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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.

 

Tri Again . . .

From my Corsair F28, with my Marples 35 in between, to Ron’s homebuilt F31-9A to our newly purchased Windrider 17, we are tri ing again. Why not? Although for me it has been an intuitive, beauty in the eyes of the beholder, a trimaran is the way to sail. For those technies that need/want to understand their seafaring attributes from an expert, listen to Jim Brown’s podcasts. You can access them on ‘outrig.com’  Or simply google them.

Pictured above on the left is “Chiquita” Ron’s F-31, 9A that he built, sailed extensively around the mid Bahamas and round trip from Everglades City to Orr’s Island, Maine.

Pictured above on the right is Pete Kissel’s original Windrider 17 that he purchased in 2002. Now, the proud owner is me, the sassea sailor…. Actually, ownership is shared with me mate, Ron. We named her LC, ‘lil’ Chiquita.’ After all, compared to his former F9A she looks like a baby banana.

 

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

 

 

 

A Clean Boat is a Happy Boat

There she sits. At the end of the dock. From the house I can see her. With but a ripple on the water as the tide abates, her stoutly physique beckons me to sail. In the early morning and late afternoon, I admire her potential and her past. Aye, but for the emotional scar that has yet to heal I do what I can to keep her clean. Bleaching the mildew, cleansing the bowl, pumping fresh water, and even cooking on her stove. She may be settled at the dock waiting for a buyer, but she is still mine, a very  proud find.DSCN3262.jpg

No man, no woman,  can take what she has given me away. Even when she leaves my side, my heart will crave the brave soul who once sailed away. Just give me the strength to keep her looking fresh. To tend to her needs as best I can. N’er was a love greater than the joy SPRAY has given to me. So, I will keep her clean, as clean I can while continuing to risk going to sea alone. For a beggar I am not, nor ever will be. If you want to sail or just help me out then hither come yonder.  Or congeal your fear, dig your heels in,  push me away whatever you need. It really doesn’t matter. Our lives will go on,,,,with a clean boat at the dock.

 

 

For Sale or is it For Sail?

To sell my beloved SPRAY comes with much consternation. She is more for sail than she is for sale. Either way, she deserves a good captain. Someone who will appreciate the voyages and people she has proudly taken to the sea. With the sad demise of the commercial cargo ship, El Faro etched in my mind, how proud I am of the decisions made when taking SPRAY offshore.

This awful tragedy of El Faro reminds everyone of the vulnerability mother nature presents. Unless one is suicidal reaching a safe harbor is the icing on the cake. Who wants a dry, bland mix of flour, eggs and water. Sure, we love the motion of the ocean, the starlit nights, and the instant romance that creates the ultimate sensoround theatre that beckons us to the sea. Yet, evil lurks. The best laid plans go awry. Unexpected turn of events smack us in the face. Sometimes it is all we can do but pray and thank heaven for the goodness we were blessed with here on earth.

Though I did not mean to get so dramatic, my point is, SPRAY is about as good of a design and build as a 35 foot boat can provide. She is quite stable, especially when compared to a monomaran. From my experience she sails more like a sailboat should sail, she tacks without using the iron jenny as is required on some catamarans. There is no profit or commission for me to earn by making the sale. I know what she is worth, I know how much money I paid for her, how much money I have invested, how much sweat equity was provided by my charming (and good looking) mate.

To put a value on her is difficult.  Because of that I will leave that challenge to the experts in sales. Unlike the cliche, the day a new owner sails off with me on the dock (if I can stand the site), will be a day of tears. Sentiment, they say has no business in business. I say, nay, this is about the most emotional experience of my life. Hopefully the transaction will be more about being for SAIL then for sale.

Welcome to a New Adventure in Sailing

Although sailing is my passion, lifelong learning is an inherent theme. Since running away from home at age 4 to follow my big sister and brother to the elementary school a block away from our apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey, until now 3 years after retiring I have this urge, this need to be challenged. After drinking at least five cups of coffee today, I am awake and ready to embark on a website.

The purpose of sasseasails.com is to be of value to others by sharing information about sailing as a reality and as a metaphor for life.                                                          

While I convert and/or attach my current blogging from sea knots and blogspot please feel free to send me comments, questions, or concerns (refer to item ‘f’  above). Thank you,


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