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

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!

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

TEMPTATION WITH BOATS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Temptation

Of all the singers in the universe to whom I would have attributed this particular song, Perry Como is not the guy.

I was wrong.

It’s Perry Como singing “You Are Temptation.” What’s particularly odd about this are the boats. He’s singing about temptation. Doesn’t that imply something … you know … sexual? Hot?

Tempting?

I have to assume that this particular individual was seriously into boats. And found them tempting.

THE LOVE OF THE WATER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

What is it about water that so many people find endlessly fascinating and soul soothing? People pay top dollar to live in homes that have a view of water – any water – ocean, lake, pond, marsh, stream. Prime vacation spots are often on, in or near the water.

I love the sound of our backyard mini waterfall. I can also sit and look at it for hours. The sound of waves lapping onto the shore have been recorded innumerable times for relaxation tapes, sleep aids and comfort for newborns.

 

People also love the feel of water; pushing through the fingers, falling onto the hand, resisting a closed palm, like in swimming. People walk with their feet in the water at beaches and swim anywhere they can, both under the water and on top. There are a plethora of gadgets to help you play in the water, from inner tubes to noodles, paddle-boards, beach balls, etc. There are also too many water sports to even try to list.

96-SunriseWalkNIK-CR-1

There is a theory that our obsession with water is rooted in our time in our mother’s womb. As fetuses, we float in the uterus in a protective amniotic fluid, gently rocked as our mothers move. We may even hear the sounds of swooshing water. Which could explain the universality of humans’ love affair with water.

But it doesn’t explain why only some people seek the water in many different aspects of their lives.

Personally, we choose to live in the woods — but we own a boat. Listening to water slapping against our hull is our version of Nirvana. Our boat is big enough so we’re not close to the waterline when on-board.

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So we have an inflatable dinghy that we drive around. In that, we are as close to the water level as you can get, like in a canoe or a rowboat. I can’t resist putting my hands in the water and opening my fingers as we ride through the water. I love the sound of the little boat pushing through the water, punctuated by the percussion bursts of waves breaking against its sides.

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I don’t have any earth-shattering conclusions to make. I’m sure there are research studies out there on the subject. It’s just that I’m on my boat enjoying being on the water and wondering why it is so satisfying for me. I had a swimming pool and a pond during summers growing up but no one in my family went to beaches or liked boats. We were city folks who ‘roughed it’ in the countryside of Fairfield County, CT during our summer vacations.

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So I have no family history or childhood memories to fall back on, except the pool and the pond. Maybe that, combined with my primal connection with amniotic fluid, is enough.

WHICH WAY ON THE WATER – Garry Armstrong

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge

You wouldn’t think a marina would be much of a place to walk, but you’d be wrong. There are dozens of piers and decks and companionways everywhere you look.

Even if you never leave the marina, there are a lot of ways to go! We had a perfect summer’s day — which was, coincidentally, the first day of summer … and a stunning sunset that literally wrapped around the entire sky, gold in the east and pink-purple in the west.

On and off the pier

After you leave the pier, it’s travel by water.

And at the end of the dock, there’s the dinghy …

Marilyn on the boat and Tom on the companionway. Very tall steps and then, there’s the little plank to walk.

Almost dark over the pier

Eastern end of the marina just after dark

LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU?

DUNKIRK – TRAGEDY AND MIRACLE


Last night, I rented (from Amazon) “Dunkirk” and we watched in the comfort of our living room. I must say, it was a far better experience (and a lot less money!) than going to the movies, finding a parking space and dashing through the icy cold to finally warm up in the theater.

And at home, when someone needed the bathroom … there was a “pause” on the television. Ah the joy of the “pause” feature.

Sometimes, when we are watching something serious, it is hard to call it entertainment, yet surely it was. This movie took a rather different approach to Dunkirk, looking at the event from the aspect of the soldiers stuck on that beach. It was a movie of few words. Extremely visual.

So close to home they could just about smell Dover in the wind, yet with their back to the sea and every expectation of being destroyed to the last soldier.

When all those little ships from England appeared on the horizon, my eyes welled up. What more amazing sight than all of a nations boats crossing over to bring home a stranded army?

If it wasn’t entertainment, then what was it? Well, it was educational. Not that we didn’t know about Dunkirk, of course. If you know anything about World War II and Great Britain’s role in if, you have to know about Dunkirk. In many ways, this giant defeat-turned-miracle was the turnaround for England’s war. This was when — for the first time — the entire country said “We will never surrender” and they meant it.

They never surrendered and eventually, we New Worlders came and saved the Old World from destruction. Would we do it again?

I would hope so. Great deeds by millions of small and regular people give me hope.

THE CURSED BOAT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Our first boat was a disaster. One bad experience after another. One large repair bill after another. It’s amazing we continued boating. But we got another boat and we’ve been enthusiastic boaters ever since.

In 2001, Tom and I bought the ten-year old boat we affectionately nicknamed “The Titanic”. It was a 27 foot Carver Santiago power boat. The boat was named “Patron,” after its previous owners, Pat and Ron. We never changed the name and according to boating superstition, that could have been the reason for our bad luck with the boat. (Boaters are very superstitious).

The one good trip we had with the boat, fortunately, was the first. We had to pick the boat up in Massachusetts and drive it back to our home marina in Stratford, Connecticut. We had taken a required boater safety course but had never actually driven a boat. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to make our maiden voyage a 122-mile trip. In March! We were wearing ski gear to stay warm. It should have been an eight-hour drive. It turned out to be more than eleven.

Tom’s brother came down to help us on our maiden nautical voyage. All the boaters we talked to on the trip asked us if we had insurance and if we had Sea Tow, the boater’s equivalent of AAA. We couldn’t understand why everyone kept asking us those questions. Now we do. Experienced boaters knew that doing that trip in one day was totally crazy! Especially with novice boaters.

We set off from Massachusetts in sunny but cold weather, and calm seas. The first few hours were fine. We were pleased with how well we were doing. Then we hit Long Island Sound and the seas got rough. Very rough. The boat was rocking,d rolling, and banging down hard after each wave. We were being bounced and flung around like rag dolls. It was scary and unpleasant, to say the least.

Kitchen and living area

The second half of the trip took twice as long as the first. It got dark. Now we were navigating into our home marina at night. We had no idea where we were.

At one point, we ended up in just a few feet of water, which is not good. Tom decided it was time to call it quits. He announced that we were pulling into the first marina we saw. Our car was at the Brewer Marina, but he didn’t care. We were docking NOW! Believe it or not, we landed at the right marina, on our assigned dock. Victory! We did it! What great luck!

And then our luck changed. On Tom’s next rip, he ran aground and broke a battery post, which killed the battery. Two fishermen in a small boat towed Tom to a public dock. He called me, I picked him up, we bought a new battery and the boat made it home.

Next time out, Tom thought the auxiliary gas tank was full and opened it up. It was empty and this caused the boat to go dead in the water. Tom got acquainted with Sea Tow’s services. They were wonderful and helped Tom figure out what was wrong over the phone. He filled the auxiliary tank and all was well again.

Kitchen and living area with dining table

Then came the coup de grâce. We took a trip to Essex, Connecticut on the Connecticut River. Tom was pulling on a line at the marina and it broke, flinging Tom into the water. He lost his sunglasses and his lucky boating hat. More bad juju. I told you boaters are superstitious.

On the way home, a stick got caught in the propeller and the boat started acting wonky. Tom was anxious to get back home quickly to fix the problem, so he took a shortcut – and ran aground. At full speed.

Here’s where the expensive damage came in. Both propellers were damaged. Tom replaced one and took the boat out to test it. Unbeknownst to him, the oil pan under the engine was rusted out. Running aground caused the oil to drain out of it. The oil gauge should have told Tom that there was a problem. But it had never worked right, either. When it registered ‘no oil pressure’, Tom assumed it was wrong — and ignored it. When he ran the engine, the engine seized. And died. The entire engine had to be replaced. which cost as much as the original price of the boat.

This repair was so major and took so long, our boat was out of the water for most of the boating season. Friends teased us that we didn’t really have a boat. So when we had guests, we started entertaining them on the boat – which was sitting in the parking lot at the marina. At least we still had a water view.

Sofa (and bed) in stern of boat plus view of small deck

Tom loved to say that the only difference between our boat and the Titanic (other than the fact that we never actually sank) was that the Titanic had a live band and we had a cassette player. Most of our problems were not actually the boat’s fault. They were stupid Captain’s tricks made by an inexperienced boater.

But the boat felt cursed to us. So that fall, while we were waiting for the second engine to be installed, we sold the boat, now in pristine condition.

In 2003 we bought another ten-year old boat, this time a 32-foot Carver Aft-Cabin Motor Yacht. We named the boat ‘Second Chance’ since we were giving boating a second chance. Also, we had just gotten married and we felt we were each other’s second chance as well.

Second Chance

We loved this boat and took wonderful trips with it, usually with our two dogs and often with other boating friends. We spent time in a beautiful cove in Port Jefferson, Long Island, NY. We traveled to Montauk, NY, Block Island, RI and Martha’s Vineyard, MA. We went back to the Connecticut River many times.

We had no problems with this boat except that our gas tanks were small and our range was very limited. So in 2008, we upgraded again to our current boat. This is our dream boat. It’s a 40 foot Carver Aft-Cabin. It was ten years old when we got it but it was in great shape and was immaculate. We named this one ‘Serenity’, after the spaceship in Tom’s favorite TV show and movie, ‘Firefly’.

This is our last boat. It’s incredibly comfortable to live on for a week or so at a time. It’s great to entertain on for as many as twelve people. It’s been a wonderful ‘vacation home’ for us, as well as a way to travel around and ‘sight-see’. We often spend time on the boat at the marina, which can be a very friendly and social place.

This is our current boat, Serenity

Tom spends almost every day on the boat for six months of the year. He just loves it. It’s his happy place. He goes into withdrawal when we have to take the boat out of the water in November. He counts the days until it goes back in the water in May.

Tom on the dock in the winter, waiting for boating season to start again

So despite our inauspicious beginning as boaters, we have made boating an important and cherished part of our lives.

FLOATY BOATY ODDBALLS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: July 23, 2017


I don’t know if you could really call these oddballs because I took them on purpose. I’m one of the people who goes in for minor surgery and wants a local so I can watch the screens while doctors do whatever they do. Okay, probably not for heart surgery, but for other, less life-and-death stuff. I wanted to watch them do my knee years ago, but they wouldn’t let me.

Bridge and controls

So here I am, on the boat. And there are all these exciting controls with colors, beeping, and chirping. You can see how deep the water is. See the sandbars. Figure out current, waves, water motion. That’s totally cool.

My favorite control

Let’s not go thirsty.

I took pictures. What else could I do?

ON THE EDGE IN THE MARINA – GARRY ARMSTRONG

ON THE EDGE – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGES


To a degree, being in the water on a boat, you are always on the edge, but more so if you happen to be up on the bow, or back on the deck. And yesterday we were out and about. Very edgy.

By the water in the marina

Photo: Garry Armstrong

THE BEST TRIP EVER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Our all time favorite vacation is renting a canal boat and spending a week or two driving it through the English countryside. England has a network of canals that run throughout the country, from London up to Wales, with many circular routes or ‘rings’ in the center of the country.

The canal boats are not like any boat you’ve ever seen. They’re called narrow boats. They are basically long and thin steel barges, about 7 ½ feet wide and ranging from 45-65 feet long. They are like houseboats and can sleep anywhere from two to eight people. There is always a living/eating area, often with comfy chairs and a wood burning stove. There is a kitchen and bathroom in addition to at least one bedroom. They are amazingly roomy and comfortable.

The outside of the boats are painted in distinctive bright colors with classic patterns on them. They are beautiful and each boat is unique. The style is country craft meets gypsy. Lots of stylized floral motifs.

All the boats also have a small outside deck area where you sit or stand and steer the boat – from the back. The boat can only go about five miles per hour and you steer it with a single tiller. When another canal boat is coming in the other direction, you may only have six inches or so of space between the two boats. At first driving the boat is daunting and intimidating. But after a while, it becomes second nature and it’s no big deal.

Locks are something unique to canals. They are part of the allure and the culture of the canals. To get up and down the numerous hills and valleys, you go through locks. These are sluices that raise or lower the water level to the water level on the other side of the lock. In England, they are all manual and the boaters have to work the locks themselves. I don’t have the space here to go into lock technology. But it takes time and requires physical labor by the lock person, while the navigator drives the boat into and out of the lock compartments.

Locks add to the charm of the canal experience, except in the pouring rain or in 95 degree heat. We have experienced both.

The canals and the scenery alongside them are beautiful. You can drive through scenic farmland, dotted with cows and sheep. You can also go through heavily forested areas, suburbs with gorgeous canal side houses, or even swampland. There are also industrial towns along some of the routes. The canals were originally built in the eighteenth century for industries, like the famous English china factories such as Wedgewood. The canals were for the transportation of supplies and marketable goods back and forth around the country.

Canal boating is a very self-contained and independent type of holiday. If you see a pub that appeals to you, you stop for a beer or a meal. And there are lots of picturesque pubs along all the canals. When you get to a town, you walk to the stores and shop for food or just putter around. When you’re ready to stop for the night, you pick a spot, pull over and hammer down stakes to hold the boat in place.

You get totally caught up in the peaceful, slow-paced world of the canals. You get friendly with other boaters camped near you or going through the locks with you. Many English boaters live on the canals for months at a time, often with their cats and/or dogs. That sounds idyllic to me!

I’ve been on three canal trips. One was with another couple and four young children and two were just with my husband, Tom. It’s one of the only vacations I want to go back to again and again. To reduce stress, when I think of a peaceful, happy place, I transport myself to a canal boat in the English countryside.

A NAUTICAL ROAD TRIP – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom and I are going on a nautical road trip with our friend Deb. We all live in southern CT. She bought a boat that is moored in Eastern MA. So we agreed to drive with her, in a car, to the boat and then drive the boat, on the water, back to the home marina in Stratford, CT. That trip would be 128 nautical miles, at about 12 miles per hour, if the seas are calm. We plan to make the journey in two days.

DAY 1

We meet in the parking lot at our marina. Deb has rented a van and packed it with everything she’ll need for the boat, which is basically a small house. Bathroom stuff, bedding, cleaning stuff, tools, food, etc. The kitchen also has to have dishes, glasses, silverware, serving pieces, pots, pans, Tupperware, Saran wrap and baggies, you get the idea.

The drive up is uneventful. When we get our first view of Deb’s new boat, I swear to God, a rainbow appears in the sky! Good omen! Lots of unloading and unpacking. We go out to dinner and get to bed early.

DAY 2

 Deb returns the car and does some more unpacking.  Tom relaxes and hangs with the dogs while we wait to head out again.

The 6 ½ hour drive is smooth. But it is cold and raining off and on. We’re bundled up in three layers of clothing, including hoodies and jackets. I’m also wrapped in a blanket all day – in June!

We go through the scenic Cape Cod Canal and I take photos of bridges. Mostly in the rain.

When we tie up at our marina for the night, Deb and Tom troubleshoot some of the problems they found on the boat. Something called an inverter, the shower pump, the kitchen drain, the windshield wipers. (Yes, this boat has windshield wipers!)

We marinate our lamb chops and try to start the grill. Guess what? There’s no gas for the grill, the stove or the oven. All that works is the microwave. So we warm up some beef stew and nuke some potatoes. We’re roughing it. In a floating condo.

We go to bed to the sound of strange noises from the water pump every three minutes.

DAY 3

We wake up to no water. Not a big deal, just fill the water tanks. But why are we out of water? We didn’t use up ½ gallon of water overnight. Welcome to owning a boat.

Microwave the eggs and bacon and head out. There’s a six and a half hour drive ahead of us. But we are looking forward to seeing our friends at the other end who are ready to greet us with pizza and champagne to christen the boat.

Cold and rainy again.  Deb and Tom drive the boat and I stay inside most of the day trying to stay warm. But it’s hard to stay warm because the heat inside the boat isn’t working.

Major miscalculation! The trip home is 36 miles longer than we expected. So the total trip is actually 164 miles and today’s travel time is up to 10 ½ hours! So much for the welcome home party. We approach our marina in the dark. We’re navigating by all three of us sticking our heads out of the windows and looking for marker buoys. Still raining. Dancing to oldies rock and roll.

We really know how to have fun!

We arrive at our marina at 9:45 PM and dock the boat in the pouring rain. Unload quickly and drop Deb off at her house. Tom and I find a diner that’s open and get a late, light dinner. Home by midnight. Greeted effusively by ecstatic dogs.

Great adventure but it’s good to be home!

Happy Deb and her new boat!