The Cruise

For years it was my dream to take a sailing cruise. I won’t do big cruise ships. They kill whales and dolphins and mess up small ports where they stop. So how to cruise? Sail!

I was turning seventy and decided that now was the time, so I booked on Schooner American Eagle out of Portland, Maine, during the fall color season.



And I invited girlfriends to join me.


Barbara, Jill, me and Kathy

We motored away from the dock in Rockland a little after ten am on Wednesday. It was a glorious sunny Maine morning, not even cool enough to be called “crisp.”  Everyone was on deck to watch town slip away.


Soon almost all on board had taken seasickness medicine or put on our pressure point cuffs designed to prevent seasickness. Due to the smooth sailing, however, none of that was necessary. By day two I’d taken off my cuffs, never to put them on again.


Protected (from noting) with my anti-nausea cuffs

We headed north, staying near the coastline, searching for the elusive fall colors. Maine had enjoyed a long warm fall, and that meant the leaves were just starting to change.


But change they did! In just the few days we were sailing there was a noticeable difference.


A few things about the cruise as a whole, starting with the not good. The only, ONLY not good was the lack of wind, and that certainly was not the fault of Captain John or the crew. It meant, however, that we had to motor rather than sail for a good part of the trip.


Buoys mark lobster traps in a calm sea

That said, everything else was as close to perfect as one can imagine. The four-person crew and the captain were experienced, friendly and helpful, and they all had a good sense of humor.


Captain John explains some of the basics.

Though there was no wind, shortly after we left groups lined up to help tug the ropes and hoist the sails. We knew we would find wind eventually.

The weather was beautiful, perfect, even the last day when we were totally fogged in. After warm days, blue skies and lots of sun (and some mild sunburn), the fog was a treat.


Taken a few hours after rising when the fog was finally burning off

The food was amazing, and there was so much of it! Beautiful salads, plenty of fruit, and everything was homemade. Each meal had breads, biscuits, cookies or pies – all baked in the schooner’s wood stove oven.



Lunch set out on deck

We stopped the last full day, Friday, on Wreck Island for a lobster boil Matthew the cook had even roasted eggplants and made fresh baba ganoush.


That along with good crackers, fresh veggies and several kinds of cheese proved the perfect appetizer. Then as we ate on the beach, one of the crew came around with wine.


I ate two lobsters, by the way.

We went ashore each day and two crew members, Chris and Justin, organized us into rowers and supervisors for the trip.


We roamed two small towns, one on an island, and visited another tiny island where we hiked through the woods to a lighthouse.


Everywhere we stopped the towns or islands were beautiful, full of vibrant fall colors, and where we saw people they were friendly and welcoming.


Church in Castine, Maine

One stop was long, and the four of us went separate ways but soon enough we had all slipped into a local pub for a glass of wine. Justin and Chris were there, just finishing a beer, so Jill quickly bought them another round to ensure we’d have enough time to leisurely sip our wine.

One bit of excitement was when we got attacked by a pirate ship.


The Pirate Ship!!

I was on deck, lazing in the sun and gazing out to shore, paying no attention to a cluster of people on the other side of the ship. Suddenly, BOOM!!! We’d been fired upon!


Justin’s fancy earplugs

The crowd on the other side of the boat was laughing and pointing at Justin. He had pulled a tiny cannon out of a box and stuffed paper towels into his ears as earplugs. Soon he lit a fuse and there came another BOOM and a puff of smoke.

This was followed by the folks on both schooners laughing and waving at one another. A few BOOMS. The only breaks to the lovely quiet on the water.

For three full days we glided between islands, sometimes at full sail when we picked up some wind.

Pumpkin Island

When the breeze was cool I slipped into my cabin to read, but otherwise I was on deck soaking in the beauty and the clear salt air.


Similar to my cabin, but mine was smaller!

I really cannot say enough about how good this trip was! We met people aboard who were on their fifth sail with Captain John on the Schooner American Eagle. They said they’d tried other sails but this was the best. Although we had no other experience on schooners, we all agreed it could not have been better. Five star rating!


Days Three and Four

Day three dawned gray and cool. Not ones to be put off by a little bad weather, we set off to Bath via back roads as recommended by Michael, our Couchsurf host.

But what is it about cemeteries? Both Barbara and I were drawn to one along the road. It had death dates in the early and mid 1800s. Although some had not died until they were in their seventies or eighties, many had died in their thirties, and quite a few were children or babies. The fragility of life two hundred years ago.




Bath is a sweet village on one of the many inlets along the coast. Michael told us that if the Maine coastline were stretched out into a straight line, it would be longer than the California coast. I looked it up, and yep. Maine’s coastline north to south is 228 miles long compared to California’s which is 840. But in a straight line, Maine beats California by about fifty miles, with a grand total of 3478 coastline miles. Compare that to its 228 mile length and that is a lot of inlets!


Bath has a major shipbuilding industry and there are also several small shops that build small wooden boats.



It has a very walkable downtown with an odd bookstore, interesting shops, antiques, and lots of warm clothing available. It also has one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen.


The library in Bath

Then we backtracked to Freeport where we met Michael and fellow Couchsurfer Rachel for lunch, and since we were in Freeport, the home of LL Bean, well, we just had to visit. And we ended up leaving dollars behind in exchange for some great clothes.


We settled back in at Michael’s house then left in the morning after a thousand thanks and goodbye hugs. Off we went back to Portland (back roads) where we picked up Kathy and headed out to roam the streets and go to Gilbert’s Chowder House. More chowder!


Now we we are three!


An old fire truck repurposed as a tour bus, downtown Portland

We did a bit of shopping and Barbara bought us a cigar to share.


Then we noodled our way north to Rockland where we met up with Cousin Jill (actually, the wife of my cousin Bruce, but she is now my cousin too since she married him.)


The final foursome

We had a light dinner of salad and then … we boarded the schooner!


Because the sail wasn’t fully booked, we each ended up with a private room. After settling in, we wondered how in the world two people could comfortably share such a tiny space. The answer is simple: Don’t stay in the room. Head out on deck.


We learned our way around the schooner and learned basic important terms: port, starboard, galley and head.

None of us slept well that night. Too many people in a small space. We could hear each other enter or leave the head, heard some snoring from several directions, and even heard someone talking in her sleep. After that, earplugs ensured a sound sleep.

On Wednesday morning we had a hearty breakfast and then had a bit of time to roam town and pick up last minute items we may have forgotten. Kathy and I did a strange thing: We walked to McDonalds. But there was a good reason. Honest. I wanted to see if what I had heard was true. I’d been told that McDonalds in Maine served lobster rolls!

Yes, it was true, but sadly it was out of season so I couldn’t even see it on the menu. The young woman behind the counter told us to come back in the late spring. Oh, well.

Back to the schooner where we waved goodbye to anyone around, and off we sailed.


Maine, Days One and Two

Day One: Departure, Arrival

Barbara and I flew out of Tucson while most of the city was still sleeping. As soon as we hit cruising altitude, I fell asleep and awoke just as we entered the Dallas area.


Smooth landing, quick dash to a new terminal, and then we were on the plane to Philadelphia.

On this leg of the flight I managed to read a while but still caught a nap.

In Philadelphia, a major cross-airport hike took us from Terminal A to Terminal F. We needed the hike by then after sitting and sitting. And sitting. Then we boarded and sat some more.

We landed in Portland, Maine, a little early and walked through the small but lovely airport. Can you imagine a terminal with seating areas filled with couches and rocking chairs? That’s Portland’s airport.


We soon had our bags and then our car. Warning! At Dollar rentals, a second driver costs $13/day! It is only $5/day at Budget. Keep that in mind the next time you travel with a friend. We surely will. Foxx, by the way, does not charge for a second driver. Sadly, there was no Foxx here.

We made one wrong turn but corrected quickly, and soon we were headed south on Highway 1, traveling a short distance to Saco. However, in the dark and the rain, it seemed a bit long of a drive. Just as we were sure we had passed our turn, I pulled into the left turn lane to make a u-turn and voila! The street where I was making the u-turn was the street we needed to turn on,

We checked into our motel then headed out to the Sea Salt Lobster House for steamy bowls of creamy clam chowder, some calamari on the side. And hey, some chocolate cake for dessert. We were smart and split the cake.


Long, tiring day, but here were are in Maine. As we flew in we saw acres of green dotted with fall’s fancy ladies: the maples and elms and other hardwoods all decked out in reds and golds. Hopefully it will clear tomorrow so we can do some dry wandering rather than soggy wandering.


Day two: Wandering in the Rain

We awoke to find we had missed sunrise except we hadn’t really missed it at all. Heavy, heavy skies meant all there had been was a lightening of the color from black to deep gray, so gray that most of my photos for the day look like black and whites.

We ran across some wild turkeys.


We first wandered south from Saco to Kennebunkport.


Lovely little area where we found a grocery/deli/coffeehouse/bookstore/post office. The yang man behind the butcher counter insisted we must, must try a Maine specialty: the Whoopie Pie. And he said if we weren’t going to buy it, he would buy it for us.


We succumbed.

Between us we ate less than half. Enough sugar to induce diabetic coma if we had even split the whole. We may nibble on a little more today.

North to Old Orchard Beach.


We wandered town and had the privilege to witness a proposal on the beach! We encountered a young woman setting out photos, jars of lights, and sprinkling rose petals. She was excited and quit nervous as she waited for her girlfriend to arrive.

It was a “yes,” and we went up to be the first to congratulate them.


North to Pine Point where Barbara stuck with clam chowder and I opted for the halibut chowder. We shared a large salad.


North to Cape Elizabeth where we visited Fort Williams Park.

There we stood in front of one lighthouse and could see two others! Maine is a lighthouse lover’s dream!


Then north some more, past Portland to Topsham where we stayed with our Couchsurf host Michael. What a great guy! He had six of us staying with him last night! The others leave today, we leave tomorrow. What will Michael do all alone? He has been hosting for years and says, with a big smile, that he hasn’t traveled the world but the world has come to hm. A wonderful guy providing a wonderful service.


Enjoying a meal with Michael and fellow Couchsurfer Rachel, from China.


Turtles, Part II: the Babies

When I visited Edisto Island, South Carolina, with my sister Jean and her family, one of my great hopes was to witness the hatching of baby turtles. I looked up the Edisto Island Loggerhead Turtle Project and found there was a presentation each Tuesday evening, so of course I had to attend. It was my second night on the island.

 My sister joined me for the presentation. We learned that there were nests ready to hatch at several beach access points. The town of Edisto numbers each access road, and when we left the presentation, we knew to look near numbers twelve, ten and seven.

 Two nights later, Jeannie suggested we go look for a hatching nest. We stopped first at number twelve and it was close to ready. The nest had already sunk, and we’d learned that the nests erupt a few days after sinking. We found a small group of people sitting around the nest, waiting, but they’d seen no activity yet.


So we went on to access number ten.



Prepping the runway

 There was a lot of human activity around one of the nests near number ten! We found one of the nests had erupted last night but only about half the babies had emerged. They were expecting the second half to come out very soon.


Smoothing out the runway

Remember, because of beach erosion, mama turtles can’t get up high enough on the beach to lay their eggs and end up laying them where nests could wash away or where high tides would drown the babies. Therefore, Turtle Patrol Volunteers had relocated these nests, and when they did so, each nest was staked out and a sign was posted that told the date the eggs were laid and how many had been laid.



So when the nests erupted, it was easy to figure out how many remained, and on the night we visited, the volunteers said we should see about fifty emerge.

And emerge they did.

Before the babies began climbing out, my sister dashed back to the house and picked up a few of her children. They arrived on the beach just before the eruption.

I didn’t know at first that the little round balls of sand were actually baby turtle heads. And the little pieces of what appeared to be leaves were in fact little baby flippers.


See the little heads and flippers?

Then the round balls of sand moved. Flippers began to push sand away. And then … eruption!


Out they came, one after another after another. In total, just about the fifty we’d been told to expect.

No lights are allowed on the beach at night. Mama and baby turtles tend to head toward light. Usually, the sea is bright under moonlight, so mamas, and their babies sixty days later, simply head toward the light to get to the sea. Red lights can be used briefly, but even those can confuse the turtles if they stay on too long.


The only light was the flashlight of one volunteer. He turned on his flashlight a few feet away from the nest, standing toward the ocean. The babies scrambled toward it.


As babies erupted and headed toward the light, the man slowly backed down the hill to the sea. The babies continued following the light. Down the sand ramp the volunteers had made. Down, down, down to the ocean.

There was a group of about fifty who had assembled to watch the eruption. All were enthralled, even the smallest child. A cheer went up when the first baby turtle went into the water to begin his sixty-mile swim to the open sea where he and the others will climb atop some seaweed and follow the ocean currents.

img_4107Before the whole crowd had gathered


The males will never return, spending their entire lives in the ocean. Females will return to land, usually very near where they themselves hatched, to lay eggs. They are not sexually mature and able to lay eggs until they are over twenty years old. After that, they will lay eggs every two to three years, sometimes creating three or more nests along the shore where they were born.


Only one in a thousand baby loggerheads live to maturity. Of the fifty or so we saw emerge that night, will any make it?


Look at that tiny guy headed into the big, big ocean!


Turtles, Part I

I am a turtle person.

I became one in a brief moment in the late summer of 1990 on a boat as I crossed Lago Atitlán in Guatemala. I saw a vision that included a sea turtle and I have had a powerful connection with turtles ever since. And before you roll your eyes at my vision, know I never much believed in them until I had one.

But this is not the story of that vision I had twenty-six years ago. This is the story of loggerhead turtles emerging from their nests, in what is called an eruption, on Edisto Island in South Carolina.


I was there with my sister and her family for about eight days. As soon as I knew I was coming I contacted the island’s turtle project. The day after I arrived my sister and I went to a turtle presentation held at a local coffeehouse.   (Sorry, the link wouldn’t attach correctly. Copy and paste if you’d like to take a look.)

There I met Pat and Susan, two turtle volunteers. The crowd at the coffeehouse learned that due to beach erosion, a climate change problem, turtles often have to lay their eggs too close to the shore and can wash away in a storm or be filled with seawater during high tide. If that happens, the babies will drown because the eggshells are permeable. So far this year about 90% of the nests on Edisto have had to be relocated to higher ground.



You can see the erosion in this photo of a turtle “runway”

To locate a nest, Turtle Patrol volunteers walk the beach each dawn during nesting season, May through early August. Volunteers look for mama turtle tracks to and from a nesting site. Then they use a probe, shown below, to find the nest. They start away from the nest to get a feel for the density of the sand and move closer. When the density changes and becomes less dense, they know they’ve found the nest.


Two turtle volunteers with a probe

When a nest is found, volunteers rope it off, moving it first if necessary, then date it and number it. That way they know when the eggs in each location will be ready to hatch.

Weather helps determine how long it takes the eggs to hatch, which is anywhere from about fifty-eight to sixty-three days. Both weather and placement in the nest help determine the babies’ sex. More males hatch in cooler weather, more females in warmer weather. More males are located at the bottom of the nest where it’s cooler and more females are at the top.

Sixty days or so after the eggs are laid, the turtle babies begin to hatch and their movement causes the nest to sink. When patrol members see the sinking, they create a sort of runway for the babies and put black plastic along the back and sides of the nest to force the babies toward the sea. Two to three days after the nest begins to sink, the turtles begin to emerge.


Crowd waits by the runway

An eruption.

Next blog post will be about the eruption and the babies!



I Coulda Been on the Ocean

I coulda been on the ocean.


Yeah, this is the end of the story, but I just gotta tell it now. Then I’ll get back to posting about the Island.

I spent eight days on Edisto Island in South Carolina with my sister and her family. A few days before my departure, my sis suggested I change my flight, stay a little longer. They’d be there several more days after I left. I could have stayed.


My partner encouraged me to do so even though I’d miss his birthday. But I declined the offer and encouragement. I had a few things scheduled at home. I wanted to celebrate his birthday with him, I had some work to do, and it seemed easier to just head on out rather than stay.


Oh, what a mistake. What. A. Mistake.

I got to the Charlotte airport in plenty of time and sailed through security with a pre board pass: no scans, no pat-downs, no shoes off.

When I got to my gate, things still looked good. But about forty-five minutes before departure, they still had anther destination posted at boarding at my gate. And it wasn’t boarding.

I approached the counter and found there were THREE planes to board at that gate before mine. Somehow, they eventually shuffled things around and got us all out of there, albeit over an hour late.

I texted my sister who got online and found my connecting flight in Chicago, Midway Airport, was also delayed. Whew! I might make the connection.

Then we landed and the runways were all backed up. A few more texts to my sister and I learned my flight had been cancelled. She told me to get to a Southwest station ASAP so I could reschedule.

But as soon as I got off the plane I could tell it was, in the words of Stephen Colbert, a clusterf#@k.

Lengthy lines snaked through the airport. Rebooking lines. I took my place at the end of one and eventually heard the story.


The Southwest computer system had totally crashed. All Southwest flights across the country were affected. I later heard this had made national news.

With no computers, there was no way to communicate with ticketing agents or boarding gates, no way to reschedule flights, nothing. They could not even tell where planes were or what plane might be landing.

A clusterf#@k, for sure.

I stood in line a little over four hours before I got to a reticketing station. Well, that is not quite true. I didn’t stand the whole time.

About two hours in, I noticed a line of wheelchairs. I grabbed one. Then I grabbed one for a woman who was struggling to both hold her cranky four-year-old and drag her bags along. The wheelchairs made it so-o-o much easier! A short time later other folks my age and other single moms had scarfed up all the wheelchairs. We all shared them around over the next few hours.

A few of us laughingly talked about renting a car. Looking back, not a bad idea.

While we waited:

Two pre-teen girls practiced their dribbling and tossing skills with a basketball. They both tried spinning the ball on their finger.

A group of early twenty-somethings laughed it up and sang a few songs.

An eight-year-old turned cartwheels.

People lay on the floor.


Southwest employees passed out peanuts and water. (It should have been steak and wine.)




We heard a huge cheer and soon watched a plane board. Then forty-five minute later the same plane deboarded. It seems the pilot had already worked nearly a full day and was therefore not allowed to fly for three more hours.

Makes perfect sense. I wouldn’t want to be on a plane with an overworked, sleepy pilot. But why in the world couldn’t someone have figured that out before they loaded all those people onto the plane? Well, no way to communicate. The passengers were livid when they were herded back into the airport and told to reschedule.

Frankly, I was livid, too. Someone should have been there to simply reschedule all of them onto a whole new flight.

Eventually it was my turn at the ticketing desk. Four hours and fifteen minutes in line. The woman gave me the bad news that I would not get out until 10:15 that night. It was 2:45 a.m., so I asked for a motel. More bad news: Motel rooms had not been authorized.

I stumbled away, new boarding pass in hand, and found someone to ask about my baggage. I had no idea if I was supposed to pick it up and check it in again or if it would be done for me. I should have figured it out, but I’d been up for nearly twenty-two hours and was punch drunk. I was sent down to baggage, out of the security area, to find out. Yes, it would be done for me. I asked about motels and was told all the motels Southwest worked with were totally booked. The woman also told me all the cots were full.

Cots? There were COTS???

I staggered back upstairs and through security where the water Southwest had given me was promptly confiscated. I told the woman, who apologize while taking it, that I was about to have a meltdown. I had been awake 23-1/2 hours and had been dealing with airport madness for over five hours. She told me where to go to try to find a cot. I love her.


I struggled through the airport to the cot area then wandered down the aisle searching for an empty one. I found one with a woman sitting in a wheelchair beside it. I asked if it were available and she told me no, that she might want to put her feet up on it. I refrained from choking her.

Finally I saw a woman getting up and reaching for her bags. I asked if the cot were available and she said yes. I told her that was the best news I’d heard in twenty-four hours.

I stashed my bag and purse underneath the cot, grabbed my little pillow and lay down. Just as I snuggled in and closed my eyes, I heard a loud voice: “Four a.m. wakeup call! Everyone has to get up.”

No, I thought. This simply cannot be happening. It can not.

I looked through bloodshot eyes at the woman and gave her the sixty-second version of my last twenty-four hours. She said she knew a place I could lie down. I love this woman, too.

She took me to a basement room. It was warm and comfy and had cots with blankets and pillows all waiting. Few cots were in use.

Finally. At 4:15 a.m., I settled in, pulled up my blanket and drifted off to a not-very-comfortable sleep.

We were awakened before eight. The area had to be cleared. The good news was there was another area set aside for those of us who had a full day to spend. The bad news was the room was on the ground floor, full of windows and light, and was quite chilly. But I got a new cot, a new pillow, and a new blanket.

I had to take my things if I left the room, but I could come back. All day long!

day cots


I left once and put a note on the cot saying it was occupied. I was starved, having not eaten for about twenty hours, so I dashed out for a bite to eat. But I came back a short time later to find my blanket and pillow gone, along with the note. Thankfully there were a few more blankets and pillows still left.

temp wall

So here I stay, not comfortable with leaving the chilly room because if I leave and my blanket is taken, there are no more blankets. But for now, this is my place, my home away from home for the next ten hours. And it feels okay until I remember: I coulda been on the ocean.


My flight that night at 10:15 was cancelled and many more were postponed. We found this out after waiting for hours at the boarding gate. I knew I didn’t have it in me to stand in line another few hours, so I hightailed it back to the room full of cots.


Thankfully, there were a few unoccupied cots, and I settled down for another few hours of sleep. And there were little kits of necessities. All but a comb or brush, and mine was in my suitcase.


By this time, though, nerves were frayed. People were beginning to holler at others. One woman was in tears because she would miss her son’s wedding. I wondered how many others were missing important family gatherings: weddings, funerals, memorials, reunions.

At four a.m. I got up and stood in line again until I had secured a standby position that would be good all day on any Tucson-bound flight with space available.

I managed to get on the first flight. I was the last passenger on, and although it was delayed a few hours, it actually took off.

Thirty-seven hours in the airport, up for fifty-seven hours with only three hours sleep when I coulda been, you know, on the ocean.


To Edisto Island!

On Monday morning I was up before three a.m. InTucson to pack a few last minute items and get out the door before four.

It is odd getting to the airport in the dark, but it was so worth it to head out on this wonderful trip to South Carolina.

I had to change planes in Chicago at Midway Airport – not quite a direct line to South Carolina, but so much more pleasant than having to change planes in somewhere like Dallas or Atlanta. I pretty much hate big airports!

We got off the ground on time and went straight into the clouds so I couldn’t see a thing even though I had a window seat.


Soon we were in total cloud.

Part of the family was there to meet me in Charlotte, then off we went down two-lane roads to Edisto Island where the family had rented a house on the beach.


When I first read of this place, I pronounced it in my head as it would be pronounced in Spanish: eh- DED-stow. Wrong. It’s ED-iss-toe.

Most of the beach houses are big and likely very pricey.


We have a smaller, older place that though it is a bit worn, is just perfect for us.


Complete with a simple outdoor shower.


I had my choice of places to sleep: I could have shared a room with four females ages five to thirty-three, or I could have the old porch, totally enclosed by windows, with a view of the beach. Hard choice, right?

Here’s my view.


And here’s our path to the beach.


The beach is a nice, gentle slope into deliciously warmish water.

Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we’re off to Savannah, Georgia, to wander that beautiful city for a while. But based on the clouds you can see over our neighbors’ houses, I am not counting on it.

Either way, I’ll be back with more photos soon.