It's coming up on two years since I caught a Boeing from Trinidad back to KC, that flight being the final leg of a journey begun two months earlier.  A lot has happened since then, but as we watch a man some would characterize as crazier than a bedbug readying himself to be sworn into office as chief executive in our home of the not so free, I keep flashing back to an afternoon only three days into that voyage...

But first things first.  Not long after Halloween in 2014 I received an email that read "I'm sailing a Hylas Stevens 47 from Savannah to the Venezuelan coast, but the insurers say I need a crewman listed on the manifest. What do you think about Christmas in Trindad?" It had been a year since Cris's passing and I was still struggling with that and other catastrophes, a fact which ii, a.k.a. Inverted Interrobang, a.k.a. Will Gentieu, had picked up on all the way from his temporary berth on the coast of Georgia. I will post more about ii, and soon (though much belatedly), but before moving on here I need to say that his offering such an opportunity without even meeting me in person beforehand - and what a leap of faith that was! - remains one of the most thoughtful, kindest gifts I've ever been proffered. I love the man like a brother and always will, and not just because he's the only practicing poet-sailor I'm likely to meet.

A month later, following a mad scramble to get my passport and an affordable flight east and whatever shots the travel doc said I needed, I found myself in Savannah aboard a 30-something yacht named Lillie Mae just a couple days before her scheduled departure for points south.

After some last minute provisioning while waiting out a little heavy weather in Savannah, we cast off and Will set Lillie on a course south along the Intracoastal Waterway.  One day's sailing took us to an anchorage on Redbird Creek, which remains in my memory as beautiful a place as anything I saw later in the Caribbean and South America.

The second night's anchorage was on Teakettle Creek.

The view from Lillie Mae's cockpit, that above-deck portion of the vessel known to sailors since at least as far back as the Punic Wars as "the area where you probably won't fall overboard and die."

About noon of our third day out from Savannah, I noticed some odd, apparently gigantic structures on the horizon.

After glancing at the digital display from Lillie Mae's autopilot, Will said the still miles-distant buildings were on King's Bay Naval Submarine Base, located just our side of the Georgia/Florida line, and soon enough we were sailing along the edge of (but hopefully not into) restricted waters that are home turf for the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet ballistic missile nuclear submarines, or SSBNs as they're known in Pentagonese.

As we looked around at our surroundings, we had a suspicion that some of the speed boats which had been making unusually close passes for the previous hour or so might have been manned by undercover USN or USCG security personnel trying to ascertain whether we worked for ISIS or the Taliban or some other inappropriately turban-sporting organization.

Note; since I screamed like a Girl Scout then hid my camera when the Navy pounced on us, please pretend that this rusty trawler is a sleek, heavily-armed instrument of nautical destruction.

We assumed by then that Lillie Mae was being closely surveilled and probably had been for quite some time, but we weren't prepared for what happened next. A fast attack boat complete with manned M60 machine gun and a squad of grinning, Ray Ban-wearing, assault rifle-toting stormtroopers suddenly roared up out of nowhere and, at the last possible moment short of ramming us, curvetted gracefully into a blocking position just off our starboard bow (or "pointy bit" in sailor lingo).  As the attack boat's skipper hailed us over his PA system - which happened in near perfect sync with no-nonsense instructions over Lillie's radio to stand to and identify ourselvelves - I smoothly slipped my camera under my hoody while frantically pretending I hadn't just seconds before been merrily snapping dozens of pics of anything that looked top secret...

~ end of part one ~

Views: 437

Comment by koshersalaami on January 14, 2017 at 7:17am

This looks really good

i thought the ballistic fleet was in Groton. Live and learn. 

Comment by JMac1949 Today on January 14, 2017 at 7:57am

Great pics, I wondered about how you ended up sailing in the Caribbean. R&L

Comment by tr ig on January 14, 2017 at 9:03am

I was totally jealous just so you know


Sorry about the lack of readership here. It's really discouraging, I know. Maybe blogging is dead. I've heard that said. 


Am familiar with a good part of the story and pics but will follow here as you post, if you do continue. Starboard giblets and all that. 

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on January 14, 2017 at 9:52am

The hell with reading about you getting the aquatic version of Ned Beatty squealing like a pig in "Deliverance", what's the deal with the chick with the microphone?   RAWRRRRRR!

Comment by greenheron on January 14, 2017 at 10:18am

Now that you’ve spent quality time on the ocean, you know. Is that why you’ve landed in coastal CA?

I’ve always thought we’re hardwired to a type of landscape and once we find it, we just know. I tried living in the mountains one year. They were gorgeous, but I came crawling home to the ocean and begged it to take me back.

Your trip was clearly powerful and memorable. Not just for the events and encounters, but also the experience of alone as alone can be, surrounded by nature, nothing made by human hands. I lived three months in a monastery, and when i left, I no longer knew how to navigate the civilized world. Not having had any coffee* for the whole time, the first place I went was a Starbucks. Standing in line, looking at all the choices on the signage, people on their phones, the crappity crap on the gift shelves, I had to turn around and leave w/o coffee. Too many choices. Too many people. Too much stimulation. I felt a little crazy, then realized that it wasn't me.

* Monkey made a coffee post. Going there next!

Comment by Boanerges on January 14, 2017 at 2:32pm

Hey hey -- Nana's back in the fold. Been wondering about that trip aboard the Walloping Window Blind for a while now. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Comment by nanatehay on January 14, 2017 at 7:13pm

Good to see you Boanerges! ! Regarding OurSalon, big readership or not - the site wouldn't be here if not for a lot of work on Lorianne's part, for which I'm grateful even if l haven't been around much.  Signing in here is like stopping by a corner store or dive bar in the neighborhood you grew up in - you never know who from the old days might be hanging out, playing a game of pool maybe, or just telling stories about way back when. I guess I'm tryna say the joint is like Cheers, but before Kirstie Alley came along and messed things up...

Comment by nanatehay on January 14, 2017 at 7:54pm

Foolish Monkey - agreed about politics being toxic to the muse and to dreamers. The old analogy to sausage making comes to mind, except that sausages are at least good to eat. What is the outcome of political sausage making?  Blatant, obvious lies are discussed by all and sundry as if they were self-evident truths, promises are made with no intent to honor them, hard questions are ducked without exception by all contenders and the rotting carcasses of decency and fairness get trotted out once again to be spit on and re-eviscerated some more, all of this frenetic, stomach-turning activity taking place to ensure that, at best,  a new cast of liars, thieves and whores gets to slither into office so they can sink their sweaty tentacles into the honeypot and never mind the miscellaneous finger bones and lost dentures and dead pigeons festering at the bottom of all that golden, irresistible sweetness... yeah, I don't regret turning my back on that open sewer 3 or 4 years ago. Haven't owned a TV for a couple years now, if I do get one eventually it will be so I can run my computer's photo editing programs thru it to do pixel by pixel work on images and so forth and to watch an occasional episode of Antiques Road Show... 

Comment by nanatehay on January 14, 2017 at 8:14pm

Btw Boanerges, I know you didn't mention Oursalon - I just wanted to give Lorianne some props even if she won't accept my friend request...

Comment by nanatehay on January 14, 2017 at 10:39pm

That's true about landscape, Heron. Many people - not all , but many of us -  are hardwired or at least culturally predisposed to feel more comfortable in certain types of landscape than other types. The historical record, including much written material, indicates that after the frontier had moved steadily from the Atlantic coast, over the Piedmont, then up to and across the Appalachians and beyond, out to where the timber petered out and prairie took over, there was a pause, a collective rethinking of things as our great-greats looked out from the edge of the forest at the first truly open country they'd ever seen. People who've grown up in the woods  - or in little clearings surrounded by woods, as generations of Americans at that time had done - tend to prefer settings with short horizons and plenty of places to hide from what they viewed as a hostile, staring sky. There were practical reasons for some of their apprehension - since the earliest days of settlement, these people had been involved in intermittent but astonishingly bitter and merciless bush wars with enemies every bit as ruthless as themselves. Informed by that history, and having seen at first hand the ghastly consequences of being too easy to find, they couldn't bring themselves to trust open country. On a prairie you can see for miles and miles, but that also means you can be seen from  miles away by anyone who cares to take a look, and being seen in some cases could be the same as being dead.  So there was a pause, and much discussion about the value of grasslands, the consensus for decades being that it was worthless for anything but driving defeated nations like the Shawnee and their allies onto so whites could grab their lands back East... But it was only a pause, and there was a reset, and the avalanche rolled west, in a generation or two decimating every nation between the Missiasippi  and the Rockies and  plowing under a flowered meadow that stretched from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico to make it profitable and safe for Monsanto and beige  subdivisions and strip mall developers.  At one point in 1877 or thereabouts you could walk from the Solomon River in north central Kansas nearly all the way to Denver without once having to step on anything but the flyblown carcasses of bison killed for their hides then left to rot... 

Wow, sorry... what were we talking about? Landscape, that was it... they erased mine before I ever saw it, before any of us did, but...


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