PAC Man with the Tram golfers


Myrtle Beach to Waccamaw River, SC

Today we would try to make it thru a total of 10 bridges — six of them fixed height 65′ bridges. If we’re lucky, we’ll finish the day in Georgetown SC – with only 60+- miles til Charleston. Shortly after leaving the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club we were upon our first fixed bridge for the day, followed immediately by a swing bridge that fortunately opens “on demand” (i.e. you don’t have to wait for an “on the hour” opening)

In about 10 miles, we would be upon a series of 4 fixed bridges, a 67′ cable tram and multiple swing bridges. Wow. Busy morning. As we would approach each fixed bridge, Derrick would take the binoculars and try to find the “measuring stick”. The measuring stick would tell us how high or low the tide was in relation to the height of the bridge.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my 2 days on the ICW. Some bridges have a dysfunctional measuring stick (i.e. it tells you you’ve got 68′ clearance — but it’s really more like 64′)….other bridges seem to have a well calibrated measuring stick (65′ = 65′)…and yet others want you to just play Russian roulette – i.e. no measuring stick. The bridges we came under today were either well calibrated…or of the Russian roulette vintage. Here’s the routine. Once a measuring stick was sighted, I would lay on my back in the forward most portion of the hulls – staring up at the mast…as Captain Pat sloooooooooowly maneuvered the mast to a position just before the bridge. I would then have to decide if we thought there was enuf clearance for the boat to continue forward. Technically, you should see the mast…and not the bridge…and then you know you are clear. Pat is back at the helm…sweating bullets….until he hears the “all clear”.

What about the 67′ cable tram. It’s a tram alright. What is the tram for? Well of course – it’s for sending golfers in Myrtle Beach from the east side of the golf course on the intercoastal – to the west side of the golf course. Now, when these trams go across the intercoastal, the tram cars drop FAR BELOW the 67′ cable….so, it’s like a PAC MAN video game for sailors with tall masts – trying to miss (or take out) the trams. The task is to get beyond the tram cars without taking them out with your mast. Seems like a bit of a design flaw by the Army Corp of Engineers….but hey, not nearly as bad as the New Orleans levee system. I digress.

Government Secrets:Forget everything you are about to read and see. It’s just an illusion.This is a ‘beam me up Scotty moment’. I was surprised that the picture even came out — fully expecting it to be automatically erased by ET (the Extra Terrestrial). But, here it is — just beyond Myrtle Beach proper and the golf courses — the Starship Enterprise.

* South of Myrtle Beach, cookie cutter homes and more lawn ornaments, we entered the
* Waccamaw River – which snakes thru 30+ miles of untouched swampland.
* Scenes from the Waccamaw
* And a huge tsunami wake from this Coast Guard ship

Within 5 miles of our final fixed bridge of the day, we realized that it would be precisely highest of HIGH tide at the time of our attempted passage. Hmmm….a bit risky. Considering our very limited clearance at low tide….we decided against trying to make it to Georgetown (just on the other side of the bridge) – and ended up anchoring on the north side of a small island on the Waccamaw.

For some reason, Earl is going ‘south again. Not sure what is going on with my little buddy – but he won’t eat…and barely moves. I’m forcing him to take some juice from a can of soup by putting it on his gums – and then he has to lick his gums and the soup juice on them. Don’t know what else to do. He keeps sneezing so I’m hoping it’s a virus that he can eventually beat. The vet said his vitals were normal. Stay with me Earl buddy.

Bridges…bridges…and a snails pace on the ICW

Wrightsville NC to Myrtle Beach SC on the ICW

We departed Wrightsville NC at 6:30am, with the goal of making it under the first fixed bridge 10 miles south at low tide around 8am. We arrived at the bridge at 8:20….eased thru…as our mast cleared by at least two feet. Whew.

Some of the notable sights for the day include:
-sea grasses along the North Caroline coastline
-a happy Captain Pat after getting thru the first fixed bridge of the day
-Fisherman hunting for oysters and crabs along numerous inlets

The next fixed bridge was in a narrow ICW stretch…and had no depth markings. Thus…it was pure guesswork if we would get under it successfully. The height of the bridge looked short to me…but miraculously we cleared this one too.

Now we are traveling along the Cape Fear river. I keep checking to see if Robert DiNiro is hanging under our bridge deck. All of the ICW reference manuals noted big currents, rip tides and rough navigating through the Cape Fear River. Guess they were referring to some other Cape Fear River…because we got to Southport NC (exit from Cape Fear) in no time…with no problems. I’m not complaining. Now the dilemma is deciding if we should stop for the day (11am) or keep going and try to get under the next fixed bridge when the tide is coming in. We decided to keep going. I’m feelin’ lucky today.

The next fixed bridge turned out to be higher than 65′ and we cleared under this with no problemo. With…one more fixed bridge to go. I hoped we weren’t pushing our luck today. It would be practically high tide for this one. Technically, the bridge clearance of 65′ is for high tide…but don’t always count on it. Better to be safe with $30K in rigging…to just travel under these bridges at the lowest of tides. Here we go…our last fixed bridge of the day…and it’s high tide.

Derrick first spotted the depth markers along the bridge. These markers indicate how many feet clearance you have – based on the tide. This one shows 68 feet. Should be plenty of room. We slowly approached the bridge to be sure….and we did have about 1 foot of clearance. Note to self. Do NOT trust the bridge height markers along the ICW.

Our final bridge of the day to get by – was a pontoon barge swing cable bridge. This is a fascinating contraption. The bridge keeper only opens the bridge on the hour…and we arrived at approximately 2:10. We would idle and do circles for 50 minutes until the 3PM opening. 3PM finally arrives. The bridge is actually a barge on pontoons with a bridge tender house, and cables to hold it together with the fixed part of the bridge. Once it opens, you have to wait for the cables to drop to the bottom of the channel Once the cables have dropped, the bridge tender hails you thru.We finally crossed into South Carolina.

Today’s destination is the Myrtle Beach YC marina. It is a bit upscale….but at least a place to tie up, get heat…(tho the temperatures are warmer here)…and take showers. I’m trying not to look scraggly anymore. At an “upscale” place such as the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, I thought I might be able to find a decent restaurant, pizza or even grocery store within walking distance. To my dismay, there is nothing but 4 lane highways with lots of billboards and a few convenience stores selling cheese whiz & chips. Seemed like everyone in this town was a sport fisherman high on testosterone. It was creepy, redneck, and I was ready to get right back onto Cat Maudy. Yes, I’m ready to be in South Carolina, but not Myrtle Beach. We ordered out for pizza – and luckily they deliver to the boat.

Tranquility of the ICW

Sneeds Ferry to Wrightsville NC

We left the Swan Point marina in Snead’s Ferry NC at 7am…and made it under the fixed bridge at low tide with about 1 foot to spare. It’s a bit unnerving when you consider that a sailboat’s rig could come crashing down, smashing your boat and more frightening thoughts — should you make contact with the top of a fixed bridge. My gut was knotted – and this was my first fixed bridge. Captain Pat navigated every so slowly. We crept up to the bridge…despite the winds and currents trying to move the boat in every direction. At the point of no return, I grimaced. It was hard to look….but I did. We were “clear”. We could navigate under this bridge without the rigging coming down. This is one of the most stressful events for a sailboat owner, with a tall mast – navigating along the ICW.

Traveling along the ICW….unlike driving Interstate 95 at high speed, is a slow motion event. The beauty of slow motion — is watching the schools of dolphins, playfully swimming at your bow, or stern, and jumping thru the wakes of powerboats. The landscape changes from rural and natural, to urban….and back to rural. And unless you fall asleep, you don’t miss a thing.

In addition to navigating UNDER fixed bridges, we also experienced waiting for draw bridges to open. 10 miles south of the last fixed bridge, is a “swing” bridge – which we waited for the bridge tender to open. As we go thru, the bridge tenders make note of the name and hailing port of your boat. I surmise they report this back to the NSA.

How often have you given any thought to how bridges operate? From the vantage point of the water, the swing bridges are a fascinating operation. They pivot in the middle…and all of the southbound and northbound boat traffic hi tails it thru before the bridge pilot decides you have to wait for the next hour. Cat Maudy had pedal to the medal….and we navigated through before the bridge tender closed the bridge.

I’m not sure who started the idea of placing very large objects on their front lawn overlooking the Intra Coastal, but more than one person decided this was a good idea. Scary. I’ll just call this the land of lawn ornaments.

We went thru 2 swing bridges.and one drawbridge. We lose a good deal of time waiting for the bridges to open, but it’s all good. More time to absorb the scenery. Along the intracoastal, there are various inlets to the ocean. Most of these inlets are too shallow to navigate (unless you are in a rowboat). You can tell when you are nearing an inlet, as the water changes color to this beautiful blue-green. More dolphins appear too.

After a full day of ICW motoring, we ended the day at the SeaPath Yacht Club…in Wrightsville NC. It’s a bit upscale here – looks a tourist ocean side town. We walked a few miles to get to the ocean….have a coffee….and grab some dinner. On the walk back to the boat…a couple walked by us and said “hey – you look like sailors”. When I inquired “why would you say that?”, he responded that we looked ‘scraggly’. Ok, I’ve only been on the boat for 1 day, motoring along the ICW – so not sure how I looked ‘scraggly’ – but decided after we got back to the marina – I needed to take a shower. Pronto.

Kitty update: Earl seems to be much much improved. not his 100% self…but he is interested in food again…and drinking…talking and purring. i’m feeling much better too. Back at the marina now. Slight diversion….the shower can wait temporarily. First…I need a dose of endorphins….aka skate of loops in the marina parking lot…

First Mate hops aboard…Earl taken to the ER

Sneeds Ferry, NC

After a quick stop at the grocery store to stock up on provisions, I departed Ellicott City MD in our Jeep, for a 6 hour drive to Sneed’s Ferry, NC. Somewhere just below Richmond, while driving on I-95 southbound – Pat calls. He suggested I check the air in the left front tire. Apparently there is a slow leak. Now hey…this could have been useful information BEFORE I started the trip? So, I pulled into a gas station in Petersburg VA…and sure enough the tire was nearly FLAT. I filled her up with air…lots of air. A real lotto air. Ok, I didn’t really know how much to fill it – up. Um…maybe I overfilled? Dunno. so I’m gonna drive well under the speed limit for the remainder of the trip. Don’t want the tire to explode. No gauge anywhere. Feeling blonde.

Arrived in Snead’s Ferry NC at around 2:30pm. Unpacked a jeep load of stuff – including dinghy davit’s, groceries, inline skates, computer and my pink ‘bag of stuff’. Armed with endorphin toys and food, I’m ready for boat travels now.Pat filled up the 400 gallon water tanks on Cat Maudy, and we positioned heavy items (i.e. my pink bag of stuff) and other materials into the cockpit and the salon, to help the boat “sit low” on the water. We would not be performance cruising on this journey. It was more like getting as much weight on the boat as possible so that we could have maximum advantage for crossing under a total of 12 fixed 65′ bridges between Sneeds Ferry NC and Charleston SC. The success of our travels would depend on timing the crossings under the fixed bridges – i.e. low tide, heaviest possible boat weight to lower our profile, no wake, no waves. The conditions needed to be perfect – as our height to the top of the mast measured 64.5 feet. Pete had climbed the mast earlier in the day to remove some unnecessary items that added to the mast height (wind anemometer) – and of course the anchor light had already been ripped off from a previous fixed bridge.

It’s hard to describe Americana when you scrape off the outer layer. Mostly we see landscapes and strip malls from a roads eye view. Who takes time to look closely? We are so busy multi tasking — that appreciating “the moment” without interruption seems foreign. From the water, the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) — are scenes that transform right before your eyes. Sneads Ferry, home of shrimp boats, friendly folks and the local’s only inlet to the Atlantic – is filled with spectacular, simple and mesmerizing views. The folks who run the Swan Point Marina…are completely down-home and delightful. These are the people who give you a ‘courtesy car’ – which is their car to take anywhere you want. There is a genuine 1950’s feel to this area. 2 miles down the road is an indoor roller rink – and Saturday night seems to be the ‘happening nite’. I could be persuaded to stay here for awhile.

While at the marina…we checked out an incoming shrimp boat…Fishermen were unloading their catch — a combination of shrimp and fish. Piles of shrimp and fish cargo were transferred to awaiting hands for further commercial distribution. It was apparently a good catch. One fisherman showed me a large fish with human like teeth – called a Sheepshead. The fish would accrue to $6K….minus fuel….and boat operations…a few hundred bucks for the crew and captain. Doesn’t seem like much for very long days of work.

Earl is not doing well. He’s very weak…curled into fetal position, didn’t greet me…no talking…no moving. He needed intervention. At 7pm, we decided he needed to be seen by a vet. We have access to a car – and I searched the Internet for local emergency vets. We got a referral to an emergency vet in Jacksonville NC. So at 7:30pm…we all piled into the jeep and headed to the Jacksonsville NC. I had Earl in my arms. He was barely moving. After wasting 20 minutes going in circles and getting lost – we finally found the Vet emergency room. They did blood work..checked him out…and everything came back 100% NORMAL. Which is good…but hey – what gives with this little guy? The doctor gave Earl an IV to pump up his liquids, and cortisone to encourage him to eat…and antibiotics. I’m feeling better. I hope Earl is too.

On the way back to the marina, we stopped at a the Thirsty Turtle — a convenience store drive thru. That’s right, a convenience store drive thru. It’s a big building….with the middle cut out so that you can drive thru like a car wash. Once inside…you stop the car…and some teenage kid comes up to your window and asks you what you want. You tell him soda…chips whatever…and he brings it to your car…you pay…and drive out the other side of the building. I love Snead’s Ferry.

Got TANG? Change of Plans…

Captain Pat Log Entries:
Beaufort to Swansboro 11/14
I made some scramble eggs with sausage and covered with shredded cheese. And we had coffee
Tim leaves around 1000
Derrick and I do some chores
Derrick and I motor at about 1100
First bridge at 1215 which is sitting at 63 ft.
Derrick and I waiting till 1400
At 1400 the bridge clearance is at 64.5 ft.
We are starting to approach the bridge.
I watching the sides of the boat as we continue thru the bridge
Derrick says it looks good.
I proceed watching the sides, which are close
I look up and see the bridge center light make contact with the mast head tri color light which falls off the mast and onto the cockpit floor right next to me.
We accelerate and Derrick and I get into a regimen of travel down the ditch.
We are approaching the next bridge and I get a call from the sailboat behind us
He says the bridge vertical clearance shows 65.5
I knew that we were at low tide but thank him.
We anchor in the little cove near Casper’s marina in Swansboro, NC
Swansboro to swan point marina 11/15/07

The weather report continues to indicate rough conditions. There are high winds from the massive cold front moving through the region. Freezing temperatures from South Carolina north. Derrick and I are discussing how to handle the situation. Suddenly the boat starts moving. The wind has pushed on us enough and we drag anchor. The boat turned perpendicular to the wind dragging the anchor at about 2 kts in the direction of the highway bridge. At 150 yards off the bridge I got the engines started and was able to hold our position off the highway bridge. We weighed anchor and started motoring. So, the boat decided that we would continue on.

I call Casper Marina hoping to find a slip for the night all I can think of is the freezing temps coming. “Casper marina, Casper marina, this is sailing vessel Cat Maudy on channel 1 6 over.” No answer. “Dudley Marina this is Cat Maudy on 1 6, over.”

Dudley answers, “This is Dudley marina to the vessel hailing Dudley Marina. We don’t have room for you”.

The conditions continue to worsen with winds increasing on our nose at 25+ kts as we navigate into the ICW from the anchorage. I decide to continue south when I feel the boat stop. AGROUND! We were stuck hard to shoal off the boundary island that is homeport of the pink Chris Craft. I bear down hard in reverse but Cat Maudy is a big cat and she settles in. with the wind pushing us onto the shoal each second. Shit. I call Jane. “I just wanted to you to be the first to know that I have officially f%&#ed this up, bye.” My next call was to TowBoatUS.

Homeport for this TowBoatUS is at the Casper Marina. After about 15 minutes of waiting for the tow a couple of gleaming hull powerboats plow thru traveling south and bouncing us on our bottom. I can see that the water is 2 feet or less. Each wake is pushing us further onto the shoal when I see the TowBoatUS vessel emerge from the Casper Marine dock. Looking north up the ICW there is another 55 feet of plastic pleasure plowing along with huge wake following it.

I stand out on the fish deck of Cat Maudy and motion my hands and arms in a down direction. I can see the couple on the SunSeeker waving and smiling as they trek mindlessly south. “Well Derrick, this wake should pretty much set on this shoal forever. I suppose if we get some pink for the hull and green paint for the cabin we join that old Chris Craft.” The wake lifts Maudy and thrust forward. I look over and the towboat is approaching and the SunSeeker wake lifts us up and over the shoal to deeper water beyond it. We’re floating and making way directly for the anchorage in which we spent the night. Rock On! I fire the diesels and hear the towboat captain yell, “Come to port hard.” I do that, then maneuver past a day marker leaving it on the port side. Another massive turn to port and we are completely clear and making way back into the ICW.

“Derrick lift the engine compartment hatches and check for water in the engine bilges.” Derrick scrambles then returns. “Looks dry, we’re good to go.”

We head south ticking off the miles slowly. Day markers, ICW mileposts, the Onslow beach swing bridge and at last I’m able to locate the phone number of Swan Point Marina. They have space for us and are ahead about 6nm. We have been traveling with the dolphins. They travel up and down the ditch. Six dolphin are swimming ahead of and toward us. They disappear under our bows. At first I’m not sure what to think of them swimming with the boat in these tight quarters but then I figure, “They have a handle on it.” We make our approach and the guys on the dock are guiding us to a side on slip inside the man made jetty they call Swan Point Marina.

Cat Maudy’s bow rubs gently on the dock and then we are made fast.

Swan Point Marina 11/16/07
This is a down day. I made a temporary anchor light. Bought an AquaSignal hanging anchor light from Paul the owner of Swan Point Marina. A southbound hippy guy that is here on a Wharram Nari is installing a new diesel. The transmission on his current Yanmar industrial diesel had a massive transmission problem so he is forced to install a new engine and transmission he can’t get parts for his existing diesel. His name is Pete, and built this particular Wharram 23 year ago and has made as many yearly trips from Kitty Hawk, NC to Sarasota, FL. He has a beach business in Kitty Hawk and works in the marine industry as a welder in Sarasota. We chatted this afternoon about his boat and Cat Maudy. I told him the story of the jib stay tang. He thought about it for a while and then later in the afternoon he stopped by to make a few comments about it. I had him take a close look and he, “Oh, that has a lot of material left” but it is not to be trusted on the outside.

Notes from Land…
Thursday 11.15.07

– received a flurry of phone calls from Pat
– Earl ate some smoked turkey….and took a poo…..seemed like good signs
– winds gusted up while Cat Maudy was at anchor in the Intra Coastal…dragged the boat toward a bridge w/heavy current…Pat got engines going in nick of time
– Cat Maudy ran aground…while they waited for a tow…a big motor yacht w/big wake got them off
– waited 30 min for a drawbridge to open in a tiny channel w/3 other boats & 25 knot winds
– got a slip at a marina in Sneads Ferry NC…with about 2 min to spare b4 a tornado passed over
– I’m not taking any more calls from Pat today…

The Swan Point Marina at Sneads Ferry provides a “courtesy car” for use by it’s marina guests. What IS a courtesy car? The owner of the marina leaves the keys under the mat in his car – and the guests at the marina take the car wherever they need to go

It has now been 1 week, since I was on board with Cat Maudy. I’ve been on land, and have missed the adventures. I’m in the middle of 18 hour work days, and a phone that never stops ringing. It is prime-time for our business. Perhaps the tipping point is the notion of a Courtesy Car? Or the other countless events that you can only live, when you take risks? But for now, it’s all about Earl. I wasn’t sure if my little buddy was getting better, and the thought of him leaving this existence without saying goodbye wasn’t sitting well. I had to be in a place where people leave their keys in their cars for you to use. I had to experience the Intra Coastal. I had to be with Earl. I had to drop everything I was doing. I had to be in this story.

Rigging deteriorates offshore near Cape Hatteras

Following the advice of Commander’s Weather, Cat Maudy and crew waited until Sunday morning for the offshore seas to settle. Unfortunately the projected weather of 15-20 knot northerly winds….turned out to be a wimpy 2 knot wind. Cat Maudy only holds 90 gallons of fuel. Not enough to motor to the next inlet at Beaufort NC. They need wind. Much more than 2 knots.

Captains Pat & Tim decided to change course and sail further offshore, into the gulf stream, in an attempt to catch better winds. Be careful what you wish for. 50 miles off shore – the crew got wind, and seas. More than they bargained for. More than Cat Maudy was ready for. It was too much stress on the rig connector to the jib. Something about the connector do-dad is wearing out…and the wearing out part just got worse. Yes, I can be technical. Cat Maudy needed repairs, and the crew worked tirelessly to bring her into the Beaufort Inlet without the rig crumbling….by Tuesday morning. The original plan was to be in Charleston SC by Tuesday — but with Cat Maudy’s fragile state….the furthest she could travel offshore – is Beaufort NC.

Captain Pat Log Entry
Norfolk to Charleston, SC 11/11
Early start delayed to 0800
Motoring out the Norfolk harbor and see what appeared to be a crab pot but was really a porpoise.
Sailing south to Cape Hatteras passing Virginia beach and on and on till the wind died
Motoring late in the afternoon as the wind prematurely turned southish
Motored all night south.
Daylight and near cape Hatteras 11/12
Concerned about the timing but decided to do some tacks.
Wind re-appeared on the starboard
Big massive tack nearly out to the Gulf Stream.
Conditions worsen port tack is problematic and the jib stay is taking it hard Detour to Beaufort NC (motoring)
Decide to motor to Beaufort, NC at about 2000
Switch off the driving watching duties as we motor with a 20 gusting 27 head wind and building seas.
Arrive Beaufort, NC 1030 11/13
Meet Mr. McCullsky. Old dude with a 72ft custom built sport fisher.

The crew wrestles Cat Maudy into safe harbor, and they rest at Moorhead City, NC. It’s time to evaluate sailing offshore versus motoring down the IntraCoastal Waterway. The weather forecast is for winds from the WSW at gale force for Wednesday..turning to NW on Thursday also at gale force. With fiesty weather, and a frail rig, it is time for Plan B.. travel via the intracostal. Captain Tim needs to return to his job- and we fly him back to Maryland. This leaves Captain Pat, and unknown crew Derrick who will travel with Pat for the remaining leg of the trip. Who is this man with unlimited time on his hands?

Apparently Earl is ill. He is not eating or drinking. He did not appreciate days of cold weather and bumpy sailing offshore. I’m hoping he’ll feel better tomorrow. He needs TLC.

Is Cat Maudy ready for offshore sailing?

Norfolk VA and offshore
Pat calls around noon. Cat Maudy’s current position is the mouth of the Rhappannock River, with following seas growing to 6-7 feet….and rollers coming in around 10 feet. The GPS showed they were sailing at 18 knots. A line had become loose over the starboard beam, and became entangled with “something” under the hull. Captain Pat was concerned it would wrap around the prop or the rudder, and wanted my feedback. Should he dive under the hull to free the line. Hello??

That would be a firm NEGATORY Captain Pat. There will be NO diving under the hulls while sailing 18 knots in 6-7 foot seas. He would have to WAIT, until the sea state calmed before the line issue could be resolved. I found it hard to imagine that anyone would consider diving under a boat in these conditions to retrieve a line, but then again, I’m an extreme athlete (i.e. not known to always fully engage the brain) – so it is best not to be too judgmental.

Pat calls again around 4:30pm…the crew had safely arrived in Norfolk VA from an overnight sail down the Chesapeake Bay. The line had broken free during their travels. The engines worked fine. The prop and rudders had no issues. The auto-pilot kept blowing a fuse….but there would be no diving for lines.

Our two cats, Soxy (black and white alley cat) and Earl (16 year old Siamese) were on board for this sailing adventure. Both cats have been on board with Cat Maudy for a year, but neither had done much sailing due to the long list of repairs – keeping Cat Maudy at dockside. The cats loved boat life — at dockside. That’s all they knew. Until now.

Soxy discovered she could not keep her balance on a rocking boat. She ran scared around the foredeck 3 times…and the crew had to catch her, and lock her inside. Surely she was looking for land, and an opportunity to escape the moving boat. Earl slept through the entire trip.

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.

Writings and journeys, flavored with spice…

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