Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

later note - check out the scary one at Love and Coconuts! EEEK!

even later, Note #2 - Total seagoing arachnoid bizarreness at Proper Course). What the heck is that?

Note 2a, same time as Note #2: Yes, I am checking in on the blog quite a bit today. I'm actually at work, sigh, having a terrible time concentrating but finishing what I came in to do will make next week infinitely easier.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Small (and HIGHLY entertaining) World!

Janna Cawrse Esarey!
Janna Cawrse Esarey!
Janna Cawrse Esarey!

I've been seeing that name a lot lately, as she's been promoting her book, The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife & was recently spreading the word about a reading she was doing in the Bay Area among some of the sailing bloggers around there (and Tillerman too, although she realized pretty quickly that he was on the wrong coast).

I thought this sounded like a book I'd enjoy & on a whim, I left a joking email on her blog at the Seattle P.I. asking when she'd be reading in Brooklyn. I then posted a post about a kayak race held on a fearfully windy, cold, and rainy day, then grabbed my bag and my green tomatoes (I had a bunch from my garden & TQ has some good recipes I wanted to try) and headed out to hop on a westbound Greyhound.

Didn't spend a lot of time online -- TQ & I see a little less of each other than we used to when we were 2 hours apart -- but I did see it when Janna left a comment asking if I'd like to get a copy of her book to review.

Well - heck, yeah! was my immediate response, but I didn't email her back right away. Figured I'd do it when I got back. And then I got back, and had to hit & hold a breakneck pace at work to make up for being away, and there was little food poisoning episode one night just to make life even more festive (3:00 am and I'm up for an hour while every ounce of stuff that was in me came back out - after which I was fine & had no excuse for staying home), and somehow emailing Janna just completely slipped my mind.

Good thing my college alumni association sent me a reminder today!
From: Whitman College
To: "Whitman College Alumni, Parents, and Friends"
Subject: Whittie News Correction
Date: Oct 30, 2009 3:18 PM

The link from the previous Whittie News email for the author reading by Janna Cawrse Esarey '94 will misdirect you to a past event in Portland. The actual event is November 7 in Seattle at Elliott Bay Books.
I graduated the year before she started.

Funny enough to take a quick break from my forecasting & share here!

Of course, I emailed her right away, and one of these days, yes, there will be a book review.

I bet it's going to be good, too.

Big Elmer, Leroy, Mark A. and Charlie H.

PA October 09 121
Noooo! Don't Scoop!

Just a few more pictures from the Allegheny River tonight. Nothing like milking an entire week of posts out of a half-day paddle!

That's the clamshell grab from the dredge barge Big Elmer that's threatening (not really) TQ in that picture.
PA October 09 206

PA October 09 124

I'd mentioned that there was still a little industry up here, although not enough to warrant locks being open on Thursday -- this outfit, Glacial Sand and Gravel, looked to be the main one on a stretch of the Allegheny that's primarily lined by the locals' summer cabins. Well, summer trailers, really, this isn't the wealthiest part of the country - nice trailers, though, clean, well kept -

Oh, here, in fact I'll show you. Here's a picture I took because this was, hands-down & by far, the grandest place we saw on this stretch of the Allegheny.
PA October 09 112.5

Take a closer look at the neighboring place, though:
PA October 09 112a
That's pretty typical of places that line this section ("pool" is what they call the stretches between dams) of the Allegheny. Not half bad, huh? Doesn't it look like a fine place to go kick back & relax in the summertime? I think so. Porch swing. Big tree. River right there. Mmm. Nice. Not everybody had quite this much land, but they all looked pretty appealing.

OK, back to the industrial bits -

In the first picture, did you notice the recycling? There's a whole stretch along here that's bulkheaded with barges that had outlived their usefulness as floating goods transport. Ran 'em up on the bank, sank 'em & there they stay.
PA October 09 116

Some of them had some good sized trees growing on them, they'd been where they were a while.
PA October 09 201

Leroy. Brown, but not the one with the song. This one's a gravel barge. Still in use, and not as a bulkhead.
PA October 09 126

Tugs Mark A & Charlie H, tied up to Leroy. Maybe ready to head downstream on Friday, when the locks are open.
PA October 09 131

And that's it for tonight, and I'm just about done with my Allegheny River pictures. I just get such a kick out of paddling someplace totally new and different.

Although I'm also excited that I might go to paddle in an old familiar place this weekend - the club is doing a trip up along the NJ Palisades. That always used to be one of my favorite paddles back when I was storing my boats on the Hudson, especially in the fall. Had a great hike there with TQ last fall, and it would be awfully nice to get back there in a boat again.

Only thing that makes it a "might" is I'm having a very very very long week at work, and I don't know if I'll be able to roust myself out of bed to meet at the club at 7:30 am - even with the clock switch.

Wonder if anybody could be cajoled into a stop for Japanese goodies on the drive home. That would be quite a motivator. Somehow, though, I doubt that would be quite as appealing to the rest of the gang.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dam dam dam.

Low tech lives!
Small Craft Signal Line, Lock 7, Allegheny River
Small Craft Signal Line, Lock 7 on the Allegheny River.

PA October 09 213
Sadly, though...

PA October 09 215
We were there on Thursday.

And last weekend marked the last days of operations for locks 5 though 9 for 2009.

Ah well.
PA October 09 216

Maybe next year.

PA October 09 209

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


(nyuck nyuck nyuck)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

speaking of empathy...

And as long as I'm being cranky -

Boy. Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like to be a Jewish kid at this school?

I actually don't think I can.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Midwesterners are nicer than New Yorkers.

Where did that come from?

Well - very sadly, DaveO, of The Lake is the Boss, and Silbs, of Silbs Says have both been posting about a local paddler - an actual paddling companion of Silbs', and a paddler who knew what he was doing - who disappeared one night last week on Lake Superior. His car was left in the parking lot where he launched & his kayak & lifejacket washed ashore.

I'm not going to go on much about this because what can you say about something like that. Always gives me the chills a bit to read about any boating accident, especially a kayaking accident - it's true that there's nothing like messing about in boats, but boy, there's always some risk there & something like this just drives that home, doesn't it? My heart goes out to all his friends & family & I hesitate to say more for fear of saying something dumb.

But it really hit me, as I was looking at some of the comments attached to articles -

Maybe Midwesterners really are a little more decent that New York people in some ways.

Seems like any time you see an article about a boating tragedy in the Daily News or Post here (not so much the Times), you end up seeing some just shockingly mean comments. Schoolyard bully namecalling. "Idiot", "moron", and worse. Words that just shouldn't be left there on a public forum, where maybe people who cared about whoever's been lost can stumble over them & hurt themselves even worse. But there they are, and there the editors let them stay.

The commenters in Minnesota? Well, I think it was DaveO who once used the term "Minnesota nice". Or maybe Silbs.

Yes, there were comments questioning the safety of solo kayaking, etc., etc. But I didn't see ONE SINGLE COMMENT in which the sort of derogatory language that you see so much of in the online comments of the NYC tabloids was used.

I don't know if it's the posters, or if it's that midwestern newspaper editors pay closer attention to who's saying what in the comments - either way, it's just nice to see a little old-fashioned decency when it's really, really needed.


Terribly sad story going on up there. I hope...well, of course it would be wonderful to read that he made it to shore & was waiting for a rescue all along. Don't we all always wish for that ending when we hear of something like this?

But if it doesn't end up with that happiest ending, I do hope that at least enough can be found out to answer the questions that the people who cared for him are left with.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seeing Spots!

Ladybug, ladybug,
ladybug, ladybug,
ladybug, ladybug,
ladybug, ladybug,
You'uns all fly away home!

(btw Dennis G, thanks for the end of the folk rhyme, I never knew it went on past "Your house is on fire, your children are gone". Acturally I think the version I said ran "Your house is on fire, your children alone".

Anyhow - as I mentioned, it was the time when ladybugs are looking for a warm place to spend the winter.

According to the Ladybug Lady website, they are drawn both by warmth & light colors - both of which houses provide.

Here's a foot or so of the foundation of TQ's place out there.
Lots of ladybugs

The variety of spots really amazed me. No, they don't actually indicate the age of the ladybug - it's all just variations on the same theme.
Ladybug 7

Sort of fun seeing them all together like this! Couldn't resist trying to do a Spot Spectrum:

Spotless Lady
Ladybug 1

Ladybug 2

Ladybug 3

Ladybug 4

Ladybug 5

Almost more black than red!
Ladybug 6

These are all probably one kind, but there are other species & some of them are actually black with red spots, or even all black - pictures of those are, of course, available at Ladybug Lady!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


When they spread their elytra like that, it means they're about to...


Just kidding. Multitudinous opportunities for ladybug close-ups this week, visiting TQ in PA & it is Ladybug Swarm Season, when they are all desperately looking for a nice warm place to hibernate.

Inside the house would suit them fine. Running joke all week -

"Oh, wow, look, a ladybug!"

"NO! That's impossible."

Hey, we are easily amused.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mayor's Cup Starts

The weather was EVERY bit as nasty as forecast. The Coast Guard & the NYPD Harbor Patrol wouldn't let everyone race, but the elite racer were permitted to go.

As you'll see, these were really some amazing paddlers.

Even some of these folks didn't make it around. No shame in that, though. It was really filthy out there!

Here are the starts - my station on the course was at 23rd street on the East River so I did have time to watch before I headed out!

Tandem start. BTW, you know how I'd said there were only 3 women in the race? There had to have been at least a few more than that - the outrigger canoe is actually a 2-woman team. One of the more fun moments of a course marshall stint that was VERY long and wet and cold, several hours of sitting on a dock at 23rd street on the East River was when a friend of theirs turned up by bike (in that weather!) to cheer them on.

Here's the surfski start. The guys in the front row, with the identical Epic V12 surfskis, are Team USA (red-tipped bow, blue deck, white star graphics), and Team Holland (blue tipped bow, orange deck, white windmill-sail graphic).

Greg Barton is in there somewhere!

I did end up using a lot of the extra stuff I brought - I'd said I was bringing them for cold wet paddlers, and we did have one paddler come out who didn't say no to a mug of hot cider while the course marshall with the car went to retrieve his vehicle -- but I also definitely used them for cold wet me!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

yikes yikes yikes - Mayor's Cup Forecast, v2:




yippee yippee yippee

Just around midnight...

Just finished tying up the last of just about a hundred loose ends...

Just putting my sneakers on...

just getting ready to leave the office...


Friday, October 16, 2009

Mayor's Cup Forecast

Well, ick, yesterday's way-up-the-Hudson report from Dennis G. Moonstruck was that it was SNOWING. We have a gale warning today. A trip to the Norwalk Islands that the Sebago cruising committee was planning for Saturday was called off yesterday, and here's what our Mayor's Cup racers & volunteers have to look forward to:


Highs in the upper 40's, lows in the lower 40's.

I'm bundling up. I don't know yet if I will be at one of the spots where racers can pull out or not, but I really do think I'm going to take along a couple of thermoses of hot cider - a little one for me, and a big one just in case I have any cold paddlers coming off the water in desperate need of a hot drink.

Brrrrr. So much for my visions of a pleasant morning sitting by the river, watching all the boys go by.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wo bist der wahine?

Well...there's lots over there, of course.

But I was thinking more of here, in NYC, this Sunday, in the Mayor's Cup.

I'm volunteering this year, and it's a pretty awesome field, I may even go get a new camera in honor of the event (I've been playing with the idea of upgrading anyways), and I'm looking forward to everything except getting my non-morning-person self into Manhattan by 5 am.

But I just found out that although the mens' field is spectacular (particularly notable - Team Holland & Team USA slugging it out in honor of the Henry Hudson Quadricentennial) -

Of a field of 135 racers -

3 are women, and none of them are coming from a distance that can't be measured in city blocks. They're all good paddlers, but I guess I'm a little bummed out to find out how little pull this race seems to have for women racers.

Remember my September post, You Go, Alex? I didn't go into a lot of depth there, and I expect that post probably didn't make a lot of sense to anyone who wasn't familiar with surfski racing - but it's been a pet peeve of mine for a while that an awful lot of coverage of kayak racing really sort of doesn't mention women, even though there just have to be some good female racers out there.

So it was just really neat to see an Alexandra in there among the usual boyz.

I guess this time I won't complain too much when there isn't a lot of coverage of the women, knowing that all of 2% of the field is female -- although hint hint hint to any journalist stumbling across this, hmmm wouldn't that be an interesting take on the Mayor's Cup, what it's like to be one of 3 local women competing in a field of international elite men?

Still, I am a little bummed out to find out that I'm not going to get to see an Alex, or a Nikki Mocke (US surfski champion), or our own noted local speedsters Elizabeth O'Connor or Stefani Jackenthal in action. Would be fun, too, if a couple of the racers whose blogs I sometimes follow, like Sandy Bottom, a Purple Mirage, found this to be something for which they'd like to turn out - always fun seeing your home waters as seen through someone else's eyes.

Ah well. It's still a young race. Maybe down the road.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My First Dinghy Race!

Sunfish sailing
note to Tillerman & any sundry Tillerheads who might be stopping by - This is NOT a "less is more" post. This is more like a "More is more" post. Or maybe just more, and more, and more, and more, and more, and blah blah blah blah blah. In short, it's long. There, now that I've cleared that up:

So yes, as I mentioned, I went in my very first dinghy race yesterday.

How did I do? I didst suck mightily! Yea, verily, forsooth!

But somehow I still had fun, and an inkling that there might be a lot more fun to be had if I gave it another shot sometime.

First & foremost, I was just thrilled to get a third sail in before it gets too cold for me. In the past, the Sebago Cup, held in early September, has been the traditional end of the general sailing season. A few of the hardcore Laser racers would keep going for a bit longer, but as far as organized, scheduled stuff, it was Sebago cup & then done.

But this year Holly & Jim found themselves co-chairing a sailing committee that went through a growth spurt, and by popular demand, the racing season was extended into the fall with a Sunday series.

So when a Saturday morning plan fell through & left me with a free day for catching up on sleep & housework, and I started thinking that Sunday would be a nice boating day instead, there was that option.

I did need a very little bit of arm-twisting. The folks who've joined the sailing committee this year have been really enthusiastic about the racing. I had 2 concerns - 1. I didn't want to be the knucklehead who doesn't know the rules & fouls everything up & 2. the new sailors have not only been doing a lot of sailing, they've been doing a lot of work on the boats, and if enough of those people turned up, I sort of feel like they should have dibs. Besides, I was also thinking it would be a lot of fun to go out in my kayak & take pictures.

I got the arm twist I needed, though (thanks Tracy!). Today's picture was taken on board the good sunfish Love Child (so named because she's circa 1970-something), heading down the Paerdegat & out to the racecourse, and that was the only picture I took until I got back.

I was too busy getting my okole wallopped after that. Literally & figuratively. Literally, because Love Child hasn't got a hiking strap, and it was pretty windy, so I was hooking my toes under the coaming & I'm just the right height, hiking that way, the gunwale hits right at the sitzbones. I had plenty of "reminders" of yesterday's fun today - especially every time I sat down. BTW, I think I just figured out, halfway through this paragraph, how I managed to bruise one of my big toes. I was puzzling over that all day.

That was all expected, though. I usually come back from sailing on a nice breezy day with a crop of bruises I have no recollection of actually getting.

But I wasn't expecting the figurative okole-walloping. At least not quite as badly as it happened.

I wasn't expecting to be spectacular. But I've done cruises with these folks, and done a reasonably good job of keeping up, even though my inner kayaker always makes me pinch (inner kayaker can't let go of the notion that the best way to get to someplace is to point the boat at it and go, works great in a kayak, not so good upwind in a sailboat).

But somehow - sheese - yesterday I just ended up feeling like one big Sail Fail.

The course was simple - 2 marks with a starting line right in the middle. The first 3 races were all just once around, upwind/downwind/upwind to finish, last race twice around.

My first race wasn't really all that bad. OK, my start was laughable. People thought I didn't realize we were starting, I was so far back from the start. But really, I meant to be exactly where I was. The beginning of every sailboat race I've ever watched (or even been in) has been a source of mystifying wonderment to me. Here's all these boats sort of sailing around, in no easily discernible pattern -

and yet as the time ticks down, order begins to emerge & when the final horn blows, boom, there they are in a line as neat as half a flock of migrating geese.

start demonstrated by the Cedar Point Yacht Club frostbite fleet, who are just getting warmed up (so to speak) right about now!

Well, I haven't been sailing that much this summer, I've never really practiced manuevering in close quarters with other boats, and I didn't want to be the wrong-way honker who "fowls" everything up, so I took the chicken's way out & just started way, way back.

But it wasn't a bad race after that. I didn't get to the windward mark as efficiently as everyone else, but I got there; I did fine on the downwind leg & in fact caught one of the other novices who'd had something go wrong in his leeward mark rounding. Woohoo, my very first dinghy race & I wasn't DFL!

My starts got better after that.

Unfortunately, everything else got worse!

It wasn't even not knowing the rules. I was never close enough to anyone at the mark to worry about that; all I needed was the basics. Those, I do know, although you know what Tillerman was saying about DINGHY SAILORS SHOUTING in the comments? Well, I did get shouted at once but it wasn't quite the sort of shout that Tillerman was describing. One of our more experienced sailors was flying towards me on her Laser at a clip & trajectory that, if maintained, was going to result in a spectacular T-bone. Now, she is a good sailor & rationally, I knew she wasn't going to hit me, and I should have known that being on a starboard tack & her on port, I had right of way, but she was closing fast enough that I got a little rattled & started falling off - well, she saw me flinch & yelled "YOU HAVE RIGHT OF WAY!"

Oh. shoot. yeah! I knew that!

Actually that was a good shout because I'd gotten a little disconcerted about all the other boats around me & that got me to remember that, right, there are rules, and everybody out here knows them & as long as I was following them too, I could trust them not to hit me (and me not to hit them).

And as I said in the comments, I did manage to not break anything, or crash into anyone, or anything.

No. It wasn't the rules. I knew what I needed to know for where I was.

It was getting to the @*#&in' windward mark that was my problem!

As I said, the first race, I went a little wide. I thought I'd get better at judging where & when to tack. I didn't! Not one bit! I would be sailing along thinking "OK, I will sail to up there, and then when I tack I should be able to make it to the mark without tacking again", and then I would tack, and then by the time I got everything properly sheeted in...ARRRRGH!...I'd find myself on a course that was going to take me, like, fifteen boatlengths to the wrong side of the mark.

I would have suspected some clever hazing ritual for the newbie racer except that the role of the elusive windward mark was generally being played by Green Can #13, a channel marker unlikely to move unless encouraged to do so by a Coast Guard buoy tender with a large crane on board, or possibly a hurricane. Neither of those was present, so the conclusion I was forced to reach, as I found myself having a worse and worse time getting to it each time we went around, was basically the one I announced this morning -

i.e., I suck.

Certainly a different animal from a nice cruise around the bay, this racing thing.

I did actually manage to come in not-last twice. The second time involved someone capsizing right before the start.

My last start was actually encouraging. I was getting a little better sense of how fast the boat covered distance, and when we were down to the last minute, and I was heading towards the starting line & feeling like I was going to get there too soon, I just fell off a little bit & then came up & was across the line within a few seconds of the starting horn. Whee! I did something right!

But then, dunno, maybe it was the shock of finding myself somewhere towards the front, or the disorientation of finding myself without a lot of people to follow for the first minute, but somehow I managed to get more discombobulated than I had in any of the other races. This was the twice-around, and everybody else was heading in by the time I was trying to get to the blasted can the second time, and without other people to follow, and getting more and more frustrated, it took me forever to get there...and then there, I thought I was going to finally get it, just one more frickin' tack...and I looked over my shoulder to spot the leeward mark & discovered that Jim had hauled anchor & was heading over to pick up the mark. Oops. Yup, all racing was to end at 2, and it was 2, and so my last race of the day was converted from a big fat DFL to a big fat DNF (Did Not Finish).

And then it took me ninety-seven years (or maybe it was ninety-seven tacks, it was a LONG time, though) to sail back to the club. And I walked my boat under the bridge. See that bridge in the first picture? It's something of a point of pride among Sebago sailors that they like to SAIL under it. Downwind it's no problem, but upwind is challenging. Well, the wind was blowing pretty much straight down the basin, and the ebb was kicking in too, and I was tired and getting cold and decided that stupid Green Can #13 had provided quite enough challenges for one day and so I sailed over to the side, stepped out in the shallows & walked under the bridge, then jumped back in and tacked ninety-seven more times (or more years, or something) & FINALLY got back to the dock, feeling very, very Poky Little Puppyish.

But I did get back.

And you're probably wondering where the inkling of fun was in all of this?

Well, there was one half-decent race at the start.

There was one half-decent start at the end.

And in between there were some moments when I had the boat moving along quite nicely. As often as not, they'd end just as they were beginning (felt a bit like the Millennium Falcon not quite making it into light speed - oooh, oooh, here we go, here we GO, HERE WE chungchunkchugclunk...awwww rats) but the snippets were fun.

There was the realization that the rules of the road actually work. Not that I didn't know that they did, but it's a little different knowing that in theory & then actually seeing how they work when you're in the middle of a bunch of boats operating in close quarters.

And did I mention that it was a GLORIOUS day?

And then, at the end, there was an explanation of why everything had been so freakin' weird out there!

First clue was when Jim & Holly met me on the dock; Jim had been thinking of coming out to see how I was doing & Holly told him to just let me slug it out, and he did (and I'm glad), and Holly's comment upon my return was something like "So you made it, and now you've learned to curse the northwest wind".

And then there was a post race discussion, where Jim proceeded to describe the conditions & the sort of misery they could cause a sailor who didn't quite get what was going on - while Holly illustrated it on the chalkboard - and the amazing thing was how perfectly what he was describing, and she was illustrating, correlated with the absolutely baffling problems I had been running into trying to get to the windward mark!

Apparently the northwest wind is known around here for being one shifty bastard.

I had picked up on it being puffy, and hard to read, but you know how I'd said that the role of the windward mark was being played by green channel marker #13 at times?

It wasn't for the first race. For the first race, the windward mark was a Neversink race marker buoy.

For the second race, Jim decided to switch to the channel marker, because the wind had shifted.

Before the third race, the wind had shifted even further. Jim went out & moved the Neversink marker on past the channel marker to try to keep the course properly square to the wind. By the time he got back to the starting line, he said, the wind had shifted all the way back to where he'd had the mark in the first place!

So the green can just ended up being the windward mark for that one & the next one.

And that's why I was so completely fouled up. I was the unaware sailor & the course Holly drew on the board, showing the course taken by the boat of someone who lets the shifting wind draw them onto a course that won't work so well? That was the exact course I had sailed again and again and again until I just wanted to spit.

And then they talked about how a sailor who DID get what was going on could react to minimize the bad effects, and how a sailor who was really aware could actually turn those conditions to their advantage.

They didn't make it sound easy.

They did make it sound like something learnable, though.

Rough racing.

Great lesson.

Sure makes wish my Sundays weren't tied up for the rest of October, but there's always next year!

Hey Mister Tillerman!!!!!

I raced this weekend!

Yes, in a dinghy!

And guess what -



(to be continued)

(ps toned down the shouting in the title - better, Tillerman?)

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Garden's winding down, but it's not quite done.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Ready or not...

Friday, October 09, 2009

Ferry and Barque

Fisher's Island ferry Munnatamket and USCG cutter Eagle (training barque for the USCG Academy)
New London, Connecticut
3pm, Sunday 10/4/2009.

For some lovely close up shots & a key bit of the Eagle's history, pay a visit to Soundbounder.

I couldn't remember where I'd seen them, but a quick Google of "Horst Wessel" in blogs did the trick.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Widow's Walks Weren't?

Wikipedia is no fun at all!

According to them, the whole legend of wives watching for their husbands' returning ships from the widow's walks on their houses is just that - a legend.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Handsome Homes of Mystic

So as you may have figured out, I took a quick trip to Mystic last weekend. Way too quick, really, but my folks were driving up to New England to visit various friends & although it wasn't a time that I could take any time off, their first stop was in Mystic to visit some old friends from Navy days. The submarine community wasn't all that big, so you tended to find the same people popping up as neighbors in different places. This particular family, I remember well from Mare Island, Washington State, and La Maddalena. Them being in Washington was something of a godsend since I was one very depressed kid after that move (as I've probably mentioned too many times before, I actually asked to stay & had even looked into boarding arrangements with an Iolani staff member, but my folks said no & I didn't push the matter beyond that first request - Navy brats grow up going along with things & when my first-ever attempt to NOT go along was turned down, it simply didn't occur to me to argue the point) - but we got to Washington in the summertime & this family's kids were part of a group of officer's kids who were in that section of base housing. They called themselves "The Bored Club" & when they got bored, it was time for a Bored Meeting & that usually involved some anti-boredom activity. I was a bit younger than most of them but they took me along on some of their excursions & stuff, which was a much better alternative than holing up in my room & never talking to anybody again. We had a lot of fun in La Maddalena in Italy, too, a couple years later. We'd go running around to nightclubs and stuff - in fact, hee hee, they were the ones I was with when a few of us got roped into being in the Miss La Maddalena pageant! Oh, such regazzi, such crazy regazzi...boy, that was fun.

So anyways, long story short, these are people I always enjoy seeing.

And Mystic is such a fun little town to visit.

The way everyones' schedules worked out, we got there around 2 on Saturday, and I got dropped off to catch a train in New London on Sunday, so there wasn't time for a visit to Mystic Seaport (my folks were amazed when they saw that place - we'd lived in Gales Ferry when I was very, very young, early early 70's, and we'd gone to Mystic Seaport - I have the vaguest recollection seeing a big boat and thinking it was pretty neat; my folks remember that big boat as being pretty much the sum total of the Mystic Seaport attractions so they were blown away at how the place has developed in the intervening years) - but even just wandering around the town is fun.

The bridge pictures were from Saturday, when we took an afternoon stroll through downtown.

Sunday we went for another short walk around the neighborhood where our friends live. This is pretty interesting too; they live in one of the higher areas of the town, which is where a lot of the ship captains lived. The elevation of the area is high enough that there's a clear view of the Atlantic (or at least there was in the 1800's when the Mystic area was pretty much clear-cut). You may have already noticed that all of these houses have someplace good for keeping watch for returning sails.

That one's actually what I picture when I think of a classic "widow's walk" - but all the other varieties would work fine too, and in fact the enclosed cupola makes a lot of sense in these climes. These were sensible Yankee ship's captain's wives we're talking about, after all. Might be romantic as all get-out to stand up there with the wind blowing your shawl out behind you like a dark flag - but why suffer when you can keep watch from a nice warm cupola?

Oh, and actually it wasn't ALL captains up here. The houses in this area have signs showing their building date, the first owner & the first owner's form of employment. There were definitely a preponderance of skippers, but in our quick trip around before I had to leave, I also spotted the publisher of the town's first newspaper, and a ship's carpenter.

Granted, the carpenter wasn't quite as high up the hill as the captains were!

Captain Manwaring's home happens to still be occupied by a captain (USN, ret. but you still call him Captain).

I wonder what Captain M. would think if he could see one of Captain F.'s boats...

"Thar she blows!", maybe...

Anyways. One interesting detail Mrs. F. gave us during this visit was that for all the magnificence of these homes, there was a certain element of mass-production going on here. One builder put up 5 at the same time using a lot of the same materials (molding, frames, etc) in all of them. Our "insider" jokingly called it "Victorian tract housing". A cut or twelve above subdevelopments these days - not quite little boxes made of ticky-tacky, these - but still, interesting to hear somebody started in with that idea so early!

Although hey, come to think of it, my entire neighborhood (Ditmas Park) was really the same sort of thing.

Not all the sea captains wanted those, though. One eccentric captain thought that life would be best if lived in an octagon-shaped home.

Would pose some decorating challenges, but being quite fond of the non-squareness of my apartment, I think I can see where he was coming from.

This was just a nice house with the sun shining on it. Really turned beautiful in the afternoon. Right when I had to leave!

The oldest house in this part of Mystic. Sorry, forgot to ask what year, but clearly from an earlier era!

Mystified in Mystic?

Hmmm. Read carefully before attempting to visit Mystic Seaport in your sailboat!

Opens on signal, except when it doesn't!

Thank you, Pandabonium, for pointing that out! I'd hardly noticed the curiously turned wording of the sign.

Sunday, October 04, 2009