Sassea Sails



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.  

Never Not Ever Again

Newly enforced rule: Only functional items stay on the boat. 

During my 45 years of sailing I always kept on board only items essential to sailing or living on board. Why, then, oh why on my CSY 33 did I keep a 5×2’ wooden slat designed for extending the starboard settee into a single size bed on board? I remember telling myself I didn’t need to carry this heavy piece of wood to the van. Besides, why store it in the van?  It is a part of the boat. When I sell the boat the new owner may want it. I convinced myself to stand it up against the wall in the head. It will be out of the way. 

Upright it fit a few inches below the towel rack. Two fluffy towels draped over the towel bar hid the slat from view. For more than two months, while Sassea was comfortably tied to the dock, the slat held its place. Out of sight-out of mind, until . . . our return to the dock after Sassea’s perfect day of sailing. During our sunny four hour sail, my crew and I joyously cruised along the coast of Ft. Lauderdale. We successfully retrieved a life jacket as part of our man overboard drill. We tacked and jibed several times to stay clear of boat traffic, to avoid storms, and to collect data on tacking angles. 

Needless to say, despite the less than 12 knots of wind and 1 to 2 foot waves, Sassea’s 11 foot beam did a minimum amount of rock and roll. Apparently, as we learned back at the dock, it was enough to tilt the slat on to the opposite side of the head. It didn’t just lie on top of the door knob. It seriously jammed itself such that no amount of torquing would allow the knob to turn. 

“No problem,” was my first thought. I’ll go on deck and climb in through the overhead hatch. That would have worked had I not done the right thing and dog down the hatch before we headed out the inlet. Taking the rear hinge off the hatch didn’t allow it to pop open enough to get my hand and arm inside to unscrew either of the dogs.

Cutting a hole in the stuck door was another option. As much as I feared getting locked inside the head, I dreaded putting a hole in the finely carved wood.

The chosen option was to grind off the door hinges. Thankfully, my boat friend, Mike, obliged and took to the task.

Despite my possibly getting a sliver of the metal hinges in my eye (as it swelled up the next morning), grinding off the door hinges worked. The door is off. It will be stored along with the bed slat, and half of the table that is not needed. When I return in October I hereby solemnly promise to remove any and all items off the boat that I will not be using. Never again will I ever store anything that is not needed for sailing or living on.


A Penny for Your Thoughts,,,

Penny at the Helm June 29, 2019

After 45 years as a professional educator it seems that teaching is what inspires me most. Watching my prodigy, Maryanne take the helm during a recent J-24 women’s race, then, seeing my friend Linda gleam at the helm of her newly acquired sailboat my heart filled with even more pride while Penny drove Sassea around a crowded anchorage. To top it off, two days ago I had the pleasure of teaching a new acquaintance, Tona, how to sail her ten foot Walker Bay.

Thankfully, the sweet smell of their success takes away the bitterness at returning Sassea to the boat yard. The same way too many layers of nail polish peel off one’s fingers the paint is peeling off the newly built rudder. At the sight of this blundering mistake I immediately called the boat yard where, two months ago the rudder and boat’s bottom were painted. The bottom paint is in good order. Perhaps the yardmen forgot to put primer on the new rudder.

I don’t know. I only know I have a meeting with the boat yard manager at 8:30 am tomorrow morning. Hopefully, they will accept responsibility and have Sassea in and out of the boat yard this week so I can get at least 7 or 8 days of cruising the coast before I have to put Sassea to bed while I return home for two months…

Anyone else want a sailing lesson ? ? ?

Eyes See What Your Mind Creates

“Perfect vision!” That is what my ophthalmologist said yesterday morning. It is a fact I take pride in. To be two days short of my 71stbirthday and not need cheaters to read a menu, or glasses for driving is incredible. Yet, as the day wore on I became obsessed with wondering why, with perfect vision, I had been blind -sighted on the previous day. It was at the end of my final check out dive for SCUBA certification. 

Under sunny skies the surface seas were barely a foot high off the coast of Riviera Beach, Florida. After a 40-foot descent, the instructor and I enjoyed a tranquil drift along the living reef. My harmonious breathing, slow and steady, kept me floating about two feet off the bottom so as not to disturb King Neptune’s garden. Gazing at the vibrant colored corals and tropical fish we were pleasantly surprised by two aquatic wonders. A giant loggerhead turtle was poised by my side. After a few seconds, he/she majestically swam across our path.

Right behind the loggerhead a ten-foot green moray eel slithered along.

An involuntary deep breath ensued as I marveled at the abundance of sea life. 

When the instructor signaled with his thumb pointing up I was relieved. I accomplished my goal to remain calm under water. It was time to ascent. Then, at the fifteen-foot safety stop my demeanor changed. Bored while hovering at the three-minute controlled stop, I checked my watch. The instant my timer went off, my breathing became shallow. My heart raced.

When my head popped onto the surface. I inflated my BCD (buoyancy compensator device). Faster and faster my heart went. My mouth was dry. Thinking fresh air would moisten my dry mouth I pulled the regulator out. Self- talk, thankfully, screamed at me. “Put that dam thing back in your mouth.” I did.

The dive boat was clearly in view. The instructor remained at arm’s length. But, instead of maintaining a more desirable state of mind, my shallow rapid breathing continued, my legs kicked feverishly. I felt desperate to get back on the boat. When I reached the transom I barely had enough energy to pull off my fins. Maybe someone else took them off for me. Climbing the boarding ladder seemed impossible. My thighs were like rubber. I could feel them, though powerless to lift me. The dive master pulled me up. The other divers helped me out of my gear.

All night I wondered what happened. During the safety stop, why couldn’t I see my instructor and I as three dimensional beings hovering on the ocean’s bright blue canvas? At the surface why couldn’t I see myself floating peacefully on my back? To slow my breathing and heart rate why couldn’t I see the tranquility and beauty that abounded, if, indeed, I have perfect vision? 

Regretfully I saw what was in my mind, not my view!


Exploring new places and cultures are ubiquitous dreams of perspective cruisers. What discourages most, perhaps more woman than men, is the exploration of what it takes to make those dreams come true. Let these selfies of my exploration of Sass Sea’s transom under the cockpit speak volumes. To reach it, I had to crawl into the starboard lazarette, lie on my

back with a flashlight in hand and scooch around the corner.


Notice the rotting wooden backing plate.

It was installed 40 years ago when the original through hulls were installed. Of all the exploring, this is the imperative one. 

Ladies, take charge of your destiny. Get a little dirty, get help from others.



Alone, having no other person in the house, having no pet, no dog, no cat, no lover, no mate, no friend nearby. Just you, yourself, with no physical contact with another. The radio is off. I-Tunes is off. A car passes by.

The ice cream man has long been gone. His high-pitched sing song melody is finally gone. The kids who clamored for a nutty buddy or icy treat are surely in bed. A Netflix movie ended. The yard cats fed.

A neighbor is raking leaves or doing some other task making a whoosing sound. A plane flies overhead. A street light wastes energy every night, all night long.

My room mates aren’t home. I am always at home. Where ever I go. I am home. I eat vegetables and rice for dinner; cook on our one burner stove. I sit on the bench seat, feet propped up over the hinged table. I type the words for my blog.

Another month til a year has passed. The loneliness feels alone tonight. There is gratitude for the friends, family and the two special men who bless my life. There is peace. There is the gym for swimming, the boat for working, and the errands for driving. There is no passion for sailing or anything else I do. There is no one else home. Just me, alone, brushing my teeth before crawling into bed.

Memories start, loneliness returns. Good times, awkward times, adventure, romance and boredom. Like a never-ending song. Take a Dramamine, drift off to sleep. In dreamland, REM sleep, in a state of calm. Where I am, alone.

Swim in the morning, work out at the gym. Buy a portable fridge. Tidy the boat, check out a Portland Pudgy, visit sister Jane. Drive to Ocala. Buy new rudder. On and on and on, it goes. Alone.

Danny Diesel

What better name for my Perkins 4.108, 50 hp diesel engine than Danny Diesel. After all, he was on my mind when I woke up this morning. I had a visual picture of his expression 48 years ago when he became aware that I failed to respond to the oil indicator light in his Ford Pinto. He wasn’t happy having recently rebuilt that engine. A month later, I fried it.

Fast forward to the present. when my CSY 33 mentor, Dag Hansson, took the time to give me a tour of the 40 year old engine perched below the galley sinks in my sailboat. I listened, took notes and asked questions. Later that day in the quiet solitude of the setting sun I rewrote my notes. Below are things to know about Danny Diesel and perhaps about your prized engine too!

Check the zinc on the starboard side of the cooling engine. It is under the six sided bolt head.

Heat Exchanger – blue cylinder along back of the engine – look for a zinc – should be a spare heat exchanger on the boat-if so take it to a radiator shop to have it acid washed, then pretty it up by repainting with blue Chrysler paint

Oil Filter – orange cylinder in rear s/b side – change every 100 hours: unscrew to loosen, place a freezer thick zip loc baggy around filter, catch filter and oil drippings in zip loc, dispose of properly

Secondary Fuel Filter – blue cylinder with a white label on it; above cooling engine and below to rear of air filter, 2 micron filter

Lift/fuel pump – manually lift and lower when engine is bled to get air out; it is the small tab with a hole in it; pointing to it with a pencil in pix below

 Electric Fuel Pump – on circuit breaker labeled ‘fuel pump’                                 

Battery Switch – behind circuit board

    Impeller is the salt water pump                    

Salt water hose lies across front side of engine leading into impeller                                 

 Coolant is collected in the bottle on bottom of engine room- need to clean it out; check inside the coolant thingy to see if/when to add more

Pressure Cap for coolant is same as in a car; get new cap at NAPA Auto Parts                               

Silver tape – get some for inside engine doors

Injectors – have mechanic do every 400 hours

Valves – have mechanic do every 1000 hours

 Hope this helps

As always your questions and comments are encouraged!



Getting Back on the Bike

It’s been said that once we learn to ride a two-wheeled bicycle we always remember how to ride. Granted aging or an injury may impact our balance. For the most part, though, we push off with one foot, press down on the opposing pedal, and with both hands on the handle bars swish on down the road. Depending on the bicycle we may need a refresher on how the gearing and brakes work. Likewise, my return to chart reading this evening needed a review.   

           For some of you that might seem trite. For me, approaching age 71, I questioned my memory. It has been four years since I last read a chart. At that time, I was embarking on a familiar coastal course. Respecting my crew I relied on my them to compare the paper chart with the GPS. It was at least five years ago when I set a new course for a safe harbor I had never been to before.  

            With this self-proclaimed vote of confidence, I refreshed my plotting skills by setting a course from Ft.  Lauderdale to St. Lucie Inlet and then one to West End. There is no doubt, now, that charting courses for places far and wide will be a cinch.  So it is, than, that in 20 days Sass Sea and I will head for the boat yard to restore her to the structurally sound vessel she once was. 

Now, in addition to knowing longitude and latitude I need to pay more attention to soundings. My previous shallow draft multihulls needed 2.5 feet below the keel. Sass Sea, my CSY 33, needs 6 feet of water to stay afloat. 

Reminding myself of the bicycle riding adage provided confidence as I plotted the first course for my recently purchased CSY 33. I reminded myself of plotting a course from Cape Canaveral to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. With the help of my crew, Maryanne, we than navigated our way to Bermuda. A year or so later I figured out how to sail throughout the Bahamas and on to the Dominican Republic.

“Hell,” the voice inside my head blurted out, “if I could chart those courses and get back on a bicycle, I will do an even better job sailing on to foreign ports.” 


Buyer’s Remorse, No More

There is a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier that my friend, Chris Ammerman, reposted after she saw it on facebook. The title of the poem is “Don’t Quit.”  Reading it first thing this morning calmed my nerves. My sleep had been interrupted several times with sinking thoughts of my newly purchased boat off to meet Davy Jones. I had a vision of water dribbling into the settee from a one inch scratch on the outer layer that never got sealed.

Thirteen of my fourteen previously owned sailboats were floaters. My Hobie’s, Supercats, and Marples 35 were filled with so much air and foam that I believed they would still float even if they were filled to the brim. My biggest trepidation with buying this boat is that it is heavy, like really, really, really  heavy. It has a keel about five feet deep that is molded into the main structure. The keel is filled with lead or concrete or other such heavy stuff that easily proves it weighs more than water. In other words, if you fill the my newly acquired thirty three footer with water, you are doomed to toast Neptune at the bar in Davy Jones Locker.  Not a pleasant thought. 

After this restless sleep, I awoke to the sound of my wide-eyed brain shouting “Minimize your losses, sell the dam boat!” Like a bolt of lightning such a disparaging claim jolted me out of my bed. Forgetting my slippers I dashed onto the cold tile floor in my bathroom. Instinctively I sat on the toilet and lifted my feet while dispelling my morning pee. You know the relief you feel when your bladder finally empties? Thankfully that sensation brought me to my wits. 

My promise to write at least five pages every day came to mind. I washed my hands, brushed my teeth, then gargled for a longer time than usual. Into the living room I stoked the wood stove, boiled water for coffee and began writing. This led to a bit of research. Not finding what I was looking for I turned to Facebook ready to post my question. There was Chris’s wonderful reminder to stay the course. 

Whittier’s poem, “Don’t Quit” has now been married to my “Best Self” journal. The author of that book by Coach Bayer, instructed me to name my Best Self, I call her Sassea. (see previous blog Sassea Believes, Jan.2019)

With gratitude, I thank Chris for her re-post as I cherish the last line in Whittier’s epic poem:  .

For all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest of these are: 

It Might Have Been.

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