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Self-Sufficiency

One of the biggest takeaways from my experience as a marijuana smuggler is the notion of self-sufficiency. This issue couldn't be more relevant in today's world where supply chains of critical items necessary for life as we know it can be adversely affected in a very short period of time by factors that are completely out of our individual control; such as natural or manmade disasters like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes and war or worldwide pandemics like the West Nile Virus, SARS and now the Coronavirus. To not be prepared and vigilant for any of these eventualities as a way of life, is a recipe for disaster and usually is very quickly a matter of life and death. Both recent and historic events are great examples of this and it should serve as lessons to learn from so as not to be caught (again) with 'one's pants down'... so to speak.



My father had a saying that I grew up with:

"Good judgement is based on experience and experience is based on bad judgement."

My first marijuana smuggling adventure in 1969 was frought with mistakes of unpreparedness that could have easily ended in disaster from the outset. In retrospect Willie and I were extremely lucky to have survived that experience as naive as we were on that night in the Sonoran Desert where it all began.


At around 10:30 the following evening we pulled into the Holy Cross Hospital parking lot and parked the Barracuda in a far corner of the lot away from the other few cars which were already there. Our parking spot was right at the edge of an embankment leading down to an arroyo (dry river bed) taking us to our destination, the Mexican shanty town roughly two miles in the distance.


The arroyo seemed to amplify the strange unfamiliar night sounds. A thin crescent moon hung in the sky like a silver scimitar. A coyote howled somewhere in the distance and the otherwise quiet of the night reverberated like a silent screaming banshee in our ears as we walked through the night.


“Maybe we should have had JP go with us,” I said.


“Maybe Del was right being concerned about snakes. Wonder if they come out at night. What about tarantulas, and gila monsters? If one of those things bites you or me, we’re fucked. No medical kit or anything,” said Willie.


“I didn’t think about water. We don’t even have a canteen,” I said licking my parched lips. “I was a Boy Scout and so were you. Guess we just re-interpreted the motto to Be Unprepared!” I joked. (page 8, Chapter 1 - 90° to Zamboanga)


In 1974 as I embarked on the sailing adventure of a lifetime; to smuggle a ton of Thai Sticks from Thailand to the US, the principle of self-sufficiency became the most important component of survival and success.


After a week or so at sea, I began to understand the enormity of our undertaking. This was not the same as the previous Mexican trips, where land was just over the horizon. We were now in open ocean and its vastness was overwhelming. If anything happened out here, we were on our own. Help, if we ever needed it, could be days away or never.




My mindset was now geared to self-sufficiency. If something broke at sea we had to fix it ourselves. Killian had sailed the Transpac several times and had counseled and helped me provision the boat. We had no shortage of food and other supplies, especially numerous rolls of gray tape. Dave said: “the world is held together with gray tape.” It looked like we’d never run out.


I had accumulated an adequate spare parts kit including numerous stainless steel nuts and bolts of various sizes, spare fittings and shackles, as well as hoses, gaskets, belts, clamps and other spare engine parts which I stored in watertight plastic containers. I also had a complete mechanics engine manual, so as not to repeat the same fiasco as happened on Sirius II. Additionally, I procured an emergency medical kit containing everything from Army field surgery supplies to bandages and various prescription drugs including morphine syrettes, which hopefully would only be used in case of emergency.


Dave said: “the world is held together with gray tape.”

We were indeed stepping off the edge into the unknown. All of us, except Killian, were novices at blue water sailing and had some of the same feelings of apprehension and trepidation as most likely were experienced by astronauts being shot into space for the first time. ...page 194, Chapter 19 - 90° to Zamboanga


Fast forward to today in 2020 with America and the world in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Seemingly in less than one month the entire world has gone from prosperity to calamity without warning rendering the delivery of critical supply chains of food and other essential items at least temporarily interrupted, causing panic, hoarding and financial market unrest to spread among the entire population. The most valuable lesson from this is self-sufficiency, both as a nation and as individuals. If we don't learn from the mistakes of the past we are bound to repeat them in the future and the lesson of self-sufficiency has got to be paramount both at the individual level and at the national level.




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