The Great Adventure of Sally and Cliff Brody

By ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ

    The last two years have been quite amazing for Cliff and Sally Brody.  They journeyed into the unknown and captured the flavor of much of North America.
    At a state park between Tennessee and Kentucky they saw herds of buffalo roaming the land freely.
    In Chicago they caught a parade of cows, not real ones, but fiberglass replicas painted and designed by local artists. One had the skyline of the windy city painted on his side. Another sported an astronaut helmet, a pun on the cow jumping over the moon.
    While on a stretch of beach on the Cumberland Islands they walked up to wild horses.
    They kayaked through the waters of Wadsworth Cove in Maine, caught a jazz festival in Rhode Island and hiked through some of Canada’s wild terrain.
    As Sally puts it, they had a “great adventure.”
    Back in May of 1998, the Key Biscayne couple embarked on the Great Circle Waterway, maneuvering their boat Sally Ann IV up the east coast to the Hudson River of New York, west through the Great Lakes, south down the Mississippi, and back east to Florida via the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way they made some new friends, tried new cuisine and experienced the diversified niches of this continent.
    “It’s a life-changing experience,” Cliff said. “It was so exciting because every time we went into a new port, we never knew what we would find.”

 

The idea for the journey came from their old friend Jim Krogen, who designed and built their boat. He told them of his plans to circle the continent, but passed away at age 62 before he could make the journey. The couple realized something important.
    “You don’t know what hand life will deal you,” Sally said.

    Krogen inspired the couple. Before retiring from their jobs they spent a year planning the voyage. Cliff worked on the navigational charts, while Sally called several Chamber of Commerce offices throughout the country for insight into local activities.

    With the course planned they set sail on May 3, leaving behind their long time home of Key Biscayne. Of course their 16-year old orange cat Alex went along for the ride. First they cruised up the coast, with stops in Vero Beach, where Cliff marveled at the pristine beaches.
    But the true wonders began upon leaving Florida’s waters. They discovered quaint little towns throughout South Carolina. They ate plenty of fresh shrimp and even learned about the local rice industry at a rice museum. One of Cliff’s fondest memories was visiting Washington, D.C. where he admired the White House and the Washington Monument.
    But perhaps the most visually dazzling site was cruising into New York City, the eyes welcomed by the majesty of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the World Trade Center at the same time. And because they only had their bikes with them, it was the first time the Brody’s ever really used mass transit. They enjoyed the unique experience of the New York subway system. They also recall how cordial the locals were, total strangers approaching them with directions if they seemed lost.
    “We met so many nice people,” Cliff said. “It made you feel good about America.”
    The couple also enjoyed a variety of seafood as they traveled throughout the different cities that hug the eastern coast. First it was shrimp, then crabs, then clams, then mussels, then lobster and in Canada the dish was fish and chips. Alex, their tubby furball sidekick particularly liked munching on shrimp.
    Alas the winter season blew in with icy winds and made the Hudson unnavigable. In October 1998, they dry docked the Sally Ann IV at a boat yard in Vermont. Then they headed west to Steamboat Springs, Co. where they own a home. Cliff spent the hiatus driving a city bus three days a week, which he says is a nice change of pace from his previous profession of selling computer systems.
    As the harsh winter subsided, the Brody’s headed back to Vermont and once again hit the water in May of 1999. They advanced through the Hudson, up the St. Lawrence River into Canada, and down through the Great Lakes. Between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan they visited a small, posh island community called Mackinac. Cars, they discovered,

 

were not allowed on the island, with bicycles as the primary mode of transportation. They found this refreshing, for they had grown accustomed to bicycling for miles to stores in some of the continent’s more remote regions. Although the speedometer broke down during the trip Cliff estimates biking approximately 1,500 miles by trip’s end.  
    Enjoying Mackinac was also indicative of the couple’s appreciation of island life during the epic journey. When asked some of their favorite stops they mention Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cutty Hunk. Perhaps living on Key Biscayne had some influence, they admitted.
    “The islands were always special,” Cliff explained.
    As they approached Wisconsin near Milwaukee the couple considered turning back. Time was a factor and they figured they already experienced the excursion’s highlights. They had also hit some rough patches. While in Lake Erie a storm made the waters choppy, “rough enough to be scary,” Cliff explained. Another time, the boat had gotten tied up with lobster traps near North Carolina. The couple recalls with mild laughter one grounding incident near Georgia. They had miscalculated the time for low tide. In the middle of the night the keel hit the floor, the boat tilted and objects within the boat went tumbling. Many of their video tapes went flying out of a cabinet. The television and VCR were fine, however; they’re bolted down.
    But these were just minor inconveniences  during a magnificent experience. The Brody’s were having too much fun and decided to head down the Mississippi. Although the area had “lots of sameness,” lacking the East Coast’s diversity, the couple agree it was worth it. After all, they saw the buffalo. They witnessed a reenactment of the Civil War battle at Shiloh in Tennessee. While there, two fishermen gave the couple four fish for free and offered to descale and gut them, too. Later in the voyage, they stopped in Pensacola to visit the Museum of Naval Aviation where they saw the legendary Blue Angel jets.
    On Nov. 4, the Sally Anne IV returned to Key Biscayne and docked at the Yacht Club. Sally spent a few days substituting at Key Biscayne Community School, where she helped start the CATS gifted program years ago. Cliff spent his days working on the boat. Both visited friends. So after 327 days boating, hitting major cities like Boston and Toronto, and not so major cities like Gainesville, Ala., after traveling 7.340 miles, the journey was over.
    “It was wonderful,” Sally said. “My husband was fantastic at the helm. We met the most wonderful, interesting people in the United States. The only downside was missing our families and friends.”

    When asked if they would conquer the Great Circle Waterway a second time, Cliff responded with a smile and said: “The boat performed fantastically. We were certainly enriched, but it was a once in a lifetime thing.”

     
Reprinted with permission from The Islander News.