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.



At Sea for Three Days

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

1430 EDT

Latitude 20 Degrees 10.0 Minutes North

Longitude 71 Degrees 34.5 Minutes West

After fueling up at Puerto Plata and waiting for Customs and Navy officers to clear us to leave, we finally got away at about 9:45 am this morning. This will be our longest leg of the trip, some 640 nautical miles from Dominican Republic to Marathon, in the Florida Keys. If all goes well, we should be arriving in Marathon Thursday evening.

We have continued cruising west along the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Within the last hour, our course of around 300 degrees has begun to pull us further from land as the Island of Hispaniola dips more to the south. We have just passed the border with Haiti and will soon be entering the gap between Haiti and Cuba. Our next wapoint is just off the south tip of Great Inagua, technically a part of the Bahamas. From there, our course will keep us in deep water through the Old Bahama Channel which separates Cuba from the Bahama Bank. Further to the west, we will pass through Nicolas Channel separating Cuba from Cay Sal Bank and then turn north directly to the Florida Keys.

The weather has been fine as we continue to run downwind . This morning we had 10 to 15-knot winds and two-foot seas but now the wind has kicked up to around 20 knots in 4-foot swells with small whitecaps. The ride has been comfortable and the boat is performing beautifully. Captain Alvin has a laundry list of small repairs, always necessary when the boat has been out of the country for six months, but, for me, it is a beautiful boat with every luxury.

I hope there continues to be little to write about, always the sign of a good and uneventful trip. I’ll continue to make a few entries along the route, although none of this can be published until we are near the USA Thursday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

0500 EDT

Latitude 21 degrees 08 minutes north

Longitude 74 degrees 28 minutes west

Just north of the east end of Cuba

I should not have mentioned that the trip was uneventful, as when I tried to brush my teeth last night there seemed to be no water pressure. The tank still appears to be pretty much full of water but somehow the pressure pump is not functioning. Captain Alvin plans to check it out more fully as we get some daylight and, knowing him, I suspect there are plenty of spare parts on board if something is needed.

Otherwise, the boat continues to run smoothly as we click off miles toward the Keys, and the weather has been nearly perfect. It is overcast this morning but seas are very calm and the ride is comfortable. We still appear to be on schedule to arrive Marathon tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday August 25, 2010

1100 EDT

Well, Captain Alvin had no way to repair a burned-up pump and a saltwater washdown pump sitting next to it had already burned up in Dominican Republic. So we had a few problems. Showers, we could do without until tomorrow night. Washing dishes could also be postponed, or a bucket of seawater would work in a pinch. But water was also needed to flush the toilets, and that was a difficult one to deal with.

Despite a lack of parts, Alvin is never at a loss for ingenuity. So just after sunup this morning, he took a portable A.C. pump which he uses for moving oil or water around the engine room, and hooked it to the water tank. On the other end, he hooked a garden hose which runs out the engine room door to the back deck. When you’re ready for a shower, strip down on the aft deck, turn on the pump and get wet, turn off the pump and soap down, and then turn the pump back on to rinse off. Dishes will be done the same way on the aft deck or with a bucket of water in the sink. As for toilets, we have a gallon jug on the aft deck which you fill up with water, and pour into the toilet before using it and again while flushing. It’s perfect, and certainly livable for the remaining 30 hours to Marathon. There, Alvin plans to buy a new pump for the system and install it for the final leg to Mobile.

Voila! And thanks Alvin!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

1945 EDT

It’s hard to convey just how fortunate we have been with the weather and the boat. Our makeshift fresh water system has performed well all day. The weather has been perfect with very small swells from behind and no wind at all. We did have a generator fan belt failure this afternoon but we simply switched to the other generator and I’m sure Alvin will put a replacement belt on the generator in Marathon.

I’m fortunate to be helping out a great and very professional crew. My job is to take my turn at the wheel and perhaps wash some dishes after a meal. David is familiar with the boat and has worked often with Alvin and he’s a joy to be with. If he only knew how to catch us some fresh fish for dinner, we’d be in great shape.

We’re probably only about 20 or 22 hours from Marathon where we plan to spend the night docked, make the needed repairs, and get underway for the 500 mile trip to Mobile. We’re still on schedule to arrive at Dog River Marina sometime Sunday.

I’ve continued to ask my Spot Personal Locater to send out position reports every few hours. If it’s working, you can click “Follow the current trip” on the left side of this page to see where we are. I’ll report further in the morning.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

0915 EDT

Cuba is a very long island. We first crossed above its eastern tip around 0500 yesterday and we’re still cruising along its northern coast. At the moment, we are between Cuba and the shallow Cay Sal Bank which prevents us from turning more northerly on the straight line to Marathon. We are about 140 miles south of Marathon and should still be in there tonight, before dark if possible.

After dinner last night, I took a two-hour nap and then took the wheel from midnight until around 4:30 this morning. Went back to sleep for about four hours and just got up to find Alvin making toast and bacon. Life is good. We might have a few waves as we enter the gulf stream later this morning, but otherwise the entire trip has been remarkably calm.

1800 EDT

Made it safely into Marathon. Perfect trip and weather all around. I’m ready for a drink as Captain Alvin has been drying me out for days, followed by a good dinner and uninterrupted sleep. More later.


Along the North Coast of Dominican Republic

Monday Evening — Midnight

Upon my arrival at Punta Cana today just after noon, Alvin was there to meet me at the airport, but my luggage was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, it was on the next flight arriving around 2:30, and we had to be back at the airport to pick up David Dunnam, on the same flight. Alvin and I killed some time getting groceries and returned to the airport for David and my bag. We then drove to Cap Cana and, with barely a minute to look around, we checked out with customs and immediately headed out to sea, departing around 4 pm.

We started at the far east end of the island and ran a couple of hours north to round the bend and start heading west. We are running downwind with the trades at 10 knots and we’ve had 3 to 4 foot swells from the aft quarter with very little wind waves. The ride is fairly smooth with a bright almost full moon overhead. I’ve just come off duty to get some sleep and we should be arriving early in the morning. There we’ll refuel and begin the long run to Marathon, in the Florida Keys, where we should arrive Friday morning. Blog posts will be minimal this trip because we’ll have no internet access from tomorrow morning until Friday in the Keys. I’ll still be sending position reports which you can follow by clicking “Follow the Current Trip” on the left side of this page.

5:30 a.m. Tuesday

Awoke when the engines slowed for our arrival. We just pulled into Ocean World Marina in Puerto Plata. Perhaps more later.


Dominican Republic

When my old friend Alvin Stacey asked me if I wanted to help out moving the boat he captains from the Dominican Republic to Mobile, Alabama, I jumped at the chance. I’ve known Alvin since the early 1990’s when he was working as a delivery captain and helped me make my first Gulf crossing from Orange Beach, Alabama across the Gulf of Mexico to Clearwater, Florida. Through the years he has helped me out with numerous trips and in 2000 he supervised the commissioning of a new boat for me in California and later brought it through the Panama Canal to turn over to me in the Bahamas.

It’s no understatement to say that everything I’ve learned about running a boat was either taught to me by Alvin, or learned the hard way from major screw-ups. To be invited to help out on this trip is quite an honor, and I’m looking forward to traveling with him again after many years.

So after some last minute schedule changes, I found myself at the Birmingham airport at 5:15 this morning checking in for a 6:15 flight to Miami with a further connection to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Alvin has worked for several years as full-time captain of a beautiful 70-foot Hatteras sport fishing boat named Bailiwick. He has been with the boat for several weeks fishing out of Cap Cana Marina on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic. I’ve just arrived and we plan to depart later this afternoon after our other crew member arrives.

While I’m excited about the adventure, this will not be your regular sightseeing trip. Bailiwick is capable of cruising at 26 knots, but the fuel consumption at that speed is outrageous and the boat’s range would only be just over 300 nautical miles. Since there are few fuel stops along our way, our plan is to mostly travel “bow down” at about 10 knots which should give us a range of more than 900 miles. While everything is subject to weather, our initial plan is to depart Cap Cana this afternoon and run approximately 18 hours along the north shore of Dominican Republic to Puerto Plata, where we will stop to refuel. From there, we set out to follow the north coast of Haiti and the north coast of Cuba and then angle up to Marathon, in the Florida Keys. I haven’t done any calculations, but Alvin tells me that this leg of the trip will take around 60 hours of constant running to cover the distance of some 600 nautical miles. From Marathon, if we take the direct route across the Gulf, we would travel another 500 miles in about 50 hours to Mobile, Alabama. All-in-all, we are talking about 128 hours underway to cover roughly 1,300 nautical miles. Whew!

So the sightseeing will mostly be open ocean, and I would expect we will drive the boat in shifts, usually 4 hours on and 8 hours off. Most ordinary mortals would never sign up for anything like this, but I find it to be an irresistible adventure. I can’t wait to get started.

As usual, I have to have a gadget to play with on a trip like this, so I’ve brought along my “Spot Personal Locator”. This little toy which is about the size of a deck of cards is capable of figuring out our position by GPS and transmitting it via satellite so that family members receive messages as to where I am and that all is well. It also can send out an SOS signal in an emergency which would summon the Coast Guard to our aid. So I’ve put a little link on the left side of this page called “See track of current trip” that you can click to follow my progress on a map. I plan to send an “I’m OK” message about twice a day throughout the trip. Other than those little satellite messages, I’ll only be able to update the blog when we are in a marina with internet access, perhaps only twice over the next week or so.

 Stay tuned for updates.


Up Pike's Peak in a Porsche -- Watch Full Screen

Click the symbol next to the word “Vimeo” to see full-screen.

Pikes Peak 2010 - Jeff Zwart Qualifying from Will Roegge on Vimeo.


In The Boatyard

At Thunderbolt Marine in Savannah, you always see beautiful boats having major work done. An example is Calixe:

Calixe is a 193-foot Feadship owned by Wendy McCaw, former wife of Craig McCaw of McCaw Cellular (sold to AT&T). Calixe is apparently a part of the divorce settlement that went to Wendy. It was listed recently as number 29 in the 100 largest American yachts. As I entered the boatyard, Calixe was being relaunched following completion of a beautiful paint job.

Another head-turner at Thunderbolt is Steel Magnolia:

I earlier said that I wouldn’t show any embarassing photos of Steel Magnolia before her face lift, but now that you’ve seen her bottom out of the water, here’s some of the rust we’ll be having fixed and painted:


And here’s a view of her rather large bottom which needs a little sprucing up:


Work has already begun removing rails, gates, windshield wipers, deck chairs, and anything else that would get in the way of a major paint job. Now that she’s out of the water, work will begin in earnest Monday and I’m hoping to have her out of the yard in four to six weeks. I’ll post some updates on our way to beautification




Getting a Facelift

I’ve never been too happy with Steel Magnolia’s paint job. She’s kind of built like a workboat, and you would expect her to be a little rough around the edges. But, along with a thousand other issues, the original paint job was just not done correctly. As a result, there are areas on the deck and house where paint is bubbling, peeling and cracking. And on the steel portions of the boat, there are some serious, but cosmetic, rust areas that need attention.

I’ve been wanting to deal with these issues for some time but I was told that the boatyard would be far more competitive in the summer, when business is light. So yesterday, I moved Steel Magnolia from The Ford Plantation into Savannah to the Thunderbolt Marine. She’s going to have a face lift!

I could show some pictures of the rust areas and peeling paint, but I don’t want to embarrass the lady. So I’ll just plan on showing the “after” pictures. She should be tied up there for four to six weeks, and then emerge looking all shiny and new.


Lucile Pierce Samford

When my first grandchild was born on August 22, 2008, I wrote a little journal entry because the Lovely Laura Lee told me her grandfather kept a daily journal and each grandchild could go back and read about the day they were born. So now that this is a tradition, herewith is the journal entry for today, November 10, 2009, the day my second grandchild was born.

Lucile Pierce Samford, second daughter of Daniel and Emily, was born this morning just after 10 am. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 21.5 inches long. She has a thick head of very dark hair and was born with very long fingernails which had to be filed down by her grandmothers Laura Lee and Charlene to prevent her from scratching her face. Best she get accustomed to regular manicures at a young age.

Lucille Pierce came into the world as Tropical Storm Ida came ashore on the Gulf coast drenching our area with heavy rain. As of tonight, areas in Birmingham have reported anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of rain over the last 24 hours. Creeks and rivers are flooded and the Mountain Brook Club golf course looks like a large lake. This rain is added to a very rainy fall with Birmingham receiving more than 5 feet of rain so far this year compared to an average of about 41 inches at this time of year.

Our economy is just beginning to show signs of recovery from a deep recession which began almost two years ago. Stella’s arrival and now Lucile’s have come among terrible economic times.

However, both of these beautiful children have been a welcome addition to the world, and a sign of hope for better days to come.

Welcome to the world Lucile. We look forward to watching you grow. And we hope the world will become a better place for you and your sister.


Mary Travers dies at 72

Some of the earliest music I ever remember listening to at home were my brother’s Peter Paul and Mary (and Kingston Trio) albums. Mary had the ability to take a raunchy sounding Dylan song and make it absolutely beautiful. Read about her from the NY Times here.







General John Samford

This was recorded when I was two years old.


A Very Nice Article About Birmingham

See the full page about Birmingham from today’s New York Times.


Simon and Garfunkel's take on the financial crisis

Sorry there have been no posts lately. There have been no boat trips and I guess we’ve just been sitting around all winter wondering what hit us. I am reminded of the words from “American Tune”:

And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
but it’s all right, it’s all right
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong



I just found the You Tube video of my daughter Suzanne at her wedding reception last month. As she says, we all need a little RESPECT.



1929 Movietone News


OK, So here's what's going on with my email

Here’s the message from my email provider explaining an outage today:

Exchange 2007 - 2008-10-08

4:55PM EDT

Detailed explanation:

The Hosted Exchange 2007 outage was caused by an error on one of our Active Directory servers which replicates data within our Active Directory cluster that caused a communication problem with our “Client Access Servers.”  Because the Client Access servers are used to validate the user’s connection to Exchange server via client permissions on the Active Directory servers, users would find that they were not able to connect or maintain a concurrent connection with their Exchange services.   SherWeb’s Exchange engineers quickly located the problem, however, and restored the Active Directory settings to their previous state; which then allowed all Exchange related services to re-authenticate with our Active Directory servers and thus restore user access. 

Got that?


My Daughter's Wedding

Suzanne and Bryant’s poem is posted here.


Storm Update

Hanna is still a tropical storm this morning. It may strengthen to a minimal hurricane but it will be borderline according to forecasts. The track has been moved slightly to a more northerly course so the current forecast has it moving ashore right at the border between North and South Carolina. Here in Savannah, we’re only under a tropical storm watch and not a hurricane watch.

So it’s probably not necessary to take the boat out at all. It could get banged up a little in strong winds but there shouldn’t be much tidal surge. On the other hand, I’ve got the steak and wine, and who needs an excuse to anchor out for a night in the river? I think I’ll just go anyway.


Hard Hearted Hanna

I drove over to the Ford Plantation just south of Savannah on Sunday, primarily to keep the lovely Laura Lee company as she feverishly prepares for the upcoming wedding of my daughter Suzanne to take place here September 27. Instead of a relaxing visit, the anxiety level has risen because of Tropical Storm Hanna currently located just south of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

While the storm has meandered around and lost strength over the last few days, it is forecast to begin movement to the northwest and strengthening to a hurricane again over the next 24 hours. While it’s exact course and schedule is dificult to predict, it is currently forecast to make landfall just north of here at around 8 am Saturday:

If the storm is up to hurricane strength and remains on this course, Steel Magnolia will have to be moved out of the marina here to ride it out in the Ogeechee River. We shouldn’t get too much damaging wind here but there is a possibility that we could get a pretty big tidal surge that might wreak havoc on the marina. The floating docks are secured to concrete pilings which are only about five feet above normal high tide. A six-foot surge could literally lift the docks off the top of the pilings leaving the boats and docks floating free.

What complicates things is that I can only get out of the shallow marina at high tide, which will be around 2 pm today, 3 pm  Thursday and 4 pm Friday. If you look at the map, Friday afternoon could be a little late as strong winds would already be buffeting the area. That means I will need to take the boat out tomorrow, Thursday, before we even know if this is a serious threat. However, better safe than sorry.

So instead of heading home today, I bought groceries and prepared to hunker down for a couple of nights out in the river. Unless the forecast changes dramatically, I’ll be out in the river from Thursday afternoon until at least Saturday, when the storm should be well past us.

I’ve done this before. The lovely Laura Lee and I spent about five days anchored 20 miles up the Mobile River during Hurricane Georges. This one will be a lot simpler, I trust, as I only have to go about 1/4 mile. However, I’ll miss the party atmosphere we had during Georges with 14 boats rafted up together. And I’ll miss the company of the lovely Laura Lee. She’ll have to leave here tomorrow to drive our two dogs back home. They would not find it amusing to be locked up on the boat for two days.

This may all be a non-event, and I hope it is. However, I’ll keep posting the latest here as long as the cell towers are working.


Stella Virginia

The lovely Laura Lee has often told me how her grandfather kept a journal every day of his life. One of the more interesting results was that his grandchildren could always go back and read what he wrote on the day of their birth. Wanting to provide a similar experience for my own descendants, herewith is a journal entry written on the birth of my first grandchild, Stella Virginia Samford.

We received a call from my son Daniel at around 5 am this morning reporting that he and his wife Emily had been at St. Vincent’s hospital since around 1 am. He reported that Emily was having contractions about six minutes apart but that her water had not yet broken. He called back about 6:30 am to report that they had been moved into room 342, that he was going to nap, and he would call with any news. I spoke back with him around 10 am and there was little change except that Emily had been given an Epidural and was feeling much better.

And what is going on in the world that young Stella might want to read about some day?

The U.S. is still bogged down in its war in Iraq. What was supposed to be an invasion to get rid of a leader who had weapons of mass destruction has turned into a prolonged occupation to prevent the various factions there from killing each other, all after finding there were no weapons after all. Today, finally, the U.S. is engaged in talks for a planned withdrawal of troops over the next few years. Perhaps we will get out someday, but the loss of life and treasure has been enormous.

The economy in the U.S. is in worse condition than I have seen it in my lifetime. We have experienced a perfect financial storm as a housing bubble ended, properties declined in value, mortgage delinquencies increased, and billions or perhaps trillions of dollars invested in mortgage pools have been lost, all of which has led to tight credit, making housing prices decline further, etc. Add to this inflation, driven by a global boom in commodity prices, and the outlook really becomes bleak. All forecasts call for a few more years of chaos before housing prices and mortgage lending stabilize.

There is a presidential election coming up in November. Barack Obama will be the nominee for the Democratic Party while John McCain will be the Republican nominee. The Democratic convention starts next week followed by the Republican convention. Both candidates are furiously attacking each other over irrelevant things and promising that the government can fix everything wrong in the world. It all leads one to wonder, as Lincoln did, whether this nation can long endure?

The weather here in Birmingham has been typically hot and humid during August, although we seem to have had fewer severe heat days than usual. Today, there is a tropical storm named “Fay” that has come up Florida, gone out slightly into the Atlantic, and come back ashore near Jacksonville. It is now headed west across north Florida. It should bring us some rain later in the weekend but for now it has created a slight northerly wind here giving us a cooler and drier day than usual. It is a perfect day for Stella to come into the world.

Stella’s mother and dad, Daniel and Emily, are going to be great parents. Emily works as a real estate agent while Daniel is a young entrepreneur owning Samford Properties (commercial real estate), Green (landscaping), and a part of Coldwell Banker Red Mountain Realty, the firm where Emily works. And of course Stella will be overwhelmed with doting aunts and uncles, two grandfathers, and three grandmothers. We can hardly wait to spoil her.

Just after noon, Laura Lee and I headed down to the hospital to see what was going on. Of course there was a huge crowd there of Emily and Daniel’s immediate families and a number of Emily’s good friends. Stella was born at 2:16 pm and is perfect in every way. She weighed 7 lbs. and was 20.5 inches long. She has a good head of dark hair and the full complement of 10 fingers and 10 toes. I got to hold her as did everyone else. The poor little girl was passed around the room like a football. Her Aunt Suzanne is on the way to Birmingham to see her and her Aunt Laura will be in next weekend to see her as well.

As we left the hospital, Emily was trying to recover from the experience while Daniel was on cloud nine…high as a kite. I’m happy for them, and for Laura Lee and me as we embark on this new experience of being grandparents.

Here’s to you Stella. Welcome to the world. I hope you read this someday and get a kick out of knowing what was going on the day you came into the world.


Jack and Ruth are safely home

I wrote back on April 29 that I was worried about my friends Jack and Ruth Livingstone who were trying to cross the Gulf Stream in their 25-foot sailboat. I actually got quite worried when I didn;t hear anything from them for over two weeks. However, I did get an email today that they have made it safely back to New Orleans.

They seem to have been in quite a hurry and got through Lake Okeechobee and at least as far as Appalachicola. They left the boat somewhere and got a bus back to New Orleans. You can read their scattered blog entries here. Glad to know they are safe and sound.


Safely Home

Log: 4,350

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Location: The Ford Plantation, Richmond Hill, Georgia

Distance Travelled Today: 76 Nautical Miles

Total Trip Distance:1,710 Nautical Miles

This is just a final post to say that the 2008 Bahamas Trip is over. After an 11-hour day, I finally pulled into The Ford Plantation marina at 7 pm this evening. This will be Steel Magnolia’s home at least until next winter when we may set out on another journey south. We are here this summer not only because we are members here and use a house belonging to my mother, but also because it’s very convenient to be able to go tinker with the boat while staying here. Also, the water here in the Ogeechee River is almost entirely fresh water, which prevents the bottom of the boat from getting covered with scum and barnacles as it did last summer.

An interesting note: I always update the page on this site called “where’s the boat”. You can click it on the left of this page and see a Google map of the boat’s location. While updating it tonight, I noticed that if you choose to view the satellite photo view rather than the map, you can zoom in to the marina here and see my old boat Suladan tied at the end of the marina dock. The picture must be a couple of years old so we’ll have to wait for an updated satellite photo for Steel Magnolia to actually appear in the satellite view.

Anyway, it’s been a great trip. The journey down to the Exumas was long and arduous as was the trip home. I enjoy travelling at seven knots but i never realized the time it would take for such a journey. It may be awhile before we tackle anything this ambitious again. Meanwhile, there will be lots of short trips and nights out at anchor to enjoy the boat.

Tune in next time. And, as my daughter Suzanne says, “Thanks for clicking on us.” 

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