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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Monday, October 01, 2007


Monday, October 01, 2007

A three-quarter moon was halfway up a clear night sky to the northeast. With the lights of Belfast to starboard and slight glimmers from the Calf of Man to port, the ship slid southward through the Irish Sea. I was sorry to find we were making the passage in the dark. I’d hoped for a shot of the Isle of Man—with it’s little SW peninsula called the Calf—which I haven’t seen since 1984, when I visited from London, accompanied by Jon, and we looked up the surviving records of Abraham Bailiff’s arrival, marriage, and fatherhood in the early 19th century. One of his descendants arrived in California in time for the Gold Rush of 1849, eventually to establish a lumber business in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County and to become my great-grandfather, John Delaware.

When I happened upon a Bailiff website in 1999 and learned of a “gathering of the clan” planned for the next year near Nashville, I told my mother about it. She was eager to go. Thus, improbably, I found myself driving her and my brothers to an out-of-the-way resort for a weekend among what proved to be a large number of people to whom we seemed completely unrelated. John Delaware was the only one of four brothers to make it to the West Coast; the others migrated to places like Pennsylvania and Virginia, leaving hundreds of descendants, in sharp contrast to our tiny branch of the family tree. I don’t recommend it, but it was a memorable lesson in genealogy.

This morning we’re driving through choppy seas and thickening fog on course 197°, some fifty kilometers west of Bristol Channel, a light rain being driven onto our bows by the ship’s fifteen knots of headway. “Low visibility detail” had just been called when I arrived on the bridge. The captain was in his chair. A bit earlier at breakfast he mentioned being tired after a night during which he was called upon to make judgments about a the Cole’s transit through many “contacts,” the term for any vessel picked up on ship’s radar, especially those whose direction-of-travel is likely to intersect ours. Standing watch on the port wing the lookout was laughing at the gulls. About a dozen of them hung in the air, “hoping we’re a trawler,” I said. Each was angled into the southeast wind, reliable directional indicators every one, yet keeping pace with the ship by slight adjustments in wing-angle. Remarkable.


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