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!
“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 books, Starboard 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:
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Like the blog? Show some love!