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Sassea Sails

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Dawn to Dusk,,,

There he was. Or, was he a she? When I turned from filling the bird feeders I looked toward the trees behind the shed while imitating the flock of larks who were hungrily waiting for their day’s ration. Then, my eyes drifted downward. A stump about 3 feet high caught my attention. I tried to recall if I had ever noticed it before. Squinting as one would to clearly make out the markings two eyes were staring back at me. As still as the tree I initially thought I was looking at took a more defined shape. With his head erect and body pointing straight at me, I was reminded of Lucas, a four or five month old lion that I was fortunate to play with years ago while in South Africa. The only notable difference was that Lucas was a golden color typical of lions. This cat was wearing grey and his eyes the color of an ordinary house cat. In fact, his whole body resembled a pet many cat lovers enjoy as a companion.

This cat, the one standing about 3 feet from the house and about twenty yards from me, looked like a giant house cat. He/she didn’t meow or  grimace. He/she remained still, save for the wind perking up his/her thick coat. Wanting my mate to see, I stupidly started yelling in the direction of the upstairs loft where I knew he was inside doing his morning exercises. “Ron, Ron, you gotta see this.” Because he didn’t respond to my wailing, I slowly walked up onto the deck and opened the front door. Thankfully, Ron was already on his way outside. “Shush,”  he whispered, “and move slowly.”

Being the coward I am I stayed an inch or two behind Ron stepping into his footsteps as he peered around the west corner of the house. Only ten yards in front of us, the cat continued to stare at us. Then as quietly as he had been, he turned his head and slowly walked away from us and into the woods.

As if this wasn’t enough excitement for a city girl, while the sun was setting later in the day, a hefty, healthy looking  doe strolled into our front yard. For about fifteen minutes she nibbled at the bird seed beneath the juniper tree about 30 yards from our front door.  Her big ears turning in different directions. We were inside and taking pictures. The bird feeder is an actual tea cup, the kind fancy ladies sip from so there isn’t much seed in the cup when I fill it every other morning. Yet, this majestic ruminant mammal   nibbled, and nibbled for about 15 minutes,  yet still leaving enough for two birds to dive into the cup after the she strolled away.

Wow, a deer and a bobcat in our yard; one at dawn and the other at dusk. Quite a day for a city girl…

 

 

Sailing Vs Hiking: What’s the diff?

 

Standing Waves

fullsizeoutput_2bfbViewing the Spanish Peaks Mountain Range, from our loft window,  there was relief knowing I am not as far from sailing the great oceans of our world as I once feared. The old downhill ski resort clearly shows the trails of a once thriving playground for winter sports.   From about 15 miles away the scenery is a reminder of how I connected sailing and surfing to skiing during my two years on the slopes of New Hampshire.  The drudgingly slow and breathtaking steps when hiking up a mountain has some semblance to sailing upwind in a stiff blow when it is 2 am and all you really want to do is  climb into your bunk. To get that extra 1/4 knot of speed you crank the winch. Your inner voice repeats a common refrain, “just keep moving, slowly and steadily, you are almost there.” 

Unlike the rise and fall of the ocean’s swell the mountains are solidly held in place or so it may seem. The earth is in constant motion. It perpetually  spins on its own axis while traveling around the sun causing winds, currents and temperatures to change. Inevitably this results in the evolving landscapes around the world. An earthquake is an example of how pressure from deep beneath the earth’s surface creates one of the most wondrous and destructive forces, illustrating the ever-changing motion of mother earth. 

In this manner, it can be argued that those majestic snow-capped mountains seen outside my upstairs windows, are not static. Rather, due the the earth’s vibrations,  they can be considered standing waves whose movement can only be detected by a sophisticated seismograph. In contrast,  sailors and surfers expect a wave to continue its path. Without warning about the second the wave is expected to crest, it seems to pause, leaving the boat or surfer hovering in curious wonderment before the wave returns to its destined crash  into a thunderous roar.  

Do the waves actually stop moving? Do the mountains really move? Or, do I just need to rationalize my new lifestyle 2000 miles away from the ocean’s door?

Solo Sailor Susan Sails at Seventy

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Susan Tuttle retired from teaching special education. To begin her new lifestyle she looked to the horizon as she set a course for an offshore sailing adventure.  The easy part was finding the same style boat, a Contessa 26,  as the one Tania Aebi completed her round the world solo circumnavigation in the mid 1980s.  Having a friend who was an experienced sailor enabled Susan to have someone teach her the fundamentals of sailing. Then, the adventure began.

As an experienced commercial airplane pilot Susan understood the need to make course adjustments depending on the wind currents.  The first leg of her maiden voyage from Crawfordville, Florida to Isla Muejeres, Mexico took 11 days.  Along with her crew  Susan confessed, “We spent an extra week getting there due to a northern current that we failed to account for which in essence was taking us to Texas.”

In addition to failing to account for the current Susan mused, “I wish we had reefed earlier on our fifth day out.  By the time the squall hit us it was a difficult balancing taking the sails down with waves as tall as my house rolling us fore, aft and side to side. My boat is quite small and with the dinghy strapped on the foredeck I am sure I will forevermore heed the golden rule to reef early.

Safely arriving in Isla Mujeres Susan’s crew flew home. No stranger to living by herself Susan relished the time she spent exploring the village by herself while planning to sail to a more remote anchorage near Excalata, south of Isla Mujeres.  To interrupt the solitude Susan paddled her inflatable kayak to shore where she took several bus trips to visit neighboring villages and the many ruins that have survived the passage of time.

An unexpected pleasure came from meeting a guy she had previously met in her home port. Then, she met another solo sailor. He was from France. It was Susan’ introduction to the small world of sailors who roam the seven seas.  After a few weeks Susan again sailed to an even more remote area near the Mayan jungle. She anchored in an abandoned fishing village. Again, the call of the sea beckoned Susan to set sail even further south.

It was on this leg of her journey that her contentness alone at sea caused her ship’s demise. Susan said she had been below deck cooking, reading, and relaxing for about three hours when she heard the crackling crunching sound of a fiberglass boat being crushed on the rocks. Anyone who has made such a fateful mistake as failing to keep watch need not be questioned; the auto helm on a boat like cruise control in a car still requires human interaction. A mistake is a mistake, even like this one a costly one.

Fortunately, she was able to get herself safely to land while her Contessa lisped along the reef. Imagine how she felt walking several miles until she came upon a resort where she made a deal with some local fisherman to free her boat. They charged her $1500 which was considerably less than what the officials would bill her for.

Susan described a disheartening scene as her  pride and joy filled with water. Then, when the rudder broke free she knew her boat would best be left as scrap. Susan sighed at the remembrance,  “It was just a terrible thing.” Throughout the ordeal she never felt afraid. She just got busy doing what needed to be done. In fact, in all her sailing adventures thus far the only time she felt fear was when anchored about 14 off the coast of Key West. Speed boats were flying by at what she thought were reckless speeds. It was during the night that she realized how vulnerable she would be if one of ‘those guys’ decided to board her boat.

Did crashing her Contessa on the rocks or the fear of ne’ar do wells damper her spirits? Did she give up sailing? Did she wallow in her depleted life savings? NO. Rather, Susan took a job as a special education teacher in Huslia, Alaska. It is an Indian outpost about 250 miles west of Fairbanks. Every spare penny was saved and two years later Susan traded her earned cash for a FLICKA 24. Being similar to the Contessa Susan was confident to once again set sail.

This time, she cruised, alone, along the west coast of Florida to the Dry Tortugas.  Returning north her engine was not cooperating. Taking advantage of her Sea Tow insurance, Susan was towed into the nearest port, Everglades City. Looking for assistance she wandered into the town’s museum and was eventually connected to a mechanic and me.

Though most of her two weeks were spent on maintenance repairs, she was able to get her inboard diesel purring like a kitten. I am grateful to have had the privilege to drive her the required 40 miles to Wal-mart for provisions. We idled away many hours as sailors do, sipping wine and sharing tales of life at sea.

When asked what she has learned from her adventures she shyly smiled. Then, as if with indignation she said, “It is a lot of work. It looked like sailing would be easy, but it’s not. I don’t have a windlass and my anchor weighs 22 pounds.” With a sigh we nodded at each other, filled our glasses, and continued to gab til we fell fast asleep.

Susan’s spirit invigorated my passion for sailing solo. Something I may do again. Hopefully, reading this will inspire you to ‘sail through life, either on a boat or other means.’

The picture below shows Susan navigating the Barron River in Everglades City on her homeward voyage along the west coast of Florida. Her boat is a Flicka 24.

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For more information about Susan you can access the May issue of the Mullet Rapper published for and about Everglades City or contact me at sailorhiker@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Menage a Trois

With overcast skies, a 10 knot southeasterly breeze was conveniently blocked by  the mangroves bordering  the northeast and southwestern shores of the Barron River here in Everglades City. This was nature’s blessing as we launched our first joint financial investment; yipe we recently purchases a Windrider 17. After selling each of our offshore cruising boats we vowed to find a boat capable and inexpensively able to be kept out of the water. No more bottom paint and no more river scum was our primary criteria. Despite my longing to continue offshore cruising, I can live with the goal to sail solo into the many harbors that beckon me to remain a goal. There are no guarantees in life. If I learned one thing, I learned that when the sun rises each morning a new day of opportunity arises.

Similar to our cruising boats, the Windrider is a trimaran; some say tris are basically  a monohull with training wheels. The amas provide enough bouyancy to make the boat nearly impossible to capsize. If you have never sailed a tri, do yourself a favor and heed the call. Because only the mainhull of a tri performs like a monohull tacking is smooth. Whereas catamarans, both large and small take a bit of finesse to get two hulls to cross the eye of the wind, the tri, only has to get the center hull through the eye.

Today, we challenged ourselves. From launching against the tide, to motoring along the five mile channel from Panther Creek to Indian Key, to anchoring, to sailing upwind then downwind, to motor sailing back home, we couldn’t shake the feeling that we had done something right. That all our woes, worries, and fears about our relationship with ourselves, with each other and with the sea melted with the setting sun.

There is something to cherish each and every day. Regardless of how tragic a situation is, regardless of how lonely our hearts get, and regardless of the fear of the unknown, if we can just keep our eyes on the horizon, let the tears fall, and force a smile, nature will take it from there. That is the beauty of sailing. Just the wind, the water, and the simplicity of a life fullfilled.

And so it is on this Christmas Day, the 25th of December, the second day of Hanakah, in the year 2016 that my beau and I celebrated the goodness we are fortunate to embrace. With thoughts of Danny, I am especially grateful for all he brought to me. His love for me and my love and respect for him endures. I saw him in every wave, every ripple, and every breeze on my cheek as our Windrider 17 ever so smoothly sailed the waters of my new hometown, here in southwest Florida.

 

SPRAY, WIND, n RIDE

From My Marples 35, SPRAY, to my Windrider 17 I am destined to Ride. The big challenge is to curb my appetite for competition and adventure.  The multiple common denominator is both boat have the infamous Jim Brown influence, both are trimarans, and both have a beautiful history accompanied with a preferred future.

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Having listened to the 14 podcasts written and narrated by Jim Brown, I am intrigued by my intuitiveness. I had no idea that tris sailed smoother over waves than catamarans. Seemingly it is because the width from main hull to lee ama is less than the distance between two hulls of a cat. The windard hull on the tri rides out of the water so it has minimal impact. It kind of makes sense to me. For more technical info, though, listen to podcast # 14.

Before I ever sailed, even prior to my imagining I would ever sail despite my captivation with the sight of two memorable events. The first was when I saw Ted Turner at the helm of courageous during a CBS newscast in the 1970s. A few years later the second event was when I was drawn to a white home built tri sitting at a dock in the Florida Keys. I didn’t know there were monohulls and multihulls. I just knew there were sailboats and good looking sailors.

Of course, the best looking sailor in my humble opinion is and has always been my dad. He was a different kind of sailor than Ted Turner, my husband, and my current beau. My dad proudly served as a medic in the U.S. Navy. Never, though did dad have an inclination to learn to sail a ‘real boat.’ Before my rambling gets the best of me, let me get back to the purpose of this article.

With the sale of SPRAY to a happy go lucky, intelligent man I bought LC, so named by me and my mate. What matters here, is that I am again draining my bank account all for the love of my life, sailing. To ride the waves, ride with the wind, ride with a friend, ride alone, ride for the thrill, ride for the peace, ride to teach, ride to learn, ride Sassea, ride! That is what I will do.

Sea you on the Water,,,,,image1

 

 

 

Learning to White Water Raft

Learning to navigate a raft down a river with class 1, 2, and 3 rapids follows the same rules as controlling all vessels. Whether the vessel is a sailboat, a ski, or a car.

(1) Make sure your equipment is in good condition.

(2) Wear proper safety gear and know how to self rescue.

(3) Point the bow in the direction you want to go.

(4) Stay away from hard objects.

 

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As a bonus to make the trip more enjoyable consider the use of a  non-verbal system of communication. Of course, you can always elect to be the captain of your own ship. If you  are inclined to sail with a group I challenge you to submit your idea on how to quell the bellowing commands from astern and unintelligle verbage from the bow that echoes in the ears of the middle men (especially the aging ones) in favor of a more melodic communicae with all aboard. The chosen system will receive a free t-shirt from the Nanthahala Outdoor Center. This t-shirt will be complements of yours truly, sassythesailor@gmail.com

Consider the Nanthahala River for your first, second or hundredth river rafting experience. They have guided trips, as well as self-operated rentals for groups, duos and solo rafters.

https://noc.com/plan-your-trip/whitewater-rafting

 

 

 

 

Another First

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Finally went on a river raft ride which ends with my reminding everyone to do something new. With this reminder I challenge readers to do something new. Then  share your experience with a photo and/or verbage of your experience. Whether you are eight or eighty the excitement of doing something for the first time usually leaves a lasting impression. When you grow old, there is nothing more endearing than those memories. Cherish the memories in your mind. The printed and digital pictures need to be shared with discreet attention. Your friends and family will be glad you selected the one visual that is worth a 1000 words, rather than having to politely endure an array of photos.  — you can contact me at sassythesailor@gmail.com

PICTURESQUE

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