Home Notes From The Field A Pirate Looks at 70

A Pirate Looks at 70

Reflections on a Calypso Poet

by John Gentile
September 1, 2023
Jimmy Buffett died yesterday. To say that he provided the background music for my life is an understatement. Through his music and philosophy, his soundtrack permeated through me and in many ways helped to shape my journey over the last 50 years. His songs about distant oceans and sublime stories about heroes and villains took me to an impassioned lifetime of paddling on the ocean via sea kayak, driving a research vessel to study dolphins, SCUBA diving around the world, and becoming an ardent ocean conservationist. His songs were sung by beach campfires, on dive boats, smoky bars with friends, and even in the Australian Outback, where our friend and guide Tim Evans, who loved Buffett’s music, but couldn’t get it in the remote outback. So, when I got home, I recorded on four cassettes, the absolute best of Buffett and sent it to him. So, yeah, Jimmy Buffett’s music crossed continents. He was known for such popular songs as “Margaritaville,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and “Son of Son of a Sailor,” but his lesser known ballads were what sparked my imagination.
Out in the middle of Cholla Bay on a windless day, the ocean and the sky melded into one as we coasted along in our inflatable, The Collapso, studying and photographing the primary family group of dolphins. In my head I heard the words and found myself singing them out loud:
” . . . water so green and the air was so clean
He just stuck right to his task . . .” (Havana Daydreaming)
In these ballads, there are poetic messages about how we might navigate our own journey.
“Alone on a midnight passage,
I can count the falling stars,
While the Southern Cross and the satellites,
Remind me of where we are,
Spinning around in a circle,
Living it day to day,
and still twenty-four hours, maybe sixty good years,
it’s really not that long a stay.
Roll with the punches,
Play out all your hunches,
Make the best of whatever comes your way,
Forget that blind ambition,
Learn to trust your intuition,
Plowing straight ahead, come what may.” (“Cowboy in the Jungle”)
Thank you, Jimmy Buffett. Sail on, sail on, sailor.

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