D Short's Last Cruise
© Copyright 2021 by Cody Short
A forty-five-foot Mainship trawler was launched in St Petersburg, FL in 1985, the same year that I became Cody Short, D Short and I finished the year by getting married and having a New Year’s Eve Party.
I always called Dennis Short “D Short” because that is how he introduced himself on the phone during our initial contact. We met through a dating service before computers were household equipment.
A military retiree named Chuck had set up an office where he advertised his business, CALL CHUCK, in the NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN with a brief message to the effect that, if you were lonely, maybe he could introduce you to someone. I eventually contacted him, went to his office, he took a Polaroid picture and stapled it to an index card containing brief Profile information about me. Chuck offered to allow me to peruse his existing index card file but I told him just wait until someone new came along and give them my number. Dennis had done the same but he looked through the index card file, found me and called. “Is this Cody? ‘D Short’ here,” he said, then commented that I looked great in my Polaroid shot, trim with shoulder length brown hair. I asked what he looked like and he mentioned his curly light brown hair. “I am not obese,” he said, “but I guess you could call me ‘stout’” and that led to the 1985 New Years’ Eve Party.
Ten years later, 1995, we bought the Trawler. Even though it was ten years old, it had twin Perkins Diesel engines and was just getting “broken in.” We named it the “Cozy Anna,” a play on my name, Cody Anna.
We had numerous adventures aboard, especially with Rock Harbor Yacht Club, RHYC, parties, excursions and “anchor outs.”
D Short became a very active member of the club and he and Gary Tyler decided to go over to “C” Dock and invite the newest boat neighbors to join the club. David Parrish and Kenny Sadler were a newly formed team. They said they would think about it. I later learned that David told Kenny, “Well if they’re that desperate for members, maybe we should.”
Often boaters traveling some distance would dock temporarily at RHYC. D Short was always interested in their stories. Some were taking the Great Loop, having gone up the Atlantic inland waterway, through the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi and taking a detour where the Ohio River joins the Tennessee River and then taking the Cumberland River into Nashville, docking at RHYC. Few planned to get back on the Mississippi but would go back to the Tennessee River where it became Kentucky Lake and go down the Tombigbee Waterway, a manmade way to keep small boats off the Mississippi. The Tom Bigbee starts near Demopolis, Alabama. The waterway connected existing rivers with canals to link the Tennessee River with the southern Intracoastal at Mobile, Alabama.
We continued to enjoy the Cozy Anna, the RHYC and talked of taking it on a trip to Mobile Alabama, and maybe one day, to Florida.
D Short seemed to feel less than his energetic self in 2005. We moved to a new townhouse March 8th of 2005 and D Short loved sitting by the fire logs. By fall he wanted to sell the Cozy Anna and he put it on the market. Hmmm he is really not feeling well, I thought.
I bought a soft black leather jacket and gave it to him as an early Christmas present. “I don’t need a jacket,” he said. I replied, “Just touch it.” It felt like a baby’s skin. “Well, I want it,” he said. “Well, you’ve got it.”
I guess it was that leather jacket that did it, but he suddenly decided that we should go to Las Vegas. I had never been there and I thought it was a lark to go during their one-hundred-year celebration in 2005. He had difficulty walking and complained of pain in his upper right side. We had to find places for him to sit and rest. I reminded him that he had a doctor appointment on the following Monday.
We returned home on Saturday afternoon and he told me he could not wait until Monday, January 2nd, 2006 and needed to go to the emergency room. The young intern there ordered a chest x-ray and upon having reviewed it had a grave look on his face. Because of the New Year’s holiday, he did not get the results right away.
Stage four lung cancer was the eventual diagnosis. His oncologist told me he had, probably, three months. He died as predicted on March 8, 2006, one year to the day since moving into the townhouse.
The grief was tremendous and, as recommended by the counselor at Hospice Care, I checked out several books from the library. At that time, if I could have joined D Short, I would have done so. That not being a possibility, I decided I must live.
I took Bridge lessons; I worked at the local election; I started taking a new Yoga class at the YMCA, worked out more with the gym equipment and took ballroom dancing. I continued to volunteer as an information ambassador in a group called the Flying Aces at the Nashville International Airport where I had volunteered since retiring. The boat had not sold and I did not fit into the yacht club very well, being the first widow among the current membership. I was only sixty-three and had been retired for three years.
I mentioned around the yacht club that I might be interested in taking the Cozy Anna to Florida but I would need a captain. David Parrish immediately volunteered he and Ken Sadler as Captain and crew. This he did without conferring with Kenny.
We had numerous conversations around the club about such a venture and David talked with several of the many boaters who had made such a voyage. We learned that we must wait until November 30 after the Hurricane Season in order to have insurance coverage when we arrived in Florida.
I emailed my old friend from work, Lacey Spivey. I was instrumental in getting him to relocate from Knoxville to Nashville some years earlier and we became friends. He became a most eligible bachelor there in Nashville but he recognized me as sophisticated enough to go out for lunch without any further expectations. Once he asked me to go to lunch and, as we sat at a sidewalk café, one of our directors walked by and said, “How did you get to go to lunch with her?” “I asked her,” Lacey replied.
As it worked out, when he responded to my email, he was between relationships at the time and we planned another lunch.
I went on a cruise with the director of the Flying Aces, Linda Sealey, and some of her old friends from California and another of the volunteers. The cruise left Los Angeles and went to Cabo San Lucas. Linda selected it because Sylvia Brown, world famous psychic, was a featured speaker for the week.
Sylvia Brown would describe a situation and ask that someone in the audience stand and identify themselves as being that person. She vowed that she would answer one question for each person in the audience by the end of the week. Each ticket had a number that she would draw and invite the question.
On the last day of these sessions, she drew my number. I stood and stated, “I have been thinking of taking my boat from Nashville to Florida. Can you see me doing that?” Sylvia Brown replied, “Yes you will and a man will accompany you. His name is Roger.”
I had had some conversation with a Captain, Larry Crowder, that D Short had traveled with sometimes when Crowder was moving a boat. He told me that, if I took it, go far enough south to have some good weather. He suggested Maximo Marina in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“Could it be Crowder?” I asked her.
“No!” Sylvia Browns replied emphatically, “His name is Roger.”
David’s heart sank when I revealed that story at the clubhouse. But Roger never materialized and we proceeded with our, still tentative, plans to leave on November 30, 2006.
In October, I asked one of the captains at the marina, Bill Cook, if he could pilot the Cozy Anna to downtown Nashville where we would scatter D Short’s ashes in the Cumberland River and say our last goodbyes.
We decided that Bill would move the Cozy Anna over to the fuel dock and have her ready for the trip. As I pulled in the fenders, one of the ties flew up and hit me in the forehead. It was like D Short was protesting.
“Trust me on this,” I silently said to D Short.
When the day came to take the Cozy Anna downtown, D Short’s oldest daughter, Jami, and her daughter, Katie, were aboard. Jami brought red rose petals to scatter in the water downtown. I brought champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Jami had reminded me to have some of Papa’s music on board. He always played music and sang along. He had installed a CD player to the left of the steering wheel on the bridge.
When Bill Cook arrived, he had a clip board in hand and tossed it to the left of the steering wheel. That turned on the CD loudly. I was in the parking lot and Katie called me and said, “Mr. Cook wants the music turned down.”
“Well, turn it down.” I told her. When she said they could not find where to turn it down, I went to the boat. The clipboard had covered up the CD player. “I think Papa is going with us.” I said as I turned down the music.
I secured the urn with the ashes onto the bow and off we went to meet family and close friends at the municipal dock at the foot of Broadway where we had docked so many times along with many of our boating friends. The ashes blew onto the boat so I moved the overturned urn to the drain on the side of the boat. When we arrived downtown, the urn was empty but I did not know that there were still ashes on the anchor from when the urn was on the bow. By the time we returned to Rock Harbor Marina, I had made up my mind to take the Cozy Anna to Florida.
I notified Arch Kelly. the manager of the marina, that I would be moving out of the marina November 30th.
David spent quite a lot of time on the Cozy Anna, inspected all hoses and changed those that were in question. He had all the electronic charts on computer for the entire trip. D Short had all the paper charts and I had studied them lightly but that did not compare to what David brought.
night before we were to leave, I took groceries on board and invited
Lacey to come over to see the boat. He brought hummus that he had
made himself, wine, cheese and crackers. I gave him a tour of the
boat and we were having a glass of wine. There came David to test his
computer on the bridge and open the hatch, practically the entire
floor of the salon,
make one final review of the engine room. Our quiet little evening
was cut short.
Monday morning, David, Ken and I met at six-thirty A.M. to embark. “It seems there should be a group here to see us off,” I said. “Everyone seemed so interested.”
“Well right now they are probably more interested in a cup of coffee,” David said. So, we quietly slipped out of the marina and into the Cumberland River.
We passed by the Riverview Restaurant and Marina, located on Cheatham Lake on the Cumberland River, where we had weekend dock parties so often and soon approached Cheatham Dam and prepared to be lowered through our first lock.
As we entered Cheatham Dam, then filled with lake water, I distributed each of our personal life vests as required by the rules of the lock. I had made “jackets” for our fenders to prevent the fenders from touching the rust and scum on the insides of the lock. I showed Kenny where those jackets were stored for future use going through some nine locks that we were going to encounter. I got out my telescopic push pole. David had brought an extra pole along so Ken and I had one at each end of the boat. We secured the line on the center float that would carry us down to a lower water. I had made the center line, a rope with a section of water hose slid through and a big knot at each end of the hose to prevent it sliding. That was important any time we would be docking in the wind.
Secured, each of us wearing a life jacket, and Ken and I stationed at each end of the boat we were ready to keep the boat off the lock walls and watch the water go down. We didn’t even get the jackets dirty.
We watched the water go lower and lower and kept an eye on our center float. When, at last, we reached the river level to continue down the Cumberland, we stayed in place until the lockmaster sounded the horn three times. Then Kenny and I stashed the fenders, push poles and life vests and we were once again under way.
The Cumberland narrows greatly once you get through Cheatham Dam. A captain must be conscious of the channel markers, typically, RED, RIGHT, RETURN. We were going downstream so the red was on our left and the green (sometimes black) channel markers were on our right.
The river is peaceful and rather scenic for a while. In the spring there is a huge bed of yellow flowers that bloom brilliantly, but this was autumn. A bit of fall color remained here and there.
Then, suddenly, the channel markers were a little crazy. I sometimes sat in the salon at the galley counter checking internet access and writing in my log, but I happened to be on the bridge with David and Ken when we approached a notorious “Devil’s Elbow.” Whoops, we were almost aground. David had to back up a little to get back into the channel.
“D Short did that once,” I said. “I suppose that about everybody does it at least once.”
Docking accommodations along this stretch were non-existent. Captain David thought we could make it to Lake Barkley State Park, and we did but it was getting dark. They had docks there for daytime restaurant goers but no lighting. As usual, D Short had prepared for many situations. We had the generator on and an old style electric hooded shop light aboard. I plugged it up and shined the light on the dock while David backed perfectly into place.
cooking,” David announced, and we all walked up to the park
restaurant where David bought dinner.
The next day we proceeded to enter the Tennessee River at which point, it is Kentucky Lake, then on to the mouth of the Tom Bigbee Waterway in Alabama. The “TENN-TOM” was designed to connect existing rivers with canals that could accommodate river barges and small pleasure craft and keep those off the Mississippi River from the Tennessee River to Mobile, Alabama.
We no sooner got into the waterway before seeing that we were behind a barge. With the VHF radio on, we could hear the towboat captain communicating with another towboat around the curve. “This is the ‘Hank Williams’ heading north at the curve near Mile Marker 412.”
“Roger,” said the captain in front of us. “This is the ‘Scout’ heading south.”
“Roger, I’ll need you to hang back a little until I get around this curve and then pass me on my port side.”
“Roger,” replied the captain in front of us.
“Well, I guess Sylvia Brown was right. ‘Roger’ is going with us,” I told Ken and David.
The view in the semi manmade waterway was less than spectacular so I went down to the galley and put chicken breast in the crock pot to have for dinner and wrote in my log about learning who ‘Roger’ was.
Ken and David were the social directors responsible for the yacht club annual Christmas party scheduled for Saturday night. Typically, a group got together on Friday nights for cocktails and munchies. Ken was lamenting how they were missing their other Christmas parties. His mood may have contributed to a cold he acquired.
David was busy calculating how far we could travel each day and get to a place where we could rent a car and go back to Nashville on Thursday evening in order to make the Christmas party. David settled on Aberdeen, Mississippi, where we would leave the Cozy Anna docked for three nights and head toward Nashville.
We had now gone through three locks and another lock was in sight. Ken and I had the routine down pat by then.
We had to stop for
diesel fuel and we were set for docking for the night and a chicken
dinner with rice, green peas and salad. We anticipated two other
locks the next day.
When we got to Aberdeen, we arranged for docking that night through Saturday night. The marina let us use a courtesy car to drive to the local car rental business to rent a car.
“Where will you be driving the car?” the clerk asked.
“To Nashville, Tennessee,” I responded.
“I’m sorry, we don’t rent cars to go out of state,” he said. “We had one stolen recently and we made that rule.”
“Well, it’s against the law to steal a car.” I said, explained our mission and showed him a picture of the boat on a social card that I was carrying. The back of the card read:
Dennis Short, Captain
Cody Short, First
I assured the fellow that it was foremost in our mind to get back to the boat to resume our trip and that we would return the car on Sunday. After he established our relationship to each other as friends and that we were all members of the same yacht club where Ken and David were in charge of a party Saturday night, he rented us a car.
We returned the courtesy car and headed for Nashville at dusk, travelling state routes that led us to the Natchez Trace. “This would be beautiful if we could see it in the daylight,” I said.
“I think I’ll just stop at the first farmhouse and ask where the nearest ‘gay’ bar is.” Kenny said.
I skipped the Friday night get together at the yacht club. It was our captain’s night to shine and I was sure David had much to tell. The Christmas Party was a huge success, however, and we got back on the road to Aberdeen Sunday morning.
When we returned to our docking spot, we borrowed the courtesy car to return the rental car; we had not shopped for groceries in Nashville and knew there were several evenings when we would need to cook, so while we were out, we shopped.
As David and I motored up the winding hill from the marina with Kenny behind us driving the courtesy car, it was getting dusk. We noticed the Christmas lights were coming on. One inflatable set caught our eye. Santa was inside a chimney and, periodically, virtually disappeared down the chimney with Rudolf standing on the edge of the chimney looking in. As we returned with groceries and with Kenny, David remarked, “Looks like Santa is ‘going down’ on Rudolph!” It really did and it was good for a laugh.
David typically does not drink much, but, for this trip, he had not had a drop of alcohol. Ken, on the other hand enjoyed a cold beer occasionally. I enjoyed a Rum and Coke whenever I could. I guess Ken thought I had over-served, so he hid my Rum from me for the next docking spot. When we arrived the next evening and I discovered the missing Rum, I immediately accused Kenny. “I like David better than you, I told him.
There is a lot of waiting at a lock; smart boaters, like us, have the VHF radio on and monitor the lockmaster and any commercial traffic lined up to lock through. We had good luck that next morning and were soon on our way. Typically, Ken and David did not want a breakfast before starting out so, about mid-morning, I made a breakfast sandwich or something the captain could eat while the boat was in motion.
As we traveled and planned, we relied heavily on a book by Fred Myers, The TENN-TOM Nitty- Gritty Cruise Guide.
Since the Tom Bigbee Waterway was a combination of small rivers connected with canals, it was largely landscaped and flanked on each side with heavy limestone known as RIP RAP, not a pretty sight but very safe and useful.
Fred Myers reminded readers throughout this Nitty Gritty waterway to focus on “what is” and not look for what might be there someday or even, maybe, should be there now. It was with this in mind that we approached Bobby’s Fish Camp at dusk.
They had both a diesel and a gas pump so we fueled up with diesel. The gauge stopped at $.99 cents per gallon so one had to know you had to add two dollars per gallon to whatever the gauge showed, not a problem.
The Cozy Anna had two 30 AMP power cords, but we were not the only boat there. There was an electrical outlet with two 110 outlet plugs but it was up a long slope with a wooden walkway. Luckily, once again, D Short had us covered. He had an insulated splitter so we split down to 110, hooked our two power cords end to end, dragged them down the wooden path, had enough electricity for heat and lights, and left an outlet free for the other boat there. Already into December it was getting cold.
At the top of that slope sat a catfish restaurant so we hiked up the hill again and dined sufficiently. We understood from Fred Myers’ book that Bobby did the cooking himself. Good job Bob!
We pulled into Demopolis Marina near the Lock and Dam and the Cozy Anna was on a diesel pump and on the other side of the dock, a huge tow boat was just finishing fueling. “Two thousand gallons,” the attendant told the captain. We were getting one hundred gallons in each of our two tanks. Wow!
I stayed in touch with my good friend, Lacey, via email and some limited cell phone coverage. He had downloaded the charts and followed along wishing he were on the adventure. Another story to tell about docking beside a tow boat, I thought.
The next afternoon we identified a marina right on the waterway. We attempted to phone them for reservations to dock as they reportedly were open until 5:30 PM and reopened at 8:30 AM. It was a beautiful sunny day and very cold; they were closed when we arrived at 4:30. We assumed they went home early to build a fire in the fireplace so we hooked up our shore power and made dinner. We had an electric grill on the back of the boat so we had grilled chicken and veggies. It was cold.
The next morning, we unhooked the shore power; there was ice on the decks. David warmed up the engines, and when Kenny and I pulled up the fenders, eight-inch icicles hung below them. The decks were recessed about twelve inches below the sides so we felt safe walking along holding the rail.
Lacey called and asked if I would like to go to the “Outback Bowl” which was scheduled for New Years Day. He said he could drive down. I said, “Sure,” but asked David “What the heck is the Outback Bowl?” David explained that UT, University of Tennessee, was invited to play in a bowl game in Tampa. Tennessee had a terrible team that year but they have such a following they are candidates for bowl games. I started researching for something to do on New Years Eve and found a party at the St Petersburg Yacht club with which RHYC has a reciprocal agreement. I booked that event. That seemed like a “hot date” and definitely something to look forward to upon returning to the Cozy Anna.
We soon began to experience some warmer weather and, none too soon for Kenny. We were informed that there would be one place we would have to anchor and, as we read, David decided the best place would be Daymark 287.4, Cochrane Cut-off. It was well protected from wind, had ample depth and no structures to interfere. We had it all to ourselves once we got in there in early afternoon.
As David prepared to drop the anchor, it was stuck. I thought back to the last time D Short and I used it. We had a long wait below Cheatham Dam and had to anchor. When the lock opened, there was no time to “pretty up,” as he would say. When we got back to Rock Harbor, he dropped the anchor right in our slip, beamed it up electronically and fastened it securely. I remembered him waving his hand flatly. It was not a “The Hell with it gesture,” but one that indicated it was just the way he wanted it.
Needless to say, David had to get out tools and loosen the anchor, again secure it to the chain and lower it. As he did so he said, “There is something on this anchor. It is like concrete!’
“That would be D Short’s ashes,” I said. “He wanted to come with us.”
As we left our anchorage, Kenny became more and more excited expecting warmer weather. As we approached Mobile, Alabama. The trees took over where the RIP RAP had been occupying the banks before and here and there was a sandy beach.
David had done his homework and knew that there was no casual dockage at the mouth of the Intra Coastal so we docked at the Municipal Building. We had to produce proof of insurance, and we had to cook our own dinner. But we were safe, secure and sort of relieved to be rid of locks.
We awoke to see the Carnival Holiday Ship docked across the bay. In the Spring, I would board that ship along with D Short’s family, Jami Gamble and her husband, Harold, her daughter, Katie and fiancé, Jesse Knall, Anna Bridgers and her husband, David, son, Andrew and daughter, Emily, Betsy Tune and her husband, Scott, son Henry (Hap) and daughter Mary Beth and D Short’s sister, Caroline Short.
D Short had been planning to take the whole family on a cruise but was waiting for Mary Beth to get a little older. She was four years old when we embarked. One of the last requests he made of me was that I take them on a cruise. It would be fun to tell them that the Cozy Anna was docked within sight of the Carnival Ship, Holiday, on which we would embark in a few months.
The next morning, we no sooner got onto the Intracoastal when porpoises began playing in our wake. How exciting! The Cozy Anna was in salt water near where she first embarked and we could watch the porpoises play.
We had more efficient phone coverage on the Intracoastal than we experienced on the TENN TOM so we caught up on all the news. My Aunt Ruth asked if “got along” together and I told her, “Nah, we just fight it out.” The guys were hearing me.
Kenny observed that we would be going right by one of his favorite motels, the Marriot in Destin, to which David responded, “I live to please you,” and Kenny said “Queen!” and winked at me to be sure I knew there was no animosity.
We docked for the night and I walked down to a local fish dock where a resident egret waited for a handout. I bought three pounds of the days catch of shrimp, as D Short would have said, “on the hoof,” meaning they had to be cleaned and deveined. They were delightful. I had never had shrimp so fresh.
Then on we went to dock at Apalachicola and prepare to cross the Gulf. We knew there was a short crossing that took about seven hours but added to the trip because you ended up much further north and the long one, which took seventeen hours and would have required some night cruising. David had already opted for the short crossing.
When David walked up to the marina, he learned that a weather pattern was developing and we were likely going to spend two nights there. The Boat US towing service had just arrived and that reinforced the gravity of the situation.
The marina manager walked down and looked at the boat. David asked, “Do you have a boat?” The answer was, “No.” David asked “Are you married?” Again, no for an answer. David said, “Have I got a deal for you!” “I’d need a boat or a woman like a hole in the head!” the manager assured him.
I walked over to the local library and bought a bag of paperback books to add to the Cozy Anna library. Then we walked up town and found a Rainbow Flag in front of a restaurant where, of course, we dined.
Upon returning from our meal the Boat US captain and another guy came over, admired the Cozy Anna and asked if I would like to go with them over to the local nightspot. “We’ll keep our shirts on,” said the Boat US captain. I later learned that David was overhearing that offer and saying “Will she, or won’t she?” I declined.
After two nights in Apalachicola, the “locals” said it was safe to embark toward Steinhatchee, and we did so but soon encountered heavy fog. We had read in our guidebook that Steinhatchee was very rocky and tricky to maneuver so our captain decided quite early that we would anchor before reaching the entrance channel. We got out the electric shop light and turned it on to increase our visibility in case a boat approached.
The next day we motored in light rain to Tarpon Springs where we docked at the sponge shop and went to Hella’s for a Greek dinner.
On our sixteenth day we motored past many very inviting waterfront restaurants and easily arrived at Maximo Marina.
We docked at the end
of “A” Dock in a covered berth. Each berth had an extra
long storage locker and we moved some things off the boat and into
the locker and identified a number of things that Ken and David could
use on their boat. We got a rental car, packed up its every crevice
and headed for Nashville where I would get my car and drive back to
the Cozy Anna.
Cody's story list and biography