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Bob and His Dog Clyde Answer the Call of the Sea

First mate Clyde on the stern of At Last. Photo by Judy Prestia-Nichols
First mate Clyde on the stern of At Last. Photo by Judy Prestia-Nichols

There comes a time in every mariner’s life when the sea calls – she speaks softly, inviting you to cast off the lines that tie you to land’s commotion and feel her majesty in motion – to be, on the ocean. Be it the great pond, a great lake, a river or bay – when the sea beckons, you become consumed with the search of finding the perfect boat to answer her call.

Such was the case for Robert Cross, who began hearing his call more than two decades ago. Bob’s a kindly man whose motto is “The adventure lies in the journey, not the destination.” Originally from Connecticut, Bob retired and settled in Port Salerno, Fla. True to his motto, he soon found himself cruising the Bahamas, Florida Keys and Gulf Coast, through Lake Okeechobee and on up to the Eastern Seaboard into his favorite cruising grounds the Chesapeake Bay, on his own boats and with friends.

As life changed for Bob and his faithful companion, a sea-seasoned Cocker Spaniel named Clyde, they heard the call a bit louder. And so, with some coin in his pocket and an Etta James song in his head, off the duo went in search of the perfect boat.

Weeks and months went by and boat after boat was eyed. Then, Bob received a phone call from his best friend requesting the duo make a fast trip to see a special little boat he had found for them … and so it was – the perfect “character boat” for this character crew. Even her bright red hull fits the dashing personality of her owner to a T. A handsome Nordic Tug she is, 32 feet in length built in 1987 in Washington State. Sporting a single Yanmar 165 hp turbo diesel, burning only 1.5 gallons per hour at 6.5 knots, she is always ready to run her 600-mile range.

Her interior has a most practical layout; functional, comfortable and charming. She has quite an interesting history too, says Bob, as he turns our attention to the four original black and white tug boat drawings, explaining that each one was drawn for the former owner, a captain who ran tugboats in the Panama Canal. The artwork is further enhanced by the old fashioned wood burning stove, a Tiny Tot with a Charlie Noble chimney giving the deckhouse even more character.

The steam-tooting tug’s galley is very well laid out and offers all the necessary cooking comforts a man and his dog could want and then some. “The galley amply suits a woman’s wishes too,” says Sharon Tar, Bob’s newest crew member and first rate, first mate. A newbie sailor, originally from upstate New York whose sailing lessons at the US Sailing Center in Jensen Beach landed her in position to meet Bob, she explains their love story with a big smile as they scurry about making ready to depart from Sunset Bay Marina. They are perfectly paired to cruise together. Even better, along with Sharon came Maddie, a petite Pomeranian and a perfectly suited pal for Clyde.

And so, on they go, cruising to the Chesapeake. At Last!

Back in the mid 2000’s, Judy wrote for Boater’s Digest, covering New Jersey and part of New York Harbor and the Hudson River. Judy enjoys writing, and missed doing these articles enough that she’s back now with All At Sea Southeast! Judy lives in Stuart, Fla., and currently manages Salty’s Ship Store at Sunset Bay Marina. Contact her at jpnichols55@gmail.com.

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