Niagara Falls – It’s Just a Matter of Time

Niagara Falls! Whether you know it as the Honeymoon Capital or a punch line to a running gag from an Abbott and Costello skit, you can be sure of one thing: the Falls at Niagara isn’t a place–it’s a work in progress. First consider the facts: the Niagara River is approximately 36 miles long, and it flows northward from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, which is the lowest of the five Great Lakes and is the only one that is connected to the Atlantic Ocean. The Niagara is the only natural outlet for the upper lakes. Every drop of water, every molecule, in Lake Superior and its sisters must make its way “down” to Lake Erie, and then north, to Lake Ontario. The upper lakes are around 550 feet above sea level, and the water has to drop around 300 feet to get to Lake Ontario and from there work
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Who Says We Can’t?

In Harbor of Refuge, the Commodore’s wife, Judy Hennel, explains to newcomer Marilyn Dupré that, in spite of Bonita Key Yacht Club’s stand-offish reputation, the members were “really a family.” And, when Marilyn questions that statement, thinking about the fact that one of her employers had waited over a year to simply get a membership application, Judy replies “Well, you wouldn’t let just anyone into your family, would you?” As we enter the 4th month of a nationwide “lockdown” intended to at least slow the progress of a deadly new virus, Judy Hennel’s words should strike home to many Americans who have never heard her name or read the romantic novel that lovingly teaches many of life’s greatest lessons. It seems that, as “Grandma Calkins” told Marilyn, “we cannot live without love,” and, for many of us who are deprived of family love by distance or age or, perhaps–in very
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Quarantine!

Quarantine: What it Meant and How it Began The year was 1348, and the bubonic plague was spreading its black pall of death over Europe. Venice, one of Italy’s most important ports, lost 600 citizens in a single day. The Venetian Council frantically sought a means to protect their city, and ordered the Doge (their senior-most elected official) to command all incoming ships to remain at anchor, and traders to remain outside the walls, for quaranta giorni, or “forty days.” The number of days was no accident; according to the Bible, Christ himself had spent forty days in the wilderness cleansing himself and preparing for his ministry. Forty days was a divine number. Quaranta Girorni became, of course, the word “Quarantine”; a concept which quickly was adopted throughout the world and is with us to this day. A vessel entering a foreign port is required to anchor, raise a yellow
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All Hail the Entrance of the Boar’s Head!

The tradition of the Boar’s Head Festival goes back to Medieval England, where, it is said, on a cold Christmas Eve in the 14th century (or, perhaps, the 16th century—nobody is entirely sure), a university student was walking through the woods, lost in thought as he studied his copy of Aristotle. In the fading twilight a wild boar attacked the scholar, and the quick-thinking lad saved himself by ramming his book down the animal’s throat. The next day’s feast at Oxford featured a tasty treat: roast pork. It was the custom of the time to present the head of the animal to the hunter, but, in honor of the day, the Boar’s Head was brought into the dining hall and set before an effigy of the Christ Child, in thanksgiving for the young man’s life. Over the years, the Boar’s Head ceremony was seen to represent God’s power to slay evil, and the
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“Never, never, never give up.” — Winston Churchill

This 1905 photograph hangs in the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. It shows one of the most remarkable men of the 20thcentury at the helm. It would be meaningless if he had not identified himself by the inscription on the back which reads, in part, “I enclose two copies of prints enlarged from a Kodak, showing me at the helm of the ice yacht HAWK. I suggest that you have this framed and hung on the wall over the spars. . . .” We’ll get to the “driver” in a minute, but first, for those of us who live in warmer climes, and believe that “ice” is something that is found only in refreshing drinks, a few words about the peculiar world of iceboating: What is an Iceboat? An iceboat consists of a long, slim hull attached to a perpendicular cross- piece called a “runner plank.” The boat is supported by
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“Salvage” does not mean “Finders Keepers”

Last month I left a lot of readers hanging when I mentioned that the intricacies of the Law of Salvage were brought home to me during my tenure as an Assistant Attorney General.  A local denizen of the community (no doubt one of the “flotsam and jetsam of humanity” from last month) had been convicted of stealing a boat and sent off to prison from which he launched an appeal. He represented himself and wrote a brief in which he argued the State of Florida could not prosecute him because by taking the boat he was acting under the “federal law of salvage.” Since his brief contained the word “boat,” and everybody knew I was a “past commodore,” the case was assigned to me. I quickly headed to our law library to do some research. I learned that “salvage” does not mean “finder’s keepers.” In fact, the Law of Salvage is pretty
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What is a club?

What is a “club,” anyway? As far back as the first paperback edition of Yachting Customs and Courtesies (20 years ago!) we’ve repeated the same mantra: “A club is first and foremost a group of people. Compatibility comes first; the name is secondary.” The lesson could not have been plainer than it was earlier this month when the Palm Beach Sailing Club provided the venue for the Jack Swenson Memorial race which was hosted by the Royal Turkey Yacht Club. The regatta was part of the international laser masters series and attracted 68 competitors from 8 countries. A few people (fewer every year, thank goodness) become red in the face and argue that a “sailing” club cannot, by its very nature, be a “yacht” club, ignoring some very fine old institutions like the Buffalo Canoe Club whose clubhouse is not located in Buffalo, and whose only canoes are two on
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Preserving your good name to the very end

The first Cadet Chapel was constructed on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, in 1836. Its unadorned windows, severe Gothic design and plain white walls accentuate both its ecumenical use and its military heritage. Fittingly, the only decoration other than the “Peace and War” mural by Robert W. Weir, an Academy professor from 1833 to 1876, consists of black marble tablets, mounted around the walls; each tablet bearing in gold the name, rank, and dates of birth and death of a general officer of the Revolutionary War. High up in a rear corner of one wall, almost out of sight near the railing of the choir loft–and, in fact, cut off by the railing–is a solitary plaque which carries only the rank and date of birth of a general officer of that war. The name and date of death have been conspicuously removed. It
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The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge

January: A time to look forward — and back. Whether you call it a “Change of Watch” or “Change of Command” or “Passing the Gavel,” January is the month of rebirth in the world of clubs and associations. The name of the month is taken from the Roman god Janus, the protector of gates and doors, as well as beginnings and endings.  Romans believed that in return for his hospitality to the great god Saturn, Janus was given the ability to see both the future and the past; and so he was depicted in their culture with two faces, one looking back and the other looking forward.  Since ancient times, the month of January has been seen as a bridge between the old and the new. It may be only a coincidence, but construction of the greatest icon of all American bridges began on January 3, 1870.  Although it would take another 13
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The Friendliest of Enemies

In an era of all-out-give-‘em-hell war, it’s nice to think about the days of yore when armed disputes between nations were put in the hands of gentlemen—mostly “second sons”—who, after they had done their duty and covered themselves in glory, were eligible to marry gracious young women with titles like “Lady,” and set about raising a brood of children for the next generation. Well, maybe it didn’t happen that way exactly, but it’s nice at least to contemplate such legends. One of those legends involves the battle between the hurriedly-constructed Fort George located on the Canadian side of the Niagara River and Fort Niagara, a stone fortress begun by the French in 1687, captured by the British in 1759, and lost to the Americans in the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War. The story goes that British and American military officers had much more in common with each other than
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