“You are not writing about this,” was his only caveat, when Phillip and I agreed to do the delivery. I knew I shouldn’t have given him a copy of None Such Like It when he was boat-shopping. But, after the entire saga went down, he knew it was well worth telling the tale. And, after an agreement to change some names to protect the … bold and brave, I was granted a writer’s exclusive.
Friends, followers, I’m excited to tell you about my first delivery! And, I say mine, because while Phillip and I did help our buddy, Mitch, bring his Nonsuch from Ft. Myers up to her new home port of Pensacola back in June of 2015, I would easily say I was ranking First Mate at the time, nowhere near Captain. Not that I am an official USCG Captain … yet (I’ve got just a few more documents to wrestle up before I can send my application to the Coasties), but the boys on this trip were kind enough to let me take more of the lead this time and humor me the title, Captain Annie, for this delivery.
And what a doozie! As it seems they all are. And, by that I don’t mean we were battling six-foot waves and thirty-knot winds in the Gulf (this time), because that’s not the kind of experience you have to have every time for it to be a good salty sea tale. Besides, we all know what my biggest fear is anyway and it’s not out there in the big, open blue. Say it with me … yes, docking! That’s sh*t is scary for real. What was important about this passage, and every passage we go on, is that Phillip and I encountered some situations we had never experienced before, learned some good lessons from it and found ourselves, as we often do, inspired by those we sail with. In this case, we’ll call him Wild Phil Hickok!
Cue the Old Western whistle and cracking whip sound *Whoo-psssh*
Wild Phil has been a long-time friend of Phillip’s and had been shopping for a few months for a good, reliable boat he could leisurely sail around Pensacola and to take the family (his wife and two boys) out to spend weekends on the hook. He had focused on Catalinas as his boat of choice because he knew they were a trusted name and he liked the build quality, design and feel of the cockpit. What he found was truly a gem. A 1992 Catalina 28, reportedly in complete working order, down in Tampa (for less than $22k, I might add). The boat was brought up to Carrabelle for the survey/sea-trial and when our very own Bob Kriegel with RK Marine Services here in Pensacola deemed her “above average condition,” we knew Phil would probably pounce on it. Wouldn’t you?
It wasn’t long before Phil was inking the line and calling himself a proud new Catalina order and Phillip and I were soon enlisted to help deliver the boat from Carrabelle to her new home port of Pensacola. Just as we did for Mitch when we were preparing to help him with his delivery, Phillip and I put together a pretty extensive provision and supplies list for Phil for the trip:
Yeah, I know. A little over the top? Well, there’s no harm in being over-prepared, right? What did Phil think of mine and Phillip’s impressive fore-thoughtedness?
Love that guy. And, I really can’t tell you why booze is highlighted there. My Mac must know we pretty well …
Following the recommendations of the surveyor, Phil had the marine service guys in Carrabelle do some work on the alternator and change the fuel filters while the boat was going to be there for a couple of weeks before he could come back to make the delivery. It was actually the same “Mechan-Eric” Phillip and I had hired to put in our new transmission after our first famous failure to deliver our own boat all the way home on the first try, and (way more importantly) he was the guy who approved my duct-tape and Dasani-bottle “catchment bin” to capture our leaking transmission fluid and pour it back in.
Ironic? Not really. There’s only one mechanic in Carabelle. But it did bring back some very fun memories when we pulled up to Phil’s new boat and found it docked in the very same place ours was, just four short years ago, trying to make her own way home to Pensacola.
Phil’s Catalina, 2017:
Our Niagara, 2013:
It seemed Carrabelle was a rite of passage. And while mine and Phillip’s adventure getting our Niagara home from Punta Gorda, FL—which included hacking off the flailing dinghy in the Gulf, having the old transmission eat itself alive, enduring a six-week separation while the boat was in Carabelle having the new transmission put in, only to have the new one leak little red tears into a Dasani catchment system that had to be dunked back into the engine every hour—was quite the experience, it honestly seemed like a little bit of nothing when we saw what Wild Phil had to go through before he finally got his boat home to Pensacola. In just a few short days, Phil had already accomplished more feats and suffered more failures than many boat owners do … well, ever. Phil was adamant about holding the helm, handling problems and getting as much experience as possible, good or bad, and I can easily say he’s now (just a week into boat ownership) done more than I have at the wheel. So, kick back, buckle up, and let this tale begin.
The boys and I—Phillip, his buddy Keith, and our fearless owner, Wild Phil—set off for Carrabelle around 2:00 a.m. Friday, August the 11th. These working stiffs had so much to do on Fri-DAY (and evening), we only had time to rest for a few hours Friday night before waking at 1:00 a.m. to drive straight to the boat and shove off at dawn on Saturday morning in hopes of getting the boat back to Pensacola by Monday mid-day at the latest so they could go back to work if possible. Work … At an office … Who does that anymore? ; ) A 5:00 a.m. Wal-Mart run to pack out the car, a nice sunrise drive, then a pack-out of the boat and we were ready to shove off around 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
What this did not leave us (and it was something I was little worried about when they told me the plan) was time to assess and scour the boat to really get familiarized with her and go through our spares inventory. A lesson to myself later: I should have done this on my own right out of the gate. On my next delivery I will, and I will probably make a “yacht delivery” checklist, so I am confident I, personally, know where all the sea-cocks and thru-hulls are (as well as the plugs), how to locate, check and fill all the engine fluids, whether there is water in the bilge (and note the level), etc. But this time, I didn’t. I unpacked the food, oohed and ahhed over the condition of the boat, chatted with the guys and took a selfie. I’ll get better at this delivery Captain stuff, I promise. Or hope, at least. It really was an impressive boat, though, for the age and price. Definitely Annie-approved!
Phil and his lovely wife, Pam, who was nice enough to shuttle us down to Carrabelle in the middle of the night. As far as making the delivery with us? She said: “You guys have fun! I’ll see you in Pensacola.”
Little did she know, we wouldn’t quite make it that far … On the first try anyway. Black crud, thick mud, and a sea tow stud are in store for you. Stay tuned, friends, the tale of my first delivery will soon begin!