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Retirement years a perpetual cruise

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
June 20, 2003
Lurey and I chatted with our friends in the shade of their covered, open air deck near the barbeque grill. When we decided to sit for a while, we walked downstairs past the deep freezer, refrigerator and television set into the air conditioned living room where we took seats on the couch, love seat and chair. Earlier, Bob and Marthanne Foster had given us the tour of their two bedroom, two bath home that includes a kitchen and a large upper deck that can be temporarily covered or left in the open sunlight. These living areas are in addition to the permanently covered mid-level deck with the barbeque.
Their comfortable, well appointed and well decorated home requires one more room that especially held my interest; the engine room. For the Fosters live on a boat. A 44 foot DeFever trawler, the "No Clew." Its name was derived from the fact that the Fosters live now on a power boat after having lived several years on a sailboat. An aft corner of a sailboats sail is called the clew.
Two 135 horsepower Perkins Diesels power the 22 ton boat and charge its several batteries, though they have a huge generator that furnishes electricity when they are anchored or docked. The "No Clew" is a duel station model. Steering can be done either from a bridge deck or inside at a second helm station. Bob has engineered some of the electronics so that the boats radar, GPS and related guidance systems are available at both stations.
Aboard are two collapsible bicycles and a small inflated dinghy with a 15 horsepower electric start engine for land or water transportation when they have business away from the boat. Supplementing these is a kayak, used primarily for recreation.
Workplace friends
Bob and I worked for the same agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and have both been retired since the early 1990s. He and Marthanne called from Demopolis, Alabama this week and we drove over and met the traveling couple for lunch. They are on their way up the Tenn-Tom waterway with an undetermined destination, likely Knoxville, Tennessee.
Their mailing address is in Green Cove Springs, Florida which is just south of Jacksonville on the St. Johns River. But their home port changes about as often as the wind changes, literally.
When Bob retired in 1994 from where we had worked together in Washington, D.C., the couple sold their townhouse and took off down the east coast in their 45 foot sailboat. They followed the Intracoastal Waterway on most of their journey. It was January. "We thought that if we headed south we would soon be into warmer weather," said Marthanne. But the cold had progressed far to the south and she remembers sweeping and shoveling snow off the boat in North Carolina where they had to break through a thin ice crust on the water two different times.
Surely South Carolina and Georgia would be warmer. It was not to be. Their destination, Ponce Inlet south of Daytona Beach, Florida, seemed a long way off as the freezing weather stayed with the sailors for most of their voyage. Too, their sailboats six-foot keel caused them to run aground nine times in the shallows that were abundant on the Waterway.
The Ponce landing was their home port for two years, and next they moved to Ft. Pierce for their base location. Trips to the Bahamas and back to the Chesapeake and many other destinations satisfied their love of sailing until they bought the power boat in 2000. Marthanne had lobbied for diesel power because she believed they would go more places and meet more people. That has proven to be true.
New Year's purchase
The couple bought the 1984 model trawler on New Years eve. As 2001 was getting underway, they had a party to christen the boat, "No Clew." They had a former Navy man, assisted by a Methodist minister, guide the christening ceremony that saw 35 guests aboard the boat. A formal christening procedure was the order of the day. Marthanne altered the part where a bottle of champaign is broken on the ships bow so that the champaign could be put to better use.
Come spring, the Fosters motored back up to Chesapeake Bay and when they returned they crossed south Florida on the Okeechobee Waterway and traveled north to Palmetto near St. Petersburg on the western shore. In the early summer of 2002 the couple made a long move to Panama City. This year they took the advice of several boating friends and planned their cruise up the Tenn-Tom. "It is our first freshwater trip," said Bob. "Everyone said we had to make this river system."
Bob and Marthanne have suffered few mishaps in their more than eight years afloat. Once Marthanne was throwing a line over a piling while docking at Biloxi and she leaned out too far and fell into the water between the boat and the dock. Someone nearby saw the fall and yelled. Bob found his wife clinging to pilings and a pipe beneath the dock. She crawled across the structure until she reached the diving platform of a docked boat and was able to climb onto it and into the boat. Our friends are hoping the rains subside so the river will clear itself of floating logs. They left Demopolis at mid-week, headed for new territory. I suggested points of interest on the Tennessee River where I have lived on two of the rivers lakes. I marked the spots on their map. May they have fair winds and calm waters on their voyage.

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