Strictly Sail Miami – Day Two – The Cast & Crew

February 12, 2015:

“Hi, Bob … pardon me.  I’m sorry to interrupt, but, hi.  Bob.  It’s Annie.  I’m Annie.  I’m a huge, huge fan … ”

I’m pretty sure it sounded about that timid and giddy.  I mean it was Bob Bitchin, THE Bob Bitchin–right there in the very darn coffee shop where Phillip and I were having our first caffeinated sip before the big boat show!  I had it all planned in my mind that I was going to meet him at the big Cruising Outpost party on Saturday and this early, unplanned coffee shop encounter was totally throwing me.  But, Phillip, as he often does because he knows it’s best for me, threw me to the wolves, and I’m so glad he did.  I was thrilled to find Bob actually remembered me from our meager email exchanges about my first article that he published and my desire to self-publish a sailing book.  I extended a shaky hand with my Salt of a Sailor book in it and tripped on words like “honored, privileged and inspired” trying somehow to convey the message that I hoped Bob would read it, enjoy it and let me know what he thought.   For all I know, though, I could have been speaking German.  I can’t remember a single English sentiment that I conveyed before I thanked him, giggled again and started tripping my way back to Phillip in a total sweaty mess.  But, I had done it!  Met Bob Bitchin, gave him the book and said something that (I believe) resembled praise.  There.  Done.

Just as my blood pressure finally started to subside and I could once again taste my coffee, Bob came back over.  Oh boy …  He was super generous, though, telling me he had flipped through my book and that he liked the interior formatting and the photos.  He gave me some advice on some additional publishing mumbo jumbo that I should include at the beginning next time and gave me some recommendations on ordering author copies for resale.  He was so generous with his time and insight.  I sat starry-eyed and spoke some more German.  It wasn’t until we were actually at the boat show and I had gathered my wits about me that I finally saw fit to ask him for a photo so I could share it on the blog.  There you have it.  The giddy German gal and the man himself – Bob Bitchin!

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“I hope you enjoy the book, Bob!”

This was my first and certainly most memorable “sail-ebrity” sighting during our Strictly Sail trip but there were many more.  I thought, before we get into all the boats, booze, sailing and “edutainment” seminars, I could help set the stage for you by introducing you to Have Wind Will Travel’s version of the Strictly Sail Miami’s cast and crew:

THE CAST (Sailebrities) — These are the big dogs of sailing, the cruisers that you read and read about, the ones that have crossed oceans, circumnavigated, been sailing for decades and talking about and presenting on it even longer.  The great thing about the Strictly Sail show is that they’re no longer icons in print, they’re right there, standing not five feet from you.  They’re approachable, friendly and seemingly just as eager to meet you as you are them (or at least they pretend really well).  Phillip and I were super impressed with the intimacy of the seminars at the show and the opportunities it allowed us to meet and chat with some of our favorite sailebrities:

Bob Bitchin — I’m sure I’ve said enough about him already.  Hell, he’s probably cringing and ducking his head by now as many times as I’ve “gone giddy” over him on the blog.  But, just to add a little background, I picked up one of his booksStarboard Attitude, the first day at the show (and made him sign it for me – of course!), started flipping through it and was astounded to read the man’s bio.  He spent 28 years ripping across the U.S. on a motorcycle (certainly explains the Harley shirts and tats) and even served as a bodyguard and roustabout for Evil Knievel back in the 70’s.  I don’t even know what a “roustabout” is, but I want to be one!  Before he even thought about cruising, he produced one of the largest cycle shows on the West Coast, CycleExpo, as well as published multiple biking and tattoo magazines.  He then … oh hell, I’ll just let you read it.  If you can dream it up, Bob’s done it:

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John Kretschmer — This man, the sailor who has crossed the Atlantic ocean more than 20 times, the one who stopped counting his nautical miles when he reached 300,000, was the most humble, self-deprecating, genuine person I might venture to say I have ever met.  He performs professional yacht deliveries around the world and takes eager crew members and captains out on training passage across some pretty harrowing waterways.  You can sign up to crew a passage with John via his website, although I believe he’s booked well into 2016.  (The man is popular).   His seminars were also engaging and authentic.  To be honest, for me, crossing an ocean was a bit further down the list (well after spending a year in the Bahamas, cruising the Carribean and what not), but after hearing John speak about it, I started to see it in an entirely new light.  John was an inspiring and entertaining speaker and, we heard from several independent sources at the show, an exceptional writer.  Phillip and I bought his Sailing a Serious Ocean book at the seminar (and made him sign it – of course!) and we can’t wait to give it a read.  At the Mercy of the Sea will be next on our list.  When I got all giddy and told John about my own book, he laughed and said he “loved reading stuff like that” and “couldn’t wait to check it out.”  Even if it was just a line, I ate it right up.  John was such a pleasure to meet.

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2.  Pam Wall — Pam served as West Marine’s Cruising Consultant for over twenty years.  She has sailed more nautical miles in the Bahamas than loaves of bread have been baked in the U.S. in 2015 (check that fact), and she has helped thousands of cruisers out there every step of the way.  Her passion for cruising and the adventure and cultural education it offers is clear from the minute she starts speaking about it.  Her bit on the black squalls that cruisers often face when crossing over to the Bahamas really stuck with me.  “Respect the weather, watch the skies, but don’t curse a valuable asset,” Pam said.  “Prepare for the passing storm, let the boat and crew enjoy a refreshing ‘Mother Nature shower’ and fill the water tanks.  Squalls can be a good thing.”  Pam writes an insightful and informative blog on her website — www.pamwall.com — and will tell any cruiser who is passing through Ft. Lauderdale to make contact and “take her out to lunch!”

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3.  Nigel Calder — I have to say Mr. Calder was the biggest surprise for me.  He is like “THE” expert on diesel engine maintenance and boat electronics.  I remember trying (sorry, Nigel, it’s not you, it’s me) to read his Mechanical and Electrical Manual well before Phillip and I even found our boat and while it was incredibly informative and detailed, it was also super technical.  Nigel is an obvious engine and electronics guru.  So, I figured he would, obviously, be a stuffy professor type, sporting an accent and a monocle.  Well … let’s say I was right about the accent, but wrong about everything else.  Nigel’s presentation “Lessons Learned Along the Way,” which I will cover later (that, and the chance encounter with him in the Leopard Tent, many a-Nigel story to come) was Phillip and I’s agreed favorite of the whole show.  Nigel was a riot.

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4.  Lee Chesneau — The Weather Man.  When it comes to pressure systems, wind patterns, and hurricane prediction, Lee is your guy.  Lee is a senior marine meteorologist who boasts a distinguished and extensive career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA’s) National Weather Service (NWS).  Lee gives weather presentations all over the nation and hosts educational weather forecasting seminars for commercial vessel captains on a global scale.  He’s also a hoot, with these awesome lopsided glasses he sports during his seminars.  Very high fashion.  Lee has a real talent for “dumbing down the weather” in a way that enables everyday cruisers to watch weather patterns and make safe predictions for passage.  I’ll lay out his helpful 1-2-3 rule for tropical storm and hurricane monitoring in our upcoming “Edutainment” portion (I know you’re excited), which we found very helpful.  Lee maintains an extensive and informative website on marine weather forecasting where you can also contact him to request weather predictions.

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Woody Henderson — This man-boy has seemingly done it all, solo-circumnavigated, wrote for Latitudes & Attitudes (you may recall “Woody’s World”) for thirteen years, and helped form Adventure Voyaging, where he and Tonia Aebia, the youngest sailor ever to circumnavigate, now plan and lead multi-boat sailing adventures to exotic locations all over the world — Tonga to Croatia, The Grenadines, Thailand, you name it.  He has cruised and taught cruisers for decades but, by the looks of it, my guess is he started doing all of that at the ripe age of ten.  I think he was also on the cover of BOP and Tiger Beat when I was still cutting those up and hanging them on my bedroom walls.

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His boyish good looks aside, Woody was an incredibly warm and endearing speaker with a wealth of information to offer.  He is a sharp captain, experienced cruiser and capable voyage leader.

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THE CREW — While the sailebrities were very exciting, I have to say, the real entertainment were the folks we encountered walking around the boat show.  While there is a whole cast of them, here are some honorable mentions:

The Yacht Models — These men are pretty.  They like to walk around the boat show in pristine, pressed sweaters, either pulled tightly around their chiseled frames or draped delicately over their shoulders and in a neat tied knot.

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“Yes, Eduardo, I’ll take my brandy out here on the lido deck, please.”

The Drink Service Gals — A real classy bunch, and apparently hearty too.  They wear these skimpy crotch shorts and wedge heels in any kind of weather!

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“Another round, sir?”

The Money Suits — It seemed if you wanted to really catch a boat broker’s eye, you walked up to the yacht covered head-to-toe in a white linen suit, with a vivacious broad on your arm (the majority of which typically sported a wildly unnatural hair color and some form of pleather, snakeskin apparel).  A toy dog in an shoulder bag was optional but also common.  Show up looking like this and they knew you were serious about signing papers today.

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However, there was another kind of “power suit” in play–certainly not linen and I think he was more in the business of selling, as opposed to buying.

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The Wanna-Bes — Watch out for these guys.  They’ll act like they’re interested in your big, fancy, production-line boat as they kick off their shoes and step aboard, but they really want to look at the Clorox-build quality and snicker because they know their older, well-crafted 80’s model could run circles around her.

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“Uhhh, yes, thanks for letting us have a look.  She’s beautiful.  We’ll be in touch.”  (NOT!)

Although, I will say I think we were a bit more “kind of are” as opposed to “wanna be” that night because Phillip’s shoulder-sweater-swagger got us escorted into a super swanky exclusive affair.  We headed to the Design District for dinner that evening and while we were walking the streets, checking out all of the construction and renovation that’s going on down there, we passed by this sea of snarly socialites.

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The woman were all perched on six-inch stilettos, at least, clad in super-tight cocktail numbers with their hair slicked back in high fashion pony tails.  The men were donning very high-end blazers and trendy horn-rimmed glasses, and they were servers milling around in tuxedos offering sparkling trays of drinks and little fru-fru hors d’oeuvres.  There was a live band with a buttery-voiced female lead crooning in the corner, sculpted art rising up out of the ground and a cacophony of clinging champagne flutes and high falsetto laughter.  Ha ha ha.  It was quite the haughty affair.  Being the curious, roustabout cruisers we are, Phillip and I were just poking around, taking it all in, when a snippy woman confronted us with a clipboard, a visible stance blocking our entry and a prompt, “Name please, sir?”

Phillip and I looked at each casually, shrugged our shoulders as if the whole thing didn’t matter and Phillip said, “We were just going to have a look around.”

The woman dropped her head down, squinted at Phillip over the rims of her naughty librarian glasses for a long minute and finally said, “Welcome then,” as she swept the clipboard behind her back and stepped aside, extending one arm to invite us in.  I think she might have mistaken Phillip for this man.

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Common mistake.

With his convenient look-alike status, Phillip and I stepped into this elegant, high societal gathering and pretended like we were the most important people there.

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An Italian-accented lad in a tuxedo came up with a dazzling tray of drinks and offered me a brandy cocktail and Phillip a sparkling flute of prosecco.  We cheersed each other, laughing at the irony of it all, “If only they knew,” and infiltrated the crowd.

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Having finished our first sparkling round rather quickly, I was about to summon the nice Italian boy over for another when Phillip stopped me.  He was looking at a flyer that was sitting on one of the tables.  Turns out the “haughty affair” was a fundraiser, with “suggested” donation amounts starting at one thousand and escalating to TEN.  My eyes just about popped out of my head.  “$10,000?!”  We’re cruisers.  The only thing in our world worthy of a $10,000 donation is our boat, parts for our boat, or work that needs to be done our boat.

“We need to go,” Phillip said easing me back behind the pillars.  We left our empty flutes by the empty donation placard on the table and slipped out the back before they could trap us.  That was about to be the most expensive drink we’d ever had.  It was fun to flirt with well-to-dos, though, if only for a bit.  Our first day at the boat show certainly introduced us to an interesting array of characters that we would meet, gawk at and interact with over the course of the next few days.  Now that you have a good flavor of the cast and crew, it’s high time we raised the curtain on this Strictly Sail Miami show.  Next time these “wannabes” will take you along as they set foot on many a boat they cannot afford — Cruising World’s Boat of the Year, the GunBoat 55, an exquisite Amel 55 (think s/v Delos), an Oyster, Hylas, Knysna and more.  Stay tuned!

 

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Strictly Sail Miami – Day One – A Bitchin View

February 11, 2015:

I know, a blog post in real time?  Modern day 2015?  This is crazy!  But, it was all too exciting to let simmer on the back burner.  While we embarked on plenty of adventures, excursions and (always) more boat projects since our return from the Keys in May of 2014, honestly, they can wait.  From the moment we docked back in May, the next big “sail trip” on the horizon was, for us, the Strictly Sail Miami show in February.

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Their unbiased sponsor, Flo, claims, “It’s the sailing event of the season!”

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Strictly Sail puts on shows in various cities–Chicago, California, etc.–every year and we had been trying to make it to one for a while.  When the show in Miami came up, we booked it months in advance and started scraping our pennies so we could afford, you know, like three drinks in Miami.  The show would also be a great opportunity to check out the latest technologies and developments in boat design, sail accessories, electronics and hardware, as well as attend seminars and hands-on sail classes taught by some of the sailing world’s well-versed and renowned experts–Nigel Calder, Jimmy Cornell, John Kretschmer and the like–real, live sailebrities, if you will.  *sigh*

I also had another more personal goal in mind.  I had been mulling over the idea of polishing and cobbling together a few of my early blog posts into a book for quite some time (I know–surprise, surprise).  But, when the time came to get serious about it, I reached out to the man who published my very first sail story for some guidance.  You may recall this notorious character —

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Bob Bitchin, self-proclaimed “Editor-at-Large” of Cruising Outpost.  Bob has written and published a number of books himself over the course of his colorful career, so I figured he could give me some words of wisdom when it came to publishing my own.  Bob’s recommendation on publishing?  “Self-publish,” he said.  “It’s the best way to go.”  Self-publish, I thought with a huff.  Who’s going to buy my hand-made, self-printed drivel?   But, I pondered it for just a bit before I promptly decided to take his bitchin advice and do it!  Then I got real bold and told Bob I’d bring him a first edition, signed copy at the Miami show!  *gulp*  Now I had a real deadline, but an incredibly motivating goal.

Luckily, I busted my arse, finished Salt of a Sailor in record time and packed the very first hard copy with me on the flight to Miami.  My plan was to corner Bob at the famous Cruising Outpost Party he hosts every year at the show.  I planned to gently saunter up to him at the party, introduce myself in person, book in hand, and thank him for all of his help.  Or, if that didn’t work, spring out from behind a port-a-potty if need be and hold him down until he took the book from me and promised to read it cover to cover.  Either way, I was excited about the Bob encounter.

The book all printed and packed, Phillip and I hustled ourselves to the airport to get on a big jet airliner to Miami the day before the Strictly Sail show began.

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Who’s excited??  

Another really cool part about this trip was that it was our first time to try out this fancy new vacay rental website called Airbnb.  Don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s a fantastic concept.  Anyone, anywhere in the world can list their property (be it their whole house, apartment or studio) or just one room (the guest bedroom, the garage, whatever) on the Airbnb website for rental by total strangers (aka … us!).  We had poked around on the site weeks before the trip and found a one-bedroom condo that looked like it was just a few blocks from the Strictly Sail show, which meant we could walk everywhere – no car rental! Even after taxes and the Airbnb service charge, it was still cheaper than any hotel in the area.  Thank you Airbnb!  We hopped on the Metrorail (a whopping $2.25 a piece to get from the airport to our condo) and headed downtown.

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And, when we got to the condo, the Vizcayne on Biscayne Blvd, we were thrilled to find it was literally right across the street from the show!

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We could literally throw a stone at the Strictly Sail tent from the front door of our condo building!  (That is, if we were inclined to throw stones at it … we opted for embarrassing selfies instead!)

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And, the condo?  Let’s just say we had a bitchin view!

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And, you might think it would be hard to really kick back and get comfortable in someone else’s place?  Trust me, it’s not.

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But, we didn’t stay at the condo long.  We were ready to get out and explore and dig into some authentic Miami cuisine.  Our trusted rigger back home, Rick Zern with Zern Rigging, had recommended an upscale Peruvian restaurant near the marina, which turned out to be about a half block from our condo.  I’m telling you – location, location, location.  So, we went to check it out–CVI.che 105.  And, I’ve had some really great ceviche before, I’m definitely a fan, but every time I’ve had it, it’s always been a mix of tiny little diced up pieces that look a lot like pico de gallo.  Something like this —

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Peruvian ceviche, however?  Looks like this!

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Huge chunks of shrimp, octopus, fresh fish, calamari, mussels, etc.  They’re tart but tender.  And, it comes on a bed of fried corn (which adds great texture), these sweet, plump hominy-looking kernels and sweet potato.  Yes, sweet potato.  I would have never thought to throw in some sweet potato with ceviche, but trust me, the Peruvians know how to do it.  We also tried their grilled octopus with chimichurri and creamy pepper sauce,

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and Phillip ordered the braised beef and beans, both of which were incredibly flavorful.

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Then we were miserable.  Pretty much, anyway.  That was a lot of food.  Way more than we needed at the time, so we knew next time, to order one entree and split there, but it was absolutely divine–best ceviche I have ever had, hands down.  Stuffed to the gills, we decided to go poking around the marina, get a little preview of the boats and decide which ones we wanted to check out first tomorrow.

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Uhhh, yes, I’m looking to upgrade my Niagara 35 to a 74″ Catamaran.”

 
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Not really.  We would never!  We love our Niagara!  But, that’s what we were planning to tell the brokers so they would let us on these big, buoyant monsters just for a look-see.  There were soooo many floating mansions to see!  We spent a couple of hours poking around the boats and the big tent, planning our attack for the next day and eventually worked our appetites back up.  (It really doesn’t take much with us, though).  After some thorough Trip Advisor scouring, Phillip had rooted out this little place called Toro Toro for us to check out.  The bar at Toro Toro was THE happening place in Miami–a modern, swanky atmosphere, finely crafted cocktails and all walks of elegant Miami life.

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We also got incredibly lucky to get in without a reservation (because the place was booked solid the rest of the time we were in Miami) but after a quick sip at the bar, they called us right back.  From the moment we sat down, everyone in the place stopped by to check on us–make sure we had menus, our candle was lit, had the sommelier come by yet?  The service was phenomenal.  And, the food?  So good I forgot to take pictures.  That is … until the highlight.  Their La Bomba dessert.  I’m not sure you can handle this.

Three scoops of vanilla bean and strawberry ice cream, fresh fruit and cookie crumble, complete with an edible flower garnish, are brought to the table in a sculpted chocolate shell bowl.

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The server lays down a clean piece of plastic on the table and then … CRACK!  He drops the bowl onto the table where it shatters into a beautiful, melted chocolate dream.  Slow-churned caramel is then drizzled over the top, almost like a painting.

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It was a true culinary experience.

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That, sadly, among these two ravenous travelers, didn’t last long!

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We sauntered home with visions of caramel drizzle and chocolate shards dancing in our head.  The Strictly Sail show hadn’t even begun yet and we had already sunk our teeth deep into the adventure.  Despite the full bellies and travel fatigue, we found it a bit difficult to lull ourselves into a deep sleep that night.  Perhaps it was the newness of the place, but I suspect it was the excitement of the day to come–the boats we would explore, the fellow cruisers we were going to meet, the sailebrities!

Phillip and I both rustled to before the sun rose the next morning and started checking the seminar schedule and readying the backpack for the day.  This was it!  The Strictly Sail Miami show!  We stopped in at a little coffee shop at the YVE hotel across from the show, where many Strictly Sail folks were staying, ordered up a couple of lattes to sip on before the show and settled in at a window seat.  I was perfectly content, sipping my latte, munching some granola, with a lovely view out of the cafe window.  Phillip, however, had a different view.  He spotted him first.  Over my shoulder.  Sitting there, drinking coffee, eating a bagel, like a totally normal person, not five feet from us.  The man himself … BOB BITCHIN.

I immediately started sweating, fidgeting with my hair, biting my nails, glancing over my shoulder.  It was really him!  Phillip and I debated it a bit.  Should I bust up on him, now, all starry-eyed and stammering, book-in-hand or wait until the Cruising Outpost party on Saturday?  Would it irritate him if I interrupted his breakfast?  What if he held up his hand to cut me off and just said, “Sweetheart, talk to my people?”  I had no idea what this man would do!  I was all hot and clammy and nervous, but ready to get it over with.  Phillip pulled the copy of my Salt book I had signed for Bob out of the backpack, handed it to me and told me to go for it …

 

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SALT OF A SAILOR

There she is!  My first (but certainly not my last) real, live published book about sailing.

Salt of Sailor BUY

Available in hard copy on Amazon HERE or Kindle HERE.

I can’t believe it was only two meager years ago, in February of 2013, that I first set foot on a sailboat and headed out for My First Sail.  Now, here we are, February, 2015, and not only have Phillip and I found the pretty-much-perfect boat for us, but we sailed it all the way down to the Keys and back.  While we have closed the chapter on our first Keys trip, we still have many adventures, boat projects, refits, upgrades and future trips planned to share with you.  This blog has served as such a source of inspiration, support and motivation for me.  Having followers like you thank me for giving them the opportunity to live vicariously has encouraged me to keep traveling, keep collecting stories and keep pursuing this challenging but rewarding craft of writing.

If you have found yourself, even just once, chuckling to yourself while reading this blog (because, let’s face it, in truth, LOL’ing is really quite rare), I, without any hesitation, guarantee you will enjoy this book.  It’s not a shameless plug if it’s an accurate one.  While the blog is a great platform for me to recount our numerous tall (and small) tales, it doesn’t allow me to tell you the full story, with all the necessary details and smells (those are important) that will really put you there, on that salty, swaying boat with us.  You may recall parts of the main story–our first harrowing passage across the Gulf of Mexico in the boat–but you didn’t get the critical back stories–the tobacco wad and the maxi pad, the piss and the pom-poms, the Malt-o-Meal in New Mexico, not to mention Runt and the sunken truck.  My God!  You need these to truly understand what it feels like to be out there and what it takes to make a sailor truly “salty.”  Many a fine book began as merely a fine blog, so you might have seen this coming.  But, I guess you can say, in that regard, that I’ve been sweating and laboring over this for years and I hope it shows.  If you’re inclined, don’t wait.  Buy it.  Read it.  If you like it, write a review and tell others whom you think would enjoy it to pick up a copy, too.  Know that I’m thrilled you enjoyed it, grateful and humbled by your support and that I’m working hard writing the next one for you.

While I still have the stage (I know, I know – thank your parents, your spouse, the Almighty and get off – I’ll be quick, I promise), a big thanks to fellow Amazon publisher and author of many a-riveting sail tale, Ed Robinson, for giving my book an early review, offering some critical editorial insights and providing an endorsement for the back cover:

“If you’re thinking about buying your first sailboat and making it your own, you need to read this refreshingly honest tale.”

— Ed Robinson, author of Poop, Booze & Bikinis.

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I highly recommend Ed’s “Poop” book, along with a roll of toilet paper to dab at the laugh-till-you-cry tears.   Much gratitude to loyal follower, Casey, as well for the thorough manuscript scouring and insightful edits.  And, finally a heartfelt thanks to Amazon for giving budding little doe-eyed authors like myself the opportunity to self-publish.  Anyone can write anything and put it out there for anyone in the world to read.  What a fantastic concept.

Without further adieu–imagine this with some great Hollywood score playing in the background and dramatic, captivating sail footage, like a kickass movie trailer …

“Had I ever sailed?  No.  Did I think that mattered?  No.  I had endured enough uncomfortable and arguably dire situations that I felt I had whatever grit and guile I needed to handle this silly sailing stuff.  I parachuted with a sheet, drove a car that started with a screwdriver, swished with hydrogen peroxide.  I rode horses, climbed rocks, leapt off cliffs.  I spent summers in the sleeper of a big rig.  I ate Malt-o-Meal.  Surely these were excellent traits of a sailor.  Surely I was salty enough.  I fancied I was.  Either way, we were going to find out.  The time to go was now.  All we needed was a boat.”

SALT OF A SAILOR, by Annie Dike

I hope you enjoy it.

 

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The Mishap Recap

May 20, 2014:

So, this sailing stuff?  Nothing to it, right?  It’s just ropes (which we call “lines”) that control sails which make the boat move.  That’s pretty basic.  But, then, there’s also the engine, the batteries, the thru-hulls and sea cocks, the water tanks and pressure systems, the propane and solenoid, the steering wheel and rudder, not to mention all of the instruments, gauges and meters.

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Okay, maybe it can get a little complicated, but the good news is, when you get down to it, most of those complicated-sounding systems really are basic when you take the time to dissect and understand them.  Meaning, most of them can be fixed on the fly, as long as you have the right parts, or parts that “will do” (we call this improvising).

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During our trip to the Keys, we found most of the “issues” that occurred on the boat were operator error (sorry boat!) and most were fairly easy to fix once we figured out what had gone wrong.  We chalked these up to “lessons learned” and felt it may help other cruisers out there to pass them along.

1.   The Lazy Jack Snap!   Before the trip, we had a new stack pack put on for the main sail with a new set of lazy jacks attached to the spreaders to hold it up.

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The lines also cleated off at the boom, and our riggers had left some surplus in the lazy jack lines in case we needed to loosen them for any reason.  Good idea, we thought … at the time.  But, when the time came where loosening the lazy jacks would have actually been a good idea, thinking about the tension in the lazy jacks was one of the last things we were doing.  Unfortunately, during our first night offshore, when we were heading from Pensacola to Port St. Joe, we ran into some rough seas–winds in the high teens and rolling five-foot seas all night long.  Water was crashing over the bow, spraying us in the cockpit and the boat was beating into a steady southeast wind.  The sails were taut, full to the brim all night long, likely pressing hard on the new lazy jack lines, but we didn’t know it.  We heard plenty of cracks and bangs during the overnight passage, but it’s hard to tell–in the dark of night– if the sound you heard was just a normal ‘boat groan’ or something actually breaking.  You handle the boat the best you can and try not to worry about her too much (key word being ‘try‘).  But, sometimes you wake to find, in the rough winds of the night, that something did actually break.  For us, it was the lazy jack on the starboard side.

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Kind of a bummer.  But, we figured they must call it a “lazy” jack for a reason, right?  It must be the lazy way.  Surely people have been raising and lowering their sails for centuries without these “lazy lines” to help.  I mean, you have to ask yourself–What Would Columbus Do?  (Back in 1492).  He’d flank that sail the old-fashioned way, and keep on a-keepin’ on.  So, that’s what we did.  Until we got a little lazy …

Next leg of the trip, Phillip had the great idea to re-raise our busted lazy jack line with the topping lift for the spinnaker pole.

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You see?  Improvising.  Once you know how the systems work, you can then use them in all the wrong ways to achieve whatever result you’d like.  It’s a product liability defense lawyer’s dream!   So, what did we learn?  Be sure to check the tension in your lazy jack lines when your sails are full.  If they’re too tight, the wind in the main can bust the line.  And, if something breaks, don’t mourn.  Look around!  You may find something else on the boat that can serve its purpose.

 

2.  A Spun-Out Jenny  Much like the suicidal strung-out version in Forrest Gump,

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just outside of Tamp Bay, we found our Jenny, too, was busted.  During a fairly mundane furling of the Jenny, you might recall the pop we heard, followed by a clattering rainfall of ball bearings on the deck.  Sadly, the spinning halyard for our Jenny broke in two while we were cranking her in.  One half remained at the top of the mast, and the other came barreling down the forestay, flogging our Jenny and letting her pile down in a useless heap on the foredeck.

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DOH!

Why did this happen?  After some serious research, troubleshooting and second opinions, we decided it was caused by pulling the halyard up too tight at the mast, causing the shackle to pull into the throat at the mast and putting tension on the bottom top part of the halyard, which should be allowed to spin freely.  A thorough review of the manual for the furling system was quite helpful in this regard (as most manuals are).  I’ve said it plenty of times but have no qualms repeating it.  Keep all manuals in a single, organized location and refer to them often.  It’s amazing what you can learn from … I don’t know … the folks who built and designed whatever Godforsaken contraption you are cursing at the moment.  We had dropped our Jenny prior to the trip to have the UV cover re-(re-)stitched and figured we must have pulled the halyard just a tad too high when we raised the Jenny back up.

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Back then, we were also furling our Jenny in using the large winches in the cockpit.  It was easier that way, but it was also deceiving because the winch is so powerful.  If there is an inordinate amount of tension in the line, pulling by hand you’re going to feel it.  Pulling by winch, you may not, and you’ll power right through it, likely breaking something in the process.  I think there’s some appropriate saying I could insert here about a cannon and a mosquito.  However, I believe a more vivid example (sorry Confucius) would be a surgeon who operates not with his hands but with a remote-operated backhoe.  Are you going to let him in your abdomen?  There is simply no substitute for the human touch.  How does it feel?  How hard is it to pull?  Conway Twitty would agree.  Don’t be shy.  Sing it with me!  “I want a man with the slooow hands … “

Luckily, we were able to get the Jenny repaired in St. Pete by a talented and resourceful rigger, who ended up having the exact halyard we needed (which had been discontinued) in his self-proclaimed “Sanford & Son boat part yard” (a.k.a. his shop).  And, what did we learn?  Don’t tighten the Jenny halyard too much.  Refer to your manuals.  And, when feasible, opt for the “slow hand” over the powerful pull.

 

3.  Never Let Go of the Halyard!  Have I said that one before, too?  Then why the hell do we keep letting go of it?  I’m not sure exactly.  All I can say is when you’re up on the deck, riding your boat-of-a-bull as it’s bucking over waves and focusing all of your mental energy on the simple task of staying on the boat, you just kind of forget about that little thing that’s in your hand–the all-important halyard.  I guess think of it like this–have you ever accidentally poured a glass of something on yourself when you turned your hand to look at your watch?  Why did you do that?  (Because you’re brilliant like me, of course!)  And, also, because your brain just kind of forgot you had a glass in your hand.  Well, same thing can happen with the halyard.  When it comes to you grabbing something to keep your scrawny arse on the boat in the middle of pounding seas, your brain just kind of checks out of the whole halyard-holding process and forgets about it.  And, then …  You let go!  Of the halyard!  And, the minute you do and see that halyard start swinging around, you curse yourself!  Stupid brain!  Why did you let go of that?!  It just happens.  All told, we’ve done it four times, three of which required Little Miss First Mate to ascend the mast to retrieve it:

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Once in Carrabelle (when we first dropped the Jenny to re-stitch the UV cover and pulled the halyard back up afterward, thinking it would magically drop back down when we needed it to–turns out we were wrong).  Up you go, Annie.

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Once in St. Pete (when the Jenny halyard busted, it left half of a mangled halyard at the top of the mast, which again would not magically come down with a little (or lot of) shaking).  Up you go, Annie.

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Once mid-sea, on our way into Clearwater when we accidentally let go of the main halyard while trying to raise the sail at night and it snaked its way all the way up the backstay to the top of the mast.  Up you go, Annie.

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And, the fourth time?  Well, that retrieval was more of a fall than a climb, but I did get it back!  Unfortunately, I busted the lazy jack line on the port-side (and a bit of my arm and knee) in the process.

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Moral of that story?  Never let go of the halyard.  But, if you do, don’t be a hero trying to retrieve it.  I guess the best advice would be to not do dumb things.  But, we are human, and I am a blonde, so … it’s just going to happen.  To lessen the frequency, we did come up with a better main halyard-rigging system in which we never un-clip the halyard from the main sail.  We just re-route it down and back up to maintain the tension when the sail is down.

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And, thanks to the Captain’s spiffy fix of the lazy jack line on the starboard side, we knew just how to fix the one I’d busted on port.  This time with the halyard for the spinnaker.

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Although I will say we were running out of spare lines to use to hold up our lazy jacks.  It’s a good thing we were headed home by then.

 

4.  Book Swap Mojo.  One final lesson–not so much related to rigging as reading–but just as valuable.  The Book Swap Mojo phenomenon.  If you uncover a great book at one of the free marina book swaps,

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be sure to give it back to another free marina book swap down the line when you finish reading it.  If not, the Book Swap Gods will learn of your insidious hoarding and leave you with wretched book crumbs like this at every marina book swap to come.

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Read it.  Enjoy it.  Then give it back.

 

While we learned plenty of lessons on the trip, these were just a few that stood out for us, particularly because of the valuable insight they provided in terms of rigging and equipment failure, and how to (try to) avoid them, overcome them, or improvise around them if we, or other sailors, found ourselves in the same predicament in the future.  But, the biggest lesson learned?  Mishaps are just going to happen.  No matter how cautious you are.  No matter how much care you take to try to prevent against them.  Things are going to break.  Things will have to be repaired.  Things are going to slow you down and hold you back.  So, what do you do?  Keep sailing, of course.  Keep getting out there and bumping into things.

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And, in my case, keep writing about them.  You never know when you might just have enough colorful tales and Conway Twitty bits to cobble them all into, I don’t know, say–a BOOK.  One that might be coming out real soon.  Big things are happening over here, followers.  Be excited …

 

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