Liles family takes epic voyage
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Mike Liles

By DAN WHITTLE, Courier Correspondent

Put an ocean, river or lake in front of former Tennessee State Rep. Mike Liles, and he'll find a boat.
But not any old boat, so step aboard Lifestyle II, a refitted 40-foot trawler that was renamed from "SueMe."

"We changed the name from 'SueMe,' which was like sticking a finger up to everyone you pass on the water," sailor Liles sailed back in time to when he purchased the boat in Key Largo, Fla., leading up to his impending sea-faring journey from Florida, in the South, up to Canada to the North.

There's no luggage required for this boating adventure of a lifetime by sailor/turned author Liles and shipmate wife, Denniese, who have published a book about the journey.

Lifestyle II's crew was rounded out by "Wonder Dog" Maggie Mae, a mixed mutt with a loud Beagle bark that woke up entire docks of fellow boaters.

Follow the water, and you can follow the developments of mankind ...

"Water ways are the arteries of human development dating back to the beginning of time," Liles accounted, while explaining there'd likely be no Murfreesboro, Woodbury and Readyville as known today, if not for Stones River. "Nearby Nashville sprang up beside the Cumberland River. As a boy growing up in Florida, I dreamt of exploring all the waterways I could."

But it you can't physically make the 6,000-mile journey with the adventuresome skipper, you can consider reading the book - "Hero's Loop."

"Most boys had heroes like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers," Liles shared. "My first hero, while growing up as a boy, was a boat. But we didn't own a boat, because we had rent to pay and upkeep of a well-worn automobile."

Their book is a compilation of boating stories and adventures, as Mr. and Mrs. Liles sailed the "Loop" around the eastern seaboard of North America, on waterways from down around the horn of Florida, sailing north up the East Coast through New York, Chicago and then, across the Great Lakes into Canada, back down the Mississippi River through St. Louis, Mo., Cairo, Ill., and ultimately back to dry land in Tennessee and Florida.

"I've spent a lifetime in and around boats, including a stint in the Navy as a young man," noted Master Captain Liles, the highest civilian rank bestowed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

This was not the master captain's first long sailing adventure, the first being aboard the original "Lifestyle" back in 2002, when Liles sailed the Tennessee-Tombigbee (Tenn-Tom) ... a 234-mile waterway that links the Tennessee River down to Demopolis, Ala., and points south, for an entire journey of 450 nautical miles.

"Two years planning, practicing, studying navigation and boat safety went into that initial long voyage," Liles accounted. "That trip was partly inspired by Murfreesboro boating enthusiast (the late) C.B. Arnett."

The first sailing adventure, however, paled in distance, since the "Hero Loop" took Liles and crew 6,000 nautical miles through countless minor crisis mixed with funny, even joyful experiences ... some of which was triggered by 40-pound mixed breed land-dog Maggie that initially didn't like water.

"Beagle dogs are scent dogs, and we had our green carpet (indoor-outdoor) on deck for Maggie's potty benefit," skipper Liles shared. "So, Maggie knew the carpet was there."

This came at the trips' beginning before Lifestyle II had sailed out of Florida coastal waters.
"Since Maggie was yet to adapt to the green carpet on board, Denniese noticed a long green grassy park with a seawall at Hollywood, Fla.," Liles noted. "Seemed like a good idea to me too ... and I advised shipmates to get the fenders and lines ready and we were going to pull up along the seawall.

"All was going well as I eased over to the seawall, until I noticed a brown blurred furry object jump over the bow of the boat," Skipper Liles added. "(It was) our second day, and our crew was already jumping ship!"
Shipmate Denniese also jumped ship in order to catch up with Maggie, as she bolted full land speed ahead, while searching and sniffing for the just right place to "poop" alongside Florida Highway A1A.
Later in the voyage, Maggie took a plunge when she got excited about seeing a pod of dolphin doing antics alongside Lifestyle II.

"We were prepared to jump in the ocean too, if necessary, for Maggie is our baby," Liles confirmed. "But Maggie, although exhausted, safely swam back to the dinghy, where I reached down and snatched her out human development dating back to the beginning of time," Liles accounted, while explaining there'd likely be no Murfreesboro, Woodbury and Readyville as known today, if not for Stones River. "Nearby Nashville sprang up beside the Cumberland River. As a boy growing up in Florida, I dreamt of exploring all the waterways I could."
But it you can't physically make the 6,000-mile journey with the adventuresome skipper, you can consider reading the book - "Hero's Loop."

"Most boys had heroes like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers," Liles shared. "My first hero, while growing up as a boy, was a boat. But we didn't own a boat, because we had rent to pay and upkeep of a well-worn automobile."
Their book is a compilation of boating stories and adventures, as Mr. and Mrs. Liles sailed the "Loop" around the eastern seaboard of North America, on waterways from down around the horn of Florida, sailing north up the East Coast through New York, Chicago and then, across the Great Lakes into Canada, back down the Mississippi River through St. Louis, Mo., Cairo, Ill., and ultimately back to dry land in Tennessee and Florida.

"I've spent a lifetime in and around boats, including a stint in the Navy as a young man," noted Master Captain Liles, the highest civilian rank bestowed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

This was not the master captain's first long sailing adventure, the first being aboard the original "Lifestyle" back in 2002, when Liles sailed the Tennessee-Tombigbee (Tenn-Tom) ... a 234-mile waterway that links the Tennessee River down to Demopolis, Ala., and points south, for an entire journey of 450 nautical miles.

"Two years planning, practicing, studying navigation and boat safety went into that initial long voyage," Liles accounted. "That trip was partly inspired by Murfreesboro boating enthusiast (the late) C.B. Arnett."

The first sailing adventure, however, paled in distance, since the "Hero Loop" took Liles and crew 6,000 nautical miles through countless minor crisis mixed with funny, even joyful experiences ... some of which was triggered by 40-pound mixed breed land-dog Maggie that initially didn't like water.

"Beagle dogs are scent dogs, and we had our green carpet (indoor-outdoor) on deck for Maggie's potty benefit," skipper Liles shared. "So, Maggie knew the carpet was there."

This came at the trips' beginning before Lifestyle II had sailed out of Florida coastal waters.

"Since Maggie was yet to adapt to the green carpet on board, Denniese noticed a long green grassy park with a seawall at Hollywood, Fla.," Liles noted. "Seemed like a good idea to me too ... and I advised shipmates to get the fenders and lines ready and we were going to pull up along the seawall.

"All was going well as I eased over to the seawall, until I noticed a brown blurred furry object jump over the bow of the boat," Skipper Liles added. "(It was) our second day, and our crew was already jumping ship!"
Shipmate Denniese also jumped ship in order to catch up with Maggie, as she bolted full land speed ahead, while searching and sniffing for the just right place to "poop" alongside Florida Highway A1A.

Later in the voyage, Maggie took a plunge when she got excited about seeing a pod of dolphin doing antics alongside Lifestyle II.

"We were prepared to jump in the ocean too, if necessary, for Maggie is our baby," Liles confirmed. "But Maggie, although exhausted, safely swam back to the dinghy, where I reached down and snatched her out of the ocean by the nap of the neck."

Author Liles described when their journey, which began May 3, 2011, and ended in April 2012, took them across the border into Canada.

"We had to decide if we were going left to Buffalo (N.Y.), or right to Lake Ontario," Liles penned. "Our first impression was how big Lake Ontario was, and how clear the water was ... we could see the bottom when our depth sounder showed 30 feet.
"Here we are, from Middle Tennessee, steering a boat we purchased in Key Largo, and we're on Lake Ontario in a foreign country," Liles shared. "We were awestruck."

But, all good things must come to an end ...
"It was Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, when we had 'sunrise service' on the sundeck, along with Denniese's delicious pancakes, as we noticed land," Master Captain Liles sailed toward the 6,000-mile journey's conclusion. "We briefly relived the fears and anxiety we had shared as we started the trip. We even laughed at how little we knew and how naive we were about this Great Loop adventure ...

"And then, we saw it, the straight line of buoys that marked the entrance to Loggerhead Marina (Fla.) ... the same channel markers we had motored out of on May 3, 2011 ... I dropped the anchor and we celebrated ... just the three of us."

A book signing is scheduled Oct. 18, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Hastings Bookstore in Murfreesboro. The book is also available online at Amazon.com.

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