Friday, April 24, 2009

The Miss Ann

This sunrise from the creek in my back yard is not lost on me. Not at all.

Below is a story from Mathews Mountain Man, who now resides with his family in another part of the state but who has very strong ties to Mathews.

The man, the boat and the inn described below are all legends.

Capt’n Ken
by MMM

... Daddy Jim’s son. He lived on Gwynn’s Island and he was a hard man, too.

If you think Daddy Jim cursed too much, Ken always did him one better. The G.D.S.O.B. this and a devil-fetch-it to hell with that – they don’t capitalize “devil” on Gwynn’s Island.

Like his father before him, Ken was a waterman and deacon in the church. As a young man, when he wasn’t making love to one of his mechanical mistresses (i.e., hot rod cars), he spent most of his time making a living farming the shallow waters around Gwynn’s Island and sometimes deeper and less forgiving waters of the Bay. Like others of his generation he served in the War, then came home and went back to work.

In his middle age Ken drifted away from the fishing industry and took up other work on the water. I recall Mom driving down to the Intercoastal Waterway in Charleston S.C. to see Ken and Poppa as they piloted a forty-some-odd-foot Chris Craft from points far north of Charleston all the way to Miami. Jobs like that one came up now and then, but not frequent enough for one to earn a living.

In his later years Ken worked at the Tides Inn located on Carter’s Creek in Irvington – about 45 minutes from Gwynn’s Island. For years, he carried a carload of kinfolk with him to work each day; at one point that included his wife, his brother and two nephews - talk about nepotism.

At Tide’s Inn, Ken was the Captain of the Miss Ann, a 127 foot yacht that was built in 1926. She was the main attraction at the Inn; though a few might argue that Capt’n Ken was the main attraction, I think it was the pair.

Miss Ann had a personality of her own.

For instance, she had two steering systems, an electronic one for tight water, in and around the docks, and a wheel, or helm, for open water. The helm worked fine, of course, but the electronic system occasionally malfunctioned and despite Capt’n Ken’s wheelhouse acrobatics and cantankerous explosions it wasn’t unusual for the bow of the Miss Ann to end up in the trees.

To experience the pair though was – well, this is how his nephew once told it:

Guests at the Inn registered to take a three hour luncheon or dinner cruise. On Saturdays they might sign up for a “whiskey run” to Urbanna – Tide’s Inn was in a dry county, Urbanna was not.

Once the yacht left the dock, guests would meander around on the main deck marveling at the Miss Ann’s mahogany rails and sidewalls as well as her teak decking. In time, a few would climb the ladder to the upper deck to inspect the wheelhouse which was also garnished with meticulous woodwork. Inevitably, someone would ask permission to enter the wheelhouse and permission was always granted.

Once inside, the guest would discover the real secret of the Miss Ann – her salty captain. I don’t know that Capt’n Ken ever really tried to entertain, but he was always entertaining.

On one occasion he talked about piloting a transport boat full of seasick-prone Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel workers to shore the middle of a storm. To keep the boat from swamping and otherwise bouncing up-and-down in the rough waters he eased it up onto the crest of a wave and set the throttle so that the speed of the boat matched the speed of the wave. With the occasional nudge of the throttle the boat set atop the same wave all the way back to shore, much to the relief of the land-loving workers.

At other times Capt’n Ken might let one of his deckhands take the helm and steer the Miss Ann through the Rappahannock River Bridge. Under the captain’s watchful eye, the deckhand and any guest that happened to be in the wheelhouse at the time were told that a strong tide which ran at an angle to the bridge could push the Miss Ann into one of the support-pilings. The trick, novices soon discovered, was to align the long-axis of the Miss Ann’s hull close to one set of pilings and let the current push her toward the other as she passed through.

One thing we all understood was that Capt’n Ken was authentic. I recall several occasions when a guest who had visited the wheelhouse would step close to one of his friends and whisper, “You’ve got to meet the captain.” Guests might come to the Inn for a quiet respite and a relaxing cruise, but if they happened upon the Miss Ann’s wheelhouse, they came back for other reasons.

I’m saddened to say that a few years after his nephew shared his recollections of working on the Miss Ann, Capt’n Ken set sail for harbors unknown.

As part of his eulogy someone recited this poem. If you read between the lines might learn a little more about the Miss Ann and her Capt’n.

Miss Ann

she tides by the inn on carter’s calm creek
with golden gunnels a good fathom deep
mahogany skin and decks of teak
she sails from irvington to the great chesapeake

summer’s sleepy sun sets her aglow
as sailing songs sing on the radio
she’s the one, she whispers it so
she’s Miss Ann, he boards her to go

sliding his fingers along her rails
he sees the sunset has lifted her veil
as dim lights lap at the water’s edge
he parts the river with her bow’s wedge

greedy gulls dip low to taste the tossed bread
dipping their beaks and tilting their heads
then dolphins, abreast her starboard
porpoising, porpoising in the harbor

he lives to lie down deep in her soul
and listen to her heavy hearts roll
her swede steel belly secures his berth
as she rocks him to sleep in the swells of the surf

oh how churns still waters to wine
and makes that salty river taste fine
but dusk is soon gone and the thought he dreads
is leaving Miss Ann before he has said

“Miss Ann, Miss Ann together we labored
and year after year to my heart you did favor
i’m forever your captain, your captain Miss Anne knowing all of your secrets and your legend so grand.”

Godspeed, Capt’n... Godspeed

Postscript– In 2008, The Tide’s Inn sold the Miss Ann. Her new berth is in Colonial Beach, Va.

She’ll never be the same.



Karen Deborah said...

that is a beautiful post and a great story,well written my dear.

Unknown said...

I would have loved to go on one of those lunch or dinner cruises. I've experienced similar voyages on a replica old sailboad called The Pilgrim in So CA. I love ocean vessels with handcrafted hardwood rails and decks.

The poem/eulogy is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear.

MMM, now you've made me cry. I have a soft spot for men who love their machinery.

beautiful story!


PS the word verification is "bless" -- so, bless your heart, that was lovely!

mmm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mmm said...

Good morning all... Thought you might appreciate a look at the Miss Ann, so I've posted a few links. The first two are pictures, the third link is a bit about the Miss Ann's history.

Off to NYC today. Everyone have a nice weekend; and, thanks to CBW for the post.

PS - the prior delete was from me; one of the links was not right.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

The Miss Ann was simply spectacular. If that old vessel could talk, oh the stories she'd tell.

I had the privilege to go out on her three times, twice for free courtesy of some of the workers on board, and once as a paying customer.

There was something majestic, regal even, about her and it made you feel special and privileged to spend some time with her.

She was just gorgeous. (May still be, but haven't seen her in a while.)

Wasn't there some connection to a president? I can't remember, will have to look it up.

Thanks MMM for the links. I was too tired last night to post anything other than the Tides Inn link--which is also a story in and of itself, a beautiful inn.

Off to the dentist this morning, may end up on Guinea General Hospital due to panic and anxiety over the procedure he has to do. Last time they simply wouldn't work on me because I was too distraught.

There's something very unnatural about dental procedures, and I doubt I'll ever get over my extreme fear.

Have a wonderful Friday, and if I don't get back on today, it's due to trauma at the dentist.

Mental P Mama said...

What a beautiful story. And the poem is as well....

Good luck at the dentist, CBW. I have a feeling you are going to be just fine;)

Annie said...

Yes, hope you survived the dental experience.

And thanks for posting the story too, very interesting. Will be interested to follow those links, when I get back from touring NYC today.

Anonymous said...

Good morning all, The Hospice Support Services of the Northern Neck with Middlesex Support Services and Riverside Hospice has a regatta fund raiser every year and up until it was sold, the Miss Ann took passengers out for the regatta on that Sunday. The passengers voted on their favorite sail boat each year. It was a sight to behold with the Miss Ann smack dab in the middle of 100 sail boats sailing around her after the finish line. Not having the Miss Ann the past year was a big loss. It is truly a beauty to behold.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

MPM and Annie-At the dentist today, as I was sweating bullets and telling them how the valium they had given me was NOT working, Mr. Dentist said, "Well, now you can go home and blog about this experience."

It's always strange to know the people who read this thing, especially when they're doing barbaric things to your mouth, although to be fair it didn't hurt even though the valium did nothing to calm my nerves. I told him it was nothing personal, but I really have a severe dentist phobie that dates back to some unfortunate experiences as a child.

Ms.Seabreeze - That's a great tidbit, can't even imagine being in the middle of all those sailboats on that beautiful old boat.

Off to cut grass now that the valium has worn off. Yippee.

Big Hair Envy said...

Glad you survived your dental nightmare! Personally, I LUV going to the dentist....but NOT having a root canal:(

What a wonderful tribute to the Miss Ann & her Captain. I never had the pleasure of a lunch or dinner cruise, but I did catch a glimpse of her once...

foolery said...

I have to read MMM stories at least twice, they are so very chewy. Loved it.

I have a suspicion about who wrote that poem, too. Fantastic. Thanks MMM and CBW!

Annie said...

Good to hear you have survived the dental day, even if the valium didn't work.

Hope the grass cutting went ok...can you get it all done in one day?

We survived our third last day sightseeing. Whew I never knew how tiring being a tour guide was. But trying to pack in as much as possible before my sister departs.

wishbone said...

Wonderful, well written post.

Anonymous said...

Just saw that the Miss Ann is up for sale again. Asking price is 1.9

Anonymous said...

The owner of Miss Ann has docked her on an island in Monroe Bay in Colonial Beach. Some have said that he docked her there to let her die from neglect. This is so sad to me. The owner of Miss Ann is the owner of the Colonial Beach Yacht Club I believe. Just thought if I posted this here, someone might be able save her from a negligent fate... such a beautiful boat. :(