Given recent events, I thought maybe I should tell you about what happened last time I did a cat delivery with Hank Schmitt. This was seven years ago, in January 2007, and the short version of the story is that I ended up getting arrested. The boat--a brand new Scape 39 Sport Cruiser built in Cape Town, South Africa--belonged to a man named Wayne. He had hired Hank to skipper the delivery all the way across the South Atlantic to Grenada and was willing to pay airfare for one extra crew member to fly into Cape Town, which is where I came in.
Hank and I crawled off the plane, nearly jet-lagged to death, to be greeted by Wayne and a litany of his woes: 1) the boat, already over six weeks late, was not finished yet; 2) Wayne's wife, who had come to attend the launching and sea-trials, had broken her leg and had to fly home again; and 3) the apartment they were renting had just been destroyed in a fire.
Editor's Note: Tis the season. The dreaded materialistic frenzy that is Christmas is nearly upon us, to be immediately followed (thank God) by the big race to Hobart. The early forecast this year is for a downwind sleigh ride, and Bob Oatley's super-maxi Wild Oats XI may have a good chance at breaking her course record, set just last year, of 1 day, 18 hours, and change. Course records aren't that easy to come by in this race, and two in successive years would be a notable achievement. So I'll be watching developments with interest. Meanwhile, I thought I'd share this account of my one-and-only Sydney-Hobart experience, circa year 2000.
MY RIDE, appropriately enough, was named Antipodes. She wasn't a racing boat, but a dedicated cruiser, a Taswell 56, built in 1991 to a design by Bill Dixon. I had first met her in the Canary Islands in 1992 while bumming around the North Atlantic as pick-up crew.
During my tenure aboard, her owner, Geoff Hill, generous to a fault, shared with me his unique Australian essence, taught me the words to several songs whose lyrics cannot be repeated in polite company, and promised he would one day lure me to the Land of Oz. Her skipper, Glenn Belcher, an unreconstructed rebel from South Carolina, took good care of me and learned me a thing or two about sailing as we voyaged across the Atlantic from the Canaries to the Bahamas.
When Geoff finally decided to keep his promise eight years later, he cut right to the chase. Just a one-line e-mail flickering at me like pornography from across the Internet: Could you would you should you dare do the 2000 Hobart race with me and Cap'n Ahab Belcher and a motley crew of Aussies on good ship Antipodes?
Bernard Moitessier is remembered primarily for his famous 1968-69 Golden Globe voyage, in which he blew off a chance to win the first non-stop singlehanded round-the-world race and kept on sailing halfway around the world again to Tahiti to "save his soul." But he is also remembered for wrecking not one, but three different boats during the course of his sailing career. As is documented in his first book, Sailing to the Reefs (Un Vagabond des Mers Sud in the original French), he lost two boats named Marie-Therese sailing on to reefs in the Indian Ocean and in the Caribbean in 1952 and 1958. Much later, in 1982, he lost Joshua, the 40-foot steel ketch that made him famous, on a beach at Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.
These days voyaging south down the U.S. East Coast via the Intracoastal Waterway is so commonplace as to be cliché. Literally thousands of cruisers now make the pilgrimage annually. Calling themselves "snowbirds," they ply the murky waters of the ICW in all manner of vessels, both power and sail, and pride themselves on the tobacco-colored bow stains that denote multiple annual transits.But back in the early 20th century, when long-distance cruising was still in its infancy, taking a boat all the way from New England to Florida was a challenging proposition. One of the first to take up the challenge--and perhaps the very first to do so under sail--was an unassuming insurance salesman from New Bedford, Massachusetts, named Henry Plummer. An avid amateur sportsman who enjoyed hiking, hunting, and sailing, Plummer had long dreamed of embarking on an extended cruise and at last got his chance after retiring early in 1912 at age 47.
IT IS AN UNWRITTEN RULE that every cruise up an African river must have a Greater Purpose--some guy named Kurtz to chase after, a lost explorer to rescue, a legendary city of gold to loot, some palpable goal to lure you ever onward into regions where you might not otherwise venture. My partner Carie and I by now had spent nearly two weeks cruising up the Gambia in my old Alberg 35 yawl and decided finally we had two of these: we wanted to see a hippopotamus and we wanted to attend a dance.
Another America's Cup summer looms on the horizon, raising again that perennial insuperable question that so tortures racing sailors: how the heck do we get laypeople interested in our sport? These days the default answer is super-fast boats and TV-friendly race formats, which certainly are attractive to sailors, even slowpoke cruisers like myself. But this sort of excitement, I fear, flies over the heads of most people who are not inherently interested in sailing. A much more successful formula is to focus instead on personalities. Look back at those moments in America's Cup history that have truly bubbled up into the mass consciousness, and you'll note they have all revolved around interesting people--Dennis Conner fighting to redeem himself after losing the Cup in 1983; Ted Turner talking trash back in the 1970s; Sir Thomas Lipton playing the lovable loser throughout the early 20th century.
Sailors may have trouble comprehending this, but writers certainly don't. Which, I assume, is why Julian Guthrie, in her soon-to-be-released book on the most recent history of the Auld Mug, The Billionaire And The Mechanic, tries her darnedest to make a hero out of Larry Ellison. It says something of her ability as a writer that she almost succeeds in doing so.
WHEN IT CAME TIME to leave Dakar, I found we were, almost literally, hanging by a thread. I had anchored Crazy Horse, my Alberg 35 yawl, on about 100 feet of three-strand nylon rope, plus there was a 30-foot chain leader. On hauling back all the rope, which I had to do by hand, as we had no windlass, I discovered the rode, just a few feet back from the chain, had almost chafed right through. Two strands were severed entirely; the third was cut in half.
On making this discovery I was, of course, both shocked and relieved. Something down there clearly liked to chew on rope, and I reckoned in only a few more hours it would have been done chewing on mine. At best we would have lost the anchor; at worst we might have lost the boat. I also couldn't help laughing: it seemed appropriate that we should escape the city by the skin of our teeth.
Page 1 of 6
Offshore Passage Opportunities
Attainable Adventure Cruising
Blue Planet Times
Father & Son Sailing
Cruising Sailor's BB
Good Old Boat
North American Sailor
Liz Clark and the Voyage of Swell
Onboard with Mark Corke
All Content © 2011-12 Wavetrain - All Rights Reserved Site Design By FortySix Web