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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Getting Started; Part 6


Well it’s Christmas morning 2012 and like that 7 year old I once was, I am up way too early on Christmas morning.  I noticed it has been a while since my last blog post, I hope the anticipation has not been too great.  I am now one semester away from my planned retirement. We still own a house and don’t own a boat.  We did spend a week looking down in Southern Florida in mid-December and have gotten the list of boats that we like and which would physically fit, head room for my 6'6" throughout being the prime sticking point, down to three with one that seems to be the best compromise of cost, performance, and comfort.  It’s a Fountain Pajot Bahia46 and we already can envision ourselves on the hook some place warmer.  We returned home from our trip to the worst dust storm in West Texas in over 30 years.  Winds at 35-40 knots with gusts over 50 knots. It took several days of clean up and just as I finished vacuuming out our pool….another dust storm.  Our Christmas present from Mother Nature today is, you guessed it, high winds, blowing dust, followed by show.   Yes if you did the math correctly, it will be snowing mud!  Other big changes since my last post, our oldest daughter Amber got married and became an instant mommy to a 3 yr. old stepson and that means the Admiral and I became instant; well we are not sure but instant something.  

OK so back to how we got here.  When we last left our duo the dream had been reborn and redefined.  You see we loved to sail but had no idea that one could live on a boat and just cruise around from place to place, but that is what people seemed to do.  We also had no idea how you could do that in a catamaran but it must have been possible since people were doing it.  We finally decided to find out and set out to book a charter, with a captain, for the entire family, including our handicapped son who as mentioned before, use to love to sail. I won’t go into the particulars about our son too much but we always believed that we should let him experience as much as possible since we never know what he’ll like(tolerate) or what he might enjoy.  

After a good deal of looking around on the Internet and a fair amount of sticker shock at the cost we decided to charter out of Miami on an Island Sprit 37 (the one in the banner picture.)  Captain Stacey was assigned to us, deposits made, plane tickets booked, and guide books studied.  Then the thing you always know will happen, it happens to us all, but yet you are never ready for it, my mother, after a short but intense illness died.  If you have lost a parent, then you understand that no matter how much you rationalize it, the loss is one you can’t prepare for.  My mom died in May at the age of 70; I was just about to turn 50 and I could not get over the reality that she was just 20 years older then I was about to become.  I pause just writing it now.  Life is such a short precious gift.  Not too long after we returned home from my mom and dad's one of us suggested inviting my father to go with us on the charter in July and after some consideration, he accepted.  So here we were, Jo and I, two teenage girls, the boy, and my dad heading off to Florida to meet Capt. Stacey.  Let me say, Capt. Stacey was like no one I had met to this point.  Skillfully and abundantly tattooed, a tugboat captain with a great sense of humor from whom I learned a lot.  

Now as I mentioned we were in Florida, heading from Miami down the Keys as far as we could.  It was hot, mostly windless, and buggy!  Oh did I mention HOT and guess what, there was no air conditioning on the boat.  I had never really thought of it, I just assumed, aside from the mountains and maybe Canada, there was air conditioning.  Well that’s not totally true, I knew a good portion of the worlds population didn’t have A/C and somehow prior to the 50’s/60’s neither did the majority of Americans but it had been so common place in our lives I just never though it wouldn’t be there.  I have since learned that you can have A/C on a sailboat but it requires generators, and that a wind scoop will direct all those wonderful trade winds down into your cabin (along with the rain that always seems to come at 0300hrs).  Mostly the girls and I compensated the heat by sleeping out on the trampoline of the boat; which happened to be named Bob’s Cat and my Dad being named Bob; ok so its funny to me.  Sleeping on the tramp was great until the afore mentioned 0300 rain came then we went scurrying for cover.  My son seemed to be impervious to the heat, well, his berth had the wind scoop, and slept like a rock until he woke up at dawn and then he was up hungry and not going back to sleep.  My wife and Dad, well remember I mentioned it being buggy, well they did battle each night with in their respective cabins full of mosquitos.  Even though they would lather up with DEET the buzzing of those little b@*%$@#! Kept them awake and the killing fields open.  In the morning their cabins were blood splattered from the mosquitos that didn’t make it out alive.  Near the end of the 10-day charter I found them both laughing manically after a sleepless night of killing.  Ok so the nights were rough but except for the one day we tried to get out into the Atlantic from the bay side and it was so rough many fish were fed, forcing the decision to stay on the bay side rather than the Atlantic side of the Keys, the days were filled with a lot of light air sailing or motor sailing, or just plain old motoring, swimming, snorkeling, and a couple trips ashore.  Getting our son on and off the boat was no easy task.  He didn’t understand the concept of the dingy so a lot of times someone stayed on board with him.  This was turning out, at least in my mind to be a disaster, a very expensive disaster.   At one snorkeling spot my father jumped in and the current was running so fast away from the boat he shot only to be grabbed by another moored vessel and Capt. Stacey jumping in after him.  In a Keystone Cops like fashion my eldest daughter and I got the dingy into the water, then put the drain plug in, got the engine started, and picked up my dad and Capt. Stacey.  I had visions of explaining to my brothers of how dad was swept off to Cuba by the current.  We got our chance to return the favor of the Good Samaritan boater when a young family got caught in the current and we pulled their two young children and mother out of the same H2o expressway my dad was on.  Eldest daughter and I did go snorkeling and saw a really big shark not too far below us, which ended our adventure for that afternoon.  Capt. Stacey showed me a little bit of navigation, let the girls steer, and although I think she was being kind, assured us that we weren’t her worse charter crew; needless to say we tipped her well.  Some take-always from that trip, first people do live on and cross-oceans on a 37’ and smaller boats even without A/C.  That “sailing” isn’t always about sailing and when there is no wind well you sit still or become a motorboat aka stinkpot.  I learned that as much as I wanted my son to love and enjoy sailing again, it wasn’t going to happen.  It was difficult for him to move around with so many changes in levels and because of that he sat a lot of the time and because of the inactivity his legs and feet swelled painfully and he was miserable.  Also, getting on and off the boat were harrowing experiences for both him and us that eventually involved a boson chair and a winch.  I learned, or feared, that the dream of sailing away was dead, that I would never get my wife back on a boat again and to be honest, I was not sure if I wanted to.   In retrospect I am sure that as I often do I put too much pressure on myself for this to be “perfect.”  I obsessed about the little things that didn’t work out the way I had imagined and failed to appreciate the wonderful things that did happen.  The principal thing being that after a very long hiatus from the water we were on the water, and not just some water but an ocean.  We would lie out under the stars at night, watched the sunrise and set and was oblivious to the world; but was that enough.

We somehow made it home, us to Lubbock, via Dallas then a 350-mile drive, Dad to Colorado Springs. Shortly after that the semester began and I was back to the reality of teaching, designing, harping at my daughters to do their homework, and the never-ending routine that was my son.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a good existence, I loved doing what I was doing and so far my teenage daughters had made the experience of having teenage daughters fairly uneventful with the occasional skirmish with their mom, but I couldn’t help but feel that something had changed; something had changed, I just misinterpreted the change.  Now I must admit, the details are fuzzy but at some point Jo suggested we go sailing again but this time we go to the Bahamas and we do the sailing.  Ok game on, but wait, I have no idea how to play this game.  Sure I could move a beach cat from point A-to-B but something big enough to live on, not so sure.  While on the s/v Bob’s Cat, I talked to Capt. Stacey a lot about how you learn all this stuff i.e. how to sail/handle one of these cats.  She told me there were classes through the American Sailing Association (ASA); of course she was an instructor.  She even thought I could challenge the first class 101 and in essence clep-out of it; nice ego boost.  So with Jo’s blessing I found a class on the Texas coast near Houston, visited with the instructor, and signed up for ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing, followed by ASA 103 Costal Cruising.  As I mentioned earlier, we had wanted to go sailing in the Bahamas, specifically Abaco, which turns out to be a sailor’s paradise.  We looked at our options there, and I became fascinated with the Maine Cat 41 that was available.  There was also a Maine Cat 30, which was a more realistic option.  My reasoned brain concluded that if I were going to sail either of those vessels, it would be good to train on those vessels.  Through Abaco Multihull Charters who had the Maine Cats for charter and in discussion with the boat builders wife I was directed to theTracey Sailing School and my next two ASA courses ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising and the one I had been waiting for ASA 114 Cruising Catamaran!

Captain Stacey
Coming up in part 7, Captain Ralph, my long lost brother from a different mother, his lovely wife Arleen, a not so pleasant or laid-backed Captain Ron, and two weeks in Abaco on two different Maine Cats.

Images for the Charter:

I am just too cool for these people!
E & Dad
Again, I got my cool on!

Enough of this!
Should I tell Capt. Stacey how many times I
Wrecked Dad's Truck?
Captain Snooze 

Now this is what I am saying!!!!


The Admrial
What no beer for me!
If Not for the courage of the fearless Captain the crew of Bob's Cat would be lost.