It was James Taylor who said “The secret o’ life is enjoying the passage of time…”
That’s exactly what Wendy and I have been doing aboard this old boat since 1988!
Does it feel like a “lifetime”? Yes it does, and we are still loving it!
As I edit this in January of 2016, more than nine thousand days have passed since we set out on a cruise with no money, no particular destination, just a desire to work abroad, learn, explore and discover.
The boat was built in 1978, in Corten steel to the plans of Charles Wittholz, who was featured in the trawler “bible”, Robert Beebe’s Voyaging Under Power. She is of 18 ton displacement with full keel, concrete ballast of about 2000 pounds, hard chines and is 45′ LOA with a 13′ beam. Propulsion is a 120 HP Perkins diesel, naturally aspirated. We have an onboard 5.5 KW Westerbeke generator and we are fitted with solar and wind power.
We went from northern waters south into the Caribbean and as the Buffett song goes, we swallowed the hook on our first look around. We spent nearly two decades, and for the last few years we have been staying put on the Great Lakes. Fell in love with Bobcaygeon Ontario.
Wendy, a strong swimmer with excellent diving skills, worked as a commercial diver down south, I had a 100 ton USCG Master, so between us we laid cable under bridges and ran crew-boats in the Gulf of Mexico to the rigs. That was in the good ol days, back when the world was a little less complicated and people were not so scared of bad dudes sporting plasticized C4 overcoats….
Back then you could live off the conch, fish and lobster in the islands and strike up real friendships in places where the guides tell whitefolk not to go. The old abandoned missile tracking stations still had underground bunkers full of well treated diesel oil there for the taking, courtesy of the US Navy. Places like Royal Island allowed you to escape from the world and be alone in your personal paradise filled with dilly fruit and mango trees. You could still find and dive on the wrecks of planes that missed the hidden landing strips on route for picking up the square grouper. You could beach your dinghy on the far side, mingle with the tourists and partake of the spread brought ashore from the cruise ships in places like Great Stirrup Cay, known to the passengers as “Princess Island”.
I think the eighties and nineties were the epitome of Caribbean cruising for the average guy, albeit you had to be a little more on the ball regarding your navigation skills than nowadays. I remember cruising when an expensive Loran C unit was the most useless thing across the Gulf Stream and I learned tricks from the captain of an old gunter rigged engineless Haitian cargo ship how to gauge my drift. But technology was starting to make it easier and I remember buying our first GPS Nav 5000 for $1200.00 in Miami. After that, traversing the seven seas was a cakewalk.
I don’t like what I see today, when a skipper will forgo his 10 mile trek across a lake because his plotter went down and he has no confidence in himself to make it there on his own dead reckoning skills.
I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do the kind of cruising we did, when we did. At a young age, Wendy and I have both decided to forget about the mainstream life of having kids – plenty of people here making a mess already without our help. So, we had German Shepherd dogs and we took to the life of “living on the edge”, but not too far out to make it uncomfortable……
Living on a boat, and I mean a real boat, not a 100 foot luxury yacht with crew, is an adventure that demands self reliance, above average technical skills and the stamina to deal with danger and hardships that nature will surely slam you against from time to time. But, it also means living where and how you wish, with as much or as little social life as you are willing to endure, independent of big brother’s land based infrastructure and, most importantly to us, living in very close intimate proximity of nature and wildlife.
This also means being very much aware of our environmental responsibilities – we have made our boat “green” long before being green was cool; our head (toilet) is a composting incinerator with absolutely no overboard discharge, we have a water-maker that purifies drinking water from salty oceans as well as freshwater lakes and we use only phosphate free detergents.
Be it in the south or the north, we have found enjoyment in our surroundings everywhere – paradise is where you make it!
***** Thank You for visiting our blog! *****