DAY OF THE MONARCHS – Marilyn Armstrong

We named our little sailboat Gwaihir, the wind lord. Really, she was a wind lady and the name was a bit pretentious for such a tiny boat. Somehow, I thought it would be a lucky name. She was a 16-foot Soling with a centerboard. She drew a mere 16-inches with the board up. I used to tell people Gwaihir could sail on a wet hankie and I believed she could.

Soling Drawiing

She was a surprisingly stable craft. We carried a 5 HP outboard motor so when tide and wind were against us, we could still get home. In the old days, sailboats had to drop anchor and wait for one or both to shift. Today, we have to get home for dinner … so we have outboards.

When my husband had the time and felt particularly frisky, we took Gwaihir out through Sloop Channel and Jones inlet into the ocean.

Even a 3-foot roller looks big when you are on the deck of such a small sloop. My then-husband was a madman on the water. He would sail through thunder squalls because he liked the challenge. His father had been equally insane, so I guess he came by it honestly.

Mostly, I piloted her through the salt marshes and canals off Long Island. She was perfect for shallow water sailing. We could sail through nesting plovers, herons, and ducks, silent except for the soft flapping of the jib. The birds were undisturbed by our passage and went about their business, white sails wing-like in the breeze.

One bright day with a warm sun lighting the water and the sky blue as a robin’s egg, I anchored on the edge of a shallow, reedy marsh. I drifted off to sleep as I watched little puffy clouds scoot across the sky.

MonarchButterflies_20090910

I awoke a while later and our white sail was covered with thousands of monarch butterflies. I had drifted into their migration route and they had stopped to rest on my little boat.

I didn’t move or say anything. Just looked up and watched, thinking that if ever there had been a perfect day, crafted for my delight, this was it.

Then, as if someone had signaled, they rose as one and flew onward to complete their long journey, and I sailed home.


Check out AMAZING MATHILDA, Bette Stevens’ inspirational tale of a Monarch butterfly and her meadowland friends. This award-winning children’s book follows the life cycle of an endangered butterfly. It’s a beautiful read and learning experience.


Fandango’s Friday Flashback: June 13, 2014

SHIP’S AHOY? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Ship

What could I do with this that doesn’t require I start writing? Oh, I know. How about pictures of ships. I have a fair number of them.

I tend to love anything on the water. in, or near water. I love watching the tide and breakers. I used to love swimming. I was never exactly an Olympic swimmer, but I could do a sidestroke forever and I don’t even know how long I can tread water.

Lines and sheets and ropes and sails on one of the original Tea party ships on Boston’s wharf

The purple and pink side of the sunset sky

Fishing boats in Gloucester

OMG By Marilyn Armstrong

Have any of us ever calculated the number of posts on Facebook, Twitter, and even WordPress that start out with OMG or something like it? The sentence which follows might — or might not — have anything to do with the opening OMG. My personal favorite is when the author tried to fully engage the excitement, shock, horror, fear, loathing, and paralyzing awesomeness of his personal “event.”


She says, “OMG! I’m 25! That’s so OLD!
What can I do NOW?”


I would expect, given that she or he has lived 25 years of life to its fullest, surely it’s time to make burial plans. Buy a plot of land and a nice casket or arrange for a ceremonial burning. Any amount of time living life past 25 would be an obvious waste. Really, hasn’t she done it all? Any activity from this now on would be mere repetition

While we were out on the water with Tom and Ellin, there was an emergency in progress. A man had fallen in the water and apparently was “swept away.”

That doesn’t make a lot of sense as the water was dead-calm. It was low tide with water running into shore, not out to sea. But we’ll skip all that for now. I’m pretty sure Garry has more to say about the story. He can do news and probably never said OH, MY GOD, in all his years of reporting.

What we saw were people on jet skis closing in and apparently hoping to find … what? A living guy? A dead one? If you find a floating corpse while zipping around on your jet ski, what’s your next step? IS there a next step? Can you call the Coast Guard from your jet ski? Do you watch him float away while you zip back to shore to Tweet your friends about how you saw the “totally OMG coolest thing in the WORLD in the WATER?”

However much we may feel that the news no longer really is the news, at least not like was, if you consider how the news would be done without professionals? It makes me nearly collapse with laughter.

CANAL BOATING HOLIDAYS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m planning an exciting trip with another couple for next fall. It’s a boating holiday unique to England and parts of Europe, called canal boating. Everything about the English branch of this subculture is different from what most Americans think of when they think about boating.

The boat used is called a narrowboat. It’s like a long, thin steel barge designed for use as a houseboat. It can be 45, 55 or 65 feet long but it is always only 7- feet wide. It has a small diesel engine that can go up to 5 miles an hour. You steer with a single rudder in the back of the boat. This would not work well on the ocean or a lake, but you are floating on a totally calm, 20-foot wide canal that gently winds its way through the countryside of England.

Tom and me on our first canal boat

The boats are usually painted with colors and designs specific to the canals. They are surprisingly spacious, with a living area and kitchen, full bathroom and sleeping areas. The boats sleep from 2-10 people. Some have a separate eating area, like a banquette but the smaller boats just have a table in the living room.

Interior of our canal boat

Tom and I have spent three weeks on the canals of England for two excursions. Both trips were just us, which is easily doable and enjoyable. Many retired couples in England buy a canal boat and choose to live on the canals during the open season from April through October.

However, this kind of traveling lends itself to traveling with other couples or groups because there are plenty of tasks for everyone. My first canal boat experience was in 1987 with four adults and four children ages two, seven, eight and nine.

We brought bikes so anyone could cycle to a nearby town or through the countryside. The advantage of having at least 3 adults is that there are many locks throughout the canal system, which take physical work to get through.

Tom on our second canal boat

One person has to drive the boat into the narrow lock and it goes a lot faster when you have two adults manning the lock-machinery. It can be done with one person on the ground but it’s slow and tiring for the lock operator.

The experience of just puttering down the canal is peaceful and relaxing. You can go through all kinds of scenery. There are suburban stretches with beautiful, manicured homes along the canal; there are areas of farmland with fields and cows, sheep and horses. There are woods and marshes as well as more urban areas. Each route is different. This is a vast canal system that wends its way through much of England and Wales.

Once you are on the water, you’re fully independent on the canal. You can do what you want when you want. You can pull over and stake the boat down whenever you choose to eat, relax, sleep, walk along the picturesque canal or enjoy the local sights. There are numerous pubs to stop at for a drink or a meal (the food is really good).

There are nearby towns to walk around or shop for food. There are also museums and other local curiosities that are worth a stop. We toured the Wedgewood china factory, which was fascinating. We also saw one of the rare underground ‘bomb shelters’ from the 1950s which was designed to house the local government in case of a nuclear war.

When you pull over to stop, you’ll usually find other boats and end up chatting with other boaters. There are also lots of dogs and cats on canal boats and they are also very friendly. We had a cat come into our boat and sleep with us one night.

Driving the boat and manning the locks are a form of constant activity for people who like to be doing something all the time. But there’s also plenty of downtime for those who prefer to put their feet up and relax with a good book or listen to the fabulous BBC4 radio station. It has all kinds of programming, much like our TV stations. News, talk shows, game shows, dramas, sitcoms, continuing series, all high quality.

For the nature lover, you’re usually in the middle of nowhere but for the homebody, you’re always ‘home’ in your boat.

Canal locks

If you are traveling with other folks, make sure you can spend 7-days together most of the time. You have to make lots of decisions as a group. You need to decide where to stop, for how long, where to eat or what to cook. Someone has to be the driver and the others need to manage the locks, and so on. On my first, family trip, the 2 dads were both alpha males and spent most of the time arguing over everything! One of the kids asked why the dads were acting so childishly.

This can be an amazing vacation, with something for everyone. I’m planning my fourth canal holiday because I just can’t get enough of this immersive, unique vacation.

OUR END OF SUMMER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Summer has a different meaning to Tom and me than it does to most people. We are boaters, so to us, summer simply means ‘boating season’ and it lasts for six months. We start getting our boat ready to go into the water in late March or early April. It’s still chilly and there are no leaves on the trees, but for us, ‘summer’ is starting and our mindset shifts from land to sea.

Similarly, our boat isn’t taken out of the water till November 15. So despite the falling of the leaves as well as the thermometer, and even after daylight savings makes it dark before 5 PM, we still cling to the concept of summer because our boat is still afloat. We often spend time on it when it is mild in October and November, which has been often the past few years.

Our boat, Serenity.

On November 5 this year, we emptied all the food off the boat and in a few days it will be ready for its shrink-wrapped hibernation in the parking lot of the marina. So our summer has finally ended and we’re prepared for our landlocked existence for the next half a year.

Our life is quite different when the boat is the focus of our life and when it’s not. Once the boat is in the water and ready for its close-up, all our social life takes place on the boat – rain or shine. We recently built a lovely patio outside our kitchen but no one ever gets to see it except Tom, because the grill is out there. We never have dinners or parties on our patio when the weather is conducive because we’re always on the boat during these warmer months.

The living room on our boat

We love taking guests on our boat for a ride but often the weather doesn’t cooperate and our friends just hang out with us at the dock (which is quite lovely). We have entertained on board through thunderstorms, pouring rain, gusting winds, and extreme heat and cold. We almost never move the party to the house because of the weather.

During boating season we only travel on the boat. We take short trips (under two hours) to other marinas nearby and stay one or two nights. We also take longer trips to the Connecticut River, Montauk, Block Island, and even Martha’s Vineyard, and live on the boat for a week or more with the dogs. We usually get on a plane only when there’s no boat to travel on. And then we go visit our daughter in LA, friends in Portland, Oregon, and Disneyworld in Florida. Next April we’ll be going to London for ten days. The exception is when we plan a big trip to Europe which only makes sense for us in spring or fall when the weather is great but it’s not prime tourist season so it’s not too crowded.

Dining area on the boat

Another difference in our lives when the boat is in or out of the water is how much ‘together’ time Tom and I spend. Whenever he can, Tom will spend the afternoon on the boat rather than at home. He has the same TV and video games set up in both places and the same Wifi service. So he’d rather be looking out at the water than the woods.

I usually choose to stay home during the week except when the weather is ideal, so Tom and I spend a lot of time apart for six months of the year. The rest of the year we’re in the same house most of the time. I think this bifurcated system works well for us since it dilutes the time we share in the same living space and makes us appreciate being together when we are.

Boat kitchen

So now we are finally transitioning into ‘winter’ mode. We’ll start lighting fires and having friends over to the house. Tom will immediately start pining for the next boating season. On the other hand, I’m a homebody and I don’t mind the cold (I have lots of sweaters) so I’m just as happy with my ‘winter’ existence as I am with my water-based life. Variety is the spice of life!

So welcome to winter and toasted marshmallows!

CAMP YESTERDAY, VAMPIRE TODAY. DO I SENSE A TREND? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Vampire

Yesterday, we discussed camp and today it is vampires? I feel a trend coming on! Shall we move on to robots tomorrow? If so, can we do the ones from Douglas Adams’ books? The ones who really wanted the wicket?

Anne Rice, having recovered from her fit of Christian evangelicalism, went back to writing vampire stories and I was delighted. I’d barely survived her Christian saga. Since the new one was about Lestat (who else?) again, I figured I was in for a hot (sort of) read.

But what was hot and sexy in 1972 wasn’t so hot and sexy in 2011. It was page after page of lecturing about … well … I’m not even sure what, exactly. It didn’t work for me and I abandoned the book more or less in the middle. I couldn’t get interested in the characters and Lestat seemed old. He might not have looked his age, but he was cranky and into the vampiric version of, “Get off my lawn, you twerp!”

I think maybe it’s a trend which came and went. Unless someone manages to give it a new burst of life, which is always possible. I live in hope.

I was disappointed on a number of levels. I had liked her writing for a long time. Granted it was unique in its original day but it didn’t age well. Or maybe she had lost her touch.

What had been fun and breezy seemed kind of leaden and tired.

I’m pretty sure the last two I tried to read was “Memnoch the Devil” and “The Vampire Lestat.” It was like being in a really dull literature class. Now that you bring it up maybe I’ll try it again and see if the past five years have changed my viewpoint.

ALL of her books carry five-star ratings, but all of her books are definitely not five stars of reading.

On a more philosophical view, I’ve always wondered whether eternal life was a blessing or a curse. To not know when you can die — human on some level or other, rather like the very long-lived people in Robert Heinlein’s stories — in one thing. But to know you will never die? That sounds almost as depressing as knowing you have two weeks to live.

Vegan witches

I’m not the first person to ponder this anomaly, either. Eternal life — especially lived in eternal darkness — doesn’t sound delightful. And the whole sucking blood thing? I’m not even sure how I feel about bacon, much less sucking the blood of living people.

Can one be a Vegan Vampire?

THE WILD BLUE YONDER – Marilyn Armstrong

Midway into the wild blue yonder

I have taken some “wild blue yonder” pictures too. Squared them up. And so, for the midpoint of this month of blue, a picture for #JulyBlues.

This one IS square! See? That’s what happens when you have more than one version of a photograph. Especially late at night!

I do a lot of my processing late at night, often while the television is on, supper is done, and I can keep one eye on the TV and the other on whatever else I’m doing. So apologies for posting the wrong picture. They are the same, just one is wider and the other more square.

Sorry!

BLUE KAYAK ON A BLUE DAY BY THE BLACKSTONE 4 – Marilyn Armstrong

July Blues – 4

Early in June, we went to the Blackstone River in Smithfield and met two kayakers. One was setting out in a blue kayak, the other in a red one.

The sun was bright and the blue of the kayak and the man’s blue lifevest reflected in the silky water.

It was a beautiful day and they decided to try paddling upriver. No one goes upriver, but we didn’t know why no one goes upriver. I’m assuming that there’s a falls up there or perhaps too many rocks.

We didn’t stay long enough to see how it went or how far they managed to paddle.

The blue Kayak

Blue sky, blue kayak and of course, blue water.

A BLUE DAY IN THE MARINA 3 – Marilyn Armstrong

July Blues – 3

So. In the middle of June, we hopped down to the Curleys and hung out at the marina. It was a bit too rough to go out and to be fair, I’m just as happy in the marina as anywhere else. Being along the water is a treat, no matter what we are doing.

I took a bunch of pictures there and didn’t even get around to processing them. So here’s one … blue sky, blue canvas boat cover, blue water.

Blue skies on a bright day in June

BI-WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: THE INTERESTING EDIT – Marilyn Armstrong

Photo Challenge: Edit

Three pictures using impressionist, graphic, and HDR styling.

A pole in the water – Abstract Impressionist

And here it is again, Cezanne-style, though not looking all that much different.

Rope on a boat – HDR with some graphics

And a Cezanne-style version …

If Cezanne painted my garden

R&R WITH OLD FRIENDS – Garry Armstrong

It was our time for a bit of R & R in the lush Connecticut woods, far from the madding crowd. It’s another world where we can recharge our life force and mental batteries.

Home

Our hosts are the kindly friends for whom we are grateful. We’ve known Tom for more than 50 years dating back to our days in college when we and our world was young. We’ve known Ellin – it seems forever – or since she married Tommy and immediately improved the quality of life for all of us.

Our mini-vacation included time at the marina where everyone seems utterly relaxed — except when they are rehabbing their boats for another summer on the water. The much-maligned weather put on a good face for us.

Ellin

Tom

Sunshine and summer-like temperatures were abundant. It was warm but not uncomfortable. The breeze from the water made it almost perfect as we relaxed for an afternoon of doing absolutely nothing.

Marilyn and the camera

Garry at pier’s end

Tom apologized for not taking the boat out because the water was a bit too choppy for his taste. No worries, we repeatedly told him as we soaked up the afternoon sun, chatting about stuff that brought giggles and contentment. Really. NO worries!

I enjoyed looking at the names of the boats in the marina and wondering about the folks who owned them. I’ve never wanted to own a boat but have fantasies, thanks to Bogie in “Key Largo” and other movies which romanticize the boating life.

Ellin socializing on the pier

I’ve always thought I’d name my boat “The Busted Flush” after fictional detective Travis McGee who chased bad guys in his trusty little houseboat which also provided room for romantic interludes with his miscellaneous yet somehow dubious love interests. Hey, just a passing fancy.

Tom has schooled me in the difficulties of keeping “Serenity” in running condition. I’m good being a guest.

There’s so much to see just relaxing with Tommy and Ellin in the Marina. The setting is soothing. You can drift off mentally without a worry. No obsessing about what’s happening in our politically-challenged world. That stuff is blocked out for a few precious hours. I could actually feel my heartbeat slowing. Just what the doctor ordered.

Tom and Ellin on the boat

Back at “La Casa Bonita” of Tom and Ellin, it’s more of the easy life — at least for us, the guests. The conversation ramps up during the evening “News Hour.” Imagine sitting between two guys who’ve logged 80 years in network and top market TV News.  The old, war stories fill the air spiced with profanities that befit we who ducked idiot management suits from the “Tricky Dick Era” to today’s “Follies of Donzo.”

We can name drop with the best of them. Hell,  Tom and I have probably sent myriad suits seeking psychiatric care because we refused to tolerate their idiocy.

Tom is the master of his impressive entertainment room. He’s introduced Marilyn and me to shows and movies we never knew existed.

Tom, the telly, and Remy

One thing that impressed me — I looked and looked around the walls and notices no awards reflecting Tommy’s long and accomplished career at the highest level of TV News. I know he’s been in the cross-hairs of some of the biggest news stories over half a century. No collection of hardware — unlike me.  Tom doesn’t need any stinkin’ bodges.

Lexi

Marilyn and I were very reluctant to leave Tommy and Ellin and the comfy good feeling they bestowed on us, but our dogs were calling us homeward.

We have an invite to return with Tommy taking us for a trip aboard “Serenity” when the seas are smoother. I’m already dreaming about it.

A FEW PICTURES FROM HOUSE AND SHORE – Garry Armstrong

I took most of the pictures. Marilyn was off-duty this time. There are a lot more, but this is a little taste of our weekend with Tom and Ellen.

We didn’t go out because the sea was a bit high, but we had a fine time just hanging out in the marina.

Cleaning the boat

Still cleaning the boat

On the dock – Ellin’s in blue

Along the dock — Can you spot Tom?

A little cloud over the Curley’s house