found drama

get oblique

the voyage of the HMS L’il Bronco

by Rob Friesel

Or:  a short memoir about a single memorable night in January 2000 and how fond memories of it were spurred by the “#10yearsago” trending topic on Twitter1.

I was home from St. Mary’s College of Maryland for the winter break.  I don’t recall exactly if I was working that December/January; if I was, perhaps I was picking up some extra hours doing miscellaneous IT grunt work for MMCRI.  Regardless, the break was drawing to a close and two friends of mine had come up to Maine for a quick visit and then the long road trip back down to southern Maryland.

As part of the visit, we took the opportunity to go see P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia in the theater.  The film hit all three of us pretty hard, emotionally speaking.  So hard in fact that I wound up blowing through three red lights because I just couldn’t think straight, and then realized I had headed the wrong way home.

Luckily we went to the late show.

When we got back to my place2, that was when we started drinking.  We cracked into a 12-pack assortment of Casco Bay Brewing Company’s fine ales.

For those unfamiliar with Casco Bay Brewing Company:  they were3 a small craft brewery in Portland, Maine.  Good beers; my favorite was called “Rip Tide Red Ale”4.  At this time (c. 1999/2000) the label on the bottles featured their bold logotype and a brew-specific illustration or embellishment set on a faded-looking background graphic that appeared to be a nautical chart of Maine’s Casco Bay.

Now after about two beers apiece, Pete (squinting) noticed some fine print set in a small, somewhat anemic sans-serif along the bottom edge of the label.  These tiny capital letters read:


This gave us all a chuckle.  Then we speculated an absurd scenario where someone might actually go out to sea without maps and charts.  As the scenario unfolded, we laughed some more.  We laughed so much that we decided to send an email to them.  I shall attempt to re-construct5 that email here:

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to raise a serious concern about the design and content of the labels on your series of fine ales and lagers.

About a month ago, me and my crew, the fine lads of the HMS L’il Bronco, cast off from port here in Portland, Maine, about to embark upon a relatively routine fishing and salvage mission.  As we were loading the ship, my first mate stopped me and inquired as to the whereabouts of all of our navigational charts and maps.  I reassured him that I had been able to re-sell these maps to help under-write his most recent raise and that he need not fear because I had brought aboard several cases of the Casco Bay Brewing Company’s many fine ales.  With that settled, we cast off.

It was not until we had been out to sea for a full week that my first mate pointed out to me the warning on the label: CHART NOT FOR NAVIGATIONAL PURPOSES

My gods!  We are hopelessly lost!  Lost at sea and have been for weeks!  We are running out of food and fresh water and most of my men are beginning to think that we will never see dry land again.  If we ever return to port, it will be only through pure luck.  I only hope this email in a bottle finds its way safely to your brewery’s shore.

Perhaps in the future your own team will make better, safer choices about these labels.  Or at the very least, print the warnings much larger.

History will judge you.


Dr. Scientist
Captain, HMS L’il Bronco

We pretty much lost it.  And then hit “send”.  And then were delighted when they wrote back a few days later.

They got the joke.

  1. And this tweet, more specifically. []
  2. Well… My parents’ place. []
  3. Yes.  Alas: “were”.  They have since been acquired by the Shipyard Brewing Company which—while not bad—I never held in as high regard. []
  4. Though ’round my parents’ place we always just called it “Red Tide”. []
  5. The original email is long gone.  Like 10 years ago long gone. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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