My favorite skipper was sailing back to Florida from the island of Bonaire with his dad when the theme song from "Gilligan's Island" got stuck in his head.
It was a long offshore voyage that included a lot of adventures, beginning with Pappa Joe having decided it was time to quit smoking.
A few peevish days into it, and having scrounged every fleck of dried old tobacco from the bilge, I believe they made a foray into Key West for smokes.
Later in the voyage, they nearly sunk off the coast of Venezuela. Spent the night holding Island Woman off the rocks and had to limp into shore to effect repairs.
Which led to a midnight bunk, dodging commercial traffic out of –– was it Maracaibo? to avoid having to hire the required but extravagantly expensive harbor pilot. They returned home with both passports, which was a bit of serendipity.
Also, Pappa Joe nearly got pulled overboard by a billfish. He wanted to boat the fish; the fish wanted to ocean the man.
Two men on a stout 36-footer with a damaged rudder making their way upwind from the lower reaches of the Caribbean? Of course some song was going to get stuck in someone's beezer. Why not that most appropriate of lyrics: "The weather started getting rough/the tiny ship was tossed"?
Any sailor with the slightest lick of whimsey has chanted those words from time to time.
Of course, with the Google these days it's a cinch to get the rest of the words. Offshore, back in the day, sleep-deprived and salty? Upon reaching shore, I imagine these were his first words to the nice fella at the gas pump in Marco: "Hey, you know Gilligan's Island? Yeah, what comes after 'Sit right down and you'll hear a tale/A tale of a fateful trip'?"
Spawn: The Homestretch
It would incorporate lessons learned from the 2014 Everglades Challenge that Jeff (aka "TwoBeers") and Jahn Tihansky ("Morsailesed") finished in a highly modified Flying Scot ("Frankenscot").
Based on their experiences, the team knew that an ideal expedition boat would need to be speedy, relatively stable, lightweight, self-rescuing (that is, if it flips, the sailing team can re-right and drain the boat without assistance), light-weight, and able to traverse shallow waters.
A few months of hard work (and a few months of fallow time), and poof! It's a boat. A boat named "Spawn."
A 22-foot long sloop, with a sliding rowing seat and a centerboard, Spawn's chockablock with upcycled parts: a used Melges-20 carbon-fiber mast, twin rudders from a Hobie 16, a narwhale-like bowsprit fabricated from a Captiva mast, Frankenscot's old shaped centerboard, a massive carbon-fiber boom constructed from an A-cat mast that met with an unfortunate accident, big wide hiking racks made of aluminum tubing, borrowed oars.
On-the-water testing started in December.
A generous crew of supporters, speed testers, and assorted Igors helped launch and bless the boat and then chase it around. The Spawn was flipped and righted and the team tested the roller-furling jib and the reefing system for the main, popped various 'chutes while the Igors gave chase with cameras.
The racing team –– TwoBeers, Morsailesed, and Ninjee (O.H. Rodgers will be the third Spawnster) –– planned to do some overnight dry-runs.
The Would-Be Farm: A Small Window
Though I have blogged about it before, I can't get enough of the critter cam photos of the Would-Be
Farm. We set up a couple of these stout little digital cameras and get a peep at what's happening. When we leave the Farm, they keep working –– unless the batteries freeze solid, or beavers move the trees on which they are mounted, or some reprobate half-inches them.
I wonder if there's a humorous technical term for when a user fails to correctly set the time and date on a digital device? Like, say, "Lazy"? Yeah, but...anyHOW, disregard the dates, times, temps that appear at the bottom of the following captured images:
Spawn: Gimme Shelter
It's homestretch time at the boat-build. That means the less glamorous, but mission-critical features of Spawn must be fitted and tested. There's a lot to figure out.
Shelter, for instance. The Everglades Challenge –– the adventure race that got this boat-building project started –– naturally and responsibly requires that competitors carry a bug-proof shelter. With 300 Florida miles and the Everglades to traverse, I should think so.
Paddlers usually bring a tiny tent. For the trio onboard Spawn, the shelter is two-part: there's the forward state-room below the foredeck, and then there's a tonneau-cover/conestoga wagon shelter that spans the middle of the boat. The edges of the canvas cover are secured with a wide band of Velcro®.
The tonneau-cover not only helps repel water should it come raining or splashing into the cockpit while the boat is underway, it also makes a very cool fort.
The cover arches over the centerboard trunk like a cozy tent. A couple of sleeping bags and extra-long, extra-thick exercise mats make for rather deluxe sleeping accoutrements. A mosquito-netting panel facing the transom seals the deal, while allowing an intrepid sailor to slip an arm out of shelter to cook a tasty meal on the Jetboil stove.
So in case the wind poops out, the team won't be entirely at the mercy of the Everglades most annoying native species. I'll probably tuck a deck of cards into the toothbrushes-and-baby-powder personal-care kit for the guys.
You know, in the unlikely event of a boredom emergency.
A Rose by Any Other Name
Once upon a time I was rich in grandparents. My trove included five full sets of grandparents hale and hearty up until my middle-school years or so.
They multiplied by virtue of divorce (in the 1950s! quelle scandal!) and re-marriages, plus a slightly confusing second marriage that joined a pair of in-law great-grandparents. Mimi's mom married Bompa's dad? Wha--?
I had ten grandparents, most in town and ready to babysit. They told stories about their parents and their parents, about dogs they'd loved, and horses that pulled the wagon even when the driver was tipsy. Snake bites and clairvoyance, kidnaps and practical jokes, consumptives and stowaways, scalawags and underage soldiers, and a cousin of Mamie Eisenhower. No wonder I'm interested in where they came from.
Those storytellers have passed beyond the stage-curtains now, leaving behind metal boxes of snapshots and documents. Still interested, I've been shuffling through the short stack of notes in various handwritings –– how strange it is that my grandfather Bompa and I make the same neat humped m's –– about family history.
Enter Hepzepia Elizabeth Vaughn. The iron-willed grandmother of my Granpa Navy who raised a family alone after her husband Russell –– one of the scalawag rascals –– lit out for parts unknown. With a name like that, she should have been one of the easiest people to research: a rock amid the flood of Marys and Ellens and Earls and Charleses.
Ten years of idle pasttime research and no Hepzepia in the right time or place. No Vaughns. Not even a hint of rascally Russel. And then, like a stubborn padlock finally opening on the hasp, I found this in the 1880 Federal census:
The right timeframe, the correct county, the right names and ages for the youngsters, but Hessy? Married to Jackson.
Imagine stern grandmother Hepzepia as a young woman, keeping home with a handful of kids. Perhaps she was light-hearted. Possibly in love. Maybe her husband (a first husband? A good-hearted brother to awful Russel?) answering the census-taker's question, filled in his pet name for her. The census-taker, dipping his pen in the traveling inkwell, taking a stab at the spelling.
Click click click, another few hours, and here's what I find out: Russel often used his middle name on official forms, as Russel Jackson, or RJ or R. Jackson. And on her death certificate (cancer of the bowel and stomach –– no wonder she seemed stern), there it is: Hepsie Vaughter. Not Hepzepia at all. She was Hepsie, a rhyme with Pepsi. Imagine that.
Eight million stories in the humid city and this is one. Me, I'm just a gal with a badge. And a stack of citations to hand out.
Because nothing says "Sacred matrimony" like a pair of lace hot-pants and a transparent top with a cape of hand-detailed Carrickmacross lace and entredoux.
Oh, Miami. Just no.
I shudderingly wonder what the shoe choice would be.
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