This website was about voyages on various boats and then a plane owned by John and Laura Lee Samford of Birmingham, Alabama. The last boat and plane have been sold, so the blog has turned to other travels and comments on life events. It also contains other blather user-generated content. Check out what you like and ignore the rest. Thanks for stopping by.



I'm in Nerd heaven

If there was ever a project to occupy a gadget freak/computer nerd over a rainy weekend in Georgia, it is figuring out how to keep the information up to date in the electronic playground that is my new plane’s cockpit.

If you look at the photo  to the right, you will see that my panel consists of two large displays with two smaller GPS/Radios between them. The two large displays are made by Avidyne and are the Primary Flight Display (PFD) on the left and the Multi-Function Display (MFD) on the right. The PFD derives information from onboard instruments and from the two Garmin GPS’s, and replaces traditional flight instruments such as the airspeed indicator, Altimeter,Horizontal Situation Indicator, Attitude Indicator, rate of climb, etc. The MFD does several things but usually shows a map with the plane situated on it from GPS information. It also has an engine information page showing various temperatures, fuel flow,etc and it has a Chart page with instrument approaches, airport diagrams, and other useful data.

Having all of this information essentially replaces both the old “steam guage” instruments and the bulging flight bags you often see pilots carrying full of approach charts for every airport and other needed paperwork. And it provides a wealth of information I never had in my past flying, such as real-time weather (from XM Radio) and traffic information showing other planes flying nearby. Its all simply fabulous, but I am finding out it comes at a cost, both financially to pay for the various services and in the time required to download and install updates monthly to the system.

So far in my exploration, I have figured out that I will need a subscription to the XM weather service for the MFD, monthly updates to the basic “Nav Data” on the MFD, monthly updates to the charts on the MFD, and monthly updates to the charts for both Garmin GPS’s. The weather service should be fairly simple and just involves calling XM Radio and activating an account for the weather receiver, kind of like activating and subscribing to Satellite radio in your car. The remaining subscriptions involve using a Windows computer (not a Mac) and a special program to download the updates from a chart company called Jeppesen and put them on USB Drive’s for the MFD or memory cards for the Garmin’s, and then bringing these sticks to the plane and plugging them into the gadgets to upload the new data. It shouldn’t be too hard once I get going and find a Windows computer when I’m not at my office, but registration and login’s and passwords to set it all up are pretty overwhelming. Tomorrow I will go out to the hangar and try to get all the serial numbers of the equipment necessary to begin setting this up. Meanwhile, I’ve spent the weekend reading manuals and Googling things to learn what I need to know. I’m having a blast.

It is clear to me now that this blog, while it will contain some flying adventures that may be of interest to friends and family, is also going to dive into some of the technical aspects of modern-day flying, a subject that may interest some and bore others to tears. As I’ve always said, read what you like and skip the rest, I may try to move the more technical stuff off of the main journal page and onto a new section dealing with such subjects as avionics, engine care, and other subjects of interest only to pilots or would-be pilots. We’ll see how it goes, but I hope to provide sections you may choose, depending on your interests. Not everybody is fascinated by how to lean an engine at altitude.

For the moment though, I plan to document my learning curve right here on the blog, and I’m not offended if anyone who came here to read about boating or the births of my grandchildren chooses to check out. I’ll miss you, but feel free to visit when you like.


Short Field Takeoff

One of the things you learn getting a pilot license is how to do a “short field takeoff”. Here’s one that’s really short. I count his takeoff roll time at about three seconds:



Zee Plane, Zee Plane 


After selling the boat recently, and taking up flying again with a few lessons, I have been looking to purchase a small plane to make getting back and forth between Birmingham, Alabama and Savannah, Georgia easier, and more fun.

I had narrowed the type of plane down and figured it would take a lot of patience to find one I would want and that would be within my budget. Among the planes I have owned or flown in the past was an eighties model Cherokee Saratoga, a fixed-gear, single-engine, six-seat Piper. As Wikipedia will tell you “The Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six is a series of single engine fixed landing gear light aircraft manufactured in the United States by Piper Aircraft between 1965 and 2007.” The most recent version is called a Piper 6X, or a 6XT for the turbo-charged version.

My criteria for a plane were as follows: first, I needed roominess and the ability to carry two couples or the lovely Laura Lee and a few grandchildren; second, I wanted a fixed-gear, single-engine, naturally aspirated plane which would save enormously on the costs of maintenance, fuel, insurance, and required pilot recurrent training. The last plane I owned was a Beechcraft Baron, a 200-knot twin-engine, retractable-gear, fabulous piece of machinery. My recollection is that I had a cost of about $100 per hour of flying just to cover insurance and required annual training at Flight Safety in Wichita, Kansas. I was ready for a serious downsizing from that type of aircraft.

The Piper 6X fits the bill perfectly. It has a roomy cabin with club seating for four behind the pilot and co-pilot seats. It has a “useful load” of 1,200 lbs., which means it will carry that much weight in fuel, passengers, and luggage. With about 50 gallons or 300 lbs of fuel on board, it will carry 900 lbs. of passengers and luggage for about three hours and cover 450 nautical miles. There is only one other plane in this size and category that will compare to that, and it is the Cessna 206. However, the Cessna is not as roomy or luxurious, lacks the club-seating, and feels very utilitarian in comparison.

So I studied the market for late model 6X’s and got a handle on the prices and equipment for those available. None of them were quite right as they were either overpriced, not in good shape, had too much time on them, or lacked some of the avionics equipment I thought I would need. I assumed I would sit back for awhile, taking flying lessons and slowly getting back into flying. However, about a week ago N881RJ appeared on the market, a beautiful 2005 model with only 800 hours total time that looked to be reasonably priced and have all of the equipment I was looking for. So last week I flew up to Lexington, Kentucky to take a look, and the plane looked perfect. It was listed by a brokerage firm called Airmart in Lexington, which is owned by a gentleman named Grant Sutherlin. I asked around among the aircraft community about him and he has an excellent reputation and is rapidly growing the company that was founded by his parents. He and his company are well-known and respected in the industry, and I felt good dealing with him. By the time I left Lexington, we were working on an offer, and a deal was struck the next day. 

So Monday of this week I drove to Birmingham and Grant had arranged a pilot to fly the plane down for the “pre-buy inspection” on Tuesday. This involves a mechanic going over the engine and airframe very carefully, checking the compression of the cylinders, and making sure the required service has been maintained. I was fortunate to have an old friend who has maintained the planes for the company where I worked for many years perform the inspection. The plane passed with flying colors and the deal was closed yesterday morning.

So yesterday ended up being a whirlwind of activity, and one of the longest days of my life. I had agreed to fly the pilot back to Lexington as I was covering his expenses anyway, and he is a licensed and very good flight instructor. I went to bed at midnight Tuesday planning to sleep until 7 yesterday morning, but I was up at 5 and felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was busy wiring funds, renting a hanger in Birmingham, moving the plane across the field to buy fuel, waiting to hear that my insurance had been “bound”. etc. It was a hectic morning and we finally got away a couple of hours later than I had hoped.

The pilot/instructor accompanying me is a Frenchman named Laurent. He pronounced his name very carefully and allowed that it was OK to mispronounce his name, but just don’t call him “Larry”. I took that as good cause to call him “Larry” from then on. He knows what he is doing, and if I was learning from scratch, he would be the perfect instructor. But I’m an old dog, and I like to do the checklist the way i do it. So we had to come to some understanding as we went. Laurent is a gentleman and a scholar, and there aren’t many of us left. I learned a lot in two hours of flying with him, and I appreciate his contributions to my safety and knowledge.

When I dropped him in Lexington, there was a further delay dealing with the closing paperwork, which meant I was destined to arrive back in Savannah after dark. After everything was done, I suffered a pretty serious loss of self-confidence when I realized I was about to take off alone in a plane for the first time in 12 years. I had a nearly three-hour trip in an unfamiliar plane with avionics with which I am not yet experienced. I would have to climb to 8,000 feet in some mild turbulance and below-freezing air to get over some mountains, and I would arrive at an unfamiliar airport to do my first night landing in more than a decade.

But, logic told me it would be a piece of cake, and it was. The plane performed well. The weather was good. And I knew how to fly in such a basic situation. Not to say I wasn’t alarmed at every little bump, white-knuckled on the night landing, and totally exhausted when I finally landed, but the trip went well.

So here I am, out of boating and into flying. I will write a lot more about the plane in the coming days, for those who are interested, and there will no doubt be many new adventures to report. Stay tuned.


Fair Winds, Sean and Louise

I’ve finally figured out why I sometimes had bad luck aboard Steel Magnolia. It was because I failed to follow proper protocal when I bought the boat and renamed her, leaving Neptune angry with me for years. Not making the same mistake, the buyers of my boat have done everything correctly and are off on their maiden voyage. I wish them fair winds and favorable tides, and recommend you follow their exploits here.


"Learning to Fly"


Into the distance, a ribbon of black                          
Stretched to the point of no turning back 
A flight of fancy on a windswept field 
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction is holding me fast,
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted,
just an earth-bound misfit, I

  Pink FloydLearning to Fly” (Click for video)


With the boat now sold, I have turned my attention to the next great life adventure, and I am trying out going back to flying. I do not exactly need to “learn to fly” because I have been licensed since 1970. I have an instrument and a multi-engine rating, and nearly 1,000 hours of flying time. But, I sold the last plane I had in 2001, and have not flown anything since then.

So last Tuesday I found myself in a doctor’s office in Savannah getting an aviation medical exam. I got through it without incident but now I am required to wear “corrective lenses” when flying, and I had to request some medical records to be sent to the FAA so the records would be complete. Wednesday, Medical Certificate, license, and 40-year-old logbook in hand, I drove out to the Reidsville airport just over an hour away to take off with an instructor and see if I still have the right stuff.

It was a great flight in a little Piper of the same airframe (and vintage) as the plane I owned in 1971. In good weather just flying around, it was like riding a bike. We flew over to Vidalia, Georgia and landed, and then flew back to Reidsville where I did an instrument approach. It all came back pretty quickly, the landings were smooth, and the instructor signed me off for what is called a Biennial Flight Review, a requirement that pilots prove they can fly to an instructor every two years. So just like that, I am a legal pilot again. But there is a difference between what is legal and what is safe, and I have some work to do.

Today I went back to Reidsville and we filed an instrument flight plan and went down to Hinesville, GA to the Mid-Coast Regional Airport. We spent some time with the airport manager and the Army manager of the shared military/civilian facility learning about the effect on civilian flying of the new drone training facility being built there by the Army. They are putting in a whole building of consoles similar to Microsoft Flight Simulator where trainees will fly drones the size of a King Air right outside off the runway. Best to get out of their way I think, until they have completed their training and the drones are deployed to Afghanistan or to fly around and spy on all of us.

So now I’ve got a total of 976.1 hours of flying time, 2.3 of which is in the last 10 years. I’ve got a ways to go to get back to the skills I once had, and I fly again Monday to begin some work on instrument flying where you wear goggles to simulate flying where you can see the instruments but can’t see anything outside the plane. Should be an interesting day. I am fortunate to have found an experienced instructor to keep me out of trouble.

Our trip to Hinesville today had a purpose. I have searched high and low and, if I buy a plane, there is no hangar space in the Savannah area available. Believe me, you do not want to leave a nice plane parked in the sun in South Georgia in the summer. It will melt your leather seats. I found one “T Hangar” in Claxton, GA but it is an hour away and not an ideal place to keep a plane. Driving an hour from Richmond Hill, GA to fly two hours to Birmingham doesn’t make a lot of sense.

As we discussed the lack of hangar space with the manager at Hinesville, the City Manager dropped in and when I asked if new hangars might be built, he suggested I build some myself under a ground lease from the city/airport authority. We discussed a deal where I would enter a ground lease and build a string of 12 T-Hangars to be leased out to other aircraft owners. It might not make much money, but may be an economical way to get a free hangar and a little return on the building. I’ve already decided to form an LLC for the project which will be called “Sky King, LLC”.

I’m taking this one day at a time, and still not sure where it will lead, but at this stage in my life, getting around to see (and pick up) grandchildren at 150 knots seems more interesting than cruising the ocean at seven knots, so perhaps this will be the next great adventure. I’ll keep you posted.


Goodbye to Steel Magnolia

Today was the day set for closing on the sale of Steel Magnolia. All the documents were signed in advance and held in escrow, so I only had to await receiving a wire transfer of the funds, which hit my account this afternoon. Voila. I am no longer a boat owner. Congratulations to Sean and Louise who arrived at Thunderbolt Marine today to take posession of their newest means of transportation and adventure. See their blog here to continue following the boat.

The Lovely Laura Lee and I had dinner as guests of Sean and Louise tonight at Tubby’s Tank House right down the street from Thunderbolt Marine. They are a lovely and charming couple and I have no doubt Steel Magnolia, now to be called Vector, is in fine hands.

Tomorrow, I have agreed to accompany them as they move the boat a few miles down the river. This will give us a chance for a little orientation, which is always needed because boats are almost as complicated as women.

In due coure, I will take down the blog sections entitled “Where’s the boat”, “About the boat”, and “What was wrong with Steel Magnolia”. Sean can start his own blog sections on the same subjects if he would like.

Soon, this blog will no longer be referred to as a “Ship’s Log”, unless I buy another boat, and I will think of some other masthead to place at the top of this page. If I take up some other crazy hobby, I will rename the blog appropriately. I have given much thought to taking up flying again after a 10-year hiatus, because I am sick of the six-hour drive from Savannah to Birmingham. This is far from definite, but I’m working on it.

Just thinking about flying brings to mind “Sky King”, who flew around his ranch with his neice “Penny” when I was a young child. Perhaps the blog will be named “Sky King” if I go back to flying. At this stage in life, I have met a number of older guys who travel around with some young lady referred to as their “neice”. Kind of makes me wonder about old Sky, especially when I see the picture at left. But I digress.

I’ll keep you posted on my next adventures, and there will be some for sure. Stay tuned here to see what I am up to, and follow Sean’s blog to see where the boat has gone. I’ll post again soon when plans are made.


Welcome Our Odyssey Readers

I have noticed a spike in visits to this site over the last 24 hours, and I suspect it is readers of a blog published by Sean Welsh and Louise Hornor: I have entered into a contract to sell Steel Magnolia to Sean and Louise, which they mentioned on their blog yesterday along with a picture showing the name of the boat. If you Google “Steel Magnolia boat”, the second result brings you here.

Welcome to any Ourodyssey readers! Sean and Louise seem the ideal purchasers for Steel Magnolia. Despite all of the work I have put into the boat through the years, there are issues I haven’t kept up with. It is still a project boat. And I can tell by reviewing their website that Sean and Louise do not shy away from projects.

To get an idea what they are purchasing, check out the section called “About the Boat”. To see some of the repairs I dealt with on the boat, check out “What was wrong with Steel Magnolia”. You can also read some of our adventures in the archives.

They say that the day you purchase a boat is the second best day of your life, exceeded only by the day you sell it. I certainly don’t feel that way about Steel Magnolia. She has provided me with many a good time, and I will miss her. Sean and Louise are getting a boat with great bones. There are some rusty areas in the bilges and numerous galvanized steel pipes that they will want to replace. But once they get her in good shape, I have no doubt they will be in for some great adventures which I hope they will keep blogging about.

As for me, we’ll see what the next adventure brings. If I get another boat, it will need to be something smaller and with a shallower draft to use in the tidal river areas of the Georgia coast. On the other hand, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time driving between Birmingham, Alabama and Richmond Hill, Georgia, so it may be time to get back into flying a small plane. At any rate, I’ll find something interesting to keep me occupied and provide something to blog about on occasion. I’ll still keep up the “Ship’s Log”, though the name might change, depending on what I’m up to.

My congratulations to Sean and Louise. With a boat, you can usually anchor almost anywhere for as long as you like, so perhaps their days searching for places to park will be over soon, replaced by searches for good dinghy docks close to peaceful anchorages.


Perfect Date and Time for a Blog Entry

Nothing really to say today except Happy Holidays to all. I had to say something on 12/12/12 at 12:12


John Warner Tatum

 We were pleased to welcome John Warner Tatum into the world last night, our fifth grandchild born in the short space of 4 1/2 years. He is shown at right with his mother Suzanne, who looks gorgeous and refreshed, as if she just left the spa or salon. John Warner was born at 8:21 pm EST. He weighed in at 7 lb 4 oz and measured 19 3/4 inches tall. He has a full head of black hair. Mother and son are in good health and doing great, although Papa Bryant is a little emotionally exhausted.

Laura Lee and I have been on standby to take care of big sister Parker. Suzanne called around lunch time yesterday to tell me she was having some contractions, but they were erratic and not close together. Apparently they got much more intense after the call and she went by her doctor’s office mid-afternoon. He told her the baby was coming and to go straight to the hospital. Suzanne put in an urgent call to us at about 3:30 pm to see if we could get to Statesboro, an hour away, to pick up Parker at daycare before it closed at 5 pm, swing by the hospital to get her luggage, and then by her house to pick up the dog. It was no problem and we had Parker back at The Ford Plantation by 6:30 pm.

Two hours later, we got a text message from Bryant that we had a new baby boy. Suzanne did a great job and is feeling fine today, although the labor came on so fast she did a couple of hours the natural way before they could get her an Epidural to ease the pain.

I started this custom of writing about the day each grandchild is born because Laura Lee’s grandfather kept a journal of every day, and his grandchildren could go back years later and find the day of their birth, what happened, how the weather was, etc. We decided I should give these grandkids the same privilege. Little did I know that for each grandchild so far, the news at their birth would involve economic calamities in our country. Today, our politicians are again arguing about how to reduce our national debt without bringing on another recession. President Obama has just been elected to a second term promising to raise taxes on the very wealthy, while many Republicans in the House are sworn to not raise taxes for anyone. It is not ripe for compromise.

The weather in South Georgia has been beautiful this fall, with only a few rainy days recently. Yesterday saw lows in the fifties at night and a high of around 70 degrees on the day of John Warner’s birth. A perfect day to be born.

It’s nice to meet you John Warner. We’re glad you’ve arrived. We brought your big sister Parker over today, and she was happy to meet you as well. It’s going to be a great ride big boy.

And as always, here’s the front page of the New York Times from the day of your birth:



Losing Another Friend

I learned last night that my old friend Alan Matthews died unexpectedly yesterday. While we have not been close for many years, it is a great and sad loss to me. He is the third of four brothers to die too young, and I am deeply shaken by the news. My heart goes out to his dear wife Cecilia.

I’m trying hard to remember when I first knew Alan. I think it may have been in Sunday school when we were very young. At any rate, we ended up Freshmen together at Indian Springs School in 1964 and we were very close friends from then until the mid seventies when different life choices led us apart. 

We spent a lot of time together during the summer of 1966. While I had a job part of that summer, there were weekends and other periods when neither of us had much to do. I would sleep late and then drive over to Alan’s, wander up to his third-floor room, and wake him up, sometime around noon. He would struggle up and get dressed while I sat downstairs visiting with his mother and whichever brothers happened to be around, and then we would head to Ollie’s Barbecue for lunch. We wandered around aimlessly most of those afternoons, trying to hang out where everyone else was so that we didn’t miss anything.

Alan and I were as different as night and day. I was always fired up about something while Alan was always level, no apparent highs or lows. Somehow, we got along great, but I think that was because Alan was pretty easy to get along with.

He had a mischevious streak in him at Indian Springs, while I was close to being delinquent. We snuck off campus together to get into all kinds of trouble. We “borrowed” a TV set from the school library for an entire school year and installed it in a friend’s room where we would gather late at night to drink bourbon and watch the late show. And I think it’s safe to break our vow of secrecy and admit now that he’s the one who drained the entire lake, not thinking in advance of the massive fish kill that would result.

My most amazing experience with Alan was during the summer of 1975, my last free summer before finishing law school, marrying, and going to work. I called Alan that spring and told him I had leased a motor home for the summer and wanted to head out cross country. I asked him to come along and he agreed. So in June of 1975, I pulled my big SportsCoach into his yard. Alan spent two hours transferring the casette deck from his car into the motor home and then he and I and my dog Auburn headed out to see the world.

We drove north to Chicago, saw some friends there, and then spent a couple of nights with his brother Larry in Rockford, Illinois. From there, we headed west to North Platte, Nebraska where we visited my friend Rusty Wallace (Smooth) and his then wife Tish Oden at their farmhouse. From there, it was on west, down into the American Rockies and then up into Canada, where we found a couple of hitchiking girls who travelled with us for several days. We visited Banff and the other Canadian parks and and eventually ended up at the Calgary Stampede, a huge celebration we just happened into. We took the motor home to the opening of the movie “Jaws” at a drive-in theater so far north that it was too bright out to see the dark opening scenes at 10 pm.

We had a rule that we would never pay for a campground for the motor home, so we spent nights in truck stops, church parking lots, and sometimes in incredibly beautiful wilderness locations on someone’s private property or in a National Forest. Somewhere along that trip in the west, Alan took the most magnificent photographs I have ever seen of an incredible lightening storm in the western sky. I hope someone still has those prints, but I haven’t seen them for years. They were long exposures capturing multiple lightening strikes over one or two minutes. Truly magnificent.

We wandered on to the west coast and worked our way slowly all the way from Canada down to San Diego to visit my sister. And from there, we drove in shifts and brought the motor home all the way back to Alabama, stopping only to buy gas as needed. Whoever wasn’t driving was in a bunk with the TV on or sleeping as we moved across the country. I remember once cooking a steak in the motor home as Alan drove, and we stopped in a rest area to enjoy our dinner. Alan drank beer as he was going off duty, while I drank coffee getting ready for six or eight hours of all-night driving. It seems as though we made it from San Diego to Birmingham in roughly 48 hours of non-stop driving, but I really don’t remember the details. In all, we were gone for about eight weeks and covered about 12,000 miles.

So here’s the thing about Alan Matthews. He wasn’t just soft-spoken, he was usually unspoken. He could spend a whole day riding with you across beautiful country in a motor home and never say a word. I could engage him in conversation, but if I didn’t, it was quiet. At some point, I might say, “This looks like and interesting place. Would you like to stop for lunch?” And he would nod his head and say “Ok”. Every once in awhile he would change the music on his tape player. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know he was there at all. The only time I could really count on him to speak up was if I was driving and came to a stop sign. Then he would always check from his side and chime in “Clear Right”, to let me know it was safe to proceed. As a result of his quiet demeanor he was, in fact, the perfect travelling companion.

Alan was our handyman on that motorhome trip, and you could actually watch him think when he was making some system work right or repairing something in our vehicle. He would frown seriously at whatever needed repairing, as if it were a person misbehaving, until he had an idea, then he would get an “ah-ha” look and raise his right index finger as if to say “I’ve got it.” And off he would go in search of a tool or something. There was a little bit of the mad scientist about him.

Alan always moved around somewhat awkwardly and not at high speed. When we were walking out onto a glacier together in Canada, I told him it was like a treadmill and he might not move at all because the glacier moved faster than he could walk. He was a good cook. He read newspapers and maps and guidebooks in great detail wherever we went, and was a master of obscure facts as a result. He was an outstanding navigator.

Things changed after that great trip. I finished law school the next spring and got married. I went to work in the summer of 1976 and had my first child the next year. There wasn’t much time to hang out with Alan, or anyone else, but I regret that I didn’t make more time for such things. Life and work and children began to take over, and I let go of many important parts of my life. Alan used to show up at our house at night in the late seventies and early eighties, bringing his own six-pack and sitting down in the living room for the evening. But I was always busy bathing kids or working late or something, and gradually he stopped showing up. 

I called Alan sometime in the nineties when I had a boat I was taking to the Bahamas. I asked him to join me for any part of the trip he would like, but he said it was fall and he had Alabama season tickets and he didn’t think he could make it. We hadn’t hung out together in 20 years, but I know he would have been the perfect first mate. I wish it had happened, but that’s the way life goes. We fill it up with our activities and then it is gone before we know it. 

So the only lesson I can draw from all of this is the time-worn adage that life is indeed short, and that we need to reconnect with those people who have been important in our lives. We need to call them up and see how they’re doing and meet up for a drink or lunch or dinner. It’s all going by pretty fast now, so let’s do it while we have the opportunity.

Here’s to my good friend Alan Matthews. We’ll miss you buddy, and thanks for being a part of our lives.


Daniel William Samford, Jr.

Yesterday, we welcomed into the world our fourth grandchild born in the short space of 3 1/2 years, and the first boy among them. Daniel William Samford, Jr., who will be nicknamed “Bo”, was born at 10:31 a.m. CST. He weighed in at a healthy 8 pounds and is 21 inches tall. Mother and child are all doing well and expect to get home from the hospital tomorrow.

While his parents plan to call him Bo, he has a name of which he should be very proud. He is named for his father Daniel and for his late Great-Uncle Dan, two of the finest young men I have ever been proud to know. He has big shoes to fill in both cases, and I wish he could have known Dan, who would have been in his mid-fifties now if he hadn’t died so tragically in an accident at too young an age.

Yesterday was a fabulous February day to come into the world. It was sunny and beautiful in Alabama and temperatures reached a high of 65, as has happened often in this unseasonable winter. Bo’s mother Emily has been ready for this delivery for the last few weeks, and finally the doctor told them to come to the hospital yesterday morning at 5 a.m. Emily got the job done quickly and by the time I arrived around 11, she was sitting up in bed looking beautiful with a room full of family.

So here’s what’s in the news on your birthday Bo. There’s an economic crisis going on in Europe because several of the countries there seem to have enormous and unsustainable budget deficits, which is affecting the value of the currency for all of Europe. There is continuing chaos and threats of war among countries in the Middle East. Here in the U.S., there are some signs of the beginning of an economic recovery as employment is slowly starting to grow again and housing prices might finally be near the bottom. Interest rates are lower than they have been in my entire lifetime, and it is hoped this will stimulate economic growth. The Republican Party is holding primaries to select a presidential candidate for the next election, a very ugly process to watch.

All-in-all though, your family is doing well and you’re being born at a great time for all of us. You have lots of doting grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. You have great parents who look forward to watching you grow, and you have two wonderful big sisters who will no-doubt boss you around for the rest of your life. Your Dad is especially excited to have someone to teach to hunt and fish and play golf. You’re in for a great life.

So welcome to the world big guy. We can’t wait to get to know you better.



New York

We have taken our boat through New York City several times. We have entered the harbor past the Statue of Liberty and tied up at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan or across the river in New Jersey. We have cruised up the East River through Hell’s Gate into the Long Island Sound and travelled the reverse route south at dawn along Manhattan’s East side. The sight is always glorious and a far cry from the quiet anchorages and marinas we normally visit.

Last week we were in New York without a boat, but on the 4th of July we walked along the park on the Hudson River near 66th Street and watched the sailboats bobbing on moorings just off the shore. It brought thoughts of many adventures and I was a little envious of the intrepid explorers visiting the city by boat. So I was amazed to see this piece in the Sunday New York Times yesterday. It expressed my feelings exactly:

Click here to read “Sail on Sailor”.


Parker Adele Tatum


As I’ve said here before, the Lovely Laura Lee told me her grandfather kept a daily journal and each grandchild could go back and read about the day he or she was born. So now, by tradition, I make a little blog entry for each of my grandchildren. And today, we’re happy to welcome our third grandchild, Parker Adele Tatum into the world.

Parker is the first child of my daughter Suzanne and her husband Bryant Tatum. She was born at 3:11 pm today, June 9, 2011.  She is 20 inches tall and weighed in at six pounds, 10 ounces. All of her grandparents and several other family members were there at East Georgia Medical Center to greet her. Her Uncle Daniel drove over from Birmingham arriving just in time to be one of the first visitors.

She was not an easy delivery. Suzanne had wanted to go through “natural childbirth”, but after spending all night Wednesday in the hospital and being in labor most of the day today, the pain got exhausting and unbearable and she reluctantly agreed to use epidural anesthesia. When I saw her after the delivery, she was tired and sore, but very, very happy. Bryant, the new father, seemed somewhat in a daze. He described the whole thing as the most amazing experience of his life, and he’s right.

Parker’s new doctor came in to check her out while we were there and announced that she is in fine health. After some prodding from me, she agreed that this is the most perfect baby she has ever examined.

Parker came into the world on a beautiful day in East Georgia. We’ve had some record-breaking heat over the past few weeks for this early in the summer, but it has gotten back to normal now with cool evening lows around 68 degrees and high temperatures around 90.

So what’s going on in this world that Parker’s been born into? Like her first cousins Stella and Pierce, Parker was born into tough economic times in our country. When Stella was born on August 22, 2008, I wrote that the economy was the worst I had seen in my lifetime. By the time Pierce showed up on November 11, 2009, I wrote that we were just beginning to see signs of recovery. Well, the recovery has been very slow. While we are technically no longer in a recession, unemployment is very high and there are no signs at all that housing prices are recovering. Too many people have lost jobs and houses. But Parker will be fine. Her parents both have good jobs, and she has about a million relatives hovering around that will always take good care of her.

Our country is still at war. Although we have gradually wound down our military presence in Iraq, we are still actively fighting in Afghanistan against terrorist groups. Let us hope for a more peaceful future for Parker.

Suzanne and Bryant will be great parents. I’m sure they’re both a little intimidated right now, but they will adjust quickly and do a fine job raising this beautiful little girl. And there is a huge crowd of us waiting to spoil her. So here’s to you Parker Adele. Welcome to the world. We love you already, and we’re looking forward to getting to know you better.

And just so you’ll have all the important news of the day, here’s a copy of today’s New York Times:





Major Progress in ending political gridlock

House leader Cantor believes Obama is a US citizen

From today’s NY Times online


Random Acts of Kindness

It’s Christmas eve morning and we woke up to find that we were out of coffee. So I took Scarlett (the Irish Setter shown below) to chase the ball in the park and stopped at Starbuck’s on the way home. In the drive-thru lane, I ordered two pounds of House Blend (close to $22) and waited my turn to reach the window.

When I got to the window, they handed me my bag and said “Merry Christmas”. I held out the money and she said, “Don’t worry about it. The guy in the car in front of you paid for yours.” Dumbfounded, I asked her who it was and she replied: “I don’t know. He just said to tell you Merry Christmas.”

It made my Christmas. I have no idea who it was and I don’t think he knew who I was either. However, I had been in line for several minutes and I had noticed the Alabama sticker on his rear window.

So I recommend that everyone commit some random act of kindness today. You will make someone else’s Christmas great.

Merry Christmas to everyone. And War Eagle.


Just had to make an entry at 10/10/10 10:10 a.m.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.


Treasure Seekers

Occasionally I receive emails via the blog from readers I didn’t know I had. Usually, they were doing some kind of internet search and ran across something in the blog that interested them. This week I heard from Captain Ray Hixon in St. Petersburg, Florida who is preparing for a trip to the Virgin Islands and was looking for advice on the best route down through the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and on to the east.

He included his contact information so I gave him a call to discuss his trip. I told him I was no expert but I was happy to discuss it with him. I quickly told him I would not use the route we used two weeks ago on Bailiwick if I was headed in the other direction. The trade winds blow steadily from the east at 15 to 20 knots and it’s not wise to run upwind against them in any kind of boat. I recommended he get hold of Bruce Van Sant’s excellent book “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South”. It describes a “Thornless Path to Windward” working one’s way down through the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, and then along the coasts of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Most interestingly, it describes a technique of using the night and early morning land breezes to work eastward along Dominican Republic without fighting the Trade Winds.

The more I talked with Captain Hixon, the more fascinated I became with his trip. It turns out he is moving a pirate ship to the islands to put into service taking tourists out for cruises. He was kind enough to send me this picture:


The boat is apparently some 80 feet long and runs on a single engine at six to eight knots, about the speed of Steel Magnolia. The ship has an eight to nine foot draft when full of fuel which will cause them to stay in open waters through much of the Bahamas, and to be careful choosing anchorges or fueling stops. Captain Hixon has three other people helping out on the trip, which he will need for what promises to be a long and sometimes arduous journey. Right now, they are waiting to see where Hurricane Igor will go before departing.

It turns out that this is not the first “Treasure Seeker” pirate ship that Captain Hixon has tried to move ot the Virgin Islands. I found an article from the St. Petersburg Times describing his harrowing adventure when the previous pirate ship sank on the same trip which you can read by clicking here.

I wish you a safe passage Captain. Please pass along updates so that we can follow your trip. And by all means, send more pictures.


It may not be clear

from the photo, but Steel Magnolia’s facelift appears to be going well. She should be ready for a public appearance within a couple of weeks.


Safely in Mobile

We arrived safely in Mobile right at noon today after about a 36-hour run from Marathon. Our record perfect weather for the entire trip was spoiled by thunderstorms and messy seas for about the last 75 miles, and we increased speed to get into Dog River in Mobile a little earlier than we had planned.

The last leg from Marathon was slightly spoiled by the fact that we never really got the new water pump working right, so we brushed teeth and flushed toilets from a jug of water. Showers, we went without for two days.

But all-in-all, it was a fabulous trip on a great boat with an outstanding crew. I always jump at a chance to travel with Alvin as I learn so much in the process, and David was equally talented and a joy to travel with. I hope they’ll invite me back.

Thanks for following our progress on the adventure.



Marathon, Florida

We started out the day getting a taxi to the airport to rent a car. From there, it was to Home Depot to get a replacement water pump, to West Marine to get some plumbing hose and fittings and to look for a lightbulb for one of our navigation lights (unsuccessfully). Then it was off on the 60-mile trip to Key West as we were required to make a personal appearance at Customs (ridiculous). Back on Marathon, we had lunch, shopped for some more groceries, and then Alvin and David went to work on the boat issues while I returned the rental car.

Right now, they’re closing in on finishing up the water pump and will then move on to replace the generator fan belt. My job is keeping the home crowd advised since I’m not as useful as they are in the engine room, and there’s not room for me down there anyway.

The plan is to get away from the dock in the next hour or two which should put us on a schedule to arrive in Mobile 48 hours later Sunday afternoon. I’ll keep clicking the little Spot Personal Locator as we seem to have a real following in Mobile, and Nashville, keeping track of our progress.