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Rum Runner II

October 25, 2012

Rhode Island – Saturday, October 20

Taryn and I enjoyed crepes for breakfast at IHOP, then headed to a pet store to do our shopping for the Robert Potter League for Animals – one of the first LEED-certified animal shelters (and I’m pretty sure that means they’re a “green” animal shelter!). Their website had a very specific wish list for the different critters, so we took Tula in with us, and browsed around and found some of the items on their list. Tula met a lot of new dog friends, and cleaned up the treats on the floor. Then we delivered the goodies to the animal shelter, which seemed to be very neat and clean and organized – the lady who took our donation thought the 4# turkey treat roll looked good enough to make chili with! It was a misty gray day out, and we had reservations on the Rum Runner II for a tour around the bay, and when I called to see if it was still going out, I found out we were the only 2 on the list, and they needed at least 6 people. But we headed into Newport anyway, took Tula for a walk, and then with some great luck, the veil of fog and mist lifted and it turned into a gorgeous sunny day. The bay tour got quite a few more people, so we headed out for a 1 1/2 hour tour and learned all sorts of stuff. Not only was our boat called Rum Runner II, she really was a “rum runner” back in the Prohibition days. The captain told us that Prohibition prohibited the production and sale of alcohol, but neglected to mention anything about the consumption of it. The Prohibition covered all of the land, and 3 miles out to sea. Beyond 3 miles, people could get creative. An enterprising man named Bill McCoy became a bootlegger and took his ships to Canada and the Carribean islands and legally bought alcohol that was legally produced. He then brought his shipments of alcohol back to the US coasts (Newport’s biggest export before Prohibition was rum) and sold it to others on smaller ships out beyond the 3 mile jurisdiction. So anyone with a boat could head out there and buy alcohol, and host parties and festivities, and the Coast Guard was powerless to do anything. It became known as Rum Row. Also, people on land tried to make their own alcoholic beverages, whether with a still, or “bathtub gin” or whatever, but sometimes the ingredients used in the homemade brew could cause sickness, blindness or even death. So people began to say things like “Why mess with the homemade stuff, when you can get the real McCoy?” – meaning that he had the legitimate goods off-shore, and that’s where the phrase “the real McCoy” comes from to mean something is genuine. Eventually the government extended the off-shore boundaries to 12 miles, and that curtailed a lot of the smaller ship traffic – it was just too far away. So a fast fleet of “rum runners” took over transporting the alcohol from the big ships to waiting contacts on land. These smaller boats had powerful engines, were usually painted a flat black to blend into the sea at night, and bullet-proof windshields. It was a risky venture, but financially rewarding if one could handle being out at sea at night without lights and being chased and sometimes shot at by the Coast Guard. So that was the former life of our tour boat – now a pretty white and varnished wood boat, and with engines that are still powerful, but not as big as they were then – those engines are not produced anymore.

In addition to learning about bootlegging during Prohibition, we saw the waterfront house that Jackie Kennedy grew up in, the church where she and Jack Kennedy were married, a couple lighthouses, several famous America’s Cup racing boats, lots of other sailboats out and about, the boat used in the Pirates of the Carribean movies, and a group of about a dozen little kids out on a sailing lesson. Newport Rhode Island is known for sailing and the America’s Cup, and there are many yacht clubs, and they start sailing lessons for kids as young as age 5. They have very small little sailboats with blunt ends that the little tykes can manage. Their first few lessons consist of being towed by another boat without the sail so they can get used to steering the boat with the tiller, and learn a little about control. Then they move up to adding a sail and staying within the calm confines of the marina. The only problem with that is there can be up to 2000 vessels in the various marinas during the summer months, and the little kids don’t always have good control and would occasionally bump their little boats into the multi-million dollar yachts. The little training boats are now all equipped with rubber bumpers! We passed a group of these kids out in the bay, but not too terribly far from shore, and it was kind of cute – they were all in a pretty small group, tacking back and forth, and jumping from side to side in their little boats, and seemed to be happy out there. Then I guess they just move on to bigger and longer boats! I included a photo that’s a little blurry unfortunately, but gives a good idea how young these kids are and how little the boats are! The captain made a comment that some of those kids were probably dressed in $500 outfits – a world I can’t quite comprehend! So it was a wonderful tour on a beautiful day – the captain said at this time of year, one never knows when a tour is going to be the last one of the season.

From there, Taryn treated me to a pedicure – that is her gift to me this year for birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day etc – a wonderful gesture to help me care for feet that are working hard with all the walking!

And then – we were off to Delaware! – interrupting the Rhode Island week a bit. But, Delaware is going to be the official “state-of-the-year” for 2013, since it’s the second smallest state, and Taryn also hoped to see a little of Delaware, since I’m combining it with my current journey (Rhode Island and Delaware are the only 2 states I’m doing this combination with). So we headed off through the southern end of Rhode Island, southern Connecticut, northern NYC and New Jersey, and got to Wilmington, Delaware pretty late. I will stay in Delaware for a week, then head back to Rhode Island for the remaining 2 days, and then get back on schedule. And this worked out well for everyone!

(And I’ve been camping lately which explains the delayed postings!)

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  1. Nancy permalink

    You’re right—–now I know lots about rum runners! Thanks, Nancy! It was wonderful talking to you!

  2. I never know what I’ll learn in a day!! And I’ll pass it all along!

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