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On the Bay

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, it might be a good time to take some time out – get away from the hustle and bustle of shopping, parties, cooking, and all the things we do to celebrate the season. What, you say? Take time out now? Are you crazy?

Well possibly, but there is a wonderful story that has hit the media that is just the cure for the frazzled. It is about two people who never knew each other. One was an 18-year old woman, the other a 42-year old man. One a swimmer, one a sailor. But their stories are similar – how facing terminal illness, their faith in humanity was affirmed. And how the “Olympic spirit” is not fiction and the love of water can make someone unsinkable.

Enter L. Jon Wertheim, from Sports Illustrated, who wrote about the swimmer Marin Morrison and sailor Nick Scandone, both fighting deadly diseases, gathered their strength and courage to fulfill a final dream – to compete in the Beijing Paralympics. Thanks to Scuttlebutt, the daily online sailing newsletter for publishing this gem – a true gift during this holiday season. The story is long and may take all of 10 minutes to read, but it is worth the time, for you will be changed having read about these two incredible people. Though tears may fall as you read this story, they are tears of joy and hope for humanity. And isn’t that what this holiday season is all about?

Called the Games of Their Lives, Mr. Wertheim begins: The water delivered her. Always had, from darn near birth. Marin Morrison would get into the pool, and everything would just make sense. She’d move her arms and legs, and she’d be off, cutting through the water like a speedboat. Marin’s parents, Matt and Nancy, chose her name mostly because Matt was raised in Marin County, Calif. But the symbolism wasn’t lost on others: Marin, from the Latin “of the sea.” … The water delivered him. Always had, from darn near birth. Nick Scandone was a conventional Southern California kid. Growing up in comfort in Orange County in the ‘70s and ‘80s, he liked beaches, bikes and baseball. Given his slight physical build, any ambitions of being an athlete perished early. But they were revived when, at age nine, he ventured into the Balboa Yacht Club in Corona Del Mar. His mom, an assertive travel agency owner, presented him with a choice in the months before fourth grade: “Summer school or sailing school.” The decision was easy.

At Balboa he met Mike Pinckney, an older instructor Nick wanted to emulate. And he discovered the joys of climbing into an eight-foot Sabot dinghy and slicing through the water. For the full story in Sports Illustrated:

Execution Rocks Lighthouse is a well-known landmark just north of Manhasset Bay in the middle of Long Island Sound between Davids’ Island in New Rochelle and Sands Point. It stands 58 feet tall above sea level, with a flashing white light interval of 10 seconds. Built of granite, the tower is painted white with a brown hand around its midsections. Beside it stands a stone keeper’s house, which has not been inhabited since the beacon became automatic.

The above are some facts relating to the lighthouse all sailors know so well. Behind this innocent façade, though, there are legends and stories that tell of a much darker side. Low tide reveals a group of menacing and jagged rocks, and are the focus for the many tales surrounding this famous western Long Island Sound landmark. During the Revolutionary War, condemned prisoners and Colonials faced death in these unforgiving waters at the hands of British soldiers. Chained here at low tide, fated prisoners slowly drowned as the tide rose.

The stories continue. In August 1920, Carl Panzram was a thief in need of a house to rob. At 113 Whitney Ave. in New Haven, CT, he plundered the rooms, making off with pricey goods and some valuable bonds. It wasn’t until after he left the residence and was en route to Manhattan that he noticed the name on the stolen bonds: William H. Taft, former President of the United States and now a professor at Yale University. He sold them for top dollar and continued his spree. In New York, Panzram robbed yachts and boats all over the Long Island Sound before setting his sights on much darker crimes; he began killing in cold blood with the .45 Colt automatic stolen from William Taft’s home. Panzram’s pattern of killing involved tying rocks to each body, rowing them out to into the Long Island Sound and dumping them just 100 yards from the Execution Rock Lighthouse.

Tomorrow night, Friday, Dec. 18, 9 p.m., the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures will investigate the Execution Rocks Lighthouse past. For those unfamiliar with the Ghost Adventure series, the trio of Zak Bagans, Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin visit the scariest, most notorious, haunted places in the world. The trio interviews eyewitnesses and historians at each location, arming themselves with the stories of the ghosts they will later provoke and confront during their dusk-to-dawn lockdowns. (Note: They don’t always come out unscathed!) Then they’ll review and analyze their findings with some of the most respected experts and specialists in the paranormal field. The show has been highlighted in NY Times, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post, NY Daily News, Seattle Times, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Chicago Sun-Times, TV Guide, LA Times, and CNN. Diane Werts, Newsday (10/22/09), had this to say about the Ghost Adventures, “They see dead people. And they don’t use any sixth sense, either. They use EMF (electromagnetic field) detectors in trying to corroborate instances of EVP (electronic voice phenomena). This is science. They don’t need no stinkin’ psychics! It’s TV’s hottest new reality trend - ghosts and the skeptics who seek them. And in finest reality show fashion, this trend has an enticing appeal: You could do this, too!” The Travel Channel, Friday, Dec. 18, 9 p.m.