How could I know my life changed direction the day my longtime and esteemed legal assistant, Cathy Jenness, came into my office and asked for a week off. “Sure,” I said, adding, “What for?” Cathy said her husband Mike was leading his gig racing crew to compete in the championships in the Scilly Isles off Land’s End in England. “Wow, sounds exciting,” I said to Cathy. “I wonder if Mike would let me come along.” A day or so later came a “Yes“ from Mike, star lineman at Northeastern, veteran police officer, boat builder with this father, team leader, and all around nice guy. So off I went.
The Scilly Isles are much more about the ocean than the mainland of England. Its folks are English, of course, but a people unto themselves, living on these remote islands. Famous for its gigs, an open narrow and light boat built for speed, requiring six rowers and a coxswain, used in the past from the late 17th Century to guide incoming sailing vessels over the dangerous shoals in the Scillies, or sometimes for the nefarious practice of plundering the cargo of foundered ships. Even worse was the practice of mooncussing, the placing of decoy signal fires to induce a shipwreck, subdue the survivors, and plunder the wreckage. In modern times gigs are more peaceably employed for racing among crews from the Scillies, England, France, the Netherlands, the Faroe Islands, Australia, Bermuda, and America.
The Scillies offer wind, weather, and rough seas enough too charm and excite any adventurer. So adventurous, in fact, that amid the tumult and excitement of the races, positioned on a crowded open observer boat with my heavy camera, accessories, and attire, standing to get a better view, I totally forgot caution, lost my balance, and began falling in the direction of the bottom of the sea, when a strong Dutch athlete caught me in her arms and stayed my fall. Water is life! Water is death! And yet, still adventurous enough for me to capture many more images of the races, stirring enough for me to write about those rapturous days with my new comrades, and to submit my first ever authorial effort to publisher Bob Hicks, who unexpectedly featured it on the front page that year, and again on the front page the following year in his national periodical, “Messing About in Boats”
That year Mike, his crew, and lucky me ventured to the castle town of Muiden, outside of Amsterdam for another Pilot Gig Racing Championship round. On that trip, I combined observing and photographing by day the rowers fighting the dangerous and storm swept seas which almost engulfed the women of “Team Saquish,” as Mike styled his team, and enjoying my abode along one of Amsterdam’s famous canals with my charming Dutch husband and wife bed and breakfast hosts. The Muiden races ended with a loud, boisterous, but quite friendly tent party of a thousand or more which inspired me to leap on a table and wave the Stars and Stripes aloft, and in Amsterdam with attending a rock concert with my host.
My life had changed. I had become a writer, another adventure which ultimately led to my writing my memoir which I came to realize was written not only to share my unexpected path into old age, but to give “….meaning to my life. That extends life! And it’s something YOU can experience. I think that is the main reason I wrote this memoir,….I’m hoping my life,…. may help you find meaning at any time of life,” as I put it spontaneously in the very first podcast of this series. Indeed, you can set your life down for your own family, friends, and associates.
People, always People.