The No-See Sea Trip

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!