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The Two Captains


Back in the USA - Part II
8 October 2001 - New England

In the weeks following the September 11th attacks, President Bush repeatedly urged Americans to return to their normal activities, to not let terrorism paralyze us. So, bit by bit, we two captains resumed enthusiasm for moving on. Our itinerary was already comprised of touching bases with family and friends normally so far away, and, if anything, current events made that more poignant.

Our first week east, spent at my sister Cecily's NW of Boston, was the adjustment week, beginning the process of pulling ourselves away from the television news. We didn't actually pull away too far: about ten feet north into her great home office to order obscure parts for the boat by phone and Internet, about ten feet south and down to her kitchen to cook and eat a bunch of our favorite foods -- like lamb, swordfish, and a veritable medley of American summer vegetables, in particular fresh corn, and even fresh lima beans (it takes a lot of shelled pods to produce a meal's worth of limas!) -- and out the front door for regular walks around the complex. Our big outing was a day trip to Salem's Peabody Museum for the special exhibit on China's Forbidden City. With rumors flying about possible terrorism in Boston over the weekend, we picked up our rental car a day early on Friday. So much for our bravery. Of course nothing happened.

Next stop was Middletown Springs, Vermont a tiny village SW of Rutland. There my cousin Patty and her husband Doyle have been building their dream house on a spectacular piece of property way out along a dirt road where nary a house mars the mountain view, an albino deer regularly grazes the field, and coyote song stirs the nights. Two years ago we visited, and Don helped Doyle put on the foundation sill. At that time we mentioned we be back in about two years to see it done. You'd think that'd be enough notice to get our room ready. Not so. Instead, Don was put back to work on the one really nice day we had there helping to lay "Bitchithane." I haven't a clue if it's really called that, or if that's just a name coined by the people trying to stick it down neatly on rooftops in a breeze.


Other than the fact that it's not ready to be inhabited, the house is fantastic, even without considering that it largely the product of one man's energies, imagination and skill. Oh, I'm sure Patty has her input, but she has been increasingly distracted during the past year by her increasingly successful second-hand and antiquarian book business -- Hermit Hill Books. In August, she made a big move to new quarters in the charming college town of Poultney. It's a great space, and what could be more diverting than shelves and shelves of delightful books. While Don played with Doyle, I provided window dressing for the store, perched in Hermit Hill's trademark wing chair devouring books as diverse as "The Art of Mola Making", recipes from a Japanese cookbook, travel essays by Bruce Chatwin, and best of all Farley Mowatt's "The Boat that Wouldn't Float" (available in first edition hardcover from Hermit Hill or in paperpack from Barnes & Noble.-a must-read for cruisers!)

Don and I broke away from all this excitement for a day trip down memory lane. In every previous trip to Vermont I decided not to bother with trying to show Don where I grew up. But in our weeks in Indiana, he'd taken me to see his grandparents' farm and for the first time I was able to set the many tales of his childhood in context. So this time the time seemed right and we drove south to Bennington and Williamstown (MA) and not only visited every house I'd ever lived in, but the house Patty had grown up in too. Nostalgia doesn't always deliver. My family's house looked a little worse for wear after years as a nursing home, and many of my favorite hardwood climbing tress had come down in windstorm. On the other hand the good news was that a family who have great plans for its refit had recently purchased it. We even made a stop by the McMahon's house. The McMahons were a family of horse people (four daughters), who kindly took the city kid in the next door rental and put her in the saddle of her dreams. The McMahons didn't just have horses. The McMahons rode vigorously every afternoon, en famile, up into trails behind suburban neighborhoods that few others ventured into. Now that area is a park for hikers managed by Williams College.

Nostalgia Part II was hosted by my cousin Carol, Patty's sister, who had their whole side of the clan to a fabulous dinner party of a scale one doesn't see often. Recently graduated from culinary school, Carol gave us a mouthwatering four-course meal, that she somehow made appear easy. My cousins are pretty interesting folk. David is the business manager of a circus for kids, his son Ben is active in community theatre, and Rachel is still designing whatever needs to be designed from theater costumes to wedding gowns. My eighty-some year old Aunt Jo is still driving herself to such late night mountain top festivities, albeit without my Uncle John, with whom we'd had a lovely visit earlier at Woodstock's homey Merton House

Although the weather could have restrained itself from the cold gloomy snap it indulged in that week, (Patty and I only got in one hike through the autumn woods), all this was a great antidote for the two captains, for no one, it seems, has television. I mean, they may OWN one, but they don't seem to turn them on. News is gleaned from the hallowed tones of NPR. Instead people attend things like Historical Society Potlucks. Since Patty and Doyle couldn't put us up, they arranged for us to stay with their friend Nan in town. Nan's house is one of those special places where people come and go, and spontaneous potlucks of twenty or more people spring up on an afternoon's notice. Don and I could really be tempted by Vermont, if they could just figure out how to heat the place!

From Middletown Springs we moved upstate to my sister Jo's in South Burlington. Although two hours north, the climate was milder, partly a function of the weather patterns but partly the tempering effect of Lake Champlain. There is no view in the world finer than the one from my sister's house across the lake to the Adirondacks. Sunsets are long and layered. Reflected sunrises can be so bright you feel like you can make out individual trees miles and miles away in New York State. There is the comforting sight of sailboats under sail during the day, and waking up to catch the full moon setting while lying abed is matchless.

My sister Jo is an active person, and despite the delights out her own back window, there's little sitting around scheduled into the day. She is also a dedicated Vermont guide, and, somewhat affronted at the suggestion that this year's color show seemed a bit muted (it did in fact seems to be about a week behind what we'd seen to the south), Jo took it as a personal challenge to find for us all hidden pockets of red and orange lurking on back roads and out-of-the-way valleys.

A highlight of this search was our participation in the regular Wednesday morning hike of the Mountain Mamas. These women, who, if they will forgive me, are none of them youngsters, meet at the Stephensville parking area on the west face of Mt. Mansfield and depending on the mood of the day choose among the half dozen or so hikes that start there. The mood of the day the Two Captains were along should have been K.I.S.S., but given a morning of exceptional weather the gals couldn't resist showing us their finest. Their finest were three trails linked together -up "Frost," across "the Rock Garden" and down "Butler", which Jo eventually admitted was one of their hardest combinations. The Mamas were terrific sports, waiting patiently as the two sea level-types chugged up like the little engine that might, huffing and puffing the whole way. But what a WAY! As the steep trail broke clear of the woods, it scarpered over bald rock expanses affording 180° views that were awesome! It was definitely the hardest hike we have yet done, but by golly, I think Jo Mama was proud of us.

Actually, it was on this same mountain, three years ago, that Don and I got our start as hikers, and it was Jo that was the catalyst. She drove us up the toll road on the Stowe side of Mansfield and led us on an "easy" scramble along the ridge running from old man Mansfield's "nose" to his "chin". A Sunday stroll for her, it was nearly mountain climbing for us. But it was yet another crystal day, and as inspiration, painful though it was, it could hardly be beat. As novice as we are compared to the Mountain Mamas, hiking has since been an important part of our cruising experience

Well… Jo inadvertently played the role of catalyst once again. It started out innocently enough with a jaunt to an evening gallery opening. The gallery was way out in the country - on a road with especially intense foliage - and the show presented the work of a half dozen artists, in particular the work of Jo's good friend and fellow traveler Dianne Shullenberger. Dianne, the gallery owner, does impressionistic nature scenes in colored pencil on sandpaper as well as in fiber and cloth. Had we had a house with walls I could easily have filled them with her images.

In the center of the gallery was a display of the jewelry designs by a man named Bill Butler. Most of the pieces were inspired by water in some way, and Don was taken in particular by ring tagged "Water Cycle." The design, once featured in an issue of National Geographic, captures the sun, the moon, the forces they exert, waves, and spray in their never-ending cycle. Now, if there has been a recurring theme of this trip to the United States, it has been commitment, and there are lots of folks we've seen along the way who may feel that they have helped precipitate such a step for us. However, the water cycle ring was the very kind of special token Don had been on the watch for some time.

So, on Saturday, October 6, 2001, the 2Cs and sister Jo drove back to the gallery and collected a size 6 3/4 Water Cycle ring, which Don put on my finger then and there, thus making "the next step" official. Don's size 13 ½ will come sometime later…as Don says, "after Bill finds enough gold to make it."

(NOTE: We tried to make a macro photo and/or a video of the ring with the digital camera, but it didn't come out. Will try again with fresh batteries!)

Now, don't everybody go and get all gushy on us. What we have with the giving of this ring is what we have already had between us for some time. We have no idea yet where or when any final ceremony will be, whether it will be something family and friends can get to, or whether it will be Don's dreamed-of ceremony on some South Pacific island deserted but for the officiating chief. Who knows … maybe we'll just stay "engaged" indefinitely?

October 15, 2001 - Ft. Lauderdale

The Two Captains flew from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale on Tuesday October 9, and although we made it safely, we did get to witness the new age of flying firsthand. It would have been a good day to buy a lottery ticket, because our number sure was up.

After standing patiently in line at Delta for a half hour, we found out we were in the wrong line for Delta Express. After standing in THAT line for a half hour, we got to the counter only to be politely notified we'd been picked for the random luggage search. This meant we got to roll our four huge bags to a screened area where a lucky security gal got to finger our exotic belongings one by one, methodically undoing Don's very careful packing job. We were all good sports, and I'm sure it was much more interesting for her as she fingered such unusual pieces as our three repaired GPSs, the repaired tillerpilot, a hard drive, scuba inflators, dive computers, etc. The carry-on pass-through x-ray was anticlimactic after that, and we settled down to wait the remaining hour and a half to our flight. When the plane finally started to board, they did it as usual by sections. Ours was the last section to board and we stepped up only to have our carry-on bags searched yet again! Don, in whose bag was our new Nightscope, ended up being the last person to come aboard the plane.

Please, God, our number doesn't come up quite so readily with American Airlines to Costa Rica tomorrow. I don't begrudge them the doing of it at all, I just hope we don't have to be the marks. People look at you funny!

Ft. Lauderdale has been a delight. We are staying at the very same facility where I stayed prior to buying Whisper, and where, in fact, I docked Whisper my first five weeks of ownership. We were astounded to open our room and discover we had a full-fledged one-bedroom apartment to wallow in.

We've had a very busy and productive time. First on the list were those last remaining boat 'tings we couldn't return without. Second, were doctors appointments: a full physical for Don and follow-up to my Feb visit for me. Don got a very thorough Doctor, who convinced us to finish out our immunizations cards with typhoid and meningitis. We are invulnerable now.

We also have been pretty busy socially. On Wednesday our friend and fellow charter Captain Dave Kummerle of Glory of Christiansted, passed through for a night on our couch before flying back to the VI. Dave was the last friend we saw when we sailed out of the Virgins in June 1999! It was a fun visit. Friday night, young Captain Adam, who has made three legs with us cruising, drove down from St. Augustine with his new fiance Ilinke. (A lot of this going around!) Although we will most likely miss their April wedding, Ilinke appeared to be giving serious consideration to the idea of spending their honeymoon with us in Baja!

Saturday afternoon we ventured away from the pool for a tour of Ft. Lauderdale by water. Our original plan was to take a tour boat, but we were saved from that fate by a wise old water taxi drive who dropped the three captains and Ilinke off at a boat rental spot. Barely ten minutes later we four were underway in our very own little runabout, and we passed a delightful afternoon running up and down the canals of Ft. Lauderdale checking out the slips and back yards of some very prime real estate. In the process we encountered six CSYs and three other former charter boats we knew from the Virgins (all for sale!). With the big Ft. Lauderdale boat show only two weeks away, boat brokers are readying all their prospects. One such prospect we checked out is an Atlantis-type yellow submarine, which, along with its tender and a 40-passenger catamaran, can be scooped up for about $4 million!

The visitors are gone and the bags have yet to be packed one more time. Tuesday we drive to Miami, turn in our car, load up all the stuff and fly back to San Jose. The next morning we'll do our best to catch the 7am bus, and six hours later we will at last be back aboard TII. We'll be very glad to get there.


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Published at Burlington, VT