Thursday, May 1, 2014

Of Chances and Chases

Bill and Ann Chase are good friends from our years at Boulder. Deb and I happened to be available to help when their boat "Cowboy Up" should have been ready to go on the truck. It wasn't, but we were around to pick up a ball someone else had dropped and soon it, and Bill, were settled in FL with Ann catching up a little later. Cowboy Up was a smallish Hunter. A good boat but not really up to the task of full-time, live-a-board, cruising.

When Kintala came through FL on her make-it-up-as-we-go cruising life, seeing Bill and Ann again was one of the rewards for making it that far. Cowboy Up and been replaced with a much more capable rig, but it was up on the hard with bits and pieces scattered hither and yon. It was the typical nightmare story of marine industry shady dealings and incompetence. They seemed pretty discouraged but a life time of working in the airline industry (where shady dealings, incompetent management, and servile unions make the marine industry look like children pretending to be gangsters) has made Bill a Master of stoic survival and American Zen.

And so it came to pass that Kintala ended up in Brown's Marina in Bimini, the Bahamas. Temporary Crew Kacey and I were hoisting a cold one at the marina bar when a good looking center cockpit ketch rig came chugging up the channel. That has become the default base configuration for what I think makes a good full-time cruiser and we both hoped it would take a slip nearby where we could check it out. We were chatting it up when the first peel of thunder from an approaching storm interrupted, and we lost track of where the ketch was going.

In a way unique to marinas the rumblings sparked choreographed movement throughout the docks; lines were checked and doubled, plastic windows went into place, hatches closed, fenders retied ... and when a boat was ready for the approaching storm its crew would look around to see if anyone needed a hand. I noticed the ketch rig settling in two slips down and across from Kintala, an apparent crew of two still busy setting lines. I wandered over to see if I could help thinking the guy on the bow looked vaguely familiar. As I secured the port bow it was clear he was trying to place me as well.

"Where are you from?"

"St. Louis, that's our Tartan 42 over there."

"St. Louis? I'm from St. Louis. What's you name?"

"TJ."

"TJ! I've been on you boat. You showed it too me at Boulder. I'm John, Bill Chase's friend, and this is his boat."

"Can't be. I saw Bill's boat just a couple of months ago and it was a disaster; up on the hard, rotted floor ripped out, water tanks missing, new ones late, rigging shot, masts down, this can't be Bill's boat."

Photo Courtesy of Kacey Cramer

But of course it was. Bill was down below filling out the customs forms and could hardly believe it was me climbing down his companionway. Bill, John, and John's daughter Stacy, had just finished the first open water passage of Driftwood. I rounded up Deb and Kacey, both as unbelieving as I over this chance encounter of old friends hundreds of miles and months (or years) having passed since the last. Laughter and surprise filled the cabin as the six of us settled into Bill's newly rebuilt interior and talked well into the evening. Deb and I shared stories of our first 6 months of climbing the cruising learning curve and we all roundly condemned shyster boat brokers, incompetent surveyors, and careless suppliers. We also sang the praises of the few. For Bill it was the crew that rebuilt the interior, for us the welder at Tradewinds, Cameron Marine who moved Kintala East, and the guys at Oak Harbor who saved our bacon more than once and got us on our way. There was talk of future plans, stories of Stacy's world traveling, pilot talk, (Bill, John and I all being professional airplane drivers) and more sailing stories.

Photo Courtesy of Kacey Cramer

Typical of cruisers we are not sure what we will do next. This is a shake-down cruise for Bill. They will be heading back to Miami after a short stay. Kintala will be heading that way in the next couple of days as well, so we may buddy-boat with an old Friend from Boulder to end our first Island adventure. Or it may not work out that way. We'll see. Either way, the sailing Goddess and Fate threw a perfectly delightful surprise our way; one I'm sure we'll talk about for years.

Photo courtesy of Kacey Cramer

1 comment:

frogphotog said...

TJ, who did you fly with? My husband Ron retired from United, after flying for National Airlines and then Pan Am. Seems like a lot of pilots end up as cruisers, or am I just noticing the hits and ignoring the misses?