November 28, 2013 – Day Nine: “And May the Odds … “

After we saddled up with the poor chum at the fuel dock who preferred to refer to me as a dude, we headed over to our slip at The Wharf to tie the boat up, secure her for the night and let the ole’ Rest rest.


Then we started snatching and grabbing everything on the boat that could use a good washin’ (which was just about everything).  I seriously debated taking down the curtains.  Like I said – eight days at sea.  We had sack fulls – clothes, trash, bottles, you name it.  Phillip and his eskimo sidekick looked like a ratty bag couple hauling all of our junk off of the boat.  We felt kind of sorry for Phillip’s folks when we kindly knocked on their condo door asking ever so politely to use their facilities.


I mean, were we really going to barge in, start washing every stitch of clothes we brought with us and eating everything in sight?


Of course we were!    “Pull up a chair Irene.”  (Although I have to admit, I have no idea if her name was really Irene. It seems fitting, but Cousin Eddie shone so brightly in that bit, I don’t think she was ever even anointed with a name – at least not one anyone would remember).

We started running the washer immediately, tore into the fantastic spread that was laid out on the bar and started jockeying for position in the shower line-up.  While we had heated some water on the boat and enjoyed a nice warm rinse-down several times during our trip, those “showers” had been brief (water conservation is always a concern) and a little cramped in the stand-up shower stall on the boat.  Now, with the full use of a regular-sized bathroom at our disposal and an endless supply of hot water on our hands (or so it seemed).  Phillip and I each took our turn and gave ourselves the royal spa treatment from head to toe before curling up in the main room to regale the groupies with our tall tales at sea.


Ahhh … that’s better.  

We decided to get out that night and catch the new Catching Fire movie at the theater at The Wharf.  For the holidays, they put on a light show every night where the lights, which cover every inch of the palm-tree lined main drag, pump and pulse to holiday music, and that was pretty awesome.  Or, psychedelic at least.


But, the best part was the complimentary movie!  Or so we thought.  As we started to walk into the theater, the ticket booths outside were all empty.  No lights were on, no tellers were standing behind them.  There was no one there to whom we could tell which flick we wanted to see and pay them for the appropriate ticket.

Catching fire

One for Catching Fire, please.”

A little stumped, we walked into the theater and, again, there was no usher standing at the little podium by the door, asking for our ticket to inspect and tear.  We started to look around and wander, but there was even a second podium before the entrance to the west bank of theaters with, still, no usher, no teller, no one in sight.  Phillip started to saunter toward the red sign reading Catching Fire  7:15 and we all kind of made a collective decision to saunter along behind him and not say a word.  And, so we did.  And, we walked right into that theater and sat our happy selves down for a complimentary movie, deciding they must have just decided to allow free showings for the holidays.  Lucky us!

Until Phillip’s sister, Kristen, came rumbling in.  We had apparently lost her during our saunter to the smell of butter, salt and the melted yellow plastic they drizzle on the tortilla rounds they call nachos at the concession stand.  She was loaded down with two nacho packs, the BIG BAG (patent pending) of popcorn and two large sodas as she shuffled and crinkled her way toward our seats.  She chucked a few popped kernels back and mumbled, “Man, these movies are expensive,” to which we all responded with raised eyebrows.  Expensive?  Kristen looked back at us with an equal stare of confusion.  “At the concession stand,” she said.  “They charge you at the concession stand.”  Whoops.  Figuring we’d settle up later, we curled up to enjoy us a mighty fine pitter show.


And, after the show, we went immediately to the concession stand to pay for our movie.  Naturally.  What kind of people do you think we are??

When we got back to the condo, Phillip’s mom started rushing to the back porch to get at the turkey.  Earlier in the day, Phillip and his mom had dunked the turkey in a cloudy bath of salt and spices, sacked it up in a Hefty trash bag  in an over-sized Igloo and set out on the back porch.  Phillip said we were “brining it,” which I had never heard of before.  Growing up, our Thanksgivings involved the thawing of a pre-cooked turkey and a Wal-Mart run for a jar of jellied cranberry sauce, the kind that sloshes out onto the plate with ring imprints on it, an exact replica of the can it came from.  Phillip’s “brining” looked, to me, like he was baptizing the turkey in a bath of murky salt water and Joe’s seasoning, but, with my canned-garnishes background, I wasn’t one to judge.  I was along for the ride either way.  But, apparently, they hard forgot to take the gizzard and some other little bag of giblets out of the turkey before baptizing it, so Phillip’s mom engaged in a rousing bout of what I like to call turkey wrastlin’ which I, naturally, filmed for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy!


Video here.  And, you gotta love Paul’s comment at the end: “Now, Mary, go wash your hands.”  Priceless!

With the turkey officially violated, we set her back out on the porch to continue brining for the night and Phillip and I curled up on the sofa bed in the living room (agreeing through whispers that our v-berth was far more comfortable), but we knew we’d soon find ourselves back on the boat.  So, the sofa bed it was.

We woke Thanksgiving morning to a beautiful sunny day.  We decided to get out and putter around in the dinghy a bit and check out some of the boats in the marina at The Wharf.




But, we never expected what we encountered on the way back.  As Phillip and I were walking back from the boat, the smell captured both of us immediately.  We turned to each other in silence, eyebrows lifted and a mischievous grin growing on both of our faces.  It smelled like nuts and oil, cinnamon and butter, like pie but more savory.  Like a syrupy piece of pecan pie drizzled with rich turkey gravy, a symphonic concoction of scents, like an exorbitant feast of dinner, dessert, nuts, bread, oil and gravy, all laid out at once, a delectable cloud rolling into us.  I describe it like it was laid out as an endless bounty, a full Thanksgiving spread with all of the fixings, because that’s what it smelled like, but when we turned the corner, we found only two pot-bellied men, standing near some stained dumpsters and a rusty door that read “Employees Only.”  The men were leaning over a white fold-up table, with throw-away foil trays littered about and a couple greasy pair of tongs and were bundled up and staring into an over-sized steel vat of oil, bubbling and sputtering, and emanating that savory, succulent smell that had overwhelmed us.

They were frying turkeys.  Although a relatively new culinary phenomenon – I think the whole turkey frying revelation started about 4-5 years ago, it seems quite mainstream now.  You drop the whole dad-gum thing into a vat of peanut oil, completely submerged, and let that oily fried goodness soak through every pore of the turkey until it is utterly saturated, unable to hold a single more drop of fatty, peanut-drenched nectar.  A fried turkey is the best turkey.  Period.

Phillip and I salivated, swallowed, wiped our mouths instinctively and tried to make mindless small talk as we walked by.  “So.  You guys frying turkeys?”  I mean, really?  I was even embarrassed by the question.  The guys should have responded, “Nope.  We’re just standing around a vat of oil on Thanksgiving to fry us up a batch of Ore Ida crinkle fries.”  It was one of those “small-talk” questions that you regret later, but you can’t think of anything else to say in the moment.  Like when you’re on the elevator with someone you know lives in your building and while you have absolutely no inclination to talk to the person at all, common courtesy tells you have to say something, so you open with, “ Boy, it sure is getting cold out there.”  The weather.  That’s equivalent to commenting on the obvious.  Of course they were frying turkeys.

The larger man gave us a light nod and walked back inside.  I can’t blame him.  The smell had obviously brought us in, and he wanted no part of the lame elevator conversation that was about to ensue.   That left Phillip and I with the thick, stocky, corn-fed boy that remained, donning a long-sleeve Guy Harvey shirt stretched taut around his mid-section and a baseball cap shoved down over a shaggy,  dishwater brown mop that fell around his ears.  But the guy was friendly, thankfully, and seemingly looking for a distraction.  “Yep.  We’ve fried up several this morning.”  It was a kind answer, a patient one.  Phillip and I had sort of stopped, if only to bask for a moment in the nutty aroma, but once the mystery scent source was confirmed, we didn’t have much else to go on, except the weather.  So, we gave him one quick “Well it smells delicious.  Happy Thanksgiving,” and went about our way.  Guy Harvey held up some tongs and said, “Thanks.  Y’all too.”  We walked just a few steps in silence, thinking the exact same thing.  Damn, I wish he’d fry up ours.  “Ours” was currently swimming in the Hefty trash bag on the back porch, looking anything but appetizing.

We cracked the lid of our turkey cooler when we got back and stared down at the goose-pimpled skin of our white, veiny bird, trying to conjure the warm, nutty scent.  Phillip finally broke first, with what we’d both been plotting since we’d walked by that oily vat, “We oughta ask him if he’ll fry up our turkey.”  I hesitated for a minute.  Gave him a skeptical frown and shoved my hands in my pockets.  But Phillip had an idea brewing and there was no stopping him.  “I’m serious.  You and Kristen put on some lipstick and go sweet talk ‘em.”  I laughed, a little too casually, and wondered if Kristen had heard him.  Then, from down the hall, I heard a “Oooh, I’ll wear my skinny jeans too!” 

My eyes widened as a sly smile spread over Phillip’s face. This was happening.  I gave Phillip a quick wink and headed back to hustle up Kristen and all her accouterments.  I found her squeezing into a pair of dark, midnight denim pants and slipping a soft, purple cashmere sweater over her svelte figure.  She whirled around to face me with a devilish grin.  “What do you think?  Wait … what are we doing?”  I loved it.  The girl had no idea what we were about to be hustling, but she was ready regardless.  And, she looked flawless.  Thick, chocolate brown hair cascading around blue eyes and porcelain skin.  “What am I asking for?”  I couldn’t help but laugh.  It was clear Phillip had sent her on many a-similar errand and she easily jumped to the task.  But, she looked impeccable.  I started to think we stood a chance.  If she could entrance the two corn-fed boys near the oil vat long enough for me to blurt the request in or, if need be, throw the damn turkey in myself, we were going to be in business.  She looked at me with a frown, though.  I was still semi-eskimo, bundled, my hair having been smashed under a toboggan all day and donning jeans, a work shirt and still in my rubber rain boots.


Kristen had her work cut out.  She started in on me, throwing a sweater on, ratting and poofing my hair and smudging several different pink, powdery substances on my face.  I had to chuckle as I watched the rest of the clan stand around us, salivating and admiring Kristen’s handiwork.  The masses were hungry and she was making me over like Katniss herself to win over the boys at the Vat Capitol.  We were catching fryer.


Phillip packed up the turkey for us and a bottle of wine, intended as an easy sacrifice if needed to seal the frying deal, and sent Kristen and I out the door with a mischievous “And may the odds be ever in your favor!”  

October 10, 2013 – To See a She-Man About a Boat

Now, I don’t really consider a dinghy a “boat.”  I mean, I guess it’s a watercraft.  It floats and carries people.  You can paddle or motor around in it.


Okay, I get it.  But, if our sailboat and the dinghy were tied up together in a slip, and someone said, “Hey, nice boat!,” I wouldn’t say, “Thanks, she’s a 2001 six-seater Caribe with matching oars.”  I would, assume, like the rest of the world I would hope, that he’s talking about the sailboat.  The real boat.  (And, I will tell you, I was going to include a fun little Webster’s or similar dictionary quote here to prove my imminent brilliance, but every definition I found started with “A small boat that … ” — Bullocks!).

Apparently, the boys in blue are equally correct in their definition of a “boat.”  After a nail-biting ten minutes in NYC, Detective Whazzisname from the Pensacola Police Department finally called us back and told us they had been trying to track Phillip down back in Pensacola on behalf of the Fort Walton Police.  Turns out it was the Fort Walton guys that wanted to talk to Phillip “about his boat.”  A very important piece of information Sergeant So-and-So could have told us that wouldn’t have left us imagining Plaintiff’s Rest smashed into a pile of paint and epoxy at our dock back in Pensacola.  But, apparently, he wasn’t at liberty to disclose such vital information.  Phillip started to suspect then that it could be about the dinghy, although I was a little skeptical.  I mean we cut her off in the middle of the Gulf …

I believe you all remember the “harrowing debacle.”  When we had to literally hack the dinghy off the stern during The Crossing to save the boat:

“Afterward, we all fell into a heap in the cockpit, drenched and shaken, but feeling more alive in that moment than we had the entire trip.  I doubt Mitch could even comprehend nausea at that moment.  Our bodies were feasting on adrenaline.  We sat there, our chests heaving in unison it seemed, gathering our thoughts and wondering if what just happened had really happened.  Phillip shined a light out into the sea as it to confirm our collective inquiry and there it was.  The dinghy.  About 50 yards away from the boat, lines floating around her like spindly fingers reaching back for the boat.  She was truly out there, detached from the boat and floating away.  We had really done it.  Cut her off.  The damn dinghy.”

Now, what do you think happened to that dinghy?  I imagined it floated along, finally free as a blue-jay, frolicking with the dolphins and dorados.  Much like the wide-eyed cat in the psychedelic cat food commercial batting at little fish-shaped pieces of meat leaping about, as happy as happy can be.


Like when the family pet passes and you tell the little ones “No, honey, Brisco didn’t die, he’s living on a great big farm, chasing squirrels all day.”  I envision it that way because that’s not the image I was left with when we sawed the dinghy off and watched her float away from the boat over big, murky waves, existing only in the single beam of our flashlight — until we clicked it off and turned our backs on her.  And then what?

Then our dinghy floated herself all the way to Fort Walton Beach that’s what.  Her journey had to look something like this:

FL coast

I’m starting to think our dinghy looked less like the doe-eyed, frolicking kitten in the cat food commercial and more like this:

cat in water

Cut me off of the boat will they?  I’ll get those heifers!

Our dinghy wasn’t having it!  She wasn’t going to let us leave her out there to drift aimlessly in the ocean.  The cat came back!  And, as fate would have it.  Having floated freely across the entire Gulf, the minute she touched dry land, she ended up here:



Apparently she didn’t think to grab her papers before we cut her loose.  Them’s the breaks!

Someone had apparently found her in the woods and brought her in to the station.  Thankfully, we had registered the dinghy in Phillip’s name before setting off on The Crossing so they were able to track her back to us.  But, they sure weren’t in a hurry.  We learned the dinghy had been sitting there, staring sadly through a chain link fence, waiting for us to come get her, since July.  July!?  Yes, three months, sitting in a parking lot, out in the sun.  But at least she’d made it back.

Phillip met with a stocky Fort Walton lady-officer of about this size and stature:


I heart you Melissa McCarthy.

She unlocked the gate and let us have a look at her.  She had some nautical miles on her, but it was definitely our dinghy.


The outboard was nowhere to be found, but I’m sure that thing was toast well before she reached the shore.  I remember when it crashed into the water from the davits, oil and gas flowing out of it like lava.  I doubt it was salvageable.  As we hoisted her into the trailer and strapped her in, I started to wonder what stories our dinghy could tell us about her adventure.


Perhaps she floated past Robert Redford in an ailing life raft, or an Indian boy and his tiger, adrift at sea.  Or maybe she hallucinated the entire time and did bat at leaping, neon goldfish.  We’ll never know.  But, I couldn’t believe she had come back to us.  All that way.  The damn dinghy.

October 4, 2013 – The Heat is Hot!

For those of you who don’t know.  “The heat” is the cops, the po-po, the 5-Oh.  In our case, the Pensacola Police Department.


And, they were on us.  It all happened during our trip to the Big City.  That’s right.  Chatahoochee, FL.  Jeepers, what a town!  I’m kidding.  The real big city.  NYC.


I had never been and, yes, I imitated the Pace Picante commercial repeatedly in the weeks before the trip and actually exclaimed “Jeepers!” several times while I was there—at least three times after we saw The Book of Mormon.


That show was super nifty.   Check it out.  An incredibly entertaining and insanely accurate ‘poke’ at religion.  I highly recommend it.  I also recommend, if you find yourself in that bubbling metropolis of humanity, that you buy a greasy foodcart product – a hotdog, some empanadas or any kind of poultry on a stick (it doesn’t matter which, as I believe they all originate from the same non-mammal meat product), sit on a bench and just watch the people.  An equally entertaining and insanely accurate ‘poke’ at people.  Here are some highlights:

Bar hag roaming through Times Square:


Wanda was right, this sharp shooter belt buckle really does make me look skinny.

 Jersey Shore trainer at Bryant Park.


“Ummm-huh.  Just like that Becky.  Hold that position for me.”

 Band of brothers at the bar:


Dude, I’m serious.  It goes from this hand to the other. 

The real Toy Story:


“You’re right Spidey, Buzz does smell like plastic.”

Oh, we seemed to come across this excitable blonde – at the Bull:


I mean, really?  It’s just a bronze bull.  And that “grab life by the horns thing” had totally been overdone.

We also found her at the top of 30 Rock (beautiful view!)


The city, not the blonde (although Phillip took a real liking to her):



Oh, but we did come across a real-life excitable blond at the airport:


Please tell me you recognize her immediately (as Phillip did not).  No?  Let me give you a hint:


The one and only – Hayden Panetiere.  Her and Beyonce’s long-lost cousin rocked that flick!  I totally accosted her at the airport.  Super celeb sighting in my book.  But, enough about that great big city — back to the boat.

So, we had been planning this trip to NYC for a couple of months and, as it just so happens, that damn Tropical Storm Karen was set to roll in just as we were set to leave.  Seriously.  This was the predicted path:

photo (18) 

The one weekend we had planned to travel, not by boat, and the jilted wench set her sights directly on our slip it seemed.  The storm really put a damper on our pre-travel excitement.  The night before we left, we spent the entire evening tying and re-routing extra lines (we even latched her to city property!), fastening extra chafe guards, taking down the dodger (to reduce wind surface) and strapping and re-strapping the sail covers, so they wouldn’t blow off.



We used pieces of firehose some sailing buddies have given us as chafe guards for the dock lines:



With the boat as secure as we could get her, we refreshed the storm tracker every five minutes during the flight and kept checking with folks back in Pensacola to see how the storm was progressing on the home-front.   Bottom-Job Brandon and our broker-friend Kevin had offered to go by the dock on occasion to check on the old Rest.  Initially, we were getting good reports.  Winds of 25-30 mph only and no storm surge yet.  But the storm was predicted to hit on Saturday night, October 5th, and it was only Wednesday.

That Friday afternoon, Phillip and I were making our way to the FlatIron building—a wine, a beer and two incredibly succulent Shake Shack burgers under our belt:


When Phillip checked his phone and noticed two messages from the office and one from a neighbor back home.  Odd.  He decided he better see what was going on, so we parked it on a bench near the infamous building while he returned the calls.



His neighbor told him a Pensacola police officer had stopped by looking for him, but he would not “disclose his business.”  Odd-er.  At the office, Phillip’s receptionist reported that a cop (presumably the same—a distant cousin to the Captain Mulrooney who accosted me at the Home Depot in Daphne I’m sure) had come by the firm, asking to speak with “Mr. Warren” but again declining to reveal why he had such a pressing need to speak with the Captain.  Thankfully Phillip’s receptionist is inquisitive and scrappy and wouldn’t let the cop leave without coughing up a calling card.   Phillip joked that it was a good thing he’d left town, because apparently the “heat was hot” in Pensacola!  They were on his six!

Back in NYC, Phillip punched in the detective’s number and spoke with a raspy, chain-smoking bloke, Sergeant So-and-So, who told him the detective was out of pocket at the moment, but that he and the Detective had gone to his house and office that day trying to talk to him about his boat.

About his boat. 

And that was “all he could disclose.”  Disclose!  I was so sick of hearing that word.  As if when a cop has something to say, it no longer becomes “tell” it magically transforms into the utterly important “disclose.”  Ooohhh.  But, we did learn it was “about the boat.”  A sickening thought when we had a tropical storm rolling in we were half-a-continent away.  I imagined the boat had come undone, knocked half the dock out and had ended up speared through the million dollar catamaran in the next slip over.  A sickening thought let me assure you.  Phillip thought they were calling about the lines we had tied to the city rails, thinking they were going to—or worse, they already had—untied them to preserve city property during the storm, which meant the boat would be free to rock and sway violently and crash into the seawall most likely, which was no better than my vision.  We wandered around the park in New York listlessly, toes nudged in the ground, staring sternly at Phillip’s phone and thinking the worst while we were waiting for Detective Whazzisname to call us back.  I cannot disclose to you how worried we were.

April 17-23, 2013 – The Crossing: Chapter Five – A Harrowing Debacle

Some of you have already heard this story and know where things are going.  If you fall into this category, I hope you’ll keep reading with vigor, in search of any extra details I may have missed when I told it in person, which I’m sure was over big, hearty drinks and involved grand arm gestures and finely-crafted impersonations.  If you do not fall into this category, I’m glad.  That means you’re a virgin to my tale, which is no tale at all, and will be soaking it in for the first time.  And, it will allow me to engage you in an old fashioned game of Can You Spot the Difference:



Okay, so there are many differences.  Thankfully, in the latter photo, I managed to clean up and change my outfit (I do that on occasion).  Although I am sitting all side-saddle and lady-like in the first photo, clearly, I’ve forgone that option and just plopped down full-frontal and tacky-like in the latter.  In one photo I’m wearing gloves and the other I’m not.  Okay, I’ll give you that as well.  There’s also a coffee mug in the cup holder and a visor on the gear shifter (good eye my nerdy friends!).  Sure, those are all well and good.  But, what is the main difference?  Look hard

That’s right, the dinghy.  And, the flag, true, but that’s attached to the davits (the steel arms) that hold the dinghy on the back of the boat.  The difference is the dinghy.  The damn dinghy.  The source of our harrowing debacle.  And I credit this title to a good friend of mine who, when I first told her this fine tale, which I lovingly called “the most exciting adventure of my life” (primarily because I survived it), claimed it sounded more like a ‘harrowing debacle’ than an adventure.  Thanks Dottie.  But, debacle or adventure, it happened.  And, we all, thankfully, lived to tell the tale.

So, we set out Sunday morning on a beautiful morning sail, headed to Apalachicola.  The sun was out, the wind was blowing and the boat was performing beautifully.  We felt like we had taken measures to ready the boat for the storm we knew we were going to face, and we were ready to get the passage behind us.  We started to see squalls on the horizon around 2:00 p.m.  The waves were 2-3 at the time and we furled the Genny and reefed the main sail (pulled it down so only about half the sail was exposed to catch the wind).  The Bottom Line guys had put some distance between us earlier in the day, and we could no longer see them on the horizon, but we knew we could hail them on the radio at anytime if we needed to check in.  We were just motoring along, holding our heading, bracing for the storm.  The wind picked up in the afternoon to 20 knots, and we dropped the main sail entirely and latched her down.  The sea state increased to 3-4, and the waves were hitting us broadside on starboard (the right side of the boat).  And by that, I mean there was no way to turn into the waves to cut into them and ease the impact on the boat.

Wave diagram

Much like the red boat in this picture, but we were almost directly parallel to the waves.

We were headed northwest and the winds were coming at us northeast.  There was nothing we could do but let the boat heel to and fro over them.

Heeled over

Graphic – boat heeled to starboard.

 Heeled 1

Visual – boat heeled to port.

And heel she did.  Probably 50-60 degrees in each direction.  Back and forth.  For hours.  I snapped a few shots trying to capture it, but the pictures just don’t do it justice.  You have to really experience it to appreciate the sensation.



Notice Phillip’s foot propped up on the portside of the cockpit, bracing himself.  And, do also notice the Gorton’s Fisherman pants he’s wearing.

The rain started late afternoon and spat at us all evening and into the night.  With the rain and waves splashing over the starboard deck, we were all getting soaked in the cockpit.  So, we scoured the boat that afternoon hoping Jack had left some good wet weather gear behind, and boy did he!  We struck gold with a complete Gorton’s fisherman outfit – big yellow hat and all.


We each swapped and shared each piece of that yellow rubber suit – jacket, pants, hat and boot.  When it came time to hold the helm, you could hear each of us holler at one of the other “Where’d you put the Gorton’s hat?”  “I need the Gorton’s pants!”  And, I think I heard at one point, “God, I love Gorton!”  We certainly appreciated that dry, rubbery goodness.  That stuff is for real.

The waves kept coming and the rain stayed on us all afternoon. We were pruny and drenched and squinting out onto the horizon, only to see clouds, darkness and swells.  We tried to hale the Bottom Line boys on the radio at one point to see how they were faring, only to find our radio had gone out.  (We later learned only the handheld in the cockpit had shorted, due to the heavy drenching, and our main unit down below still worked once the hand-held was disconnected – but we certainly did not know that at the time).  We were 150 miles offshore, in 4-6 foot seas with no radio.  But our engine powered through and we pushed on, heeling left and right for hours.  You could often look down and see the water was just inches away from the deck.


At first, it was hard for me to believe every time the boat kicked over that it was, in fact, going to right itself.  But, it did.  It does.  Every time.  The boat always comes back up.  And, after enough heeling and righting, you start to develop limitless trust in the boat.  No matter how far she heels over, you never believe for one second that she will actually tip.  Not ever.  Like she’s a Weeble or something.


Unfortunately, after several hours of weebling and wobbling, Mitch started to get a little green around the gills.  He kept fumbling around for something in his bag and couldn’t find it.  Remember what I told you about him going up and down the companionway stairs?  He looked like a grown man romping around the Play Place at McDonald’s.  So it was incredibly obvious when he kept going down below to “find something” only to come up empty-handed.  He finally faced the music and admitted to us that he was looking for his Dramamine (as if we didn’t notice he had lost all the color in his face and his head had been hanging low on his shoulders for hours).  You can tell from his solemn expression in this photo; he was irretrievably seasick:


We finally found his Dramamine tucked away behind some hidden zipper in his bag, and he dosed up.  I noticed at the time the package said “non-drowsy,” but I’m here to tell you that was the not the effect it had on Mitch.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Mitch tossed his cookies just a few times.  To his credit, he found himself a bucket and kept it nearby, trying to be a gentleman about it, but I kept coming across that dad-burn thing on the table, or the kitchen counter, splashing around and reeking with vomit.  I wanted to tie it around his head like a horse with a feed bucket.

Horse with bucket

He declined.

But his meds must have finally kicked in, because Mitch perked up for a bit (probably just a placebo effect and mental fortitude) and sat up with us in the cockpit as we soaked up the last bit of daylight.  The waves were around 4-5 then, and our trusty captain held fast at the helm while we watched the sun set.



As the last bit of light dipped below the horizon, a loud ping rang out of the cockpit.  It was the same sound Phillip and I had heard on our last passage when we found the sheared bolt head.  Phillip and I looked at each other knowing it had to be another bolt.  But a deeper worry was the thought that it likely came from the same place.  Some plate or bracket or other immensely-important fastening device on the boat was giving way.  This time I didn’t look around the cockpit to find the bolt head that had flew to its watery death at our feet.  We knew it was a bolt head.  What was more important was where it came from.

I immediately started looking around the cockpit again, at shackles and pulleys, the bimini frame, everywhere.  But, the answer screeched out as us before I could find her.  Just as the boat heeled hard to port against a wave, the davits on the stern rail screeched and the dinghy swung to the left and clanged.

Here’s another shot of her portside from the day before.  You can see the davit arm reaching out over the back of the boat holding the dinghy up, and the outboard motor (with the green cover) was attached to the dinghy as well.  The dinghy itself weighed about 100-150 pounds, and the outboard another 150. 


We all stared at her for a minute, thinking the same thing: it was the davits, those stupid, frail, stainless steel little rods holding up the dinghy and the outboard motor on the back of the boat.  But, it was as if we all wanted validation.  We waited in silence as the boat heeled to the starboard side and eased down the wave and another swell came toward us.  The davits squeaked a bit and we could see the dinghy nudging its way back to the right, but when the next wave came and sent the boat effortlessly over to port, we all watched as the davit brackets on the stern rail slid visibly down the stern rail to port side.  The davit arms swung to the left and clanged as the weight of the dinghy swung around.  If we wanted validation, we got it.  The davits were not going to hold.

We examined the davit bracket on the portside rail and found, sure enough, two bolts on it had sheared through.


This is the bracket the bolts were shearing off on, and by the end of it, it had slid about a foot to portside, almost around the corner of the stern rail.

There were only two bolts left in the bracket.  We began looking for spare bolts, all over the boat, to fill the holes but we couldn’t find one the same shape and size.  We had brought a lot of spare parts for the passage: primary and secondary fuel filters, oil filters, impellers, gaskets, fuses, belts, etc.  We felt we had really tried to think of everything that could possibly go wrong, but I have to say, replacement bolts for the dinghy davits just in case they started shearing through was just not something we had planned for.  We got creative.  We started filling the bolt holes with cotter pins for sails, allen wrenches, anything that would slide through and somewhat hold.  We also started tying the dinghy with any rope available, trying to stop it from banging to port every time we climbed a wave.


We tied it every which way to try and stop the portside banging.  And, it seems it was the last physical act Mitch could stomach.  After that it was: Going,






Goodnight Mitch.

He was out.  Like a light.  Phillip said he had never seen someone so sick able to sleep so soundly.  Non-drowsy my ass.  Mitch slept like a baby.  Even admidst steady heeling left to right.  Note the gimbled lantern in this photo:



We are heeled to port baby!

Phillip and I stayed up at the helm as darkness set in around us.  The wind screamed as it passed over the mast and through the cockpit.  It was blowing so hard it stung our eyes and made it hard to keep them open, particularly in light of the rain which, probably, without the wind, was only a steady dusting, but the gusts transformed it into pelting sheets.  The sound of the waves against the hull and the groaning and creaking of the boat as she tipped mightily over each wave became far more prevalent, almost haunting, at night.  As if our sense of sound was heightened.  Think how much easier it is to hear a pin drop in a pitch black room as opposed to one brightly lit and full of visual distractions.  Around 9:00 p.m., we heard our “pin” in the dark.  Another bolt sheared off the davit bracket and pinged loudly in the cockpit.  I would love to say Phillip and I shared a knowing glance.  We certainly locked eyes and shared a moment, but I can honestly say I didn’t know he was thinking.  I didn’t know what we were going to do.  Thankfully, Phillip did.  A resolve came over him, and he spoke in short, commanding sentences in a tone I had never heard from him before.  He told me to go down and wake Mitch, which I did without hesitation.  And, to Mitch’s credit, he woke instantly, shook off the nausea and came up to the cockpit.  I’m sure he could tell by the tone in my voice as well that things had changed.  We were in trouble, and there was no time for sickness.

We all sat in the cockpit, looking to Phillip.  He told us he thought the davits would eventually give out and the dinghy might take us down on port side.  We had to be ready to cut it off if that happened.  Neither Mitch nor I questioned him.  There was no need.  We agreed.  Altogether, the dinghy and outboard weighed about 300 pounds.  If that thing hit the water, it would easily pull the boat to portside, and with the way we were already heeling over waves, we couldn’t afford any “pull” to the left side.  We also had no way to pull her out of the water.  Wrestling 300 pounds up over the stern rail and onto the boat was not even a possibility, much less an option.  Nor was there anywhere to safely store the outboard motor (which was full of gas and oil) safely on the boat while we rode out the storm.  There was also a real concern that the dinghy could rip the entire stern rail off or, worse, rip a hole in the deck where the stern rail attaches, making sinking not just a possibility but a probability.  There was no denying it.  The dinghy had to go.  Phillip gave me the helm while he and Mitch went down below to round up anything we could use to cut the lines: knives, box-cutters, a hacksaw, anything with a blade.  We lined them up like surgical utensils on a tray near the companionway.  The davits continued to screech each time we heeled to port and the dinghy banged loudly as her weight swung around.  We knew it wouldn’t be long.

Finally, it was too much.  A huge swell tipped us over to port, and when the dinghy came swinging around the davits gave up.  They broke off the stern rail and the dinghy crashed into the water, outboard engine first.  The boat groaned and pulled hard to her portside.  It amazed me how sensitive the sailboat was.  The weight of the dinghy dragging in the water pulled hard on her and I could easily see now why Phillip thought it could tip us over, if the right wave hit.  The dinghy foamed and flailed in the water like panicked drowning victim, and the cockpit filled with the smell of oil and fuel.  The outboard was submerged, choking on waves and water, and leaking fluids everywhere.  The boat was heeled over and it didn’t help that we were all on the low-side trying to get to the dinghy, tipping her even further.  Phillip’s voice cut through the waves and wind with startling clarity: “Cut if off!”

Mitch grabbed a knife, I grabbed a hacksaw, and we started attacking the lines.  There was no time to try and untie or salvage them.  They were an easy casualty to save the boat.   But it was dark behind the boat, and we were struggling to see the lines and, worse, distinguish them from another mate’s hands or fingers.  Mitch was having trouble reaching the lines because he couldn’t get very far out over the stern rails.  I sent him to the high side of the cockpit with the flash light and told him to hold the light for me.  I climbed over the stern rail with one foot hooked back in the cockpit and reached out to the end of the davits to start sawing every line I could feel.  It was surreal.  Like we were a living episode of Deadliest Catch:

Deadliest Catch

The more lines I cut, the more dinghy made contact with the water and pulled us further over to port, but it had to be done.  I finally made my way up to the high side to cut the last of the lines on the starboard side.  One I could feel was particularly tough and when I first struck it with the saw, it sparked.  I pulled back, momentarily frozen, frightened, smelling the gas fumes that were still emanating from the outboard motor.  I shouted to Phillip, “I’m getting sparks!”  He reached back and felt the “line” I was holding.  Turns out it was the cord to the navigation light that was mounted on the back of the dinghy (much like brake lights on the back of a trailer).  It was a thick electrical cord running out to the nav light on the outer edge of the dinghy, which was still dimy lit, flickering and choking behind the boat, but too far to reach.  Phillip looked at me sternly and said, “Cut it.”

I bit down hard, clenched my teeth together and began sawing the electrical cord.  A few more sparks flew, but thankfully, nothing ignited.  Apparently, the cord was the last thing holding the dinghy on, because when the hacksaw finally made it through the last of the rubber and wire, the dinghy crashed violently in the water and began, finally, to pull away from the boat.  Lines were dragging helplessly from the back of the boat and, thankfully, Phillip had the fortitude to still think clearly in that moment.  “Get the lines in!” he yelled at us, knowing they could get caught in the propeller and put us in more danger.  Mitch and I snapped to attention and grabbed lines viciously, throwing them into the cockpit with reckless abandon.  We hit Phillip with several of them but he didn’t say a word.  He hunkered down, held the wheel and steadied the boat while Mitch and I pulled in the last of them.  Afterward, we all fell into a heap in the cockpit, drenched and shaken, but feeling more alive in that moment than we had the entire trip.  I doubt Mitch could even comprehend nausea at that moment.  Our bodies were feasting on adrenaline.  We sat there, our chests heaving in unison it seemed, gathering our thoughts and wondering if what just happened had really happened.  Phillip shined a light out into the sea as it to confirm our collective inquiry and there it was.  The dinghy.  About 50 yards away from the boat, lines floating around her like spindly fingers reaching back for the boat.  She was truly out there, detached from the boat and floating away.  We had really done it.  Cut her off.  The damn dinghy.  The boat breathed a sigh of relief as if she had just finished a forty-mile march and finally set her rucksack down to air her sweaty back.  Her heeling back and forth was now graceful, soothing almost, and we all finally appreciated how much she had been struggling with the dinghy on her back.  We breathed with her, equally relieved, but our faces were still heavy with worry.  We were hundreds of miles from shore, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, in the middle of the night, without a radio, and, now, without a dinghy.  And we were only half-way there.

March 8-10, 2013 – Road Trip: Part Three – The Hinterhoeller

Feeling refreshed from the coconut drinks in St. Pete, we headed down to Punta Gorda to check out the Hinterhoeller.

Pics from Phone 669

Hinterhoellers are Canadian-built with a reputation as solid, sea-worthy vessels.  We were looking at a 1985 Niagara that was primarily a one-owner.  The seller, Jack, had owned it since 1989 and you could just tell he loved that boat.  It was extremely well-cared for.  Polished and clean, organized and tidy.  She was most definitely Jack’s baby.  And, for good reason.  Jack had sailed the boat several times in the Mackinac race ( from Lake Huron to Mackinac Island, MI (a 290-mile freshwater course) single-handedly.  As a result, just about every system on the boat was streamlined and rigged for quick, easy, single-handed use.  He and his wife were now retired and and, as tough as it was for them, after decades of wonderful sails on the boat (from quick weekend trips to month-long voyages) they were ready to retire from the cruising as well.  Jack greeted us with a bright smile and big paw handshakes and jumped right on the boat with us to tinker around.

The Hinterhoeller had a spacious cockpit with plenty of room to kickback and stretch out at the helm.   To use the old cockpit/living room analogy – where the others had felt like the stuffy, formal “sitting” room you keep at the front of the house for show, this one felt like the comfy den in the back with the old, grungy couches where everyone piles in on Saturdays to watch the game.  It was just so damn comfortable.


We felt the same about the galley and saloon down below.




(And, a fun little boat fact for those useless knowledge junkies out there – much to my surprise, turns out the word saloon originates not from the old swinging doors, whiskey-busting joints you see in old westerns, but from boats!!  It’s true – it has to be – it’s on the internet:

It also came with a hard bottom dinghy and a 15 horse-power, 2 stroke outboard.  A rare find, and a bonus that had our broker salivating like a kid in a candy store.

Pics from Phone 668

Phillip and I felt the same (minus the salivating).  We were like teenagers with a crush, secretly doodling pictures of the boat in our Five Star spiral notebooks with little squiggles and hearts all around it.  It was all we could think about.  It was all we could talk about.  Looking back on it, it’s probably a good thing no one else made that trip with us, because they probably would have jumped right out of the Prius and hitchhiked home.  Phillip and I were enamored.  Images of the two of us with our hands on the wheel while the boat glided through crystal green waters filled our heads all the way to Daytona.

Pics from Phone 936

We still had one more boat to check out on this trip, the Tayana – a beast of a boat, but we both had a sneaking feeling we had already found ours.