Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The history of cruising friends

We've said it on this blog many times - the best thing about cruising, hands down, is the people you meet. Relationships are made quickly, run deep, and last a very long time.

Long before we even bought Kintala, I was sitting in the cockpit of our first boat, Nomad, enjoying the afternoon. I heard some sails tacking behind me, on the other side of the rock breakwater that separated the marina from the channel. No engine running. I was awed that someone would even consider sailing onto the dock. Entering Boulder marina required a trip down the channel, a 180° turn around the end of the breakwater, and then to enter this particular sailboat's slip, required three 90° turns - one to the right, one to the left, and another one to the right into the slip.

The little yellow sailboat rounded the breakwater and I was able to make out the captain - a young man who clearly was completely in control, relaxed, and one with his boat (which I later found out was his parent's boat). There was very little wind that day (and even less inside the breakwater), but he nursed every whisper to bring the boat down the length of piers and through the three turns, after which he calmly stepped off the boat and flipped the dockline around the cleat. My hero. As a brand new sailor with two ASA courses under my belt, I hollered across the fairway and said, "I aspire to do that some day." He laughed.

Joel (l) and Eric (r)
A few months later I subbed for Tim as crew for some club races at one of the other marinas on the lake. We had signed up to crew when they were shorthanded, but that particular Saturday Tim was very sick and couldn't go. I had no idea what to expect, and was completely surprised when I stepped up to the Viper 640 sailboat to find this same young man was the jib handler on the boat. I'll spare you the agony that a 53 year old body experiences when pushed by a very fast boat and two young men whose combined ages were less than mine, but suffice it to say that I was again impressed by his skill.

As the years went on at the marina, we began to become friends. He eventually brought with him our now close friend Kacey and, later, a beautiful new wife, Emily. We developed a deep relationship with the kids we came to call The Three Musketeers, and it was one of the harder things about going cruising, that of leaving them behind.

My favorite photo of Em
Kacey (l) Joel (r)

So it was with a big smile this morning that I greeted the truck carrying their boat into our boatyard, where it would be launched for their voyage into cruising. Unlike us, who made the decision to cruise late in life, Joel had dreamed of sailing his boat to new places, and experiencing new things, for almost as long as he could remember. The opportunity presented itself and he grabbed it. Emily will join the adventure at the end of her school year.

For the last few years they have labored endlessly to ready Pascagoula Run for cruising. They replaced windows, replaced the headliner, added a bimini and dodger, beefed up the ground tackle, added a windlass, bought a dinghy. Emily sanded, painted, polished, completely rebuilt the counter in the galley and added the countless small touches that an artist does to make a boat a home. Ready or not (and they're never ready), Monday the boat was loaded on the truck and off she went.

It's a bit of closing a circle for me, this watching someone else realize a dream. It also makes me realize that, should we ever have to quit cruising, it will be these images that stay in my mind: the smiling faces of friends, the easy laughter at sundowners, the gleam of accomplishment in someone's eyes, the look of concern on a fellow cruiser's face as they help someone through a difficult moment. It's a permanent piece of my history now, that history of cruising friends, and one I'm abundantly pleased to call my own.

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