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Writings, drawings and paintings that are rooted in process, simplicity and my imagination. Visit

Sailing south on a broken boat…and an unknown crew

We worked tirelessly on Cat Maudy, for over a year – to bring her back from “deathrow”. We closed the deal on Cat Maudy – the day after Thanksgiving 2006. The price was right, but she was in serious state of disrepair. Much progress has been made, but her list of necessary repairs remained long and significant. She has not seen a lot of sail time with us, and I was concerned she was not ready for this voyage. Captain Pat wanted to give her a chance to prove herself. We left it at that. Destination Charleston SC. Winter in Charleston. South enough so that we could avoid freezing weather….and not too far south, so that I could travel back to Maryland in a day trip via Amtrak train. I had an 89 year old aging father to care for in Maryland, and not ready to be a full time cruiser.

Captain Pat had signed up fellow captain and friend Tim to sail south from Baltimore MD to Charleston SC. After weeks of calls and searching for a 3rd crew/captain — we had exhausted our list of friends, sailors and anyone who might appear game for this adventure. It was unlikely that a 3rd man would become available, so Captain’s Pat and Tim worked through the details of a dual captained sail over 3-4 days. It would be more difficult for two persons coordinating sleep requirements, and sailing should the weather deteriorate — but it was do able. After all, people single-handedly sail across the oceans.

On the 11th hour Thursday eve, the night before departure – we were busy on deck checking lines, and electronics — when a dock passerby offered to assist. Sure, we could use some help. So, Derrick hopped aboard, and proceeded to spend the next hour on deck helping with final preparation. First impressions? He seemed like a nice guy. Very helpful, and knowledgeable with boats. Eventually, the conversation led to “Hey Derrick, what are you doing for the next 3-4 days?” Derrick had no plans, and was more than happy to pack up a bag that evening, and be ready to set sail in 24 hours.

If we weren’t in a state of desperation for crew, this should have been a red flag. How many people do you know have absolutely nothing to do for the next 4 days and can drop everything to join you. No money was involved – we weren’t paying him for his time. All we could offer was food and board for the duration of the sail. In some ways, I admired a person who was not tied to a traditional lifestyle (work, family, day to day details) – and their belongings could pile into one duffel bag. My inner voice was begging for me to listen to objections…but I successfully tuned out that voice.

As for me…I was “ok” with not being in this “Cat Maudy goes south story”. I’m not ready for ocean sailing, big seas, big weather. I’m a sailing novice…I admit it. Plus, as a small business owner, I can’t simply disappear. Someone has to hold down the biz…and things were busy this time of year. It was “snow season”, and our government clients depend on our Snow Removal Software to keep the roads plowed and the elected officials content. I had plenty of excuses. I left my “home” on Cat Maudy, with Captain Pat….to return temporarily to land life.

Captain Pat would soon depart the comfort of dockside, with Captain Tim and new crew mate Derrick on Cat Maudy at 7pm on Friday in 40 degree temperatures and a persistent drizzle of rain. The plan? They would sail all night to Norfolk VA and arrive during the day. Spend the following night at anchor, and then depart the mouth of the Chesapeake, and sail south on the “outside” (ocean) for the remaining 3 days. Projected arrival into Charleston SC was Tuesday AM. That was the ‘plan’.

The bizarre history of Cat Maudy

Captain Theo and his wife Ursula (from Switzerland), are the original owners of Cat Maudy. Cat Maudy, a John Shuttleworth design catamaran was built in 2000, in Germany. At that time, there were only 4 Shuttleworth Advantage designs. Cat Maudy is #4. Cat Maudy was designed to be a charter catamaran – and had 4 staterooms, and 3 heads. Her maiden sail was across the Atlantic Ocean, from Germany…to Trinidad…to the British Virgin Islands. From here, Theo and Ursula chartered Cat Maudy, and earned a living doing what they loved (sailing) for the next 2 years.

Somewhere near the end of the second year of charter sailing, Werner and Alice (also from Switzerland, and currently living in Annapolis MD) chartered Cat Maudy through Theo and Ursula. Werner, a designer of roller coasters worldwide, was fascinated with sailing and immediately hooked. He loved Cat Maudy. Alice wasn’t quite as excited. She hoped to take their earnings, and invest in a home somewhere in the Caribbean. Werner had other ideas. When Alice wasn’t looking, Werner purchased Cat Maudy from Theo and Ursula. Werner and Alice are now the proud owners of Cat Maudy.

Needless to say, Alice was not happy. Werner was busy designing roller coasters, and didn’t have the time to spend sailing. Alice just wanted a Caribbean home (on land) She did not want a boat. Werner moved Cat Maudy north to Florida, and hired a Captain to charter her. Werner soon discovered that the Captain was making money from charters, and not sharing the revenues. The Captain was also allowing Cat Maudy to deteriorate – and failed to maintain her. Cat Maudy was out in rough seas, and feisty weather — when the dinghy davits were torn off, solar panels ripped off, and the sails ripped in half. Werner had enough. He went to Florida to get his boat back.

In the meantime, Theo and Ursula are having a house built in the Dominican Republic. Yes, they are building the house on land, in the Caribbean — similar to the one that Alice had always dreamed of. Theo is overseeing the construction of his new house. But Theo’s management style does not go over well with the workers in the Dominican Republic. He manages to piss them off. Bad. One late afternoon, Theo and Ursula are badly beaten…by the Dominican Republic construction workers. Theo and Ursula are flown back to Florida for surgery and recovery.

Werner and Alice travel up the ICW from Florida to Maryland…and Cat Maudy is hauled out for repairs. She sits on land for the next 2 years. Werner begins the repairs — but they are too much for one person. 5 years in southern and Caribbean weather does a lot of damage to a boat. Alice wants to sell the boat. Werner wants to tinker. Neither of them know much about sailing, but Werner is a dreamer. Cat Maudy needs major overhaul. Alice insists on selling her. Werner reluctantly puts Cat Maudy for sale….but Werner turns down every offer. Werner suffers a heart attack….and he can no longer work on Cat Maudy.

Pat and I decide we need a larger catamaran – one that we can live on. Pat notices a John Shuttleworth catamaran for sale in Maryland – called Cat Maudy. I look at the pictures online. It’s lovely. We drive to Georgetown MD to take a look. The boat looks like a shanty boat. It does not resemble the pictures. Pat tries hard to describe her features despite the shanty facade. I hear nothing of it. We go and grab lunch. I agree to go back and look again. It still looks like a shanty boat – but Pat convinces me he can fix her up to be an amazing boat. Plus, it is a price we can afford. Well, of course it is — it’s a shanty boat.

We make another trip to visit Cat Maudy. We meet with the broker, and owners – Werner and Alice. Pat and Werner immediately hit it off. I like Alice. She’s got spunk. And yes, she’s still mad at Werner. Pat and Werner begin working on Cat Maudy – fixing her up. No no, we haven’t bought her yet….but these two are working together, and fixing up Cat Maudy. Very strange. For the next 4 months, Pat works on Cat Maudy, spends time with Werner, and eventually I get into the program. We sanded both hulls, and applied 2 coats of bottom paint. Pat works around the clock on getting Cat Maudy ready for her sea trial. We still don’t own her….the broker has never seen this type of situation.

The purchase of Cat Maudy is painful and slow. She is registered to Werner….but somehow Theo appears on the title? When Theo sold the boat to Werner, Swiss law requires a registered Captain be named as the owner. Werner wasn’t a registered Swiss Captain at that time — so he left Theo’s name on the boat. But, in order to sell the boat — we need ALL owners to agree to the sale – and this means we need to track down Theo.

Pat locates Theo and Ursula – who are recovering from the attack in the Dominican Republic – in a trailer park along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Theo seems reluctant to sign over the title allowing the sale to go through. A second Fed Ex document is sent to Theo. He finally responds….and signs over the title. Pat and I make a trip to Florida to meet with Theo and Ursula. Cat Maudy becomes a very “personalized” boat sale….where we must meet with the owners to make sure they are comfortable with us. We passed the test.

It was the day after Thanksgiving, 2006. After 4 long agonizing months of paperwork, land surveys, sea surveys, financial approvals, Swiss boat documentation transfer to US, wire transfers PLUS actual work on the boat (bottom job, install electric, get the heads to work…just to name a few…..before , Cat Maudy was ours to sail. We had just enough time to sail out of Georgetown Yacht Basin on the Sassafras River, to Baltimore Harbor – before it was time to winterize the boat. But, Cat Maudy was now ours to re-hab. She is in pretty rough shape cosmetically, needs to be upgraded to US standards (original owners & 2nd owners of Cat Maudy both Swiss), new solar panels and dingy davits will need to be installed, batteries replaced, running rigging replaced, power needs to be installed, the heads need to work…and the list goes on and on. But, Cat Maudy was structurally sound (as indicated by the marine surveyor), and would make for an incredible sailing vessel…once the long list of “to do’s” had been checked off. Pat was ready to tackle her challenges…after all Pat had built a Wharram catamaran from scratch, successfully sailed it for 3 years on Lake Michigan, so he was the “man” for the job. We would soon discover, that it didn’t take very long, before we could live aboard, and start cruising – on a broken boat.

1975: A runner’s 10 cent reward

I ran up the winding switchbacks of South Mountain, lungs ready to burst, barely noticing the Susquehanna Valley views.   Ten more steps to reach the summit, where the city turned to country, and the country roads flattened.

Flipping through a jukebox in my mind for songs that kept up the tempo of feet hitting asphalt made running easy.  It was 1975, and naturally the uphills syncopated to disco while the downhills and the flats eased into longer strides and slower beats.  How sweet it is.  Waving goodbye New York and hello to Pennsylvania at the state line, it was freedom at the age of 15.

Picking up speed — or so it seemed — it was time to return on a five-mile descent toward Binghamton City limits.  No-one could catch me now, not even the free-roaming dogs, running as fast as I knew,  fantasizing what it would be like to be Kathrine Switzer crossing the Boston Marathon finish.  Reaching the corner of Vestal Avenue — shy of the Susquehanna River — I broke my own imaginary ribbon, then stopped, bent over, lungs screaming for air.  Nine miles.  Not bad for an adventure junkie.

Next stop, Fannies — the 5-and-dime store, where fair trade meant one dime for a creamsicle.    I was in no hurry now, and running never tasted so good, one lick at a time.