Hello, dear friends; here’s what we’ve been up to for the past twelve months.
The year began in the Bahamas, where we have been wintering since my retirement from the Naval Academy. Our location there is Dickey’s Cay, a tiny island (population 1-2 dozen souls, depending on the season) that forms the harbor of Man-O-War Cay, a larger island (population 250-350). Man-O-War (hereinafter “MOW”) has a small settlement with one restaurant, a marina, two boatyards, two groceries, a hardware store (where one can buy lobster), and a nice assortment of expert carpenters, boat builders and mechanics, good people to have close at hand when things break.
Dickey’s Cay and MOW lie in a barrier reef, one of the longest in the world, that protects the larger islands of Great Abaco and Little Abaco and encloses the Sea of Abaco (that’s the water between the reef and the big islands), about 4 miles wide, and forms a great sailing area that’s protected from the open Atlantic that lies outside the reef. On Dickey’s Cay we inhabit a small family compound that we share with the wonderful British couple who own the property. Generally when they’re in residence, we’re not, and vice versa; they use Troubadour, our boat, when we’re away, a boat and house swap that has worked well for us. The property has its own dock on the MOW harbor, and Troubadour lives there or on a mooring in the southern harbor when the wind blows hard. There are three dwellings, a main house on the harbor, a guest house on stilts that hangs literally over the Sea of Abaco, and a smaller bunk house that’s good for grandchildren.
In addition to Troubadour, our 37’ sailboat, there are 4 small craft that we use to get to MOW for groceries, or just to fool around on the water. These include a 12’ Boston Whaler that’s our family "car," plus a rowboat, a kayak, and Troubadour’s dinghy.
We hosted Christmas in the islands with daughters Laura and Sarah and their husbands and children, the next door neighbor loaned us one of her guest houses to accommodate the overflow, and Marcia and I stayed on Troubadour, giving the houses over to family. We visited Marsh Harbor, the capital of the Abacos (1 traffic light), Hopetown on Elbow Cay and Nippers at Guana Cay. Ate, drank, swam, snorkeled, fished, sailed, hiked, all the usual good stuff, including an amazing all-day tour of the Blue Holes of Abaco with Underground Bahamas which included visiting a bat cave and the nesting grounds of the Abaco parrots, and swimming in several blue holes.
After the family had departed, I took a short break to travel to Florida and conduct the Florida All-State Men’s Chorus. That was fun and exhausting with 9 hour rehearsal days. We remained in Florida for a week, again visiting old friends, then returned to the Bahamas for a three week cruise on Troubadour. This idyllic time was interrupted by the death of Marcia’s brother in law. Marcia flew back to Rhode Island for the funeral, leaving me on Troubadour at Green Turtle Cay, where we had been docked for a short spell while our landlords at Tradewinds were in residence. Upon the departure of the owners, we returned to Tradewinds, hosted a succession of guests, and we remained in the islands until the end of March.
Upon return to our home grounds, Marcia plunged into the writing business while I ran the usual spring music festival in Annapolis and put together an evening of Gilbert and Sullivan as a fund raiser for Laura and David’s choir at St Alban’s Church on the grounds of the National Cathedral. We commissioned Iolanthe for spring sailing on the Bay, and took a series of short Bay cruises, including one longer cruise to visit Sarah and her family in Chesapeake, VA, where Jon, Sarah’s husband, is a doctor stationed at Portsmouth Naval Hospital.
Marcia and her three living sisters thought that they were getting together too often only when someone dear died, and so the four of them took a sisterly-bonding cruise from Baltimore to Bermuda and back. I sailed out in Iolanthe to wave them goodby as the ship passed under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge headed for the ocean. Marcia claims this cruise was for purposes of research for her next novel and, as such, is tax deductible. Look for Dark Passage -- Marcia's 12th Hannah Ives mystery -- in the summer of 2013. Her 11th, The Last Refuge, was published in hardback and tradepaper in May and is now available -- as are all her earlier titles -- as an ebook.
I have become involved with Annapolis Opera, a professional company that puts on outstanding productions, directed by a friend and Peabody classmate from long ago and that activity eats up more time and effort than I had anticipated, but that’s often the way volunteer work develops. I continue to fill in as a substitute organist at a couple of local churches, and that makes me keep up some minimum level of organ technique. A good thing.
During the summer months, we hosted Camp Grandma, and spent several weeks with various combinations of grandchildren. Thomas and Joseph, Sarah’s children, were in town to take sailing lessons at the Eastport YC and Annapolis Sailing School; Laura’s children, Jon and Abigail, stayed with us while their parents were in England for a choir tour accompanied by their oldest son Benjamin, who had recently graduated from high school.
In August, Marcia made her annual trip to England to speak on "Humor in Crime Fiction: or, What's So Funny About Murder" at the annual St Hilda’s Crime and Mystery Weekend in Oxford. She attended the Edington Festival of Music Within the Liturgy in Wiltshire, and visited numerous friends. While Marcia was frolicking across the Atlantic, I was conducting, at Chautauqua, the annual week of geezer music under the auspices of Encore Creativity, an arts program for older adults. This year we combined dance, theater, and chorus, and the week was covered by an embedded Washington Post reporter. Very cool! When you think you’re old enough, you should sign up and come and sing with me.
There were some medical issues this year, and Marcia had her thyroid removed. This event was celebrated by a long weekend trip to Bethany Beach with the whole extended family, less one grandchild, Benjamin, who had just departed for Earlham College. Can’t believe it. Marcia’s thyroid turned out to be malignant, and that was too bad, but her doctors told her that it was a very treatable form of cancer, and that treatment involved taking radioactive iodine. Thyroid tissue craves iodine, so giving a radioactive form of iodine is intended to kill off any remaining bits of the gland. This treatment, while effective, is not fun, as it requires a miserable diet for a couple of weeks, then isolation from all forms of life, including me. I moved in with Aaron Smith, my successor at the Naval Academy, and his wife, Amy, while Marcia was "too hot to handle," and we made good use of that time.
But before the diet and subsequent radiation, we took another great family road trip, driving to Disney World in November for a week with Sarah and Jon, their three children, and Jon’s father who flew in from Dallas. Marcia and I drove, taking our time (this is one of the real joys of retirement, the time thing) again to visit with friends in Hilton Head on the way down and Pinehurst and Raleigh on the way back. The Disney trip was wonderful; because Jon is active duty Navy, Disney offers a substantial discount, and that break made the concierge level of the Contemporary Hotel (almost!) affordable. If you have young children, and Sarah has a couple of pre-schoolers, plus a third grader, being on the Disney property on the monorail line is a great benefit, since when anyone gets tired, and that includes us, you can quickly and easily retreat to the hotel for a quick nap. That concierge level offers complementary food and drink, including alcohol, pretty much anytime. This is both fun and dangerous.
Returning from Disney, Marcia, who is usually sunny and pleasant, turned into a real grouch because of the draconian diet and radiation and the need to meet her publisher’s deadline to turn in her novel before Christmas, which she did. The casualties, however, included Christmas cards, and we hope to get them mailed soon, probably as we spend the next two weeks driving to Austin, Texas for New Year’s with my Texas family, and then to Florida, interrupting the trip with stops again to visit old friends before departing for another winter in the Bahamas.
We continue to enjoy a very active retirement, combining music, sailing, writing and travelling, ever thankful for a loving family that is close at hand, and sufficient health to enjoy the opportunities that have come our way.
We have come to enjoy, most of all, the companionship of good friends, often in beautiful places like the Bahamas, or sailing the Chesapeake; if you’re coming our way, and are reading this, do give us a call so that we can spend some time together.
Hanukkah and Christmas have passed and we hope they were joyous, but Happy New Year, (or years, if you’re following the Mayan calendar).