Category Archives: Land Trips

A month in the sun, and then PAYBACK

We haven’t posted in a while… because we decided to escape from the cold winter for the month of February.  We were scheduled to fly out on February 9, and of course, there was a forecast for a severe winter storm for that day!

On the morning of February 8, as we were trying not to worry too much about the weather, we received an email from American Airlines stating that they would waive all change fees if we wanted to rebook and fly out early – and so we took advantage, and left on Feb 8.  Fortunately, we had mostly packed already and our good friend Dave was able to take us to the airport for our flight.

At least we had eliminated the stress of wondering if would make it out, and instead had an extra day in Miami.  A few days in Miami, a 12 day cruise on Oceania Riviera in the Eastern Caribbean, 6 days in the Florida Keys, and another 6 on Amelia Island.  Can’t complain about a thing.  It was beautiful weather, we did mostly nothing, and had a wonderful time.  Below is one of the few photos I took, of a bird in Granada.

DSC_7250 Granada Bird

While we were away, the weather at home did the usual NE flip flopping, 70 degree days, 10 degree days, any type of weather, you just name it.  So, the day after we arrived home, the temperature dropped to the teens, and the snow came.  And it just didn’t warm up.  And the snow came again (winter storm Stella, anyone?).  Guess the lousy weather was our payback for going away.

While we were away, the thread on Autumn Dream’s cover “gave up” and one of the sections split apart, at the peak of the frame.  Fortunately, the boat yard called to let us know, and Dave and Pat came to the rescue, taking the cover off the boat and bringing it home for us before even more damage could be done – they had one of those good “70 degree days” to do it.  We’ll post more about the cover another time.

So what is going on?  Well…. when we were in Amelia Island, we visited Waterman’s Bluff (our land) and remembered why we bought there in the first place.  They had some new homes under construction and we found a design that had everything we were looking for.  We had already made the decision to put our house back on the market when we were on the cruise, and this just confirmed out.  So now we are back to our former plan…  House is on the market, and we will just wait and see what happens.  In the mean time, we are going to enjoy life at our home, and cruise on Autumn Dream this summer.

I finished the crochet project I was working on before we left, I’ll do a different post for that.


Land Cruise!

We are finishing up a land cruise that took us down to look at our property and meet with builders in Yulee FLA.  If the house in Somerset ever sells we plan to build a new house from scratch.  However finding a quality builder is a challenge.  We think we have one and are currently under discussions on design and of course price.  More to come as things develop.  On the house selling front frustration rules.  We have one interested party but the house they are trying to sell is tied up in a divorce with two lawyers involved.  So not holding out any hope of a quick sale there.  Anyway back to the land cruise.  We drove down to Yulee / Amelia Island in our new Crossover.  We recently traded in our Volvo XC-60 for a Lincoln MKX.   Slightly larger than the Volvo and much better ride and gas mileage!  First day was from Somerset to Roanoke Virginia.  12 hours of driving…   long day.  Next day we were in Savannah GA.  We like it there an it is only about two and a half hours to Yulee.  So we got a nice room at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront.  As I am still a platinum member with Marriott they gave us a waterfront room and free parking and a nice breakfast.  We wandered around the waterfront and then found a great place for dinner where they make great individual pizzas.  This place was great, and reasonably priced which is a challenge in this expensive city.  Savannah is full of charm and a big tourist draw, and if you have never been there I can highly recommend that you go and enjoy the city with all its southern charm!  The next morning we drove the 2 and half hours to Yulee and went to Watermens Bluff to check out a house recently built by one of our prospective builders.  We were meeting with this builder the next day at their offices in Jacksonville (Jax) and wated to see their product in person before the meeting.  Good thing we did.  The finish construction quality was crap!  Plane and simple crap.  So seeing the house before meeting with them was a good thing.  In reality after seeing the house I would have canceled the meeting, but since it was Sunday and the meeting was on Monday morning we decided to go through with the meeting and see how they responded to all our disappointing findings.  Well they were surprised but made nothing but excuses, and said they would do better if they built our house.  Well I can tell you that that is not going to happen!  So alternate plan B.  More on Plan B as it develops.    The next day we visited our friends in Jax.  OK unfortunately we could only visit with Victor because Bill was in hospital again.  Fortunately he is better and last time we checked he was home!  All said it was great to catch up with Victor and hear all of what was going on.

On the way home from Victors house we drove through hurricane Hector, which was not  a hurricane or a tropical storm a few hours previously.  Bill and Victor live on the south side of Jax.  Yulee is above the north side of Jax.  So the drive home (our rental in Amelia Island) is about an hours drive.  As we drove northward the rain and wind were unbelievable!  Torrential does not even begin to describe how heavy the rain was.  I was glad we were in an AWD vehicle.  Safe to say we made it without any real issues.  Next morning we saw on the news that this tropical depression had quickly blown up into a category 1 hurricane over Jax and that is what we were driving through.  No warning or anything.  Go figure.  Glad we we were on land and not in Autumn Dream!

After that fun we enjoyed visiting with Beth’s mom and friends and eating some great food on the island.  On the Friday we were back at Watermans Bluff for a Low Country boil!  Once or twice a year the developer throws a community get together.  Since we were there we decided to attend.  It was a great chance to meet our new neighbors and have some good eats.  Here in New England we have clam boils.  This typically consist of soft shell clams, sausage, corn on the cob, onions, chourico ( a local Portuguese sausage), potatos and some times depending on budget lobsters.  All this is thrown in a pot for a few hours and boiled  A low country boil is similar but in place of clams they use shrimp.  In place of chourico they use anduli sausage.  Most of the rest is similar.   They then take everything and dump it on newspapers and you all serve yourself.  It was great!  I think when we move I’ll miss chourico but beyond that no worries!

While we were staying on Amelia Island I had some chance to play with my new lens and you can see some hand held examples of this new toy!  So they would be clearer if I had it on the tripod! For those of you who do not follow us on facebook you probably don’t know I recently purchased a new Nikon 200mm to 500mm lens!  This lens is unbelievable!  In the following shots you can see one of the US Navy’s nuclear subs putting to sea!   We were quite far away from as you can imagine!  But the photos with this lens are stunning!  Also included a few bird photos I believe these are Snowy Egrets!  Of course as there was a Nuclear Sub leaving the port all marine traffic was stopped and had to wait for the sub to clear the port. Note the machine gun on the USCG boat!  Pointy end pointed at any potential intruders!   One of the small yachts waiting so they could avoid the pointy end of the USCG boat was fun to photograph,  Gives you a minor example so you can see how strong this lens is as I zoomed out and in!

Enjoy!   More on the house to come!




Road Trip

We are back from a 3 week road trip down to Florida.  Had a great time and a few surprises.  I had a chance to start playing with my (Beth’s) new camera.

Our first real stop was a visit to Port Orange and New Smyrna Beach to see Dave and Ellen – wonderful folks we met on our Azamara cruise.  Weather was great and so was the company!  Loved the town, and we really enjoyed the show at breakfast, watching the planes taxi by…what a cool place to live!  Thanks Dave and Ellen!

Next stop was 3 days at Cedar Key “Old Florida”.  This would have been a great visit EXCEPT that we went thru a torrential rain storm that dropped the temperature from 80 to 50!  Things cleared up and we enjoyed the quiet and lack of commercial development – even went to an RV show in Ocala and found the truck camper we may buy someday.

Cedar Key - bathroom with a view

Cedar Key- Bathroom with a “view”!  Glad this wasn’t our hotel!



Cedar Key- nearing sunset


Cedar Key pelican posing… not to be confused with Fernandina beach pelicans…

Next we headed off to Amelia Island to visit my (Beth’s) mom and do our usual exploring.  Walked on the beach, ate good food at Hola! Cuban Café, looked at some property for sale, and after much soul searching, put a deposit down on a lot in Yulee at Waterman’s bluff.  Yes, you read that right, we are buying a piece of land and will build a house after our house sells.  Yes, you read that right too – we have put our house on the market:

But you love your house – you say… and yes we do!  And you love living in Somerset… and yes we do.  But we also love the area around Amelia, and the lifestyle options that open up to us down there.  SO, the house is on the market, Autumn Dream is back on the market, and we will enjoy both until they sell.  Maybe we can blame it on Dave and Ellen, with their place in Port Orange, or maybe we can blame it on Joe and Renee moving to Myrtle Beach, or maybe it just is because…

After that stop in Amelia- extended by a few days after we decided to proceed with a major life changing event – we headed up to Myrtle beach to visit with Joe and Renee for a few days.  Kevin brought some of his tools and worked with Joe to improve the workshop space in the garage.  I got to “play” in Renee’s studio and learn about mixed media.  Made a birthday card for “uncle” Bob’s 70th.  Kevin even managed to fix their “dead” Saeco super-automatic coffee machine, so we could have “GOOD” coffee.  Hurrah!  After more than a week it is still working, so we are keeping our fingers crossed for them.

Finally, we headed home as we now had loads of things to do that we originally weren’t expecting…  put the boat back on the market; meet with realtor and get the house on the market… finish a few little maintenance items (those 3 windows I still needed to paint are now done!).

A great way to spend a Sunday

Two weeks ago (4 October) we decided we needed a “play day”.  That is when we just get in the car and go off somewhere without specific plans.

After an early lunch we headed over to the Marine Consignment store in Fall River to look for a few items for Autumn Dream.  Boats always need bits!  Bill’s diving and mooring maintenance business is doing well, and he gave us some promotional coozies:

Diver for Hire, RI Coozies

Diver for Hire, RI Coozies

Next stop was the Gold Medal Bakery outlet in Fall River to pick up gourmet English muffins and their “bakery hot dog buns”.  This place is incredible as the bread is fresher than when you buy it from Stop & Shop, and they sell it at 1/4 of the price.

After picking up some bread we headed into 4 corners in Tiverton to wander around some of the shops.  We like going into “The Cottage“.  This used to be a Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams store, but it now has a different name.  Still sells their furniture, and lots of home furnishings.  Fun to look, but we usually don’t buy.  It is fascinating to see people spend $350 on a factory made linen tote bag.  We actually were looking for some proper Scotch tasting glasses so we can enjoy the bottle of Dalwhinnie 15 year single malt Scotch that Kevin received as a gift, but they didn’t have any.

After wandering around 4 Corners we did our usual drive around the area, stopping in Westport to watch the ocean for a while.  It was a beautiful day considering that Hurricane Joaquin was out there and making a mess in the Carolinas.  While there we saw a cruise ship pass by after completing their transit of the Cape Cod Canal.  I looked it up on the Marine Traffic web site but forgot… I think it was a Seaborne or Silversea ship on its way to New York.

We eventually made our way to New Bedford, where we had decided to try out the Black Whale restaurant.  I had a $100 gift card (thanks to Xfinity- got paid to watch Game of Thrones on my PC, LOL…), a “Dine Out” coupon for $20 off one entrée, and we had read really good reviews about the restaurant, so decided to give it a try.

WOW.  This is a very casual restaurant, with REALLY GOOD food.  Prices are reasonable, and the seafood was great.  We went for an early dinner (around 4:30-5pm) and the bar was FULL – people all enjoying good food and watching football.

They have a raw bar when you walk in… nothing like seeing shrimp and oysters on display…  We started with a jumbo Shrimp platter and a 1/2 bottle of prosecco.  The shrimp were crispy and really fresh, tasted like they should, and they really were JUMBO.  It’s been a long time since we had good shrimp like this.  Worth every penny.

Then because we both are sometimes a bit boring we both had the same thing for dinner:  pan seared yellowfin tuna (RARE) with a side of spinach-parmesian risotto and grilled asparagus.  The tuna was fork tender – like “buttah”.  It was amazingly good.  My mouth is watering as I write this.  We had a wonderful, enjoyable meal and can’t wait to go back and try something else!

Below is a picture of their “giant” chair – you can’t tell the scale without someone in or near it, but it sits about 10 feet tall.  Also below is a shot of the pier- with the fishing fleet in and tied up 3 deep to be safe from the storm.

New Bedford Fishing fleet

New Bedford Fishing fleet

Black Whale

Black Whale

Drinking Wine for a cause, and triple, triple “b”s

The Southeastern region of New England, including the “South Coast” is a designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) or a defined wine growing region.  There are quite a few wineries here in the south coast- they have created a coastal wine trail to help tourists “discover” our local vineyards and wineries.  Over the past few years, we have explored quite a few, and have some favorites.  I’ve mentioned Westport Rivers before, where they make  wonderful, award winning methode champagnoise sparkling wine.

Running Brook vineyards in Dartmouth MA made a fantastic frost wine (vidal blanc) that was very reminiscent of a sauterne.  There is Sakonnet Vineyards (now “Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards) recently purchased by the owners of Alex & Ani jewelry.  They make a few good dessert wines.

We are not very fond of most of the wines produced by these wineries.  We like to support local businesses, but it has to TASTE GOOD and be worth the cost for us to buy it.  Forget about red wines made from grapes grown here.  Most of the wines are very “thin” without much flavor.  I guess the vines are not mature enough, or they don’t get tortured enough.  Maybe it is the soil.

So, what does this have to do with anything?  Well, recently the local no-kill shelter Forever Paws in Fall River MA had a wine tasting fund raiser and pet adoption day at Coastal Vineyards in South Dartmouth MA.  It was a good reason to go taste some wine, since they would get 50% of the tasting fee.

It was a nice day, but a bit windy – and they had quite a crowd.  The man running the tasting was a good entertainer, and very efficient.  The pours were small, but that was a GOOD THING because we tasted almost every wine they had- in total about 10 wines.  Some of the whites were “OK”.   One was blended with cranberry juice.  I guess they get an “A” for EFFORT.  The reds, well, I hate to say it, but we watered the grass behind the tasting room with most of them.  Like I said, it was for a good cause.  We wish the winery luck- many people bought a few bottles (again the shelter received a percentage of the sales) and appeared to like the wines.  Different people have different tastes.  We know what we like.  Always open to try things, but don’t have to like them.

At a tasting room in Sonoma Valley CA, many years ago, we were told:  there are 4 kinds of wine… Red wine, white wine, wine you like, and wine you don’t like.  Drink what you like…  that is all that matters.

What, may you ask next, is “triple, triple b’s”?  On Tuesday we decided to play tourist, and took the Plymouth to Provincetown Express Ferry to P-town.  Cape traffic is terrible in the summer, and we would not drive to P-town this time of year.  It would also take more than 2 hours to get there and parking is a nightmare.  Plymouth was less than 45 minutes by car, they had free parking, and we get to be on a boat on the water for 2 hours in each direction.  Sounds like a perfect day.

It took much less time to drive there than we expected, so plenty of time to stop and have a dark roast coffee and a pecan sticky bun at the Blue Blinds Bakery (first triple “B”).  We meandered down to the water – took a peek at the “Rock”, and then bought our tickets next to the Mayflower replica (they didn’t have our reservations, but not an issue since it was a Tuesday).  Saw some humpbacks spouting in the distance (and some dolphins) on the crossing to P-town.  Wandered around town, poking in the shops and galleries, and had lunch at Bubalas By the Bay (second triple “B”).  I had a “By the Bay” omelette with Lobster, asparagus, and boursin cheese.  YUM.  Kevin had a grilled tuna wasabi sandwich.  Also YUM.  Eventually we made our way back to the pier for the 4:30pm departure.

Since it was 6:30 pm by the time we were back in Plymouth, we decided to get a bite to eat before driving home.  The Blue Blinds Bakery was still open, and we both had their “deli Rose” sandwich.  Hit the spot. I highly recommend it.  Got two dark roast coffees to go, and we were on our way home.  What a great day!

Snow at the Marina

On Saturday we drove down to Dighton to check on Autumn Dream, prepared with shovels and winter boots.  After the latest storm we didn’t know if we were going to have to knock snow off of her cover or dig her out.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that her cover is “self cleaning” with just a bit of snow on one area to be knocked off.  The shovel stayed in the trunk and I took photos at the marina while Kevin checked on Autumn Dream.  Inside the boat it was close to 50 degrees F (it was about 34F outside).  If we have similar weather next weekend, we might actually go down and do some work inside.

After the stop at the marina, we went over to the Cupper’s Cafe in Somerset for some GOOD coffee and a light lunch.  This is one of those little gems we recently discovered…  A coffee shop in a former gas station, it is bright and cheery inside – the old garage doors are now all glass.  The people that work there are friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming.  They have free wi-fi and everyone seems content to sit, drink, eat, read a newpaper or surf the web.  Relaxed.  Sofas and comfy chairs in addition to regular tables and chairs for seating.  They have all the fancy coffee drinks, but also very good brewed dark roast.  Sandwiches were reasonably priced and tasty, and they had some really good looking pastries and desserts, but we didn’t indulge.  The ‘usual’ special is a chourico and peppers sandwich.  Chourico (pronounced sher-eese) is a portuguese sausage.

We got our “coffee card” and you know we’ll be there often as boating season (and pre-boating work season) progresses.  The perfect place for a lunch break.

Today Kevin hung new lights in the kitchen (removing some track lighting).  Of course this means that I will have to do some ceiling painting once the holes have been patched and sanded.  It’s OK.  The new lights look good!  The one over the sink is a single that matches the Island light… no photo of that one…sorry.

Enjoy the photos!

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Dining in Amelia Island

When we were in Amelia Island for Thanksgiving week, we ate at some memorable places, and some that we wish we could forget.  Please note that we are NOT Foodies, and are not overly impressed by the PHD (pile it higher and deeper) philosophy of presentation.  The overuse of molds or rings to shape the food is not for us.  We also do not like to overpay for something simply because it has been given a french name, or because of excessive overdescription on the menu.

We really have to give alot of credit.  The reviews were mostly spot-on.  Our poor choices were made when we didn’t check the places out on line first!

That being said, our hands down, new favorite restaurant for breakfast has to be Bright Mornings Cafe in downtown Fernandina beach.  Our only dissapointment was that they weren’t open EVERY day!  It is a cozy little cafe with some of the friendliest folks you could ask for.  It seems like it is family run.  There were plenty of local regulars (greeted by name, and served ‘the usual’) along with out of town visitors.  Their biscuits are heavenly, but they only serve them on the weekends (Try the egg, sausage, and biscuit sandwiches).  Excellent omelettes, pancakes, and incredible home fries.  They serve very good coffee too.  I think they had a bakery (you are given a muffin sampler with butter & marmalade when seated) but we didn’t try any baked goods.  Food (and coffee) is served on really nice ceramic tableware, not your typical diner dishes.  We ate here 3x…

Another great place we found is the Sandollar Bar & Grill.  This is a restaurant on the water, technically in Jacksonville, but on the St. Johns River just down the road from the Mayport Ferry.  You can sit inside or out on the patio and watch the river traffic.  They are best for lunch – fried Mayport Shrimp, Cashew encrusted Grouper were both excellent options (with hushpuppies of course!).  The dinner menu was almost identical to the lunch menu, with the same serving sizes, but at twice the price.  The grilled scallops were not memorable, and the prime rib was average, but still enjoyable meals.  This is a great off- the beaten path place and very comfortable to hang out on the deck. I don’t have a link but you can find reviews at Trip Advisor..

The worst food award is shared between two locations. 

1.  Jack and Diane’s.  They have a very interesting menu and it all sounds creative and tasty.  Service was terrible (and there were only 2 tables occupied at the time).  Location is on a very busy road – can’t hear the conversation over the lumber trucks rumbling by.  Do they even have a kitchen?  The omelette looked like it was made in one of those electric pans they advertise on TV and was tasteless.  The egg bowl with hash browns and ham (with Hollandaise) – this was OK.  Coffee was warm, not hot.

2. Marche Burette – this is the market/restaurant at the Amelia Island Plantation resort where we were staying.  It was a cute ‘french market’ for buying gifts and food items.  They had the nerve to say their sandwiches were 20x better than Panera.  Let me just say it was one of the most disgusting things I ever ate, and they had the nerve to charge a 20% service charge for an order to go!  Blech.  Maybe their soups or pizza is good, but this was just nasty, and way overpriced.

Kofe Haus (now Christopher’s Cafe) also deserves a dishonerable mention.  Last time were were here, under the former owners, the coffee was excellent and we loved getting coffee & pastry.  We went one morning with high expectations (instead of going to the Bright Mornings Cafe- big mistake!).  While the breakfast sandwiches were OK, the coffee (dark roast???) tasted like dishwater.  What a waste.  We didn’t go back.  Life is too short to drink mediocre coffee.

November End

Well the month of November is coming to an end in 1 day and we’ll then be barreling down to the end of the year. With this in mind a quick update as to where we’ve been. Well last week was Thanksgiving here in the USA. This means trips to visit family members. This year was no exception. It was time to go an visit Beth’s mom. But before we could do that we had to make sure Autumn Dream was all tucked in for winter. Beth will post some photos of Autumn Dream’s winter jacket soon. Back to the visit to Beth’s Mom’s.
In order to visit Beth’s mom we had to fly to Florida. Jacksonville FLA to be exact. We had some Delta frequent flyer miles to use and we were able to use them to take this trip. So that help reduce the trip’s cost.
Beth’s mom lives on a small island called Amelia Island. A rather quiet and cute island. So off we went to Logan Airport on Saturday at 6:00 AM. We were all set for the full body pat down, and I had my lines ready for TSA. ‘Don’t touch my junk”. Well security was very easy without a x-ray and no full body pat down. OK part 1 complete with no issues or flared tempers. The flight was from BOS to Atlanta then Atlanta to JAX. Well amazingly everything was on time with no problems of issues. The flights were full but uneventful. A pleasant surprise.
Upon arriving at JAX we collected our bag (yes only on bag for both of us) and got our rental car. The rental car was a nice rental, a Ford Fusion. This turned out to be a great rental. I actually liked this car much better than my Lexus HS250 Hybrid.
35 minuted after leaving JAX we are at the condo we had rented for the week. This rental was at a location called Turtle Dunes in the Amelia Island Plantation complex. We were renting an ocean view condo. Very nice view of both the ocean and of the inter coastal waterway. Rather than bore you with the rest of the weeks details, all I’ll say was that we had a good time in the FLA sunshine, and a great Thanksgiving dinner at Beth’s mom’s place.
On the boating front (after all this blog is supposed to be about boating) we met a couple who are living the dream. Bill and Linda of the 43 foot long Nordhaven called “Wayward Wind”. They have been cruising North America and Central America for the past few years. If you go the the Nordhaven website at you can sometime see their boat in the Header photo on the web page. If you look “Wayward Wind” is the one in front of the iceberg. This is a very cool boat and this couple is living the dream. Bill and Linda are from Southern California. In speaking with them they have cruised as far north as Tracy Arm in Alaska. A far south as the Panama Canal and made a canal transit then headed north again but this time on the US east coast. They managed to get up as far as Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island this summer and are now heading down into the Caribbean, following the summer. They plan to spend this winter in the warm Carib waters and slowly head back to California, over the next year. I wish them a safe and enjoyable journey!
Well thats all for tonight. Next Blog I’ll update some on Autumn Dream projects in the works.

Sedona AZ and Autumn Dream

Well Autumn has arrived here in New England. Had our first frost last night. No big deal, not a hard frost but a frost is was. Also Autumn Dream was hauled on Friday and is now on the hard. So knowing that she was on dry land Saturday I went down and power washed her deck and house. Cormorant shit is like concrete and even with the power washer the stuff does not was to come off the boat. Managed to get is reasonably clean. Also washed the anchor chain and rode. All in all she looks good. Check out the slide show below for a few photos of her on he hard in her winter location.

Also as I said in my previous blog I’ll be posting some photos of AZ. I’ve included a few of the Flagstaff area on old route 66, the mother road. Not much of the actual road but of old hotel signs that are about the only historical stuff left on route 66 in Flagstaff. We did a walking tour of 66 in Flagstaff but all you see are these sign and verbiage in the walking tour that says this use to be here an that use to be here, but it’s all gone today except for the signs. This was a little disappointing as Route 66 is the mother road. Much US history was made on this road. If you really want to see what 66 use to be like you need to drive some remaining segments. Beth and I did just that a few years ago when we got of the 40 in Kingman AZ and drove about 80 miles of the old deserted road through some unbelievable scenery and Indian reservations. However 66 does not exist in Flagstaff any more. However there is still the meteor crater about 80 miles east of Flagstaff and the AZ snow bowl 16 miles north of Flagstaff, where on a clear day you can see the Grand Canyon. Take a look at the slide show and see if you can see the Grand Canyon. Beth and I also went and road the Verdi Canyon Railroad. See if you can see the Bald Eagle in the rocks. Also included are some nice photos of Sedona. Enjoy!

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Word From a Friend on his fathers time on the River Kwai. A history lesson if I ever read one!

What follows was sent to me by my friend Mick in the UK after reading about our visit to the Tiger Temple in Kanachanaburi province in Thailand. His fathers experience in this area was very different from our trip. However his word hit home and goes to show you how close we are to different experiences. This was just one degree of separation for me from a place I was fortunate to visit verse someone who was not fortune to have visited this place. Mick’s final comment in the first section is very much an understatement. I have also included some of Mick research. This information is published with Mick’s permission.
Thank you Mick for sharing this with me and allowing me to post this on my blog, it really bring the whole trip experience to a different level.
Kevin April 28, 2010.

From Mick’s email

I was particularly interested in your visit to the “Bridge on the river Kwai”. I always knew that my late Father had been a POW on the “Death Railway” but that’s all I knew as he would never talk about it. My Mother wouldn’t talk about it either so when she passed away in August I finally felt that I could try to find out what he went through so I have been investigating.

I found out that he was actually used on the construction of “the Bridge” and one of the POW camps he was at was Kanachaburey or Kanburi as the POWs called it. Like almost all of the POWs, Dad caught Malaria (and Dysentery and others) and was left for dead one day on the railway – the treatment of the POWs by the Japanese and Korean guards was appalling. Dad weighed around 84 pounds when he got home after 3.5 years on the railway / in other POW camps and this was after a “fattening up” period between the Japanese surrender and him getting home. No wonder he would never talk about his experiences – I can barely imagine what he must have gone through.

From Mick research into his fathers experiences::

Dad’s World War II Experience.

Life and death on the Burma-Thailand railway (aptly known as the “Death Railway”) between April 1942 and October 1943 is well documented and I will not list page after page of atrocities here. Following are just a couple of simple facts to give an idea of what Dad endured – although, not having experienced it for ourselves, we can never fully appreciate it.

94,000 – 105,000 POWs died on the Railway – of malnutrition, dysentery, malaria, numerous other diseases and brutality. There are reports of POWs dieing on the railway weighing just 4 stones (25.4kg) while Dad was said to weigh less than 6 stones (38.1kg) when he returned.
The railway was 415km long – from BAN PONG / NON-PLADUC in the South of Thailand to Thanbyuzayat in Burma and it is said that, for every sleeper that was laid, a man died.

Dad’s Regiment Etc:
Enlisted: 20th October 1939
4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment. (A Company?)(Motor Transport Section?) Which was part of:
54th Infantry Brigade along with:
5th Battalion Suffolks.
4th Battalion Royal Norfolks. 54th Infantry Brigade was part of:
18th Division along with:
53rd Infantry Brigade.
55th Infantry Brigade.
Artillery, Engineers, Medics Etc.

Early Days:
To November 1940 the main task for the 4th Battalion was the defence of the coast from Lowestoft, Suffolk to Mundesley, Norfolk.

November 1940 – training in St Neots.
January 1941 – training in Stobs Camp, Hawick, Scotland.
April ‘41 – training in Whitfields near Manchester.
May ‘41 – assisted in clearing blitz debris from Liverpool streets and docks.
August ‘41 – training in Hereford.
29th October ‘41 – troops told that they are going overseas, assumption is that it is to Egypt.

Sailing to War – route!
UK To Halifax Nova Scotia:
Depart Liverpool 30th October 1941 onboard the SS Andes.

Arrive Halifax 8th November with immediate transfer to the USS Wakefield.

Halifax To Singapore:

10th November 1941 depart Halifax.
17th Nov, dock Port-of-Spain Trinidad.
20th Nov, depart Trinidad.
9th Dec, dock Capetown. (All ranks granted shore leave)
14th Dec, depart Capetown.
27th Dec, dock Bombay. (Suffolks travel by train to Ahmednagar and spend 2 weeks training and acclimatising to the intense heat) (They still think they are going to Egypt)
19th Jan, 1942 – with the rapid advance of the Japanese in Asia, the Suffolks are ordered to re-embark on the Wakefield and depart Bombay. They are now informed that their destination is Singapore.
29th Jan, ‘42 dock Singapore. (By this time the Japanese have already taken most of Malaya and are only 30 miles from Singapore – bombed ships are ablaze in the harbour.) (The Wakefield is
bombed the following day while taking on women and children evacuees – 5 crew are killed and 9 wounded)

Early action:

After docking, the Suffolks are trucked to a camp just as the C in C British Army in Singapore orders a withdrawal of troops from the mainland of Malaya to the island of Singapore.
31st January 1942, 4th and 5th Battalions take up positions and are ordered to “defend the beaches at all costs”.
5th Feb, the Suffolks come under Japanese shellfire and suffer their first casualties.
8th and 9th Feb, The main Japanese attack begins.
11th Feb, 4th Battalion is relocated in an attempt to halt the Japanese advance, finally reaching their destination, the Swiss Rifle Club hill, after a 12 mile march across Singapore.
12th Feb, the 4th Battalion is ordered to advance on the Japanese and suffers heavy casualties before being ordered to withdraw.
14th Feb, the 4th Battalion comes under heavy mortar and artillery attack followed by tanks – after taking many more casualties, they are forced to withdraw.
15th Feb, 11:30 am, British officers pass through the Japanese lines holding a Union Jack and a white flag.
All allied troops are ordered to surrender at 4:00 pm.

After 2½ years training and 3½ months in transit, the Suffolks saw 17 days of active service.

In captivity:

After 3 weeks in Changi Gaol, the Suffolks are sent back to Singapore to clear up the battle debris – returning to Changi when the work was completed. Conditions in Changi are so bad that most men soon succumb to dysentery among other diseases.
From late March/early April, groups of men begin to be sent from Changi to labour camps having been told by the Japanese that they were going to “rest and rehabilitation centres”. It is at this point that the Battalion is split up with men being sent to different camps.

Working On The “Death Railway” :
(After getting home at the end of the war, all returning POWs were asked to fill in a “Liberation Questionnaire”. Given the horrors that those on the Death Railway had experienced, most wanted only to forget so did not complete the questionnaire – fortunately, Dad did.

Dad was shipped out of Singapore for Thailand between the 18th and 24th June 1942 for the 1,200 mile journey up the full length of Malaya to BAN PONG camp – the journey taking between 4 and 5 days and nights. Transport from Singapore was by rail in cattle trucks. Prisoners were loaded 30 – 40 to a truck and were fed 1 bucket of boiled rice per truck per day. Most of the prisoners already had dysentery (having to go to the toilet up to 50 times per day – although no toilet stops were allowed) following their incarceration in Changi jail so conditions in the trucks soon became “inhuman“.

“Squalid and disease-ridden as Changi might have been, the men who were sent to camps to work on the railway suffered a much worse fate. The causes of death and sickness in the camps along the route of the railway were starvation, climate, hardship, accidents, occasionally personal violence, neglect, poor physique, despair, neurosis and disease. The diseases included malaria in all its forms, recurrent fevers, dysentery, cholera, scurvy, pellagra, beriberi, sleeping sickness, hookworm, ringworm, jungle ulcers and abscesses and general toxemia. The fatal casualties of all troops in captivity totaled more than a third. Nearly every prisoner had some sickness, many had several diseases, and because of their poor diet every man lost weight, and consequently resistance to disease, to an alarming degree. They were always crowded together, so that contagion was inescapable. Washing was difficult, as water was in short supply. In some areas bathing in nearby rivers was allowed only rarely. Dirt encouraged swarms of flies as it was hard to keep eating utensils clean and in the damp heat of the jungle remnants of previous meals quickly went bad. The prisoners became vermin-ridden. The river water held the fearful risk of cholera unless it was boiled. Resistance was low so that the will to live was low too. Sick prisoners often preferred to lie down and die, for death for some was so much easier than going on under such conditions.”

The Camps:

BAN PONG: (Southern Thailand)
This was the first transit camp for prisoners coming from Singapore.

On arrival at BAN PONG some prisoners were used to construct a camp nearby at NONG PLADUC. (This was the start of the railway at the “Thailand end”) As construction began in June 1942 and Dad arrived at BAN PONG in June ‘42, it’s likely that he was used in this construction.
At the beginning the camp was the base camp for all the Railway parties and had the only prisoners hospital in Thailand for the early arrivals. The camp was on either side of the road and made up of Atap huts, one side was permanent and the other for transit.
The hospital was an Atap hut and at times the patients were laying only inches above the flood water on their bamboo shelving. It was not uncommon for the doctor to visit the patients in wellington boots and then climb onto the shelving as the water was too deep to stand in. Mosquitoes took over the area at night and brought more illness to the already sick patients.

KANBURI: (Southern Thailand)
53Kms from BAN PONG. Transfer from BAN PONG was by forced march.
Sometimes also referred to as KANCHANABURI, this camp was also the base for the Japanese 9th Railway Regiment which was in charge of the Thailand end of the construction.
KANBURI camp was also close to, and associated with, construction of “The Bridge On The River Kwai”. The bridge was completed in December ‘43 and as Dad was at KANBURI at this time it is possible that he was working on the bridge. BAN PONG, although further away, was also associated with bridge construction.

TAMARKAN: (Southern Thailand)
At 56Kms from BAN PONG, this camp was just metres from the infamous “Bridge On The River Kwai” and prisoners here were used on that construction.
Construction of the bridge (there were actually 2 bridges, one wooden and one steel) began on 26th October ‘42.
“The Bridge” was damaged many times by Allied bombers and prisoners were kept on at TAMARKAN after it was completed in order to make repairs. Dad was moved to this camp (If I am correct that “TAMKA” is actually “TAMARKAN”) in January ‘44, possibly for this reason.

LAMPANG/LAMPHUN Motor Transport CAMP CHIANG MAI: (Northern Thailand)

I can find very little relating to this camp other than that the Japanese were using POWs (predominantly British) as drivers and vehicle maintenance engineers in Chiang Mai. The camp was possibly in a Temple compound and conditions were still brutal but possibly better than the alternative suffered by many others who, after the Railway was completed, were shipped (aboard the notorious “Hellships”) to camps in Japan for the remainder of their captivity. (Many POWs who survived the Death Railway were killed onboard the Hellships when they were attacked by allied bombers and submarines as the Japanese refused to mark the ships as “POW carriers“)

End Of Captivity:

Following the Japanese surrender (in Burma/Thailand) in August 1945 I assume that Dad was sent to Rangoon for medical examination prior to repatriation. With the Suffolk Regiment being scattered so far and wide by this time though, it is practically impossible to determine exactly what happened to one particular man without having a personal account.

Coming Home:

Dad most likely came home aboard the SS Chitral.

Depart Rangoon (Burma) 1st October (Dad’s birthday!!) 1945.
Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) 6th Oct.
Suez Canal.
Gibraltar 18th Oct.
Dock Southampton around 28th Oct.
Troop train to Great Yarmouth.

Of the 450 men of the 4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment who survived the initial action against the Japanese in Singapore, 286 died as Prisoners Of War, of disease, on the Hellships or at the hands of Japanese and Korean guards.
For the 4th and 5th Battalions combined (who were mostly Territorials and conscripts) total deaths numbered 763 of whom 124 died in battle and 615 in Japanese captivity – most on the Burma-Thailand railway.

15th November 2009