April 21, 2015:
Last year, we spent the Captain’s birthday pillaging the shops of Duval Street, searching for “zee best key lime pie on zee island!” We were smack-dab, mid-way through our 2014 trip to the Florida Keys and celebrating both the journey and Phillip’s momentous event on the colorful streets of Key West.
This year, when we learned Buffett was putting on a concert in Orange Beach, fortuitously on the very day of our dear Captain’s birth (April 24, 2015), we knew exactly how we would be spending it — on a Bon Buffett Voyage baby!
Oh yeah. Our sentiments as well Mr. Buffett.
As soon as the tickets went up for sale, we had three laptops open refreshing, clicking and ready to buy. Thankfully, we were able to snag two tickets without much trouble in this general vicinity:
(Yes, I do wear my hair in a high pony with a blue bow … sometimes.)
We planned to head out a couple of days before the 24th and stop at some of our favorite local anchorages along the way — Red Fish Point right outside of Ft. McRae, where we drop the hook often, and Ingram’s Bayou, where we holed up last winter during our Thanksgiving Voyage — before we made our way over to The Wharf for the Buffett concert.
Very un-fortuitously, though, when we called The Wharf on the day we bought the tickets to reserve a slip the night of the concert, the lady on the phone just laughed at me, actually, it was more of a guffaw. “You’re funny,” she said. Apparently, the day the concert was simply announced, their slips filled up and a waiting list was started for us Johnny Come-Latelies. But, we signed up, figuring we had nothing to lose. As Number 93 on the Wharf Waiting List, though, it didn’t look like we had much to gain, either. So, we made a back-up reservation at the Homeport Marina with a plan to either dinghy to the concert (which would be quite a dinghy haul) or just cab it. That would also let us check out Jimmy’s sister, Lucy Buffett’s, place, Lulu’s at Homeport Marina. Either way, we were sailing our boat west for the Captain’s b’day, and we were going to that concert. “You’re Funny” Fran wasn’t going to stop us!
We also planned to finally install and sport our shiny new shifter arms for the trip! We’ve had these flaking-away old rubber-coated ones for a while,
And, it just so happened, the shiny new engraved set Phillip had ordered arrived in the mail day before we were set to head off on our voyage!
We couldn’t wait. We slapped those puppies on while we were provisioning and readying the boat for shove-off the next morning. They slipped right on perfectly and sure spruced up the helm. We were pimping now!
Unfortunately, we weren’t pimping for very long. The next morning we shoved off from the dock, smooth as silk, the Captain executing a perfect exit, but when the bow swung out and he tried to go forward, there was nothing perfect about it. I was tying up the docklines at the bow, but I could tell something was definitely wrong when the boat started to loop around to do another circle. I looked back at Phillip, and saw he was shifting and fidgeting with the new shifter arm for the transmission.
“I can’t … it’s … it won’t engage!” he shouted as I scrambled back to the cockpit. The problem was clear. Because of the unique location of the poles on our helm, we couldn’t push the shifter arm forward enough to actually engage the transmission into forward.
I won’t share the expletives we did in that moment. We tried to take the shifter arm off quickly, hoping we could adjust it but there was no adjusting to be done. It fit in only one position only–the no-forward-for-you position. There we were, out there, moving, with only neutral and reverse as options. Thankfully, the wind was on our side and she was pushing the boat forward enough to allow Phillip to steer and slow us down as needed with reverse. And, thankfully again (trust me, I realize how incredibly lucky we were that this worked out the way that it did), there was an open dock available just up the way. Phillip said he could pull up next to it so we could dock and he could run back up to our apartment to grab the old shifter arms which he had also thankfully (yes, a third) saved in case we needed them as spares.
I ran back up to the bow as we trudged forward with only neutral and reverse and re-tied the bow lines so we could use them to re-dock. And, I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but docking is just not my favorite thing, particularly when it’s somewhere we’ve never docked before and the winds are pushing us unfavorably (not to mention when we’re in a bit of a panic because our freaking shifter arm won’t work and we, you know, can’t go forward). I know the Captain is doing a lot (okay, pretty much everything) back there at the helm, but I can’t help but feel like a lone soldier up there on the deck, lines in hand, jumping off, scrambling to a cleat, strategically tying at just the right length and in just the right order, making sure our 15,000 pound boat neither touches the dock where there is no fender nor blows off out of line-tossing distance. It’s just stressful, that’s all I can say. My heart beats a thousand times a minute and I jump around like leprechaun on LSD. Thankfully, though (for the fourth and final time) we were able to ease up to the dock and secure her safely while we swapped the shifter arms out. Now — lesson of this little story? Always jump around like a lit-up leprechaun when docking? No (but good guess). To the extent possible, always check newly-installed equipment to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do before you leave the dock. You probably already knew that, but I’m happy to share our minor follies in case it helps some other poor sailor out there one day.
So, with our old very un-pimp shifter arms back in place and our first heart-pumping adventure of the trip under our belts (although it would be nowhere close to the last), we finally headed out into the bay to begin our Bon Buffett Voyage. It was a pretty sporty sail that day, but our boat romped and played in the waves like it was just good elementary school fun. “Tag, you’re it!” she’ll shout at the waves and romp away. She loves the salty spray!
Now, this might have been with a little help from the tide going out, but I don’t care. At one point, we were making 8.3!!
We made it to Red Fish Point in record time and prepared to drop the hook.
Those gloves help me grip both the anchor chain AND my rum drink! Both equally important.
The sun started to dip down just as we got her nice and secure for our first night of the voyage.
We cheers-ed to the first night of the voyage and let some soft Buffett play in the background while we kept a look-out for a green flash on the horizon.
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.