I'm an old man now who has been away from sailing much too long. Life has a way of happening while your still planning your next move and mine is no different. I want back in before I get too old to really enjoy it, y'know?
My brother Ted and I moved from the Texas Gulf Coast
to Largo, Florida
in the 1980s. He was (and still is) an accomplished singer, songwriter, composer and the consummate Texas
Blues guitarist. Me? Not so much. I play the radio
, the guitar if no one is looking and I sail when I'm able.
Anyway, it was on Dunedin Causeway that I met Sgt. David 'Rocco' Cuccia, USMC, Force Recon, Retired those many years ago. Rocco had a large collection of shrapnel embedded in his body, a small stipend from the military and a catamaran
concession. He rented cats to the tourists and taught locals and vagabonds alike how to sail - for a fee.
Rocco and his buddies sailed mostly Panthercraft Cats; the 18' and the 20' Dart. All of us being a little crazy, soon became fast friends. These guys lived for squalls and high winds (is it 4:00 o'clock in Florida
?). Being the 'new guy' they also loved trying to scare me to death. But I was having way too much fun to be scared. I sometimes just camped on the beach so I could be the 1st one there.
One day, the winds across St. Joseph sound had topped 40 knots with a slow-moving low pressure area, so the short-board windsurfers struck their postage-stamp sized sails
and called it a day. Rocco, a Seal buddy of his and I decided to try to hold down the 20-footer. Rocco and I weighed in the 170-180 lb range and Tom was probably 220-230 so we had close to 600 lbs of meat on-board, not counting gear
. But I was the only one that trapped out that day. Guess I was trying to prove something.
We kept the foresail furled and yet on a reach, we still outran the wind
a few times. The short-boarders stuck around and were filming from the shore. After several runs, I unfurled the little genoa
. Tom handled the main and Rocco wrestled the helm
So now under full sail, we screamed across the shallow sound, while the fiberglass
made a loud slapping sound on the chop. Tacking for another reach, we lurched to full-speed and promptly broke the mast
about 4' up from the center-beam. The guys filming said they recorded a gust of 88 knots on the hand-held when suddenly all hell broke loose. That was the day I made the crew and we sealed the deal over Captain Morgan
and a host of newly-minted exaggerations at a local decompression chamber called the Louisiana Seafood Company.
Those were the weeks that led up to my addiction to sailing and some life-long friendships. These guys had 6-pack charter
Captain's Licenses. I crewed the boats, did a little maintenance
(which never ends) and they helped me study. We sailed a 36' Portman Sloop
(later to become the Watkins 36) and a 44' CSY
Cutter/Ketch center cockpit/walk-through; both owned by a doctor (shrink) out of Tarpon Springs (another great guy). In those years, off and on I lived aboard sailboats and we ranged all over the adjacent waters. We ran charters of all kinds, from the Anclote River to the Florida Keys
and from deep in the Gulf to as far east as remote
islands in the Bahamas
Now I'm the one pushing 220-230 lbs and back to sailing, grey hair and all. I'm shopping
for a boat. My wife loves everything about sailing but the water
. Of water
, she is terrified. But she is willing to try - on alternate days. Depends on when I ask. Just missed out on a Lapworth 44' by 'that' much! Still, there is a bargain for me out there somewhere...