Reflections on the Water-Blog by Lynn Whitney


Bordentown, NJ – Patriots, Revolutionaries and a King By Lynn Whitney

Bordentown, NJ – Patriots, Revolutionaries and a King

By Lynn Whitney

In January of 1776, a revolution was brewing in the tiny river front town of Bordentown, NJ.   Tension in the Colonies was high and the spirit of rebellion was growing following the Boston Tea Party and the battles of Lexington and Concord.  Yet, another sense was developing – a feeling among the Colonists that they were no longer fighting for their rights as British subjects.  They were fighting for their independence.   It was Thomas Paines’s belief that the Colonies had the right to revolt against a government that imposed taxation without representation.  In his opinion there was no reason for the Colonies to stay dependent on England.  From his simple home in Bordentown, Paine penned what one historian stated, “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire Revolutionary era,” -  Common Sense.   In  fiery unadorned language , he argued for a full scale revolt and freedom from British rule, pushing the generally still undecided American Colonists away from British loyalty to declared rebellion.   He is credited with turning the tide of popular opinion and convincing many Americans that the war for independence was their only option and they had to take it now.  More than any other publication, Common Sense  paved the way for the Declaration Of Independence.  

But Bordentown’s story begins before Thomas Paine.   It was originally settled by Thomas Farnsworth in 1682 with a log cabin on the riverbank  and the name Farnsworth Landing.   In 1717 Joseph Borden bought up a large portion of the land, named it Borden’s Town, and started a packet line from Philadelphia to Bordentown.   Travelers could ride the Borden Stage to Perth Amboy, then board a ferry to New York.  With its central location on the Delaware River between Philadelphia and New York, it was natural that most of the Founding Fathers passed through the town.  

Bordentown’s strategic  location also made it a prime target for British forces, who occupied it on several occasions.  The first occupation came in December 1776, as British forces pushed General Washington across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania.  A British post was established and one thousand British and German troops were stationed there.   The troops were immediately evacuated following Washington’s attack on Trenton.

In January 1777, a Revolutionary episode, aptly named, “The Battle of the Kegs” occurred.  The kegs were floating torpedoes, built in Bordentown, and outfitted with a triggering mechanism fashioned by Mr. Miles in his gun shop on Farnsworth Ave.  The kegs were floated down the river on a swift, outgoing tide to Philadelphia Harbor, where the British fleet was anchored.   One keg struck a British barge killing four men.  Although no British war ships were damaged, the explosions created so much commotion that the British spent most of the day shooting at nothing.   Rumor ran through the city that Continental soldiers were hiding in barrels and popping out intent on murder.  The embarrassing over reaction by the British was immortalized in a drinking song penned by Francis Hopkins, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Bordentown resident.   The ballad titled, The Battle of the Kegs, was sung in taverns around the area, immortalizing the unyielding nature of the American rebel army.

This tiny town’s historical significance continues beyond the Colonial Period.  The John Bull, the first steam engine in the country, was shipped from England and assembled in Bordentown.   Rails were laid and Bordentown once again, became an important stop on the line between Philadelphia and New York.  The John Bull now resides at the Smithsonian Institute.  

In 1816, the natural beauty of the bluffs overlooking the Delaware River, attracted Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of Napoleon , to Bordentown.  Installed unwillingly by Napoleon as King of Naples and Spain, Joseph abdicated after five years, following a string of defeats at the hands of the Spanish regular army.  Taking the title of Comte  de Survilliers, he built himself a mansion worthy of a King, and named it Point Breeze.  There he hosted dignitaries such as John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, the Marquis de Lafayette and Steven Girard, the richest man in the U.S.  Since Joseph’s wife did not accompany him to America, he took up the acquaintance of Annette Savage, with whom he had two daughters.  In January 1820, the mansion burned to the ground, rumored to have been set by a Russian woman immigrant as revenge for Napoleon’s invasion of her homeland.

Bonaparte rebuilt his mansion and remained there until his return to Europe in 1839. He died in 1844, leaving Point Breeze to his grandson, who sold most of its contents.  Some of the furnishings and art now reside in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Another notable resident of Bordentown, was Clara Barton, who started the first free public school in New Jersey and later went on to found the American Red Cross.  A recreation of her school house can be seen at the corner of Crosswick and Burlington Sts.

Today, self- guided walking tours can be taken, where the homes of many of Bordentown’s notables can be seen, as well as a variety of architecture from Bungalows to Victorians.   Complete your day with some shopping at the eclectic variety of shops, from antiques to art to apparel.  Dine at a fine restaurant or a quaint café.  Enjoy your visit to “the little city with a lot of charm.”

“I’d rather see my horse Buttons eating the grass of Bordentown, than all the pomp and show of Europe.” – Joseph Bonaparte

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“Christmas at Sea” Robert Louise Stevenson By Lynn Whitney

“Christmas at Sea”

Robert Louise Stevenson

By Lynn Whitney


Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 – 1894, beloved author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped,” was born into a family of lighthouse designers. A sickly child, his illnesses kept him homeschooled by private tutors for much of his youth.   Long stretches of isolation led him to write stories compulsively.  

As a young man, he was sent to the University of Edinburgh to study engineering, but found little interest in it, finding more pleasure in the friendships he made with other students in the Speculative Society, an exclusive debating club.  During his vacations, Stevenson would travel with his father to inspect the lighthouses designed by his family, providing him with material he would latter use for his chosen career of writing.

Stevenson continued to move away from his family’s influence and began to lead a rather Bohemian life, eventually becoming part of the London literary circle.  His need for adventure continued, however, and on a trip to France he met Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, whom he married in 1880.  For the next seven years, the family traveled in search of suitable climates to accommodate Stevenson’s failing health.  During this time, in spite of his ill heath, he wrote Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and A Child’s Garden of Verse. 

In June of 1888, once again in pursuit of good health, Stevenson and his family charted the Casco, a 95 foot, two- masted schooner , and set sail from San Francisco.  They sailed the eastern and central Pacific from June to January 1889, landing in Hawaii, for a brief stay. The cruise continued on until 1890, when Stevenson settled on Upolu, an island in Samoa. On Dec. 3, 1894, while trying to open a bottle of wine, Stevenson collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage and died.  He is buried on a spot overlooking the sea.  On his tomb is inscribed:


Dig the grave and let me lie.

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:

Here he lies where he longed to be;

Home is the sailor, home from sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.


Christmas at Sea”


Perhaps this Christmas poem was written on the first leg of his voyage.  It contrasts the harshness of a winter passage with a sentimental view of a childhood family Christmas. The ship reaches safety, but the writer is left with the true understanding that he is leaving home, his parents, and his past life forever.


The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;

The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;

The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;

And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.


They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;

But ‘twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.

We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,

And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.


All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;

All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;

All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,

For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.


We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;

But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:

So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,

And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.


The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;

The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘long-shore home;

The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;

And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.


The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;

For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)

This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,

And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.


O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,

My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;

And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,

Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.


And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,

Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;

And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,

To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.


They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.

“All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.

“By the Lord, she’ll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.

...”It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.


She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,

And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.

As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,

We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.


And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,

As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;

But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,

Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.


Wishing you A Merry Christmas, and a storm free passage through life.

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Sailing to St. Michaels By Lynn Whitney

Sailing to St. Michaels

By Lynn Whitney

A visit to the Chesapeake Bay would not be complete without a stop at the quaint town of St. Michaels.  It is a picturesque town located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with a history dating back to the 1600’s.  Sail into St. Michaels Harbour Inn, Marina and Spa, where you will be met by courteous and efficient dockhands.  Relax, take in the scenery and plan your stay.  Should you choose to stay on land, there are numerous charming B&B’s and Inns, including the Inn at Perry Cabin, made famous in the movie, “Wedding Crashers.”  Stroll the shaded, tree-lined streets and observe the beautiful  homes and gardens, dating back to the 18th and 19th century.  Many have been converted into unique boutiques, restaurants and inns. 

So, what to do? Getting hungry?  Well, here are some of our favorites – Ava’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar for gourmet pizza and fabulous meatballs, Crab Claw to pick some steamed crabs, and Justine’s Ice cream parlor to finish it all off.  Rent a kayak or a paddle board, go crabbing or take a cruise aboard an historic Chesapeake Bay Skipjack.  The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is a must see.  It has the nation’s most comprehensive collection of Chesapeake Bay artifacts and indigenous watercraft.  The museum is also a working boat yard.  Interact with the boatyard staff as they explain their work and learn about the rich tradition of Chesapeake boat building.  Tour the Hooper Straight Lighthouse in its new location as a St. Michaels landmark.  

The Hooper Straight Light is one of only four surviving screw-pile lighthouses is Maryland.  It was originally constructed in 1867 in Hooper Straight between Hooper and Bloodsworth Islands.  In January of 1877, ice tore the house loose and it floated away down the bay.  John S. Cornwell, the keeper, and his assistant, managed to escape in one of the light’s boats and spent 24 hours on the ice before being rescued.  The sunken lighthouse was located five miles south of the straight.  The lens, lamp and fog bell were salvaged.  In 1879, a new lighthouse was erected in the same location, and remarkably, John Cornwell became the first keeper.   In 1954, the light was automated and the house boarded up.  The U.S. Government condemned it in 1965 and slated it for demolition.   The Museum purchased it from the demolition contractor for $1,000.00 and barged it 60 miles north to its new location.  A tour through the lighthouse will give you a sense of the solitary life of a lighthouse keeper.

The town itself has as interesting history.  It’s earliest industry was shipbuilding with at least six shipbuilders active at the time of the War of 1812.  One of its prized vessels was a fast schooner, later known as a Baltimore Clipper.  The ships were known for their ability to evade blockades and outrun pirates and foreign naval vessels.  It became a tempting target for the British.  In 1813, Admiral George Cockburn commanded a fleet up the Chesapeake, foraging for supplies, seizing tobacco and other valuable commodities and destroying stores of arms and gunpowder.  In the early morning of August 10, 1813, the British targeted St. Michaels because of a militia battery constructed to defend the town’s shipyards.  After a brief skirmish, the battery was neutralized and the British returned to their ships.  The bombarding continued, but no damage was inflicted on the shipyards or the town.  How could this happen?  Well, the story is that the townspeople dimmed their lights and hung lanterns in the trees beyond the town, drawing British fire away from its target. St. Michaels is now known as, “ The Town that Fooled the British.”

At the conclusion of the War of 1812, shipbuilding in St. Michaels declined, and a new industry took hold, oysters and crabs.  Most of the population was involved in either fishing or canning and packing the product.  One of these companies, Coulbourne and Jewett,  a  notable black owned enterprise in the early 1900’s, devised a means of grading crabmeat – regular, claw, special, backfin and lump.  This method is still used today.   

Whether you are looking for water sports, shopping, eating or have an interest in maritime history, a visit to St. Michaels will be worth your trip.



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New Jersey’s Most Famous Pirate By Lynn Whitney

New Jersey’s Most Famous Pirate

By Lynn Whitney

New Jersey may be known for its tomatoes and corn, but it also has a history of being fertile ground for pirates.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Raritan Bay and the waters between Sandy Hook and New York were besieged with pirates.  They were actually encouraged by local politicians, businessmen and ship owners, who profited greatly by buying their plundered goods and reselling them at a greatly increased price.  Although tolerated by wealthy families and merchants, these pirates pillaged and plundered and struck terror into the hearts of seafarers up and down the Atlantic coast. 

Perhaps the most ferocious and feared pirate was “Blackbeard.”  He was tall and ferocious looking, with a beard that covered most of his face.  Known to dress in a long black cloak, he would attach pistols to himself in a sling, carry daggers in his belt and at his side was a silver cutlass in a scabbard.  To further terrify his victims, he would twist burning lengths of hemp into his beard and hat, so enveloping his face in black smoke that he appeared to be the devil himself.  Blackbeard’s standard pictured a horned skeleton, holding an hourglass and spear aimed at a bleeding heart.  It was more feared that any “Jolly Roger.”

The fearsome pirate was born Edward Teach in Bristol, England.  It seems that he began his career as a pirate with Captain Benjamin Hornigold, who gave him command of his own sloop.  The two terrorized the Caribbean seas, becoming the most feared pirates of their day.  In 1717, they captured a French ship called the Concorde.  At that time, Hornigold decided to accept amnesty from the British Crown, and retired.  Teach, wanting to continue his pirating career, made the Concorde his flagship, increased her armament to 40 guns, and renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge.  

Soon afterward, Teach encountered Stede Bonnet, “The Gentleman Pirate,” aboard his ship, Revenge.  Bonnet was a wealthy Barbados plantation owner, rumored to have taken up piracy to escape an unpleasant marriage.  Teach visited Bonnet on Revenge, found him pleasant and well mannered, and the two formed a partnership.  It soon became apparent to Teach that Bonnet was inexperienced and rather useless, so he convinced him to give up command of his ship and become a “guest” on Queen Anne’s Revenge.  The two sailed together for about one year, until Teach pirated his own partner, leaving Bonnet and his men marooned aboard Revenge on a deserted sandbar near Beauford Inlet, but not before looting Revenge of her provisions and booty.  Bonnet rescued his men, renamed his ship, the Royal James, and continued his pirate career.  He was eventually captured near Cape Fear, sentenced and hanged along with 30 other pirates.  

Meanwhile, Blackbeard continued his reign of terror along the Atlantic coast.  Local legend has it, that Blackbeard paid a visit to Burlington, NJ and buried his plundered gold and silver beneath a black Walnut tree on Wood Street under a flat stone.  A wild storm was blowing with thunder and lightning and Blackbeard was heard to call out, “Who will guard this wealth?”  A crazed Spanish cut-throat volunteered, was killed with a magic bullet that left no wound, and was buried standing upright with his feet guarding the stone atop the treasure.  Evidently, the ship’s dog volunteered along with the Spaniard, because he was shot and buried there also.  To this day, locals have reported seeing a black dog guarding the tree, then vanishing.  It is said, that Blackbeard came back to claim his treasure one stormy night, but found it surrounded by a coven of witches, dancing with linked hands, guarding the Spaniard’s grave. 

Blackbeard’s reign of terror ended November 22, 1718 when the Governor of Virginia enlisted two British warships and caught up with him on Ocracoke Island.  During a fierce battle, Blackbeard sustained at least five gunshots and 20 cutlass wounds, but finally succumbed when his head was severed by a British soldier. The head was attached to the bowsprit of his boat.  Pirate legend has it that the decapitated body was thrown in the water and swam around the ship three times before it sank, ending the bloody reign of Blackbeard the Pirate.  

Is there really buried treasure to be found?  Probably not.  The myth seems to have originated with Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” which had a pirate character named Isreal Hands, who in reality was Blackbeard’s boatswain.  Isreal was maimed by Blackbeard, who shot him in the knee to ensure that his crew remained in terror of him. He was taken ashore to treat his injury, thus missing Blackbeard’s fatal battle and escaping the gallows.  Stevenson also visited a small island in the Manasquan River near Brielle, and finding it so remarkably similar to his own Treasure Island, that he carved his name in the bulkhead.  Real pirate loot consisted mostly of perishables, such as sugar and cocoa, which wouldn’t have much worth today.  But myths sometimes are born of reality, so if you are passing by a large old black walnut tree in Burlington, NJ, who knows.  There might be a buried cache, protected by a cut-throat Spaniard and a black dog, surrounded by witches.  Take your chances.


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Real Sailors Knit By: Lynn Whitney

Real Sailors Knit

By Lynn Whitney

I admit it. I love to knit.  Now, if you are like most people, the word knitting conjures up images of little old ladies, sitting by the fire with a cup of tea and a ball of yarn in their lap.  Well, here is another image, seafarers passing the time at sea, knitting.  Endless hours at sea created many hobbies for sailors, knitting being one, but it had a practical motive also.  If you got a hole in your sock, no one was going to fix it for you.  

So, let’s look back at the practice of knitting.  The most recognized theory is that it began in the ancient Arab world with the skill of knotting fishing nets, and traveled with seafarers trading in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  One argument that knitting evolved in the Middle East could be that, while English speakers write from left to right, knitters work from right to left.  The skill continued to spread with the Crusades.  Most of the history of knitting is not known because the fibers used, such as wool and silk, were fragile and did not preserve well.  Also, the tools that were used were more than likely some kind of pick or sharpened stick.  We do know, that when the skill emerged as a viable occupation, it was male dominated.

During the 13th century, knitting appeared in England, but seemed to be limited to felted caps worn by sailors and soldiers, largely because of the lack of quality steel for needles necessary for larger projects.  By the 1400’s, knitting guilds began to spring up, first in France and then throughout Europe.  They were formed as structured apprenticeships and exclusively male.  The quality of the work improved and garnered wealthy clients, looking for the latest fashions, of which knitted stockings for men were very popular.  By the 1600’s, fine garments made of silk and silver gilt thread had become the height of fashion for women of means.   1789 brought the French Revolution and knitting took a rather gruesome turn in the form of Tricoteuses, or knitting women,  Charles Dickens’s Madame Defarge being one particularly bloodthirsty example.  These women, veterans of the Women’s March on Versailles, would gather at the guillotine and morbidly sit and knit during public beheadings. 

Two World Wars took the hobby of knitting and turned it into an act of patriotism. In 1941, it became a major preoccupation of Americans to help the war effort. Before Pearl Harbor, Americans had been knitting and preparing care packages to help the besieged Londoners.   The November 24, 1941 cover story of Life Magazine was titled, “How to Knit.”  It offered a basic pattern for a knitted vest and provided a response, “To the great American question ‘what can I do to help the war effort? ‘ the commonest answer yet found is ‘Knit.’”   Two weeks later, on December 7, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, America entered WWII, and Americans began to knit for Victory.  Not only did knitting provide warm clothing for soldiers and sailors, it gave comfort to those waiting at home.  The Red Cross became the clearing house for all war effort knitting.  Wool was in very short supply, but the Red Cross was able to obtain it and also supplied patterns for sweaters, socks , mufflers, fingerless mitts, toe covers for casts and other garments.  The garments were “for American soldiers and sailors assigned to posts where General Winter is an added enemy.”  {The New York Times, January 30, 1942.}  Patriotism surged to the point where various auxiliary groups began to compete to see who could knit the most, the fastest.  The Seattle area Naval Officers Wives Club pronounced, “The Navy needs men, but it also needs knitters.”  Using a play on words, a Works Projects Administration poster advised, “Remember Pearl Harbor – Purl Harder.”   Purl being one of the two basic knitting stitches.  

Today’s knitters see the practice as not only an art form, but a source of mental and physical relaxation.  The act of knitting can lower blood pressure and heart rate.  And if you are not convinced to take up knitting yet, a person can burn 55 calories by knitting for half an hour!   So, on your next sailing adventure, you might want to consider bringing some yarn and knitting needles along with you.  You could get a hole in your sock!  Or maybe you could just sit, swinging on a hook, watching a beautiful sunset with some yarn in your lap and a glass of wine in your hand.  Join the club of men who knit; Ryan Gosling, David Arquette and Russell Crowe, the” Master and Commander” himself.

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Glen Foerd Mansion By Lynn Whitney

Glen Foerd Mansion

By Lynn Whitney

A leisurely sail on the Delaware River just 12 miles north of Philadelphia, will take you past a stately Edwardian style riverfront mansion.   The estate was originally built by Philadelphia merchant, Charles Macalester.  Born in 1798, he was a prominent businessman, lawyer, philanthropist and financial advisor to numerous presidents.  In 1850, he acquired 1000 acres of land along the Delaware River.  The land was divided and sub-plotted, creating what is now known as Torresdale.  Macalester kept one plot of land on which he built a grand Italianate home for his summer residence.  He named it Glengarry after his family’s Scottish ancestral home.  Here, Macalester and his daughter Lily, hosted many gala affairs, to which heads of state and other dignitaries were invited.   Guests could wander amid 18 acres of rare trees, flowering shrubs and formal gardens.  Macalester’s faithful Newfoundland dog, “Little Ugly,” would greet him at the top of the river steps each day as he arrived home.  Today, a cast iron statue of the dog can be found at that spot.  Little Ugly is buried under an old oak tree along a gravel path leading to the riverfront door.  The headstone reads, “Little Ugly – A Loved and Faithful Friend, Dec’d July 28th, 1871, ‘In Life a Devoted Friend, the first to welcome, the foremost to defend.’”   After Macalester’s death in 1873, Lily continued to reside at Glengarry, until her death in 1891.

In 1893, the estate was purchased by Robert H. Foerderer and his wife Caroline.  Foerderer was born in Prussia, Germany in 1896 and moved to the United States with his parents as a young boy.  His family had been in the leather working industry for generations, and Foerderer followed in their footsteps.  At that time, the tanning process was a very unpleasant procedure.  Foerderer spent years experimenting with different techniques to improve the treatment and quality of the leather.  He eventually discovered the Chrome Tanning process which produced the softest and most supple leather available, in much less time than previous methods.  His product was especially well suited for shoes, handbags and gloves.  Foederer named his product Vici Kid, Latin for ‘I conquered,” and Kid for the goat hide used to produce the leather.

To produce his trademark “Vici Kid,” Foederer built a large plant in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, in 1892.  Many of his employees were German immigrants themselves and lived on the blocks of two story homes surrounding the plant.  One street near the factory was named Vici Street.  Vici Kid was so successful that Foederer entered it in a competition at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where it won the grand prize and gold metal.  The event created a world market for Vici Kid.  

With the success of his business, Foerderer began renovations of Glengarry, which he renamed Glen Foerd.  The house was nearly doubled in size and recreated into an Edwardian style.  A large dining room, art gallery, kitchen and servant’s quarters were added, along with a grand staircase, self-playing Haskell organ, and leaded glass skylights.  During this time, Foerderer also served as a United States Congressman and President of Keystone Telephone Company.  Unfortunately, he died in 1902, before the renovations of Glen Foerd were completed. His son, Percival became president of Robert H. Foerderer, Inc. and moved to Bryn Mawr, PA.  Caroline and daughter, Florence continued renovations at Glen Foerd and remained there until their respective deaths in 1934 and 1972.  Caroline and  Florence worked with landscape architects, Thomas Sears and James Bush-Brown to redesign the grounds with terraces, fountains and garden sculpture.  

Caroline remarried to Enos Artman and became a devoted philanthropist, establishing the Artman Lutheran Home and working with the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Son, Percival, continued as president of his father’s company, and became closely involved with Jefferson Hospital.  The Foerderer Pavilion on its campus is named for the family.  A portion of Percival’s estate was sold to nearby Villanova University after his death.  Daughter, Florence, married William Tonner, proprietor of a hosiery mill in Lansdowne.  Florence became an avid art collector and amassed one of the most extensive print collections in the country.  Upon her death, she donated a world-class collection of William Blake works to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Florence died in 1972 and Glen Foerd passed to the Lutheran Church of America.  In 1988 it reverted to the City of Philadelphia and is now possessed by the Glen Foerd Consevation Corp. and open to the public.

Enjoy your sail on the Delaware and marvel at the natural beauty that drew some of the most important figures in our nation’s history to its banks.



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Naming Your Boat

Naming Your Boat
By Lynn Whitney

You just bought a boat and you need to think of a name.  Christening your boat is a rite of passage.  It’s the day you’ve been dreaming of.  But coming up with a proper name for your vessel is just not that easy.   It has to fit your boat, your personality, your life style.  It’s like naming your children.  You will be judged!

Of course, you want your boat’s name to be original, unique to you.  To make it a little easier, here are some things to take into consideration.  First, think about safety.  For practical reasons, don’t make the name too long.  You need to be able to effectively relay your boat’s name.  Also, you may need to spell out your boat’s name phonetically over the VHF.  Anything over ten letters, get comfortable, you are going to be there for a while.  Second, how do you want to be seen by your boating community?   While Aquaholic is a perennial favorite, does it really suit you?  Be aware that anything suggesting excessive drinking and boating, might attract the attention of the Coast Guard.  Third, boats are always referred to as, “she,” so consider using the name of an important female in your life.  Lastly, think long and hard about what is important to you, what invokes a pleasant memory, a dream, an inspiration.  Be clever, but remember, your boat is a reflection of you.

On to the next step, the Christening, or naming ceremony.  This is meant to bring good luck to the new ship and those who sail on it.  These ceremonies are based on traditions that are thousands of years old.  Early Viking rituals were marked by the spilling of blood.  By the Middle Ages, wine was offered as a substitute for blood.  The wine was poured on the deck as an offering to King Neptune in exchange for good luck and safe passage.  Current traditions around the world have women christening the ships.  The ceremony includes the smashing of a bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow followed by saying, “I name this ship________ and may she bring fair winds and good fortune to all who sail on her.”     After the ship is launched, wine or champagne can be poured in the water from west to east.  Now, this may sound a little extreme, but take note, the Titanic was never christened.  

Renaming a boat.  Now that can be risky as it is considered to be very unlucky.  But if you’ve purchased a pre-owned boat or need to change the name for any reason, there is a procedure.  As legend has it, every ship is recorded in the Ledger of the Deep and known personally to Neptune, the god of the sea, so the first thing to be done is to purge the ship’s name from the ledger.  To do this, all physical traces of the boat’s old name must be removed.  The old log book , along with any other charts or papers with the name on them, must be taken ashore.  Write the soon to be exorcised name on a piece of paper, fold the paper, place it in a cardboard box and burn it. Throw the ashes into the sea on an outgoing tide.  If you live on a lake, do it at night and only during a full moon.  On a river, send the ashes downstream.   The last thing to be done, is to prepare a metal ingot with the old name written on it in water-soluble  ink.  Now you must wait one day before the Renaming Ceremony.  

For the Renaming Ceremony, a bottle of good champagne must be purchased.  Neptune’s name must be invoked as the mighty ruler of the seas, and implored to expunge the records and recollections of the old name of the vessel.  At this point the ingot should be dropped from the bow into the sea, followed by pouring at least half a bottle of champagne into the water, from east to west.  Now, Neptune must be implored once more to take into his records and recollections, the new name of the vessel.  More champagne must be poured into the water, from west to east.  The next step is to appease the gods of the winds.  Since there are four brothers, each must be invoked while flinging a flute of champagne in their respective direction.  When the ceremony has been completed, you may bring aboard all items bearing the new name of your vessel, but be sure the name is not revealed until  then.  

The following is a list of some of the most popular names compiled over the last 20 years:


Second Wind


Nauti Buoy

Seas the Day

Island Time


So now it’s your turn.  Have fun.  Be creative.  Come up with a thoughtful, memorable name for your boat.  And, no, Boaty McBoatface simply will not do!

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Put On Your Deck Shoes By: Lynn Whitney


Put On Your Deck Shoes

By Lynn Whitney

Summer is here, your boat is in the water and it’s time to take off your socks and slip into your well-worn deck shoes.  Maybe you’ve never given your favorite shoes much thought, but they have an interesting history.  They were developed in the early 1930’s by Paul Sperry, thus the name, Sperry Top-Siders.

Paul Sperry was born into a sailing family in New Haven, Connecticut, the second of three sons.  Their grandfather , William Wallace Sperry, was a shipbuilder, their great grandfather was a sea captain.  Paul’s younger brother was Armstrong Wells Sperry, a writer and illustrator of children’s literature, best known for his 1941 Newberry Award winning book, “Call It Courage,”  the story of a young boy on the island of Hikueru in Polynesia. 

Back to Paul.  Born on December 4, 1895, he spent his early childhood in Stamford, Connecticut and New York City.  He studied one year at Dartmouth College, then took a job as a salesman for the United States Finishing Company of New York.  In 1917, he joined the naval reserve and was released from duty as Seaman First Class at the end of the year.  In 1922, he married Pauline Letitia Jacques.  They spent their honeymoon on Chincoteague Island, hunting ducks, in separate duck blinds.  His love of the outdoors and bird hunting led him to design and produce the first balsa wood duck decoys.  In the early 1920’s,he started Sperry Natural Decoys, whose buyers included Abercrombie & Fitch and Kirkland Brothers.  

Paul purchased his first sailboat, Gilnockie in 1930.  While on his third boat, Sirocco II, he learned the dangers of slippery painted decks.  He tried repainting and lightly dusting them with emery dust, but found it had, “poor results on skin.”  One day while sailing on the Long Island Sound, Paul slipped and fell overboard.  Luckily, he was able to pull himself back on board, but the experience of nearly drowning led him to start thinking of other ways to deal with slippery decks.  He came up with the idea of making the shoes non-slip, rather than the decks.  Paul began experimenting with different materials to create a non-slip sole.  Upon observing his cocker spaniel Prince romping in the snow on a particularly icy day, he realized that the cracks and grooves on the dog’s paws formed a herringbone pattern that gave him a firm grip.  This inspired him to try cutting a “siping” pattern on a natural rubber sole.  He experimented with various patterns and eventually settled on the now familiar herringbone pattern.  To test his new invention, he glued the prototype soles to a pair of canvas sneakers and gave them to Leon Burkowski, the young man who looked after his boat.  When Sperry returned to his boat, Leon threw a bucket of water on the deck, took a running start and stopped dead in his tracks.  The Sperry boat shoe was born.

 In 1937, Sperry applied for a U.S. patent for his non-skid sole.  He first offered his patent to the U.S. Rubber Company of Connecticut, who turned him down because the sole would have cost $4.50 as opposed to the standard $3.75 of the time.  He then offered the patent to Converse Rubber Company, who agreed to make blank rubber soles, ship them to Sperry for siping, then assemble the shoes and return them to Sperry for sale.  Sperry designed a machine to cut the non-skid soles and launched his product.

  Sperry initially sent letters offering his shoes for sale to all 500 members of the Cruising Club of America.  All 500 members purchased the shoes.  With the success of his product, he started a mail order business, and also sold through the Commonwealth Shoe & Leather Company in Boston.  In the late 1930’s, Sperry worked with the United States Rubber Company to develop a compound that could be more easily siped.  He also worked with the Commonwealth Shoe & Leather Company to develop a specially tanned leather “saddle” through which rawhide laces could be pulled.  The Sperry Authentic Original boat shoe was created! 

 In 1939, the shoe became the official footwear of the casual uniform of the United States Naval Academy, but it truly became a piece of classic footwear when it was included in the 1980 publication of The Official Preppy Handbook.  So just how do you wear your boat shoes?  Well, some people like to roll up their denim jeans to draw attention their shoes.  They go well with a polo shirt or an Oxford cloth button down shirt.  You can even wear a sport coat if you so choose.  However, according to the “Gentleman’s Gazette,” your boat shoes should never be lighter in color than your pants or shorts. 

 I hope by now, you realize I’m being facetious.  You are a sailor. It’s your boat. You are the Master of your own Universe. Wear your shoes however you please.  Get as dirty and sweaty as you want.  After all, The Official Preppy Handbook  tells us that anyone can be a preppy, because “in a true democracy everyone can be upper class and live in Connecticut.  It’s only fair.”  Just don’t wear socks with your boat shoes.

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Burn Your Socks By Lynn Whitney


Burn Your Socks
By Lynn Whitney

Spring is finally here!  March 20 marked the vernal equinox.  The world is ready for winter to end and to welcome warmer weather and the spring equinox traditions and rituals that accompany it.  For this one day, the entire world experiences the same amount of daylight and darkness, about 12 hours each.  

Around the world, people celebrate this day with festivities.  In Italy, seeds of lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers are planted.  In England, visitors gather around Stonehenge to watch to sun rise.  India celebrates the Hindu festival of Holi, “festival of colors,” where celebrants toss brightly colored powders over each other and dance in the streets.  Japan celebrates Shunbun no hi by bringing families together to visit ancestral graves.  

Here, in the U.S., we burn our socks. Or you do if you are part of the yachting world. 
Boaters tend to wear deck shoes without socks, through the boating season.  What better way to celebrate putting your boat in the water, than by taking off your socks.  But burning them?

It seems the tradition began in the mid 1980’s with Bob Turner, manager of the Annapolis Yacht Yard.  Bob would spend his winters working on other people’s boats.  It was often dirty work and he would come home with his socks full of paint, varnish and fiberglass.  One day, which happened to be the Spring Equinox, Bob gleefully peeled off his socks, put them in a paint tray, doused them with lighter fluid and set them ablaze.  He celebrated with a cold beverage.  Bob later became the owner of the Annapolis Harbor Boatyard , and on the first day of spring, would invite his employees to stay late , burn their socks and have a beer.  A tradition was born.

Jefferson Holland, previous Executive Director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum, and Poet Laureate of Eastport, 1995, penned the following poem

Ode to the Sock Burners

Them Eastport boys got an odd tradition

When the sun swings to the Equinoxical position,

They build a little fire down along the docks,

They doff their shoes and they burn their winter socks.


Yes, they burn their socks at the Equinox;

You might think that’s peculiar, but I think it’s not,

See, they’re the same socks they put on last fall.

And they never took ‘em off to wash ‘em, not at all…


So they burn their socks at the Equinox

In a little ol’fire burning nice and hot.

Some think incineration is the only solution,

‘Cause washin’ ‘me contributes to the Chesapeake’s pollution.


Through the spring and summer and into the fall,

They go around not wearing any socks at all.

Just stinky bare feet stuck in old deck shoes,

Whether out on the water or sippin’ a brew.


So if you sail into the Harbor on the 20th of March,

And you smell a smell like Limburger sautéed with laundry starch,

You’ll know you’re downwind of the Eastport docks

Where they’re burning their socks for the Equinox.


Here, At Riverside Marina, we celebrate a little later, May 14th to be exact.  We want to make sure that the weather really has improved!  Free your feet, burn your socks and join us to celebrate the beginning of the boating season.






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Where the Sidewalk Ends By Lynn Whitney

Key West. It was first visited by Ponce de Leon in 1521 on his quest to find the “Fountain of Youth,” and is now known as the Conch Republic to its locals and loyal visitors. Its warm waters and tropical breezes have made it a mecca for boaters, fishermen and sun seekers.  Its laid back, unconventional  atmosphere has attracted the curious and the creative ever since.  Artist and authors have found their inspirations, strolling its quaint streets and frequenting its many colorful eateries and bars.  

Of course, Key West’s most famous author is Ernest Hemingway.  In the studio of his Spanish colonial villa at 907 Whitehead St., he composed many of his classic works, including “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “To Have and Have Not.”  The home happened to be home to the island’s first swimming pool and a colony of six toed cats, a gift from a sea captain, that still roam the premises.  Tennessee Williams, John Hersey and Ralph Ellison owned homes on the island, as well as Judy Blume, who still resides there.    Robert Frost was a frequent visitor to Casa Marina.

But being a Children’s Librarian, I was most impressed to find that poet and author Shel Silverstein was among Key West’s notables.  I literally stumbled upon this fact while walking down Duval St.  The Key West Sidewalk Project, an annual competition, selects various author’s works to be etched into the sidewalks, creating moments of “ plein-air” reading for visitors.  Here, in front of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, I found the following sentiment –


If Eternity is measured by memories treasured

In the hearts of loved ones and friends-

Then Shel surely knows that he lives where he goes 

To the Place Where The Sidewalk Ends.


For those not familiar with Shel Silverstein, he was a poet, singer-song writer, cartoonist, screenwriter and author of children’s books.  His life story certainly lent itself to the Key West life style.  Born in Chicago, he attended the University of Illinois, from which he was expelled.  While attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. During his time in the military, several of his cartoons were published in “Pacific Stars and Stripes.”  After returning to Chicago, he began submitting cartoons to “Look,” “Sports Illustrated” and “This Week.”  In 1957 he became one of “Playboy’s” leading cartoonists.  With encouragement from his editor at Harper & Row, he began writing children’s books, of which ”The Giving Tree,” is probably his most well- known.   His poetry anthologies include, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” “A Light in the Attic,” and “Falling Up.”  

Music was another of his many talents.  He wrote hits such as “The Cover of Rolling Stone” for the rock group Dr. Hook, ”One’s on the Way” for Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash’s best known hit, “A Boy Named Sue.” 

Concerning Shel’s personal life, he kept a rather low profile.  He had one daughter, Shoshanna, nicknamed Shanna, born June 30, 1970, to Susan Taylor Hastings.  Tragically, she died at the age of 11 from a brain aneurysm.  It was the most devastating event of his life, from which he never fully recovered. Her mother, Susan died in 1975.  His book, “A Light in the Attic” is dedicated to Shanna.  He also had a son named Matthew with a woman named Sarah Spencer of Key West.  She drove the Conch Train, and was the inspiration for Shel’s song, “The Great Conch Train Robbery.”  Although Shel was not a born” Conch”, he embraced the Key West ideal.  In an interview with” Publisher’s Weekly” he stated, “I’m free to leave…go wherever I please, do whatever I want; I believe everyone should live like that.  Don’t be dependent on anyone else – man, woman or child, or dog.  I want to go everywhere, look at and listen to everything; you can go crazy with some of the wonderful stuff there is in life.”  Shel died on May 10, 1999 of a massive heart attack in Key West.   He is buried in Norridge, Illinois. His son Matthew survives him.  

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends

And before the street begins, 

And there the grass grows soft and white,

And there the sun burns crimson bright,

And there the moon-bird rests from his flight

To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black

And the dark street winds and bends.

Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow

We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And watch where the chalk-white arrows go

To the place where the sidewalk ends.


Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow.

And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,

For the children, they mark, and the children they know

The place where the sidewalk ends.

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Andalusia, Host to History By Lynn Whitney

Andalusia, Host to History

By Lynn Whitney

A leisurely sail on the Delaware River, just north of Philadelphia, will take you past a magnificent Greek Revival  estate.  This is Andalusia, with its sweeping green lawn, leading to a massive temple façade and dramatic colonnade.  Floor to ceiling windows look out on a porch beneath the façade, where guests could gather and view the manicured grounds and sparkling river.

Just whose home is this and who would his esteemed guests be?  The original owner was John Craig, a noted Philadelphia merchant, who built the main portion of the home in 1806 as a summer residence for his wife and daughter.  To design his house, he hired the neoclassical architect, Benjamin Latrobe.  Often referred to as the founder of the modern architectural profession in this country, he and his friend Thomas Jefferson collaborated on many projects, culminating in Jefferson’s masterpiece, the Lawn of the University of Virginia.  Through his friendship with Jefferson, he became the second architect of the United States Capitol.  Among his other accomplishments were the Bank of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Waterworks, a landmark in civil engineering.  Following his success on that project, he worked as an engineer on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. 

In 1811, Craig’s daughter Jane, married Nicholas Biddle, a renaissance man, accomplished as a lawyer, banker, publisher, agriculturist and expert on Greek culture.  Biddle, a child genius, was born into an established Philadelphia family, who had originally arrived in America with William Penn.  At the age of 10, Biddle enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, but was denied a degree because of his age.  He went on to graduate from Princeton at the age of 15 and then began to study law.  While still a teenager he went to Europe as secretary to John Armstrong, the U.S. Minister to France during the Napoleonic War, and was instrumental in working out the financial details of the Louisiana Purchase.  He later became secretary to James Monroe, the U.S. Minister to Britain and future President.   Upon his return to America, he began writing for The Portfolio, a respected literary magazine.  After the original founder’s death, he assumed the position of publisher.  As editor, he prepared the journals from the Lewis and Clark expedition on Clark’s request.  Biddle also encouraged Thomas Jefferson to write a biography of Lewis for the introduction.  As he began work on that project, in 1810 he was elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature.  He eventually relinquished his role in the project to concentrate on his governmental responsibilities.  He was never given recognition for his work. As a member of the Legislation, he established a public schooling system in Pennsylvania and won the renewal of the charter for the Bank of the United States.  This launched his next career, first as director and then as president of the Second Bank of the United States, following it’s re-chartering by President James Monroe in 1816.  An epic clash occurred in 1832 between then President Andrew Jackson and Biddle.  Jackson withdrew all government deposits, weakening the bank and leading to Biddle’s resignation in 1839 and the bank’s eventual closing two years later.  

Biddle’s marriage to Jane Craig and his possession of Andalusia had afforded him the opportunity to indulge in his other interest, Greek literature and the Greek Revival Movement.  He hired architect Thomas Walter to expand and renovate Andalusia.  In 1833, the “Big House” renovation began.  The riverfront Grecian porticoes were added, an exact copy of the Greek temple of Neptune in Paestum, Italy.  Gardens were incorporated, famous for growing grapes in forcing houses designed by Walter.  

Following the death of Benjamin Latrobe, Walter had become known as the dean of American architecture.  His accomplishments include the Moyamensing Prison and Girard College, one of the grandest expressions of the Greek Revival Movement, and a project in which Nicholas Biddle played an instrumental role.  Walter is best known as the fourth Architect of the Capitol. Under his direction, the north and south wings and the central dome of the Capitol building were added.  

For their contributions to the discipline of architecture,  and their numerous accomplishments, both Thomas Walter and Benjamin Latrobe are honored in a ceiling mosaic in the East Mosaic Corridor at the entrance to the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress.

So, who would the esteemed guests of the Biddles have been?  Well, to mention a few – President John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, The Marquis de Lafayette and Joseph Bonaparte.  The house holds a grand collection of 18th and 19th century French, English, Chinese and American furniture collected by the Biddles.  The grounds were used by Biddle as an experimental farm where the first Guernsey cows arrived in America.  They contain a walled wisteria garden and have been maintained in the 19th century tradition, with a number of out buildings, including a temple-like Billiard House and a Gothic Grotto.   

Andalusia is a registered National Historic Landmark, supported by the Andalusia Foundation and the Friends of Andalusia.  It is open to the public.

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Time Traveling on the Delaware

Time Traveling on the Delaware

By Lynn Whitney

It’s a day made for sailing. The sun is shining, a fair wind is blowing and the Delaware River is beckoning, but where to go? How about a trip back to the past?

Before starting your trip back in time, you might want to start your day with a leisurely hike through Amico Island, adjacent to Riverside Marina. Not actually an island, but a peninsula, the park was created as a result of Merrill Ambler’s Sand and Gravel Company’s dredging operation, which created the existing harbor. Here you will find 2 miles of trails, a lake, scenic overlooks, beaches and wildlife including white-tail deer, red fox, water fowl, great blue herons and if you are lucky, a bald eagle.

When you are ready to set sail, head up river past the majestic mansions of Edgewater Park with their expansive green lawns, sloping down to the water. You will soon reach the Red Dragon Canoe Club, recognizable by its Mansard roof, popularized during the reign of Napolean III as French Emperor. The home was originally owned by Paul Shipman, a Louisville Journal editor credited with persuading Kentucky to remain neutral during the Civil War. In a 1912 letter, Shipman wrote that he and his wife were settling, “on the banks of the Delaware, at the most beautiful reach of that historic river…” We agree with him! As legend has it, a ghost inhabits the 3rd floor, a woman who wanders the room when the moon is full.

Come about and sail down river past Andalusia, on the Pennsylvania side. The estate was built in 1797 by Nicholas Biddle. One of the country’s most powerful bankers and a true Renaissance Man, Mr. Biddle was also known as a poet, editor, architectural expert , experimental farmer and adversary of President Andrew Jackson. The house is probably one of the finest examples of Greek Revival Architecture in the country. Through its column flanked doors passed such dignitaries as John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, the Marquis de Lafayette and Joseph Bonaparte, the former King of Spain.

Just past Andalusia, on the Jersey side, you will see another column flanked mansion. Built in 1910 by the Swiss born Theophilus Zurbrugg, owner of the Keystone Watch Case Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of pocket watch cases. The three story red brick building was the last commissioned work of noted Philadelphia architect, Frank Furness.

Continue on down river past the Riverton Yacht Club. Opened in 1865, it is the oldest yacht club on the Delaware and the 9th oldest in the country. The Civil War had just ended, Lincoln’s assassination was resonating throughout the country and patriotism was running high. To honor this sense of loyalty, the club selected a signal of 13 stars in a blue field surrounded by red and white stripes. Time your sail just right and you can catch the Wednesday night races.

Turn your boat around and come back to the present.



Dredge Harbor 1912


Riverton Yacht Club

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Unsinkable Violet Jessop

Unsinkable Violet Jessop

By: Lynn Whitney


Three times is the charm, so they say, but I don’t believe that was meant to apply to boating disasters.  However, in the case of Violet Jessop, it did bring her the fame of surviving the ill-fated voyages of the White Star Line’s three sister ships; the Olympic, the Titanic and the Britannic.  

Violet Jessop was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Oct. 2, 1887 to Irish emigrant parents.  Her first brush with near death was surviving tuberculosis as a young child.  Given just a few months to live, she recovered and grew into a young woman of remarkable beauty.  At 21, she stood 5 feet, 3 inches tall with blue grey eyes and thick auburn hair.  A trace of an Irish lilt added to her allure.  

Following the death of her father, the family moved to England, where her mother took a job as a stewardess at sea.  When illness curtailed her mother’s career, Violet decided to pursue the vocation as well.  Familiar with the duties her mother had performed, the convent-schooled young woman looked forward to an adventurous life at sea.  Her first attempts at securing a position were thwarted by her good looks and youth.  Potential employers felt that she would be a distraction to their privileged guests and cause problems with the crew.  After being turned down several times, she finally went to an interview dressed drably and with no make-up.  She was hired immediately.  Ironically, her previous interviewers’ predictions proved to be somewhat accurate, as she received at least three marriage proposals on one voyage, one from a first class passenger.  She declined them all.  With hard work and personable qualities, she quickly advanced from third class service to first.  

Violet joined the crew of the Olympic in 1910.  Initially concerned with the inclement weather and rough sea conditions of Atlantic crossings, she became quite fond of the cruise line’s American passengers.  She found them to be friendlier and more respectful than their European counterparts. 



By 1911, after Violet had been working for about one year, the Olympic was involved in a collision with the HMS Hawke.  Both ships were heavily damaged.  With its hull breached, two flooded compartments and a twisted propeller, the Olympic stayed afloat and limped back to port.  All crew and passengers, including Violet returned to shore safe and sound.

Although surviving a shipwreck might give some people pause to reconsider their chosen career, the incident did not deter Violet.  The following year, at the age of 24, she took a position as a stewardess on the Olympic’s sister ship, the Titanic. According to Violet’s memoirs, it was a pleasant experience.  The accommodations were comfortable and the passengers friendly. The ship’s designer, Thomas Andrews was a favored passenger who always had a cheerful word for her. 

On the night of the disaster, Violet was in her room, preparing for bed.  Not quite aware of the seriousness of the situation, she followed orders and proceeded to the upper deck, where she joined the other stewardesses.  While some passengers strolled about the ship, seemingly unconcerned, she observed women tearfully clinging to their husbands before getting into lifeboats with their children.  Violet was ordered into a life boat by an officer, possibly to show the terrified women that it was safe.  As the boat was being lowered, an officer called to her, “Here, Miss Jessop.  Look after this baby,” and dropped a bundle into her lap.  Eight hours later, she and the other Titanic survivors were rescued by the Carpathia.  Still clinging to the baby, a woman claiming to be the child’s mother found her and whisked the baby away.  This story has never been verified, but Violet later claimed that years after her retirement, on a stormy night, she received a phone call.  The woman asked if she had rescued a baby on the Titanic.  When Violet answered, “yes”, the woman said, “I was that baby,” laughed and hung up.  As for her experience of surviving one of the world’s worst nautical disasters, Violet had one regret.  She had left her toothbrush on the ship and she missed it.

Two shipwrecks later, Violet was still undaunted.  During WW II she joined the crew of the third sister ship, the  Britannic, as a nurse.  While operating in the Aegean Sea as a hospital ship, the Britannic hit a mine planted by a German U- boat and sank in only fifty minutes.

This time, Violet’s luck ran out.  The boat sank so quickly that there was no time to get in a lifeboat.  Violet jumped into the water and was immediately sucked under the ship’s keel, violently hitting her head.  Later in life, suffering from headaches, she consulted a doctor who informed her that at one time she had suffered a fractured skull.  Seemingly unperturbed by her third shipwreck, Violet joked that her thick hair cushioned the blow and saved her life.  She also stated that this time, she remembered her toothbrush.  

Perhaps believing that she was unsinkable, Violet continued her seafaring career working for the Red Star Line, cruising the world.  She also spent time on Royal Mail Ships until her retirement at the age of 61.  She spent the rest of her life in England raising chickens and gardening.  She died at the ripe old age of 84.  The sea was never going to claim Violet Constance Jessop.

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“Standart” – The Last of the Imperial Yachts By Lynn Whitney

Luxury Yachts – the last bastion of the super wealthy.  These floating palaces transport royals and tycoons with the privacy and lavishness to which they are accustomed.  Royal or Imperial yachts were typically financed by their government and manned by naval personnel.  Now viewed as rather  a hard to justify expenditure, they are becoming a rarity.

Of the elegant yachts once serving the rulers of the world, perhaps the finest was the Russian yacht “Standart”, Imperial yacht of Tsar Nicholas II.  While today’s mega yachts are for the most part motor yachts, the Standart resembled a clipper ship.  Impressive in size, she was the largest Imperial yacht of her time at 420 ft. long and 50 ft. wide.   Propelled by twin screws, powered by steam and coal, she could reach a top speed of 22 knots.  Under sail, she was majestic, with a sleek black hull, a gold encrusted bow sprit leading to the double-headed Imperial eagle, three tall masts rising from gleaming teak decks and twin funnels painted white.  White canvas awnings covered the decks, shielding her passengers from the sun while they relaxed on white wicker furniture.  

Below deck was opulence seen only by the royal family and other dignitaries.  A large drawing room was paneled in carved mahogany and hung with velvet drapes and crystal chandeliers.  Silk brocaded Louis XV style furniture was arranged over jewel toned Oriental rugs.  The walls were lined with oil paintings and a grand piano dominated the room.  The dining salon hosted a mahogany table that could seat 80 guests.  The china place settings were rose and cream colored and decorated with cherubs and the black double headed eagle.  The crystal goblets were etched with the Romanov Coat of Arms.  French doors led from these rooms to the stern deck.  

A mahogany staircase led down to A deck.  Here, the Royal family and their guests could gain access to the yacht from tenders while on the sea.  Passengers would enter a small mahogany paneled Reception room.  Through this room was the entrance to the private state rooms of the Emperor and Empress and their five children.  The Empress Alexandra’s rooms were decorated in English chinz in tones of mauve and grey.  Her walls were covered with family photographs and her beloved icons.  Tsar Nicholas’ private study was furnished in rich green leather.  The children’s rooms were lavishly decorated with brass beds, chinz curtains covering the port holes and marble wash basins.   A library lined with mahogany shelves, was used to receive important diplomats.  Alexandra had her own cream colored writing room to receive her guests.  To maintain the family’s daily religious services, there was a private chapel, to which the Holy Synod had assigned a priest.  

The lower decks held pantries stocked with food and wine, galleys and dining rooms for the Standart’s crew of 350.  There were holds for ice, cargo and coal.  A distilling plant provided 60 tons of hot and cold water to the passengers daily.  There was even a teak lined stable to hold a cow that produced fresh milk for the family.  The ship also carried members of a brass band and a balalaika orchestra for entertainment.

Life aboard the Standart, cruising through the Finnish fjiords, was a fairy tale for the Royal family.  Away from preying eyes, the children could roam the ship freely, while their parents enjoyed a reprieve from their rigorous schedule of duties.  Each child was assigned a diadka, a sailor whose duty it was to safe guard and entertain his charge.  The children were quite fond of these young officers and innocent flirtations were known to develop between them and the young Grand Duchesses.   When anchored, the family would get in small launches and head for an uninhabited island, where they could play and relax with complete freedom.  A tennis court had been constructed, so the family could participate in their favorite sport.  At the end of each idyllic day, the family would return to the ship and gather on the deck for evening prayers.  

The Summer of 1914 was the last time the family vacationed on the Standart.  Within weeks of news of the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, war was declared and the Standart was placed into dry dock.  

Of course, history tells the story of the tragic fall of the Romanov Dynasty.   The Standart was stripped of its glory and pressed into naval service.  She was renamed Vosemnadtstate Martza, and later Marti.  In 1932, she was converted to a minelayer for the Soviet Navy.  On Sept. 23, 1941 Marti was damaged in an air attack.  She was repaired and quickly returned to service.  After the war she was converted to a training ship and renamed Oka.  She was scrapped in 1963 in Tallinn in Estonia.

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Ghost Ships

By Lynn Whitney

The sea can be a place of beauty and peace, enticing sailors with visions of blue skies, gentle waves and starry nights.  But the reality of life at sea can be long lonely days and harsh weather that can cause even the bravest sailor to question his sanity.  Long difficult passages, with close quarters have created many a legend. And sailors being the story-tellers that they are, have spun many a yarn about mysterious disappearances and ghostly ships.

Perhaps the most famous of ghost ships is the Flying Dutchman.  Visible during stormy weather off the Cape of Good Hope, the Dutchman actually refers to the Captain, not the vessel.  Legend has it that the ship is doomed to sail the oceans forever, never making port.  Sightings often include reports of an eerie glow illuminating the Captain, grasping the wheel and cursing the Heavens for bringing the storm.  In the rigging of his ship is his crew of skeletons, grinning miserably as he holds his course.

Was the origin of the Flying Dutchman a real event?  Well, stories differ, but this is the one we like the best.  During a frightful storm, the obsessed Dutch Captain struggled to round the Cape of Good Hope against winds that threatened to sink his ship with all aboard.  His crew and passengers begged him to turn back , but in his arrogance, he refused to change course.  As huge waves battered his ship and howling winds shredded the sails, the Captain challenged the fates and sailed on through the maelstrom.  In fear for their lives, the desperate crew attempted to mutiny, but the enraged Captain killed the leader of the rebellion and threw him overboard.  As his body hit the water, the clouds parted and a ghastly figure appeared on the deck.  The apparition addressed the Captain, “You are a very stubborn man,” to which the Captain replied, “I never asked for a peaceful passage,” and attempted to shoot the specter.  As he fired his pistol, it exploded in his hand.  The figure spoke again, but this time cursed the Captain for his actions and condemned him to sail the seas for all eternity accompanied by his ghostly crew, bringing death to all who sight his ship, never making port and never having a moment’s peace.  

And so the story goes, the Captain forever sails his phantom ship through clouds of a storm, a portent of doom to all unlucky enough to see him.  It is also said that he sometimes attempts to draw alongside another ship to deliver letters from his crew, but if the letters are opened, the ship will founder.  Woe to the poor souls who sight the Flying Dutchman.

A lesser known legend of a spectral ship, is the Palantine Light.  This is the ghost of a ship that wrecked off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island in 1738.  It haunts the waters around the Island, bursting into flames and sinking into the ocean.  A sighting is usually an omen of bad weather, but the ship has also been known to appear on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s. 

So, what is the sad tale of this doomed ship?  The Princess Augusta was a British ship that sailed from Rotterdam in August of 1738 under Captain George Long.  Along with his crew of 14, were 240 immigrants to the United States.  These passengers were German Palatinates, heading for Philadelphia, then probably on to a German settlement in Virginia.  Their origin accounts for the name of the apparition.  

The ship’s voyage seemed to have been cursed from the beginning.  Contaminated water killed 200 of the passengers and half the crew, including the Captain.  First Mate Andrew Brook took command, but was quickly pushed off course during a storm.  The wretched survivors spent the next  three months in deplorable conditions, trying to reach their destination.   On Dec. 27, during a heavy snowstorm, the ship was driven aground on the northern shore of Block Island.  According to some accounts, Brook rowed ashore with his remaining crew, leaving behind his passengers.   The Islanders helped the stranded passengers the next day, nursed the abused and starving survivors and buried the twenty that died.   It is suggested that the ship was deemed unsalvageable, was pushed out to sea and set afire.  Some say a lone woman, driven mad by her circumstances, refused to leave the ship and went down with her.  

As so often happens, the disaster became a legend when it was immortalized by John Greenleaf Whittier in his poem, “The Palantine.”  His version paints an unflattering portrait of the Islanders, plundering the ship after lighting false signals to draw the ship ashore, then setting it afire.  

Whichever version you choose to believe, no evidence of the ship remains.  Only its legend and the few who claim to have seen it.

It seems that phantom ships sail not only the seas, but rivers as well.  The Steamboat Eliza Battle haunts the Tombigbee River in Alabama.   A luxurious paddle steamer, she carried presidents and dignitaries as well as cargo.  On March 1, 1858, she held 56 passengers, a crew of 45 and a full load of cotton.  Around 2 AM, after a night of festivities, the crew realized that several bales of cotton were burning. The fire spread quickly, forcing the passengers to abandon ship and plunge into the icy water.  Some managed to climb atop floating cotton bales, others clung to tree tops in the flooded river.  Many succumbed to the extreme cold.  The burning steamboat continued to float downstream until it finally ran aground near Kemp’s Landing and sank.  Since then, the “Phantom Steamboat” has been sighted on many a cold and windy night, fully ablaze, a harbinger of disaster to come.

So, do I believe in ghosts and ghostly ships?  Well, I’m not sure, but I am sure that I don’t want to see one!  And of course, as is often quoted, “ Ghosts are like true love.  Everyone talks about it, but no one has ever seen one.”  Maybe ghost ships are like that.  Sailors talk about them, but has anyone really seen one, or lived to tell about it?

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Lorelei – The Song of the Siren By Lynn Whitney

Lorelei – The Song of the Siren

By Lynn Whitney

Soaring some 120 meters above the Rhine River, stands the Lorelei Rock.  Nestled between majestic castles and neatly terraced vineyards in Germany’s Rhine Gorge, the Lorelei marks the narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.  The unique configuration of this area creates an angry, swirling current.  As the water rushes by it produces a murmuring sound, giving the rock its name, the Lorelei, roughly translated as murmuring rock.  These curious sounds and the tragic number of shipwrecks have fueled  the imaginations of sailors for generations and created the legend of the Lorelei.

Atop the rock, there once lived a beautiful Rhine Maiden named Lorelei.  Dressed in white, a wreath of stars in her copper hair, swathed in shimmering light, her eyes glimmering like diamonds, she would sit and comb her hair, scattering pearls into the swirling waters below.  But more enticing than her beauty was her song, a sound that so enchanted sailors, they would lose sight of the water and wreck their ships on the craggy shores.  No sailor who ever tried to reach her every returned.

So who is this bewitching undine?  Is she a broken hearted maiden who unwittingly lures mariners to their death, or a vengeful siren?  Tales of water nymphs abound and perhaps that’s just what she is, a siren, daughter of the river god, but one beguiling story is that of the “Forsaken Bride.”

Long ago, in medieval times, there lived a maiden by the name of Lorelei.  Such was her beauty that every man who laid eyes on her fell hopelessly in love.  Suitors came from far and wide, but she would have no one.  Finding themselves rejected, the disconsolate men would wander the forests, and   often fling themselves into the Rhine for love of the cold hearted maiden.   But cold and cruel she was not, for Lorelei was broken hearted herself.   Having pledged her troth to a young knight more concerned with the glory of war than his promise to her, she waited patiently for his return.  

As the years passed with no word from him and her rejected lovers continued to pine away , rumors of sorcery began to circulate.  Charged with the practice of witchcraft, she was called before the court, but her beauty melted the hearts of her accusers.  In her sorrow, she begged the judge to let her die.  Moved by her innocence and lack of guile, he ordered three knights to bring her to a convent to live out her life in peace.  On their way to the convent, as they passed the towering rock, Lorelei begged the knights to let her climb the rock for one last glimpse of her beloved’s castle.  As she stood at the summit, she noticed a small ship passing by with her true love at the bow.  Hearing the cry that escaped from her lips, the young knight saw her standing at the precipice.  Momentarily distracted, he steered his vessel into the rocks and was drowned.  Seeing her lover perish on the rocks, Lorelei cried out his name and threw herself into the rushing water.  Today the rock retains the echo of her cry, and sailors speak in hushed voices of the beautiful siren who sits on top of the rock, combing her golden hair, singing a sad song and unknowingly luring sailors to their death.

The myth, originally imagined by German author Clemens Brentano, has become part of German folk lore in the form of a poem by Heinrich Heine:

The Lorelei

I know not whence it rises,

This thought so full of woe;

But a tale of times departed

Haunts me, and will not let go.


The air is cool, and it darkens,

And calmly flows the Rhine,

The mountain-peaks are sparkling

In the sunny evening-shine


And yonder sits a maiden,

The fairest of the fair;

With gold is her garment glittering,

And she combs her golden hair:


With a golden comb she combs it;

And a wild song singeth she.

That melts the heart with a wonderous

And powerful melody.


The boatman feels his bosom

With a nameless longing move;

He sees not the gulfs before him,

His gaze is fixed above.


Till over boat and boatman

The Rhine’s deep waters run:

And this, with her magic singing,

The Lore-lei has done.


 Is Lorelei a cunning siren or a broken hearted damsel?  Well, many legends come in the form of parables, so maybe she is just an echo that reminds us to not be so distracted by ephemeral pleasures that we lose sight of the dangers ahead. 













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We’ll Always Have Paris By: Lynn Whitney

We’ll Always Have Paris
  By: Lynn Whitney

I like walking through historic cemeteries.  I don’t find them to be morbid or scary.  I find them to be peaceful, quiet places of contemplation where family stories are gathered.  Walking among the headstones, history and cultures reveal themselves.  Voices call out from the inscriptions.  Some sorrowful, some heartfelt, some humorous, such as the famous Key West Cemetery memorial, “I told you I was sick.”  The markers themselves tell a story; an angel – a guide to Heaven, a broken bud – an untimely death, myrtle leaves – undying love.  A walk through a cemetery is a tribute to those who reside there, “you are not forgotten.”  So many of these resting places lie along riverbanks, a peaceful spot for those who visit.  

It was that observation that led me to Le Cemetier des Chien  in Paris – the world’s oldest pet cemetery.  No, I haven’t been there, but I certainly would like to visit.  It sits over the Pont de Clichy Bridge, on the banks of the Seine, just down river from where Seurat painted his famous, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.”  As the name suggest, it is dominated by dogs, but other beloved pets are buried there, such as cats, horses, monkeys and even a lion.  

Le Cemetier was founded in 1899 by French feminist Marguerite Durand.  Publisher of the feminist newspaper , “La Fronde,” she was an elegant woman of style, known for strolling the streets of Paris with her pet lion, Tiger, who later became one of the cemetery’s first residents.  

Through the years, the cemetery has fallen into a somewhat neglected state, but that almost seems to have enhanced its atmosphere of sacred and peaceful seclusion for the tender memorials to cherished pets and companions.  Wild cats roam freely, as if to keep the occupants company.  The entrance is dominated by a huge sculpture of a St. Bernard carrying a child on his back.  This is Barry, a Swiss mountain rescue dog for the St. Bernard Hospice.  Born in 1800, his mission was to go out into snowstorms and rescue people trapped in avalanches.  He is said to have rescued 41 people, the last being a young boy he found asleep in an ice cave.  He warmed the boy by licking him, moved him onto his back and carried him back to the hospice.  The boy survived.  After 12 years of service, he was brought by a monk to Bern, Switzerland, to live out his life in peace.  He died at the age of 14.  His body is preserved and on display at the Natural History Museum in Bern.  While he is not buried in Le Cemetier, his monument is a profound reminder of the loving bond between master and companion.  

Perhaps the most famous resident is the German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin.  Found as a puppy during WWI, in a neglected kennel, he was adopted by American serviceman Lee Duncan.  Upon his arrival in America he became a box office hit and starred in 27 films.  After his death in 1932, his remains were returned to France and buried in Le Cemetier.  His grave is almost always blanketed in flowers from his admirers. 

A walk among the headstones reveals not only grand memorials to pets of the famed and royal, but also heart wrenching testimonials to the loyal companions of ordinary people:

To a dog named Emma – “My only friend in my wayward and sorry life.”

To Kiki the monkey – “Sleep, my dear.  You were the joy of my life.”

To Drac, pet of a Romanian Princess – “Loyal companion during tragic times.  Precious friend in exile.”

And finally…..

To a dog named Hera – “Loved the Sea – Let the Seine rock you to sleep.”

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Figureheads--By Lynn Whitney


By Lynn Whitney

                From the earliest days of seafaring, sailors have used whatever means of protection from the sea they could conjure up.  A ship’s figurehead served just that purpose, along with many others, for these religious, highly superstitious and largely illiterate early mariners.  Some believed they represented the soul of the ship, a divine presence that could prevent a shipwreck, or in case of sinking, lead the souls of the dead to comfort.  The Ancient Egyptians were probably the first to decorate their ships.  The graceful curve of the stern was carved into a lotus stem and figures of holy birds were placed on the prow.  Phoenicians used horses to represent speed, while the Greeks used a boar’s head to depict sharp vision and ferocity.  A carved Centurion on a Roman ship announced battle readiness.  Northern Europeans favored serpents, bulls, dolphins and dragons.  By the 13th Century, swans had become a favorite figurehead, representing grace and mobility on the water.  A variety of animals could be found, with lions being popular among Royalty.  Henry VIII’s famous warship sported a Unicorn. 

                Up until the 16th Century, the figureheads were mounted or carved directly onto the stem of the ship.  At this time, ship builders began constructing forecastles above and beyond the stem, forcing the figureheads to be located on the bowsprit.  Through the 17th Century, the lion remained a favorite for warships of all nations.  Some more important ships had more elaborate figureheads.  The British ship Prince Royal (1610) had St. George slaying the dragon.  The French favored figureheads that represented fame, victory and glory.  The frigate Carmagnole displayed a guillotine. Towards the end of the 18th Century, the lion was replaced by a representation of the ship’s name, usually a classical or mythological figure, of great service to the large number of sailors who could not read.  Captain Death’s British privateer, Terrible (1756), carried a carved skeleton.  In keeping with the superstitious nature of sailors, bare breasted females became popular.  Women on board were deemed to be unlucky, but a naked woman had the power to calm the seas.                 Even so, clothed women were also popular.  British ships often used figures of female royalty, such as Queen Victoria.  Shipbuilders commissioned carvings of their wives and daughters, sometimes dressed as goddesses.  The Swedish Song-Bird Jenny Lind appeared on at least 35 ships.  Oddly, although sailors traditionally considered mermaids to be sirens whose song could lure them to shipwreck, the figure became the most common female figurehead.

                The tea-clipper with the familiar name, Cutty Sark (1869), had a figurehead called “Nanny.”  Jock Willis, owner of the ship, chose the name inspired by the poem “Tam O’Shanter ,”by  the Scottish poet Robert Burns.  As the story goes, on a dark and stormy night, after a long day at the market, and a longer evening in his favorite pub, Tam climbed on his old mare Meg and headed off across the rain swept moor towards home.  Around midnight he approached an old ruined church, rumored to be haunted by gatherings of witches.  Attracted by a strange music, he drew near and noticed the church was full of light.  Coming closer, Tam peered through the crumbling window, and was astonished to see a huge bonfire surrounded by a whirling coven of witches, with the Devil himself appearing as a shaggy black dog playing the bagpipes.  As Tam gazed upon the ugly old hags leaping about, he noticed that one of them was young and beautiful.  Dancing with abandon, she threw off all her clothes, except a short petticoat known as a cutty sark.  The young witch was called Nannie, but Tam did not know this.  Entranced by her beauty, he watched, transfixed, as her dancing became wilder and wilder.  Finally,unable to contain himself, he cried out,“Well done, Cutty Sark!” At once, the bonfire was extinguished and the witches poured out, shrieking for vengeance against the man who had spoiled their party.  Tam, fearing for his life, spurred Meg on and raced away, heading for the bridge across the river Doon, with the shrieking witches in hot pursuit.  It is well known that witches cannot cross running water and Tam knew if he could reach the bridge he would be safe.  As Meg thundered away, Tam glanced over his shoulder and saw Nannie at the head of the pack and gaining on them.  As the terrified mare galloped toward the bridge, Nannie flung herself at Tam, reaching out an arm to grab him.  Meg made a desperate leap for the bridge and reached safety with her master clinging to her back. Nannie was left standing with a clump of Meg’s tail clutched in her hand. 

                Perhaps this is why Jock Willis chose to name his ship Cutty Sark, a fitting name for a beautiful, swift, tea clipper.  And that is why his figurehead, Nannie always has a horse’s tail in her hand. 

                Progress marched on, and wooden boats slowly lost popularity, as did their wooden figureheads, and with them went a little of the magic and mystery of the sea.


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Etymology: By Lynn Whitney   

                No, etymology is not the study of bugs.  It is the history of words, their origins and how their meanings have morphed over time.  Now, it is a well -known fact that sailors have a rather colorful language.  That and the romanticized notion of life at sea have created much false etymology.  The completely fictional CANOE, the “Committee to Ascribe a Naval Origin to Everything,” doesn’t really exist, but we wish it did. 

                Below is a list of phrases that we would like to believe originated in the seafaring life.  True or not, they sound genuine!

Above Board: Honest and forthright.  Pirates would masquerade as peaceful merchants by hiding most of their crew below deck.  An honest Captain with nothing to hide would keep his crew “above Board.”

Adrift: Not moored.  At the mercy of the wind and tide.  The word “drifter” comes from this.  A person with no purpose or aim in life.

Bail Out:   Remove water from a swamped boat. Now refers to helping out someone in trouble.

Bear Down: To sail downwind quickly towards another ship.  It now means moving quickly toward someone with an intent purpose.

Bitter End: The loose, unsecured end of a line.  Now used to say that someone will continue doing something until it is finished, no matter what.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: The “devil” is the longest seam of a wooden ship, running from the bow to the stern.  When in need of caulking, a sailor would sit in a bo’sun’s chair suspended between the “devil” and the “deep” – a very precarious position. 

Chew the Fat: Tough salted beef required a lot of chewing to make it edible.  This has come to mean a friendly conversation.

Doldrums: An area of calm winds near the equator.  With no wind, a trip through the doldrums was long, hot and boring.  “In the doldrums” refers to being emotionally down or bored.

Even Keel: A ship floating upright without list was on an even keel.  This has come to mean calm and steady.  Keeled over, or upside down, was a sailor’s term for death. 

Feeling Blue: When a ship lost a beloved Captain, she would fly a blue sail, or have a blue stripe painted around the hull.  Now, a feeling of sadness.

Filibuster: Buccaneers, known as filibusters, from the Dutch word for freebooter, would obstruct the passage of a ship.  Translated into French as filibuster, it is now a political term to delay passage of legislation by non-stop talking.

Footloose: The foot is the bottom of the sail attached to the boom.  A sail not attached is said to be footloose and very difficult to control.  “Footloose and fancy free” alludes to the motion of a footloose sail.

Hand Over Fist: The act of moving quickly up a rope or hoisting a sail. Now meaning to advance or accumulate rapidly.

Hard and Fast: A ship aground on the rocks.  Now meaning inflexible.

Knowing the Ropes: An obviously important skill on a sailing vessel.  It still means having experience or skill.

Mayday: Since 1948, an internationally recognized signal for ships in trouble, loosely translated from the French, m’aidez, “help me.

Let the Cat Out of the Bag: The cat ‘o nine tails was kept in a cloth bag and pulled out immediately before a flogging, signifying an act of misconduct.  It now refers to revealing a secret.

Loose Cannon:  A cannon having come loose on the deck of a pitching boat could cause injury and damage.  It now is used to describe an unpredictable person who is likely to cause unintentional damage.

P.O.S.H: Port Outward, Starboard Home.  When sailing to India from Britain and back, kept your cabin on the shady side of the ship.  Now meaning elegant and stylish.

Starboard: The Vikings called the side of their ship its board and placed their steering oar, the “star” on the right side.

Three Sheets to the Wind: On a smaller sail boat, there are 3 sheets that control the sails.  If the sheets are flying in the wind, there is no control of the boat.  This has come to refer to someone who has had too much to drink.

Under the Weather:  A crewman standing watch on the weather side of the bow would be subject to a constant battering of the wind and sea spray.  Hence, he would be under the weather, now commonly known as sick.

Whole Nine Yards:  A square rigger has 3 masts with 3 yards on each mast.  If all square sails were flying the whole nine yards would be in operation.  In other words, everything.

So, go ahead!  Speak proudly, using the language of our sailing nation and let the rest of the landlubbers wonder what you are talking about!



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Serendipity By Lynn Whitney


By Lynn Whitney

Serendipity.   Its definition – luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.  And that’s what this piece is about.  It’s not my usual reflection of life on the water, although that is where it started.  This is about happenstance and kismet and a connection with my own history.  

I am a bibliophile.  I love reading and I love books.  Not the electronic kind, the real  kind.  I love the feel of them in my hands, the sound of a turning page.  But most of all, I love the memories that belong to them.  I collect the memories.  Before I could read, I was read to.  I didn’t care what it was, The New York Times or a fairy tale.  I wanted to sit close to someone and hear the words.  When I would visit my grandparents there was always a quarter under my pillow, left by the fairies, and a new book with a date and inscription in it.  These memories line my bookshelves now.   My copies of “The Princess and the Goblins” and “The Secret Garden” are shelved along with my mother’s “Heidi” and “Jane Eyre”, and books belonging to my grandmother and even some of her family members. 

My bookshelf is where this story begins.  I was looking for something to read and came across a title that caught my attention, “The Casting Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs.  Aleshine,” by Frank R. Stockton, first published in 1886.  I opened it and gazed at my grandmother’s handwriting – Anne Katherine Warren, Ardmore, Pa.  Here I was 100 years later, sharing my grandmother’s quest for an adventure!

Before I tell you about this delightful book, let me tell you a little bit about my grandmother, Anne.  Born in 1900, she was an only child.  At the age of 16, she lost her father and went with her mother to live with her maternal grandmother. She led, I imagine, a rather quiet, genteel life.  Upon graduating from The University of Pennsylvania, she supported her mother teaching French, English and Spanish.  After marrying my grandfather, Augustus Whitney,  they resided in Camden, NJ where he was the minister of the First Presbyterian Church.  Here she raised five sons while teaching at Hatch Junior High School.  She finished her career in the Moorestown, NJ school system at the age of 72.  

So, just why did this book make such a connection with me?  My grandmother was a proper lady, quiet and polite, but there were other sides to her.  There was the educated career woman, the family matriarch, the baker of pies and all good things, the lover of books and my guide to the world of fantasy.  Which brings me back to Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine; two very respectable middle aged farmers’ widows, who find themselves on a sinking ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.   They paddle on life preservers, guided by the young Mr.Craig,  to an uninhabited island, take up housekeeping in a deserted house, welcome several other castaways, escape the island and – everyone lives happily ever after.  No sharks, no cannibals. All prim and proper.

What is remarkable and entertaining about these women is their sensible, levelheaded, good natured acceptance and management of life’s unpredictability.  Every decision for the well-being and comfort of the castaways is made by the women, with fairness and a charming lack of guile. Not included in their master plan for a respectable existence, is the educated Mr. Craig or three other cast- away mariners who arrive later with the hypocritical missionary, Mr. Enderton and his charming daughter.  With strength of character and moral fortitude, mixed in with a little righteous indignation and caring concern for all, the ladies gather together a lovely, dysfunctional little family and create a future for all of them.  Quite the adventure for these two imperturbable women, who had never been farther than the gates of their Pennsylvania farm houses!

The words of the author, Frank R. Stockton, in his book, “Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts,” completed the circle of my thought.

“When I was a boy I strongly desired to be a pirate, and the reason was the absolute independence of that sort of life.  Restrictions of all sorts had become onerous to me…I would always be as free as a sea bird, my men would be devoted to me, and my word would be their law.  I would decide for myself whether this or that proceeding would be proper, generous and worthy of my unlimited power; when tired of sailing, I would retire to my island – the position of which, in a beautiful semi-tropic ocean, would be known only to myself and to my crew, - and there I would pass happy days in the company of my books, my works of art, and all the various treasures I had taken from the mercenary vessels I had overhauled.” 1897.

Maybe that’s the connection between all of us.  The desire to make an adventure out of the mundane, create a fantasy out of reality and while away the days on a deserted island, surrounded by what we treasure.

Maybe we all have a little pirate in us.

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