Re Metau
People of the Sea
Pearls of
Conch Life
The Florida Keys
2009 – 2011
Trisha Singing for Don
~ Trisha Singing for Don ~
Boot Key Harbor
A Harbor in Harmony
When the sun began to sink into the horizon, the low bellowing of conch horns filled the air in honor of Triton calming the sea. Once the last spark of daylight was extinguished, the haunting resonance of bagpipes began to drift across the water. Under a star speckled sky, sounds of soothing strumming, hollow drum beats and harmonious voices mingled with the breeze. Music was omnipresent in Book Key Harbor.

So many wonderful songs had been written that capture the spirit and essence of sailing. There was something about the natural rhythms and poetic beauty of a sleek wooden hull bedecked with billowing canvas, drifting unbounded over the vast blue ocean toward some distant harbor that inspired music. But I believed there was a much deeper connection between seafarer and song. Upon reflection, I began to understand the intrinsic significance of music in our cruising life.

Rock-n-Roll on the North Shore
Don and I started our sailing adventures while living in Northeast Ohio. From May to October, we would end each work week with a drive along the southern shores of Lake Erie to Sandusky where our Morgan, Points Unknown was docked amongst thousands of other vessels. We always began to shed the weekly stress with a stop at Mon Ami, where we joined the throng of weekend boaters dancing to the evening's live entertainment. Whenever the band started a rendering of 'Mustang Sally' (and inevitably they would as we came to discover that apparently, all bar bands were required to play this song) we took it as indication that it was time for us to depart.
Chuck on Guitar
~ Chuck on Guitar ~
From Sandusky, we often sailed to Catawba, Kelly's Island, or Put-In-Bay. A population stuck in latitudes with prolonged, frigid, sunless winters often would, in summer, flock to their local islands via sail, motor or ferry boat where they were encouraged to behave like drunken sailors in a fabricated tropical atmosphere.

Live music poured out of the plethora of bars and sticking to the 'Mustang Sally' departure rule, we heard a lot of bands perform. These artists were hired to maintain the maritime theme; however, they were also ambitious musicians who took their music very seriously, striving to be discovered, to be worthy of Ohio's reputation for being the center of Rock and Roll, to be the next, famous mega-stars.

Changes in Latitude
The following year we moved aboard Re Metau on Florida's Gulf Coast. The live entertainment we encountered in those southern latitudes was – shall we say – far more relaxed. The artists most often performed as duos or soloist; former bands dwindled down to the few who had retreated from higher ambitions and found the end of the road in a relaxed, tropical climate. There were no more prospects for musical fame or fortune, but they seemed content to make a few bucks off the weekly rotation of tourists wanting to escape in the beachy lyrics of Jimmy Buffett and dance to the provocative beat of 'Mustang Sally.' (Apparently this was a federal requirement, not just a state regulation.)
Diana on the Djembe
~ Diana on the Djembe ~
Our Own Sound Track
Don and I had acquired a sizeable collection of music recorded by professional artists. Having one speaker for every three feet of boat length signified music's integral part in our lives. Throughout our cruising years, we'd bought tickets and attended a few big production music festivals. We'd purchased several CDs from some extraordinarily talented bar bands. We'd contribute a buck or two at a time to many gifted street musicians playing everything from sophisticated sitars to empty buckets. We'd even pity-tipped some very awkward armatures for their comical (albeit unintentional) entertainment. (Our favorite was a solo guitarist with a karaoke machine who murmured each song's lyrics with a very prominent Asian accent, often forgot the words, and appeared to suffer from severe stage fright. We definitely had to leave before his rendition of 'Moustain Sawwy' sent us into uncontrollable fits of laughter.)
Play for Pay
The intention behind the music of our time had many facets. To some, it was used as a vehicle for acquiring fame and fortune. Combining talent and a carefully crafted persona produced a commodity that could generate a lot of money. To others, it was used as a medium for a message. Uniting powerful lyrics to rousing rhythms influenced the masses and had the ability to make significant changes to ideas and behaviors. To others still, it was simply the expression of one's art; the opportunity to take the stage and be noticed. But to the majority of modern musicians, no matter their level of ambition or intention, it was an occupation with financial gain at its core. Music had evolved into a profession.
Tunes of a Tribe
But once we arrived at Boot Key Harbor, music took on a more ancient objective. Prior to modern times, music throughout the world had been a communal activity; all members participated in a unique cultural harmony to recount their history, connect to their spirits, and heighten their survival advantages through tribal bonds and rituals.
Jam Session at Burdines
~ Jam Session at Burdines ~

We discovered many of the boats in our aquatic haven had gifted acoustic guitarists, djembe drummers, and harmonica players onboard. They gathered together in a neighbor's cockpit or assembled for impromptu concerts at a Chiki hut on shore, and always invited everyone to join in no matter what their talent or ability.

They played the sailing songs we all loved, because those melodies were a reflection of our experiences, dreams and goals. They sang the stories of mariners who had crossed that vast blue sea before, conveyed the devotion we held for our ocean home and for the vessels with which we relied upon to carry us as we wandered. Each measure charted a course to future voyages and distant harbors, the rhythms mirrored the waves that swayed our souls, each note like a knot bound us together in our watery sanctuary.

Music is a uniquely human trait. It is a phenomenon that has occurred throughout the world and has a great deal of cultural value to our species. But to a sailor, music has remained as ancient as traveling by wind. Don and I heard the harmony in Boot Key Harbor, we recognized the melodies, we were moved by the rhythms, and we were encouraged to reconnect with our nomadic tribe. We opted to remain for a little while – even when some sailor played 'Mustang Sally.'

Cruising Blogs
2011 - Bahamas
Paradise Next Door
2009-2011 - Florida Keys
Conch Life
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