering Sea

Millions of viewers watch the adventure-soap “Deadliest Catch” each week pitting Alaskan crab fishermen against the cruel Bering Sea.

The drama of grown men gets as old as quick, maybe quicker, than that of women young and old. But I do like the dramatic quality of the photography. Those of you who have sailed in harrowing gale or tropical storm waters should appreciate the pounding and rodeo-ride the crabbers must get from those serious waves.

Danger is no stranger to those who trap crabs. For many years it was the most dangerous job in the country. Stricter regulations have made the fishing safer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, the job is not a cakewalk. And that is true whether you fish the crazy waters of the Bering Sea or the mostly calm back bays of the Gulf Coast.

A case in point is the search taking place about 20 miles southeast of where I sit.

The Coast Guard and local authorities from Port Arthur, Texas, and Jefferson County began searching the Sabine Lake area Sunday afternoon for a 56-year-old Bridge City man. A Coast Guard news release said the “pleasure craft” in which Tran was boating collided with the tug and barge Father Seelos. Authorities found the submerged boat. Although the Coasties dubbed the smaller vessel as a pleasure craft, local media have reported that the boat was used for crabbing. Most crabbers — if not most in seafood — in Tran’s area are Vietnamese who first settled in Port Arthur after being plucked from flotillas trying to escape after the 1975 fall of Saigon.

 

Coast Guard and local authorities found this boat belonging to John Tran, who is missing in Sabine Lake. Photo by Petty Officer Manda Emery

Coast Guard and local authorities found this boat belonging to John Tran, who is missing in Sabine Lake. Photo by Petty Officer Manda Emery

One time about 15 years ago I traveled in the early but humid Southeast Texas morning to catch a crab boat with a man whose name, if I am not mistaken, was Tran. I don’t know if this was the same man because he used his given name. My photographer buddy Bullet Bob and I sailed from Bridge City through the bayous and into Sabine Lake to do a feature on this hard-working man whose waters were much calmer than those found in the Bering. But the sea wasn’t our Mr. Tran’s most pressing concern.

Sabine Lake is a 90,000-acre estuary in which the Sabine and Neches Rivers empty. It likewise forms the boundary between Texas and Louisiana. Like other seafood fished from Sabine Lake, anglers, shrimpers, crabbers and all the rest search for finite resources. Pressure is exerted on crabs and fish by fellow marine harvesters — commercial and sport — plus the waterways serve busy ports hauling petrochemicals as well as the Intracoastal Canal and its Southern State barge traffic. The 75-foot x 33-foot Father Seeros was en route to Baton Rouge, according to maritimetraffic.com.

A culture clash was also an inevitable outcome when Vietnamese fishermen met Southeast Texas rednecks. Not all of us are. But I can recall hearing some ya-hoo telling our crabber and his home folks to whom he was speaking in his native language on the CB to “get the shit out of your mouth.” Not very nice indeed.

Our crabber’s take that day was just a few but it was worth the trip that morning, he said. If the sea doesn’t get you something else is always there it seems. Mr. Tran has not been seen in more than 24 hours but authorities are still looking.

“We’re utilizing all efforts possible to locate the missing person,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Joshua Tidey, a Coast Guard spokesman for the Houston-Galveston area.