Friday Oct 24. Cabin Fever.

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 24th, 2014

Wednesday we had over an inch of rain. A record.  I never set a foot outside. There is plenty to do inside this small space and I wonder when I get back in seriousness on “Soloman”. I am reading two books simultaneously while my somanieth attempt at recording my slide show DVD is burning away. The print book  I have been lent by Jack Eddy “A Higher Call” is the true story of Franz Stigler a Bavarian 2nd WW fighter pilot and Charlie Brown a U.S. Air Force bomber pilot. They meet in the German sky in December 1943. Brown is trying to limp his flak damaged bomber back, Stigler pulls up next to Brown and, instead of finishing the job, he salutes and points the way to neutral Sweden.  Brown searches and finds Stigler after the war in British Columbia. I highly recommend reading this story for it’s historical value and the ability to recognize the very fine line that separates foe from friend, hatred from compassion. And the electronic version of “First in Vietnam….” which I described in an earlier blog. An other senseless war. This is not a book that I would recommend for its literary value. But for me personally it fills in a lot of the gaps in my apparent absence of what was going on while I spent a year and a half in this helicopter company in Vietnam.

As of this morning I finally have a DVD, that can be played on a TV video player, of the slide shows made up of the 51 country 9 year voyage. It was not easy.  When I replaced my 2011 Windows-7 laptop with a Windows-8 laptop I had to repurchase MS Office and Adobe Photoshop because they no longer worked on the new software. And in order to edit the slide shows I had to start practically from scratch. Then when you are ready to burn the slide show video  to a DVD it tells you that it will only copy to a CD-R….And if you want to burn DVD’s you need to buy Photoshop Premier Elements 13. And I just installed Elements 12 in May…..  In windows-7 I could burn my video’s through MS-MovieMaker and MS WindowMaker. But, surprise-surprise, WindowMaker no longer functions in Windows-8 and MS has no fix for this. I had to down load two more free soft-wares, to finally get done with this project. Praise the Lord for technology.

A week ago today, I took the bus into Tacoma to get new fittings for the fuel lines on the boat engine and attended a memorial service at the Tacoma Yacht Club for our friend Duane Saasen. Lisa, daughter #1, picked me up and took me to my old Tacoma parish church, St. Patrick, where I met Rose Marie, daughter #2. We attended a charismatic healing service. Rose Marie was recently diagnosed with Lupus and I had high hopes that she might benefit from the special powers God is giving us in these meetings. I have a health issue as well I’d like to have healed. A long lingering digestive problem. The special powers were obviously happening to many of the supplicants. My main benefit was that I got to sing a marathon of my favorite church songs while all this was going

Driving rain, high tide on Wedesday

Driving rain, high tide on Wedesday

Low tide, we have 18 foot 5,5 mtr tidal difference

Low tide, we have 18 foot 5,5 mtr tidal difference

Morning fog at Stanich Dock

Morning fog at Stanich Dock

sunrise this week

sunrise this week


taken by Sheila Schultz on the Jack & Jill race Sept 13. "Fleetwood" and Mt.Rainier

taken by Sheila Schultz on the Jack & Jill race Sept 13. “Fleetwood” and Mt.Rainier


Sunday October 12. Preaching to the choir?

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 12th, 2014

I went to 8.30 mass and just have to share with you my gratitude of coming out of the church with joy and new inspiration. We happen to be very fortunate with our new priest father Mark Guzman. The first reading was from Isaiah 25 “He has destroyed death” and the second reading is Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4 verse 12 “ I know how to live modestly, and I know how to live luxuriously too: in every way now I have mastered the secret of all conditions: full stomach and empty stomach, plenty and poverty”. This happens to hit close to home. I was a millionaire and lost it all and now live just on my social security checks. My financial loss turned out to become the best thing that could have happened to me.. The gospel was Matthew 22, the parable of the King who was snubbed by his invited wedding guests.

But before church I listened to an interview of Neil Young on his book “Super Delux”, about his passion for unusual automobiles. Two things struck home again. He told how he likes to listen to music on his car radio because the scenery changes like in a video and it gives him new ideas. And there is one thing I do miss, by not having a car and go for a road trip. I miss certain things, but the trade off, for what I do have, far outweighs my many blessings. The second was Neil’s answer to the question why he is so vocal about the need to preserve the planet. Part of his answer was that because his name is so well known that he can use this to his advantage to promote his concerns. I fear that I may annoy some of you with my favorite subjects, my gratitude to be a child of God, the persecution of God’s church in China, etc. Who am I to mention this here? My past life is no shining example. But I pray regularly: “God use me!”

Life is good. On my walk back to the boat I stumbled on this field of gorgeous fresh Porcini (Boletus/Eekhoorntjesbrood) mushrooms. Much better than what I showed you last October in Port Camargue and in December on Ibiza. I will have a feast! Friday, at the Food Bank, I was given a huge steak. Steak is not normally in my budget but the mushrooms will go well with it. I need to go out, like the King in Matthew, and gather up some dinner guests.

Take a good look, at the picture I took in my front yard aquarium, the intricate make up of this Sea Nettle. Always the same numbers of medusa’s, arms, the three leaved clover. How can anyone insist that this can be explained as a scientific origin? I have a very difficult time understanding how one can be grateful for these miraculous creatures when you do not know the Donor?

I shut up.

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Wednesday October 8, back among my yachting peeps.

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 11th, 2014

“Fleetwood” is once again flying the Gig Harbor Yacht Club burgee. This evening I was presented at the monthly meeting for an honorary membership. I am of course very grateful, flattered and happy to be back in the club. I joined the club in 1984 when I moved here from Tacoma. Until that time, since 1976, I had been a member of the Anacortes YC., because I used to keep my boat in La Conner. I stopped my membership in the GHYC when I had my financial problems around 1996 and “Fleetwood” was stored under a tarp on shore. I rejoined in 2004. I exchanged my GHYC burgee in Puerto Galera on Mindoro Island in the Philippines in 2006. They had the most elaborate burgee I have seen anywhere. ph~ycpg (1)

The Yellow Galleon and trim is all in gold braid. I had expected that my exchange would be well received by my club, but I was told they had plenty of burgees and if I wanted mine replaced to send $25. I quit my membership in 2008. This gorgeous burgee is now resting on the bottom of a rocky cove on the Island of Tago Mago. In 2012 I joined the Amsterdam YC “de Schinkel” and terminated my membership when I left Europe last Spring. The atmosphere has much improved in the GHYC. For one they now have a very active junior sailing program and lots of activities for both power and sail-boat members.

New Burgee starboard spreader

New Burgee starboard spreader

at club meting with Bobbie Higgins, vice commodoress and marina neighbors.

at club meting with Bobbie Higgins, vice commodoress and marina neighbors Photo by Sheila Schultz..


Friday October 3rd. Cancellation of tomorrow’s event in Lakebay.

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 3rd, 2014

Last evening I discovered that there is a conflict at the “Shipwreck Cafe” in scheduling.

I will be doing another presentation in Gig Harbor this fall. Stay tuned.


Thursday October 2nd. The last rays.

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 2nd, 2014

The sun loses its warmth quickly in the late afternoon. But one lonely Harbor Seal, the Terns and Mt. Rainier is soaking in the last rays of the late summer sun. We are promised one more sunny day tomorrow but then it looks like summer will have said its last good byes. I bought a few more warm clothes yesterday at Goodwill. And yesterday morning I used the little electric heater I had bought there for $6 a while back. It works great and warms up the cabin in a few minutes. I still need to try out the Force 10 kerosene heater. Maybe this weekend when I may not have access to electricity.

I have been watching on line, I have no TV, the protests in Hong Kong and I am hoping and praying that this will be the beginning of freedom for the Chinese in Hon Kong and eventually on the mainland. It is incredible the ingenuity, cohesion and restraint these, mostly, young people are displaying. There is lots of singing and I swear that I heard a group of young women, in the background, sing part of Mozart’s requiem. But when I went back on line to re-listen the NPR reports I could not find it. Did anyone else hear this? This would be a coincidence since Bill McGlaughlin on NWPR(adio) in his Exploring Music program has been featuring several of the Requiem masses, Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi and Faure. In my book “The Mastmakers’ Daughters” I write about the four women who were part of my mother’s group of prisoners in the NAZI concentration camp Vught. They sang the “Dona Nobic Pacem” from Mozart’s Requiem to the men that were being led out of the bunker on their way to the firing squad. My very first choir experience was singing Mozart’s Requiem at Easter time 1969 in Belgium. My wife was in her last days before the birth of her first pregnancy. And whenever I hear the “Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini” it brings back strong and happy emotions. She remains a true blessing to many. The most moving experience I had during the four years in Europe was participating in a hundred voices performance of Gabriel Faure’s requiem on May 4, last year. This is the day before the 5th of May which Holland celebrates as the end of the second World War. On the fourth of May they commemorate the victims of the war.

Common Terns with an occasional Caspian Tern and a Gull

Common Terns with an occasional Caspian Tern and a Gull

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Wednesday October 1st. Flag Etiquette.

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 1st, 2014

I have a bone to pick with my American sailor friends.

It is very rare in Europe to encounter incorrect display of the ensign, courtesy flags, burgee and private pennants. But it is far too common here in the North West.

I estimate that at least 10% of the sail boats display the ensign improperly. I am guilty of the most common offense, not lowering the ensign at sunset and when I leave the boat. As soon as I can find the right flag staff I will correct this. In Holland, as an example, in some traditional maritime communities, the locals will rip the ensign off a visitors boat if it is displayed after dark. The next most seen offense is displaying the ensign from the wrong location, most common from the starboard spreader halyard, which is strictly reserved for the club burgee, quarantine flag, courtesy flag and owners private pennant. The port side of the spreader halyard is only to be used for a courtesy flag of the nationality of a foreign visitor aboard. Too often recent visiting sailors to Canadian waters will continue to fly the courtesy flag after leaving Canada.

These pictures were taken recently from my moorage.

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Monday September 29. Flashback 1962 Vietnam.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 29th, 2014

I started reading the book that Charlie Johnson brought to my attention  and discovered that what I reported in my forelast blog about the death of Richard Ellis needs a correction. His death was not an accident he was shot by VC fire while dropping a load of South Vietnamese soldiers into the first battle at Ap Bac in October 1962. Our company damaged a number of our twin rotor H-21 “Shawnee” helicopters in that first Ap Bac battle.  Knight blames Colonel John Paul Vann for the losses and casualties suffered. Neil Sheehan paints a very different picture of Colonel Vann, in his book “A bright shining lie”, for which he won a Pulitzer price.  Sheehan did not come to Vietnam until 1963 and by then Knight and practically my entire company had already rotated back to the U.S. I could have returned also by November 1962 for my one year Vietnam stint but elected to serve out my two year draft in Vietnam. I was still in Vietnam when the first big battle of the Vietnam war was fought, again in Ap Bac. This was one of the first times the VC did not hit and run. They stood their ground and again Colonel Vann took charge. We lost three Americans, five helicopters and the Vietnamese army lost from 80 to 100 men in that infamous battle. The press listened to colonel Vann because he was very critical of the US and Vietnamese handling of the counter insurgency. And Sheehan probably had little or no access in 1963 to people like Knight to hear what they thought of this man. It is also highly unlikely that  Knight writes: “We in the 57 th also knew Vann in 1962 and we were significantly less impressed with him than were the reporters. There were several reasons for this. He was a small blond man with a high pitched, grating, petulantly demanding voice who, in spite of his slight appearance, was an over-confident, hyper-acting, and arrogant individual. He had a very high opinion of himself. He let us know that he had a superior understanding of the war; that his tactical expertise was perfect and that he could fly a helicopter better than any of us. …” and he goes on explaining the problems they always had with Vann. This battle took place in the first week of January 1963. My service ended January 21st. Everyone in the company had been up in a helicopter at one time but I hardly ever set foot out of my supply cubicle. So, I was granted a ride over the Tan Son Nhut airport. What stays etched in my vision is the bright yellow sand holes of fresh dug graves for the casualties of the Ap Bac battle. Douce and a half trucks were bringing the coffins in.

It rained most of the day but I got to take a break to the Tides Tavern to meet Erik Larsen who with his father in 1973 sailed the “Groote Beer” from Newport Beach to San Francisco for Stuart Anderson, the new owner. Erik was 19 at the time. Erik owns a boat yard in Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon Island. He showed me his 40 foot W.R.Cedar planked 1962 power boat with which he came to the Tides.


Sunday September 28. St. Nicholas Centennial and Croatian PM visit to Gig Harbor

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 28th, 2014

“Dobro Yutro” and “Kakosi” all around me, my last name on my name tag raised a few Croatian eye brows. It could have been from my mother’s side….  Four purse seiners, flying the Hrvatska flag were parked at the city dock. The city distributed small Croatian flags and a choral group in traditional garb sang Dalmatian songs and their national anthem. Besides the prime minister Zoran Milanovic, the Croatian ambassador to the USA also joined the visit. I would have liked to stay longer but I needed to rehearse for the 11 a.m. mass choir. If you read Serbo-Croatian here is a link to the report on the Croation TV:

This was the big day that I had planned for the last few years to come back for from where ever I might be. It was supposed to have taken place around Easter but was postponed. And this way the service combined the installation of our new priest, father Mark Guzman by the Archbishop, James Peter Sartain, at the same time. It was a beautiful service with standing room only attendance. Afterwards I attended the catered lunch in the Parish hall. At both events I was able to re-acquaint with old friends. I am very fortunate to live in this unique town.

PM and Ambassador

PM and Ambassador


The Sinovi Tambouristas from Seattle

Archbishop Left with Fr.Guzman

Archbishop Left with Fr.Guzman



Saturday Evening Post. Reconnect with Vietnam 1961-1963

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 27th, 2014

E-mails have been flying back and forth today from here to Texas with Charlie Johnson. He found me on my blog. He was with us when we left Fort Lewis in October 1961 for an unknown destination with the 57th and 98th Army Transportation companies.  Six weeks or so later we arrived in Saigon after a 24 day crossing on the 2nd WW aircraft carrier USNS “Core”. We were the very first full company units to be sent to Vietnam. I had always assumed that I would someday make the Guinness  records for being the only Army soldier to come back from Vietnam as a private, after having been busted four times back from PFC. But Charlie has done better than that. He might not have been a model soldier but he has an outstanding memory, names, places, events. Because I shared an apartment with my wife in town and worked as a clerk in the parts supply with just sergeant Carl, I had little contact with the rest of the troops and I apparently missed some good stories that Charlie is filling me in on.

Charlie brought to my attention that one of the pilots and CO’s wrote a book about our deployment: FIRST IN VIETNAM: AN EXERCISE IN EXCESS OF 30 DAYS The U.S. Army 57th … – Colonel Emmett F. Knight – Google Books One of the best books, in my opnion, written about the Vietnam conflict was “A bright shining lie” from Neil Sheehan. Part of the book is the biography of Colonel John Paul Vann. Charlie remembered (see updates/corrections) in Mnday’s blog) when we said farewell to Richard Ellis a crew chief who was killed in a crash of a H-21 helicopter. On the 24 day crossing I had befriended Ellis. He was 3 years older than me and the majority of my rank was a lot younger since I had been drafted at age 24. He had a serious relationship with a Vietnamese lady and it was an emotional moment when his casket was transferred to the C-120 cargo plane. It remains etched in my memory.

Here is a story Charlie tells of an evening in Saigon: One night Calson and I had a few beers.We rode our motor cycles to the Phoenix bar to finish of the night.The CIA guy was there,( ITT man) Then advisors and Special Forces and some from the 57th. They was real quite,We was singing. One Captain who had connections with intel calls me over.He says see  that big cooley over at that table? He is a high ranking VC .I said I will get him to join us for a beer.I brought an extra beer over and set on the table. He got up and hit me so I hit back and went out in the street he was hollering for a crowd,About 30 showed up fast.A riot began.   Jeeps with advisors came quickly.The Captian took me up stairs to a balcony.I stepped off o a roof.It caved in. I was hanging on a bamboo pole rafter.By then about 50 Viets were at the door.The jeep was soldiers with sub machineguns,They held back the crowds,Told us to get on the motorcycles and head back to the airport. I didn’t know that the VC was so hard to reach. We could have all been pals.Oh.I quit beer about fifteen years back. I am somewhat a Christian now.  I always thought we went too Vietnam with the wrong attitude.They could have taught us more than we could teach them.  We were brainwashed . We feard a communist police state like present North Korea.Look at them now.Western culture around Saigon.

I have to get my beauty sleep. The small choir at church drafted me for the 11 o’clock service. It is the official celebration of the first centennial of the Saint Nicholas church. The Bishop will be co-celebrating. We rehearsed last Wednesday evening and I am singing with just one (thank God, good) tenor. And have to be for another rehearsal before the service. And I do not want to miss attending the visit of the Croatian Prime Minister, Milanovic who will be here at 9 a.m. The Croatian community here, mostly fishermen and boat builders, were the largest nationality represented in the church’s founders.

Last week Thursday evening in the harbor race, three T-birds.

Last week Thursday evening in the harbor race, three T-birds.




Weekend Sept 13 and 14. The “Jack and Jill” sailboat race.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 15th, 2014

Twenty seven years ago, in 1987 I suggested to the Gig Harbor Yacht Club that they should have a Jack and Jill race. They gave me their blessing if I would organize it. We opened it to club and non club members. For the benefit of my readers beyond our border: Jack and Jill is an old nursery rhyme.

Jack and Jill went up the hill To fetch a pail of water.Jack fell down and broke his crown, And Jill came tumbling after. 

Already for the first race about 20 boats turned out.  My boat went on the hard in 1993 and did not get back in the water till 2004, while I tried, in vain, to turn my business setbacks around. But the J&J tradition survived. This weekend it was organized by long time members Jaime and Joan Storkman. We had a smaller turnout than usual, just 9 sailboats, in part due to the fact that the Sea Hawks were playing on Sunday afternoon. The weather was glorious and warm. The 10 mile course was from Gig Harbor to Des Moines. And back on Sunday. My oldest daughter Lisa was my Jill. The last time she sailed with me was exactly 10 years ago in Gig Harbor. But she still has her helmsperson touch. We had every imaginable wind condition, light, nothing at all, and the last 3 miles we had a good 15 knots close hauled with gusts to just over 20 knots. We should have reduced sail but there was really no time for it and I found out how much this boat takes with a full main and 150% genoa. We finished third.  Lisa had prior commitments for Sunday. She stayed for the potluck dinner on the dock and Seth, my 34 year old son, also arrived before dinner fro Portland. He slept on the boat and sailed the return portion on Sunday with me.  Since it was Sunday Jack hiked up the hill (I did not break my crown and Jill did not come tumbling after), to attend 6.30 a.m. mass at St. Philomena church. A stiff 18 block hike. It was still dark on the way up. This was a Spanish service. The winds on Sunday were lighter yet and because of the football game the decision was made to finish about 3 miles short of Gig Harbor. We worked ourselves to first place and held this for quite a while but just in the last few minutes the two Thunderbrds caught up to us and we ended up finishing in second place. Not bad for a having to sail with all my belongings on board that most homeowners keep at home.

It was a very special weekend for me and so glad I had Lisa and Seth to share this experience. It was the first time on this boat for both of them. They got to meet the great company I keep here with my sailing friends.

The fuel flow problems came back once again. We could not start the engine after the race. Terry and Janet James on “Spirit” towed us into the Des Moines Marina. It happened again right before the start on Sunday. And after we finished I had to bleed the system a couple more times. We moored the boat in its slip without the use of the engine. Seth is smart (brains skipped a generation….) he figured that the air may be coming in through the original mechanical fuel pump. This was confirmed by a diesel mechanic this morning who happened to be working on a neighbor’s boat. So, I went into Tacoma and had a banjo fitting made up to lead the electrical fuel pump directly to the ignition instead of through the old (defunct) mechanical pump. Keep our fingers crossed.

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill

Going Fast taken by Lisa

Going Fast taken by Lisa