Music on the Loop

Very often, when we have long travel days and the scenery is a lot of water and not much else, we listen to a variety of podcasts.  Some are personal narratives like Story Corps, others are more science-based information like TED Radio Hour and Story Collider and still others are psychology-work stuff like Adam Grant’s fantastic Work-Life podcast.  We are always learning something new, which we love, especially when what we learn plays out in what we experience in our own lives.

One recent podcast included an interview with one of my favorites, Benjamin Xander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, talking about how music affects people at an atomic level and that it actually changes us as we listen to it.  It is a universal language which all people understand and it can bring us closer in community with each other when we experience it together.

We have experienced a lot of different kinds of music on this trip, man-made and natural  (this post got too long so the natural music will have to be a separate post) and both have provided unique experiences for us to change and grow in different kinds of appreciation.

Human Music

The human music comes from many different instruments, in many different venues and can be produced by solos or ensembles of various sizes and we have experienced a wide variety of them.

The alto sax lifting patriotic strains into the evening in Alexandria helps support a veteran who would rather earn by giving than by taking.

Washington Square in Manhattan is full of kids’ birthday parties, people sunning themselves for the first time in the warm spring air and couples for whom privacy does not appear to be a concern.  A sole violinist coaxes sweet and sad notes into being, accompanied by the nearby fountain’s tumbling water.  People all around him breathe deeply as if pulling his melody into their very beings.

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In Islamorada, a lone acoustic guitar and its cowboy lament against magenta and burnt orange sunset streaks and provide a backdrop rather than a blanket for the conversations bubbling at the cabana bar and beach tables.  The songs grow sadder as the sun sets (isn’t that the destiny of most country music?) and contrast nicely with the escalating cheer of the audience.


Drawing near to Grace Episcopal Church, in Charleston, the sweet strains of boys’ voices waft from the doorway and we scurry inside only to be shushed and to have tickets thrust at us and seats pointed out after we pay for them.  We tiptoe in and sit on a side aisle, completely awed by the beauty of the church and the music that fills it.  White marble walls uphold gleaming arches overhead and every vault is filled with clear notes of almost impossibly complicated harmonies.  The voices of the Canterbury Cathedral Choir send shivers down our spines and all who are gathered seem to sit up straighter to catch each and every note, united in sublime appreciation.


In Mystic Seaport Museum, the tiny chapel is all dark wood and hand-turned benches.  A carved, marble conch shell sits on a pedestal in one corner, serving as a baptismal font and a foot-pedaled organ sits in the other.


A small group is gathered to listen to songs and stories of whalers and whale boats and the young man sitting in front of the altar has a scattering of stringed instruments around him.  His fingers fly almost too quickly to see over the face of a well-loved banjo, with holes worn in its surface hide, reminding me of Willie Nelson’s beloved guitar.


Between songs, the man explains how sea chanteys were used to coordinate and maximize the work of the ship and to keep men motivated by taking their minds off the physical labor required to run a ship, especially after the time of Bonaparte when ships’ crews were slashed to a fraction of their former size (15 men doing the work of 40!).  And then he demonstrates the effort expended in raising a sail and how the lines move with halting inefficiency without song and how much more smoothly and efficiently they move when coordinated with the rhythm of a chantey.   We actually get to try this out when we are conscripted to help set the mainsail on the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship the next day and singing a call-and-response chantey in unison  really does work to streamline our group’s efforts!


The next song paints a picture of whalers being paid at the end of their voyages, which could be 2 years or more, and how that made them easy marks when they got to town.  This often reversed the vow of never going to sea again because a sailor who had lost all of his money on wine, women and song had no choice but to sign onto another ship and go whaling once more.


The last song explains that stopping in port could be costly in terms of crew retention. So, whale boat captains often went to isolated places, like the springs on the Galapagos Islands to replenish their fresh water supplies because “if a whaler was going to stop in heaven and hell, and that vessel stopped in hell first, half the crew would jump ship.”

Sorry this is sideways – just listen, it isn’t about the video!


The man’s voice is warm and rich and his eyes twinkle merrily as he changes some of the more salty lyrics to suit the grandmother who has 3 granddaughters under the age of 5 snuggled up against her.  You know you are successful, as a performer, when the little ones aren’t squirming and are clapping and tapping along with your music!

We are fortunate to have really special friends who are taking great care of us, even long distance.  It has been a blessing to know that even though we are not physically present in Tarpon Springs, we are still maintaining our relationships there through our blog, FaceBook posts, emails and IM’s.  We are so blessed to live in this age of connectedness.  Some of our friends write newsy letters or texts, other have sent Prosecco for times of celebration; some have made sure we have a way to grill onboard, others are watching our insurance and investment concerns and still others provide work updates or stay connected to us by responding with suggestions of things to do and see as we disclose our progressive whereabouts.

Rotarian, Joan Jennings lived Rotary’s “Service Above Self” motto when she asked if we would like to see the Broadway musical, Hamilton while we were in New York.  We immediately made plans to stay an extra day when her contact came through for us.  We made a day of it, taking the water taxi from our marina in Jersey City across to lower Manhattan and walking up the 7+ miles to Broadway, stopping to window shop and grab small bites at various places along the way.  Living on a boat where there is little space and less desire to fill it, makes window shopping about the only kind of shopping we do other than for groceries.

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The atmosphere in the theater was electric as we waited for the doors to open.  People had waited eons for these tickets and we felt very humbled to walk in and have the manager of the theater show us to seats in the 8th row.

Neither of us was familiar with the music prior to experiencing it, which made it that much more powerful.  The passion, precision and talent of the voices in the cast were unequaled and we were swept back into the history of the time on a sea of music that might be termed a melange of show-tune soul, rap/hip-hop and dancehall ballads.  Lin-Manuel Miranda took a theater full of strangers and turned us into comrades, who laughed, cried and jumped to our feet, as one, to applaud this amazing production.

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In Greenwich, Connecticut, spring signals the annual Town Party at the harbor.

21 10A huge sound stage is set up near the water and a large tent is reserved for those willing to pay $1500 for unlimited food and adult beverages.  The grassy areas around the harbor have towels and chairs set out early in the morning, reserving space for those of not such affluent means. Boats start to fill nearby slips and are rafting together from mooring balls.  Pretty soon it is questionable whether there is room to safely fit any more boats in the small basin and yet they keep coming, snaking their way between those already secured and giving those of us watching heart attacks!

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Music plays all day, starting with local and regional bands but people are more intent on being seen or partying with friends and family until darkness starts to settle around the harbor.

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Everyone has come to hear Eric Clapton play tonight and when he takes the stage, quiet falls and his unmistakable voice and guitar reach out across the water.  Between songs, boat horns blare and people cheer each of the favorites that he has chosen to play for this party.  Cell phones are raised high to capture sound and sight, preserving it for later.  We sit on the fantail of our boat with our dear cousins next to us, in the best seats in the house.  Only residents of Greenwich can dock here and my cousin has arranged a slip for us where we are out of the general mayhem and where we aren’t threatened with permanent hearing damage either!

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We sip prosecco by candlelight and as the concert ends, watch with bated breath as over a hundred boats try to exit the narrow channel simultaneously, in the dark and mostly under the influence. It is harrowing to watch and at one point we shine our big spotlight on an overloaded john-boat that has almost no freeboard and definitely has no running lights so that the forty-footer bearing down on it will see it and slow down.  Seeing the little boat must come as a shock to whomever is captaining the forty-footer because s/he throws the boat into reverse, causing serious consternation to the boats lined up like bowling pins behind and beside him.  For now, the 8 people in the John-boat are safe and our evening of music ends on a high-note!

Lastly, before we embarked, dear friends Faith and Tom Trask made a mix-CD of songs, aptly entitled, “Songs for Loopers 2018,” which we play on wireless sound systems provided by BJ Coleman and Kristopher and Rachel Sandberg.  The songs bring us closer to younger versions of ourselves and to our family and friends.


And sometimes you just have to dance on a flying bridge while travelling the Loop.  How did you all know that and we didn’t?!?!?




More Thoughts on Time

I wrote one entry in this blog about aspects of time that are experienced differently on this journey than they are at home and the last few weeks’ experiences beg for the topic to be revisited.


Seasonal time has been arrested and then reversed lately.  When we left Tarpon Springs in early January, the live oaks had not even started to do their thing.  I remember after the freezing temperatures, my son (who is house sitting) called to express concern over the tree in the front yard because it was losing all of its leaves.  Reassuring him that it was just “fall” in Florida for the live oaks, I warned him of the scourge to come when that same tree would start to dump piles of pollen all over the driveway, which indeed occurred shortly after this conversation.


We traveled down to the keys, completely by-passing the live oak mess.  Other signs of spring were rampant though.  The Ospreys were all trading places on their nests, keeping eggs and chicks warm as we made our way southwards.  A month later, as we came north again through the same waterways, the nests were all empty.  It is amazing that a pair of birds can hatch and raise one or two chicks, feed them, watch them molt from fuzz to feathers and send them on their way as quasi-adults in about a month.  Superior parenting skills, indeed!  As we have traveled up into Maryland and Delaware, the Ospreys are on their nests with no sign of hatchlings yet. So, we have come far enough, fast enough to have reversed the season for baby birds.

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Moving northward, we followed spring from place to place. The blessing was in watching the wild flowers peak in each place we encountered.   The azaleas in DC and Alexandria were more beautiful than they were in Savannah.  Unfortunately, the knee-high piles of pollen have made life a bit miserable but it’s a small price to pay.

At some point I guess we will leave spring behind in favor of summer.  One of the Loop slogans is “Chasing 80.”  You are supposed to have a constant 80 degrees as you move around the country.  Because we are a little early and are a little ahead of the pack, we have been happy to chase 65 and 70!

Times Revisited on the Chesapeake

Being on the Chesapeake Bay is a time warp in a lot of ways.  My family and I spent time here both by boat and car when I was young (we lived in Princeton, NJ at the time).   So that is one part of the time warp that I will get to later.  Another, is the way that life is lived on the water here.  And lastly, is just how early our country’s history began in some of these places.

Anchoring out has been much easier as we have traveled north.  There are plenty of rivers and creeks that provide shelter from wind, tide and current and paint the landscape with amazing contrasts.  Some places we have anchored look like savannas with miles of yellow-brown grasses waving on every side of us.  Sometimes they even obscure the waterways except the one right in front of you.  We laughed at one point because we opted away from one anchorage due to a lot of sailboats being anchored in that creek.  We went a half mile or so up-river to the next creek and anchored there…alone.  We could see the sailboats in the distance as if they were floating on a sea of tall and waving grass but as the tide went out, it they appeared to be sinking.  Eventually the boats disappeared completely and all we could see were the tops of their masts.  It was an interesting phenomenon.


Other anchorages find us surrounded by muddy shores with swooping bank swallows or sandy beaches replete with wheeling gulls.  Now that we are even further north, the edges of our anchorages have traded out the southern pine and cypress trees for giant oaks, maples, chestnuts and poplars, all lush in spring’s myriad shades of green.

A few weeks ago, we anchored near the mouth of the Potomac.  Working our way into the cove where we wanted to anchor, we passed lots of sticks grouped so that they were standing in the water near the channel we were navigating.  I later asked a local about them and was told that these are fish traps (yes, it says that on our charts but I wanted to know how they worked) and the method has been around as long as there have been watermen on these creeks and bays.  The watermen drive long poles into the muddy bottom and create a maze of nets that funnel unwary fish into the center of the system.  They cannot escape back the way they came and so they live in the enclosure until the watermen come to harvest them.

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We had also passed some black rectangular floats on our way in and the next morning, as we were leaving, we were able to see that they were oyster floats.  The rectangular floats have oyster shells in the bottom netting onto which spat is applied.  The oyster larvae attach to the shells and grow there.  The watermen were out checking them as we passed by.  They will do this about once a week until the oysters are about a year old and are mature.  The way of work here has changed some with technology, as has the care of the bay and the quality of the water and while there are advances, much of this work is done identically to the way in which some of these watermen’s ancestors did it.

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Moving up the Potomac, we were shocked at how much undeveloped land there was along the banks.  Miles and miles of dense forests, some at the waterline and others up on high cliffs that overhang the river.  Furthermore, we were the only boat, other than a couple of small fishing boats, until we got almost to Alexandria.  Even then, the boat traffic was minimal, mostly confined to ferries that run between DC and Mt. Vernon.  Again, we are a bit ahead of the real boating season in these areas, which begins on Memorial Day Weekend.

Mt Vernon

We had anchored out and with an early start the next morning were able to visit Mt. Vernon from our own boat!  We tied up at George Washington’s wharf and went exploring!  Both of us stand amazed at the type of man that he was and both of us want to learn more. We knew that successful people in his time were very accomplished but touring his plantations drives that home in a whole new light.  He developed new ways to build and decorate homes (rustication, which makes wooden siding look like stone), invented new ways to plant and harvest crops and never bought seeds to grow the crops on his plantation, making sure there were always seed gardens to provide the seeds for the following years.  He planted, grafted and tended to orchards and went fishing on the river in flat bottomed bateaus, sometimes catching up to a million pounds of fish in a 6 week period with his watermen.  He entertained widely, never turning a guest away from Mt. Vernon, often housing over 350 family, friends, servants and slaves (about 300) on the premises, which meant feeding and doing the laundry for all of those people too!  Amazing what people actually accomplished before there was TV!

Old Town Alexandria

From Mt. Vernon, we walked back in time again to Old Town Alexandria where many of the houses are a few hundred years old and the newer building have been coded so that they keep the neighborhoods consistently charming.  Many cobble-stoned streets and beautiful public parks have made this a favorite of ours.  Even the Starbucks is in a stone-lined basement of an old building and it sports a working fire place, slate floors and a timbered ceiling.  Again, the spring flowers that we don’t get at home were breathtaking in Alexandria; all sorts of iris and tulips lined the streets and popped up in beds and window boxes.

We worshiped at Christ Church, home church to George Washington and Robert E. Lee and were delighted to walk in early and be included as they rehearsed the kids in running the service (this is done here the first Sunday of each month and honestly gives me hope for our Episcopal church’s future).  Some of the kids got to practice seating us in pews that had actual doors, others required me to pin corsages on the young ladies as the man in charge was not comfortable doing this.


18-43 (6)Then the priest, a young woman, brought the little kids in for a talk before the service started.  They tumbled up the aisle behind her like puppies after their mother and she had her hands full keeping them out of the baptismal font and from climbing on the alter railing or fingering the host as she tried to teach them new vocabulary like “font” and “altar.”   When one kid stomped on another’s foot (by accident!) and it resulted in ear-splitting shrieks, I think she and the kids declared a détente and retreated back to the Sunday school area.  She looked much calmer and put-together a few minutes later as she processed in with the choir and celebrants!

It was a lovely service, led by the teens and celebrating the graduating seniors. I don’t think I have ever been to a more inclusive, loving, welcoming Episcopal church (I know, kind of an oxymoron!) which makes it all the more ironic that people now want to remove the plaque that commemorates the fact that Robert E. Lee worshipped here.  I am pretty sure that those same folks have not done the homework to discover the torture that Robert E. Lee underwent when making the decision to lead troops against family, friends, neighbors and US Military Academy classmates during the Civil War.  He and General Washington would be very proud to see what has become of their church today, in spite of the nay-saying history changers!

Throw Away the Schedule!

In my prior post about time, I commented on how we have learned to allow time to guide us even when it may thwart what we had planned.  This was reinforced during our visit to DC.  We had planned some time to meet with our sweet Andrea Uribe (met her when she interned with us and just meshed to where she is now a part of our extended family).  Timing wasn’t great as she was in the weekend prior to finals but she still made time to share “her” city with us.  We strolled through Georgetown, where I haven’t been since high school senior trip where I bought my first pair of used jeans.  Yes, this was in the dark ages when you couldn’t buy jeans with holes in them in a store and they didn’t come pre-faded and broken in!  I loved those jeans and wore them until they literally fell apart!

We ate in a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant called Das.  It was our first time and Andrea’s second time and we ordered a sampler of wonderful vegetarian dishes, each better than the last and then we finished off the meal with a Smurfette, a lemon cupcake with blueberries from Baked and Wired because, “You have to have cupcakes in Georgetown!”

At this point, Andrea remembered that it was Embassy Day and that all the embassies were open for visiting.  Off we went because this was better than what we thought we had planned for the day, especially since she wants to go into foreign relations and has a trip planned to Bolivia this summer!  We visited the Brazilian embassy and were allowed to see the receiving areas and dining rooms, which were quite sumptuous.  We by-passed the Japanese embassy, though all of us would have loved to see it, the line was blocks and blocks long.  A little further up the street we came to the Plurinational Embassy of Bolivia.  In 2009, a new constitution changed the country’s name from the “Republic of Bolivia” to the “Plurinational State of Bolivia” in recognition of the multi-ethnic nature of the country and the enhanced position of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples under the new constitution.

18-13The embassy had native food and drink and a stage set up that erupted into song and dance just as we arrived.  The performers were amazing, ranging in age from about 3 up to some grandparents and they danced with their whole hearts while the singers behind them sang songs familiar enough that much of the Bolivian audience could sing along. Before we knew it, they were grabbing people from the audience and the danger of getting a front row spot is that you are also very available to be chosen to dance.  It was fun, though I don’t think I ever really got the Bolivian line-dance sequence just right.


From there we walked up to see the National Cathedral where there was a huge flower and craft market going on outside.   We made our way past St. Albans school, where Andrea tutors and entered the cathedral.   We walked in awe down the central nave and around the sides of the main basilica.  Some of the alcoves had floral displays from many countries and I liked Canada’s the best as it was made up of all spring flowers; dogwood, mountain laurel, azaleas etc.  Next, we went down to the crypts and saw lots of resting places for the clergy and benefactors who made the cathedral possible and we even got to see where Helen Keller is buried there.


Andrea needed to get back to school to study and so we made our way down from the National Cathedral, through Georgetown but before we could get her back to school, we discovered the Union of African Nations Embassy was open and refreshed ourselves with ginger drink and local coffee.  From there, it was a short couple of blocks to the Thai Embassy and we just couldn’t bypass it.  I wish we had been hungry because this embassy had cooking classes and tons of Thai food as well as fruit and vege carvings and dancers doing amazing graceful dances.

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We finally left the embassy and were able to deliver Andrea back to her dorm.  We had walked almost 12 miles and we hoped we didn’t wear her out so that she could study but I suspect she might have napped first.


So, time has played into our travels in that we have been keeping pace and even reversing the seasons, we have been able to journey back into some of the early history of our country and her founders and we have again found that leaving a planned schedule behind in favor of serendipitously experiencing people and places is much more gratifying that marching along checking off boxes!


I Understand Cats Better Now



There is something simple about a cat in a window, watching the world go by, thorough slanting yellow-green eyes. Body relaxed as melted butter; a twitch of an eye or ear lets you know that the relaxation is merely a guise.  Sleek muscles ripple under velvet fur, tensed and waiting to become part of what is going on, even when that never happens.  How can the cat stand the heat and why does it stay there?  It is really hot and it has to be pretty boring never to be part of what’s going on, right?

This trip on the boat has led to a better understanding of the cat on the windowsill. Sitting on the flying bridge during cold weather, the sun heats the strata-glass enclosure and turns it into a mini-greenhouse.  Warm and cozy, it is wonderful to sit in the sun, protected from the elements and watch the world go by.

Outside might be a sail boat regatta, jibs, mains and spinnakers throwing jeweled silks against the impossibly blue skies.

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Or, crossing the Chesapeake Bay, there are the watermen trolling for fish or paying their nets out, dragging them strung between opposing floats behind the transoms of theirboats.

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On other days, the shoreline may transform from brilliantly white, sandy beaches into dense and lush green forests, ripe with the promise of spring.

And on still others, a hulking shadow may transform itself into a looming cargo ship bound for ports unknown, laden with commercial promise.

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The sweep of the horizon can be broken by schools of bait fish swirling the waters or ospreys diving to keep their freshly caught fish safe from scavenging eagles.  Dolphins may leap and dive ahead of the boat, smiling their knowing smiles and pelicans can glide alongside the flying bridge teasing us as they swoop away faster than we could ever hope to go.


Sometimes the window turns dark and lightning flashes behind distant black clouds, followed by thunder rumbling across the water.  Severe weather alerts sound on our phones and computers below, signaling us to batten down whatever might fly if left unattended.  An eerie stillness presses down; there is no sound, just flashes of light and flashbulb images of clouds, water and the boats around us. The water lies undisturbed and the nearby sailboats are at rest on their mooring balls.

Then comes a whoosh of wind. The strata-glass breathes in and out and the boat begins to groan and shift, throwing the bow against the mooring line the way that a racehorse throws its head against the reins inside the starting gate.   Gusts of wind set the halyards around us to dancing, clanging their protests to the uncaring wind.  The rain arrives, pattering at first and then pelting sideways against us and finally pocks of hail bounce off the decks.  We dance in crazy circles, secured to the mooring ball and grateful we are not at anchor, as this type of squall line has blown us off the hook more than once, breeding a frightening sense of helplessness.  It is scary to be so close to the weather and yet be so safe from it.  The storm ends almost as quickly as it began.

There is no end to the possibilities of what might be on the other side of that glass. This must be the same way that the cat feels, perched and purring on its windowsill.                                                                       Sometimes it is enough to watch.


Dedicated to the memory of Muffin.


We’re Behind!

We are woefully behind on our blog but certainly not in our adventures!  We last posted from Southport, NC, where we were delayed for 4 days due to high winds, in Week 15 of our journey.  After our briefing from Hank and with one day of long awaited cooperation from the weather, we successfully navigated the Cape Fear River (Yes, I did buy a t-shirt!), stopped in the lovely town of Swansboro and got to Morehead City, NC where we were HAPPY to get off the boat for a week (we are SO over the unrelenting, high winds) to travel to the North Carolina mountains for our pseudo son’s wedding.  Jimmy has been a member of our family since he and Kristopher became best friends in Tiger Cubs (1st grade).  It was wonderful see this young man pledge his future to his bride.  They were both glowing with happiness as they exchanged vows and we were so honored to be part of the celebration.  We wish them decades of happiness together!

We got to do some hiking in the mountains, exploring Catawba Falls, Chimney Rock and Tom’s Creek Falls and reveled in the mountain laurel and other flowers that were in full bloom. The May Apples and Jack in the Pulpits were some that I hadn’t see since I was a child in NJ.

It was a great week away but we were happy to return to Morehead City and the boat when the week was up.   We explored, ate AMAZING seafood and did lots of appreciating the spring flowers.  Azaleas, Cherries, Dogwoods and lots of others were in full bloom and in an old town, where these plants have had time to mature, the sights were often breathtaking!

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We re-provisioned the boat and pulled out at dawn to a day of NO WIND!!!  As we pulled out of our slip, I happened to catch these photos of a couple of boats that prove that hoarders are not only found on land but on the water as well!  One didn’t survive the storm that happened while we were in NC!

We had a lovely day of cruising to end up anchored out near Belhaven, NC for the night.  The next morning we navigated the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal without incident and were really happily surprised to encounter little to no traffic on this narrow ditch of a canal.  Not sure what we would have done if a commercial vessel had been coming the other way as there was little room for forgiveness on either side, but we made it!

We have heard horror stories for months about how rough the Albemarle Sound and the Currituck Sound can be and we had tried to plan our approach accordingly, waiting for good weather but honestly I have to say we were lucky as well.  The day dawned amazingly clear and lovely and we were off at first light when we thought we would have the calmest conditions.  The Albemarle was unruffled by wind or waves and when we got the Currituck, it looked like a milk-pond it was so calm.

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WOW!  2 of our scariest crossings are now in the books and we only hope that Cape May will be the same way for us!

It turned into a very long day but we have learned that when the weather is favorable and the wind is down that it is a good idea to prolong the travel day and get as many miles covered as possible as the next day can blow up on you, regardless of what the weather man says!  We have become pretty good amateur meteorologists by utilizing amazing apps that are available like Windy (shows you wind direction and strength for any location in the world) and some others!


So, we continued up the North River to the Virginia Cut.  This was a really pretty trip, though again through a VERY narrow river.  This time we did encounter commercial traffic in the form of a tug and barge.  We followed them through a little swing bridge and then held our breath as we passed them, hoping not to hit any of the ubiquitous, submerged stumps or free-floating logs/trees that were everywhere.  I actually was up on the roof of the flying bridge to watch out for them! (Don’t tell my mom, please?)


Successfully passing a tug and barge is pretty satisfying until you find out that the lock that is ahead of you will take them first.  So, we and 8 other boats had to jockey in place waiting for the lock to open and then hold our tenuous positions as the tug and barge squeaked past us and into the lock.  Then we waited as we were each directed to take our place in the lock by a lock master who had obviously had the worst day of his life and was taking it out on all of us.

My captain is a master at putting our boat into challenging places that give me a heart attack just contemplating their size and the weather and current conditions.  But he calmly maneuvers us into spaces I would swear were too small as if we were destined to be there all along and this time was no exception.  He skinnied us in alongside the tug without a problem until the lock hand started berating us for not being 100% set up with lines on the port side of the boat (we had been sure we would be set up on the starboard side and then came the last minute directive to set up on the other side- typical!).  I was proud of Jerry for not throttling the guy.

We were fine until the sailboat behind us, captained by a crew of non-English speakers, got their vessel sideways in the lock behind us and had no clue how to remedy the situation.  The tug captain was up on his bridge watching and stifling giggles and the lock hand was having a full-blown screaming hissy-fit!  The poor people on the boat really had no idea what his problem was or what to do about their own problem.  Finally the tug captain was able to demonstrate hand commands that the sailboat captain put into play and they got the boat long-side against the lock wall and secured.  All of this to drop us a whopping 2 feet. I think the whole production took about 2 hours from start to finish!  Sorry no pix of this as it was stressful enough to prevent us from even considering that!


Once clear of the lock, we passed the barge again and after waiting on a train to cross the river on a train bridge, we cruised into the Naval Shipyards of Norfolk, VA! What a sight, all of these HUGE aircraft carriers and battleships are lined up along the river in various stages of repair or refurbishment (yes, you do see shrink-wrap on some of the tops of them).

Our guidebook said to stay 500 yards clear of any Naval vessel and there were intercept boats with machine guns that looked capable of taking out any boat that hadn’t gotten that memo!  We anchored off Hospital Point in Portsmouth, VA until we could get into our slip the next morning.  The sun was setting and the moon was rising and it was a glorious evening to be aboard a boat in a beautiful city.

The traffic through this port is amazing. We have seen big tankers and cargo boats in Savannah and Charleston but nothing like the commercial traffic that goes 24-7 through this port.  Even in the wee hours of the morning, you can see tugs moving all kinds of barges and ships through the dark waters, it’s really pretty neat to see.

We explored the city yesterday and I got to check an item off my life-list (no, I don’t use the term “bucket-list” – too depressing).  One of the first pieces of writing I had published was a unit study on lighthouses, which included lightships and while I have been in many lighthouses, I had never even seen a lightship.  (For more info on the history and highlights of lightships, click on:

When lightships were decommissioned in the 1970’s, the coast guard gave these ships away to any willing takers and the City of Portsmouth had one towed down here, dug a canal into the city for it, pulled it in and then cemented it in place.  Now there is an elderly gentleman who is the docent during the 3 days a week that this museum is open and he does amazing tours of the Lightship Portsmouth. It was so cool and I was SO happy we were here on a day when it was open!

So, I think this catches you up to where we are now.   We will head out of Portsmouth tomorrow, up the Chesapeake towards the Potomac – gotta do DC by boat!

We had a Y-valve fail in the rear head last week, which means that when you flush it, its flapper thingy doesn’t work and it recycles the contents of the black-water holding tank…YUCK!!! Fortunately, Jerry has replaced the one in the forward head so he knows how to do this AND we have the part!  We had the tank pumped out yesterday and did a very thorough job of flushing all the hoses in the process to minimize yuckiness of the job.  So, while I would rather continue writing, I feel that it is unfair to the captain to have to tackle this alone and so I leave you for an odiferous yet pressing duty that is part of living aboard!







Control is an illusion which is better preserved in my normal life than it is living aboard a boat.  Intellectually I know that control is self-delusion.  As a human, I cannot control what happens to me. I can influence it and I can set myself up for the best possible outcomes and yet still be surprised by what actually happens when push comes to shove!

In my day-to-day life I can schedule events and pretty much count on ticking the to-do items off as I work through a day, week or month.  From the first few months of this trip, I have learned that while we do have an intentionally vague idea of what we would like to accomplish as far as mileage and experience go, the reality is that we are totally subject to the weather to shape the ifs, hows and when’s of what really happens.

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Sometimes weather slows down our idealized schedule and sometimes it forces us to advance our timetables and while this can be a little stressful at times, we have learned to relax into it and trust the outcomes.  So far, as we look back, the changes in our proposed schedules have worked to our advantage later in the trip by allowing us opportunities that we would not have had if we had adhered to the original plans.

We pushed hard for a couple of days in anticipation of taking time off the boat for our pseudo-son’s wedding at the end of the month. Coming up the ICW just past Georgetown, we made a U-turn around the north end of Butler Island, near Pawley’s Island, SC and watched the sun set and wind die simultaneously as our anchor grabbed hold and we relaxed with a very refreshing drink.

The scenery had changed and we were in an area that looked more like a northern lake than the southern part of the ICW.  Lush forests of maple, oak and pine lined the waterway and birds were making the commute north.  We took that as confirmation that Spring really would arrive sometime this year as it had been unseasonably cold during the previous 3 months.  The cold had not stopped the Azaleas from blooming and we had just missed the height of their splendor in Savannah where only the white blossoms still clung to the spring greenery.  Unfortunately we have been following the height of the oak pollen season as we have moved northwards.

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The oaks were pretty much done spreading their eye-irritants at home when we left in January and were noticeably absent in the Keys but were back with the same degree of proliferation by the time we reached Melbourne and St. Augustine.  In Savannah, our berth positioning and the wind direction were such that we and our neighboring boats needed to sweep our decks twice a day in order to avoid semi-permanent staining that occurs once the pollen heads get wet.  It was a fruitless battle that we all engaged in with great zeal and a lot of laughter at how anal we all were about the appearance of our decks!

But I digress…back to our anchorage.  We enjoyed a night of star-gazing in an inky absence of city lights and slept to the music of absolute silence against our hull, lacking a strong wind or current.  We awoke with the plan of getting under way before sun-up, a luxury normally made impossible due to mine-fields of crab-traps that were noticeably absent in this area.

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As we readied the deck and helm we were awed by the absolute silence around us, there was no wind at all and the water was like glass, reflecting the stars but lightening as the sun began to crest the horizon.  The anchor came up easily and we were on our way, having to constantly clear our strata-glass of condensation so we could see to navigate.

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Mist hung in the fields and forests and the clarity and stillness of the water made it impossible to tell where the actual forest transformed into its mirror image in the water.

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The blues and greens of pre-dawn gave way to the roses and golds of sunrise and the mist cleared away leaving the mirror images on either side of the waterway.

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We moved from deep forests and farmland (that used to be rice plantations in the pre-civil war era) on either side of us into the more affluent and built up areas around Myrtle Beach.  The ICW sits much lower along this stretch and the intricate terracing and landscaping of the slopes from homes to private docks on either side was pretty impressive.

Later the view changed to dunes and we got peeks at the Atlantic as we moved further north past Calabash Creek and into North Carolina.  The current and wind were at our back, moving us along at a sprightly 10+ mph!  The sky was cloudless and it was finally warmish and gorgeous.  So, we decided to ignore our scheduled anchorage in favor of continuing on toward Cape Fear and Southport NC, our originally intended stop for the following night.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut because there are no guarantees about what will happen tomorrow.  And so, we gladly turned a 5 hour cruise into a nine hour cruise to arrive here in Southport ahead of the oak pollen and at the height of the dogwood, cherry and azalea season FINALLY!!

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We know a little about Harbor Hosts, as Herb Seaton, a Looper and the Harbor Host for Tarpon Springs won “Harbor Host of the Year” for 2017.  Harbor Hosts are folks who live in different ports and who walk the docks in the afternoons, offering tips and advice on local sights and restaurants and even trips to the grocery store, Walmart and/or West Marine to Loopers.  Our Harbor Host here, Robert Creech, knocked on our hull, offering all of the above-mentioned services and also invited us to attend a talk this evening about navigating the Cape Fear River and the ICW all the way up to Norfolk.  We thought that attending would be a pretty good idea as we have heard some of the passages can be very tricky and we don’t want to end up like some of the vessels we have seen along the way!


Image by: Jean Coleman

What we found was beyond our wildest dreams.  Hank Pomeranz is a boating enthusiast who now commits every night of his life for two months in the spring and two months in the fall to putting on a seminar about wind, weather, tides and currents and navigating the ICW.  He volunteers his time to do this and estimates that he has had 1500+ boats represented at his talks.

He is an amazingly warm and human guy whose sole motivation is “To improve the Southport boating experience for locals and transients alike, by offering outstanding new or improved services to both.”  His talk is replete with PowerPoint slides which are printed off in hard copy for each boat to keep and the detail of the upcoming trip is amazing!  He is a meteorologist by profession and he has extensive projections of what’s coming this way in the next few days for tide, current and winds.  Hank has a warm and caring teaching style that is anything but a lecture.  He shares war stories, interlaced with facts and statistics that make us glad we have a hard copy to refer back to later.

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If we hadn’t taken advantage of the great conditions to push on up here, we might have missed this talk and that would have been unfortunate.  We got a great view of the deteriorating weather (which we did know was on the way).  With the implications of tides plus currents, added by Hank, it made our decision a no-brainer to change our plans from anchoring out to actually delaying departure and sitting tight, right here at the dock.  We are expected to have near gale force winds and severe thunderstorms around midnight tonight.  So here we sit watching and listening to the weather come at us, I doubt we will sleep but at least we are safe!

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We are so thankful that we relaxed our control and ignored our schedules for arrival and departure so that we were able to take advantage of the wisdom imparted by a fellow sea-lover.  Thanks, Hank!

As you can see by the dating of the post, we lived through the night with no damage to persons or property, not much water incursion and we even slept some, though it was a little hairy as the winds, rain and thunderstorms started to rock and roll around midnight!



Sure, We’ll Make Room For Y’all!


40 years ago, I came to Cumberland Island with some school friends. I was the only female in the group but was happy to be included in order to see this island which had recently become a national park and protected seashore.  Even four decades later, it is largely undiscovered and is limited to 300 visitors per day, most of whom are delivered via a ferry from St. Mary’s, Georgia.


Often when one revisits a beloved memory, it disappoints, paling in reality to the memory which has many times been enhanced by loving recollection and the sharing of its highlights.  Cumberland Island doesn’t disappoint. If anything, my new memory builds on and burnishes the old memory, increasing its glow.  Both will now entangle themselves into an even deeper impression of a land that is lost in time.


Cumberland Island enjoys a rich history of inhabitants beginning with the Timucuan, who co-existed amicably with the French and the Spanish explorers and missionaries.  When the British arrived, bringing yellow fever, that was the end of the Timucuan.   The English were dispatched after the Revolutionary War and General Nathaniel Greene was granted a large part of Cumberland Island for his wartime contribution.  There were other settlers who made fortunes in rice, citrus and lumber on Cumberland Island and it later became popular when it became home to the Carnegie family during the 1880’s and so became a playground for the rich. Lucy Carnegie was a conservationist long before it became popular, willing the land to her grandchildren rather than to her spoiled offspring who she feared would sell it for the money it would command.  The eight grandchildren battled developers who wanted to build thousands of homes here and eventually donated the land to the United States government with the agreement that it would become a nationally protected seashore and park.  There remain a few private homes and the Greyfield Inn but other than those parcels, the island is largely undisturbed.

Cumberland briefly hit the headlines in 1996 when JFK Jr. was stealthily married at the First African American church situated on the north end of the island.  This church was the first church ever to be completely built by and for former slaves.  Earlier, John had come to the island as the guest of a friend whose family owned the Greyfield Inn and had loved the fact that the press couldn’t find him here.  He enjoyed running on the beach, which is the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in the United States.  He could run for hours and never see another human being, an unusual event in his press-beleaguered life.

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I had felt this same enjoyment four decades ago when I went to the beach during the day while my fellow campers did whatever college-aged boys do while camping.  I felt as if I had entered another world where I was the only human being.  I found bleached sea turtles femurs, brittle exoskeletons of horseshoe crabs, the skull of a large ray and shells of all kinds.  It was isolated and soul-nourishing in a way that I had never before experienced.

It isn’t just the beach that engenders these kinds of feelings.  Walking on the paths under majestic live oaks, swinging with Spanish Moss, the feeling is similar.  Sharing these experiences is a little intimidating.  There is no guarantee that the other person will feel the same way that you do or experience the same sense of awe that you do but I am not sharing this with just anyone.  My husband has a quiet appreciation of nature and a strong desire to learn all that he can about the natural world and so I am thrilled when he is as entranced by the scenery and its inhabitants as I am.

On the south end of the island the feel is tropical, with palmettos standing guard on all sides of the walking paths; while on the northern end of the island, the feel is more like mainland Georgia with towering Georgia Pines and blankets of pine needles on the sun-dappled ground.

We see wild horses from the boat as we approach Cumberland Island, grazing in the marshes and then again later as we walk the island.


They are wild but are not overly concerned with us, other than keeping distance between us and their young.  There have been horses on the island for a long time.  A few came over with the Spanish, many more came over with the British and then almost all of them were removed during the civil war.  Since then, more horses were introduced to work the plantations, citrus groves and sawmills and there were even 50 horses were stabled in the Carnegie carriage house.  According to a University of Georgia and University of Kentucky genetic study, today’s feral horses are descendants of domestic breeds such as Tennessee Walkers, American Quarter Horses, Arabians, and Paso Finos.  According to one historical account, there may also be blood from American Mustangs, burrows and maybe even retired circus horses.  They are quite territorial, living within about a square mile of where they were born so the genetic strain of the horses on the north end of the island is very different from that of the horses on the southern end of the island.

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Having walked the south end of the island the day we anchored here to explore the ruins of Dungeness,

IMG_2627today we decide to hike the more extensive north end of the island.  The ranger at the welcome station advises us that it is a 7 mile walk to Plum Orchard, Lucy Carnegie’s house which has been restored.

                                     Plum orchard

We decide we can do that without a problem.  But after three or four miles the shiny-penny kicks in when we see a marker to the beach.  So, we detour off to the beach which is glorious in the early morning sun.  We see 2 horses way away down the beach and not another living soul.  We walk north on the beach for a while and find another path that leads over the dunes closer to where we are supposed to be.


The terrain changes appreciably, taking us through swampy lowlands, where we spy two baby gators sunning themselves among the bulrushes.  Thankfully, we don’t see mama anywhere and we continue to walk along the narrow boardwalk, detouring through a campsite with colorful hammocks slung among the pines and young people just starting their day.  Finally we are back on the path to Plum Orchard.


The day is heating up when we finally arrive at the grand mansion, a little too late for the start of one of the complimentary tours but luckily they allow us to join into the group in progress.  The mansion is amazing, all dark wood interiors, modern (for its day) indoor plumbing, heated towel racks and spacious bedrooms and baths.  There is even a fire suppression system, which would have been excellent to have in a largely wooden house.

IMG_2683.JPGThough the home was abandoned and left unattended for decades (our guide remembers exploring the home as a child by climbing through the glassless windows) the two Tiffany stained glass lamps still hang suspended in the game room.  They are gorgeous, appearing to be patterned after the scutes of a turtle shell but when I look at the underside, each leaded section looks exactly like an oyster, complete with a pearl.  It is amazing that they were never stolen or vandalized. Having been uniquely designed for this home, they are now considered priceless.


Done with the family’s portion of the house, we now explore the kitchen and servants’ areas which are also impressively large, bright and airy.  This is where we learn about doorknobs.  The doors where the family and guests would be welcome all have solid crystal, globe doorknobs.  The spaces where these same people and their personal servants would have frequented have the crystal globe doorknob on the family side of the door and a cut crystal doorknob on the valet and lady’s maid’s side of the door.  On the doors where the servants would be bringing in produce, coal, wood and other necessities there would be black doorknobs on both sides, as the family and guests never frequented such areas of the home.  This system was popular in all the houses of this social class so that the personal servants could travel to any home yet never embarrass their masters by being seen somewhere they were not supposed to be.  The doorknobs were the key to the social class system in homes from Cape Cod to Cumberland Island.


The tour finishes up with the indoor squash quart and indoor swimming pool and we are adjourned to enjoy whatever we  have brought for lunch anywhere on the grounds.  At this point our seven mile walk has stretched to 9.1 because of our detours and my feet are not looking forward to the walk back.  Jerry surprises me by asking the tour guide if they have room for 2 more in the van and his reply, made in a true southern gentleman patois was, “Sure, we’ll make room for y’all!”  And they do.  Much to our surprise, we are included in the rest of the tour which goes for 2 more hours and allows us access to places we wouldn’t have otherwise visited and also allows me to share much of the history that I have related here.  My feet are happily delivered back to the dinghy dock and we arrive back aboard Makin Memories in time for a refreshing drink and a gorgeous sunset.


Since then, we have met many people who anchored at Cumberland Island but they never even went ashore and I feel blessed that we had perfect weather and time enough to really do an in-depth explore of the island.  I know we will experience many wonderful people and places in the months to come, yet I am positive that this visit will always stand out as one of the most special.


Weeks Six through Eleven

KennedySpaceCenterWeeks six through eleven have been a whirlwind of activity for Jean and me and catching the blog up will be a challenge. We ended week six in Three D Boatyard in Stock Island (Key West) by having the hull painted and the trim tabs removed and the holes fiberglassed over. Both repairs were necessary for the next 5000 miles of our journey. We lived on the boat while the work was being performed and while pleased with the work, we were delighted to splash again on Friday the 16th and spend the remainder of the day cleaning up the boat from stem to stern. Boatyards can be very dirty.
Having the boat clean and ready for our company arriving on Saturday was a challenge, but we were able to do so and enjoyed our guests and the time exploring Key West together for several days immensely.
The wind was blowing a steady 15 to 20 mph for most days, and we watched for a window of opportunity so that we could make a side trip out to the Marquesas and Dry Tortugas. That window opened on Sunday the 25th allowing us a cruise 85 miles from Stock Island to the Dry Tortugas in 9.5 hours. The wind and the waves laid down some, but we still encountered waves five to six feet high. Arriving the Dry Tortugas late in the afternoon, we anchored overnight and toured the island the next day. It was a windy night, and the anchored had trouble holding till we found a place next to a group of crabbers that provided secure holding in the wind. Jean and I traded watches throughout the night to make sure we held tight.


Heading to the Dry Tortuga’s

The next morning we dinghied in and toured the grounds for several hours and then headed off to the Marquesas to spend the evening on the hook there.
The Marquesas were beautiful, and the water was SMOOTH, and the wind had died down considerably. We anchored and dinghied around the area for a little sightseeing. The Marquesas are uninhabited by humans and are beautiful, even after the devastation of Irma.
The water on the trip was remarkable. At least three colors of blue and the Gulfstream a resounding royal blue. I would submit that for me, the blues of the water was the most striking sight of the cruise.
After we pulled anchor the next morning, we made our way back to Stock Island and prepared for our departure north along Hawk Channel to Marathon and the Faro Blanco Marina for an overnight stay. But, before we could go we had a soft spot in the galley floor re-planked by a professional shipwright and once finished we cruised to Marathon. The next day we traveled north to an anchorage north of Key Largo called Steamboat Creek in Barnes Sound. It had excellent anchor holding, but the wind was such that we set up an overnight anchor watch just to be on the safe side and am happy to report that all went well. It is here that I came down with bronchitis and Jean took over as captain and guided us through the congested Miami shipping lanes as well as Port Everglades just outside of Fort. Lauderdale complete with all the small bridge openings along the way. I am incredibly proud of her skill in negotiating the ICW traffic and the handling of the boat, navigation, and radio. I was pitiful and not of much use. The next day we headed to North Miami and worked our way up the coast staying overnight in Delray Beach, Jupiter, and Fort Pierce. The wind was such that we decided to tie up instead of keeping an anchor watch every night. From Fort Pierce Jean and I cruised to Melbourne where we rented a car to drive home to Tarpon Springs for two days (and a doctors visit for me) bringing the paddleboards and other items we did not need to have on board any longer. Melbourne is an excellent place to leave the boat for a couple of weeks while we visited home and facilitated a 5G Power Skills Certification cohort with Rollins College in Winter Park for five days.
I just finished up changing all the fuel filters and cleaning the bilge, and Jean finished painting the inside of the stern bilge area. Jean and I are waiting out a cold front that is bringing high winds and rain, and then we plan on heading to an anchorage in the ICW in New Symrna and then ports further north.

The Sounds of Time

Sometimes it drags as slowly as it did when I sat in study hall, watching the second-hand creep until the bell finally freed me. Other times it is fleeting, disappearing like mist in the summer sun.  It passes now in similar ways depending on conditions but I find that time is more audible when living aboard.

33Always, an early riser, anxious to spend the last moments of moonlight in quiet contemplation of the coming day, I find myself sleeping later, becoming more attuned to the actual rhythm of daylight.  Still awake before the sun rises, but just barely now, I consider the different ways that time is marked in the various places we have been.

This morning it is the Osprey announcing that he is starting his day by dismembering a freshly caught fish, perched high atop our next-door neighbor’s mast.

In the Tortugas, time is never silent.  Over 100,000 Sooty Terns call the islands home and while they quiet during the night time, there is an omni-present muttering of birds stirring or settling, bickering over the best roosting spots.  Their decibel level rises with the sun andsooty tern continues throughout the day as they swoop and wheel overhead, providing a constantly audible backdrop to the beauty of the island and its surrounding waters.  As the sun sinks into the Gulf Stream, their racket softens into a drowsy murmuring once more.

In the Fort Pierce City Marina, time again makes itself known.  A series of whooshing thumps against the hull right next to my berth startles me and I can’t imagine what might be making that sound.  A fellow live-aboard sheds light on it the next night, pointing out the huge Jacks chasing fingerling mullet up against our hull for their evening meal.  You can almost set your watch by the sounds.

The time around shifting weather conditions also has a sound.  We can see the approaching storms on our phone screens. We know what time they will arrive and how strong they will be from these scientific predictions but putting the phone aside allows us to hear the moments that announce an approaching storm.  The wind starts to smack the halyards against neighboring sailboat masts and their wind turbines spin a crazy song.  Strong0321180808c gusts whuff against our isinglass curtains making them breathe in and out and finally the rain arrives sounding very much the way that it did against the tin roofs of our Camp Ton-A-Wandah cabins when I was a child.  Thunder booms across the water and spray is kicked up against boat hulls and as quickly as it came, when its time is up, the storm rumbles away leaving us in an eerie silence.

Other places, time is marked more by man than nature.

In Islamorada, the Lorelei Marina has live music, marking the coming sunset at the Cabana Bar.  71People sing along to Jimmy Buffet, Bob Marley and Beach Boys covers.  Well behaved and enjoying a camaraderie built on shared appreciation of being outdoors, tourists and locals alike join in communal celebration of the sun sinking into the calm, Gulf waters.

The historic town of Eau Gallie (Rocky Waters) marks time in a more European but equally musical way.  St John’s Episcopal Church and Palmdale Presbyterian have dueling carillons that softly echo across the water to each other. Strains of almost-familiar hymns mark noon and dusk in a hushed refrain of bells, but only if one listens closely.  It is easy to lose the melodies to the more obvious sound of the nearby roadway.

 On the West coast of Florida, we have no trains. Not so when one navigates up the Intracoastal Waterway on the East coast.  Here, trains are not far from the water and announce themselves at all hours of the day and night.  Remaining in one spot long enough, allows me to subconsciously absorb and identify the schedule that starts at 4:30 AM, in some spots, with the deep blare of a horn and heavy rumble of an approaching locomotive.  It isn’t unpleasant, just different and once acclimated, it is in fact reassuring, marking the rhythm of the approaching morning.

Time is ephemeral, its experience dependent upon the conditions under which it is contemplated.  In each instance, it is my conscious choice to attend to the sounds of time or to ignore them completely.  But I feel that these sounds add to my belief that “the joy is indeed in the journey.”   While sights are what we remember most, perhaps more concentration on the nature of sound and how it helps to mark time in our worlds, would give us just that much more to appreciate.

A History of the Conch Republic

The Conch Republic


When traveling, you inevitably come across historical accounts of places you have probably visited many times, yet haven’t given their actual histories a second thought.  The Conch Republic is a great example of this.  I have been coming to the keys since I was a child.  Over the years I have heard some Keys natives refer to themselves as “conchs” and have seen the Conch Republic flag, sporting a pink conch shell in the middle of a blazing sun, flying proudly on many boats.  I have even eaten at the restaurant that bears the name Conch Republic.  But I had never really given any thought to what the Conch Republic represented or why people embrace it, other than possibly being a fan of Keys’ laid-back lifestyle.

On this trip I learned that the Conch Republic was established in 1982.  Apparently, the U.S. Border Patrol set up a blockade on US 1 at Skeeter’s Last Chance Saloon, in Florida City, which is just north of the Florida Keys and on the only road into and out of the chain of islands.IMG_1916.JPG

Even though they were not crossing a national border, agents required everyone leaving the Keys to verify their U.S. citizenship and allow their vehicles to be searched, a practice reserved for national borders only.  The roadblock was ostensibly an effort to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the U.S. through the Keys, the number of which had increased significantly following the Mariel Boatlift (approx. 125,000 Cubans/Haitians).  The agents also searched for illegal drugs, again a practice reserved only for those crossing of a national border.


Photo Credit:  U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Scheina, Robert L.. U. S. Coast Guard Operations During the 1980 Cuban Exodus. U.S. Department of Homeland Security., Public Domain,

Again, since US 1 is the only road into and out of the Keys, these roadblocks backed traffic up for miles.  While there was no doubt that drugs were coming in through the Keys and immigration was becoming a political and economic challenge it was really the impact on tourism that provoked a prompt and enthusiastic response from the Keys natives.  The roadblock was causing tourists to avoid the Keys altogether and the islanders were displeased, to say the least.

Key West’s mayor, Dennis Wardlow took immediate action, confronting the Sherriff of Monroe County, Florida Governor Bob Graham and even the U.S. Border Patrol where he was told that road block was “none of his business.”  When his attempt to seek an injunction against the roadblock failed, Mayor Wardlow, accompanied by pilot and attorney David Paul Horan and some fellow conchs assembled the press on the Federal Courthouse Steps in Miami and announced: “Tomorrow at noon the Florida Keys will secede from the Union.”  The first act of rebellion happened as they returned to Key West, and buzzed the roadblock in their plane.  Wardlow, indicating that he meant business, said that he would only negotiate with President Ronald Reagan or V.P. George Bush.


Mayor Dennis Wardlow with the Flag of Secession 1982

The next day in Mallory Square, Mayor Wardlow read the proclamation of secession, proclaiming that the Conch Republic was a separate and independent nation and began the civil rebellion by breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in the U.S. Navy uniform.  The conchs lowered the Stars and Stripes and raised the royal blue Conch Republic flag.  Once Prime Minister Wardlow declared war, citizens of the new Republic lobbed Cuban bread and conch fritters at federal agents and Navy and Coast Guard officials who were keeping an eye on things.

One minute later, Wardlow surrendered to the nearby Admiral of the Navy Base at Key West, demanding “One billion dollars in foreign aid and war relief to rebuild our nation after the long Federal siege!”  No Federal aid was forthcoming but the micro-nation was successful twice over when the roadblock was removed and the attendant publicity succeeded in re-establishing the flow of tourists to the Keys.

Secretary General of the Conch Republic, Peter Anderson created an official passport which has reportedly been accepted by 13 Caribbean Nations as well as in Germany, Sweden, Havana, Mexico, France, Spain, Ireland and Russia.  Over 10,000 of these passports have been issued, with only one possible blemish, which has yet to be confirmed by the FBI.  The Miami Herald reported that the FBI was investigating the possibility that Mohammad Atta (one of the 9/11 hijackers) used a Conch Republic Passport to enter the country after gaining the passport in 2000.  Again, the names may be similar but the identities have yet to be established as identical.


The United States and the Conch Republic have enjoyed a mostly peaceful coexistence with only a few minor skirmishes over the ensuing years.  The flag continues to fly high over the Keys, drawing people from all over the world to celebrate its unique culture of grit, persistence in the face of adversity and a “party-till-you-drop” attitude toward life.

We have enjoyed being here and sharing the Conch Republic’s hospitality and hope to carry it forward with us as we move around the country.  Now I just gotta get a flag to bring with us and maybe a passport if I can find one!


The Symbolism of the Conch Republic Flag:

Designer: Claude D. Valdez

Blue Field: The blue of the Keys’ water and skies

Pink Conch – symbolizes the natives of the Keys

Blazing Corona – symbolizes the always present sunshine in the Keys.

1892, the year in which  the City of Key West and Monroe County (all of the Keys) were incorporated.

2 Constellations – 5 stars are the Northern Cross (a navigational guide) and the 4 stars are the Southern Cross ( can be seen at certain times of the year from Key West) –  these crosses as symbols of many faiths, acknowledge the gratitude to “our maker for the many blessing bestowed upon these islands.

Wisdom on the Water


As we have traveled, we have been entertained and exhorted by various people who have shared their experience and acumen with us.  Some words of wisdom have been meant to entertain, others to caution and still others to share knowledge of places we have yet to visit.  Some gems were not meant for us at all but were overheard in conversations of others but are valuable to us, just the same. I hope you enjoy them!

Nautical Optimism

A comment overheard as one shrimper captain talks with another,


Photo credit: Jean Coleman

“You know everything is going to come out just fine until amazingly it all does an about-face and rapidly goes to hell!” 

No comment from the other captain, he just stands with burly, sun-bronzed arms folded over a Santa-belly nodding a grizzled head in total agreement.

 Where Birds Are Walking

Upon leaving the dock to start on this adventure, a fellow live-aboard, who we have gotten to know over the past two years, encouraged us with these parting words, “Never drive where you see birds walking!”


Photo credit: Jean Coleman

It has been good advice which we have heeded so far and we’ve stayed out of trouble but we have been amazed to watch others ignore where the birds are obviously walking only to end up high and dry waiting for a rescuing tide or Tow Boat US to come to save them.

Potato Navigation

We stand at 3D Marine in Stock Island waiting for them to fix the sling lift.  Yes, it worked fine to lift our boat out of the water and into the yard, where the billing clock starts to tick but it dies as soon as our dripping hull casts her shadow on dry land.


Photo credit: Jean Coleman

A new battery and a lunch break later, the guys are able to get it fixed and block the boat up for a bottom paint and some repairs to our transom.  While we wait, Jack, a New Hampshire native, comes over and engages us.  He had hoped that they would splash his boat prior to pulling ours but obviously that timing didn’t quite work out the way he hoped.  No matter, he’s not in a real hurry and is happy to chat as we all wait.

He has been on the water since he was 7, is now 77 and has been everywhere from the upper Canadian Coast down to the Caribbean and probably even further.  We ask him about fog up in the northern coastal areas and he shares that whenever a warm, moist front moves anywhere into the vicinity of the coast, the result will be white-out fog where you cannot see the bow railing of your boat from the helm and sometimes can’t see it even if you are standing on the bow looking forward.  He cautions that these conditions necessitate the use of “Potato Navigation.”  We ask what potato navigation is and his reply has us in stitches. 51

Photo credit: Jean Coleman

“Well, it’s like this,” he says, “when the fog gets so thick you can’t see in front of the boat, you send your youngest crew member forward to the bow with a big bucket of potatoes.  Every once in a while, you have him chunk a potato out ahead of the boat.  If you hear it splash, you keep her going.  If you don’t, you’d better pull the throttle back real quick-like.  Fast as you can, have the kid pitch another one out to starboard and if you hear it splash, push her hard to starboard.  And that’s how potato navigation works in the fog!”

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!  We are looking forward to sharing more installations of wisdom with you as we move north at the end of the month.