“Ah…the Pirates’ Life for Me”


Dear Reader:

Marcia and Susan physically left yesterday but I can still feel their spirit and presence within my home. We let decades go by without seeing each other and yet we took up each other’s thoughts and sentences as if we were still young teenagers back in 1963….(That was the year my family left cousins behind in Fayetteville, NC to return to mother’s immediate family in Laurens, SC.)

We grew up as sisters… and sisters we became again. While reminiscing through old photos we talked about the important role of parents in providing vacations and adventures for their children… so one day they would have memories of these childhood “escapes” to share with their children. “Remember When” times.

None of us came close to what Susan and her husband John gave their children (and themselves)  in 1995….a memory to truly last a lifetime…a year “hiatus” to travel the entire Caribbean, including all the little islands that dot this beautiful part of the world

It had always been John’s dream to do this. But after the children arrived Susan admitted that she was the one who kept coming up with excuses why they couldn’t just pick up and leave for a year.

One day, however, she started remembering all the things her husband had sacrificed for her and she realized that it was now time to reciprocate this love in the fulfillment of his dream.

After more than a year of preparation John and Susan’s family of five would live in their boat and travel the seas together….no longer just fulfilling the roles of parents and children…but a newer role …that of ship mates.

There would be set-backs and problems because that is simply life…but what they gained as a family far out-weighed any “annoyances” along the way.

Susan wrote letters to family and friends to update them on her new life and how they were faring. Here is an excerpt from the last letter (two of them were published in the Fayetteville Observer.)

(Susan is a gifted writer and I loved reading both published letters. One section, however, touched me…in fact it touches all of us in our thirst for a type of freedom and life-style that modern society no longer provides.)

Jack_Sparrow_In_Pirates_of_the_Caribbean-_At_World's_EndCaptain Jack Sparrow would have understood John’s need to live out his life-time dream. Sparrow’s search for his beloved ship-“The Black Pearl” (Pirates of the Carribean)  was tantamount to this life of freedom…The “Black Pearl” meant freedom  ….just like John’s boat “Sweet Surrender-(named after John Denver’s song) meant freedom to him… to remove himself and his family from the restraints of a “normal” life as defined by society and instead teach his children about the possibilities of life as defined by other life styles. What an education was in store for all!

Pirates of the Caribbean–end scene – YouTube









(Harper -10- Brooks -16- Susan, John, and Jenny- 13)


…And now here are Susan’s thoughts as “Sweet Surrender” began the last leg of their journey  home.

…” I am trying to think of a way to make you “feel”  this adventure, but try as I might…I don’t think I can describe the rush you feel when you gaze toward the heavens on an all night passage and see the Southern Cross in those lonely, wee small hours of the morning.”

“I can’t make you feel the terror that seized my heart when we were approached by an unlit, unmarked naval warship in the middle of the night, in the middle of the ocean, anymore than I can explain the contentment that consumed me when Brooks and Jenny walked down the dock ahead of us, their heads bent together and arms hugged tightly around each other’s shoulder.”

“I can’t quite make anyone else understand the pride that I feel when I think of all we’ve ventured and all we’ve gained…And though I might  be able to give you just a small peek, or taste, or smell of this adventure, I know I cannot share the knowledge and understanding of each other that we have “ventured and gained.”

“The physical journey, the thousands of miles that we have traveled, is recorded in our ship’s log. It’s there for any and all to see. 

The other journey, the journey that our hearts took, will live quietly within and among only the five of us, for I’m afraid that we will never be able to say what it is that happened to this family as we saw both the worst and the splendid best of each other. 

“The photographs will eventually be tucked away in the cabinet in the den, under the TV…and the rusted can in the ship’s “pantry” will be discarded…and the  boxes of plastic trash bags (bought by the thousands) will be used up maybe by the time Harper goes off to college, but the memories of what the “crazy Hornadays” did for one short year will live on in our hearts…and I think might just be the most wonderful of times and the most cherished of memories.”

….Susan signed off with her daily reminder to her children, “Go out there and live it, this (life) is not a dress rehearsal!”

So until tomorrow….Let us summon the courage to live the life we dream of but then talk ourselves out of… for many “practical” reasons….Instead let us “surrender” to what our heart is telling us to do….

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Traveled by many, remembered by few
Lookin’ for something that I can believe in
Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life”

*The whole family of Hornadays would break into this song at intervals throughout the trip… singing loudly on the boat….Not only had Dad’s dream come true….but  he had brought them along to share it. “Totally Awesome!”

John Denver – Sweet Surrender Live HD 1280 x … – YouTube

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

IMG_0167*Safe travels Marcia and Susan (L to R)! God Speed! See you at Wrightsville Beach this summer!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to “Ah…the Pirates’ Life for Me”

  1. Sis Kinney says:

    Good morning, Becky!
    Wow! What an adventure your cousin and her family had! A remarkably memorable year wherein they certainly must have bonded more than ever! Wow!
    Cousins certainly can reconnect with you as adults and everyone can voice their “shared experiences” as viewed through different eyes. I’ve found this also to be true as I have been reconnecting with my own cousins. We didn’t have the “growing up” closeness that y’all did; I never lived near my cousins – who mostly all lived in New England (CT & MA), but we have reconnected through the shared love of our mothers’ hometown in Old Deerfield, MA. It wasn’t until my older brother and I were in junior high that we “put down roots” (i.e., staying in one place longer than the typical 3 years!) and were able to finally connect with cousins.
    The experience your cousin and her family shared must truly be something awesome, and holy even!
    Thanks for sharing it with all of us! (And you, too, have the gift of writing – as well as your verbal gift of story-telling!)
    Much love,


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Isn’t it wonderful Sis to finally have time to reconnect with our past and bring it into the present? So glad you are getting reunited with your family too!


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