Thursday, April 17, 2008

Purely by Chance

So there I was in Gulfport for the evening with nothing much to do. I had a pretty nice dinner on the company and walking some of it off seemed a good idea, particularly since the dock behind our casino is filling back up with boats. There were a lot of masts sticking up in the air and I started walking up and down the docks scoping out various sailboats. (Not a bad way to spend an evening.) Some were still in disrepair from the hurricane. Some were obviously just kind of tied up and forgotten, collecting dirt and bird doo, rust spots and spider webs. One or two were just pristine, glowing in the setting sun with scrubbed decks and gleaming metal work. Their dock lines were tight with the end dressed off in coils and their bumpers hung perfectly straight. A couple of the boats had people on board, long distance cruisers maybe? One was running his wind generator, which was surprisingly noisy.

The last dock had two enormous masts near the end. The first was attached to one of the pristine boats, an absolutely gorgeous, 50 foot or so, pride-and-joy for someone. Much to my delight the last, tied off at the very end of the dock, marked a Prout 45; the exact Catamaran that Deb and I have been lusting over for the last couple of weeks. As I admired its lines a light came on and I watched a guy poke his head down into a hatch, then grind on a starter trying to get the port engine to light up. A generator was quietly running in the background. He noticed me standing there, we traded, “good evening’s” and then next thing I know I am invited aboard to poke around. The two guys on board were brothers, one a retired helicopter pilot, the other a working tugboat captain. They had been contracted to deliver the Cat to some doctor in Stillwater, TX and had just come aboard themselves that afternoon. They had hoped to get the port engine running, but it looked like they would be using wind and the starboard engine to get to their last port of call.

They also both lived on sailboats of their own and spent most of their days on the water. We toured the boat, talked about systems and breakdowns, traded some stories, and basically just had a good time. The retired helo driver had spent three years with his wife, cruising the southern Caribbean. During that time he saw Catamarans slowly taking over the fleet, and says that now, at any given port and any given time, Cats make up more than half of the boats on the hook. Sometimes, he says, mono hulls are the distinct minority.

Anyway, it was an evening spent the way I would like to spend a lot more. The boat tugged gently at its lines, the breeze whispered through the rigging, pelicans swung by overhead, and the occasional splash from somewhere out in the dark water punctuated the night. I got up early in the morning and looked out my hotel window at the dock, but the sun was already up and the Cat was long gone. Someday…

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