So here goes!
I was born at a very young age and all that... but this present interest in communication all started when I showed up for this past summer's Florida rendezvous at the end of a tow rope on the Monday night after it was held. When I learned that people there had heard of my overdue status, I thought maybe I should post something on the website to report on how things turned out, just in case anyone besides my wife might have been interested (I already knew that she wasn't). Well, better late than never (maybe).
In June of this year, I bought a W32 on Ebay from a very unsavory but cute little man in Jacksonville, FL. He assured me that she was ship shape and "ready to go anywhere" (as it said right on Ebay). Yes, of course, I knew better than to take this at face value. Nevertheless, I did so anyway. I guess I just hoped that the guy was honest (he said he was) and figured that even if he wasn't, surely the ship was at least ready to go to the rendezvous in Port Canaveral. WRONG. By the time I cleared the inlet at Mayport, the motor shut down and wouldn't restart. Oh well, the winds were fair and I hate to motor anyway, so off I went at a fairly nice Westsail clip. I really enjoyed myself (and, of course, getting away from my wife). Conditions held for darn near an entire hour before I was becalmed. Basically, I drifted from there to St. Augustine over the course of the next three days, whereupon I anchored just beyond the breakers for the night. The next morning I floated in with the incoming tide, along with the rest of the ocean's daily debris.
Severely winded from hours of blowing on the sails, I managed to reach the dock at the Conch Island resort, where I was promptly told that I could not even tie up, let alone recharge my dead batteries. Turns out it didn't matter anyway. The two house batteries were already defunct, and the "new" 3-year-old start battery, was now fried extra crispy, thanks to a faulty, only-good-at-the-dock installation. I discovered later that day, that it had shifted in all the rocking and rolling during the previous doldrums. It got caught up on some "half-fast" wiring, and one of the posts, which was already cracked clean through from over-tightening, separated completely. Naturally, It then cuddled up to just the wrong exposed wire. Before its quick death by self-electrocution, it took out its revenge on the battery selector switch and a few of the active circuits. I spent the next couple of days hitching rides to town and back, and ferrying batteries and repair parts back and forth in the dingy. Finally, the boat was ready to leave for the rendezvous, now less than two weeks away (or so I thought).
Not me, however. I had to return to an angry, landlubbering wife in West Virginia, who had been storing up volumes of lectures and sermons, to share with me upon my return. As usual, most were about my innumerable "problems" and misdoings. Believe it or not, only a few dozen of these are about me buying a boat when we couldn't afford it and even fewer about how I have no business cruising at my age after being out of sailing for 25 years. No matter, she makes up in repetition for what she lacks in quantity. Of course, I also needed to tend to her needs (which I never seem to do) and also to make up for the time I was away, not being there to not meet her needs.
Then of course, I had to tend to the needs of the broken-down, depression-era homestead that we had bought 15 years ago in the heart of Appalachia. In this category, I had a honey-do list consisting of more pages than War and Peace. We fled to this beautiful WV hollow in the 90's to escape our, believe-it-or-not, fairly good and almost "normal" suburban life in Pasco County, just north of Tampa/St. Pete. Nevertheless, I couldn't stand to live in the decaying civilization around me for one more day (and that was in the mid 90's!). We had originally intended to fix the place up and enjoy the rural-mountain lifestyle, but to date, have done neither. Anyway, after patching holes in the roof (which still leaks) chasing cows, feeding chickens, etc, etc, etc, I returned to St. Augustine, secure in the knowledge that the boat was as willing and eager to get to the rendezvous as I was. Wrong again.
Deja Vu. The minute I cleared the jetty and turned south, the motor conked out and wouldn't restart (this time, fortunately for me). I immediately assumed further problems with the electrical system and even began the eulogy for all three of my brand new batteries. No such luck. This time, ALL of the oil had leaked out of the motor into the bilge. This was "fortunate" in that the shutdown was in lieu of a 4-108 self-destruction of biblical proportions. Of course, I didn't know this at the time, so it was a rather sickening feeling. In any event, I didn't have time to grieve anyway, since the first in a long line of squalls had just arrived, right on cue.
Early on during the next few hours of storms, the main bilge pump and float switch were dislodged from their respective half-fast, dock-only mountings. Not much of a loss though, in that the bilge pump was never to work again anyway. Unbeknownst to oil-soaked me, it had also joined the ranks of the permanently unemployed, already-croaked, backup bilge pump, which was also bobbing around in the messy little BP coffin beneath my feet. It was too bad I hadn't brought my seafaring cat "Ferdinand" (he prefers "Ferdy") along with me. He could have at least warned me about the rising crude levels in the cabin.
This was all really bad timing (as if there could be good timing) in that the stuffing box had been leaking badly the whole way. Apparently, after so many years of sitting at the dock running only occasionally for short periods in neutral, even my limited minutes of motoring did in it's long-suffering stuffing. Oh well, that's why God made buckets and dirty laundry. I must say though, I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of oil-saturated bilge water a Westsail could hold with a little help from the main cabin. (Did you know that oil and water do mix as long as you keep shaking them vigorously?) Anyway, after my saltwater and oil martini were thoroughly shaken AND stirred (with me as the olive), I welcomed the next three days of windlessness as an opportunity to clean up the mess, which took every bit of those three days.
Actually, I had noticed oil in the bilge while in St. Augustine. I had even called the previous owner who incredulously told be that it must have been "a little spill" that had occurred the last time he topped off the oil (if he ever did). Having done the same thing in St. Augustine (topped it off, not spilled it) I couldn't have known that a fatal leak had snuck onto the stage, ready to drain the engine of its life-sustaining blood at the start of act III. This, of course, was the moment I left St. Augustine in an outgoing tide and west wind. The good news in all of this was that it didn't matter that my slippery, black, bare foot dropped me hard onto the gearshift cable in the engine compartment, snapping it off at the adjusting nut. I wasn't going do be doing any motoring anyway, so "no harm" (except to my bleeding foot) no foul!"
I really couldn't complain about the constant string of afternoon and evening storms that I got for that next three days either, because they provided the only 1 knot+ forward progress I was able to make toward the rendezvous, which was now likely well into Sunday brunch). As luck would have it (and my luck would absolutely, positively have it), the wind in the last blow was from the South, so out to sea I went heading "westsail southeast" (if you have a W32, you know what that means; for the other one of you who doesn't, it means "not quite southeast, although you'll never admit it no matter what the compass says.) I reasoned that surely this passing storm wind would hold up for the next 10 to 12 hours that I needed to get to the Rendezvous, just in time to say goodbye to all the new friends I had just failed to make.
So this, obviously, was the first misjudgment I myself made of my own accord since trusting the word of the previous owner about the condition of the boat (in all its re-splendid detail). No, I don't want to see the list you've been compiling while reading this "blog" or "posting" or whatever it is. In fact, for your condescending information, the forecast for overnight and Sunday was for 10 to 15 knots out of the south, so it wasn't all that stupid.
Speaking of which... Is anyone still reading? (assuming, of course, that anyone ever started in the first place) If so, I'd better wind this up before I loose my very first "bloggee" or "follower" or whatever it is that you are (assuming you "are" at all). To be honest, I don't even know if I will be able to upload this dribble (is that the right word?) onto the website. No! I didn't mean is "dribble" the right word, I meant, is "upload" the right word! So... cutting to the towboat chase...
Needless to say, the wind dropped to about 5 and turned southwesterly the very moment (REALLY!) I tacked to head in, about 30 miles northeast of the cape. Confident that I had at least made the turn short of the gulf stream, I did manage to make about 2 knots westsail south and westsail west tacking furiously back and forth the rest of the day against the 2 or so knots of northbound current. (Naturally, I forgot about the edy that often hangs out between the stream and the Canaveral shoals.) When the wind let up this last time, my 15-year-old, intermittently working, hand-held GPS at least had the decency to tell me that I was now 20 miles out and moving northbound at 2. This reliable, high-tech knowledge, in concert with the state of mind that I was in by that time, combined to make me do something I would almost never do if it could possibly be avoided, even though I was a Boat US member. I could take going nowhere, or even drifting off course, but at that point, the thought of returning to Jacksonville involuntarily was more than I could bear.
My provisions barely held out until the tow boat arrived for the leisurely, 3-hour tow to the PCYC dock. This finally ended my agonizing odyssey, technically, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. I slept well the last hour of that night, not because I was safe in port, but because I was so soothed by the fact that I didn't have to pay the imaginary $1,200 tow bill (which is not at all imaginary if you aren't a member). I was also relieved to be tied to the dock, secure in the fact that over the course of the next several years, I could run back and forth between Cape Canaveral, West Virginia and the Tampa Bay area (where I have sick, elderly parents and other family members) while scrounging up enough money to get a mechanic and the parts and the rest of the wherewithal to conduct the necessary repairs. This is exactly what I did, but by some miraculous early parole, this, my most resent stint in boating purgatory (as of that time) only lasted over the course of the next couple of months.
I did make some acquaintances among the very nice and hospitable folks at the PCYC that summer, including Charley & Pavi, who had hosted the rendezvous. I also got to see the last space shuttle go up. So don't feel too bad for me. After all, a bad day sailing is still better than a good day fishing, right? Well, I don't guess I believe that myself, and not just because I love to fish. Despite everything, for some strange and undoubtedly idiotic reason, I was still enthused at this point, about both the "new" boat and my Westsailing horizons.
Come to think of it, I am, even now, still enthused about this boat and our future together, despite the subsequent shipwreck we had during the leg from Key West to my home dock in Hudson, FL. That trip ended just last week, followed by my return to West Virginia the other day. For some strange reason, my wife stayed in FL, so I got back here just in time to spend Christmas by myself. Tonight is Christmas Eve and here I sit in front of my barely smoldering fire, luxuriating in the dreary, depressing, cold, and wet WV weather. Oddly enough, it seems comforting to know that the weather is trying its best to sympathize with me by attempting to match my melancholy mood.
Tonight I have to choose between freezing or building the fire up, which will then prohibit Santa from coming down the chimney. Oh well, he would only be bringing me coal for my stockings anyway, which stockings I plan to wear while I sleep tonight so my feet don't go numb. So I guess I'd better sign off for now and go find some furniture to burn. Yes, tomorrow is Christmas Day, and I am here by myself in my half-broken-down, half-fixed-up, leaking farmhouse instead of spending the holidays with family in the Sunshine State, a thousand miles away, mocking me as it basks in its daily 81 degree highs. My only cosolation is that Southern Belle is still afloat (barely) and eager to devour more of my blood, sweat, tears, time, and most of all, MONEY, so we can go sailing again. (Well, that and also that my wife stayed in Florida.)
Since I've given up on trying to get the wet firewood to burn anyhow, perhaps tomorrow I'll wrap myself in blankets and write some more about my subsequent misadventures while I enjoy my frozen Christmas TV dinner. That's assuming that even I myself want to hear any more. Pretty pathetic, huh? Feel bad for me?.... then write me a dang email! I don't get lonely on the boat, but this place is eerily depressing, especially now on a dark Christmas Eve.
Also, while you're at it, have a great Christmas, whoever you are. What?... no one's reading at all? Oh well, the important stuff is already in the Bible, so nothing I could write really needs to be written anyway. Even in that case, "Merry Christmas to the dark night and all the ships at sea! Most of all,
Glory to God in the Highest!
And to all, a good night.
P.S. Oh! I forgot to mention that this is my second Westsail. I sold my first one back in April to buy this one (really).