Friday, October 19, 2012

A Second Check On My Bucket List, An Experience That Is More Than a Single Story

     What I am learning about pursuing the items on my Bucket List is that each check mark represents much more than a singular experience. Instead, every endeavor is like opening a surprise package filled with a bounty of unexpected and unique gifts. Reaching into my parcel I find a veritable treasure trove of energizing anticipation, aroused emotions, beguiling personalities, important lessons, and experiences far beyond my expectations. Each journey satisfies with fresh, delicious significance that I truly never anticipated.

"It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean."
- John Locke

#7 On The Bucket List - Take a Windjammer Cruise. 

 Day 1- October 8, 2012

    When opportunity knocks, open the door. Items on the list need not be pursued in order. When I read about the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, and that the Liberty Clipper welcomed guests aboard for the adventure, I knew it was time to act. This seemed a perfect opportunity to test my sea legs on inland waters, before taking the ultimate windjammer cruise in open ocean. For my sailing companion I convinced my brother (the true family sailor) to join me. What I was soon to discover is that this would not only be an adventure on the water and a wonderful chance for Jim and I to reacquaint ourselves, but also a tour of two cities, an introduction into the hidden community of young sailors, as well as a chance to spend time with people of my generation who are also questioning retirement and a shared resistance to aging gracefully.

     The first leg of the one-way sailing excursion and race from Baltimore, Maryland to Portsmouth, Virginia included a five-hours train ride. I left my home in North Carolina at 6:00 AM and drove three hours to my brother's home where I left my car. Jim's wife Barbara then drove us forty five minutes from their house in Waverly to Essex, where we boarded the Amtrak Silver Star just before noon for an on-time departure.

     It's been well over 20 years since I've traveled by train. Then it was a few short rides from West Chester to Manhattan, New York and back. Years earlier, I often traveled by train with my young son, staying overnight in the comfort of a Pullman cabin from Winter Park, Florida to visit my parents' home in Virginia. I've always loved the train. The gentle rocking motion, the  whistle blowing at crossings, scenery you never see from the highway flying by the big windows, and the old game of trying to guess where you are along the way. Lunch in the dining car was surprisingly good, as was the service. I quickly learned that sitting backwards is not the best place for me. Was this a warning that I may have an issue with motion sickness?

     There was a short half hour stop in Washington, DC for an engine change. We were told not to leave the platform, and reminded that,
     "The train does not leave you, you leave the train."
     To stretch our legs during the break decided to walk down the platform to the front of the train to watch the engine change. In Washington all trains going north change from diesel engines to electric, and those going south do the opposite. There is something fascinating about watching these giant iron machines, and the man who run them, move about on the tracks. I can understand their passion for their work, and could almost envy their career choice. Who knew all trains in the Northeast run on electric power?Certainly not me. After we boarded and were back underway the short distance to Baltimore, it was easy to feel the difference in speed and quiet of electric power. It wasn't much more than an hour before we glided into Penn Station in Baltimore.

     We grabbed our sea bags from luggage claim, and a taxi to whisk us to the Baltimore Marine Center in Canton. This area of Baltimore is a quaint, historic area filled with classic narrow row houses that open directly onto the sidewalks, some with tiny allies between, barely wide enough for a person to pass through, that lead to hidden courtyards. On every block there are welcoming Irish pubs, charming restaurants, interesting shops. I was tempted to walk to the marina just to have time to peak in windows and smell the aromas. Canton is obviously the up and coming area of Baltimore, with lots of young, chic pedestrians and bicyclists. It made me long to be just starting out in life when everything is new and exciting.
     Now at the marina, we had only to tote our bags down the pier and locate our boat. Seeing the tall ships lined up all around the perimeter of the marina was a beautiful sight, and one to make the heart skip a beat. It was thrilling to think that it wouldn't be long before we'd sail out into the bay for the adventure of a lifetime.

     It was a long walk through the marina to find the Liberty Clipper. A lesson learned is that wheels are a great addition to a heavy sea bag. My brother's bag had wheels, but mine did not. Lucky for me we ran into some of the crew from our boat who were happy to help haul the bags aboard.

    I have to say that the Liberty Clipper was a fine sight indeed, and looked every bit as sea worthy as I had hopped. Once on board we were given a quick tour around, and met the three other guests that arrived early like us. Once we found our cabin, an efficient  incredibly small space perhaps 7' x 5' at most (Jim's arms stretched easily from one wall to the other), it was easy to determine that the best place to spend our waking hours was up on deck. There was no hesitation as we gathered our fellow travelers to seek out a place for libation and dinner in Canton. A short walk lead us to Plug Ugly's, a great little pub with turn of the century bars up stairs and down, that served  bay oysters, overflowing steamer pots of seafood, and roast beef piled high on a fresh roll for my meat-eating brother. We shared lots of laughter about our tiny quarters, along with
our personal histories and our individual reasons choosing to embark on this adventure - a new experience for each of us. First bonds are the lasting ones, and Tom from Floyd, Virginia, Pam and Tom from Michigan, and Jim and I proved to be close companions throughout the rest of our journey.

   The first night aboard in the harbor was peaceful and uneventful. I was exhausted from my journey and turned in early. Jim stay on in the salon to share more stories with our new found friends. All was quiet and calm until sometime after midnight, when a rowdy crew returned with lots of clomping about and laughter. No problem for us old folks though... just a few waining smiles remembering when we too might have been out late, a little tipsy and laughing into the wee hours.

                                                                                                                To Be Continued...


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