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The Two Captains


Back in the USA - Part I
20 September 2001

This is one of the most difficult Updates I have ever composed. How do you write about your cheerful doings in the shadow of the colossal wound that our country received last week? How do we link "Before September 11" to "After September 11"?

Like everyone in the country we have witnessed the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon over and over from the moment the second American Airlines jet hit its mark. We have watched the towers dissolve downwards in the smoke, seen the firemen weeping at Ground Zero, heard the sobbing hopes of the survivors of those lost, put ourselves mentally in the places of those on the highjacked airliners. We have heard our leaders talk of war.

We have also witnessed the miraculous testimonies of the thousands who got out. We have seen the flag hanging from the Pentagon, just as we have seen the rebirth of patriotism in the sprouting of flags everywhere. We have worn red, white and blue and we have lit candles and said prayers. We have even flown on American Airlines four days "after" in the course of which we encountered only determined optimism by airline employees and an amazing phenomenon of connectivity among fellow travelers. Life will and must go forward.

Where were we September 11th? We were in Morristown, Indiana in the Wilson family room with coffee cups in hand and the blithely ignorant morning newspaper spread out around us. It was a long way from the cockpit of a sailboat in some remote anchorage in Central America. That we were in the US for this event has given us pause. How would we have felt several thousand miles from home and loved ones? If we had not been in the US, we would not have seen those towers fall. We would have heard about it eventually over the crackling grapevine of radio, but we would not have been able to pick up the telephone and determine instantly that all our family was safe.

It has made us ask ourselves: is what we are doing frivolous? Does it only amount to having a good time in a different place every day? That may be how it looks in the Updates sometimes.

But the answer is, No, it is not frivolous. We have been traveling now for two and a half years. In the course of that time we have visited fourteen countries. With each stop, our personal capacities have grown. By this I mean that we learn more and more about the world and ourselves, as wells as ourselves in the world, which is not the same. We are speaking a new language, not just literally but figuratively. We see how other peoples live, and how great the distance between their expectations and those of a typical American. We have seen that others do not see us the way we see ourselves. Perspective is an important achievement.

The nefarious events of September 11 cannot totally eclipse all the enjoyment of visiting family and friends we've had this past month. Here's a quick summary of what we've been up to since the last Update:

Just before leaving Golfito, we had a surprise birthday party for Don at the Banana Bay Marina restaurant. Our group of yachties was joined by several crewmembers, including the captain and XO, of the USCGC Narwhal, a new patrol boat that they were delivering from Louisiana to San Diego, California. The "Coasties" had never experienced the warmth of a cruiser gathering such as ours, and they have written us several times that their inclusion was one of the highlights of their voyage. Too often cruisers think of the Coast Guard as a militarily distant "THEM." The opposite is probably just as true. It was really something to talk with these young men, whose everyday courage runs between boarding vessels full of illegal aliens outnumbering them 20-1 and making scary rescues at sea. (The USCGC Narwhal salutes their cruising friends in a farewell pass in front of Banana Bay Marina in Golfito, Costa Rica.)

Our six-hour bus trip to San Jose and connecting flights to LA via Miami went like clockwork, and we enjoyed a wonderful week with Tiffany and Derek. Tiff kept us busy with daily walks on the beaches of Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu, punctuated with hikes into California's coastal mountains and canyons, including a trek through the old set of M*A*S*H*. (Don with Tiffany and Derek at the old M*A*S*H 4077th site. Can't you just hear the theme song?) We even fit in a daysail with their friends Terry Sue and Michael in their Catalina 25 out of Laguna Niguel. There was plenty of time to just talk together, and, coupled with all the great food opportunities (the best of which came out of Tiffer's own kitchen), it was a perfectly balanced visit!

The marquee event of our travels was, of course, the wedding of Judy Knape to Bryan Lane. Many of you all know Judy - my friend, chef and co captain on Whisper. It took place on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, on the shores of Lake Michigan in perfect weather. The theme, of course, was tropical islands, and Judy did a superb job of transporting the atmosphere north. It was only strengthened for us by the presence of many old friends from St. Thomas, including some of our favorite charter guests, not to mention deck-stomping music by well-known VI pirate Michael Beans. It was a very moving occasion as Judy, a long time determined bachelorette, made this most important of commitments. (Judy Knape & Bryan Lane, of VI Charteryacht Ursa Minor: www.sailursaminor.com). (The Two Captains in their finery.)

On our way home, we stopped at Memorial Elementary School in Valparaiso, Indiana to check on whether "Little Brother" had recovered from his adventures with us in Panama. (See Update #53.) Dr. Wilson was wearing a fish tie to greet us and a section of the principal's office wall had been cleared to display his vacation photographs, due back the next day. In exchange, we found ourselves asked to speak to two fourth grade classes the next morning on "Life Skills" as they apply to our life on a cruising sailboat. Life Skills - specifically Curiosity, Initiative, Organization, Flexibility, Patience, Common Sense, Perseverance, Responsibility, Problem Solving, Cooperation, Effort, Courage, Pride, Friendship, Caring, Sense of Humor, and Integrity - are foundation themes for education at Memorial Elementary. Wow! Who knew our lifestyle was so in tune! The kids were great, attentive and asking good questions. Dr. Wilson should be very proud of his work.

In Indy, we made the most of our time to visit with all the family as well as important friends. Don's Mom put on a great BBQ for all the nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews, we checked in with the cousins at Aunt Margaret's, and of course we didn't miss fried chicken night at he Bluebird. Our much-looked-forward-to Jimmy Buffet concert, was, of course, cancelled.

With our brave flight to Boston (we were very glad to see those blue runway lights rise up to meet our descent!), we begin the second half of our Stateside travels, including Massachusetts and Vermont, before a week in Ft. Lauderdale for boat parts.

I'd like to close with a few words about these Updates. I know not everybody reads everything. It is tough writing something that I know so many different people look at with different eyes. Our families want mostly to know where we are and that we're safe. Some people want to hear about the cultures of where we've been, while others are keenly curious about the naturalist stuff, birds, animals, fish how the dives were and/or what fish we've caught. Old friends want to stay linked to the divergent branches of the cruiser community and our doings, and a few folks really want to know what's working on the boat and what's not. Others just want to ride along in their dreams.

Then there are the two captains. We want to keep track of it all, and we need to keep track of it in a way that it relives when we read it. At best, it will be something we may be able to synthesize into a book; at least, it will be something for those days on the porch of the retirement home! Add it all up and it gets pretty lengthy! Just remember, there's no test!


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