Archive for » April 22nd, 2012«

Garage sale season

Margaret Martin remembers the garage sale vendor with just one item.

“We had a guy sell a boat on a trailer,” said Martin, program supervisor for Westland Parks and Recreation, including its annual community garage sale. “He rented a $20 spot and sold the boat in an hour and went home. The guy who bought it from him hooked it up and left. Everyone was happy.”

Martin, who has overseen the community sale for 16 years, said vendors typically sell a mix of merchandise, not just one item.

“We do see a lot of toys, games, a lot of kitchen supplies, china, silverware, glasses and smaller furniture. This is truly a garage sale and high-end items rarely sell well.”

She said 20 percent of the vendors are professional sellers. Another 10 percent use the event, held in a city parking lot on Ford Road, for fundraising. The rest are individuals and families.

“Some are repeat folks, but they are just cleaning out their basements. You rent your spot, show up that day and have a good time.”

The city has begun renting parking lot spaces for $20 each for the sale that runs 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 12. Call (734) 722-7620.

Permits, signs

In other communities the residential garage sale season is underway, as homeowners haul items from the basement, closets and the attic into their driveways and backyards.

“We’re doing a few right now, but not too many,” said a spokeswoman at the Livonia clerk’s office, which sells garage sale permits. Livonia residents may hold two sales annually and must buy a $5 permit for the first sale, and spend $10 for the second sale. Sales must be four weeks apart. “We only get a few who do the second sale in a year.”

Garden City and Redford also require permits for sales. Westland, Canton and Plymouth don’t. All communities, however, regulate garage sale signs. None permit signs on the city right-of-way between the curb and sidewalk.

“It is an ordinance violation to post signs on utility poles. It’s subject to a $50 fine,” noted a spokesman for Plymouth’s code enforcement department.

Complying with city sign and permit regulations is key to a successful sale at home. All of the communities post at least some information online.

Pricing, display and organization are important, too.

Church sale

“We price our stuff quite low. We might want to put a few things on racks. We have ladders to hang clothes on,” said Carol Napier, who coordinates Good Hope Lutheran Church’s annual sale. It runs Thursday-Friday, April 26-27 at the church in Garden City. “We might price a few things that are super nice a little higher.”

Most clothing items are grouped on tables. All blue jeans, for example, are displayed together.

Items that are too worn often end up in the garbage, rather than a display table, Napier said.

Martin also suggests that garage sale vendors consider which items are likely to sell and which should be tossed.

“People don’t want to buy garbage,” Martin said. “If you were going to throw it in the dumpster anyway, that’s probably where it should go.

Collectors

But Napier cautions against discarding all old or damaged items too quickly.

“If it’s old or cracked there may be a collector for it anyway,” she said, recalling two green Pyrex bowls that she rescued from the trash during a previous sale at Good Hope. “I put 50 cents on them. Those bowls were right out the door.”

Another time, she priced “an ugly-looking platter” at $10.

“Everyone said it was too high, but I said, we can always come down in price.”

That’s what many vendors do at Westland’s community garage sale. They often negotiate with customers and drop prices as the sale proceeds.

“Put up signs that say prices are negotiable,” Martin said. “Some people do grab bags that sell for a nickle. They put 10 items in a bag. It’s a mystery, like buying a lottery ticket. You can do that with little things, like white elephant stuff. Those tend to be kind of fun.”

Martin’s other suggestions for a successful sale:

  • Organize the display so customers can see items clearly.

  • Make sure items are clean.

  • Put price tags on everything.

  • Make sure to have tarps on hand in case of rain.

  • Put up a canopy. It must be free-standing if used at the Westland community garage sale. Martin said a protective canopy can attract customers on drizzly or hot, sunny days.

  • Never leave the money box unattended.

  • Have plenty of change or single bills on hand.

  • Ask a friend or family member to help you sell. When you need a quick break you’ll have someone on hand to watch “the store” while you’re gone.

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    Cruise ship passed by disabled fishing boat

    • This photo from March 10, 2012, provided by Jeff Gilligan, a passenger of the American-based cruise ship Star Princess, shows a fishing vessel adrift in the Pacific Ocean off the Galapagos Islands. Gilligan and another American aboard the cruise ship, in the same area, believe they saw the fishermen adrift at sea and they alerted the crew, but the luxury liner continued on its course. (Associated Press)This photo from March 10, 2012, provided by Jeff Gilligan, a passenger of the American-based cruise ship Star Princess, shows a fishing vessel adrift in the Pacific Ocean off the Galapagos Islands. Gilligan and another American aboard the cruise ship, in the same area, believe they saw the fishermen adrift at sea and they alerted the crew, but the luxury liner continued on its course. (Associated Press)
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    RIO HATO, Panama — Three Panamanian men were on their way home after a night of fishing, happy with their success, when the motor on their small open boat rattled and quit, leaving them adrift in sight of land, but too far out for their cellphones to work.

    With nothing left to eat but the fish they caught and a few gallons of water, they drifted for 16 days, more than 100 miles from home, before they thought they were about to be saved.

    Adrian Vasquez, 18, saw a huge white ship coming toward them. He waved a red sweater to get their attention, reaching high over his head, and dropping it low to his knees. Though he was near death, the skipper of the little panga, Elvis Oropeza Betancourt, 31, joined in, waving an orange life jacket.

    “Tio, look what’s coming over there,” Mr. Vasquez recalled saying in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. “We felt happy, because we thought they were coming to rescue us.”

    The ship didn’t stop, and the fishing boat drifted another two weeks before it was found. By then, Mr. Vasquez’s two friends had died.

    “I said, ‘God will not forgive them,’” Mr. Vasquez recalled. “Today, I still feel rage when I remember that.”

    The day of the first sighting, March 10, birdwatchers with powerful spotting scopes on the promenade deck of the luxury cruise ship Star Princess saw a little boat adrift miles away. They told ship staff about the man desperately waving a red cloth.

    On Thursday, Princess Cruises, based in Santa Clarita, Calif., said a preliminary investigation showed that passengers’ reports that they had spotted a boat in distress never made it to Capt. Edward Perrin or the officer on duty.

    If it did, the company said, the captain and crew would have altered course to rescue the men, just as the cruise line has done more than 30 times in the last 10 years. The company expressed sympathy for the men and their families.

    The fishermen had set out for a night of fishing Feb. 24 from Rio Hato, a small fishing and farming town on the Pacific coast of Panama that was once the site of a U.S. Army base guarding the Panama Canal. There are plans for a new airport to bring in tourists. Mr. Vasquez had lost his job as a gardener at a local hotel, and Oropeza invited him to come fishing to make a little money. The night before, they had no luck, so they were very happy to have a load of fish to sell, Mr. Vasquez said.

    By the time they started to drift, Mr. Vasquez had eaten his lunch of rice and beef. They only had five gallons of water to start with, and much of that was gone. There was raw fish to eat, but no one liked it very much, and it soon rotted after the ice melted in the coolers. Sometimes Mr. Vasquez went over the side to probe passing rafts of debris, and sometimes came up with coconuts for them to eat. At one point, they caught a turtle, but decided they couldn’t eat it and put it back in the water. As they were, they found a jug of water that they drank “with tremendous anxiety.”

    One night they saw a ship far in the distance, and lit a rag on a stick that they waved, but the ship didn’t come for them.

    On the Star Princess, birdwatcher Jeff Gilligan from Portland, Ore., was the first to spot the boat, something white that looked like a house.

    When Judy Meredith of Bend, Ore., looked through the scopes, she could plainly see it was a small open boat, like the kinds they had seen off Ecuador. And she could see a man waving what looked like a dark red T-shirt.

    “You don’t wave a shirt like that just to be friendly,” Ms. Meredith said. “He was desperate to get our attention.”

    Story Continues →

    View Entire Story

    Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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    Sailing — the original extreme sport

    bill-whiston-sailing.JPGBill Whiston, right, steers his 32-foot Melgus sport sailboat during the warmup race the weekend before last year’s Dauphin Island Race.(Press-Register/Jeff Dute)

    By Bill Whiston, Special to the Press-Register

    MOBILE, Alabama — There’s a familiar knot in my stomach at the sound of the first warning signal because the next five minutes are sure to be chaos. The clock continues to tick as more than 100 sailboats jockey for position.

    The sounds of crew commands, winches, ratchets and high-tech hardware rattle across the water as the scene begins to unfold.

    “What other sport has 100 teams competing on the same field at the same time?” my tactician asks as he synchronizes his watch with the committee boat’s flag signals.

    “Unbelievable,” is my only response as we carve through a jibe turn and the boom whizzes smoothly over the cockpit, just inches above our heads.

    By the time the one-minute signal sounds, the scene is heating up. Teams begin using every tactical and right-of-way advantage possible.

    Shouts of “Starboard!” “Leeward boat!” “Up, Up, Up!” and “Rights!” begin to erupt as the fleet moves toward the line and the last few seconds tick off the clock.

    Good starts are critical, and those who keep a cool head through the confusion usually cross the line first. In this case, our tactician has positioned us perfectly, and I watch as the bowman holds up one last finger indicating that we have that many boat lengths before crossing the line.

    “3, 2, 1, BOOM!” The gun sounds and we’re racing!

    The casual observer may perceive sailboat racing as slow, but that perception is far from accurate. Things happen so fast on a racing sailboat that one mistake can easily result in damage or injury.

    As one skipper put it, “CSI would have a hard time sorting out all of the blood samples on my boat.” Another team wears shirts emblazoned with the words, “Blood Donor.”

    The starts can be extreme but are only one component of a race where different tactics and strategies apply on an ever-changing course. Navigation, wind shifts, sail selection and trim, weight placement, waves, weather, mark roundings and other boats all play key roles in the ultimate outcome.

    For those who have never sailed on a competitive boat, it’s hard to understand the myriad of complexities involved. First, these teams have a language that is unique to the sport and every word has been crafted to avoid being confused with others.

    Clear communication is absolutely critical, as this is a team sport in the ultimate sense of the word. Most full-size keelboats usually require five to 10 crewmembers to race them, and the entire crew must move, act and react as a whole. If one member of the crew is out of sync, the performance of the whole boat will suffer.

    First-timers are always surprised by how close the boats sometimes get to one another, and it can be quite intimidating since some of these boats moving under full sail and at full speed pass within mere inches. The sport has strict rules to keep things safe and fair.

    Handling any sailboat is no simple task. Handling a fully crewed boat on a crowded course and racing competitively requires plenty of practice and a level of skill far beyond what most people would expect.

    Sailboats, like many other modern products, have benefited greatly from evolving technology. Modern boats feature exotic composite hull-construction materials throughout, which lead to very strong, lightweight and fast boats.

    Sails are now laminated works of art, sometimes created with heat on molded forms and featuring materials with names such as Mylar, Kevlar and Twaron. Masts are being produced using carbon fiber and “carbon nanotubes,” which result in amazing strength-to-weight ratios.

    Common ropes (called sheets, halyards, or running rigging in sail lingo) have evolved into amazingly thin, high-strength, lightweight, low-stretch marvels made from Spectra, Dyneema and Vectran.

    Some modern performance sailboats feature planing hulls, meaning that the boats are capable of breaking free of typical hull/water displacement limitations and literally just skim the top of the water. These types of boats, given enough wind and a crew that can handle it, can easily reach speeds in excess of 20 knots (24 mph).

    To keep things competitive, the boats are divided into many different types and divisions, and then handicapped based upon set formulas from Portsmouth, Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF), or IRC. This system keeps the racing fair and gives everyone an equal shot at winning. Some boats are faster than others and these ratings allow everyone to compete on a level playing field, meaning that the fastest boat doesn’t always win after receiving a “corrected time.”

    The next time you see a lone white sail steadily making its way across a summer sunset, chances are that someone is kicked back, enjoying life and soaking it all in. But if you see a cluster of boats such as the ones on the water for the start of the Dauphin Island Race on Saturday, you can rest assured there is plenty of excitement being enjoyed.


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    Smaller boats selling better in western Kentucky as high gas prices linger

    GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. — As gas prices increase, the size of boats selling in western Kentucky is decreasing.

    Bob Louden, a salesman at Kentuckiana Yacht Sales in Gilbertsville, told The Paducah Sun (http://bit.ly/INszc2) that as gas prices rise, his customers tend to purchase smaller vessels.

    “We’ve cut our larger inventory. Less people are interested in a $600,000 category boat,” Louden said. “We’ve gone to smaller lines of boats, more pontoons.”

    He says he hopes gas prices that are hovering near $4 a gallon don’t go any higher.

    “If gas prices would just stop right now, we would continue to get good news rather than bad news,” Louden said. “If people’s confidence is high, they’re going to spend on recreation. They work too hard not to.”

    Kerry Clark, the owner of Jet-A-Marina in Calvert City, said fishermen in the market for a new boat are making cost-conscious decisions as well.

    Bob Louden, a salesman at Kentuckiana Yacht Sales in Gilbertsville, told The Paducah Sun that as gas prices rise, his customers tend to purchase smaller vessels.

    “We are seeing an increase (in sales) in aluminum bass boats with the smaller, less expensive and less gas-consuming engines,” Clark said.

    There’s also a greater demand for used boats, according to Cody Mitchell, who manages Ryan Marine in Murray. Mitchell said that while buyers might be interested in less expensive boats, the number of sales is increasing.

    The economic downturn in 2008 is still creating problems for boat dealers. He says manufacturers slowed their pace when the supply dropped. Now that sales are starting to increase again, dealers might have to scramble to meet the demand.

    “It’s very difficult to build up inventory of new stuff right now because every (dealer) is after it,” Mitchell said.

    Tom Harrod, owner of Southside Outboard in Paducah, said new engines and construction technology means many boats are using less gas.

    “You can go out and burn a tenth of the gas that you burned five years ago,” Harrod said.

    ___

    Information from: The Paducah Sun, http://www.paducahsun.com




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    Charter-boat fishing bounces back after Deepwater Horizon explosion

    “It was probably the most difficult time that I have ever experienced running charter in my 17 years,” said Scott Simpson, captain of the Impulsive out of Long Beach Harbor. “I have never seen it where they (federal government) actually closed fishing like they did.

    “All we could do was wait.”

    The year following the BP oil disaster saw fishing slowly return. Some of the normal so-called hot spots were producing speckled trout and redfish, such as the east end of Cat Island, one of the hardest-hit places with tar balls, and the grass beds near Ship Island.

    “Last year was an awesome year, with catches being reported by the entire fleet,” Simpson said. “The reason was the lack of pressure from fishing the year before due to the closure.

    “It was really good to see big bull redfish and sharks, too. The bite around Cat Island and the nearshore reefs on speckled trout was solid. That changed with the freshwater intrusion (Bonnet Carre Spillway opening in 2011) that pushed the fish back to the east.”

    The first group to deal with the impact of the oil spill was the Chandeleur Island charter fleet. These boats, unlike those that do day trips, take clients fishing for two- or three-day trips.

    The top areas to fish the Chandeleur Island chain are Freemason, Monkey Bayou and Big and Little Smack.

    The islands are in Louisiana waters and closer to the oil spill, so they were the first to be closed to fishing.

    “We were the first ones affected,” said captain Howie Hobbs of the Southern Belle. “The stress of not knowing was hard. I ran two trips before the oil spill. So I lost 98 percent of my business for that year. After being off all winter, I didn’t know how I was going to pay the mortgage or feed my family.”

    Two years later, charter boats are back at work and customers are catching fish.

    That translates into repeat business, a sign things are returning to normal.

    “This year, so far, is off to a great start on all common species we have here,” Simpson said. “We are catching big bull redfish, sharks, kings and jacks on the south side of the islands.

    “I even saw a couple of jacks around Cat Island.

    “I think the fishing is back. We are back on pace.”


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    Sailor Matt Rutherford welcomed home in Annapolis after sailing solo around the Americas

    But now, on a gorgeous, breezy Saturday, at the end of a spirited ceremony replete with a Dixieland jazz band, a drum and bugle corps, a bagpiper and speeches by Gov. Martin O’Malley and a half-dozen others, someone was handing him a microphone and — as the crowd roared for the man one speaker called “our hero” — asking him to say a few words.

    “Long time, no see,” Rutherford, 31, said into the mike, with the same familiar combination of awkwardness and comedic timing that those who know him best had missed these last 309 days. He was still barefoot, his toenails brown and gnarled, and thick shocks of dark orange hair spilled out below his hat.

    “Being here is like a dream,” he said. “Any minute I’m going to wake up and be in the middle of the ocean.”

    Some 40 feet to his right, tied off to a dock for the first time since June 11, 2011, and looking every bit as tired and weathered as her captain, sat the 36-year-old, Swedish-built Albin Vega sailboat — christened the St. Brendan in honor of a 6th-century explorer — that had carried Rutherford across the fabled Northwest Passage, through the Bering Sea, around Cape Horn and up the Atlantic Coast. Barnacles covered her stern, and a greenish-brown slime coated the entire hull.

    “When you’ve been out there alone as long as I was,” Rutherford said, “even a barnacle can be nice to hang out with.”

    The 27,077-mile journey had been officially completed on Wednesday, when Rutherford crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel outside of Norfolk — the start and finish line — and he had whiled away the last few days slowly cruising up the bay. He spent Friday night, his final night at sea, holed up in a cove off Annapolis known as Lake Ogleton — as anyone who followed his blog, www.solotheamericas.org, could tell by checking the GPS map at the top.

    By 11 a.m. Saturday, as the crowd began to gather at City Dock for the ceremony, a flotilla of a couple dozen boats — tiny dinghies and huge yachts, sailboats and speedboats, even a U.S. Coast Guard patrol — converged to escort Rutherford to town.

    As he approached the dock, the band launched into “It’s a Small World After All” — a song whose premise Rutherford might not necessarily agree with — and at precisely 12:10 p.m., he stepped onto the dock and into the arms of his mother, Marlowe MacIntyre. His father, Doug Rutherford, and sister, Rachel Rutherford, and a half-dozen other family members lined up for their hugs.

    “Mostly just relieved,” Doug Rutherford said a few moments earlier, when asked how he was feeling. “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

    The audacious journey was conceived as a two-fold endeavor — one part charity, and one part self-exploration. The first part is measurable, and as of Saturday afternoon Rutherford had raised $79,393 for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, an organization that provides sailing opportunities for the disabled. Nearly half of that, however, was spent on a pair of emergency resupplies during Rutherford’s trip, after critical equipment failed.

    As for the self-exploration, it will all be there in the book Rutherford is planning to write about the trip. When someone asked what else he planned to do, Rutherford shrugged and said, “Go back to being a vagabond, I guess.”

    After the ceremony, dozens of people converged on Rutherford with cellphone cameras and hearty backslaps. “I just wanted to shake your hand,” more than one man remarked.

    There was a hot shower and some cold beer in Rutherford’s immediate future. Anything else he would like? “Maybe talking to a nice lady,” he answered sheepishly. “It’s up there with the shower and the beer.” Saturday evening, there was a small, private reception and dinner planned at the nearby Fleet Reserve Club. By request, ribs, chicken wings and cole slaw were to be served. The organizers opted for an indoor table with air conditioning.

    Rutherford lives on a boat in Annapolis, but that wasn’t going to do on Saturday, so someone had the good sense to get him a hotel room — with a balcony, for smoking cigars. The forecast called for an overnight storm, but after 309 fitful nights in a soggy sleeping bag, in a cabin too small for him to stand up in, it is safe to assume Rutherford wouldn’t even wrinkle the sheets on his bed.


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    Lawsuit highlights use tax issue

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    A lawsuit by an Adair County man that names Boone County as a defendant is seeking a refund of local sales taxes charged on motor vehicles purchased outside the state.

    Columbia attorney Danieal Miller filed the suit in Cole County on March 1 on behalf of Charles Cooper, and he is asking the court to certify it as a class-action lawsuit so other Missouri residents who have paid local sales taxes after registering a vehicle purchased outside Missouri can get their money back.

    The suit comes after a January Missouri Supreme Court decision, Street v. Director of Revenue, found that the Missouri Department of Revenue has been erroneously collecting local sales taxes on some motor vehicles purchased outside the state. Although it is unknown what the potential loss of revenue could be, absent those collections, the suit highlights how some Missouri counties could lose out on additional revenue without imposing a local use tax.

    In the state Supreme Court case, Craig Street of Greene County sued the Missouri Department of Revenue and argued that he had been illegally charged local sales taxes when he registered a boat, motor and trailer purchased in Maryland.

    The revenue department collects local sales taxes for counties and cities in Missouri when consumers register vehicles and boats with the state. It also has collected local sales taxes when purchases were made across state lines.

    The state Supreme Court, though, said Missouri’s sales tax is limited to purchases within the state’s borders, despite a provision of the state’s sales tax law that says motor vehicle sales are “to be deemed consummated at the address of the owner.”

    Unless a local government has a local use tax, which allows it to collect sales taxes on goods purchased outside its borders but used within it, the entity no longer could receive local sales taxes on motor vehicle registrations.

    In Missouri, more than 30 counties have a local use tax, but Columbia and Boone County don’t, and neither do some of the state’s other largest counties. Those counties — St. Louis, Jackson and Greene — also are named in Miller’s suit.

    The Street ruling became effective March 21, and the Department of Revenue no longer remits sales taxes on vehicles purchased out-of-state to counties without a use tax. The state, however, has a use tax, so it can continue collecting on out-of-state purchases.

    A local use tax has been under discussion a little more in recent months as both Congress and some state legislators discuss a regime that could impose the same sales taxes on Internet sales as on physical retail sales. Some business groups and congressional lawmakers have worked to hash out a set of similar practices for states, known as the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement, which would standardize local sales tax collections to make it easier for online retailers to remit local sales taxes.

    Some Missouri lawmakers have pushed to sign onto the agreement, but in order for Boone County and Columbia to collect their share of revenue, they would have to adopt a use tax. Voters rejected a local use tax in Boone County in 1996 and in Columbia in 1996 and 1998.

    Miller’s lawsuit doesn’t worry Boone County Counselor C.J. Dykhouse much, but Dykhouse said it does illustrate a tax policy flaw that could create an incentive for people to purchase vehicles outside the state. “The fix would be to have a local use tax that complements the local sales tax,” he said. “It’s to our advantage that our car dealerships are not disadvantaged relative to other car dealerships across state lines.”

    Boone County and the other parties named as defendants, including the Department of Revenue, argue in their responses to Miller’s petition that his client has not sought a sales tax refund through an administrative appeal. The counties also argued that because they only passively receive sales tax remittances from the Department of Revenue and do not collect it themselves, they are not proper parties to the suit. Miller did not return phone calls seeking comment.

    “That’s the whole problem with this lawsuit,” Dykhouse said. “The county does not collect sales taxes. The county receives sales taxes collected by the Department of Revenue.”

    Reach Jacob Barker at 573-815-1722 or e-mail jtbarker@columbiatribune.com.

    Copyright 2012 Columbia Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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    Chinese fishing captain gets 30 years

    SEOUL, April 20 (UPI) — A South Korean court has sentenced a Chinese fishing boat captain to 30 years in prison for stabbing a coast guard sailor to death in December.

    The killing occurred during an attempt by South Korean maritime authorities to board a Chinese fishing vessel suspected of illegally fishing in South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea west of Seoul.

    The Incheon District Court also fined the captain, Cheng Dawei, 43, nearly $17,600 for the killing, which had reignited public anger at Chinese fishermen’s use of violence against South Korean coast guard officers, a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.

    Cheng was charged with killing coast guard Cpl. Lee Cheong-ho and seriously injuring an officer.

    Immediately after the incident, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called for “strong” measures to protect the country’s coast guard sailors who are cracking down on illegal fishing by Chinese boats.

    The court sentenced eight other Chinese fishermen from the same vessel to prison terms ranging from 1 1/2 years to five years for obstructing coast guard officers, Yonhap said.

    “One officer’s loss of life and another’s serious injury brought shock, sadness and anger not only to the families but also the entire nation,” the court said in its ruling.

    “A firm call to responsibility is unavoidable if only to prevent a repeat of other illegal activities and more tragedies they could lead to.”

    Last year the coast guard said it captured or sent back more than 470 Chinese fishing boats that were suspected of illegally fishing for vessels last year which were suspected of illegally fishing for anchovies, blue crabs and croakers.

    Last year’s fatal incident comes after several other deaths during incidents involving Chinese fishing boats and South Korean coast guard ships.

    Seoul and Beijing, which have been working to avoid clashes over fishing, signed an accord last week.

    Urgency to reach the agreement, which was reached in Qingdao, China, was heightened by December’s incident, Yonhap reported.

    The accord included an agreement Chinese boats will record fishing logs using Global Positioning System technology while fishing near South Korea’s exclusive economic zone.

    Other deaths also have occurred in the past several years.

    In September 2008, The Korea Times reported a coast guard officer allegedly was beaten to death by Chinese fishermen during as South Korean maritime authorities attempted to board a Chinese vessel.

    The body of the 48-year-old officer was found in the sea the following day near the southwest port of Mokpo City, The Korea Times said.

    An incident in December 2010 left on Chinese fisherman dead and two missing after their boat capsized.

    One of 50 or more Chinese boats intentionally rammed what was a larger coast guard ship in what appeared to be a bid to allow other ships to escape.

    Eight people from the capsized boat were pulled from the sea but one was unconscious and later died in a hospital, the coast guard office said in a statement at the time.

    Chinese fishermen allegedly attacked coast guard officials with steel pipes, shovels and clubs to stop being boarded.


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    David Starkey: 'I can be a bit harsh'

    In the afternoon of 3 June, the Queen will mark her diamond jubilee by sailing the Thames from Hammersmith to the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich aboard the royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell. In her wake will travel a flotilla of 1,000 boats decorated in streamers and flags, their crews resplendent in their finest rigs. There will be ancient boats and modern boats, rowing boats and sailing boats, steam boats and motorised boats, musical boats and boats spouting geysers. Most amazingly of all, the flotilla will be led by a floating belfry of eight bells, the largest of which, named for Queen Elizabeth, will weigh half a tonne. Its peal will be answered by the bells of churches all along the river and theirs, in turn, echoed by others up and down the land.

    “Yes indeed,” says David Starkey, distinguished constitutional historian, pressing the tips of his fingers together carefully. “The idea of a set of church bells on the river… I don’t think that has ever happened before. Thames river pageants have always been a mixture of the grand and the loony, and this one looks like it is going to have elements of complete lunacy. It will certainly be interesting to see what the, er, sonic effect is.” Starkey pauses and then, unable to resist, adds: “My guess is that the whole thing is just going to go straight over.”

    “Plop!” I say quietly.

    “Plop?” A look of purest delight spreads across his face. “Ha ha ha! I think it will be rather more than a plop!”

    Starkey and I are hidden away in a back room at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where he has guest curated an exhibition tracing the history of Thames pageantry. So far most of the advance fuss about this has centred on the fact that it will include Canaletto’s The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day, a painting not seen in London since its completion in 1747. But it would, I think, be unmissable even without this astonishing centrepiece, taking the goggle-eyed visitor all the way from Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession in 1533 to the Great Stink of 1858 and beyond. Among the 400 precious relics on display will be the earliest-known copy of Handel’s Water Music, Bazalgette’s original contract drawings for the construction of the Thames embankment, and a flag flown on the Apothecaries’ barge at the funeral procession of Lord Nelson.

    The Tudor and Stuart kings, of course, used their ever-more-elaborate Thames processions as a distraction, drawing public attention from such sticky matters as the fact that the king would persist in remarrying (awkward to crown Henry’s numerous women in the traditional way) or, in the case of James II, that he was a Catholic (ditto). Would it be fair, then, to characterise our own dear queen’s procession as yet another distraction? “I suppose if one was being terribly disloyal, the whole jubilee is a bit of a distraction,” says Starkey. “But perhaps that’s one of the essential purposes of the monarchy. As Walter Bagehot said: it’s the dignified part of the constitution. It casts a veil of popularity over the efficient. Or, er, not. His words, rather than mine. But equally, whatever else one thinks of the Queen, time has gilded her. Only once she’s gone will we really be forced to confront the changes that have gone on in Britain during the period of her reign. She has acted as a kind of facade.”

    So, if this isn’t too indelicate a question, are we looking at a case of “après moi, le déluge”? No. “What is striking is how the reputation of the monarchy has gone up and down in my lifetime. It was untouchable until the 1970s. Then the younger members of the family… actually, it seems to me that they didn’t behave particularly badly. After all, they’re typical members of the post-1960s generation, and the idea that you sit on your private unhappiness and suffer in marriage, that no longer washed. But anyway, there was the annus horribilis and all that – and then this extraordinary reversal. The team kept going. William has had the sense to marry a girl who’s naturally conventional. The important point, though, is that all this is set against the failure of our other institutions: parliament, the civil service and – please don’t think me rude – the press. The monarchy has risen serene above a general wreck.

    “If we address the future, we [the British] are driven by two principal forces: inertia and sentimentality. Monarchy benefits from both. I can see a more general political collapse ahead, though. It seems to me that it’s 50:50 at best whether the United Kingdom survives. Alex Salmond is a malign genius and David Cameron is utterly without imagination or any idea of what he wants to do.”

    As for the Church of England, of which the sovereign remains Supreme Governor, it’s a hopeless mess. “The church made a lethal mistake when Michael Ramsey was appointed archbishop by Harold Macmillan. It rediscovered Christianity, and that was fatal. Until that point, the archbishops had been the high priests of English Shinto: in other words, the church’s job was really just to [enable us to] worship the monarchy and, by extension, ourselves. That was sensible. But then it gets cluttered up with all this nonsense about Christianity. The absolute disaster will be if someone like John Sentamu [the doctrinally conservative archbishop of York] is appointed. Catastrophe! The church has got to choose between being a national church or an international communion. It can’t be both.”

    Should gay men be priests? A coy (or coy-ish) smile. “It’s not for me to say. It’s for the church to say.” To gay marriage, though, Starkey is implacably opposed – and he remains bewildered, or so he insists, by the concept of civil partnerships. “There was a piece in the paper the other day about gay divorce.” A moue of disgust. “What are gay people doing inflicting these horrors upon themselves? Get a civil partnership, and the moment things go wrong, the person who will determine your financial future is some incompetent, uncomprehending heterosexual! For God’s sake. How mad can you be? Why would you want to drape yourself in the trappings of marriage? To voluntarily put your head in that noose!” Crikey. His disappointment – lofty, comical and haloed with his own somewhat old-fashioned brand of gay pride – is, if you ask me, as extravagantly theatrical as anything you will find on display in the gallery.

    Thanks to recent appearances on Question Time and Newsnight, it is popular – righteous, even – to loathe David Starkey. When I tell friends I’m going to meet him, they grimace and roll their eyes. And I must admit that, en route, I prepare myself for combat. The rude pig! I think. The bigot! Naturally, my expectation is that he will be disdainful of me, a nice little liberal, and impossible to interrupt. I fantasise wildly about arriving at Greenwich on a golden barge or, better still, in an Elizabeth I outfit… That would shut him up. But playing to an audience of just one, I must report – don’t all howl at once – that he is mostly (emphasis on the mostly) delightful: funny, interesting and courteous. I disagree with him passionately about the cause of last summer’s riots. But unlike many of the men of his age and reputation I interview, he treats me as if I might have a brain. Amazing. Which leads me to wonder: are his antics on the telly an act? Or is it that, overexcited and prone to showing off, he sometimes backs himself into a rhetorical corner? He casts me a look. If he were a cat, he would now be purring. “Yes, I am quite charming and kitten-like, aren’t I?” he says. And then: “My dear mother, 1,000 years ago, told me: ‘Your tongue will be the ruination of you.’ Well, in fact, it has proved to be rather the opposite. But she was 50% right, as mothers tend to be.”

    Mostly, though, he is keen to point out that when he is on television, he is merely doing exactly what the producers of these programmes want him to do. “What people have to understand – and this is why most politicians are so catastrophic on Question Time – is that it is a bear pit. It’s a Colosseum. On Moral Maze [the Radio 4 programme which, when he joined it in 1992, earned him the title 'the rudest man in Britain] the producer was a brilliant impresario. Michael Buerk would be there, trying to calm things, and behind him, through the window, I could see the producer mouthing the words: ‘Fuck the bugger!’ at me. I’ve never, ever said anything that I didn’t basically believe. But you dramatise and you personalise. It’s a mixture of soap opera and wrestling.”

    Does he ever feel awful afterwards? “Of course! You wake up in the middle of the night, and you think: ‘Why did I say that?'” So when he said of last year’s riots, on Newsnight, that “the whites have become black”, did he at least regret the hurt he caused? (He doesn’t regret the remarks themselves, as he has said repeatedly.) “I’d want to put it the other way round. It’s precisely because I do care [about the feelings of the black community] that I made them. It seems to me that this pussyfooting around and pretending that every problem blacks have in Britain is because of wicked whites is what is destroying them. I care desperately about the incidence of black murders. But more blacks are killed by blacks than by whites. So there is clearly a problem.

    “The one thing I valued about my Quaker upbringing was the insistence on calling things by their proper names. Unvarnished truths. This terrible sentimentality… people have to be told the truth even when truths are very painful. It’s the only way anything gets any better. The great Victorian improvers were fearless. They didn’t respect feelings. Wilberforce didn’t respect the feelings of slave owners.” It seems not to occur to Starkey that it is always members of your own community who are most likely to be violent towards you, whether you are white, black or Asian. Nor, apparently, does it strike him that comparing the sensitivities of 19th-century slave owners with those of black people everywhere is both utterly ghastly and muddle-headed. But perhaps he does register my disquiet, because he moves on from this point rather quickly and begins talking about George Galloway instead. And, on this, we do agree: the man is shameless.

    Starkey was born in 1945, in Kendal, Cumbria – “a right tight little town”, as he once put it. His father worked as a factory foreman, his mother was a char, and their only son was born with two club feet and infantile polio. Not an easy start, and yet Starkey lays all of his confidence, and all of his success, pretty much at its door. “This is going to sound shocking, but being born with two club feet was quite a good beginning. If you pull through that, you’re very unsentimental. My earliest memories are of really agonising pain.” He points at his brown deck shoes, which look a bit odd with his navy suit, tie and pocket square. “I’ve had some work done lately, because the surgery I had as a child hasn’t lasted. That’s why I’m wearing these. Anyway, I was about four. I was in the surgical ward at Westmorland General Hospital on Kendal Green, and it was agony. Every bone in the foot had been broken and reset. It was a general male ward, so I was told to shut up, not to disturb other people. So if I sometimes appear a bit harsh…” His voice trails off.

    His mother, thwarted in her own efforts to attend teacher-training college, was determined and encouraging, and there were various teachers – he can still remember each of their names, and even their handwriting – who spotted him early on, with the result that he became a prize-winning pupil. “Of course I was the lonely, swotty child. But I was also the crippled child. I wore special boots at a time when boys wore shorts. So they were bleeding obvious. Sport was impossible. I was, though, too big to bully. I got into fights and I pounded the other person.” His hands curl theatrically about an imaginary neck. “I had an uneasy transition between primary and secondary school, and I had a kind of nervous breakdown aged 13. People thought I’d sink to the bottom of the class, but I resumed where I was before. My school had honours boards and I decided my name would be up there. I always, I suppose, dreamed dreams. It was a cold, wet, northern town, and there was absolutely no spare money, and I decided that didn’t suit me.”

    He won a scholarship to Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, bagged a first and, having completed a doctorate supervised by Geoffrey Elton, eventually became a fellow. In 1972, he joined the LSE. In 1998, however, he abandoned academic life: his television career was beginning to take off – in 2002, he signed a £2m contract with Channel 4 – and he was finding it increasingly desiccated. He will bristle, though, if you ask him if he misses the life of the scholar. “Without wishing to sound pompous, I do more research now than ever. I’m working on a second volume of Henry VIII, and I’ve come up with some astonishing stuff on the crucial changeover from Henry VII that is going to revolutionise our understanding of his reign.” Happily, the public is able to separate the snarling Starkey of Question Time from the serious historian, and his books are well-regarded, and sell in vast quantities. Commissioning editors also know the difference. His deal at Channel 4 will end shortly with a film about the Churchills, and then he is to make a BBC series about the royal courts.

    It was when he moved to the LSE that he truly discovered gay life. Hampstead Heath, as he doesn’t mind telling you, was a kind of sylvan sweetshop so far as he was concerned, a Swizzles lolly behind every tree. “Oh, yes. Exquisite.” Did he ever worry about picking up the wrong man? “I only had one unpleasant experience, when I was stupid enough to pick up someone in a loo at Piccadilly. I’d been to the Reform Club for dinner. I’d had a run-in with this dreary professor at the University of London, and dinner at the Reform was his peace offering. He was teetotal and I decided to punish him by ordering the most expensive claret on the list. So I was a bit tiddly and I finished up in this loo with someone threatening to beat me up.”

    I remark that he was never much of a marcher for gay rights. But, no, I’m wrong. “I did actually go on one march. Yes! It is hard to imagine. Though it’s even harder to imagine what I was wearing.” Oh, go on. Tell. “Well, it was the early 70s. Flares, 3in soles, my arms conspicuously wrapped around Jamie Gardiner’s bottom, no doubt. He was the man who lured me into all that stuff. What was particularly ludicrous was that the march was in Great Malvern.” So would he have been more keen on civil partnerships then? “No! We didn’t campaign for equality. We knew we were superior. We were campaigning for the right to do whatever we wanted. I remember Jamie saying: ‘We’ve got to establish that having sex is like having a cup of coffee: all that matters is whether you want milk or sugar.’ Wonderful! I’m a libertarian, you see.”

    How did his parents respond when he came out? “My mother was… it effectively destroyed our relationship. My father. Dear dad. His reaction to every problem was the same: he went out and bought a book about it. He was the classic working-class autodidact. He solemnly read a book about it and then he solemnly talked to me about it. Of course, that was excruciating for me, but he was completely wonderful and it was through that that we really got to know each other, because my mother had been fiercely possessive.”

    His cruising days are, of course, long since over. He has shared his houses in London and Kent with James Brown, a publisher, for the past 18 years. How did they meet? A puckish grin. “Oh, nobody ever believes me when I tell them this. It was in a bar at the LSE called [cue dramatic pause]… the Beaver’s Retreat.” He waits while I recover myself – this takes a while, if I’m honest – and then he says, with mock seriousness: “The beaver, you see, is on the LSE shield. It’s a symbol of hard work.”

    He knew this relationship was going to be different right from the start: “You could tell it was high romance because we didn’t fuck each other on the first night.” So what’s their secret? For a moment, he falters, and I wonder if I am about to be told to get knotted. But, no. On he goes. “I suppose, finally, that it’s two things. There has to be a high level of mutual tolerance and a thorough enjoyment of each other’s company. It’s got to combine love and friendship, but also, you can’t be captious. The reason so many relationships run aground is that we’re a spoilt generation used to having everything exactly as we want it. But I’m afraid that if there are two of you together, there will be lots of occasions where neither party has exactly what they want. The best is the enemy of the good. Human life isn’t about ideals. It’s a compromise, and occasionally it’s boring. We spoke very seriously. We had a sort of honeymoon in Bologna, and we made a series of promises to each other. I won’t tell you what they were. But we weren’t too ambitious and I think we’ve both stuck to them.” His voice is suddenly soft, almost gentle, and I think, not for the first time: if only the politicians who avoid him in the Question Time green room could see him now.

    Royal River: Power, Pageantry and The Thames is at National Maritime Museum, Greenwich from 27 April to 9 September (020 8312 6565)


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    Cruise ship passed by disabled fishing boat

    RIO HATO, Panama (AP) — Three Panamanian men were on their way home after a night of fishing, happy with their success, when the motor on their small open boat rattled and quit, leaving them adrift in sight of land, but too far out for their cell phones to work.

    With nothing left to eat but the fish they caught and a few gallons of water, they drifted for 16 days, more than 100 miles from home, before they thought they must be saved.

    Adrian Vasquez, 18, saw a huge white ship coming toward them. He waved a red sweater to get their attention, reaching high over his head, and dropping it low to his knees. Though he was near death, the skipper of the little panga, Elvis Oropeza Betancourt, 31, joined in, waving an orange life jacket.

    “Tio, look what’s coming over there,” Vasquez recalled saying in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. “We felt happy, because we thought they were coming to rescue us.”

    The ship didn’t stop, and the fishing boat drifted another two weeks before it was found. By then, Vasquez’s two friends had died.

    “I said, ‘God will not forgive them,'” Vasquez recalled. “Today, I still feel rage when I remember that.”

    That same day, March 10, birdwatchers with powerful spotting scopes on the promenade deck of the luxury cruise ship Star Princess saw a little boat adrift miles away. They told ship staff about the man desperately waving a red cloth.

    On Thursday, Princess Cruises, based in Santa Clarita, Calif., said a preliminary investigation showed that passengers’ reports that they had spotted a boat in distress never made it to Capt. Edward Perrin or the officer on duty.

    If it did, the company said, the captain and crew would have altered course to rescue the men, just as the cruise line has done more than 30 times in the last 10 years. The company expressed sympathy for the men and their families.

    The fishermen had set out for a night of fishing Feb. 24 from Rio Hato, a small fishing and farming town on the Pacific coast of Panama that was once the site of a U.S. Army base guarding the Panama Canal. There are plans for a new airport to bring in tourists. Vasquez had lost his job as a gardener at a local hotel, and Oropeza invited him to come fishing to make a little money. The night before, they had no luck, so they were very happy to have a load of fish to sell, Vasquez said.

    By the time they started to drift, Adrian had eaten his lunch of rice and beef. They only had five gallons of water to start with, and much of that was gone. There was raw fish to eat, but no one liked it very much, and it soon rotted after the ice melted in the coolers. Sometimes Vasquez went over the side to probe passing rafts of debris, and sometimes came up with coconuts for them to eat. At one point, they caught a turtle, but decided they couldn’t eat it and put it back in the water. As they were, they found a jug of water that they drank “with tremendous anxiety.”

    One night they saw a ship far in the distance, and lit a rag on a stick that they waved, but the ship didn’t come for them.

    On the Star Princess, birdwatcher Jeff Gilligan from Portland, Ore., was the first to spot the boat, something white that looked like a house.

    When Judy Meredith of Bend, Ore., looked through the scopes, she could plainly see it was a small open boat, like the kinds they had seen off Ecuador. And she could see a man waving what looked like a dark red T-shirt.

    “You don’t wave a shirt like that just to be friendly,” Meredith said. “He was desperate to get our attention.”

    Barred from going to the bridge herself to notify the ship’s officers, Meredith said she told a Princess Cruises sales representative what they had seen, and he assured her he passed the news on to crew.

    The birdwatchers said they even put the representative on one of the spotting scopes so he could see for himself.

    Meredith went to her cabin and noted their coordinates from a TV feed from the ship, booted up her laptop and emailed the U.S. Coast Guard what she had seen. She said she hoped someone would get the message and help.

    She sent a copy to her son. When she returned to the promenade deck, she could still see the boat.

    But nothing happened. The ship kept going. And the little boat with the waving men disappeared.

    “We were kind of freaking out, thinking we don’t see anything else happening,” Meredith said.

    Gilligan could no longer bear to watch.

    “It was very disturbing,” he said. “We asked other people, ‘What do you think we should do?’ Their reaction was: ‘Well, you’ve done what you could do.’ Whether something else could have been done, that’s a bit frustrating to think about.”

    After Oropeza and Fernando Osario died, Vasquez was eventually picked up by a fishing boat off Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, more than 600 miles from where they had set out.

    Vasquez said he slipped their bodies into the sea after they began to rot in the heat. Before he was rescued, a rainstorm gave him fresh water to drink, helping him survive. Throughout the ordeal, the thought about his eight brothers, and never gave up hope.

    Safe at home, Vasquez said he recognized their boat, the Fifty Cents, from the photos Gilligan had taken with his 300 mm lens.

    “Yes, that’s it. That’s it. That is us,” he said. “You can see there, the red sweater I’m waving and, above it is the sheet that we put up to protect us from the sun.”

    Vasquez mentioned the ship in his first statement to Panamanian authorities when he returned to his country.

    Back at home in Oregon, Meredith couldn’t sleep, wondering what happened to the men. Reading a news story about a Panamanian rescued off Ecuador after 28 days in an open boat, she figured that was the boat they had seen. She pestered Princess Cruises, the Coast Guard, and even the Panamanian embassy.

    “We were all just sick about it, and just wanted to believe the ship notified someone,” she said.

    __

    Barnard contributed to this report from Grants Pass, Ore.

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