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Sunday, March 27, 2011

DON'T WAIT . . . DONATE! (click here)

Click Here to See Our Projected Route on Google Maps!


Here is the latest information on how to support The Voyage for Autism Awareness and the Philadelphia Fire Department's Autism Fire Safety Campaign:

DC - Baltimore - Philly – NYC
April 16-30, 2011
Philadelphia Fire Captain Neil Calore will row/sail his 17’ home-built wooden dory 425+ miles to raise awareness for Autism, stopping at Fire Boat Stations in Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. NBC News is covering the event in all four cities.
Donations go directly to Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest science and advocacy group, and can be made through the following web link:
Support Boat Operations: Lt. Bill Drennen / 215-370-6579 /
                         Logistics: FF. Bill Mattox / 215-435-1311 /

In conjunction, the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Division will release a Regional Autism Fire Safety Campaign which will address issues concerning Autism and how families affected can effectively prepare Fire Escape Plans, and prepare for the arrival of First Responders in emergency situations. Contact PIO Lt. Mike Grant 215-686-1382 for more information.
Help fund the Regional Autism Fire Safety Campaign and The Voyage for Autism Awareness through The Fireman’s Hall Museum, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The Fireman’s Hall Museum Store donation link:
Or mail checks to:The Philadelphia Fire Department 
                               Historical Corporation
                               147 N. 2nd St.
                               Philadelphia, PA 19106-2010
                               Attn: Autism Campaign


'SPRAY' got wet today for the first time since last December and underwent a rigorous shake-down. It was cold, wet and blustery, but she passed with flying colors. 
Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me. So the only picture I got was this one, taken with my cheap cell phone . . .

More from those we are trying to help . . .

I read the article about your voyage for Autism Awareness.... Thank you so much. I get teary eyed just thinking about your effort. My son has Asperger's Syndrome. I noticed something was different at the age of 2.. He wasnt talking... His dr told me I was overreacting... After much pushing, he was tested... Early Intervention has helped so much.
                        ~Mary Ann Rota

My son, his brother, and his mom and dad thank you so much for giving a voice to so many. when the days get tough seeing someone like you drys some of the tears and even brings a smile thank you!
                             ~Jody Brown

Firefighting runs in our family, and our little guy's daddy is a firefighter. Can you please give us more ideas on how to organize the safety campaign specifically for those with autism and special needs, or is there one in place we can find? Does IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) Union know about this safety campaign?
                           ~Rachell Reilly
Thank you from a mother of 2 on the spectrum: a 19-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. Its people like you who make all the difference in the world!
                           ~Carrie Thompson Porder
Thank you soo much God Speed and God bless!! My 5 yr old son was diagnosed Autism just yesterday!!!!!!
                           ~Yvette Pavia Pavlock 

Sunday, March 20, 2011


There are many heartbreaking tales of how ASD's affect the individual, their immediate families and society as a whole. One such story was sent in by Darlene Taylor, a co-worker and one of the nicest people I know:

Neil, first I want to say, thank you. 

You and many others are sensitive to the need of Autism Awareness globally.  As you know through our conversations, that I have a personal interest in this awesome endeavor.  My grandson, whom I've adopted is 71/2 years old and is on the Spectrum. 

I began to notice changes in his behavior and social communication since he was 3 years old.  Immediately, I began to seek help and services for him.  I found that unless one is a strong advocate for your child, he would be denied the help that he so desperately needs and deserves.  So, I refused to take no for an answer.

My grandson has a behavorial disorder that needed special attention.The IEP indicated to me what my rights were so I fought the system until my baby received the help he needed. 

Finally, the system relented and acknowledged that he needed to be seen by a Psychiatrist, gave me a list to choose from, that they recommended and paid for all visits.   All of the testing confirmed what I had known all along.

 We have a long way to go and I am prepared to do what I must in advocating for my grandson.  I encourage everyone to continue to fight the good fight of faith and be persistent, because it pays off.  My prayers are with Neil and his team and everyone that is supportive of this fantastic Voyage to raise and increase awareness for Autism globally.

~Darlene Taylor

Thanks Darlene; your grandson is lucky to have you. Hopefully, more awareness will help families like yours get help easier and sooner!

With less than 4 weeks to go, 'SPRAY' is almost ready to go in the water. Unfortunately, I was sick last week and haven't worked out since last Monday. But I feel good now and am ready to hit the "ERG" again tomorrow!

Here's more about the Voyage . . .

Down Rivers, Up Bays, Across Canals

The Voyage will make use of  several diverse bodies of water getting from Washington, DC to NY. ETA's are based on fair winds and no boat problems, with slim odds on maintaining both for the entire trip!

Leg #1: DC to Baltimore - 6 or 7 days

This first leg is about half the trip. We'll take the Potomac River from DC's Fire Boat Station . . .

. . . to the Chesapeake Bay, then up the Patapsco River to Fort McHenry and BCFD's Fire Boat 1. 

1. Point Lookout, where the Potomac meets the Bay. A confluence of strong currents, when coupled with strong opposing winds can create large waves.
2. The Lower Chesapeake Bay is wide and deep, and is said to have an identity crisis;  it thinks it's an ocean! 
We'll be keeping a sharp eye on the weather, especially on this leg.

Leg #2: Baltimore to Philly - 3 or 4 days

It's further up The Bay to the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal, which links the two Bays. 

The C&D is normally prohibited to non-powered vessels due to its narrow channel and its use by large commercial vessels, but The Voyage for Autism Awareness has obtained authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to row through, provided we follow a few minor constraints. A great big THANKS to Jim Tomlin, Supervisory Civil Engineer, USACE - Chesapeake City for his persistent efforts in getting this approved!
Once on the Delaware side of the Canal, we'll hang a left and head North up the Delaware Bay and River to Philly's Marine Unit 1.

1. The C&D Canal. Large commercial traffic cannot maneuver in the narrow channel and must be avoided. 
2. Several knot currents run through the Canal in both directions. Entering must be timed to use a following current.
3. Big ships, strong currents and few places to pull out of the way are challenges on the Delaware River up through Philly

Leg #3: Philly to NY - 3 to 5 days

The Voyage continues up the Delaware River to Trenton, where 'SPRAY' gets pulled out and trailered about 6 miles to the nearest navigable section of the Delaware & Raritan (D&R) Canal

The D&R was completed in 1834 and operated as a barge canal until 1932. Since the 1950's it has been used as a public water supply system and a New Jersey State Park. Thanks to Patricia Kallesser, Park Superintendent, Vicki Chirco, Park Historian and Ernie Hahn, Executive Director, D&R Canal Commission for their assistance and advice.
The D&R spills into, you guessed it, the Raritan River. Depending on the weather, The Voyage will enter New York Bay . . . 

. . . by either the Raritan Bay and the Verrazano Narrows, or the Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull around Staten Island. The home stretch is up the Hudson River to Pier 40, Manhattan and FDNY's Marine 1.

1. 'SPRAY' will be have to be portaged (pulled out of the water, carried over land & put back in) around 5 non-functioning locks along the D&R Canal, and 1 more time to get from the Canal to the Raritan River.
2. The Raritan Bay takes the full brunt of the Atlantic Ocean when there's an East wind; The Arthur Kill and the Kull Van Kill are Plan B.
3. New York Bay is VERY busy. Tankers, container ships, ferries, tugs, barges . . . we'll keep our eyes peeled and the VHF radio on.

We'll be busy and we'll be careful, but it'll all be worth it if more people get to know what Autism is about and what people who have the disease and their families go through. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Click Here to See Our Route on Google Maps!

The link above will show you our projected route. You'll also be able to track our progress once we're under way!

Don't forget to make a donation! CLICK HERE!!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011


I thought the Autism Speaks logo on a big white sail would grab a lot of positive attention, so I paid a visit to Skip Moorehouse of Moorehouse Sailmakers, Inc. in Lumberton, NJ.  

Skip has made, altered, repaired and washed many sails for me over the years, so I know he does great work. He loved the story of The Voyage for Autism Awareness and insisted on donating the sail & logo to the cause.
As you can see, he did a great job . . .

I built "SPRAY" last Spring at a boatbuilding class with instruction from Mark Stevens of Chesapeake Light Craft in Annapolis, MD. Her namesake was the first vessel to be sailed single-handed around the world by a man named Joshua Slocum. He began his historic voyage on April 25, 1895. 

On April 16, 2011 - 116 years later - The Voyage for Autism Awareness will begin

That's a mere 5 weeks from now, so it's time to get "SPRAY" ready for the long haul. We took advantage of a nice break in the weather and got a lot done!

  5 layers of polyurethane paint was removed from the bottom panel and a little off the sides . . .

A lot of wear and tear is expected, so although she is constructed of the finest modern boatbuilding materials, a little extra armor won't hurt. 3 layers of epoxy mixed with graphite provide a tough, scratch resistant shell.  

Some say the graphite makes the boat faster, too . . .

Brother-in-Law Joe Sheehan slaps a coat of varnish on the spars . . .

A fresh coat of  'Sea Green' polyurethane and she's looking good . . .

'SPRAY' will get another coat of paint before we flip 'er over and spruce up the varnish.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Enough, for now, about The Voyage and more about autism . . .

  Autism (from the Autism Speaks website) is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not  Otherwise Specified), Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders.

But what causes Autism?
For the vast majority of cases, the simple answer is we don't know. 
With an estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide affected, just about everybody knows somebody with autism. Do you?

If your life has been touched by someone with autism and you want to share your story on this blog, email . . .
Neil Calore at 
. . . and I will post it here.

John Guider, a friend, inspiration and fellow small boat cruiser shared this with us . . .

"I have a long time friend who has an autistic child. When he was young, a traditional school would allow Henry to attend only if he had a private tutor stay with him. As he grew older and his body became strong, the school was afraid his acting out could be too dangerous and that was the end of his traditional schooling. His mother realizes that Henry will most likely spend the rest of his life at home. She is good with that but worries about Henry after they die. He will have no-one. It's a moving story and one that needs to be told.
You will complete your journey. It is the story of autism that will continue on."

Thanks John 

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Milestone . . .
In a few short weeks, and with little publicity, The Voyage for Autism Awareness has raised it's first $1,000 ! 
Check it out here: 

The Competition is ON . . . 

With just a man and his boat, the original goal was $10,000. With the addition of the PFD's Autism Fire Safety Campaign and NBC News' Doug Shimell's coverage of the story (see last weeks post), it seemed a goal of $25,000 was very attainable. It has now been declared that "The Voyage" will try to break the record for a non-corporate team in Philadelphia! The current record of $57,000 was set in 2008 by Jay Brightman and his family, who go door to door and ask for donations at school and in their workplaces. I'm told that Jay is a competitive man and will probably try to break our record! I say BRING IT ON and let's help Autism Speaks fund research and programs for those affected!

A Minor Set-Back . . . 

Wind gusts in excess of 60 mph last week lifted 'SPRAY' from her secure winter storage spot, tossing her about 10 feet on to some rocks and up against a fence. Damage to the starboard gunwale where it meets the transom and several dings in the hull were easily repaired, however, attesting to her strength and stubborn personality. 

I am now even more confident in her ability to make the grueling trip from DC to NYC safely!

The Net . . .
A volunteer Support Crew has been formed and will man a chase boat for the entire trip! Three selfless members of the PFD - Lt. Bill Drennen, FF. Bill Mattox and FF. John Mooney - have made an awesome commitment that changes the trip from a solo "expedition" to a team effort, increasing my chances of completing the 425 mile marothon safely. These three will now handle navigation and  communications for the trip and provide a huge safety net if the April weather pulls any surprises on us. Thanks fellas!

Billy Drennen & his boat with a couple of Retired Members, Asst. Fire Marshall Art Czajkowski & Porsche . . .

A Shaker & a Mover . . .
Tom Murphy of the Barnegat Bay Rowing Club . . . 

. . . is The Voyage's Jersey Shore Fund Raising Captain. An avid rower himself, Tom sees how much good can come out of this trip and has done an awesome job of spreading the word in and around Toms River, NJ. 

Thanks to the generosity of the local Minuteman Press, Tom is passing these post cards out whenever he gets the chance. 

Thanks Tom . . .

 Philly's Fire Boats . . .

Lt. Tommy Gaskill, Marine Operations Officer, is now on the project and is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard Station - Philadelphia to arrange for the festivities when The Voyage arrives.
PFD's Marine Unit 1 . . . 
 Marine Unit 101 (Reserve) . . . 

Check this site often for updates!