Starting a marriage at the beginning of a 42 month sea duty tour can make things look a little bleak. You do your expected long cruises, you endure the continuous in and out of Counter Drug ops and just count down the months until Shore Duty. At the same time as all that excitement, we were learning how to sail our 23 foot Sovereign sailboat, "Wildebeest". We started getting some real breaks on the professional and personal front.
Example; We had a Hobie 16 (replacement for the one that sank) and we had an old Dodge Van. We sold both on the same day, thus enabling us to pay off all of the extra bills in one fell swoop.
Then, after three years of trying to crack into the Jacksonville health care mafia, She Who Will Be Obeyed scores her first non-educational related job with a well known Health Care company, mirroring my Navy salary! This was an amazing feat, first of many good things which would happen over the next 15 years.
Out of debt? Check.
Bright Future? Have Shades.
So what do we do with this filthy lucre? Buy "Wildebeest II"!
It was a 1982 Watkins 27.
Mom drives the Wildebeest II on the day we took delivery.
It had a wheel and an inboard diesel engine! Also, this boat had actually cruised the Bahamas, so we were now in possession of a boat that could really do the dream. Plus, the advantage of having a inboard diesel means that the motor can be started in any kind of weather or sea state, no more tugging a pull cord or having the motor stop because of swamping.
We really started sailing, then. Weekends on the river, trips to St Augustine, it was all exciting. The only problem was that we found out that I had orders to London. In nine months.
Try to sell the piece of junk house. Sell the newly acquired boat. Quit great job.
Not a great way to begin 1995.
We found ourselves in London, boat-less.
I went sailing from Calais, France, and sailed the coast of Normandy, and this trip made clear that we needed to do something. We needed to get a boat and fast, this need to sail was upon us and we had better do it now.
So the next Friday comes, and naturally the two of us were enjoying a home cooked meal with wine and champagne. After the second bottle, liquid courage caused me to call a Credit Union at ten o'clock at night; I applied for a loan for a sailboat that I intended to buy, and the nice Gent helping us was glad to take our application... it was only 4:00 PM in Virginia, after all.
Did I mention that I was properly in my cups? Oh yes.
Tuesday comes along, and the Credit Union downstairs calls my office; (We had one on the ground floor of the office building, how convenient!) They asked me if I was ready to pick up my $75,000 check.
What $75,000 check?
"The $75,000 loan you were approved for." "Have you changed your mind?"
I quickly replied, "I'll get back to you...."
Wow. I couldn't get a loan for a home without 20% down (Long story... 75K home in California was available in Vallejo--- No go) But I could get 75K for a boat with no down payment.
I didn't even have a boat picked out, yet. What was I to do?
So Spousal Unit and I laughed at our new opportunity and began in earnest to locate "Wildebeest III". We picked out four possibles and I flew to Florida to look at these boats, have a Survey on the chosen boat and make purchase. In two weeks.
I went to St Pete and looked at a CSY 44. Took it out on a test trial, but said I had to look at a couple of other boats. Traveled to Titusville to see a Cheoy Lee 50, but it was under contract. Darn.
Went to another Boatyard in Eau Gallie to look at a Morgan 43. I had never heard of the Morgan 43, but what the heck.
This boat had everything. Two fridges, microwave, two cabins, two heads, autohelm and all the goodies. The guy wanted 87K, I offered 70K. His wife took the offer!
What I didn't know was that the Owners had purchased boat to live their dream of cruising. Only she didn't like it, got scared and made way back to Florida and left the boat, moved back to San Diego.
Her husband got involved in the negotiation, countered with 71K, but he takes the RADAR off. I finally gave in and said $72K, with RADAR.
These are the very first views I had of Wildebeest III, on a hot Summer day in early August 1996
There was a couple months worth of food onboard... Too cool.
The previous owner comes out to pick up his personal junk, begins to whine at me about being "low-balled". He also informs me that he is a retired 0-9, and that I was a lowly enlisted puke.
I called him a pejorative term which describes a British cat, for not packing the gear to tell the Wife that he is keeping his boat.
He asked what I would do in the situation; I replied that I would probably miss my wife as I had to live on my boat alone.
The evening went pretty much that way, and the next morning we closed the deal with checks being exchanged.
I was underway with that boat by 1200, passing by the Green Dragon and heading North on the Intracoastal waterway. We had myself and two crew, three cases of PBR, a couple bags of chips, burgers, buns and maybe a six pack of cokes. Add in some bacon, eggs and a loaf of bread and we were underway with a Northern bias!
Only thing we lacked was boat insurance... Unable to acquire it before leaving. Not smart.
By the time we reached Haulover cut at Cape Canaveral, we had plowed through about a case of beer and a box of Bubba Burgers. We had been delayed by a draw bridge, and went swimming.
This is an actual picture of me jumping in the water:
Once we cleared canaveral, we were heading up the Mosquito river and the sunset arrived. We continued on with a spotlight and a chart and were going along nicely until we ran aground near New Smyrna. We wrenched ourselves off, and went through Ponce Inlet
View Larger Map
and into the Atlantic.
Note, we had been drinking beer since 1200, it was now 2330, and we had been off of beer for the previous three hours.
Fatigue set in and we set watches, Rich took the first two hours, I had the second and Paul would have the third.
Paul zonked right out, while I wandered around the interior of the boat checking for leaks and troubles. I attempted to sleep, but was unable to drop off due to the troubles on my mind; Rich had not idea how to run things (Neither did I, but who cares?) We were out on a new boat with NO INSURANCE!!!! and I had a loan of 75K to pay, and finally I had no idea how to accomplish the next task of finding someone to set up the boat for transport to the UK, and I had seven days until I had to be back in London.
You might say, "Why don't you just shut up and enjoy the ride?"
After trying to doze an hour, Rich told me that he couldn't stay awake, so I relieved him on the helm. May as well, since I'm responsible, anyhow.
An hour into my own trick, I noticed the very dark sky, thunderclouds in the distance giving me a light show. I also focused very intently on the constant drone of the Perkins 4-108 diesel, waiting to hear any hiccup or malfunction.
Looking to my left, I could see the bright lights of Daytona Beach, at 0130 in the morning, to the front I could see the St Augustine Lighthouse doing its thing.
This was going to be the first overnight offshore trip, evah! Wasn't life grand? Spousal Unit is going to poop her pants when she sees the bitchin' boat I just acquired!
I also started to hallucinate and do the familiar head bob. Otto was keeping us on course, but it was a Autohelm 4000, great for 36 foot boats and below, but a little underpowered, as I was learning. I was seeing cars trying to pass us, up ahead, and my mind was running wild, trying to get some desperately needed rest.
Finally, 0330 came, and I woke Paul up from a deep sleep. I went below and slept for at least four hours.
I came to about 0730, Saturday, to the smell of bacon and eggs cooking on my galley stove. Talk about feeling like $9.95, this was awesome!
After brekkies and a small shower (Livin' Baby!) I took my place on the helm. Looking left, I could see that we passed St Augustine and were well up to Ponte Vedra Beach. There was a gentle breeze blowing from the East, so we decided to set the sails.
Paul had noticed how stressed I was, but when we successfully got the sails up and working, he commented on how it was all worth it.
And handed me a PBR. Life was indeed, good. Rich and "Otto" sailing off of Jacksonville Beach.
A Boat Bum and his new boat, sitting on the liferaft
Finish the trip at Hooter's, Jacksonville Landing. Ahh, the party!
We rafted off of a home made trimaran.
The skipper asked me, so where'd ya guys come in from?
"Satellite Beach, by the Green Dragon."
The trip took about 36 hours. What a time!