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Remembering Chris


Beyond the Sun       

Sailing with Chris

In May of 1983, Chris and I joined Sonny in Annapolis, Maryland. The three of us moved onto the sailing sloop Reflection, and she became our home.  That was the start of a two-year adventure that would forever change each of us.  

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When we started out, Chris was 10 years old. He went to school on board as we cruised the Inter-Coastal Waterway from the Chesapeake Bay, south to Melbourne, Florida.  Sonny and I taught him, using a program provided by the Calvert School of Baltimore, Maryland.  As we made our way south, we visited many of the historic places that Chris was studying,   including Jamestown, Mount Vernon, Charleston, and a number of Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites.  We spent a week anchored in the Potomac River at Washington DC, and made almost daily trips to the Smithsonian.  As a result of our live-aboard odyssey,  Chris gained self-confidence and went from being an average student to placement in the gifted program upon returning to a “land-based” school.   Over the years that followed, whenever Chris, Sonny, and I, discussed the times we spent on Reflection, we agreed that we would not trade it for anything, and that it was truly the experience of a lifetime.

From the Skipper's Log

For about two years, Chris lived, attended school, studied, learned, grew, sailed and traveled aboard the sailing vessel Reflection.  The following are some excerpts from the skipper's log.  


Chris Rice came aboard Reflection in May of 1983.  He had no sailing experience, and in fact; his first sail was just a couple of days later on the first of June.  It was a short excursion on the Chesapeake Bay.  Leaving Back Creek in Annapolis, he seemed to enjoy the sail south several miles to Rhode River before turning back.  The log reflects that Chris took the helm and sailed “by landmarks and the compass”.  It also reflects that “Chris did not get sick.”  Chris left for the summer the next day and would catch up with Reflection at Solomon's Island in September.

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Tony, Chris’ brother, arrived in Annapolis on the 3rd of July.  He brought a dog with him!!  Now why would a young man ever travel with a puppy?  The answer to that question soon became apparent.  Reflection’s July 6th log has the following entry: “… There is a dog on board.  She shit in my fowl weather gear yesterday.  Not a good sign.”  Well, that dog Mandy became a great sailor dog, and protector of Reflection and crew.  More importantly, she also became Chris’ friend.

Chris returned to Reflection at Solomon’s Island , Maryland, and the skipper’s life would never be the same again.  Neither would the world, because here is where Chris learned to play an old guitar that he found onboard.  On his first day back, he took the new Metzler for a spin in the harbor…around, around and around.  He seemed to immediately know how to handle the little boat and claimed the Metzler as his own.  We named the dinghy “Memory.”

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On September 7 and 8th the crew of Reflection went exploring, with visits to the Chesapeake Nuclear Power plant and Cove Point Coast Guard Station.  Chris climbed Cove Point Lighthouse and signed the visitor log at the keeper’s house that was built in 1829.  With that act Chris’ name will forever be recorded in one more place in history.  He ended each day at dark driving the dinghy around and around the harbor. 

The log reflects that on 19 September, “Chris’ school books arrived from the Calvert School ….”  Life was about to change on board Reflection--classes started just two days later.  Chris helped sail Reflection up the Potomac River to Washington D.C.   As we passed Mt Vernon, Chris rang the ship’s bell just as sailors have done since the night George Washington died.  He was becoming a good sailor and helped set the anchor in the Washington Harbor on October 4th.  Chris and crew would spend the next week exploring Washington.

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Reflection left Washington, with Chris at the helm, headed for Melbourne Florida. He rang the ships bell again as we passed Mt Vernon.  We arrived at the mouth of the Yocomico River in a mild storm.  We stopped at the marina where Kay fell and cracked a rib.  We would spend some time at the Yocomico Marina before heading south.  While there, Kay’s birthday came. Chris presented her a special birthday card, and arranged for the marina’s restaurant to make his mom a cake.  It was obvious that they had a special relationship. 

Reflection left the marina at Yocomico--destination Langley AFB Marina, where we planned a stay of about two weeks.  The crew shopped, saw doctors, and got provisions for our trip south.  Chris celebrated Halloween there, by carving a “Garfield ” jack-o-lantern and going trick-or-treating. With our visit at Langley complete, sails were set for Norfolk Harbor, Chris again at the helm.  The trip was almost uneventful except for being passed by a submarine as we entered the Harbor.  The wake of the passing sub tossed the boat around quite a bit.  Chris described it as “spreader to spreader in the water.”  Somehow Mandy managed not to be thrown overboard even though she was out on deck and on top of the cabin during the unforeseen maneuver.  Chris called her "spiderdog" for her ability to hang on with her feet while the boat pitched from side to side.  Later, that night, with Reflection tied up snugly at a dock in the harbor, the crew was treated to ice cream, and had great fun telling and retelling the story.  

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The next day we left Norfolk Harbor on the Inter Coastal Waterway, with Coinjock as our destination. Here, just north of the infamous Albemarle Sound, we had our first experience taking Reflection through locks.  We wanted to cross the sound in good weather if possible, and waited for three days before attempting the crossing.  We crossed the Albemarle without incident.  With beam seas, a shallow channel, and winds at 25 knots and gusty, it took us ten hours to traverse the Sound.  We never saw anything like that in Kansas.  No one but the skipper got sick.  He never admitted it. 

We arrived in Oriental, North Carolina in mid-November and spent a few days resting.  According to the radio log, Chris made his first radio call on 18 November while we were leaving Oriental heading south.  The log reflects that he “sounded as though he had been making calls all his life---A real professional job.”  Chris was very excited about spotting our first dolphin just outside Beaufort N.C.   

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Chris was at the helm for most of the time on the trip from Beaufort to Wrightsville Beach .   We docked Reflection at the Sea Path Marina.  Our plan was to wait there for mail.  We spent Thanksgiving week at the Sea Path watching beautiful sunsets and enjoying each other.  Chris woke up the morning after Thanksgiving, looked around and announced “I’M SLEEPING IN TODAY” and immediately dropped back into his bunk.   The log recorded a major event.  “Mandy finally used the mat that we put on the stern for her.  I was beginning to think that she would never use it.”

Our visit to Myrtle Beach is worth mentioning only because there was an island between Hague Marina and the Inter Costal Waterway.  There was a goat living on the island.  That in itself meant nothing except...... Chris decided the goat must be hungry, so he took the dinghy, along with a sack of carrots, and went out to feed it.  He must have spent two or three hours trying to feed that goat a carrot.  When Chris left the island, the goat ate the carrots. 

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It was the first day of December when the crew stopped in Georgetown, South Carolina for a short rest and shopping.  We found a Christmas tree, trimmings, and ornaments.   Chris and his mom put the tree on Reflection’s dinette.   The next morning we headed south toward Charleston with not enough air to sail.  The day brought some excitement:  We came upon a sailboat hard aground so…Chris rowed out to the boat and fetched a line back to Reflection.  We pulled that boat right off the mud and into deeper water.  The log reflects: “Chris to the rescue.” 

We made it to Melbourne for Christmas.  We spent another year together traveling on Reflection.  We learned that living on a sailboat can be very hard on a family, but very rewarding, too.  We survived the excitement and the boredom, and when it all ended, we still liked each other.





Chris never lost his love of sailing. He joined Sonny and I whenever he could for a sail on Mirage, the smaller sloop we bought after we sold Reflection. 


On Mother’s Day, 2002,  after visiting with Dee Dee, Chris, Sonny and I went for an evening sail.  As we sailed north out of the Marina at Patrick AFB and headed up the Banana River, Chris talked again of how much he enjoyed sailing, telling us that when he became a rock star he was going to buy a really big sailboat, and leave it here for us to use. 


It was a lovely evening.  The three of us sailing together, just like when we began.  The weather was perfect, there was a nice breeze, and Chris was at the helm.  It was a wonderful Mother’s Day, and a great sail, but it would be our last…