Wednesday, July 24, 2013

   Most of my life I have dreamed of owning a sailboat. The freedom to travel anywhere in the world (as long as it is connected to an ocean), unencumbered by the trappings that most consider a necessity in life, using only the power of the wind and my wits. For the most part it was only a vague dream brought on by old Jimmy Buffet songs and accompanied by an overindulgence in rum, or more often scotch.
   Over the past few years the dream became more vivid. Perhaps brought on by turning forty, or because my son is getting a bit older and in a few years will be off to college. I started looking closer at sailboats, and reading everything I could get my hands on that dealt with sailing.
   The generic, vague dream became more specific. My time line was determined by my sons graduation from high school (perhaps accompanying me for a part of the journey before he leaves). I have four years until I leave. In the whole scope of things it is not a long time to buy a starter boat, learn how to sail, scuba dive, trade up to a bluewater vessel, and live on it for a couple years while getting to know the vessel and outfitting it for the type of cruising I intend to do.
  Six months ago I began seriously looking for a boat. Low on actual cash, I would need to barter for one. I scoured Craigslist daily, looking for a seaworthy vessel with an owner that was willing to trade for what I had to offer. The boats I looked at were basically stripped of everything but sails, rigging and hull.
   I almost had a deal consummated for a Columbia 22. It was laying over on it's keel on the owners beach. Not much to look at, but it was solid, and he was willing to trade. It would be two weeks before the tide came up high enough to float it free, which was fine, because I had a wedding to go to in Montana, and I would not have the time to sail it back until I returned anyway.
  When I returned, I texted the man, then when there was no response left him a voice mail. I knew he had a laid back personality, but after I did not get a response for almost a week I considered the deal dead and kept up my search. This is when I found the Eejit.
   The Craigslist ad was not very descriptive and there was no picture, so I expected to find a boat that was gutted with a lot of deferred maintenance. It was the norm for my price range. It had a swing keel (which I did not like) and Rocky (the owner) told me on the phone it was stuck in the up position.
    I got in the car expecting to see a real mess that was on par with the other vessels in our price range.
   When I arrived at the marina and met Rocky, I looked to the end of the dock and saw a dilapidated sailboat. As we made our way to it, Rocky stopped halfway there and looked at me..
"Here it is" he said, gesturing toward a boat at our side. I tried not to show my surprise as I looked at the boat he gestured to. It was not a complete piece of crap like the one at the end of the dock, but actually looked great!
   On close inspection, not only had it been well maintained, but had many upgrades done to it. The standing rigging was new and stainless steel, it had a backstay and extra sidestays added, all lines had been run aft for single handing, the sails were virtually brand new, it had new winches, and an aftermarket swing up rudder that hung off the transom instead of the original in the center cockpit rudder that had to be pulled up and removed for shallow water. It was a far cry from the boats I had been looking at.
   Not only was it in great condition, but Rocky was willing to trade for what I had. I had found in my previous efforts, that “sailboat” people were not necessarily “gun” people, and what I had to trade was my hunting rifle and sidearm. It probably helped that Rocky's wife was out of town, and told him she wanted the vessel gone before she returned. They had just moved up to a different boat and were paying moorage on both. We went to his new boat a few stalls down, inspected the items I brought for trade, and the deal was done... I was now a member of the sailing fraternity!
We made plans for me to return the next day to go over the boat, stay the night on it, and sail it home the next morning with the tide. Little did I know the eight hour motor home would turn in to a three day sailing adventure.

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