THE START OF BOATING SEASON – BY ELLIN CURLEY

From New Years on, Tom counts down the days until he can start working on the boat to get it ready to go back in the water. It spends its winters shrink wrapped and up on pilings in the parking lot of the marina, squashed together with all the other beached boats.

The first thing we have to do each spring is getting off the shrink-wrap. This involves lots of cutting and rolling of the large sheets of plastic protecting the boat from the winter elements. This usually takes one day, which is not too bad. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Then comes the cleaning, which is a big production. The bottom has to be painted and the hull has to be waxed and buffed. On a 40-foot boat, that’s a lot of waxing and buffing!

It also has to be over 55 degrees and dry for Tom to be able to do this kind of work and this year the weather has not been cooperating.

We had a few warmer days and he got a lot done, but then it either rained or was too cold for over a week. Tom’s brother came down to help him work on the boat, but they only got one good day out of four. This time of year the weather is always erratic, but it seems to be getting more schizophrenic each year.

Big pile of cut plastic rolled up next to the boat

The fiberglass and the metal railings on the inside of the boat also have to be cleaned and Tom likes to get this done while the boat is out of the water. That’s because once the boat is in the water, Tom gets lazy and just wants to relax and enjoy it.

My job is the interior cabins on the boat. While it’s still out of the water, I do the annual thorough cleaning. Everything is covered in black soot and dirt and is disgusting. I throw away a garbage bag full of black paper towels. But I persevere and clean every inch of the boat, including the two toilets, the bathroom floors (by hand) and the shower. This is my least favorite day of the year.

The deck inside the shrink wrapping

Once I’ve cleaned the inside, I take home all the sheets and towels, wash them, bring them back to the boat and make the bed and put the clean towels out.

My pile of laundry for the boat.

Then I have to stock the kitchen. I have to wait until the boat is in the water because the only way onto the boat in the parking lot is by ladder and I don’t want to carry heavy grocery bags up a shaky ladder. Stocking the kitchen is like stocking a house – I have to buy every necessary item in my kitchen, starting from scratch.

I need basics like coffee and tea, salt, pepper and sugar, herbs and spices, condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayo, barbecue sauce, and salad dressings, and items to cook with like butter, oil, vinegar, chicken stock, onions, tomato sauce, etc. Then there’s snack food and company food because people are always stopping by for a drink on the dock. So I need cheese and crackers, chips and dips as well as cookies and other sweets.

The other trick in shopping for a boat, is I have to try and find the smallest versions of everything so I can fit it all in my small kitchen.

When the kitchen is stocked, my last job is to clean the deck and the flybridge. That has to be done last because Tom keeps all of his cleaning items strewn all over these areas. It looks like a bomb went off at West Marine. Once he finishes his cleaning and puts everything away, I get to do the final job.

That’s when the boating season officially begins for us.

Anchors Away!

REMEMBERING WARM SUMMER DAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s sleeting. It’s the followup to the snow that just ended. I’ve heard the freezing rain is next on the agenda and my feet are cold.

My feet are cold all winter. The rest of me is okay, but from the ankles down, permanent frostbite. It seemed like a good day to think about the river and the bridge and fishing along the Blackstone on a warm summer day.

Garry and I took a lot of pictures last summer. I went backward in time and processed a few new ones. It’s not that I don’t like winter. In a lot of ways I do, but it is difficult to do a lot of things. Like, walk up the driveway without falling down.

And although we are careful with our car in the winter, it’s surprising how many people don’t seem to realize how dangerous the ice flying off the top of their cars is to everyone else on the road. Today, on the way to the hospital we had to pass two big trucks while chunks of ice were flying off them. Several big SUVs were carrying a lot of ice and snow too.

Seriously folks. You live in the north and it is winter. Clean your car! If we can do, so can you.

Maybe time for a little dreaming.

The deep green of the trees. The quiet shine of the river. Reflections of the sky and trees. Kids with their fishing poles.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m sure I’ll complain about summer, too. I was born to live in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, I’ll relish my memories of warmer days.

2018 – ANOTHER SEPTEMBER SONG – Garry Armstrong

I’ ve asked old acquaintance, Walter Houston, once again, to lead us with his melancholy vocal of “September Song” to set the mood.

September is a bittersweet month for many of us. For the young, it’s the end of summer,  goodbye to the idyllic warm days of endless fun and those first romantic days and nights recorded on songs whose lyrics you now struggle to remember.

It’s adieu to summer camp. I have positive memories of Silver Bay and Camp Wilbur Herrlich,  Kodak memories of Lutheran Summer Camps in the woods of upstate New York.  Roasting hot dogs, marshmallows and chugging “bug juice” around twilight campfires.

Barbecue in the yard

In the far recesses of my brain,  we’re again singing  “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” “Beautiful Savior” (Mom’s favorite hymn) and “Abide With Me.” Some of the mid-teen voices are cracking as we try to go to higher notes.  Boys and girls sneak quick looks at each other, cementing romances that will be “forever.”

September fields

Pastor Herb Gibney, who was a central figure in my life from age 13 to age 48  (He was the lead minister at our wedding in 1990), would regale us with “colorful” stories we were not supposed to tell our parents.  All the hushed laughter in our tents overnight as we watched fireflies light the sky and we swapped stories that had little truth. We always wanted to be the last one to fall asleep.

September also is the pivotal month in sports.  Our baseball teams are in their final drive for a pennant, postseason berths and, if lucky,  a trip to the World Series.  There’s a lot of nail-biting, prayers to the big baseball guy in the sky and sleepless nights as our team struggles.

September by the Blackstone

It’s the beginning of football on all levels — from the NFL down to Junior High School and local PeeWee Leagues.  Here in New England,  we wonder if the ageless Tom Brady can pull off his magic and lead the Patriots to one more Superbowl.  Tom is a 40 something quarterback this year and the Patriots don’t look very super after their first two games.  Yes, I know it’s just September and early for professional football.

September is a big month for weather.

Hurricane season, in particular. Florence is still wreaking havoc with Atlantic coastal cities and there’s no end in sight right now.   We’re happy to be above Flo’s path of destruction.  We just had heavy rain which doesn’t sit well with our furry children.

The 9th month is the beginning for political hopefuls who hope to win in the midterm elections.  We’re hoping all those upset with the status quo, embrace a candidate’s campaign and participate in a BIGLY effort come election day — as in, get out and VOTE.

We’re also about to be inundated with the new season of TV shows. From what we’ve seen in previews,  don’t hold your breath unless you’re watching Candace Bergen as “Murphy Brown” returns to television.

I also noticed the Hallmark Channel is beginning its run of Christmas themed romantic dramas.  I’ll pass.

Walter Houston is wrapping up his encore of “September Song”.

Thank you, Kind Sir.   Same time, next year…

LACK OF SUBSTANCE – MARTHA’S VINEYARD – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Substance

When we used to spend a month or more on the Vineyard and became “summer people,” our vacations were completely lacking in substance and that’s the way we liked them.

You lost your watch on the third day. You forgot to wear underwear by the end of the first week. By the middle of the second week, you had no idea what day of the week it was and were probably at least a little tipsy.

Vineyard house – Originally part of the New York Yacht Club, it was a boathouse that became a house and is now an air BNB. This was where we stayed before it was restored. This looks “pre-restoration,” so the odds are that I or one of the many other photographers with whom we shared the house took the picture

If you made it to week three, by then you forgot what you used to do back on the mainland.

The Vineyard was where you went and nothing happened. There were no events. No parties. No concerts except usually one around the end of August to raise money for the food bank — generally the Taylor and Simon families propped up the event.


Since 1884, islanders have enjoyed the beauty of this magnificent carousel. Built by Charles W.F. Dare, it is the nation’s oldest platform carousel still in operation. Acquired by the Preservation Trust in 1986, the carousel is a National Historic Landmark. Children (and others) may enjoy a ride from Easter Sunday through Columbus Day. Rides cost just $1 and if you catch the brass ring, you ride for free. Video games and refreshments are also available.


Unless a president came to visit, or a plane crashed somewhere, nothing happened. Oh, right, one year, there were fireworks in the channel behind the house. There were two Clinton parties, one hosted by the Simons (that was when Clinton played the saxophone) and the next held by the Taylors, which is when I met Kate (I had no idea who she was until later). She was the only woman I met who dressed like me in long Indian dresses and beads.

One year it was really hot.

One summer it was surprisingly cold.

One summer, a novelist I liked did a book signing at “Bunch of Grapes.”

One of our friends made an amazingly good daiquiri. I made frozen strawberry daiquiris using real strawberries and brown sugar that tasted so good, even people who never drank got wiped out.

Garry commented considering the alcoholic stupor many of us were in, our real question should have been “Do I know who I am?”

Back deck Vineyard house. Did a lot of drinking back there. Eating. And reading. There was a big rope hammock at the end of the deck. This picture had to be pre-restoration while we were still the summer residents — along with a bunch of other people.

So what made it so special? Probably the same thing that makes boating special. Nothing. You slept, you hung out on the dock. Read a book. Roamed through Oak Bluffs looking for bargains. Wandered around Edgartown. Had a burger. Had a drink. Bought something useless but pretty.

No substance. Doing nothing and loving it.

The Island Theatre. When we were there, it wasn’t air-conditioned. I suppose it is now.

Strolled over to the Flying Horses carousel. If you got lucky, you might catch a gold ring and get a free ride while the calliope played.

Watched pink sunsets over Nantucket Sound.

If it rained, maybe we’d go to a movie.

1891 – Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. It changed very little in a century.

There was no schedule until you had to leave. Then, you had to find your watch, make sure you could find your ferry tickets. Hope the bridge was not open so you wouldn’t miss your boat. Missing the boat could mean a very long day in the parking lot of the Steamship Company.

Nothing was special or substantial about the Vineyard. That’s what made it special.

IT’S SUMMERTIME! #WRITEPHOTO – Marilyn Armstrong

Thursday photo prompt: Summer #writephoto


Summer in England

The Jamies were an American singing group
Single Released in 1958
Chart: Peaked at No.26 on The Billboard Hot 100 in 1958

There’s a long, interesting history of “Summertime” and its historic relationship to Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. It is possibly the oldest tradition in American baseball! I remember when the song was popular on the radio and singing it with my friends. For some reason, this is one song that always makes me feel like a gentle breeze is blowing and I can smell the freshly mown grass.

Sherm Feller, who wrote “Summertime, Summertime,” was an old pal of Garry’s as well as the public address announcer at Fenway Park for many years. He was known for playing the song regularly over the speakers at the park.

Read all about Sherm Feller and his song …

72-Fenway-Sox_14

Summertime, Summertime Lyrics


It’s summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime summertime …

Well shut them books and throw em away
Say goodbye to dull school days
So come on and change your ways
It’s summertime …Well no more studying history
And no more reading geography
And no more dull geometry
Because it’s summertime.

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball
A regular free-for-all.

Well are you comin’ or are you ain’t
You slow-pokes are my one complaint
Hurry up before I faint
It’s summertime.

Well I’m so happy that I could flip
Oh how I’d love to take a trip
I’m sorry teacher but zip your lip
Because it’s summertime.

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball
A regular free for all.

Well we’ll go swimmin’ every day
No time to work just time to play
If your folks complain just say,
It’s summertime.

And every night we’ll have a dance
Cause what’s a vacation without romance
Oh man this jive has me in a trance
Because it’s summertime.

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball
A regular free for all
It’s summertime.

It’s summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime! It’s summertime!

RAGTAG DAILY PROMPT # 68: SUMMERTIME PLAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP # 68: PLAY


It’s hot. It’s humid.

It’s summer and the only thing to do is get wet, stay wet, and wait for the cooler weather to come!

Ready! 
Set! 
Jump! 
WET!

VACATION AT HOME – BY ELLIN CURLEY

We were supposed to go to Italy with friends this July. We had to cancel the trip because I’ve been suffering from a chronic condition called Poly Myalgia Rheumatica. I didn’t feel up to traveling so far away and didn’t feel I could handle sightseeing every day.

So we headed for the marina, our home away from home. We decided to live on the boat for five days as our ‘vacation’ for the month. I forgot how quickly we fall into a boat routine. We’re less than half an hour away from home, but we feel like we’re in another world. There’s something about living in miniature, on the water, that relaxes us instantly.

I think that part of the reason everything feels so different on the boat is that all the logistics are different than at home. To use the oven, we have to move everything off the countertop, open the cover for the stove and then we can turn the oven on. To find anything in the refrigerator, we usually have to take everything out, shelf by shelf, until we find what we’re looking for. The frig is packed that tight!

To take a shower, we have to remove all the towels and the garbage can from the shower area and move them into the bedroom. At home, the dogs have a doggie door. On the boat, we have to walk the dogs regularly. Good exercise. But it takes some getting used to. We are totally spoiled vis-a-vis our dogs! So life feels truly ‘nautical’ on the boat. Our house also rocks periodically, which is very cool.

This week, we had guests from New York on the boat with us. We also visited with friends on the dock, so it’s been a more social week than we would have had at home. People love visiting the boat. Even if we can’t take a ride, people just love being on the water.

One of our friends stayed overnight with us on the boat. That doesn’t happen often, so it was a special treat. Like camping out with friends! She stayed overnight the night of the local 4th of July Fireworks. We got to enjoy 180 degrees of fireworks! Most of the fireworks were done by local individuals. But the town of Stratford does a 20-minute display done by professionals. It is truly awesome!

Tom loves fireworks and looks forward to this display all year. It’s worth the wait. We have a clear view from our boat and it looks like the display is being done specially for us.

So this ‘vacation’ week turned out to be more fun and more restorative than we had expected. Even the dogs were chilling out (That may have also been because of the extreme heat).

The longer we stayed at the marina, the more distant our ‘land’ life became. We extended our stay by a day. And we may be coming back for a few more days soon. Now it really feels like summer vacation!