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Madcap Sailing
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Beth - on a bright and sunny day
20/09/2007/9:27 am, Boston, MA

We enjoyed two great days of atmosphere absorption, walking through historic neighbourhoods and gazing at the sights of the Boston waterfront before leaving on Thursday morning.

Jim and I had walked part of the Freedom Trail when we were here many years ago, so after we wandered through bustling and colourful Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, we chose to walk the other part of the Trail. It is always a thought provoking experience to remember that there are generally at least two sides to every story. We, with loyalist roots in both of our families, walked streets and neighbourhoods in which our ancestors would have been viewed as traitors! The trail took us through little streets in the North End, past Italian Restaurants that we'd love to have visited, past Paul Revere's house and into the Old North Church where Robert Newman (friend of Paul Revere) hung the famous lanterns. We sat in one of the box pews where we learned that families used to purchase them and that the money paid determined how close one sat to the front. The walls around each pew helped keep them warm; the owners would bring footwarmers with them on which to rest their feet as they sat in their own little spaces during the services. An interesting bit of trivia from that church was that the cherub statues up near the organ had been plundered from a French ship bound for Quebec!

We strolled through Copp's Hill Burying Ground, the highest piece of land in the North End. I learned from Charles Bahne's excellent little book, "The Complete Guide to Boston's Freedom Trail" that it became a burying ground in 1600, after having been called Windmill Hill by the Puritans who set up windmills there. British soldiers camped among the stones during the Revolution, and in the Battle of Bunker Hill, shells were fired on Charlestown from this summit. We saw the gravestones of Increase and Cotton Mather - whose names I remember from Puritan history and the Salem Witch Trials, and the epigraph of William Clark who was a "Despiser of Sorry Persons and Little Actions"! We found many stones with curious symbols of skulls with wings - a symbol that dates back to medieval times - a darker image than the more rare cherubs found here. According to a sign in the burying ground, it may reflect the more conservative religious leaning of the early North Enders.

The Paul Revere Mall with plaques commemorating the many men and women from the North End was another fine place to wile away some time. It was not just history that drew our attention in this area though. As we walked further up one little brick walled passageway filled with flowerbeds and sunshine, we discovered a small, simple and enormously moving little shrine dedicated to the current conflict. Military "dog tags" - many "dog tags" hung from lines stretched across a wooden frame. Flowers grew below and a guest book invited passersby to leave notes. One caught our eyes. "May God bless the brave soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and may God forgive the idiot who sent them there. I cannot." Just as in days gone by, there are differing opinions on what is right.

Our last visit of the day was to the U.S.S. Constitution - "Old Ironsides". Launched in 1797 and "unvanquished in battle", it continues to be a commissioned ship in the United States Navy. It was closed for below-deck tours but after going through the security checkpoint, we wandered around the deck, admiring the wood and the rigging.

In the evening, we headed off to a Lyric Theatre performance of "Man of La Mancha". We might better have visited a local bar for some live music to get our performing arts "fix", because although we liked the intimate little theatre on the second floor of the YMCA building, the performance lacked the impact we remembered from when we first saw this musical at Neptune Theatre in Halifax many years ago.

On Thursday morning, we motored down to Mystic Marine Fuel Dock in Charlestown for a fill up before heading back out to the Atlantic Ocean. On the way we passed a motor yacht with a helicopter perched on the back - the first time we've seen this sight although we have certainly heard about the capability of these yachts for carrying one. Apparently the newest fad is to have a private submarine on board for underwater exploration too! We'll let you know when we see one of those. We purchased 30 gallons of fuel at $2.71 per US gallon (and learned that a harbour tug had been in earlier to purchase 20,000 gallons that would last about a week! Good thing we have sails.)

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Back at Sea
19/09/2007/10:07 am, Boston, MA

Jim and I each had an excellent time visiting with family last week. I even had a special bonus, courtesy of Air Canada. It was one of the rare times when a cancelled flight and layover works out for the best. My Boston to Halifax flight didn't happen, and they rerouted me through Ottawa where both our sons live. Now wasn't that convenient? Liam picked me up at the airport and delivered me to Alex's apartment where there was a bed made up and waiting for me. It felt so very good to wrap my arms around my boys, shower them with kisses, and make eye to eye contact with them to see for myself how they are doing. Within a couple of days I was able to do that with Mary Beth, and with my parents as well. There is just nothing like touch and vision to get that bone deep connection with loved ones. Phone and e-mail contact, and the sending and receiving of good vibrations helps - but it's not quite enough!

Jim and Mary drove to Ottawa in 8 hours. Imagine - it took 3 months to sail this far and 8 hours to drive back home!! He enjoyed 5 great days worth of connecting time with the boys, with friends and colleagues, and came back feeling very pleased to be on a boat.

We left Portland at dawn on Monday morning and after a very long day of motoring, arrived in Rockport around 6pm. Strathspey had reserved space on a floating dock but we planned to anchor. Unfortunately, even though our book said there might be anchoring space, there was none at all in the tiny harbour. Anchoring was possible only outside the breakwater in Sandy Bay, so we circled around a few times in a fruitless search for another mooring, and went back out. We rocked and rolled wildly, and although Jim had planned to fetch Blair and Mary in the dinghy and bring them aboard for a special dinner, it was just too dangerous to go around the breakwater after dark to do that. We cancelled the dinner plans, and resigned ourselves to leftovers.

Blair decided this just wouldn't do, however, and after a call to the harbourmaster, received permission for us to raft to a big motorboat next to them. We crept in just as the last of the light was fading away, tied up in much calmer waters, and pushed ourselves in the dinghy to Strathspey for a relocated dinner. Mary roasted the pork tenderloin in her oven, poured the wine, and even produced a luscious chocolate cake so we were able after all to celebrate my birthday and toast to the year ahead with our good friends and sailing buddies.

Exploration of Rockport must wait for another time because the next stop was Boston!! It was just amazing to motor into this busy city with huge jet planes coming in above our heads for landings at Logan airport, and ships both small and large, sail and motor, cruising by. At one time, we had a tall ship, a high speed ferry, several sail boats and motor cruisers in sight. Our guide book said Boston is harder to navigate than New York City, but the trip in went very smoothly. The channels are clearly marked, everyone stayed in their expected lanes and we cruised right in to the Boston Harbour Sailing Club mooring balls at Rowes Wharf. This was Mary's "find" and a good one it was. We were smack in the centre of the waterfront, with the Aquarium and Faneuil Hall about a five-minute walk away. The view of the lights in the high rises was superb last evening - and now, as I sit comfortably at a little café with my laptop connected, it is a crisp clear morning, the laundry is in the machines, and the bustling old city awaits our explorations. Once again, Jim and I feel like we've found ourselves in a charmed moment in time.

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22/09/2007/6:06 pm | mireille
Happy belated birthday Beth!
Shore Leave
10/09/2007/11:53 pm, Portland, Maine

Enroute from Five Islands, we spent a night at Jewell Island where we explored ruins of old World War II installations and went for a long ramble through the forest. Jim and Blair, the history buffs, crept through tunnels and climbed towers. I joined them for the 8-story tower, but spent the tunnel time playing among the beautiful pebbles on the beach!

As the fog rolled in, and out, and in again, we headed out on Monday morning for the short run over to Portland. We rented a mooring from the Portland yacht Club - a huge facility just outside downtown Portland, where there are almost a thousand mooring balls. We had to take careful note of where ours was so we'll be able to find Madcap again. Jim and Mary rented a car to drive to Ottawa for a short visit with the "kids", I took the bus to Logan airport and flew to Halifax, and on to Amherst, NS and Moncton, NB, for visits with the rest of our family, and Blair stayed with their boat.

The timing feels right for a family visit. We've been gone for almost three months. More news when we are back on board.

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11/09/2007/1:42 pm | Nancy Simpson
Sailed among those islands on a windjammer with lots of lobster eating on the deck about 50 years ago! You keep bringing back memories. It probably has not even changed much. Enjoy your home visit. love from the mature Nancy

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