Finding a sailboat suitable for term chartering requires some serious research. First, it has to float. Second, it has to sail, at least downwind. And third, it has to have a good ice box to carry the beer.
Mike and I were still stuck in Fort Worth because the house had burned down and the
neighbors frowned at our leaving it like that. So, we rebuilt it the way we wanted it as a better, more fire-proof sail locker.
After accumulating dozens of specs on yachts, we did not find many that would accommodate up to six guests (the maximum one could legally take) in reasonable comfort that we could afford. How big was a 50-footer, really? To find out we outlined a fifty-foot boat with Mike’s neckties on the ground, then deducted the space that bunks, salon table and seats, nav table, galley, heads, etc. would require. Jeepers, there was hardly enough room to walk in it!
So we sold the house, packed up our stuff in a U-Haul with a Finn hull on top that we modified for a suitable dinghy and with the valiant Valiant pulling everything, drove to Fort Lauderdale to buy a boat to live aboard and charter in the Virgin Islands.
We soon found out that the charter boat that we dreamed of owning which closely resembled the Endeavor was not going to fit in our budget. We also learned that you shouldn’t have gimbaled tables on your charter boat.
One of the first boats we looked at was Good Hope, a beautifully-kept 60-foot, wooden cutter which came complete with captain. Hmmm. Who needs three captains on one boat? We didn’t buy it, partly because while sitting in the main salon watching the gimbaled table swing back and forth, back and forth, in the little bitty swell from the Intercoastal Waterway that came into the marina, we were getting seasick. Whoo boy! We went topsides fast!
They say that the happiest day of your life is when you buy a boat and when you sell it. We bought Avenir, the 61-foot twin diesel, wooden motorsailor ketch strictly for the charter business. Personally, she appeared stodgy and frumpy but she was comfortable and had three cabins and plenty of room below and on deck. She was a slow thoroughbred of good pedigree (Hands design from Maine), well built and had that certain elegance in appointment in her all mahogany-paneled, lovely salon that made her a lady of class. She would be a decent charter boat but not much fun to sail.
Our first charter was to be a spectator boat for the Fort Worth Boat Club at the America’s Cup races in Newport, R.I. It meant sprucing Avenir up and outfitting her fast in Florida before our first sea trip aboard her.
It’s a little tough leaping from a 20-ft Flying Dutchman Olympic class racing dinghy in Texas to a 38-ton ocean-going vessel. The first important lesson we learned was that her brakes weren’t too good. When she got way on and you were coming into a dock or dodging somebody else’s boat, you had to be pretty darn sure that they knew you had right-of-way, regardless!
Navigating was easy until we hit the dreaded fog off New Jersey with no radar. That day we came a tad close to the Barnegat Lightship – at least it’s crew thought so as they were all in life jackets lining the rails and not very pleased to see us, judging from their gestures. Why weren’t they sounding their foghorn? They were but it wasn’t audible from our southerly approach. After we passed them on their north side, we could hear it all too clearly.
After they had disappeared into the fog, I took a look at our 80-year-old chart. It showed that the lightship was supposed to be exactly eight miles east of their present position.
Obviously, they were the ones who were lost, not us!