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March 9, 2014

18

Life Doesn’t Stop Just Because You Go Cruising: Hope Town and New Jersey

by frankandems

We arrived in Hope Town in the Abacos section of the Bahamas in mid-February and received a warm welcome from our friends Al and Michele on Kindred Spirit. They decided to make Hope Town their home for the winter and were based out of the lovely harbor since before Christmas. We called them on the radio as we were coming in and they came out and met us in their dinghy to be our pilot boat. They had reserved us a prime mooring ball next to their boat, then gave us an orientation to the town and fed us dinner. What better welcome could we get? They even took us racing with them on our 2nd full day . . . a light air “race” where, at times, we were doing as little as 2 knots. When you can sit and eat your sandwich and never flinch, it is a very slow, light air race!

Michele and Al from Kindred Spirit welcoming us to the harbor

Michele and Al from Kindred Spirit welcoming us to the harbor

Our Pilot boat into Hope Town.

Our Pilot boat leading us into Hope Town – the iconic light house.

Eleanor Q rolling in to Hope Town!

Eleanor Q rolling in to Hope Town!

Our escorts showed us to a spot near their boat in the harbor.

Our escorts showed us to a spot near their boat in the harbor.

Racing on Kindred Spirit

Racing on Kindred Spirit

We had a nice evening at Firefly Restaurant and attended the beginning  of the song writers festival.

We had a nice evening at Firefly Restaurant and attended the beginning of the song writers festival.

Listening to music with Al and Michele.

Listening to music with Al and Michele, the ultimate hosts!

But I’m having a hard time talking about any of that very enthusiastically at this moment because we are preparing for a second trip (second for Ems, first for Frank) back to New Jersey. My brother-in-law, Frank, lost his battle with cancer this past Thursday and my sister, Christine, lost her husband. He was a wonderful man who loved our family immensely – and we loved him. He and my sister have housed and cared for a couple of us siblings through various stages of life – for jobs we had in the area, but more meaningful to me, they helped care for one of my sisters during her (successful) battle with breast cancer a number of years ago. Knowing that his end was nearing, I flew back to New Jersey for twelve days to be with family while “My” Frank stayed with the boat in Hope Town. (When you have multiple Franks in the family, you have to have these designations!)

Aerial view taking off from Marsh Harbour.

Aerial view taking off from Marsh Harbour.

Aerial view of the frozen New Jersey coast.

Aerial view of the frozen New Jersey coast.

In our family, we have often done “sister shifts” after surgeries or treatments or hospital stays – the advantage of having a large family. My sister, Caroline, has practically moved in with Christine and Frank during this period . . . I was able to come home and give her a little break, and other sisters have jumped in to help as well. Frank remained at home under hospice care until the end where he died peacefully with family at his side. He was a retired police chief in a suburb of Princeton, NJ and was beloved in the community. He had a certain brand of humor that was classic. When I was staying at their house several nights every month for work (back in the 90s), he would get home from work first, me second and Christine third. I would find him sitting on their bed watching the local news – their room kind of doubled as a living room, without that sounding weird. I would go plop down next to him on Christine’s side and watch the news with him . . . but his favorite line that never got old was when we’d hear Christine come in the door and he’d shout down to her, “Hi honey! I’m in bed with your sister again!” Christine and I would have been SO disappointed if he didn’t do that each time. Although he was born and raised in the Princeton area, he spent a LOT of time in Cape May during the summers. The two Franks have shared many stories about Layers Dutch Kitchen or people that they both know from Cape May.

Christine and Frank about 20 years ago.

Christine and Frank about 20 years ago.

Being a police officer and then chief was the great joy of his life (after my sister, of course!) He was the kind of police chief you wish they could clone. He was about integrity and his officers being role models in the community, and he totally demonstrated that. Good police work was critical, but on top of that, God forbid he caught his officers double parked somewhere in a non-emergency, or pulled up in a handicap spot, or not using their turn signals during a normal cruise through town! The whole department was expected to conduct themselves respectfully and professionally. The new police building in West Windsor Township is named for him in honor of his work in building the department over many, many years. When it was time for me to leave their home last week, I said, “Okay, Frank. I’m getting ready to go home now,” (trying my best to sound non-plussed about it and not break down.) He quietly answered, “Honey, your home is upstairs!” And that’s how he made us feel, always. I really didn’t set out to turn this into a blog about my brother-in-law, and yet I find I can’t help but write about him today.

Frank (MY Frank) stayed in Hope Town and took care of Eleanor Q, a difficult but necessary decision. There is an AMAZING community of people here and we love it here. So let me turn the subject now to more about our time here. Hope Town and the Abacos strike us as being a little more developed and civilized than the Exumas. There are more restaurants and resorts and nice homes here than the other areas we’ve been to, but it doesn’t feel overdeveloped or “too fancy” or obnoxiously commercial. It is lovely and fun and has been a great respite. It is higher on that “Outward Bound-Jimmy Buffet Scale” I’ve referred to before. It is also the perfect place to be able to leave the boat on a mooring ball and know it will be looked after.

Hope Town is very picturesque.

Hope Town is very picturesque.

A sign we spotted along our walk.

A sign we spotted along our walk.

Frank and I at the door step of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse.

Frank and I at the door step of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse, about to climb up.

Me and my twin sister pose for a shot atop the lighthouse. What a view!

My twin sister and I pose for a shot atop the lighthouse. What a view! (I LOVE this trick!) Eleanor Q is parked down there.

There is a true community of cruisers who stay here for a good part of the winter. They are kind and welcoming and help watch out for each other. Frank had a chance to meet and get to know many of them while he was holding down the fort here. We will fly home knowing that the boat will be fine sitting here for a week – there are so many watchful sets of eyes. Also, our water family on Magnolia arrived in Hope Town a couple of days ago and will keep an eye on Eleanor Q while we’re gone. It has been great to be reunited with them. We have also been reunited with the “B to B Fleet” or what is left of it. That is the group that we got to know in Bimini and did the overnight passage with to Nassau. What a lovely group and we’ve enjoyed being part of the fleet again for the past several days. Sadly, they will be moving on today.

Magnolia Coming in to Hope Town. We did the pilot boat service for them like Kindred Spirit did for us.

Magnolia Coming in to Hope Town. We did the pilot boat service for them like Kindred Spirit did for us.

Walking on the beach with Annette and Anthony.

Walking on the beach with Annette and Anthony.

Last happy hour with the B to B Fleet.

Last happy hour with the B to B Fleet: Mar-a-lago, Amaroni II, Magnolia . .  Luna had already moved on.

So, we will board the plane on Monday and return to New Jersey to attend the service and to be with family again. I am so impressed and proud of my sister, Christine, for the grace and strength that she has shown through this period. She acknowledged that one of a handful of people who could really understand what she’s been going through is “my” Frank. It is not a good club to belong to, but he was able to talk with her on the phone and share what words of wisdom he could muster. We will return to Hope Town soon and continue our travels, heading back to the U.S. before the month is out. When we knew Frank (Cox) was not doing well in December, we hesitated to leave the country where travel back and forth would be much more challenging. When discussing that with my family, I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went down, but the message was something to the effect of “Frank will kick your asses if you don’t go!” He was very excited for us and our adventures. One day recently, I almost sent him a picture of our “skivvies” hanging outside to dry on the boat because I knew it would make him laugh . . . and because I like the term “skivvies” which I adopted from him! The world does not stop turning because you decide to jump on a boat and run away from life for a while. Life still happens. Family tragedies still happen. But the good news is that family ties don’t get any weaker with distance.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mary DuBois
    Mar 9 2014

    Sending hugs and prayers to you and the Rapking sisters. Frank C. sounds like a wonderful man. What a beautiful tribute. Glad you are able to fly back for the service. Love to all…

    Reply
  2. Donna & Rich
    Mar 9 2014

    We send our love and prayers at this time of loss, Mary Marie and Frank. From our hearts, Rich and Donna

    Reply
    • Mar 9 2014

      Thank you Rich and Donna. Appreciate the love and prayers and happily accept them!

      Reply
  3. texastini
    Mar 9 2014

    I am so sorry for your Family’s loss. Hugs to you

    Reply
  4. Caroline
    Mar 9 2014

    EMS and Frank, this was a beautiful blog entry and real tribute to family (both real and virtual). ‘Nuff said. xoxo Caroline

    Reply
  5. Christine
    Mar 9 2014

    Awwww thank you for the Coxie stories xoxoxo Christine

    Reply
    • Mar 9 2014

      Love you so much! Love reliving the Coxie stories. Honored to have been around these last weeks.

      Reply
  6. Nadia
    Mar 9 2014

    Mary, what a lovely and touching tribute to your brother in law. Again, please accept my family and I deepest sympathy. Praying that you would all be strengthened during your time of bereavement. On another note, I am happy that you are having such an adventure in The Bahamas. You are always welcomed to this commonwealth of 700 islands, reefs and cays. Safe travels back to New Jersey.

    Reply
    • Mar 9 2014

      Thank you for the warm thoughts from the Rolles. And I am SO glad to have spent time with you all this winter and to get to know you! Love your commonwealth – thanks for sharing it.

      Reply
  7. Polly
    Mar 10 2014

    Hi Little One, So sorry to hear about Frank but know your presence with him gave he and Christine extra strength when needed. You’ve been in my thoughts and prayers and now I know why. Safe travels, sending love and may God bless you all.

    Reply
  8. Loretta and Jim Elliott
    Mar 12 2014

    So very sorry to hear about your brother in law but loved the stories especially his “I’m in bed with your sister!”. Felt like I knew him personally after your posting. Our thoughts and prayers are with both of you and your families. Very happy to hear you are still enjoying your adventure. Have a safe trip and keep the blogs coming. Loretta and Jim s/v Plan Sea

    Reply
  9. Mar 17 2014

    Sending condolences. When you get back to Naptown be sure to get in touch so Frank and Buttercup can catch up; we moved from Stella’s but we’re still in Eastport. Ems–love how blonde your hair is from all that cruising sunshine! Fair winds. s/v Ambrosia

    Reply
    • Mar 29 2014

      Thanks for the thoughts. Give Buttercup a scratch for us.

      Reply
  10. Dawna Genovese
    Mar 29 2014

    Dear Mary Marie, I am so sorry about your loss. Love Dawna.xoxo!

    Reply
    • Mar 29 2014

      Thanks for the thoughts, Dawna. Hugs to you and your gang.

      Reply

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