By Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Like many Americans this summer, I am finally planning on taking an out-of-area vacation. As a new retiree, I personally plan on taking more than one, to make up for the “lost summer” of 2020, when COVID-19 put the brakes on my plans, just as they did for millions upon millions of erstwhile vacationers around the world. But this summer, I am definitely going. Vacations are important.
I learned how important many things are, including vacations, while a teenaged Midshipman at the Naval Academy. In that world before computers and smartphones, every Plebe was issued (purchased, actually, as one of many non-discretionary uses of one’s meager Navy salary) a 255-page, pocket-sized book called “Reef Points.” It was filled with facts that every Midshipman was supposed to know, and that Plebes were required to memorize – from the Mission of the Naval Academy (on page 2, right after the cover page) to Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (on page 255). I still have my well-worn copy. A twenty-seven stanza poem by Admiral R. A. Hopwood, Royal Navy (“Retired,” it says) can be found on pages 41-45; I remember having to commit the poem to memory to the extent that if an upperclassman asked me to repeat stanza seventeen or any other number, I could do so. The poem was put into Reef Points for a reason, though; entitled “The Laws of the Navy,” it was filled with sage advice, some literal but most metaphorical. Advice concerning vacations can be found there, in stanzas six and seven:
When a ship that is tired returneth,
With the signs of the seas showing plain;
Men place her in dock for a season,
And her speed she reneweth again.
So shall ye, if perchance ye grow weary,
In the uttermost parts of the sea;
Pray for leave for the good of the service,
As much and as oft as may be.
Vacations, as the Admiral sagely advised, give one the opportunity not only to relax, but also to carry out those internal and external repairs necessary to stay fully fit and ready for whatever winds and seas may be in store on the next voyage, whether it be for local operations or for a long deployment. In my case, this vacation will in all likelihood cause me to miss writing a column or two for The Edgefield Advertiser. Among other places I will be visiting is Annapolis, where I still have friends on the Math faculty from my time there – and, of course, many memories of my time as a Midshipman. The new Plebes – the USNA Class of 2025 – arrived just last week and took their oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States” on Wednesday, June 30th, fifty-seven years to the day from my having done so. I’ll bet they each have a copy of this year’s Reef Points in their pockets (perhaps it’s now digital), and that I can buy a copy in the Midshipman Store!