A World Unto Itself

Jan. 28, 2020

Indiscretion. Zenith. Aphrodite. Lady Sara. Gene’s Machine. Just a few names of the eye-popping mega-yachts which reside in disquieting regularity in front of equally eye-popping mansions. We have been saturated by our glimpse into the opulent wealth of southeastern Florida, beginning with the fascinating Henry Flagler history and continuing by our IntraCoastal Waterway route past a parade of current breath-stopping part-time residences and yachts from Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton to Miami. There are not many Loopers here, as Loopers usually opt for lower-key, less extravagant, and more natural experiences. But, Steve and I are looping backwards as we head south—most Loopers approach the Keys from Florida’s west coast. We’ve seen this sort of lifestyle elsewhere, sprinkled around the Caribbean and other coastal areas but never in profuse succession like this. This is a world unto itself.

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Shiney, impeccable mega-yachts all along the ICW of southeastern Florida await a professional captain—perhaps a 3-person crew—and a destination. 

Having been to Palm Beach years ago for a medical meeting, we almost passed on the Flagler Museum, Whitehall.  But we enjoyed revisiting the history, pondering again the business titans of the turn of the 20th century, those robber barons of the Gilded Age. Henry Flagler won his fortune as John D. Rockefeller’s partner at Standard Oil, and was the innovative business mind behind the the centralization of the huge corporation’s holdings, giving birth to the Standard Oil Trust. He retired in his 60s and turned his attention to developing Florida, eventually purchasing over 2,000,000 acres of land and laying over 500 miles of railroad track along Florida’s east coast and, remarkably, all the way to Key West. His vision opened Florida to the rich and famous, with access to his luxury hotels by his railway, and the development of agriculture in service of the lifestyle. The Florida project was a money loser, and he joked that he would have been a wealthy man were it not for Florida, his assets having dipped to $150,000,000 at his death in 1913. Whitehall was a wedding gift to Henry Flagler’s third wife, Mary Lily Kenan; he was 71 and she, an accomplished young woman of high society at 34 years. The more-than-100,000-square-foot extravagant mansion in warm Beaux Arts architecture was created with attention to every aspect of design and living, from quiet spaces where deals were made, to the music room with a 1249-pipe Odell organ (calling for a resident organist) and Steinway upright grand ornamented with hand painted scenes, where Mary Lily hosted her literary friends, to the lavish grand hall and ball rooms. The Flaglers resided here only during “the season,” 6 weeks from early January through Washington’s birthday. It is easy to let one’s imagination play with images of their lavish life, but I also caught suggestions of a darker side to the history, which set me to googling over the course of the next days. I discovered that the Flagler story also includes a “love child” prior to their marriage who was raised by Mary Lily’s sister as her own; a Florida law which was instituted to make divorce for reasons of insanity legal was utilized only by Henry Flagler in order to divorce his second wife, and then was rescinded a short time later; and the tragedies of syphilis contracted by an early beau, nefarious lethal morphine overdosing, Mary Lily’s  unscrupulous, fortune-hunting 2nd husband (and said “early beau”), and a nighttime exhumation and gruesome graveside autopsy of Mary Lily two months after her burial. The plot would make for scoffable drama, were it not true. Finally in 1959 Whitehall was rescued from the indignity of  punishing use as a hotel and near razing, by Henry’s grand daughter; she created the foundation which secures it as a national landmark today. Flagler’s story is a stunning story of vision, an arrogant viewpoint regarding the masses, and a stomach for ruthless acquisition and power. 

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Top to bottom: Steve in front of the Flagler Whitehall home; the Grand Hall with its perfect balance of mythology and classic architecture; the music room where the resident organist performed for the Flaglers daily and Mary Lily entertained her literary friends (note the Baccarat crystal chandeliers); the dining room, which seated only 24–overflow would have to take their meals at their nearby Royal Poinciana Hotel; Mrs. Flagler’s parlor, where the identity disclosed on caller’s card determined whether she was home or not. While much of the ornamentation in the mansion is painted in gold leaf, this room’s plaster work is plated with aluminum, a treatment many times more expensive than gold leaf at the time.  

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Flagler’s personal railroad car was luxuriously appointed and simply bore the number “91.”

I will simply mention that we left Fort Pierce without a working generator. We had hoped to enjoy anchoring out on this next quiet leg of our journey—and we may once—but that means no AC electricity and a cold dinner and no morning coffee. Tonight we sit contentedly on our little boat in a marina full of newer and bigger boats in Coconut Grove, a western suburb of Miami. We were told by our sweet Costa Rican medical student/driver/tour guide that here in Coconut Grove one can live in a house, if prefer to the high-rise culture of the city. Here one can purchase a starter home for about $900,000. We look forward to a laid-back experience in the Keys after feeling wound a little tight this week. We’ll be leaving the ICW, which is known to be shallow down the chain, and cruising “outside.” “Outside” is the ocean, Hawks Channel to be exact, and we have an eagle-eye on wind, direction and speed. 

 

Southern Progress

Jan. 22, 2020

Everywhere in the U.S. seems to be experiencing notable weather these days. It is somewhat to be expected, it being January. Red Pearl and her crew are hunkered down in Fort Pierce, FL due to the rip tide, gale warning, and wind, high surf, and small craft advisories. 

We are contentedly waiting out the wind, but also chaffing as we wait for a fourth generator repairman—at a third port—because our generator still does not work. Having already shelled out an extorted “boat unit,” we hope this guy is in fact as punctilious and tenacious as the reputation which precedes him. We commented this morning how wonderfully cozy we are with the wind howling around us, our furnace cranking out the heat; and then we stopped and looked at each other, having learned the painful lesson to not take for granted that ANY system will work on a boat. 

As we cruise coastline that we previously explored in the spring, coastline that we anticipate cruising again on our journey north next spring, we are spending long days on the water in order to meet and maximize our reservation in Key West for the month of February. We enjoyed a long-overdue connection in Melbourne with Steve’s cousin, Song Koh and his wife Judy and their daughter Michaela. We enjoyed seeing where Song works, creating the meticulous calculations for the fabrication of gorgeous and iconic bridges; and our time over dinner at Meg O’Malley’s Pub flew by as we caught up on one another’s families and easily discussed a broad array of topics.

Here are a few random experiences of the last week: 

A couple of nights in St. Augustine were relaxed, having done the touristy stuff last spring.

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Our neighbors in the beautiful and tiny anchorage, Rockhouse, were Swedish. We departed the following morning before the fog entirely dissipated, relying on our radar for details further than .25 mile. The fog quickly burned off. 

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Above, this shows a picture of our chart plotter with radar. The icon of our boat is at center, with our track, as we are exiting our anchorage. In this case, we are keeping the green markers to starboard and the red markers to port. The rust color represents things to avoid hitting. In this case, it was scrubby stuff along the side, but anything that blocks the satellite will show up rust, such as a power line suspended above, and, of course, another vessel. It takes time and experience to learn to read radar, and we are still just babes at it.

The Jan. 19 SpaceX launch. 

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Derelict boats are a pervasive and intriguing problem, with Florida being one of the boating capitals of the world. At least every few miles, one sees these sorry sacks, sometimes washed up on shore, but often at anchor and deliberately left to degrade. The legal rights and responsibilities of the owner are theoretically sound, but the reality of the situation is confounding. Imagine owning and living on beautiful waterfront property, and a small unloved vessel suddenly appearing central to your view. A landowner has no legal claim to his view, the waterway being public property, and yet, that is precisely why he bought that parcel! The one who deserted the boat is in violation, but just TRY to find him! The landowner has no right to touch a vessel which is not his, and to jump through the proper legal hoops to do so takes copious amounts of time and resources. It’s a huge problem. I keep thinking that there are jobs here, and Steve keeps reminding me that it all takes money—and good legislation.  Here are a few pics of derelicts that we passed. 

As I finish this post, the unwelcome mention of a new generator has just been floated through the capable woman in the office. Evidently, there will be a meeting of the minds in the morning. Stay tuned.

Finding Our Sea Legs Again

Dare we try this again? Dare we seek joy in the freedom of wide open horizons, the challenges of the cruising life, the banter at docktails? It’s been quite a journey in Indiana, seeing my lovely Dad through his final weeks, celebrating his life, saying goodbye to those dear old friends who accompanied us. As we closed up the condo for what seemed like the “dozenth” time, I felt a tug at my heart, sort of a feeling that I was leaving sacred ground. Perhaps that’s what “home” is— the place where one processes the sacred stuff that one encounters, often, elsewhere. We’ll see new coastline, make new friends, and we’ll celebrate life, OUR life, Steve’s and mine together. Dad carried a big photo—2 rumpled papers taped together—of Red Pearl in the seat of his rollater, which he would whip out whenever his friends asked where his roving daughter and son-in-law were. He was, if not proud of, at least amused by, our journey; and he encouraged our adventure. So. Here we go, finding our sea legs again, and open to an epiphany. 

We usually rent a car one-way and drive to the boat, because we often have too much kitch to take on a plane. Our aim to tail the storms as they blew through the south was almost successful; as we walked into Unclaimed Baggage in Scotsboro, AL, once again seeking treasure too good to pass up, we were immediately ushered into their basement employee break room, as a tornado had been sited. A short time later we were released, and 2 hours later, we did, in fact, tail those storms. 

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Red Pearl is now in Brunswick, GA. She didn’t magically fly there from Murrell’s Inlet; we sneaked in a quick and hard week of cruising in December to get her to a destination that would definitely NOT be icy in January. The 300-mile cruise reminded us of all the things we love about the journey: elegant dolphins, nosey pelicans, gorgeous sunsets—and sunrises by any description, which we do not see at home. We anchored at night, opting for pristine and solitary scenery and quicker morning starts.

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So. Here we sit awaiting departure. It feels WAY too familiar. We’ve discovered that when you say to a boat yard manager, “Here are the things that we need done on our boat. We’ll be back in a month,” he looks at your list in about 27 days. He does not call with questions about specs or history, or even in time to let you decide whether you want to pay the extra $60 to overnight a part. Everything around the water is just slow. That said, one could be in a worse place—and we have been! Marina-wide docktails at which beer and and wine are provided are every MWF. Last evening we enjoyed a lovely time with friends who we met at Ft. Pierce, Cal and Cheryl Freeburg on No Snow, and friends who we met in Savannah, Sue and Bud Hansen on Odyssey.

We are loaded with fleece, down, and wool socks. Also, swim suits, sandals, and a big bag of limes. Destination: (fingers crossed) Key West. 

Hey, Momma Rock Me…

Sept. 8

So rock me momma like a wagon wheel

Rock me momma any way you feel

Hey, momma rock me

Rock me momma like the wind and the rain

Rock me momma like a south bound train

Hey, momma rock me


July 1, the date which the Looping Adventure was to resume has come and gone, and we are not on the water. Life continues to happen. 

We left Red Pearl at Wacca Wache Marina in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, and celebrated as Steph and Luke married in Boston on May 18 with a small gathering of their community there, and then again with their British community in Ireland on June 1. The couple shared affirmations barefoot and “connected with the earth.” Steve and I are directly behind Stephanie in this photo; her siblings, right of Steph; their kilted Scottish Quaker celebrant to the left of Luke, and Luke’s lovely British mum in the hat—a beautiful cloud of pink was she—and his dad, also in an Irish kilt and cap. Skies were gray….oh yes, the heavens opened and poured their wet blessings during our procession! And Midgies! Ireland’s version of our “no see ums” were thick, and the smokey repellent in the air resulted in the entire congregation smelling like campfire. 

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Steve and I returned to Goshen on June 11 and were promptly confronted with a health emergency with my dad, the result being a diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer. With my being his last and closest family, we delayed our travel plans to settle him back in his retirement community which has been home for 13 years, and initiated Hospice services. A few weeks later, with Dad seeming surprisingly stable, we decided to slip away for 10 days to move the boat up to the Chesapeake, clearing the hurricane belt and positioning her for intermittent and brief cruises during the next months as Dad’s condition might allow. The day before we left, a nurse called to tell me that Dad was having chest pain. The pain quickly abated with nitroglycerin, so Steve and I decided to continue our plan; but as we drove to pick up the rental car the next morning, my phone call located Dad at the nurse’s station—again with chest pain. Dispirited and concerned, we turned around and drove home, and a profound anticlimax clouded the day. In light of these complications, we have decided that cruising is imprudent at this time. Our seasons and our plans feel mixed up with the uncertainties of timing that lie ahead. We read our looping friends’ blogs as they cruise the northern waters with envy and anticipation of the right timing for us. 

TRULY, our desire is to enjoy these days with Dad and to be available when he needs us. What a privilege and life lesson it is to share the journey with this courageous and determined man! As I write, he is filling in for the chaplain of the retirement community while she is away for an entire week, is preparing to lead a book discussion group which he has led for more than a decade, continues to play pool with the guys and weekly bid Euchre with friends, and joins the cloud of witnesses every Sunday at the church in which he experiences Life itself. On September 7 we celebrated Dad’s 93rd birthday with friends from his community. 

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And so Red Pearl sits in South Carolina, precisely inside the hurricane belt. The advent of Hurricane Dorian was most unwelcome news. In no way do I diminish what the people of Bahamas have experienced, folks who are stranded there, whose entire way of life is there, who have been separated from their loved ones, who even watched loved ones drown before their eyes. But our personal property in harm’s way is a boat, and we drove down to prepare her for riding out the hurricane when we saw the storm’s trajectory. On Labor Day, to the dulcet strains from the patio of the marina’s restaurant below us, Rock me momma like the wind and the rain, our minds were on hurricane destruction. We removed the isinglass (the plastic windows) and our brand new upholstery, we made a flip-of-a-coin decision to follow the lead of the locals and leave the Bimini (the canvas roof) in place. (I personally found this to be the best decision for our marriage, as I doubted we would ever get it up again.) Everything else taped and battened down or stowed in the cabin, we left the Myrtle Beach area with mandatory evacuation sirens blaring.

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Our hurricane preparations were serenaded. “Rock me momma like the wind and the rain.”

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It was dusk….and we hit an opossum….and then 20 minutes later—Oh dear Lord—a dog, both just standing dazed in the middle of the road. And now having just had the car in the body shop for small details on her back end, she goes back to the shop for repairs of her front end. 

The end of this saga is that, as Dorian battered its way up the eastern seaboard, South Carolina was spared the worst. Red Pearl is still on top of the water. We feel lucky, indeed.

Wedding Time! Tucking Red Pearl In for Seven Weeks

May 10

Stephanie and Luke are getting married in Boston and Ireland, and so we’re heading home to prepare for the festivities. As I write, we’re tucking Red Pearl in at Murrell’s Inlet, SC, nearly 500 miles short of our original goal for leaving her for 7 weeks while we’re away. According to our insurance company, we are still inside the “hurricane belt,” and they are adamant in requiring that we be north of North Carolina by June 15. Some of you may remember our angst LAST spring, as we strained against this mandate, complicated by the passing of my mom and Steve’s mouth full of sores. The inability to reconcile their requirement with our reality has forced us to research new insurers, layering on additional anxiety as we assess new policies and walk away from the boat without having a decision nailed down. But, one does what one must. 

I’ve said many times along this journey: Sometimes you’re lucky (…other times, not so much). I know it’s not a particularly grammatically brilliant phrase, but it just seems appropriate in so many instances. The short version of the conclusion of our stay in Savannah—and, believe me, you DO want the short version!—is that the work order kept extending. The engine work had concluded, the raw water pump finally was installed, albeit with an unnecessarily tortuous string of tradespeople. But as hull work dragged on, it was discovered that one part had not been ordered and 5 days later for some reason it still was not. Further, the fiberglass man who went to Orlando for the week end to watch his daughter’s 2-minute cheer routine in competition didn’t show on Monday as promised. And having just fixed the raw water pump, the fresh water pump suddenly stopped and had to be replaced. And so we sat in Savannah for an unwelcome two additional weeks, Steve reworking the tide tables time and again, hoping to shove off “any day,” and I embarking on a musical project—something non-boat-y to preserve my waning sanity. We became friends with Loopers Sue and Bud Hanson on Odyssey who had been towed in with both engines ailing, and we cheered one another as we helplessly waited. All said, however, if one HAS to marooned somewhere, Savannah is a beautiful city, and we continued to bike downtown and enjoy the sights and meet other Loopers.

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The highly regarded Savannah College of Art and Design—SCAD—presented its 40th annual sidewalk art show. High school applicants, current students, and alumni contributed to the well-attended festival.

Finally, on Thursday, May 2 at 2:00pm, we departed Savannah and did not look back! We anchored out the next two nights, passing by beautiful coastal towns which we had so looked forward to exploring. Threatening weather forecasts became benign as we cruised, and our moods lifted with wind on our faces and as we gazed down at scenery from the flybridge at beautiful homes, rustic homes, and wild coastlines. The company of dolphins on the water once again conjured up joy for the spontaneous moment. 

 

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Sunset after thunderstorm in Church Creek “on the hook.” (my iPhone photo)
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Sunset after thunderstorm in Church Creek. (Steve’s Nikon photo)

On Saturday, May 4 we caught up with Mike and Brenda, our friends on Velsignet, who had already seen a number of sights in Charleston. With Steve and my having no sightseeing agenda in Charleston, it was just fun to be together again. We had docktails and chatted right through what might have been dinner. On Sunday we attended services at a little Lutheran Church and then went for brunch at Husk, a restaurant which had been recommended to Mike and Brenda by their neighbor in MN whose nephew is the chef. Touted by Bon Appetit as the No. 1 New Restaurant in the US when it opened in 2011, Husk features locally sourced southern cooking; on Sundays, brunchy appetizers and mains are offered, a lovely departure from the gorging-inspired buffet brunch which has become an American fixture. We savored discreet portions of biscuits with chicken gravy, baked cheesy stone-ground grits, an omelette with oyster mushrooms and aromatics, and challah French Toast with macerated berries and whipped ricotta. Mike and Brenda had exotic preparations of quail and corn waffle, and brisket topped with poached eggs. We departed the restaurant, all senses sated. What else to do in historic Charleston on the only afternoon in town? “Shopping!” you say? The guys solved the world’s problems while Brenda and I browsed inviting boutiques. That evening they joined us aboard for a lentil soup and salad supper, and we made plans to meet in Georgetown. 

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The 63-mile cruise to Georgetown was idyllic—the weather was sunny, windy, and temperate, and the wild grasslands invoked memories of the South Carolina coastal scenes in Pat Conroy’s novels of which I am an adoring fan. We traversed one river after another, some narrow and shallow during lower tides, others roaring to life with impressive current. We watched the wildlife in the water (dolphins are nearly constant companions) and flying above, all in seeming constant search of food, and we pondered the extensive ecosystem in which grassy fen sifts and cleanses the waters, and how easily one could become disoriented without GPS keeping constant vigil as to one’s exact location. Lulled into a semi-meditative state, I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity to see and experience this very particular sliver of life. 

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Snippets of the South Carolina wild coastal scene.

 

Arriving in Georgetown in the late afternoon, we enjoyed a soup supper on Mike and Brenda’s boat. A refresher course on Pinochle was so absorbing that we didn’t think of the time until 12:15. Given that we were seeing the sights of a small town the next day, there was no particular need to stick to the Loopers’ normal schedule (“Looper midnight” being 9:30), so we finished the game and dinghied back to our boat at 1:00am. 

The following morning Steve and I toured the Kiminsky House, full of colorful history. Built by a father for his spinster daughter at the ripe old age of 20, the 3-story house required expansion after she married the town sheriff and assumed custody of her 3 nieces and nephew after the death of their parents. 200 years later in the 1940s it became the home for Harold and Julia Kaminski, both from prominent families and the subject of scandal, he being 20-some years her senior and Jewish, she being Protestant. The couple eloped and then embarked on extensive world travels, collecting beautiful furnishings for their home. The community must have accepted them at some point, for Harold was elected mayor, and the couple entertained in style, easily seating 24 at their dining room table. Having no heirs, Julia left the entire estate to the town of Georgetown, including a stunning 13-diamond brooch which was her signature piece of jewelry. 

After lunch with Mike and Brenda, we all toured the Rice Museum. Production of rice and indigo yielded the amassing of enormous wealth in this county in the 18th-19th centuries. The many swamps and low-lying areas along with a West African labor force made the cultivation of rice highly profitable. Enslaved laborers cleared the cypress swamps and and flooded the rice fields from the rivers by digging canals, ditches or floodgates, a process which required knowledge, engineering and technical skills, which, ironically,  were provided by the enslaved West Africans, who were experienced rice farmers.  By 1840 Georgetown produced nearly half of the total rice crop of the US, exported more rice than any port in the world, and “Carolina Gold” was in demand worldwide. Enslaved rice plantation workers provided their owners the highest per capita income in the American colonies and they continued to earn huge profits up to the Civil War. That the cultivation of this labor-intensive crop became unaffordable with paid labor after the Civil War was predictable, and the final demise  occurred as rice production was mechanized and the soft South Carolina soil would not support the heavy machinery.  The area finally found economic stability again in the early 20th century through the production of clear yellow pine, and the sweet town continues to bob and weave through market trends. Docktails were on our boat, and our third game of pinochle failed to determine whether Steve and Brenda or Mike and I were the better team. 😉 We called it a day on Looper schedule, as we were all cruising the following day. Good-byes were sad, as we won’t be able to catch them on the remainder of their Loop after this break from cruising, but we have tentative plans to reconnect next winter in Florida! 

We left Georgetown Harborwalk Marina for our final cruise for a good while, a delightful 20-miles. Here, too, at Murrell’s Inlet, we are meeting with service folk— a diver to check our propellers, because we hit something on the Wacamaw River on Monday, resulting in a slight vibration; and a canvas craftsmen to quote snap-on exterior Sunbrella window covers. The window covers that came with the boat are worn and mismatched, and a good set will provide privacy, allowing us to get rid of the 3 beige curtains-on-a-bungee, which fail miserably in the aesthetics department.

I have kicked myself for my indecision about things that needed freshening up on 13-year-old Red Pearl, as our current mode of renovating along the journey is stressful and inefficient. And then I remind myself that the path of discovery is not always straight. Every Looper reads the books by Captain John Wright, who has 7 loops under his belt, proudly claims to have never paid more than $30,000 for a boat, and recommends that Loopers think of their boat as transportation, rather than a home. Steve thought this made sense; I had my doubts but, noting that I feel no need to decorate my car, agreed to give the concept a “go.”  “Go” having been given, I’ve discovered that the boat is NOT just transportation; we invite friends aboard, host docktails and simple suppers, and we have spent a LOT of time at port. As we anticipate another 1 1/2 years to complete the Loop, we have decided to embark on a few additional improvements, and 7 weeks should be enough for window covers without causing further delays….right? 🥺

So now we’re off to Indiana, Boston, Ireland, and Minneapolis! The Looping adventure will resume July 1.

The Sights of Savannah

April 9, 2019

We arrived in Savannah and were delighted to learn that Velsignet was only a few hours behind us. Mike and Brenda are heading home, too, and are tucking their boat in at a different marina. But in the few days between, they decided to dock and see the sights of Savannah from Thunderbolt, where we were. We were moved to the “basin,” which is a part of the “yard,” adjacent to but separate from the marina, due to the work for which we are scheduled. I did laundry and we made good use of our down time. When Mike and Brenda arrived, we had docktails (often we drink water!) and shared travel stories. We decided to explore the Bonaventure Cemetery via bike, just a few miles from the marina, famous for its beauty and famous “residents.” We located the grave site of  Johnny Mercer of “Moon River” fame and a Jewish section and Holocaust memorial. Then, it still being early, we decided to continue down to the river district downtown. Historic Savannah is laid out in squares, each similar yet inhabiting its own personality. Twenty-two of the original 24 from the English design still exist, spaced 2 blocks apart each way, and serve as green space for the residences and quiet businesses which face it. The profusion of Spanish moss draped Live Oaks add stately elegance and shade everywhere and just beg one to slow down. Bright red camellias dot the landscape and fill in less expansively than the earlier-blooming azaleas did a couple of weeks ago. Down by the river is a touristy area, but a wizened local directed us to Spanky’s for supper. It was precisely what we were looking for—a local dive at which almost everything on the menu was deep fried! The claim to fame was “the original” chicken fingers; of course, we asked our server what that really meant, and he didn’t know, but enthusiastically endorsed them as delicious. They were. We stopped on the way home at Tubby’s Sports Bar and watched sadly as the Notre Dame women got bested by one point in the NCAA final tournament game. 

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Final resting place of Johnny Mercer, song-writer extraordinaire, in beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery.: Think “Moon River,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Days of Wine and Roses.”

The following day held a succession of delightfully lucky touring serendipities. Before setting off for town, I was disappointed to find that no tickets were available for the most popular historic house tour, but as we wandered around town, we happened upon the Owens-Thomas house and decided just to see if there might be tickets—and there were 4, giving us 45 minutes to preview the videos and history. It was an interesting peek into an urban home run by enslaved people. Built by a cotton plantation owner and slave trader in 1819 and utilizing the youthful cutting edge skills of architect William Jay, the family lost prosperity and was struck by a yellow fever epidemic and sold the house only 3 years later. For several years it served as a boarding house, one guest being the wildly popular Marquis de Lafayette who gave a speech from the balcony of his room. Finally the house was purchased at auction by the William Owens, planter, lawyer, and politician (mayor of Savannah and Congressman) and his wife in 1830 for $10,000. Its English Regency architectural style demanded symmetry which sometimes compromised functionally; and faux finishes were the fashion, begging the question, “Why would  you want real marble baseboards (wrought iron banisters, walnut doors, etc.) when you can pay so much more to have fake ones?” The docent always referred to “enslaved people” rather than “slaves” and “owners of enslaved people” rather than “masters,” and raised the uncomfortable reality that the Owens’ beautiful lifestyle was dependent upon their 400 enslaved workers, on these workers’ lack of personal time and space, on the conflicting messages of genuine fondness and stern control that even their most trusted house workers endured. After the tour, we rode around the famous Forsyth Park and then were able to snag a reservation for early dinner at The Olde Pink House. As we approached the restaurant we gave pause at the sight— the place was swarming with cameras and news media and the line awaiting entry wound down the steps and around the block. What dumb luck!—This was their grand reopening 102 days after a big kitchen fire! The staff was in top form and, despite our showing up with bike helmet hair, we had a lovely, memorable dinner. Thunder storms greeted us as we left the Pink House, making the 6-mile ride back to our boats memorable, too, and warm showers back at the marina felt even better than usual. To cap off our lucky day, we utilized our access to a lovely captain’s lounge, as guests of the boat YARD, rather than the marina. What a great spot to watch the finals of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament with our popcorn and snacks—a great end to a really fun day. 

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The insistence of symmetry called for an indoor bridge across the stairwell upstairs!

 

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An example of the extreme symmetry of the Regency style: the panel under the stairs on the right is a false door to complement the functional one on the left. The columns are faux marble, the handrail and balusters are faux wrought iron—the fashion of the day found the “real deal” too ordinary.
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The formal dining room shows forward-looking design elements and offers a good look at the faux marble baseboards—pine with a fancy paint job—which appear throughout the house.
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The scullery in the cellar.
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Forsyth Park with our Velsignet buddies Mike and Brenda

After a day of fielding questions from boat service providers and preparing to leave the boat for a week, we flew home for a packed four days with Steph and Luke in Goshen, attending to wedding planning, visiting my dad, celebrating Mom Hollenberg’s 90th birthday at Pokagon State Park, a venue which has been meaningful to the Hollenberg family for many years.

We returned to the boat 6 days later, expecting progress to have been made on the work orders. As it turns out, our return was MUCH earlier than necessary, as we found the sweet engine mechanic just getting a start on the 3-day 1000-hour maintenance routine. This was not what we thought we had scheduled! But, not to worry—some other pieces and parts are delayed, too, which means we have another week to explore Savannah.

😏🙃😏🙃

On Thursday, Steve and I took off on our bikes again for downtown to have lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, rated the 5th best restaurant in Savannah by Trip Advisor. The 90-minute wait on the sidewalk raised questions as to its worth, but it turned out to be a fun experience. We were seated at tables of 10, already set with platters of meat and side dishes and sweet tea all around. Fried chicken, chicken and noodles, meatloaf, barbecued pork, sausage and rice, green beans, butter beans, creamed corn, squash, rutabagas, macaroni salad, potato salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, white rice, candied sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, collards, macaroni and cheese, biscuits and corn bread, cucumbers, cabbage, and baked beans—all one could eat—were then topped off with a choice of peach cobbler or banana pudding. Mrs. Wilkes’ grand daughter Shirley introduced herself and made certain that we were pleased with our experience, and as I thanked her after the meal, she apologized for our wait. Steve and I were grateful that between us we had cash enough to cover the meal, as no credit cards were accepted and we overheard other guests comment on how many blocks it was to the nearest ATM. From there we rode to Forsyth Park again to sate our need for beautiful green space. Bordering the park is a magnificent spreading Live Oak named the Candler, a 300-year-old tree with 110-foot width. We read a placard about the activities that have surrounded that tree through the years: a poor house and hospital, orchards and cattle, prisoners of war. Due to its declining health, in 1985 the Candler Oak’s easement was donated to the Savannah Tree Foundation, and with restorative treatment it has rebounded and is expected to continue thriving for many years. We admire the value that the community obviously holds for these botanical treasures. En route back to the boat, we met our friends on The Journey, Dale and Merna Hartwig, who we met at Dog River in Mobile and subsequently crossed the gulf with. We celebrated their crossing their wake that day (meaning that they completed their 6000 mile Loop) and we had such a good time hearing about their experiences and learning what they have planned for their next chapter. Ah, one just never knows what the day will bring! 

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The remarkable line for lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room. We waited 1 1/2 hours.
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A foodie photo shoot at Mrs. Wilkes’.  It didn’t matter that we had never met these folks—we came to eat! Everyone tucked into their plates, and Steve “tried to eat fast so he wouldn’t feel full” but paid for it with discomfort afterward.

The following days blur together, colored by our yearning to get back on the water, our desire not to squander the opportunities in Savannah, and an acquiescence to the situation holding us here. Friday (Good Friday) was dark, stormy, and cold with a tornado warning. Saturday we enjoyed a bike ride and checked out the Earth Day festivities at Daffin Park. We marked Easter Sunday by pumping out our holding tank 😜 and making a big breakfast of cheesy grits, fried eggs, and Pillsbury orange rolls. Not at the same time!

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Earth Day Celebration at Daffin Park
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Easter Breakfast: Cheesy grits, Fried egg, and Pillsbury orange rolls —the latter, more nostalgic than delicious.

Our attempt to ride to the Wormsloe Historic Site on Easter was thwarted by the realization that roads were too narrow and traffic too fast for us to conjure up a mythology of safety. We visited via courtesy car the following day, enjoying the famous 1.5 mile Live Oak Avenue and learning about the founding of Savannah as a colony, barring land ownership, slavery, and spirits. The resulting lifestyle proved too rigorous, the community failing to thrive; it thrived finally—and sadly—after reversing all three of these ethical touchstones and embracing the norms of the time. Wormsloe is a tabby ruins of a fortified house built over 6 years in the mid-18th century by Noble Jones, who was an English settler. He was loyal to the crown; his son Noble W. Jones was a patriot and attendee of the Second Continental Congress. The family story is interesting, and a lovely historic house stands sheltered behind fences and mature landscaping on the grounds, home still to Noble Jones’ descendants.

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Wormsloe Live Oak avenue, planted about 125 years ago.

Last evening we were delighted to have dinner with Mike and Brenda, just back from MN and also raring to go. As we continue waiting for a new raw water pump, still awaiting some hull work, I am signing off on the Savannah chapter. Maybe closing it will bring closure to the work order, as well! We’re hoping to be back on the water tomorrow—fingers crossed!

Destination Savannah: Amelia Island and Anchorages Thereafter

April 3

We had planned to spend one more beautiful day in St. Augustine, but the touristy bits had soured us a bit, and with an eye on the weather, we decided to make a run for our next destination. Amelia Island Marina is not a happenin’ place, but it was a good spot to wait out another couple days of rain and high wind. During the first 24 hours Steve made multiple rounds, readjusting lines and fenders to better secure the boat in the high wind, and I stuck my nose out once to retrieve cheese from the cooler on the flybridge: it was that sort of day. Getting low on provisions, I was rather proud of the dinner that scrounging produced—chicken roasted with onions, garlic, green olives, lemon slices, and olive oil with a side of maple-glazed carrots. The next day we took the courtesy car and provisioned! But first we drove to the historic district of Fernandina Beach—a couple blocks adjacent to a state park—which includes the Pippi Longstocking House. Pippi Longstocking, is not a real person, of course, but it IS a real movie (“The New Adventures of…”), and this was the 1987 set, a colorful Victorian home with a copper-roofed cupola and mature gardens—charming!  Dinner was take-out Sushi…. And that was Fernandina Beach! 

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Pippi Longstocking House in Fernandina Beach

A lot of angst, primarily on Steve’s part, went into planning the next leg of our journey, because the tidal range is 6-7 feet. We don’t have tides in the Great Lakes and the Caribbean, so this is a whole new wrinkle in boating for us. We had made a reservation at a marina before reading the recommendation for matching wind and tidal current when crossing the potentially choppy seas of St. Andrews Sound, and a rising tide to pass the shallow water by Jekyll Island, both impossible with our itinerary! After gleaning some local knowledge, we scrapped the original plan and decided to anchor just south of these areas, staging our approach the following morning at high tide. Having now left Florida and entering Georgia, we felt lucky to find ourselves that afternoon in Terrapin Cove, a lovely spot with a few other boats and that our dear friends Mike and Brenda Finkenbinder finally caught up with us! They cruised 80 miles to get there and “rafted up” to Red Pearl, avoiding their need for anchoring and offering easy access for socializing. After docktails on the flybridge, we shared Instant Pot vegetable beef soup which I had made that morning and spinach salad and killer brownies which Brenda whipped up. We had so much to catch up on since our escape together to New Orleans in January! The night was windy and roll-y, the 10 fenders between our boats creaked and groaned, and none of us slept much as a result, but it was so worth it!

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Some of Georgia’s wild coastal landscapes.
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There’s lots of homework and planning on this trip. Steve has two of our favorite resources on his left; the clip board keeps a list of the day’s challenges, such as bridges under 17’ clearance that require our hailing the operator or shallow water that requires special awareness; he writes in a daily log (under the clip board) when we travel—He keeps record of boaty things, I keep record of the sights; he is researching a number of things using technology—marina selection, distances, wind, currents, and tides, or he may be setting waypoints to chart our course for the following day. The seat next to him is littered with more reference books.
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Mike and Brenda Finkenbinder approach on Velsignet.
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We rafted with Velsignet for the night. Our anchor held both boats.
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Sunrise on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

The next morning after shared coffee time, we headed off, they for a day of cycling on Jekyll Island, and we to a further destination. (We all are flying out of Savannah next week to our respective homes, but we have service work scheduled and need to be there earlier than they do.) It was a beautiful cruise along the Georgia coastline, wild, desolate, and swampy. Rain was in the forecast for nearly the whole day, and so we felt lucky to have a merely overcast day. We delighted in nature’s gifts: a sea turtle ducked beneath the surface just ahead; dolphins dipped in and out, at one point six playing in our wake; elegant terns stalled in midair, dive bombed and speared fish with sharp beaks; bald eagles and ospreys swooped for their prey and carried them off in their talons; black cormorants ducked underwater and emerged, barely able to fly with feathers water-laden and hung their wings out to dry perched atop a piling; and pelicans patiently awaited handouts from fishermen. We anchored at Fridaycap Creek seemingly early, around 1:00 to take advantage of the next morning’s high tide to again avoid risk of running aground. We puttered and napped and soaked in the beauty of our bucolic spot.

On Friday this is Steve’s Log entry: 

Rain all day was forecasted but we didn’t see a drop! Ended being a lovely cruising day. We got out the “foulies” for nothing! Our passage for the day included: Buttermilk Sound, Altamaha Sound, the very shallow Little Mud River (was fine at high tide), Darien River, North River, Dolby Sound, Old Teakettle Creek, Crescent River, Front River, Sapelo River and Sound, Brunson Creek, Johnson Creek, N. Newport River, Medway River, and St. Catherine Sound, and finally to Sunbury Channel—all in only 50 miles! Sunbury Marina is very small, not very busy, but floating docks are excellent and staff is very accommodating. Nothing here except the restaurant which was excellent. The seven-mile side trip to visit here was worth it!

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Sunburn Crab Company is rated one of Georgia’s Top Ten Dives. We had a great dinner and were charmed by the folks here.

Our final day approaching Savannah found us focused on getting through the infamous Hell Gate at high tide, 10:15, requiring a departure at 7:15 to make that happen. I’ve been fighting a cold, the kind that makes you feel like your eyes are buried 2 inches into your skull, so was not very receptive to Steve’s wanting to experiment with springing off the dock or to his questioning my clove hitch while doing said experiment. I finally just went back to bed, foul weather bibs and all, and left Steve to his meditations on Hell Gate. I emerged from my nap feeling more human, and we weathered a bit a rain, which sent us down into the salon where we could stay dry, but later we returned to the fly bridge.  After tying up at Thunderbolt Marina, we enjoyed docktails with Gold Loopers Jill and Richard Spurlock on Jill Kristy, a 26-foot McGregor (sailboat) and Bruce and Bev on Daytripper! They had a lot of tips and stories, and we admired their spunk. Thunderbolt Marina will be the home for Red Pearl during scheduled maintenance and as we fly home to Indiana for Mom Hollenberg’s birthday bash. Savannah’s elegance and history make it a high point for many Loopers, and we are excited to have arrived here.