A Blessing in Disguise

Some of life’s greatest blessings come to us disguised as horrific challenges. In 1609, George Somers, Admiral of the Virginia Company’s Third Supply Relief Fleet, set sail from Plymouth, England, aboard his newly-built flagship, the Sea Venture. He commanded a fleet of seven ships which carried supplies and 500 to 600 new colonists, and his mission was to provide relief support to the colony which had been settled two years earlier in North America. On July 25, 1609, the fleet ran into a vicious storm–most probably a hurricane–and the fleet was separated, with each ship having to fight for its life.  The Sea Venture battled the storm for three days and nights.  She would have survived but for one fatal flaw: she was so new that her timbers had not “set.”  The caulking was forced out of the seams and she began to take on water–lots of it.  The crew and
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Christmas on a Canalboat

It’s snug and warm in the cabin of her canalboat; and as for housekeeping, the woman is a genius. There are about twenty of these boats wintering on the canal at the foot of Erie Street. They lie side by side, adjacent to one wall.  Constant passage of the fireboat through the winter means the waterway must be left open, so a rule forbids jamming the canal with boats from side to side as in former days. I knocked on the door of the stormshed, which is raised above the hatchway going down into the cabin.  The canal people are hospitable to visitors from town, although they sometimes lie alongside one another a whole winter without ever becoming neighborly.  But another thing is noticeable–a whole family may have to walk over the deck (which would be over the roof of a house) of another’s boat all season, and they keep it up
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Advice for Leaders at the Year’s End: Exit Gracefully

Another year comes to a close. The nominating committee having reported, and the members having voted (Please, God, in response to a motion from the floor for the Secretary to “cast one ballot for each of the nominees”), the new officers will be installed. Now comes that fateful day when those who have led in the past will themselves be led in the new year. To those happy or perhaps, unhappy souls, we boldly give this modicum of advice: One of the most important things for any leader to know is when to gracefully leave the spotlight and trust in the leadership of those who follow through the chairs. The leader Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519 BCE) set an example for everyone who accepts a leadership role.  The Roman Senate begged Cincinnatus to become temporary dictator of Rome and lead the army against the invading Germanic tribes.  He accepted the position, and as
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Change Happens!

In a pamphlet called “The American Crisis” Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try our souls,” and although his words are more that 200 years old, they ring true today. Paine’s crisis was the impending War for Independence, which would forever change American society as well as the world at large. Our crisis is a pandemic, which, whether we like it or not, has the power to forever change American society. In 1924, two men, W.M. Davidson and Carl Ray, perfected the idea of glass-bottom boats. They acquired the rights to an area around Silver Springs, Florida, and began developing one of the first tourist attractions. Hollywood discovered the crystal-clear water if the Springs in the 1930’s, and the cameras moved in. Six Tarzan movies were filmed there, along with such classics as “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Television brought more members of the entertainment industry, with television
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Saints Alive!

People who have been in dicey situations especially when they are out of sight of land know that prayer never hurts, so it’s not surprising that a number of saints are connected with seafaring and seafarers. Here’s one of the most obscure.   Saint Calogero (pronounced Ka-loge-eh-ro) is a protector of the seaside town of Sciacca in the region of Agrigento, on the southern shore of Sicily. The Tringali family hails from the nearby town of Augusta, on east coast. The area has been engaged in trade and fishing since at least the time of the Greeks who conquered the area and colonized it beginning in 800 BCE. Some beautiful Grecian temples still stand in Agrigento, even though the original builders and believers are long gone. But Saint Calogero is still there. Just ask any sailor who had the misfortune of being becalmed on a hot Sicilian day when the
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Accepting the Responsibility of Leadership

What could have been the most important message of World War II is one that was never sent. It was hand-written by Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower late on June 5, 1944–the night before the D-Day invasion of Normandy–and he kept it in his pocket, he said, “in case it was needed.” Fortunately, it wasn’t. We’ll get to that story in a minute, but first let’s examine “Ike” Eisenhower, the man. Dwight David Eisenhower was only two years old when his family moved to Abilene, Kansas, and for the rest of his life he considered it to be his home town. His nickname, “Ike” was a takeoff on his last name, and, with his older brother, they were known as “Big Ike” and “Little Ike.” As a young boy, he was fascinated with military history, and became an insatiable reader on subject, much to the displeasure of his mother
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Gone Fishin’

Regardless of their political party or philosophical persuasion, all Americans agree that the job of President of the United States is a killer. The decisions are constant and the stress is unrelenting. And, as President Ronald Regan observed, when you live upstairs from “the store,” there’s no such thing as sneaking out early. All of that is especially true in times of war, and, in 1943, the War was worldwide. The President at the time was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and, physically, he should have been the one least capable of handling it. A wealthy New York patrician, he had been stricken with polio myelitis when he was 39 years old; it left him partially paralyzed and unable to walk. As we wrote in The Log of October 31, 2019, “he could have stayed home covered with a shawl, sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the family’s home
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A forgotten, unsung hero.

A first-time visitor to the Washington Monument in our nation’s Capital may get something of a shock. There’s no doubt that the world’s tallest obelisk, standing at over 555 feet and gleaming in the sunlight is a fitting tribute to America’s first President. But anyone who is not blinded by sheer patriotism can easily see there is a major flaw:about one-third of the way up the monument, the color of the stone changes from a light cream/tan to a crisp white.   And try as you might to chalk up the error to a gigantic shadow, or the vagaries of outdoor illumination, the break between the bottom third and the top two thirds of the obelisk appears to be a straight line. It doesn’t just “appear” to be a straight line; it is a straight line. There’s a reason for that, and it commemorates a deed that involves a hero
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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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