Sailor tends garden, writes about adventures

   James E. (Jim) Keen has sailed over 12,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean and solo around America’s Great Loop. Today, he prefers tending his garden and writing about sailing adventures.

   Raised in Goldsboro, NC, Jim worked as a teen in his father’s machinery business and was a high school track and football player. His Mechanical Engineering studies at NC State University were interrupted by a stint in the US Army during the Vietnam War era.

   Jim resumed college at Atlantic Christian College (Barton College) where he met and married Jackie Baker before their senior year. Upon graduation, the couple moved to Raleigh. Jim practiced with Ernst & Ernst, CPAs while Jackie started a teaching career that was soon interrupted by the birth of son David, followed by daughter Dianne two years later.

   Jim enjoyed a private CPA practice in Cary, NC and then became CFO of a major construction firm. He founded RCM, Inc. a commercial construction firm that renovated Pizza Hut restaurants, built McDonalds restaurants, several major rural medical centers, an East Carolina Bank complex, and various metal buildings.

   In the high interest rate climate of 1982, Jim closed his company and joined a major regional construction firm as CFO, then served later as CFO for a regional apparel manufacturer. He installed large IBM computer accounting systems at both firms.

   Jim taught part-time in a community college while in private CPA practice and continued teaching part-time for a number of years. In 1980s, he joined the Edgecombe Community College faculty to teach general business, accounting, auditing, tax, and computer courses. In the 1990s in his spare time, Jim started the college email system, authored the first college web page, and served as the school web administrator. He retired in 2004.

   While teaching, Jim earned a Masters in Education at East Carolina University and completed all but his dissertation for an Educational Doctorate at NC State University.

   Jim learned to sail as a child at the family cottage near Swansboro and enjoyed showing his family eastern N.C nautical thrills on a series of power and sail boats.

   In 2003-2004, he closely followed the sailing circumnavigation adventure of Bill and Normandy Doar of Whichard’s Beach. After crossing the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the pair landed in South Africa, almost three-quarters of the way around the world. Lack of cruising funds prompted Normandy’s return home to nursing school and a job to rebuild the cruising kitty. Bill asked for a volunteer crew to complete the Atlantic Ocean crossing.

   Eight days after retiring, Jim flew to South Africa, joining Bill on ADVENT II, a 36-foot custom steel French sailing sloop. After sightseeing and waiting for the weather to clear, ADVENT II sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to cope with a stormy, crowded shipping lane. The weather cleared and they sailed on a downwind romp to make landfall at Saint Helena Island in sixteen days.

   After a stop at Ann’s Place (famous sailor’s watering hole) for a hamburger and beer, the sailors visited Longwood Villa (Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile home) and other landmarks on the isolated island.

   Another sixteen day sail took ADVENT II to the Island of Fernando de Noronha, an ecological paradise about 200 miles off the coast of Brazil. Police drive dune-buggy vehicles, visiting cruise ships anchor offshore, and a modern wind generator provides electric power on this unique island.

   An eighteen day sail took ADVENT II along and 200-miles off the coast of Brazil to Trinidad. Bill and Jim officially entered the country then sailed to nearby Chacachacare Bay, a deserted former Leper Colony. They explored building ruins before a night of well deserved peaceful rest. A short sail took them back to Chaguaramas Bay where Bill had the boat hauled and stored. After exploring the capital city of Port of Spain, they flew home after logging 6,216 miles from South Africa to Trinidad in 50 days.

   Shortly after returning home, Jim sailed from Cypress Landing Marina, solo aboard his 32-foot sailboat IRISH MIST on a voyage to complete America’s Great Loop. This 6,000 mile inland waterway and river sailing trip took 13-months to complete. The voyage took him through eighteen states, Canada, and within sight of Cuba while sailing to Mexico. Jackie continued teaching at Beaufort County Community College while communicating via email.

   Today, Jim rarely sails but prefers to tend his garden. As a member of the Beaufort County Master Gardeners, he started the Beaufort County Community Garden. He authored web pages for the Master Gardeners, the community garden, the Cypress Landing Yacht Club, the Pamlico Writers Group, and is currently involved in renovating the Cypress Landing HOA web page.

   Jim has authored three newspaper columns over sixteen years in Tarboro and Washington newspapers. He wrote a genealogy book about his family, an anthology of short stories about sailing adventures, and is currently writing a book about the Atlantic Ocean crossing.

   See Jim’s author page at the PWG web:


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