Monday, February 28, 2011

The beginning of my sailing years. Part 1 of 3

My sailing years began the time I won a couple of tickets to London only to have a running partner of mine swipe them and send them off to some relative of his in New Jersey which for a brief period angered me to no end until I realized that the weather in London sucked out loud and it was a whole lot nicer in St Croix.

He had some relative in the travel industry that managed to swap them off and I wound up with two tickets to St Croix.

Needless to say, during an Alaskan winter a man with a pair of tickets to St Croix is bound to have more friends than you can count. If he isn’t careful he is soon to wind up with no friends at all.

I was clever. I actually raffled the other ticket off.

I went around to all of my friends, male and female and put their names in a hat and simply pulled a name out.

It was the name of a woman that was a platonic friend of mine and that wound up being a pretty good deal when all was said and done.

Of course one of the guys said that I should have taken a certain hottie with me and I smugly told him that you don’t take sand to the beach. He took my point.

Looking back on it, it was a pretty good idea to travel with someone like her for a number of reasons.

First of all there is no pressure involved like there would be if you were involved in a romantic relationship with the person you are traveling with. I have seen several guys travel with girlfriends only to break up either during the trip or right after it.

Another reason is that you can either operate singly or as a pair smoothly and sometimes it opens a few more doors.

The other reason is that a partner of the opposite sex can help extricate their partner from any number of situations. This woman helped me escape the attention of a crazy lady once simply by showing up and simply walking in on the conversation and asking me if I had heard from the baby sitter.

The crazy lady took off like a shot.

We had a quiet deal worked out so that we did things together on odd numbered days and went our own way on even numbered days. I never had to lie to her because she was a very smart woman.

In fact, she was so smart that she never asked me any questions about who, what, when, where and why went on during the even numbered days. That strikes me as being pretty smart if you ask me.

This gave me ample opportunity to sample a few the various females of the species that had spent the year working at various airlines and saving their quarters for their annual free airline vacation and had wound up in St. Croix looking for adventure. Some of this adventure I cheerfully supplied.

I also had a couple of pretty good adventures, too as I was attacked twice by forty year old cougars. I was lucky to escape with my life.

Anyway, we headed back to the hotel one even numbered evening and she suggested we go sailing the following day which sounded like an interesting thing to do.

Seems she had been invited by some sail bum to go for a sail and she was clever. After she was invited, she accepted ‘if she could take her husband along’.

I didn’t mind flying cover for her at all, She had covered my flanks a few days earlier by helping me escape the clutches of the crazy lady that had tried to pick me up a couple of days earlier.

Besides I knew I was getting a pretty good sailboat ride out of the deal and even though I was a fisherman it had been a long time since I had been sailing. I accepted instantly.

As usual, I wound up doing a lot of the work of setting and trimming sails and took a couple of tricks at the helm. I had a ball.

The owner of the boat was a recently discharged naval officer that had served time to pay back an ROTC scholarship and somewhere along the line had drummed up enough money to buy a pretty good boat and take time off to enjoy it.

I decided that this was for me right then and there. I knew I wanted to travel the watery part of the planet under sail and do a few things.

I realized that I didn’t really need quite as big a boat as this one. This was about 36 feet long and I knew that a well found 25 footer would serve me well if I was careful and didn’t take any unnecessary chances.

Most people do not know it, but an awful lot of circumnavigators complete their voyage in boats between 25 and 32 feet. Any smaller is simply too small and won’t hold enough supplies. Any bigger is too expensive and is too costly to maintain on a budget.

We had a glorious time and when it was over, I told my female partner in crime that I was going to have a boat inside a year or two.

The rest of the trip was a whole lot of fun, but the seed had been planted.

I returned to Kodiak to find I still had friends which I attribute to the fact that I had been clever with my extra ticket a few weeks earlier. Had I simply invited someone to go with me I would have alienated everyone else that would have wanted to go.

As usual, I returned to my camper-trailer to find I had a new room mate and that the refrigerator was full of beer and leftover pizza. The propane bottle was fairly full, too, which was a plus as it was pretty cold when I returned to Kodiak.

The following morning I told my room mate what the plan was and he looked at me strangely and said that he really believed I was going to go through with it and offered to keep his eyes open for any opportunities that may come his way that he thought would be up my alley.

I had, of course, returned from St. Croix pretty much broke, but my roomy had actually already planned for this and had hooked me up with a guy that needed a gear shed built. I instantly looked the fisherman up and inside a couple of hours gave him a price which he accepted.

I spent a hard couple of weeks living on salmon and venison until the job was done and then I took my money and went straight to a friend of mine that had a safe in their house and told him what I was up to.

He agreed to let me store my funds there as I was on the bad boy list at the local bank after the time they screwed me over a check. I had retaliated by storing a couple pounds of shrimp in a safety deposit box and broken the key off before I left town for a couple of months.

They had to get both a court order and a locksmith and the issue came to court; the judge must have had problems with the bank because she found a loophole and threw the case out. I could have served time for that one.

Although I had a small account in the other bank in town, I was loathe to use that one for some reason or another that now slips my mind. I think they were afraid of me after the shrimp incident.

Word travels fast in small towns.

Anyway, for well over the next year I scrimped and saved and lived on venison, halibut, King crab, salmon and shrimp simply because it was free.

By about January of ’85 I had enough to buy the boat I wanted and it was now time for me to leave for Seattle and go and find it.

A number of things happened that worked out in my favor, too. A friend had a car I could use that he kept at his parents place outside of Seattle. It was a small station wagon that I could sleep in.

I swapped my wad of cash for traveler’s checks and packed my bags.

Luck was with me when it came time to head south because at the last minute a friend of mine offered me a flight down in a DC-3 that was headed that way.

I threw my travel bag in the plane and found a comfortable place to sack out for a long, loud, free ride to Seattle.

We landed and I caught a bus ride to about a half-mile from my friend’s parent’s place and hoofed it to their door and introduced myself. His father handed me the keys to the car and I was off and running and looking for a boat.

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