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Old 19-01-2009, 20:03   #1
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Into the Blue - Dreams, life, and a little blue sailboat

Day 0 -- “Dreaming in blue”

It was about five years ago that I started dreaming about sailing.

It was summer, and I was standing beneath the scorching sun on a parade deck at Tyndall AFB, Fla. getting screamed at by a guy wearing one of those smoky-bear hats. I can’t remember exactly what minor transgression invited the verbal flogging and the flying droplets of spittle that were raining down on me, but, luckily, I was wearing my blue Air Force dress uniform, so he couldn’t make me do pushups.

Instead, he just went off on one of those rants like drill instructors do, loud enough for everyone to hear, telling me how miserable I was, how I didn’t deserve to wear that uniform, how I’d never make it through the next few weeks of training, etc., etc.

I just did my best to tune it out.

Tyndall AFB is in Panama City, Fla., right on the Gulf of Mexico. No part of the base is far enough away from the ocean to be outside the sea breeze. It was always there, gently blowing through the future airmen standing in formation, and providing the only relief from the July sun above and the hot asphalt below.

I felt it blowing across my skin even as that drill instructor took a deep breath and started into a new string of insults. But by then, I wasn’t hearing him anymore.

Standing at attention, my eyes fixed straight ahead, I stared across the parade deck, which ended abruptly at the dunes. Just beyond them was the beach, then the Gulf. The screaming seemed fainter as I watched the sea oats swaying in the breeze. Then I caught a glimpse of something else.

Just beyond the dunes, a flourish of color was illuminated from behind by the sun, as it slowly sank lower in the afternoon sky. It was the top of a sail, bobbing and dipping in irregular motions as an unseen boat cruised near the surf.

Then it was gone -- an unseen tack or a gibe concealing it again behind the dunes. I only saw it for a moment, but it never really left me.

For the rest of the day and into the night, when the lights were out and the incessant chaos was finally still, I dreamed of setting sail.

The clicking of a block and tackle as the sheet is pulled tight. The surge of forward momentum as the boom crosses overhead and wind comes back into the sails. The splash of water against your skin as you lean out over the upwind rail. The feeling that for hundreds of years, sailors have felt the same thrill as they struck out toward the horizon, fueled only by the wind and the call of the sea.

I’d sailed before, but I dreamed of sailing again. Life got in the way for a while, but for five years, I continued dreaming.

Then last Monday, I bought a boat.

Let’s go for a ride.

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Old 19-01-2009, 20:11   #2
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Quite a lyrical introduction! Welcome aboard! And... whaddya buy???
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Old 19-01-2009, 20:23   #3
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Day 1 -- “The little blue boat”

It all started with this:




I’m a newspaper journalist now, living in Pensacola, Fla., and I saw it when I was driving back from covering a Polar Bear Dip (one of those things where people run into the freezing cold water in January). I don’t know why, but after I passed it, I slammed on the breaks and turned back to get a closer look.

Maybe I was inspired by the crazies who sprinted into the cold water, then came out shivering and laughing, having a blast by being irrational. Maybe I was just trying to stall before going back to work.

Either way, the boat was in terrible shape. It was filled with water, the mast was bent, the rudder was broken and had been repaired with screws and something that looked like gutter flashing. All of which was great, because it really has to suck to be within my price range.

I called the guy and he wanted $2,200 -- the high end of what I could afford.

Meh. Seemed like a bad deal, and I decided to pass, but I went ahead and scheduled a week of vacation in June, with a sailing trip in mind. A friend from work, inspired by my ridiculous aspirations of having a sailing adventure, scheduled vacation at the same time.

Her name is Rebekah. She’s a mud bug from Louisiana, and graduated from LSU. I went to school at the University of Tennessee, and we’re both big college football fans. Normally I couldn’t socialize with an LSU fan, but we’re OK, because living in Florida, we can both come together with our mutual disdain of the Gators.

Anyway, a couple weeks later, I came across this on Craigslist. (As it turns out, Craigslist is good for something beyond “casual encounters.”



Woah! $1,200 with a trailer and an outboard? Sounds like a bargain.

I round up Rebekah, and we drive over to check it out. The girl selling it looks to be about 20 years old. I ask her if she owns it, and she says yeah. “I bought it for a stupid reason,” she added.

It’s a pretty little blue 22’ swing keel. I’m climbing all over and through it like a kid on a playground, and it looks great. This girl says her and her mom spent a lot of time fixing it up, and it shows. Compared to the other crap I’ve seen, this looks great, and it’s half the price!

Then I hear Rebekah start hardballing.

“Are you married to that price?” “What’s the lowest price you would take for it?” “We’re looking at another boat across town, and they’re asking $900.”

The girl says she’ll take $900, and I about crap my pants. I’ve actually got that much money in the bank (barely).

In my head, I’m thinking “This girl is crazy to sell it for that cheap. I’ve got to buy this boat before someone else does!”

Back in the car, as we’re driving across town to check out the $900 boat (which turned out to be a major POS) I high five Rebekah for working that girl on the price. I liked the boat so much, I was ready to pay even more than $1,200.

“I’ve got you,” Rebekah says.

I call the girl back and tell her I’ll come by with the money tomorrow.

I think Rebekah is going to be an alright accomplice on this little adventure…


When she's not hardballing boat owners on price, Rebekah can carve a mean pumpkin.


My pumpkin carving skills, however, leave a little bit to be desired.
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Old 19-01-2009, 20:31   #4
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One of these days when I work up the nerve, I will jot down my sailing vision. Changed my life.

I think "alright accomplice" is an understatement!

Now post pictures of the interior and list your projects!

Michael
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Old 19-01-2009, 20:32   #5
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Quite a lyrical introduction! Welcome aboard! And... whaddya buy???
Thanks! I'm going to try to have some fun with this.

It's a 1974 Southcoast Seacraft 22' with a swing keel and hardly anything broken. Except the trailer... The trailer about broke when I was pulling the boat home, but I'll save that little adventure for a later post.

Cheers
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Old 19-01-2009, 21:02   #6
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What a great Florida boat.

The swing keel is soooo cool!

Best to ya both.
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Old 19-01-2009, 22:37   #7
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Great intro there buddy. Sound more like a novelist than a newspaper journalist.

What the hell where you getting yelled at by a drill sergeant at Tyndall for? Did they move basic to Tyndall from Lackland since I went through 10 years ago? I worked with a lot of ex-drill sergeants throughout me time with the USAF. It's funny to see them outside the TI role, cause they're not dicks in real life. I'm much more of an a-hole than all the former "Smoky da Bears" I've come accross. All smoke and mirrors brother.

Anyways, welcome aboard, congrats on your purchase.

Rebekah got a sister?

Cheers

Bill
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Old 19-01-2009, 23:11   #8
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Congrats Skipper...You're on one great adventure in more ways than one.
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Old 20-01-2009, 16:49   #9
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Great intro there buddy. Sound more like a novelist than a newspaper journalist.
Thanks! Writing news style gets kinda old after awhile, and I'm always trying to slip stuff like through the editorial process.

Quote:
What the hell where you getting yelled at by a drill sergeant at Tyndall for? Did they move basic to Tyndall from Lackland since I went through 10 years ago?
It was ROTC field training. Really similar to Lackland, they even fly in instructors from there to join in on the fun. I actually ended up going in enlisted in the end, so I got to experience basic training at Lackland as well. Ha!

It wasn't as nice a setting. At Tyndall you can look out over the dunes to see sailboats, but at Lackland, you look out over the barbed wire fences to see the fast food signs just off base.

Well, now that I think about it, as a starving trainee, I might have dreamed a little about those burger joints also... Lol
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Old 20-01-2009, 16:52   #10
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Day 2 - “Selling off bad memories”



When I come by the next day to buy the boat, I’m flying solo. I have Mondays off, but Rebekah has to work. I’m a general assignment reporter, so I work all kind of crazy shifts, but Rebekah recently got promoted to an education beat, so she’s 9-5 Monday-Friday.

Lucky.

So this girl invites me inside to do the paperwork, and she tells me a little more about why she bought this boat. She’s a cute girl -- thin, blonde, pretty smile, can’t be any older than 21 at the most, but she doesn’t really seem like the sailing type. More like the shopping type, you know?

As it turns out, she got married right out of high school to a guy who likes to sail. She used her graduation money to buy the boat, with plans of sailing and having adventures with her new hubby.


(I’m guessing this is him? )

Well, it didn’t really work out that way. It ended up that her and her mom spent countless hours fixing up the boat with little help from her hubby. Then her husband took her sailing one time, and she got seasick. The boat’s been in the driveway ever since.

Their relationship went downhill from there, and now she’s divorcing him and selling his boat just to be rid of it. That’s why I got a smoking deal!

I think this kind of sums it up nicely.



It was hanging on the backstay. I, jokingly, ask her if I can have it too. She says: “Take it. I never wanted that freaking thing on there in the first place.”

It says “Surrender the Booty.”

Heh.

Now that I’ve impulsively bought a boat, how do I get this thing home…
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Old 20-01-2009, 20:40   #11
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Day Three - “Here we go…”


My dog Barrett inspects my totally safe temporary trailer repairs. He rated them zero barks out of five, he later tells me.

I had to rent a truck to pull the boat the short drive home from this girl’s house. Seeing’s how I totally thought this through, I didn’t really consider that I only have my little Honda Accord here with me in Pensacola. I traded my old 4x4 truck in for pennies on the dollar when gas got high, and now all I’ve got is this little family sedan.

It even has built in child-seat connections. Talk about emasculating.

Anyway, with a little bit of research, I discovered that U-Haul rents out 10’ trucks for $20 bucks a day for in-town moves. If you get really lucky, they come with a 2” ball on them. Of course, you’re not allowed to tow a non-approved trailer with a U-Haul truck, but I just pretended I didn’t read that part of the rental agreement. Besides, the trailer looked sturdy enough right?

Wrong.

No sooner had I hitched it up and put the truck in drive, than I heard the familiar sound of metal parts chingling across the concrete. I was prepared to ignore the half flat tires and rusted through winch post, but I knew from my 4x4 days, woe unto the man who ignores metal parts falling off his rig.

I get out of the U-Haul and climb under the trailer and find half of a rusted, broken leaf spring U-bolt. Sheesh, couldn’t it have been something less important like a bearing race or something?

Well, I’d already paid the deposit on the U-Haul, and with less than 2 hours before closing time, it was time for some temporary repairs. I’d made this repair on a Jeep while on the trail using bailing wire, but not having any of that handy, I grabbed the next best thing.



The angels must have singing that day, because this actually held, albeit it only had three miles to hold together, and I never got over 10 mph. After I made it home and snapped this picture, I felt the cord, and it was guitar-string tight.


This isn’t the only problem with the trailer.


The fenders don’t seem quite straight…



The wheel lugs and bearings seem to need a bit of attention…



And the winch post is pretty much totally disconnected…



But never mind all that. Plans have been made. In June, we’re going to trailer this boat several hundred miles to Tarpon Springs and sail to this island


Anclote Key State Park. It looks beautiful.

I might not have a truck, but I do have a broken trailer and an arc welder. I guess you have to start somewhere.

Welding galvanized steel can’t be that bad, right?

Metal fume fever? Awww, man!
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Old 20-01-2009, 20:47   #12
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What a great Florida boat.

The swing keel is soooo cool!

Best to ya both.
I'm grooving on the swing keel. Seems pretty cool to be able to pull it up on the beach like a Hobie Cat. Now if this weather would just warm up...
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Old 20-01-2009, 21:39   #13
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Travis...Please consider looking for a new trailer on craigslist. That one really looks toast! Obviously the Princess who owned it never washed it off after backing it into the water.
Hey another thing...Rebekah looks like a really sweet girl and a great adventurer. I wouldn't be looking at any Princesses when what you need is under your nose buddy.
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Old 26-01-2009, 17:44   #14
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Day 4 - So starts the cleaning

It’s exciting bringing home a new toy. When I was little, if I got a new toy at the store, I could rarely make it through the ride home without tearing open the plastic clamshell packaging in the back of my mom’s car.

Usually, this had the effect of stifling my enthusiasm somewhat, because the process of ripping through the packaging usually scattered scores of “some assembly required” pieces across the back seat, many disappearing into the cracks and crevasses in the seat never to be seen again.

I made it home with the sailboat before I succumbed to the urge to take a close look at what lay inside. But my enthusiasm was still stifled, nonetheless. Time to start cleaning/fixing/replacing.

Today was a pretty productive day.


This:



Became this:



This:



Became this:



This:



Became this:


Three down, about a million to go…
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Old 26-01-2009, 18:07   #15
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Travis...Please consider looking for a new trailer on craigslist. That one really looks toast! Obviously the Princess who owned it never washed it off after backing it into the water.
I've been thinking about this for a few days, and every now and then I summon the courage to go out there and take a closer look at that thing.

The frame of the trailer its self is in pretty good shape. It's all galvanized and the only rusty part was the non galvanized weld on the winch post.

The springs and shackles definitely need to be replaced, and the bearings worry me because smoking one on the highway half way to Tarpon Springs would be a great way to waste two days of your vacation.

Northern Tool sells these kits for about $160.



I think it would be worth it for the piece of mind. How much to you think that boat weighs? The manual says it has a 1,800-pound displacement. I'm not sure exactly how that relates to how much the boat weights.

This kit has a 2,000-pound capacity. Think it will be strong enough?
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