14/07/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center
OK. OK. We know that we have not been keeping up our BLOG, and we know that many of you have repeatedly been here to see what's up... Well, (time for our tired excuse) we have been really busy lately training a couple new to sailing on their Hunter 42, delivering a CSY44 walk-through from Connecticut to Florida, renting out Lilly's Jacksonville home, and now we are in the boat yard doing some much needed repair and painting work. We really are working on a new BLOG, and we do have some really good material on some fascinating people: like Gordon the gold and gem trader who would travel the most dangerous parts of Africa trading with the locals, or George the Hungarian Freedom Fighter who started out fighting for his and his family's survival at the ripe old age of ten, and of course we have been busy sailing Tiger Lilly and working the To-Do List. At any rate, we promise that by the end of this haul-out, perhaps in about three weeks time, we will have a new BLOG posting. Here is a picture of Lilly shucking oysters in Milford, Connecticut - the fellows on the F/V Mohawk gave us a free bag of 100. Of course, Miss "I Can Do It" who never shucked a single oyster in her life prior to this bag of 100, shucked every one in a single setting. Oh, did we tell you that tomorrow we have to drive back to Jacksonville for her surgery pre-op? Seems she developed a ligament problem on the middle finger of her right hand, they call it trigger finger, but we call it shucking finger... The lass simply cannot do ANYTHING in moderation, but then that is why we call her Tiger Lilly :-)
Lilly & Tom
on the hard in St. Augustine, FL
31/03/2011, Great Bridge Locks
A cruise to the Chesapeake Bay in the fall of the year; this pleasant thought brings to mind crisp mornings, warm afternoons, the trees bursting with color, and ducks and geese winging south overhead - and this is exactly what we experienced as we sailed the Bay for two months during the autumn of 2010. Boat Show time in Annapolis is an international crossroads for blue water sailors; the camaraderie of the Seven Seas Cruising Association, the fellowship of the annual Ocean Cruising Club dinner, the glitz and glitter of the Annapolis Sailboat Show with many old friends working the booths and presentation halls, and both old and new friends in the anchorage make this a time of both memories of past voyages and expectations of far off new destinations.
If you like boats and ships and vessels of all types, then there is no place like the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Huge merchantmen hauling coal and containers to Europe and the Far East, powerful tugs pushing barges full of fuel, a man-o-war standing out for the far side of the world, a scarred work boat tending crab pots, and a ship-shape and Bristol fashion yacht reaching down the Bay - these are the vessels we love to watch. From the commercial docks along the Elizabeth River, to the world's largest naval station on Hampton Roads, to the center of the yachting universe at Annapolis' colorful harbor, to the nations first tea party on historic Chester River, to the seafood bounty and southern hospitality of the Eastern Shore - Chesapeake Bay has it all. To see a pictorial maritime essay which we developed while cruising the Bay check out our PICTURE GALLERY at the upper right hand column of this page and navigate thusly: PORTS OF CALL / USA / CHESAPEAKE BAY / VESSELS OF THE BAY. See you there!
19/02/2011, St. Johns River, Jacksonville, Florida
Tony Charles Gregory: Just as our canine friends come in many different shapes, sizes, and personalities, so do the maritime versions - the rascals, rogues, and denizens whom roam the world's oceans - commonly known as sea dogs. Perhaps my favorite sea dog is my shipmate Tony Gregory of the Yacht Tarnimara. Tony tends to the friendly Labrador retriever side of the sea dog spectrum. His engaging manner, ever-present smile, and self-effacing personality endear him to all; fellow cruisers in the anchorage, local folks ashore, and not an insignificant portion of the female population of the Western Hemisphere. No doubt the Reader's Digest would classify him as "A Most Unforgettable Character." Very fit for his 72 years, Tony is a man who has seen a lot of the world and experienced much in life; a hardy Brit, he hails from the Northwest Country of England, and proudly sails with a Red Duster painted on his wind generator. A personable man of many talents, he certainly adds flavor and interest to the international sailing community; as salt does to cooking. The pursuit of blue-water sailing not only expands one's geographical horizons, it also tends to broaden one's base of friends and acquaintances - which is really one of the principal reasons to seek this challenging life-style. It is my good fortune to have shared many anchorages with Tony from the Rio Orinoco Delta of Eastern Venezuela, to Chaguaramus, Trinidad, to the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida, and the last we saw him was in Georgetown, South Carolina. Everywhere he sails he leaves camaraderie and good will in his wake. Like most remarkable people, Tony has a multi-faceted personality: Vagabond of the world; single-handed blue-water cruiser; itinerant musician; fascinating conversationalist, master shade tree mechanic; dumpster diver extraordinaire; and citizen of the world - Tony Gregory has attained the sublime degree of Sailorman.
The Early Years: As a young nipper in knickers, Tony remembers war-time England, and Germany's blitz on London during World War II. His dad Charles was a shoemaker, shopkeeper and a bookie, and his mom Hilda kept it all in check; but even at a young age Tony would have none of the family business, he just wanted to see the world. What really interested Tony were outdoor pursuits; after leaving school at the age of 15, he developed skills in canoeing, water skiing, archery, motor cycling, martial arts, and sailing. As a young man he supported himself in such diverse occupations as: a lorry driver, ship-right's helper, outward-bound instructor, and professional musician. Although he has a limited formal education, like many of his generation he is well-read, self-educated, and a graduate of the school of hard knocks.
de Boat: At age 45 Tony purchased his beloved Tarnimara, a Rival 32 - then this intrepid soul set off to see the world on a shoestring budget. The Rival is a solid cruising boat of English design and build. Tarnimara matches her owner and his needs quite nicely - she is well found, comfortable but certainly not luxurious, able to take care of herself in a gale, and squared away. Well, not squared away in the Naval sense of the word, but Tony has found a place for everything, and everything is in its place - according to him... Actually his vessel is a cross between a maritime museum, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a traveling junk yard; a requirement for boarding his vessel is an up-to-date shot card - including current tetanus and gamma globulin vaccinations... (Lilly sez: Oh Tom-Tom, couldn't we just surprise Tony one day and give his boat a good thorough scrubbing while he is off somewhere ashore?) In fact, Tarnimara's general appearance is not unlike Fred Sanford's truck in the old TV show Sanford & Son - or perhaps Jedd Clampett's overloaded Beverly Hillbillies jalopy (with a proper keel of course - Tarnimara goes to weather like a witch). Every possible surface on his boat is covered with some treasure, most of which Tony has dredged up from the depths of a waterfront dumpster. This man is the ultimate recycler; he can wring additional life from most any of "civilization's" cast-away stuff. Actually, it takes a solid understanding of mechanics, electricity, and chemistry to restore additional utility to what the "educated" world would call junk. For several years Tony supported himself as an itinerant musician; many sailors who cruised the Caribbean during the 90's remember the popular jazz ensemble Mood Indigo - Tony was their tall and handsome base player. His musicality has a much broader range then just accompaniment, and alone aboard Tarnimara he taught himself to play the keyboard, arrange music, and he developed himself into somewhat of a vocalist. If you know this gentle man, with a soft English accent, one cannot help but be taken aback when he holds forth with a singing voice which ranges from a very much Satchmo-like bravado, to that of an overloaded gravel truck on a rough country road! But then the great Louis Armstrong was a gentle man too... Tarnimara's cluttered weather deck is just a portend of what lies below; her interior includes only the bare necessities of living. His mess gear consists of an antique pressure cooker, a battered fry pan, and two each of unmatched forks, spoons, and bowls - any seaman worth his salt carries his own knife... It is hard to believe - or even imagine - but stowed below on his compact 32 footer Tony has carefully secured the tools of his musical trade: a double-base violin (it lives quite happily in the vee berth), two very large speakers with woofers & tweeters, a heavy audio amplifier, a digital computer / multi channel mixer, microphone, music stand, sheaves and sheaves of hand-written music, two keyboards, a digital 8 track recorder, a DVD player, and of course the ever-popular tambourine. It is all quite unbelievable, and there is literally no room to turn around! Could this be the reason Tony has had three wives? Tony sez: "Or at least I think that is how many have papers on me..."
Cruising: Tony has sailed his boat all over the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, calling at such interesting places as: Ireland, Southern Portugal's Algarve region, Northern Spain, the island of Madeira, the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Trinidad, the Netherlands Antilles, the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, the Island of Bermuda, the Azores Archipelago, and the East Coast of the USA from Florida to North Carolina. Tony describes bluewater passage-making as "boring routine, the highlights being cooking and going off watch - unless of course anything goes wrong, and it usually does!" In 2008 Tony (in his boat), and I (in my boat) - accompanied by Schatze the Talking Dog - set off to explore the Rio Orinoco Delta in the remote eastern section of Venezuela. We explored some 250 miles of jungle river, circuitous canos, and dense rainforest - inhabited principally by the Waro Amerindian tribe. Tony was like the Pied-Piper with the Waro children - they followed him everywhere while we were ashore, and were particularly interested to watch him meticulously roll his own cigarettes (just tobacco, of course). With about 2 meters of tide in addition to the strong down-stream current during the rainy season, this is a challenging area for ocean going yachts to navigate; more than once Tony pulled me off un-charted mud banks as the falling tide threatened to strand me. Tony is a thoroughly competent seaman and a trustworthy friend, the kind of fellow one can depend on in a pinch, and the kind of mate to have along when out exploring. Tony and Tarnimara have crossed the Atlantic 5 times, and he is currently preparing a spring passage across the pond as he heads back to England and home - probably for the last time. At 72 he says that he is getting too old for ocean passages, and he just isn't buying green bananas anymore. (Lilly asks: Doesn't he like green bananas? No Sweetie, he just may not be around long enough to see them ripen...) When we asked him what his favorite place was, he enthusiastically replied "The USA!" Tony loves our culture, our music, the American political system, our service oriented businesses, and the wonderful southern hospitality he has enjoyed in these United States. That is a ringing endorsement from a sailor-man as well-traveled as Tony Gregory.
Lilly sez: Well, you have heard what Tom thinks of his friend Tony - now allow me to tell you of my impression of him and his delightful wife Sandra. I feel like I knew Tony even before I met him; Tom's sea stories, and their telephone calls and emails alerted me to their special relationship; the more I heard about him, the more I wanted to meet this fellow. Last summer, when they sailed in from Trinidad and anchored next to Tom on Julington Creek I got my chance. OH MY GOSH! What a unique couple they are. Tony's wife Sandra hails from Trinidad, and she is of East Indian heritage - what a lovely, lovely, woman, both in her physical presence and her spirit - she captivated my heart, as did he, the very first time I met them. Isn't it ironic how God often blesses people of modest means with a spirit of humbleness that brings such value and worth to their character? These folks have gifts to give that money simply cannot buy. Tony never seems to be into himself, but always ready to help others; he makes-do with only the essentials in life, and at the same time makes you feel like you are a millionaire. Sandra is a godly woman who prays for her vagabond husband constantly. Although Tony is a self-described humanist, he is so obviously full of the Holy Spirit, yet he does not recognize God's hand on him. He seeks proof of God's presence, yet he himself is the very proof for which he searches... When I asked Tony what he would have done different in life, he thought about it and replied: I do regret not having served in the Royal Navy; and I wish that I had taken the time to learn to play the piano really well. That is quite a simple Bucket List; this man has lived life to its fullest, and has but a few regrets. While his sister Sue was visiting Florida from the UK, we spent an enjoyable evening watching and listening to Tony as he gave a free concert for the cruisers on the Ortega River - what a fun time! Tony really knows how to connect with his audience: his crazy colorful pants were certainly a surprise, and the only flamboyant element to this unpretentious man. As he returns home to the UK, to his boat club in the Northwest Country, his three children and their children, and his sister Sue, Tony looks forward to the simple pleasures that lure most returning seamen - reconnecting with those he loves most.
Yogi Berra once said "If you don't know where you are going, you might not get there." Well, Tony does have a plan for the next chapter of his life; he intends to sell Tarnimara, buy a canal boat, overhaul her, and motor about the rivers and canals of the UK for his golden years. (Tom ponders: Hmmmmm, how would a Viking funeral work with a canal boat and all those low bridges?) When they make the movie of his life, we think that the obvious candidate to play Tony would be that other irresistible sea dog - Captain Johnny Depp. Oh the friends we meet, and the places we see; this cruising life is so rewarding; we certainly are not in Kansas anymore Toto!
To view more pictures of Tony and his Yacht Tarnimara, simply click on PHOTO GALLERY in the upper right corner of this page and navigate thusly: Main / Crew, Family & Friends / TONY GREGORY
Just a week prior to our departure for the Chesapeake Bay last September, Lilly was getting into one of her carpet cleaning vans and felt a weird sensation in the lumbar (lower) section of her back; nothing traumatic, but later she described it as "just a weird kind of feeling" and so she carried on. Throughout our September to November 1600 mile cruise from Jacksonville to Chesapeake Bay and back, she developed back / hip / leg pain and her condition steadily deteriorated. While sailing the Bay we communicated with her brother-in-law Dr. Rod Marcom, and on his advice we tried several different techniques to relieve her pain; from deep massage, to stretching, to inversion - Tom even hung her upside-down from the mains'l boom... Most of these modus operandi gave her some temporary relief, but we were just not making any significant progress. Once we got back to Jacksonville, Lilly was pretty much bed-ridden by her condition, and Dr Rod went to work on her with drugs and the osteopathic manipulation of her spine. (Rod is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.) She seemed to respond and get better; however just before Christmas her whole situation went south, and nothing seemed to relieve her excruciating pain. An MRI showed that she had blown out the L4-L5 disc in her back, and she needed an operation to repair her spinal column. Dr. Rod referred us to Dr. Mark Spatola, a neurosurgeon who practices in the Orange Park Medical Center, and Lilly - who had all the "right" symptoms was subsequently scheduled for an operation on 20 January. The method Dr. Spatola used was soooo kool - it is called minimally invasive spinal surgery, and it involves some remarkable technology from the MEDTRONIC Company. Once Dr. Spatola got inside her spinal column, he found a 4 inch wide mean streak that runs right up the middle of her back, and a rather large piece of cartilage-type material from the herniated disc pressing against a nerve bundle which ultimately runs down her left leg. He removed the debris from the blow-out and repaired the disc. When Tom's mom Grace had her back operated on several years ago, they used the then-standard invasive procedure of laying open the muscles and ligaments of the spine to gain access to the site of the repair, and this resulted in a 6 week convalescence. But in Lilly's case, immediately after Dr. Spatola and his team repaired Lilly's back, and while she was still in the recovery room, he told her to "lift your left leg" (she had not been able to lift this leg for over 6 weeks), and she did! Two and a half hours after the surgical procedure was over, she WALKED OUT OF THE HOSPITAL, pain-free, with a repaired disc. It was simply incredible! To see a really kool animation of the MEDTRONIC METRx System go to:
and to read about the procedure itself go to:
This is really amazing stuff!
Lilly sez: While Tommy Technology was oohing and aahing over the gadgets, I was thanking God for the relief I felt, I was praising God for wonderful men like Dr. Marcom and Dr. Spatola, and I was being grateful for having access to such effective health care - miracles do take place every day! I asked God's blessings on the superb team of medical pros who worked together to make me whole again: Dr. Rod Marcom and his nurse Kathy; Dr. Mark Spatola, his Physician's Assistant Dr. Effie Burke, and their surgical tech Catherine; The dedicated folks at the Orange Park Medical Center Day Surgery, intake RN's Irene and Louise, day surgery RN Tammi, and Operating Room RN Karen; The life support team which literally kept me alive during the surgery was lead by my anesthesiologist Dr. Zapp, Nurse Anesthetist Tracey watched over my life every minute, and Courtney monitored my central nervous system. In the recovery room RN Jason took such great care of me while I was coming back to the land of the living, and the friendly Haitian orderly Michelle was a ray of sunshine as he wheeled me out to my waiting truck and loving husband. OH MY GOSH! I truly was blessed by each and every one of these folks.
Tom sez: Looking back, we can see that Lilly had experienced the insidious, and gradually increasing symptoms of spinal column deterioration for at least the past 3 years - and probably much longer. Her many years of grueling physical activity in the carpet cleaning business had taken a heavy toll on her back; but she just peddled harder on her bike in an effort to overcome the inevitable. After all, Tough Chick is pretty tough. The situation with Lilly's back has given me a much greater appreciation for what vets do - I now know how difficult it is to understand someone with the communication skills of a stoic cocker spaniel... (Lilly sez: "What ever.") As she convalesces, of course she has some days which are better than others, but she is making great progress, and we (including her doctors) think that she has a great propensity for healing, and a restoration to a pain free life. As you can imagine keeping this gal within the bounds of "moderation" in her physical therapy program is quite a challenge - her philosophy of "just work harder" or "get me that bigger hammer" is what got her in trouble in the first place. I have made a living on the waterfront for much of my life, working with some pretty tough characters like US Navy deep sea divers, and I think that I know how to help my Tiger Lilly.
OK, that is what has been happening around the good ship Tiger Lilly. Lilly is on the mend and Tom is just going to have to get over taking a grizzly old neurosurgeon on his honey moon... We know how uninteresting it can be to listen to someone else go on and on about their aches and pains, but we hope that you can find the goodness in our experience with disease and technology, and most of all faith and healing.
If you navigate to our PICTURE GALLERY (the right-hand column of this blog) and traverse thusly: Crew, Family & Friends / LILLY's BACK! We have some interesting pictures which will enhance the explanation of Lilly's condition. Just click on each picture for some clever wittacizms and crittacizms...
After a whirlwind 18-month courtship which included - riding a roller coaster of emotions, cruising over 2600 miles of the East Coast of North America together, and figuring out what we wanted for our final trimester (if we are really lucky we may get 30 more years); we decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. So on New Year's Day 2011 we stood beneath a huge moss-draped oak on the bank of the St Johns River and our Pastor Jason from Christ's Church married us. In the presence of God we won one another on one / one / one-one :-) Wow! This process of older folks coming together and getting married certainly is not for sissies. (Lilly sez: "Older folks?" Speak for yourself Buckwheat!)
So, how did all this come about, anyway?
OUR STARBUCKS STORY
TOM: It was the spring of 2009, a Friday night about two weeks after Easter, and I was sitting on the patio at the Fruit Cove Starbucks. My boat was swinging on her hook on bucolic Julington Creek in Old Bull Bay - an aptly named anchorage for a guy like me. The north Florida winter had been one of the coldest on record, and the clement spring breeze warming the St. Johns River and environs was most welcome to a single-handed sailor with a touch of cabin fever. Starbucks was a convenient place to check my email, to see and be-seen, and to generally just enjoy the evening. I was absorbed in conversation with my youngest daughter Jennifer on a Wi-Fi Skype connection, when peripherally I noticed a fit looking pony-tailed blonde gal bounce by my table and sit behind me. My conversation with Jennifer had taken on the aspect of a younger-but-wiser concerned daughter counseling her wayward father; and my usual response to my daughters when I don't want to roger-up for some situation which they perceive as being bad for the Old Man is to simply respond "Well, I'll be dead soon anyway." If memory serves, this time the subject was my single-handed sailing adventures, and this session had started out with the usual, "You know Dad, you are not quite as young as you used to be..." It was hard for either of my daughters to realize that being divorced from their sainted mother, I really am enjoying the autumn of my years - sailing my boat where I want to go, doing as I please, and pretty much just being a curmudgeon... Common decency and State Law compel me to plead guilty to Skyping in a public place without headphones. I feel duty-bound to offer issues of mitigation and extenuation: after many watches in ship's engine rooms, and mucking about the bottom in noisy diving helmets, I do have a slight hearing loss - so it is likely that I was raising my voice just a bit during our Skype... Nonetheless, while having a PRIVATE and PERSONAL conversation with my daughter, from over my shoulder I heard a woman's voice state in a boiler room whisper "HEY BUDDY, WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?" I turned to locate the source of this irritation, and sure enough, it came from the blonde chick. I was determined to ignore her, but I'll be DEUCED if she didn't repeat her harsh interrogative! Is that woman totally incapable of MINDING HER OWN BUSINESS? A second glance in her direction - but certainly not enough of a look to encourage any sort of conversational exchange - caused a flicker of recognition to register. I had seen this woman before. It was just two days prior - at this same Starbucks - I remembered seeing her get out of a carpet cleaning van, and meet a young quadriplegic man in a wheel chair. Yes, this was that same woman. That afternoon she got out of her van like John Wayne gets off a horse, hitched up her belt, leaned forward like she was walking in a gale, and carried a bit of a starboard list that portrayed a certain "don't cross my bow" man-o-war attitude. There was no mistaking the cut of this one's jib; then, as now, her dishwater blonde hair was severely yanked back with one of those absolutely horrid banana clips from right out of the 70's. She had the tightly packed body of a professional athlete, not many curves on her; the Romanian woman's welter-weight Olympic Wrestling team came to mind... Although she had a harsh quality about her physical appearance, her warm and friendly manner towards the crippled lad revealed a completely different side. But in the aggregate, my assessment of this woman had been "Now there is one tough chick - better stand clear of her." And here she was, interrupting my conversation with Jennifer, and addressing my person in what only could be described as an impertinent manner. But for some strange reason, on this inviting spring evening, in the soft glow of the Starbucks veranda, she didn't look quite so harsh; and in fact, one could almost describe her pesky demeanor as both perky and interesting...
LILLY: I had just left a church dinner thinking that a hot Venti Caramel Macchiato would taste good before I went home and turned in, so I turned my big white F-150 Crew Cab south, and headed for Julington Creek. I knew Starbucks would be closing in an hour or so, so I took my drink outside to enjoy the invigorating night air. As I walked across the patio and took in the sounds and scents of the spring evening, I noticed this man sitting alone, but his bald head, advanced age, and seemingly permanent scowl did not invite my attention. So I passed by him and sat down alone; allowing my coffee to cool while I went over the events of my hectic day. In my case, hectic was normal, and hectic was good; the fast paced self-imposed chaotic activities of my carpet cleaning business seemed more fulfilling that way; and besides, the days passed easier. I propped my legs up, settled in, and got comfortable - people watching on the patio at Starbucks was one of my most enjoyable past-times - I just love God's people. On the other side of Bald Guy a couple was holding hands across their table, and their smiles and obvious interest in each other brought to mind thoughts of the pictures that I had just removed from the refrigerator door the previous week. Was a year enough to mourn? When I went into Ryan's room and sat down with him to talk this big change over, I wondered if this young man of mine was ready to see his Mom back in the push-pull of a social life. I knew it was time, but I didn't know how I knew - it simply was. My melancholy reverie was thankfully broken by Bald Guy's baritone - but he was apparently talking to his computer. This fellow was not only talking to his lap top, but he was doing so in a manner as though he were on the deck of a ship. Not being very experienced with computers, I had never seen someone talking to one - and his behavior was quite interesting to me. The amazing part was that Bald Guy was not only talking to his computer, but I heard the thing talk back - in a lady's voice. Ummmm, this seemed pretty weird to me. I could not help but to hear him say "I'll be dead soon anyway" and that sort of talk did catch my attention. It became apparent to me that he was using his computer as some sort of telephone, and he seemed to be talking to a concerned woman. It was when I heard him say this death thing again that I just thought that perhaps this fellow was in trouble and needed a friend. Being an extrovert, I just had to blurt out, "What is your problem buddy?" That is when he kind of glanced at me with obvious distain, and as if to say "Lady, what is YOUR problem?" Then he ignored me and actually started talking to the computer a little bit louder. He told the person on the other end that a woman was eves-dropping, and wondered out loud if something was wrong with me. He told the computer that he would get back with her, and that he was going to close for now. This is when I said again, "What is your problem, and what makes you think that you would be dead soon?" And that is how I met Tom Service. It turned out that this guy could talk, he certainly had something to say, and I guess that I was ready to listen to what he had to say. It's a good thing too, because all of us who know Tom realize that he is full of himself, and there is no way we are going to get a word in edgewise anyway - so we might just as well listen.
TOM: Although this gal came across a little brash, it was probably just a defensive front. (I have read the tech manual on women - Men Are From Mars & Women Are From Venus - so I have an excellent understanding of these things.) I am pretty sure that she was enamored by my almost perfectly shaped head. She had a spirited demeanor, was an interesting conversationalist, and the time seemed to fly by as we talked about her son, my daughters, our spiritual beliefs, her business, the Navy, and life aboard a cruising sailboat. She was obviously quite fit, and I was interested in that aspect of her life, but she was reluctant to talk about herself; in fact, I pretty much had to drag anything out of her that I wanted to know. The shock of the night came when she got on my bike and circled around the deserted Starbucks parking lot. I was seeing something that I had never actually witnessed before - poetry in motion. I keep a bike aboard my sailboat - it is my principal form of land transportation; I have an active life but I am certainly not an athlete. I have owned touring bikes and kept them aboard the Navy ships that I was assigned to; and I have enjoyed riding my bike around the various foreign ports of call that we visited. I have watched the Tour de France bicycle race on TV and saw that amazing athlete Lance Armstrong perform; the grace, agility, power, speed, and perfect form with which he and his teammates raced was something to behold. Yet right here before my eyes was that same perfect form, agility, and grace being demonstrated for me; it was absolutely amazing to watch - and I was pleasantly dumbfounded. It was immediately apparent to me that Lilly was in the same league as those athletes I had watched on the TV. For once in my life I was speechless. Who was this lady? (Some weeks later, after it was apparent to us both that our relationship was going somewhere, Lilly made the decision to let me in to a special part of her life. I sat with her on the couch with her scrapbook on my lap and read her press clippings. Here are the highlights of what I read: Number One all-around athlete in her Hollywood, Florida high school graduating class; AAU collegiate national swimming record holder; MVP member of the women's water polo team which won the national championship; one of America's first professional women triathletes; for five straight years in the 1980's she won south Florida's prestigious Penrod's Tinman Triathlon; in 1985 the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel ranked Lill 9th in America's Top Ten Sportswomen of the decade balloting - Olympic Champion Mary Lou Retton headed that list; in 1986 she was a founding member of the 1st United States National Triathlon Team; and in that same year the PM Magazine TV show did an hour long Valentine's Day special on America's Sweetheart Triathlete - you guessed it, it was Lill... Her sponsors included Cannondale bicycles, Oakley eyewear, the American Dairymen's Association, and America's Bike Shop - Mike's Cyclery. She was on the cover of Triathlon Magazine's June 1986 issue - looking every bit like America's Sweetheart Triathlete. In a sport dominated by narcissistic personalities, an altruistic triathlete like Lilly was a rarity among her competitors. Lill's fans adored her, and they formed a national fan club in her honor with tee shirts, newsletters, and a Board of Directors.) I had never met anyone like this before - this lady is truly a champion.
LILLY: Starbuck's had closed down at ten-o-clock, midnight was history, and we were well into a new day. Oh my gosh! Had we talked that much? Where had the time gone? Tom had explained to me in his Studdley Do-Right way - and with plenty of detail - that HE lived aboard a sailboat, that HE had sailed around the world, that HE didn't own a car (and actually seemed proud of this one), and that HE was a bike rider. I must admit that I had enjoyed his company, and I found his stories to be different and interesting - and he did seem to be genuine. But a cyclist? Really, I thought. (That must be his bike over there on the lamp-post.) OK, another guy who thinks he can ride. I walked over to his bike and quickly gave it a once-over. Hmmmm, Schwinn heavy steel frame K Mart Blue Light Special, "equipped" with a kick stand, kids tail light, kids head light, heavy-duty locking cable, and luggage carrier - all totaled about 10 pounds of extra stuff, with enough wind resistance to slow down a freight train - all this bike lacked was a raccoon tail, finger pull bell, and mud flaps. This guy was no Roadie. I asked him if I could take it for a spin, and he puffed up a bit and was obviously pleased that I was interested in HIS bike. He worked the secret combination to this valuable piece of equipment, and proudly turned it over to me. I jumped on, and began to ride, but the handlebar and brake levers were upside down. What was up with THAT? Impulsively I said to Tom, "How in the world can you ride this thing?" I did a few tight figure eights in the deserted parking lot; but as I maneuvered I softened a bit and told him that something was not "quite right" on his bike. (A few days later, I found out that the bike had fallen off its kick-stand the previous week, struck the handle bar on the ground, and rotated the whole thing around backwards QED the upside-down brakes.) Cycling is my life - and I can enjoy anything with two wheels - so I just had some fun on his bike. As he watched me ride, he seemed absolutely amazed - but I didn't have a clue what was putting that silly smile and wide-eyed look on his face. Something was going on inside that smart head of his, and apparently the scowl wasn't tattooed in place - he did have a nice smile :-) There was no way that anyone could safely control this bike in its present condition, but this guy was clunking around Mandarin on it - oblivious to its problems, and riding without a helmet on that shiny head of his. As I gave him back his bike, he made his move - I knew it was coming... He asked me if I would like to come out to his sailboat for a cup of tea. I thought to myself "Is THAT your best shot tough guy - A CUP OF FLIPPIN TEA?" But that is not what I said - somehow I didn't want to close the door on this fellow - and after a thoughtful moment of outward reflection said "No, it is late, and I don't think that would work out tonight, perhaps another time." Of course what I really meant was "NO! There is NO possible way that I am going to go out onto that dark river, in the wee hours of the morning, in a small dinghy, with someone I just met - NO WAY! (Should we put her down as undecided?) Well that is what I thought, but what we said was that we really enjoyed the past few hours talking with each other, and so we exchanged telephone numbers and email addresses. We agreed that we would see each other again - soon. Our first evening together was over; he got on his peculiar bicycle, and I got into my nice clean white pickup truck and followed him down the street. As I drove, I observed my new friend and thought to myself; he seemed educated and intriguing, he was dressed in nice clothes with polished alligator shoes, and he was confident in his athleticism. Maybe his arms and legs did flap about as he rocked his undersized bike back and forth, with his back pack bouncing up and down, his bald head shining in my headlights, and the bike not holding any sort of straight line. I thought to myself "I sure hope he sails better than he rides." Hmmmm, but I must admit that there were other goofy thoughts going through my mind... Looking back, I now can see that this was the beginning of the end of my long career as a single woman.
Lilly's Friends & Family are likely wondering "Where did she find this character - what was she thinking?" Answer: Starbucks, and I was ready to change the direction of my life. In my heart I knew that the time had finally come to settle down, and to spend the rest of my life with one man. The question was, which man? I wasn't sure about the settle down part, but then Tom explained his life as a bluewater sailor: it is like the vibrant existence of a sea bird, living at the dynamic interface between sea and sky, and ever on the move. That sounded like my kind of settling down, and he was my man. However, Tom and I both agreed that if we had made a list of the traits that we were looking for in a mate, neither of us matched up very well with the other person's list. Mr. Organized had in fact made his list - and posted it on Date Dot Com for all the world to see, but my list was in my heart - I would know him when I met him. Early on in our relationship this question of "Is this the one?" caused an awful lot of turmoil. The person we were looking at appeared so much different from what we had imagined. This issue was not resolved until we took a pre-marital course at church. Even at our ages, one can still learn a lot. Pastor Randy explained to us that God has the perfect present for each of us, but that perfect present is not a perfect person. OK, that concept explained a lot - but the question still remained - Is this the one? I had thought that for the first time in my life I was going to choose my mate based on my head as well as my heart - after all, I was now a mature woman who knew what I wanted. But in the end, what we both did was to open our hearts to God's will instead of our own; so that we could recognize and accept His perfect present. Life-style change is certainly one of our most difficult challenges. My career in both amateur and professional sports, and my working life as a hard-charging entrepreneur had cost me dearly. Both my body and my mind were tired, and more than ready for a change - but my spirit told me don't lie down, discover a new challenge - but find a healthy challenge that would lift me up. God has a great sense of humor and I am living proof of it. World history and geography were my downfall throughout school, but now I am eager to learn as much about the world as I possibly can with this sailor man named Tom. One of the great lessons that I have learned during our courtship is that a person cannot embrace the past and move forward to the future simultaneously; and that can be very scary. My son is 20 years-old and I know that he is more than ready to make his way in life, without his Mom hanging on him. My brother is a strong person, and a capable businessman in his own right. He and his wife will go far with their new company; they will do it together. I love them all and my prayer is that my loved ones will also enjoy the gifts that God has waiting for them. What I am sure of is that this man Tom is the one I have been waiting for.
Tom's Friend's & Family are likely asking "Is she strong enough to survive his personality? Answer: you betcha! He doesn't call her Tiger Lilly for nothing... Here's why: In 1992 Lilly moved to Albuquerque and entered her first real mountain bike race - up Sandia Mountain's 10,000 feet of elevation, and many switchbacks - she won that grueling test of strength and stamina earning her the nickname "Lilly Hammer." Later that same year she came in second in the famous La Luz 9 mile foot race straight up that same mountain. She ought to be able to handle anything Service can put out! Our story is of two very different successful, strong willed people coming together in a dynamic relationship; the entrepreneur mentality (Come on - just get er done!) vs. the Naval Officer (Dudley Do-Right crossing all the tees and dotting the eyes...) However, we are equally yoked in our spiritual beliefs as Christians and we are finding that this overcomes most of the chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry choices. There are some issues, which faith doesn't seem to solve: about the third time Lilly got her little toosh wet in the dark of the night, we had the no-holds-barred come-to-Jesus toilet seat down discussion - but then don't all couples go through this one? In many ways we are so very different: MUSIC - Lilly likes The Kinks (never heard of them) and The Rolling Stones, while Tom likes to listen to dead white guys like Beethoven and Bach; TRANSPORTATION - she loves motorcycles, jet skis, and high performance cars (she will ride anything, anytime, anywhere as long as it is fast), he prefers to row his dinghy - and is a loyal Toyota Corolla man: ENTERTAINMENT - Lilly finds amusement in slapstick comedy, while Tom loves documentaries and movies with a developed plot and dramatic content; EXERCISE - Tom's exercise performs useful work and is built into his active lifestyle, while Lilly runs, swims, and cycles in time-consuming circles, a form of recreation, and very effective therapy. But not to worry. Pastor Armand says that we only have to get two things right in this life: marry the right person, and establish a right relationship with God. Everything else is small stuff, and there is no need to sweat the small stuff. So far, my only regret about our relationship is when I think of all the time, hard work, and advanced thinking that I put into developing my clever "Message In A Bottle" profile for Date Dot Com (as Lilly derisively refers to Internet Dating), and then the lady who became my wife never read the dang thing! Now that we are married, adult supervision has been restored to my life, and that is a good thing; but the scary part is that Lilly - now think LUCY, as in the famous comedienne Lucille Ball - is now the recipient of my new-found patience, understanding, and compassion - important character qualities I have needed to work on for many years now. I guess this is just another case of be careful what you pray for! I didn't know her name, or what she would look like, but I had been searching for my Lilly for a very long time - and now I have found her.
Well, there you have it; that is our story, and we are sticking to it!
If you have read this far you have probably wasted a perfectly good 30 minutes, so you might just as well keep going and check out our Photo Gallery to see our wedding pictures and read the vows we took. You can get there by simply navigating through our PHOTO GALLERY thusly: Crew, Family & Friends / LILLY & TOM TIE THE KNOT / then click on each picture (our vows are under the sailboat wedding ring).
We would love to hear back from you; perhaps you too have lived some of these same experiences while searching for the love of your life?
03/11/2010, Charleston, SC
Back in the mid-1970's Tom served in the commissioning crew of the new Spruance Class destroyer USS John Young (DD-973). On the First Tuesday in November 2010, our Commissioning Skipper, Captain Doug Menikheim, was elected to the Stillwater, MN City Council by a LANDSLIDE!! The vote was 65% for D.K. Menikheim and 35% for his opponent - not even close... To see a recent picture of Captain Menikheim and his lovely wife Mary Louise, and to read a short entry about him, please navigate our PHOTO GALLERY thusly: Crew, Family, and Friends / The Friends We Meet / then click on Doug's VOTE picture.
Way to go Skipper!!
Lilly & Tom