Sassea Sails



September 2019

Who am I, Not?

No, I am not Tracie Edwards,  Dee Cafari, or Dawn Riley. I lack their sailing acumen.  Anne Gardner Nelson and Kathryn Garlick, in the Hobie 16 arena  always crossed the finish line while I was rounding the last mark. What about Tania Aebi, Laura Decker, and Greta Thornber? I am not one them, despite my sometimes wishing I was. On a personal level is my hero Sherry McCampbell. Walking along the beach in our hometown we talked incessantly about our plans to complete a circumnavigation. For nearly ten years she has continued to sail a west bound route. 

Realizing who I am, and who I am not  has been difficult. My belief that I could do whatever I set my mind to was curtailed after I found myself living alone, as a single woman, in a quiet mountain town. New people I met asked, “Where are you from?”  This inspired me to list the places I lived. That list morphed into a list of traits I hated about myself. After a few sleepless nights. I realized it all boiled down to this, “I have the best family and friends. I was a spoiled brat. I have hurtful thoughts toward those who accomplish what I fail to.

Now, at 71, I don’t want to hurt anymore. I want to embrace those who succeed where I dare to go. Like the serenity prayer suggests, I will accept what I cannot change and garner the courage to change what I can.

With that acceptance comes an apology to two women who outsailed me. It was at the 1987 Hobie 17 Championship when I displayed my regretful behavior. After several days of racing the cut off to race in the finals was set at 49. I was 50 or 51. Anne and Julie made it to the finals. I turned my hurt and disappointment into anger. I was enraged that they were good enough to continue racing against the best sailors. Did I attend the cut party? Did I wish these ladies luck?

Did I congratulate them?

Nope! Immediately, after reading the roster for the finals, I got into my little red truck and drove myself home. For three days I cried and yelled to the heavens. Why can’t I be like them? I practiced. I devoured every bit of information on efficient sailing that I could hear or read about. I put my heart and soul into that event. Why did they win and I didn’t? Why did Tania Aebi figure out how to sail around the world by herself. Why did Susan Korzewski dedicate herself to racing a Hobie 16? From questioning my racing to questioning my family I raged. Why did my cousin live in the same house she grew up in while I moved every two years or so? Why did my sister raise a family while I chose to be child free? The final question woke me up “What is wrong with me?” 

The winds whistled through my mind. A sudden puff of reality woke me.  Marlene you are like everyone else. We are all our own champions. We all have struggles, demons and delights. Admiring these people, rather than being them is what makes you the Sassea Sailor. You can’t be them. They can’t be you.


It’s as if Dorian has been balancing on the pivot point of a teeter totter. If the high pressure system to the east moves further east, Dorian will teeter north. On the other tack if the eastern high pressure moves west or remains constant, South and Central Florida may get a face lift.

Sitting on the tipping point has paralyzed the ideas swirling around my brain. Unlike writer’s block my head is full of thoughts, not devoid of them. The paralytic force holding the words back is probably for the best. Besides, I wonder, what is there to say about such a ravishing storm? Abaco, a beloved island; an island inhabited by pleasant people of modest means;  an island where thousands of sailors make it their winter home, or at least a stop along the Bahama chain. The worst case is that despite our prayers, Abaco, and its surrounding cays may be no more.

The picture below shows New Hope Harbor as it was before mother nature sent Hurricane Dorian across this otherwise pristine area of the Bahamas. The harbor’s peppermint striped lighthouse reminds all who sail into its tiny harbor that they are in one of the sweetest places on earth. The harbor is a popular mooring field and anchorage. It provides good protection on nearly all sides, save the narrow opening on the north shore. Sailors who visit from near and far take advantage of the locally owned shops and eateries. Will New Hope Harbor look the same after days of thunderous waves and howling winds? Will it remain a sought after harbor?

Linda McGarry, a dearest friend, was in tears thinking about New Hope Harbor. In picture perfect form Linda and the man of her dreams exchanged vows on the bow of their friends’ catamaran. Having the candy striped lighthouse in the background was like the icing on their wedding cake. That was almost ten years ago, on April 16, 2010; a day she still hopes to revisit in the years to come.

Another friend of a friend who owned a cottage in New Hope Harbor gave a sad report. Her cottage is gone. There is a video showing the water rising above rooftops while the rain and wind persist (I regret I lost track of that particular video).

Speaking to a favorite crew, Karen Minette, from our early days racing Hobies and later J-24s, we recalled the summer we met in Abaco. A group of our sailing comrades from Melbourne, Florida converged in the crystal clear waters surrounding Abaco. Some raced between Green Turtle, Man of War and Marsh Harbor; some snorkeled.  Everyone ended each day with a sundowner. Whether it was a Margarita or a chilled Kalik, the sunsets were as endearing as the gentle breeze.

Two days ago, while Abaco was helplessly awaiting her demise, a sailing comrade, Annie Gardner, posted a picture of a weather map. Clearly Abaco was being dismasted. Next to the clip she wrote, “Sickening.” I about cried. Compelled to show solidarity, I wrote something, too. My words added nothing.  She said it precisely. My heart sunk.

A sailor in Vero Beach has already organized a flotilla to bring supplies to the islands. What islands? Will there be an Abaco, a Marsha Harbor, a Treasure Cay? Will sailors be able to safely navigate the insurmountable debri now endangering the great Bahama Bank?

Selfishly sitting in my loft, at 7000 feet above sea level, I stare at the iconic stationary Spanish Peaks. Perhaps this is the wake-up call I need. Perhaps my new passion will be to use my sailing skills and my boat to come to the aid of others who weathered this horrific storm.  

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