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My first (and last) money hole was a 26' Owens named the Sea Hawk - inspired by the movie of the same name - and the further inspiration for the Olé as described in Lost Key and the Rum Runner in Gulf Winds. Of course, who wouldn't want to name their boat after Errol Flynn's privateer in his adventure on the high seas as Captain Thorpe in the 1940 movie.

This model Owens was manufactured in the early to mid Sixties, timed about right to be used in the abortive Cuban counter-revolution. I have noticed, with chagrin, that Owens boats of this era are now advertised as antiques. Me, too, I guess.

I purchased mine in the early Seventies while stationed at Fort Monroe, VA. The  Sea Hawk was constructed with a plywood hull, handsome teak deck planking, lots of varnished mahogany and chrome trim; and powered by a Chevy inboard conversion V-8. Ownership brought many rewards: learning how to find and replace rotted wood, the intricacies and eccentrics of boat electrical systems, the fine art of scraping and painting boat bottoms and bright work, slow speed steering (or more precisely, the lack thereof) with a single screw, and how to crank a balky engine with an aircraft carrier bearing down on you. Plus I did a little fishing and cruising. Really did love the boat.

I docked my Owens at one of the piers on the west side of Fort Monroe, Virginia, facing Hampton Roads. Hampton Roads, the treacherously shallow basin where the James River gathers before emptying into Chesapeake Bay, is the  site of the famous battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack on March 9, 1862, the first battle of ironclad warships.

Fort Monroe is one of the European-influenced walled fortresses (typified by the star-shaped walls inside a moat, as seen in the US Army photo below) built in America in the early 1800's. Fort Monroe and Fort Wool, mid-way in the mouth of the harbor exit to Chesapeake Bay, are examples of several forts designed by Robert E. Lee as a young lieutenant. Ft Monroe Aerial View - US Army PhotoOfficers assigned to the Post eagerly scanned the housing waiting list to see if they could possibly be assigned to the very same house that Lee occupied.   

The Fortress was a very interesting duty station where I was involved in Combat Developments, the Army term for the requirements process used to guide the development of new doctrine and supporting hardware.

My Dad loved to visit and tell us about his time in the North Carolina National Guard serving as a powder monkey on the coast artillery batteries that once guarded the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Command's band and ceremonial guard often greet foreign naval ships coming into port with gun salutes and  honors from the small pavilion on the southern tip of the island.

The Chesapeake Bay is on the right and, to the south across the mouth of the James River, is the massive Norfolk Naval Base. Fort Eustis, up the James River toward Jamestown, is the home of the Army Transportation Center, once the manager of the largest fleet of water vessels in the world. The open Atlantic lies just a few miles out to the east. I participated in my first (and last) helicopter accident (lost a tail rotor on final approach) at the airfield on the northern end of the island.

Fort Monroe is a jewel, someday to be lost to the accountants and developers. A loss that can not be replaced.

A NOTE : The latest BRAC round has designated Fort Monroe for closure. Latest update - it's gone, decommissioned in 2011. The central fortress is now a National Park. Much of the property is now managed by the Fort Monroe Authority, an entity of the Virginia goverment.

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