Southerly Signals

CW editor John Burnham reflects on the inevitable dream of an endless summer. From the "Editor's Log" in our September 2008 issue

September 15, 2008

John Burnham 368

Warm summer days draw sailors to the water to stay cool and soak up that timeless feel of gentle breezes caressing bare skin. For those of us not living the cruising lifestyle as much of the time as we’d like-or hardly at all-the appeal of an endless summer takes hold as fall approaches, and the desire to sail south grows stronger. It’s no wonder that this has been a theme of many CW September issues over the years.

A year ago we published a special issue focusing on the Bahamas, pointing out that the close proximity of these islands to Florida makes spending a season there readily achievable for many cruisers. (And we said much the same thing in the June issue about sailing south of the border from California to Mexico.)

In this issue, we hope you’ll find reason to go farther. From Mexico, you can follow Beth A. Leonard and Evans Starzinger’s 47-foot Hawk to the surprising, wild cruising grounds along the Pacific coastline of Costa Rica. From the Bahamas, you can learn how to make the upwind sailing to the eastern Caribbean as easy as possible with Kylie Deacon and Mike Shaw, who did it aboard their 30-footer, Meggie. And coming back to square one on the U.S. East Coast, you can learn about both the finer and the thinner spots along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in a Special Report by Wendy Mitman Clarke.


We think we have a good idea of what stories will appeal to our readers, but judging from my own experience, it’s hard to predict at any given moment which story will hit home with anyone who spends time thinking about cruising. When I read Wendy’s report on the I.C.W., it lined up neatly with a recent sequence of events. Last spring I wrote an article about cruising on Chesapeake Bay, and I included a sidebar that my father, David, wrote about his catboat trip from New York to the Chesapeake in 1948. (See “Going Nowhere for the Moment,” May 2008.) My article prompted Island Packet Yachts president Bob Johnson to send me a copy of a book about an I.C.W. cruise that, he promised, contained “lasting images of pastoral, unheroic cruising experiences.”
The book is called The Boy, Me, and the Cat,* and Bob was right. The remarkable tale, one not without a few adventures, was written by Henry Plummer, who took his son, Henry Jr., on a 1912 cruise down what had yet to formally become the I.C.W. They spent eight months sailing from Massachusetts to Miami and back in a 24-and-a-half-foot catboat.

But it gets better: Twice in the book, the author mentions encountering my grandfather, who was aboard a small motorboat. Bradford Burnham was making the same trip south as Plummer, and he was writing about it for Motor Boating magazine. Is it surprising, then, that I’m feeling the urge to find a small boat and learn for myself what it’s like to head down the waterway?

Each of us gets signals about what to do and where to go. They appear in different places, and some are clearer than others. As you read this issue, keep an eye out for them. They might just be pointing your way south.
–John Burnham


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