Something About Us


Most everyone who visits or will visit the website already know us or have heard about us, and I grant you, the stories are probably true. Dave and I will be married 28 years this coming October 21st, 2006, which is pretty amazing since we met in May, 1978, got engaged two months later, and married three months after that. Our entire life together has been completely unconventional, save for the first year we were together. Dave was an elementary school counselor at High Ridge Elementary and Maria was a special ed teacher for the Special School District of St. Louis County. Let me tell you, those two life paths, when mixed, result in unthinkable, unexplainable, crazy things.

Take for instance our decision to chuck it all (that is, liquidate) within one year of wedded bliss and take off in the VW van in search of the perfect (in other words, affordable and floating, ideally) sailboat. It's not like either ONE of us knew how to sail, but heck, it sounded so romantic. That adventure began as school dismissed in the summer of 1979 and lasted until sometime in the summer 1980 when we were in the Bahamas. We remember the day like it was yesterday.

We had made the crossing from Key Largo, FL to Bimini, Bahamas in our little 27 foot sailboat, Foreigner. After high 5's and a good night's sleep, Maria broke the news to Dave. "Hon, I think I'm pregnant. And just to show how well I packed for the crossing, I have one of these EPT tests!" I don't know what's more memorable, the look on Dave's face or what he said. "How did that happen?"

Well, back in those days, the "instant pregnancy tests" took two hours, and the specimen had to be on some stable the entire time. Not exactly the scenario on a pitching sailboat. So, we loaded ourselves into our dinghy and ventured into town, heading immediately for The Complete Angler, Ernest Hemingway's favorite bar in Bimini. It opened at 10 a.m. and believe it or not, we were NOT the first customers.

Needing to be discreet, we chose a booth w-a-y b-a-c-k in the corner of the bar where it was dark. Neophytes at instant pregnancy tests, we read the directions twice before drawing the sample which would tell us whether or not we were pregnant. Once the urine same was taken, completed, and reverently placed in the center of the table we looked at one another and said, "Well, what do we do for two hours?" (That's how long it took way back when.)

The only plausible answer was to order a pitcher of beer, which the waitress delivered promptly. Two hours is an awfully long time to just sit and wait, and by and by, curious locals ventured w-a-y b-a-c-k in the corner of the bar where it was dark and said in that wonderful Bahamian accent, "Hey, Mon, what's that?" Dave explained that it was a test to determine if I was pregnant. As if chances on the Holy Grail were now being sold, the first inquisitive Bahamian pulled out five Bahamian dollars from his pocket and bet that I was pregnant! As though this was not an uncommon occurrence, the bartender whipped out a clipboard and pen and began notating all of the bets! Between the beer and what was going on around us, I completely lost track of our purpose in being there, but not to worry, the original gambler announced that two hours had passed. Now there was a MOUND of money on the table, and lots of onlookers curiously looking at the urine sample, anxious to know if I was pregnant or not.

A flashlight was necessary to read the directions. If it looks this way, she's pregnant. If it looks that way, she's not. Uh, oh. Our urine sample didn't look like either!

Needless to say, the crowd began getting restless.

What to do? Call in an expert, naturally. The expert, in this case, was a woman who herself was the mother (albeit, a little tipsy at this point) of six. The consensus was that if anyone knew what a pregnant women looked like, it was she. So, I was hoisted atop of the table and this woman walked slowly around me one way, and then the other. A pin dropped would have been heard as everyone waited patiently for her ruling. After a third circling, she chugged what remained of her beer and proclaimed, "You're pregnant, Honey."

That was good enough for the masses. Money was divided. People drank in celebration. Dave and I sat in the booth w-a-y b-a-c-k in the corner of the bar where it was dark, stunned.

Fast forward. We went back to stateside (not uneventfully, but that's another story!) and left the boat in Fort Lauderdale. Foreigner was now up for sale. Back in those days, you could get on a list of drivers that were needed to take a car from Point A to Point B, and lo and behold, a Buick needed to be driven from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Louis. Animals and trailers were unacceptable, but no matter. We had our cat, Jack, in tow, as well as a U-Haul carrying the few belongings we had. We initially went back to live with my parents. I got my old job back with St. Louis Special School District. Dave substitute taught for St. Louis Public Schools, watched "General Hospital" with my mom when he wasn't working, and took computer classes five nights a week. Somewhere in there we got our own apartment. Kate was born in May of 1981. Dave graduated as a computer programmer.

Making the transition from Education to Computers was easy then, or so it seemed. The most lucrative offer came from a place called Fort Rucker, Alabama. To talk me into going, Dave alluded that it was only two hours from Panama City, Florida, a place I could relate to. So we went. We lived in an itty bitty town called Newton, so small that the listings in the phone book (the small version you see in small towns) took all of three pages. Believe it or not, we loved it there. Situated between Dothan and Fort Rucker, only one blinking light slowed cars down. Mail was not delivered; I pulled the kids (DJ was born while we were there, April 1983) in a red Radio Flyer wagon every day to collect our mail. Life was easy. Dave got his feet wet in the computer industry. I learned how to become a mom, and just to make sure I made time for myself, I enrolled in acrylic painting classes and belly dancing.

Again, fast forward. Now it's 1985 and Kate is nearing the time to go to school. She LOVED KinderCare in Dothan where she spent three days a week, but we couldn't help noticing the twang she had acquired. For instance, when reciting "Jack and Jill" they went up a "heel." No, Kate, "It's hill." "No, Mama. It's HEEL." Okay, then. We need to move.

By that time Dave was offered a job in Destin, Florida. We drove down there (1986), only to find sand. Beautiful, beautiful water. But really, just sand. Where's the grocery store? Where are the houses? Where is the MALL, for crying out loud? Obviously, we needed to pass this job up.

>>>Kick ourselves. Kick ourselves. Kick ourselves.<<<

Dave ended up taking a "secure" job at the Pensacola Naval Hospital and we lived in that area from 1986-1990, eventually buying a house in Gulf Breeze, a bedroom community just across the Bay Bridge in between Pensacola and Pensacola Beach. Life settled down, as much as it's possible for us: I was Room Mother for both Kate and DJ's classes, inherited the role of Girl Scout Leader when my friend, Diana, moved away, and even became a t-ball coach at the urging of my single friend, Tracy, who assured me that the experience would be "fun." Thank God our sponsor was the local physical therapy group that gave us complimentary massages for coaching the six-year-olds. Talk about the carrot and the stick!

The next decade found us moving, moving, moving. In late 1991 Dave, who now worked for SAIC, transferred from Pensacola to San Diego, CA. The transition, in a monetary sense, was so hard to believe. Here we had sold a 3-bedroom brick home in Gulf Breeze with a huge yard, in-ground pool, attached garage and plenty of landscape for $86,000 and thought we had come out like bandits. In San Diego, $300,000 bought a "fixer upper" in a place no one would want to raise children.

Liquidation #2. Sell everything we had accumulated up to this point and buy a boat. That being Discovery, a 42 foot Californian trawler. 3 cabins: 2 staterooms, galley up. Twin Catepillar diesels. Watermaker. Washer/dryer. Everything you could want, right?

But it least it DID have everything we needed and we lived aboard Discovery from 1992 to 1997 in San Diego, Corpus Christi, TX, and Washington, DC. In 1997 we cruised from DC to south Florida and ended up buying a piece of property that was near foreclosure in North Palm Beach. It needed a LOT of work, but the potential was so great that we bit the bullet. We owned that from 1998 until 2003 and thankfully, the market was good to us. Liquidation #3. We knew we had to get out of there. North Palm Beach is an interesting microcosm of the world. For gypsies such as us, it's a nice place to visit, but it great to be able to leave.

Kate and DJ were homeschooled for the most part and now that they are 25 and 23 respectively, I can honestly saw that they have not spent one hour in a psychiatrist's office. They are doing well. Upon graduation from Cornell, Kate joined the Army and was a part of the 101st Airborne. She went to Iraq in 2005, only to find out that she was pregnant with Bobby, born June 4, 2006. Her husband, Steve, is a Kiawa helicopter pilot and just came home this past Saturday, thank God. They live in Hopkinsville, KY.

DJ works full-time for Whole Foods and has just made the decision to transfer from Palm Beach Gardens, FL to Austin, TX in the hope of pursing a career in music. We think it will be a good move for him.

Dave and I both worked "Women Aboard" from its inception in 1994 until we sold it in late 2002. It was a wonderful experience to be able to connect women in boating and offer camaraderie in a world that had, until then, been male oriented. The newsletter, the classes on boat handling, trailering, living aboard, and the chapter get-togethers offered a camaraderie that the male-dominated boating world had not thought important. The membership included women from all over the world, in fact, one of our very first members was from the Netherlands! Women Aboard is something that will always hold a special place in my heart.

After the sale of Women Aboard, Dave and I captained Boston Whaler's "Unsinkable Legend Tour," towing one of their cut-in-half Dauntless' all over the continent in three years. Launching it, driving it, putting it through it paces for dealer events, boat shows, and national events like Tall Ships….we did it all. On one of the events, we discovered Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Several people we talked with encouraged us to check it out. Sure enough. It was everything we wanted. Waterfront. Affordable. Good people. Outstanding restaurants. A small town, yet close enough to bigger towns like Gulfport and New Orleans. For us, it was perfect.

The final event of the 2005 Unsinkable Legend Tour occurred on August 6 in San Francisco, and I cannot tell you how exited we were to go to back home to Bay St. Louis, MS. After delivering the half-boat back to Boston Whaler, we went home. That was August 23, 2005. On August 26, Hurricane Katrina emerged in the Gulf of Mexico after crossing south Florida and that is when we got our first inkling that the storm was predicted to head our way. On Saturday, the 27th, we topped off the gas tank in the truck (knowing that fuel was going to be a premium) and began earmarking items that we would take along with us when we evacuated on Sunday. Around 10 a.m. on the 28th we pulled out of our driveway and the water was already covering the roads. What normally takes seven hours to drive to the Russell homestead in Kingsland, Arkansas took eleven, since millions of people were also headed north. Hurricane Katrina struck on the 29th, and you know the rest of the story. Liquidation #4 was totally unplanned.

The blogs written since then tell our story post-Katrina. On August 1, 2006 we took delivery of our new home, the Montana 5th wheel. Ironically a year to the day later, Tropical Storm Ernesto has formed and is predicted to take the same path as Katrina. While a day doesn't go by that we think of Bay St. Louis and our friends who remain there, we know that, for us, we made the right decision. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.