Different Boats and Different Folks -
July 10, 2003
One of our first discoveries when we went cruising was that not everyone was like us. Living and working in one place and socializing with the same group of friends had led us to believe that most people thought and acted the same way we did. They don't (which undoubtedly is a very good thing). The boating community has connected us with a diversity of folks we probably would not have otherwise encountered. They come from different backgrounds, have different opinions and are pursuing different goals. About the only thing we all have in common is the fact that we live on the water.
We've met a lot of interesting people through our friends Molly and Howard. The couple seems to make a habit of befriending homeless boat waifs, no doubt the result of their own liveaboard past as professional yacht crew. We first met them five years ago in a boatyard on the York River, near the mouth of the Chesapeake, where Howard worked. It was late November and we were attempting to put fifteen coats of epoxy on our boat's blistered bottom. In the near-freezing temperatures, it was taking forever for the epoxy to cure; we had every heat lamp in the yard clustered around "Little Gidding" and were tripping circuit breakers left and right. Molly and Howard felt sorry for us and invited us to their home to thaw out and have Thanksgiving dinner.
Now they both work in a boatyard in the historic town of Oxford on Chesapeake Bay's eastern shore. Last week we sailed over to visit them, this time in stifling heat rather than freezing cold. "Little Gidding" and her crew were rapidly approaching meltdown. Again, Molly and Howard came to our rescue. They lent us a car for the weekend and told us to join them and some other boating friends for a swim and Sunday dinner at their place.
Captain David Cook on the bridge of "Chinta Manis"
The other refugees we met at Molly and Howard's pool were David and Rebecca from "Chinta Manis" and Dusty from "Snapdragon". We were all grateful to be saved from imminent heat prostration.
David has crewed on big power boats for 28 years. "Chinta Manis" is an 86 foot Stevens motor yacht. It has two 12 cylinder engines, two 32 kilowatt generators and every electronic gizmo you can imagine onboard. David has been the captain of "Chinta Manis" and Rebecca the mate for the past three years. The owner splits his time between a home in Florida and one in New England. Their stopover in Oxford during this summer's migration north was unexpectedly extended due to an electrical fire in the engine room. Chafing had caused a short in one of the battery cables, which then melted and shorted a bunch of other wires to which it was bundled. The timing was unfortunate: the owner, his wife, and their daughter and son-in-law were aboard at the time. David described how they brought the boat back to dock without electricity.
"My boss was at the helm without power steering and I was two levels below in the engine room. He yelled to his wife on the bridge to yell to his daughter on the main deck to yell to me in the engine room to shift the engines by hand. We came into the dock pretty fast. The spring line snapped taut when we were three feet from the stern of the guy in front of us. Heck, I've done worse when I could see."
Eileen chats with Dusty alongside "Snapdragon", his current home
Dusty has also lived aboard for 28 years. There the similarity between his boating experiences and David's ends. "Snapdragon" is a 30 foot twin keel sloop Dusty found abandoned in a boatyard and acquired by paying the outstanding storage fee. He lives aboard next to the travel lift in the boatyard where he works as a carpenter. His first four years at sea were spent on an aircraft carrier. "I started out on bigger boats and got smaller," Dusty deadpanned. "In the Navy the only space I had to myself was my bunk. I dreamed of sailing around the world in a boat that was all my own. The first thing I did when I was discharged was buy a thirty year old 26 foot Chris Craft for $100. They told me it was beyond restoration, but I restored it anyway."
Dusty's most recent acquisition is "Me Voy", a 46 foot cold moulded sailboat he bought last year. He paid one dollar for it - it's aft end was rotten. He works on it most weekends as well as a lot of evenings during the week. Most of the bad wood has now been replaced. "It's better and stronger than when it was first built," Dusty claimed. When he's finished restoring "Me Voy" he'll give "Snapdragon" to his father. "Then I'll sail my dream."
At this moment, we're at the dock while our engine's injectors are being serviced. In front of us "Chinta Manis" is being rewired. "Snapdragon" is parked just beyond. David on "Chinta Manis" runs an online yacht crew placement service (www.yachtcrews.com) on the side. Dusty on "Snapdragon" restores antique outboard engines when he's not restoring the boat he's living on ("I've got an 1918 Evinrude that's in better condition than the one in the Smithsonian"). Different boats, different folks, new friends.