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My partner, Greta, and I are on Day 21 of an 82-day cruise in Asia. Being 6,100 miles away from South Orange County, it’s been easy to wonder if newspaper readers in Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano have forgotten about us.
But then we were surprised. Jim Curwood, the owner of Buy My Bikes in San Juan Capistrano, sent an email, which arrived when we were in Yokohama, the port of Tokyo. Jim said, “I just got back from Ireland. Read your column in The Capistrano Dispatch about your trip: 82 days, wow! Congrats.”

I responded, “Good to hear from you. After we get back, let’s have coffee or an adult beverage. Greta and I are going to Ireland next August on a land tour for 10 days. You can give us some Ireland trip pointers!”

Next, my Stand-Up-Paddleboarding buddy, former Dana Point Chamber of Commerce Chairman Russell Kerr, who has traveled the world, sent this email: “Enjoy Singapore, one of the great cities of the world; I was there this spring before I hiked to base camp of Mt. Everest in Nepal.”

And while the ship was en route to Shimizu, Japan, Greta won at Bingo. The game’s director called her to the scorer’s table and asked, “What’s your name?”


Immediately, another female Bingo player approached and said, “I knew I would find you. There probably aren’t many women named Greta on board. Are you with Tom Blake?”

The woman introduced herself as Nancy Shapiro from San Clemente. She and her husband, Jim, are on the cruise. Nancy explained to Greta that two friends of hers in San Clemente—Scott Seaver and Gale Senter—both had read in the San Clemente Times that Greta and I would be on the Holland America ship, the MS Amsterdam. Greta and I plan to dine with them one night.

And then, while ashore in Kobe, Japan, while checking email in the port reception area, another email came in from Art and Dorothy Scully, who live in Newport Beach.

The Scullys wrote: “We read your article about the Grand Asia cruise with great interest. I wondered if you had met our cruise friends who are also on your ship. We took a 39-day cruise this summer (round trip Boston to Iceland and Northern Europe). Our cruise friends and dinner mates were Mardelle and Bill Fleming from Florida. They are originally from Iowa but lived primarily in New Hampshire before retiring to Florida. Bill was a pharmacist. If you meet them, please tell them hello from Art and Dorothy Scully from Newport Beach! They will be surprised.”
And then the Scullys added, “We plan to meet your ship when it docks in Los Angeles on Dec.21 and take Mardelle and Bill to LAX for their flight home. Thanks for the fun article. It made me wish we were on your ship, too!”

I responded to Dorothy and Art, “Haven’t met them yet. But we will leave a note at the front desk. How, with you living in Newport Beach, did you see the article in the newspaper in Dana Point, San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano?”

The Scullys replied: “A friend who lives in San Clemente clipped it out (from the San Clemente Times) and sent it to me. She thought I would enjoy the article since we go on cruises (at least one annually). We always go on Holland America. She is one of your fans.”

I left a note at the ship’s front desk for Mardelle and Bill. A day later, they posted a note on our stateroom door (there are about 855 passengers on board, so it’s hard to meet everybody just in passing):

“We would love to meet up with you. We hang out in the Lido (deck 8, casual dining room and swimming pool area), and hot tub at around 6 p.m. Bill is always reading in the Lido—ponytail. We have late dinner at 8 p.m. Will call you.”

So Greta and I, who usually dine at 6 p.m. because we’ve been so wiped out from each day’s incredible activities—both ashore and onboard—will pace ourselves so we can have dinner with Bill and Mardelle, who are friends with the Scullys in Newport Beach, who are friends with the people in San Clemente, at 8 p.m.

Confusing, isn’t it?

But it’s good to know readers haven’t forgotten about us. Greta and I will try to get together with these south Orange County-connected fellow passengers over dinner. Should be fun.

Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites; and To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at Email:

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