July 28, 2005
Next week marks the fourth anniversary of our first log entry on these pages. We were in Trinidad then. Now the boat's in Florida and we're in Canada. In between, we've visited a lot of places and every week or two have hunted down a cyber cafe to send in the latest account of our travels. We were admittedly a little slow climbing out of the ditch and catching a ride on the information superhighway. At first, David -- a card-carrying Luddite -- would click the "send" button on the computer screen and glare suspiciously at the message box that would pop up: "Your mail has been sent".
"Oh yeah?" he'd growl. "Where's the proof?"
But much to his amazement, a few days later we'd be in another Internet cafe and there on the BoatUS web site we'd find our latest missive. Magic. But even more amazing, we discovered that there were people out there who were actually reading the stuff. At first, we figured only our immediate families read the entries. We were wrong. They rarely read them. We've been through hurricanes and the folks back home have never known until we've phoned them to announce that we're still alive. "Oh, that's nice, dear. Now, where did you say you are?"
No, rather than all of our close friends and relatives, there are complete strangers who read our entries. We know this because they send us e-mail. David thinks this is great. "Hey, someone likes us after all," he claims. Eileen is a bit more cautious. "Yeah, so you'd better watch what you write," she says. "They might believe it."
A lot of the mail we receive is from readers commenting on one or other of our entries; in some cases they've had a similar experience they'd like to share. When Ben, now in Santa Barbara, CA, read last month's entry about clearing the low bridge at Port Mayaca, FL (June 16, "Shortcut"), he wrote us:
"Did we ever tell you that we hit every bridge, from St. Augustine to Ft. Lauderdale (and many on the ICW from Maryland to Georgia) with our antennas? Our mast was 64'10", VHF antennas above that. Finally at Canaveral Locks both antennas had had just about enough -- one came bulleting towards me and landed in the dink, the other hung from the coax for five weeks until we hauled for repairs in Ft. Lauderdale. What fun."
Others just want to comment on our lifestyle and express their hope to cast off the dock lines themselves one day. Bob and Carole in St. Petersberg, FL told us:
"Maybe we'll see you in the islands before too long. We have been telling our friends the house and boat are paid for, the dog is dead, and as soon as the last son gets out of college don't look for us in church on Sunday."
We really appreciate this type of feedback and always try to respond. Hell, if someone took the time to read one of our stories and drop us a line, they at least deserve an acknowledgment. The two entries that have so far generated the largest volume of e-mail were the September 25, 2003 account of our close brush with hurricane Isabel ("Slow Dancing With Isabel"); and our March 10, 2005 story of being threatened late at night in an isolated anchorage ("Incident at Helene Harbour"). We were moved that so many readers were concerned about our well-being. And we'd like to apologize if we've ever caused any of you to worry needlessly. Due to communications difficulties at the time, our entry following the strike by Isabel was delayed a few days in getting posted. This prompted Marnie on "Justduet" to write:
"Every day I log on to see how you made it through the hurricane ... hope all is well!"
Sometimes we're asked for advice. We try to answer these queries, too, but they're more challenging because there's a presumption that we know what we're talking about. In responding, we can usually relate what has or hasn't worked for us in the years we've been cruising, but that doesn't mean there aren't other ways of doing things. The cruising community is full of opinionated people -- ourselves included -- which is fine as long as you accept everything you hear or read with liberal doses of salt.
So, to help you out in your search for knowledge and truth, we've added a new page to our cruising log called Questions & Answers -- see the menu at the left side of this page. On the Q & A page we've listed a sampling of the general cruising questions we've received, together with our replies. We'll add to the list as we receive more questions. If you would like to ask us a question, just click on the "Ask David & Eileen" icon and fire away. For additional viewpoints, you might want to check out the Ask the Experts section of the BoatUS web site; a cruising section is going to be added soon.
Often the mail we enjoy the most is from readers who have made an unexpected connection to one of our stories that might have nothing at all to do with cruising. It's then that we're struck by how wide the world wide web really is. Someone read our August 30, 2001 entry ("Different Drummers") and sent us this desperate note:
"I am getting married in April and would be interested in a Tassa band to take part in my wedding. Please help."
Unfortunately, the only Tassa band we know of is the one we heard in Trinidad. We passed on the contact information and hope the wedding went well, with or without a band.
Our story about Percy Wilson's Eagle's Nest bar with a DC3 airplane on its roof (April 8, 2004, "End of the Line") sparked this e-mail from an aviation historian in the Netherlands:
"We have tried to unravel the ID of this aircraft -- probably a dope smuggler, but couldn't identify a specific plane. Many have vanished, some reappear like this ... I hope someone will someday be able to find out which one this is, although we probably will never know the story of how it got there."
Jacques Ponzio, a jazz musician in France, was researching shell blowing when he came across our March 4, 2004 entry ("Blowing Your Own Horn") about a conch horn workshop we attended in George Town, Bahamas. He wrote to say he enjoyed the story and later advised us that he had received a pile of conch shells to work on and was looking forward to meeting us for a shell blowing concert in the islands.
One of the most poignant notes we've received was a request from Francisco Concepcion for any photos we might have of the Bahia de Cadiz lighthouse on the north coast of Cuba. He had read about our visit to the lighthouse in our May 6, 2004 story, "Tourists Or Terrorists?". We sent him a handful of photos we had taken at the time, to which he responded:
"Thanks for the photos. I plan to frame them. I cannot explain how many memories they are bringing to me. I was about eight years old when my father became the lighthouse keeper at Bahia de Cadiz. The cay was pristine and all ours. I could run freely and explore the place all of the time. Live was so simple and beautiful and everything was a big discovery. Now my hair is white, but I still see that skinny small boy running barefoot and happy. Maybe one day I will be allowed to return. In the meantime, your pictures took me there."
Thank you Francisco for reminding us how fortunate we are. And thank you to all of our readers who write us. Please keep it up.
David & Eileen