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Leland Waldrip

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The Opari
By Leland Waldrip   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Posted: Tuesday, December 09, 2008

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Maybe if power generating wind turbines off Cape Cod were designed with multiple source and dual usage in mind, there would be less resistance to their installation.


I remember it as if it were yesterday, though I was only nine years old. It was way back in 2015. We were all sitting at the dinner table — Dad and Mom and Jerry and me. Jerry was seven.


Dad said, “Jack, how would you and Jerry like to go to one of the Cape Oparis for a fishing trip tomorrow?”


“Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!” We jumped up and down and Jerry spilled his juice.


“Okay, okay!” Mom said. “Settle down. We’re all going,” she said, wiping the red juice from the yellow floral table cover with a dishcloth. “We’re going to pack a picnic lunch. You boys will have to go to bed early so you can get up before daylight.


Wow! Dad usually went with his fishing buddies, but now we were going to be privileged to go on the biggest adventure of our young lives — fishing with Dad. We couldn’t wait to get to bed. You bet we had trouble getting to sleep! So when Mom shook my shoulder I didn’t think I’d been to sleep. When I heard “fishing,” I came wide awake instantly. “Jerry! Wake up! We’re going to the Opari!. Wake up.”


Jerry came as wide awake as I was. We chattered while we dressed, then rushed downstairs to the aroma of coffee that had filled the whole house. Toast with peanut butter and juice went down quickly. Mom put the sandwiches she’d been constructing into the picnic basket, along with bottles of water and juice. I saw some fig newtons make their way into the basket.


Dad’s voice came from the garage. “Come on boys! I’ve got the gear all ready to go.” He came into the kitchen. “Don’t forget your dark glasses and your baseball caps. You ready, Jan?”


“Take the basket and the boys. I’ll meet you at the Roller.”


“Yay! Yay!”  Jerry and I stampeded out the front door to the back seat of Dad’s HHO truck. They called it that because it ran on hydrogen and oxygen from water. Dad soon came out and started it up. “Come on, Mom!” Jerry yelled.      



We parked in the lot near the dock and took our stuff out to Dad’s boat slip. His boat was powered by a four-cycle outboard motor. He had bought it new when the government outlawed two-cycle engines because they put oil in the water. He soon had the motor warmed up and all our stuff stowed on board. “Casting off,” he said as he pitched the tether lines back on dock. And we were on our way.


“How far is it, Dad?” I yelled over the hum of the motor.


“Oh, about ten miles. That’s twenty minutes or so.”


That pretty much satisfied me and I was content to watch the day break clear. Soon the top of the red ball of a sun rose from the glasslike silver mirror ahead. It seemed we would drive right over the curve of the earth into a circular lake of deep red fire.


Soon, a low structure rose gently in our path out of the mirror ahead, shimmering in the redness. It stretched across the entire horizon. After a bit more time it became obvious that there were gaps in the structure. It was not one structure, but a string of more or less identical structures, separated by enough space for boats, and even ships, to drive between. When we got a bit closer I could see that there were other similar structures beyond the initial line of them I’d seen.


“Dad?” I yelled over the motor and swish of the roostertail of water behind us.


“Yeah, Son?” He leaned his head back over his shoulder, but kept his eyes focused ahead.


“Which one is the Opari?”


“All of them, Jack. ‘Opari’ is just an acronym. It stands for “Offshore Power And Recreational Island.’ They all have picnic tables and toilet facilities. The one we’re going to is Number 142. It’s one that was designed for fishing. It has cooling compartments to keep your fish fresh. When the WAVE part of it is working, it sucks cold water up from near the bottom of the ocean and cools these compartments as it leaves the turbines. Some of the other Oparis are set up for swimming and sunbathing. They are away from the fishing Oparis so the sharks don’t hang around them. At least that’s the theory.”


“Oh.” I thought about that for a bit. “Dad?”


“Isn’t the power stuff dangerous to be around? I mean, all that electric stuff?”


“Yep! Or it would be if it wasn’t all covered up and kept away from where people fish and swim and picnic.”


“Well, what if it rains?”


“There’s a roof over most of it, under the wind turbines, and even over them. Between the two roofs the wind is funneled through the turbines.”


Mom said, “What are those funny things on top? And why don’t the seagulls light on them. They just fly around but don’t light.”


“Those are the solar photovoltaic cell arrays. They have electrically charged wires that give the birds a small shock. It keeps them away and makes the cleaning job easier. They’re different from most you see in other ways, too. Most of the cells themselves are upside down so they can get the solar reflection from the two wings of the mirror underneath them. That gives them what they call two suns of solar exposure. The idea is to increase their efficiency. It’s sunny and the wind is light, so they’ll be operating today. We won’t be able to see the ones on top of 142, but if you watch close those on the Oparis nearby, you’ll see them tipping up and down, following the path of the sun as it rises and lowers during the day.”


Mom said, “Yeah, but just tipping up and down won’t aim them straight at the sun, will it?”


“It will if the whole barge is rotated so its long side is positioned ninety degrees to the sun.”


“You mean the whole thing turns?”


“Sure does — three hundred and sixty degrees — and remembers not to turn too far in one direction before it reverses direction. And if the waves start rolling, it orients such that its length is aligned with the troughs and ridges of the waves. It floats up and down on two huge concentric pipes. One of them is attached to the barge and the other is solidly attached to a massive base buried in the seabed. That’s what keeps the whole thing in one spot and keeps one Opari from bumping into another one. And that up and down kinetic energy pumps water through the water turbines. The turbines have a shaft running through their center that also runs through a set of generators. As the shaft turns, it generates electricity that is sent into a network of cables connecting all the Oparis and on to shore where it made our toast this morning — in fact, toast for all New England.”


Mom was asking more questions than I could think of so I was all ears. I don’t think Jerry was getting much of the physics lesson. He just sat there looking at the massive rig as we approached. Mom asked Dad, “How does it turn like that?”


“Two relatively small reversible electric motors mounted on the bottom at each end of the barge creates force that rotates the thing depending on what all the sensors say — and what the computer program figures out to do to maximize energy generation.”


“Well, how does it do that? I mean, if the wind is blowing and the waves are rolling and the sun is shining? How does it figure out what to do?”


“The engineer I talked to said the computer has a table of conditions and priorities that depend on how the sensor information matches up. Mostly the wind gets priority, then the waves, then the solar part. The wind and waves can and usually do work together. In fact, the shaft that runs through the center of the wind turbines is linked to the water turbine shaft so it can use the same generators. The shaft linkage is like a variable transmission. That lets these two energy sources provide whatever each one can to the total output. The computer is constantly ready to adjust the linkage to make them work together.

“Okay, we’re here. There’s only a couple of other boats here so far. Jack, can you hook the back port line to one of the Opari rings when I get close?”


“Yes Sir!”


“Now don’t get pinched by the boat against the wood!” That was Mom, worrying.


I got the snap on the end of the line hooked to the ring and Dad hooked the front line. He pulled the Opari ladder down into the boat and we had an easy three steps into the Opari wonderland — a nicely finished flat expanse of wood floor spiked with picnic tables and electric pedestal grills fixed to the floor. It was all surrounded with a child-proof rail and covered with a sturdy double roof. That was one of the things I noticed right away. Everything was sturdy — built with massive beams and pipes supporting the roofs — and I presumed — the equipment overhead. But it was surprisingly buoyant. It seemed to ride high in the water.


Dad said, “Everyone set your stuff on that table and I’ll get the rest of the gear out of the boat. Jack, you want to help me? Jerry too.”


When we had everything set on the table, Dad began putting rods and reels together and rigging hooks and weights to the lines.


Dad looked back the way we had come to the Opari. “I’m glad we bought your license, Jan. Here comes the Marine Police.”


“Are we in trouble, Dad?” I wasn’t sure what the police wanted with us.


“No, Son. We’re law abiding. The police are our friends.”


By this time the two green and brown uniformed officers had tied up to rings behind our boat and approached us.The older one said, “Good Morning, folks. Are you boys ready to catch a big one today?”


“Yes, Sir. If we can get them to bite.”


“Looks like your rigs are set up right. I see some squid there for bait. You’ll get them. Just stay off the bottom or you’ll stay hung up on the reefs down there.”


“Reefs, Sir?”


“Yep. There’s all kinds of stuff put down there to make a place for the fish to have sanctuaries. Brings ‘em from everywhere. Makes for great fishing.”




“You kids don’t need licenses, but how about Mom and Dad? Could we check them?”


“Sure.” Dad said. “I have them right here.” He opened his wallet and handed the documents to the officer.


“Okay. Everything looks good. The fishing regs and load limits are posted on the wall at the end of the Opari if you have any questions. You folks have a good day. Don’t catch ‘em all.”


I surprised myself by continuing my conversation directly with the officer. “Yessir. What kind of load limits? It looks like it’s big enough to hold a lot of people.”


“It will. There are twelve picnic tables. Twelve times six is seventy two for this Opari. Some of the others hold more, some less.”


“Okay. Thanks Sir.”

We watched as they walked away toward a group of people at another table.


“Okay, let’s bait up and start fishing. I’ll put up the pot. Twelve dollars. Four dollars for the one who catches the first fish, four for the most fish, and four for the biggest fish. Put some of this squid on your hook.”


“Ooooh! Squid!” Jerry was a bit squeamish about handling the slippery stuff.


Dad showed us how to weave the hook back and forth through the strip of calamari. “Now, let it way down. If you feel it bump the bottom, pull it back up about three feet.”


“I’ve got one!” Jerry screamed. His bait hadn’t gone all the way to the bottom. His rod was bent and he was struggling mightily, trying to reel the line in. Dad reached around and adjusted the clutch on the reel so the fish could run a bit easier.


“Only reel when you can get line in. Otherwise you’re just twisting the line.”


Jerry soon had the trick figured out and a three-pound black sea bass came to the long-handled net. The fish flopped up and down in time with Jerry’s bouncing and squealing. Dad removed the hook and put the fish in our live-well bucket. “Four dollars to Jerry for the first fish!”


Jerry squealed some more.


“I’ve got one,” Mom yelled.


“Me too! My rod was bent double. Mine turned out to be another sea bass slightly smaller than Jerry’s. Mom’s fish was a twelve pound haddock. It looked like a barracuda slicing through the water. She was worn out by the time she got the fish landed (Oparied). She spent the rest of the trip recovering at the picnic table.


I seemed to stay hung up on bottom half the time. I had to break my line off several times and get Dad to re-rig my hooks, but I caught a lot of fish. Jerry had two more bigger than his first one. Finally Dad said we had enough to last us the next six months. Mom had the biggest fish and I had the most fish.


We all rested and ate lunch, watching the ocean. Something different was happening. The sun had disappeared behind a gray pall and the swells were rising and falling more frequently. The barge was rising and falling in tune with the water. Strange sounds began coming from the belly of the barge. Dad said it was the water turbines working and the generators making electricity.


One of the men at the adjacent picnic table said there was a storm out in the Atlantic and it was sending the waves in. It wasn’t supposed to get very bad here where we were, though.    


Just to punctuate his words, a gust of wind whipped through the wind turbines and sent them spinning and whining. The suppressed hum of the shaft linkage hidden in the big conduits connecting the wind turbines with the generators sent Dad hurrying to pick up our stuff. “Let’s get into the boat. I think it’s time to go.”


We all agreed and grabbed fishing gear and picnic stuff and hurried into the boat. I was anxious about the boat bouncing up and down in the waves. It was, but it was rising and falling with the Opari so it was easy to get everything aboard. Dad brought the fish and put them in the live-well. He started the engine and the lines were unsnapped and away we went.


It began to rain before we got back to the dock, but we made it with no mishap other than getting drenched by cold rain.


At the dock Jerry and I went with Mom, each of us carrying a load of equipment and supplies to the truck. We left her to warm up in the truck and came back to the dock to watch Dad fillet the fish. There was a covered table where he could work out of the rain.




“Yeah, Jack?”


“What happens to the Opari if the wind blows really, really hard? Won’t it tear the wind turbines and solar cells off?”


“That could happen, all right. But it would have to be a mighty big wind. The pedestal that the Opari rides up and down on is not exactly in the middle of the barge. If the wind force overpowers the rotation motors, one side has leverage over the other end. The force of the wind will automatically shift the narrowest profile to point into the wind. That end has bullet shaped shields that help the wind slide on by without having a lot to grab on to.”




“Yeah, Jack?”

“I like the Opari — unh, 142.”


“I do too, Jack. I do too.”




© 2008 R. Leland Waldrip




Web Site: Rappahannock Books

Reader Reviews for "The Opari"

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Reviewed by Regis Auffray 12/31/2008
I enjoyed this immensely, Leland. Thank you for sharing your creative imagination. Would that it were so here and now (what you describe.) Love and peace and Happy New Year,

Reviewed by Ronald Hull 12/11/2008
Much liked by all. Much better idea than Dubai's sand islands to mammon from oil. By the way, I understand that Dubai's projects are all in trouble because so many investors are pulling out.

Our future depends on sound innovation like this, not cities fighting from going under water.

Reviewed by Alexandra* OneLight* Authors & Creations 12/11/2008
My dearest friend, what a pleasure for this reader this was! A brilliant touch of Sci-Fi, with its futuristic setting, but... how true and how possible it rings, even in this "remote" present! And... you may have hit the nail right on its head, Leland: Sometimes, appealing to people's pleasures (in this case, the sport of fishing, and the other Oparis, also set for enternainment purposes) can be the way to their practical sense... and the awareness that many more and much more expansive benefits could (can) result from the use of combined sources of clean energies. "I like the Opari(s)", too... but then, I like the energy of Aeolus, and... I'm betting on it already (yes, what with the crisis and all)! :0)
Bravo, bravo, bravo, and all the energy of a huge {{{{{{hug}}}}}}, with lots of love!
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 12/10/2008
I enjoyed this very much...after a day of fishing myself...shoulders tanned..looking like a beetroot after a few hours in the sun!!

Yip caught 12...10 edables...not sure what you call them... but in my language it is called "strepies" I guess I could call it " two really ugly things!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Tom Hyland 12/10/2008




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