You know, being a charter boat captain has it’s ups and downs. I knew it before I went into this business and as time passes, I’m getting an education that can’t be bought for any price.
I love what I do. I love getting up in the morning and going to the marina, or waking up on the boat and then having a cup of coco and watching the morning progress. Dolphins looking up from my stern and just looking at me. I always wonder what they wonder. The egrets sitting on the lines all frozen in position for fishing and the squawk of the King egrets as boat folks wake up and take the dog for a walk. The splash of the pelicans and the smell of diesel in the air…
I check the engine compartment and oil, coolant and belts and hoses. Clean the head and galley. Stock with bottles of water, TP and paper towels. Mop down the decks from the morning dew and wipe things down with a rag while I check the running rigging.
It’s a good life and I wouldn’t trade it in for the world.
I guess I’m reminiscing a little, because as I write this, I’m sitting in a Double Tree Hotel in Denver, CO as it is snowing hard outside. I’m kind of fascinated as the show blows through the steam of the building in the lights of the parking lot. It’s good to know that it’s only for a day or two. This is city #13 in a 19 city tour of doing street magic for Hampton Hotels. I love being a magician too, so that’s what I do. Sailing and performing magic… Boy does that keep me from punching a clock or what.
Last week I had a charter that was wonderful. I was concerned if I was even going to go out, but I had a couple of people that were from Rhode Island and they were sailors. Dave and Pauline were ready to go. The wind was up to 22 knots when they showed up and the Key West Express didn’t go out that day as well as several other charter boats in the area. I had reports of 4 to 6 foot seas off the coast of Estero and they were only 3 to 5 seconds apart.
This was going to be a rather sloppy and bumpy ride.
My thoughts were to head out Matanzas Pass and see what was on the outside and then make a decision on if I wanted to do this charter or not.
We were waiting for one more guest to show up. Lewis.
Now Lewis was calling me for directions because he was coming in from Seabring and didn’t know the area. When he walked down the dock I was a little taken back because here comes this guy, escorted by an older couple and had a white cane with a red tip. I didn’t know he was blind when he made the reservation. I guess it really doesn’t matter.
In any case, I met him and his dad and step mom or his dads friend on the dock and found out that he was going to go alone. Fine with me. I helped him take the two steps onboard and then gave him the tour of the cockpit. It was fascinating to watch him look around. Touching and feeling everything. Very cool. I knew we were going to have a good time even if we only took a ride around the bay and looked for dolphins or birds. I talked as we went by the shrimp fleet and under the 65 foot bridge. I told Lewis what was around him and I began to see a few things that I hadn’t even noticed before. Lewis was showing me the bay. Go figure.
As I rounded the north tip of the island and headed out to sea, it was what I expected. Not just choppy, but rough. I decided to put a double reef in the main and put out just over half of the jib to start with. I figured I could always shake it out, but as time went on, it was ok for the conditions. The wind was south south east at 22 to 26 knots with a gust of 34 with seas of 4 to 6 feet just a few seconds apart. As the bow of Star of Orion dove into a deep trough and buried her nose and fore deck Lewis asked was that a boat wake? I just told him, “No, it’s just the sea conditions.”
As I was putting up the main I had a jam at the mast. I went down to put on my life jacket and as I was down in the V berth pulling it from the closet, I felt myself getting a little green as the boat hopped up and down. It was good to get back up top.
I went forward, took care of the jam and then finished the reef. All was well. Dave had the wheel and was doing a great job. We killed the engine and I put out some jib and we began our 4 hour sail.
We tacked a few times and the Lewis asked if he could take the wheel. Well to tell you the truth, I have never had a blind guy behind the wheel before, so I stayed close and talked him through the basics of sailing. I told him how to feel the wind on his face and cheeks. I told him to listen for the luff and walked him through falling off and coming up on the wind. In a matter of a few minutes, he had it. I mean he had it!
It was amazing watching this man take control of the boat, become one with the wind and sea and have an extremely gentle touch with the wheel. I would coast down the face of a wave and work the wheel with a quarter of a turn then back. He would hold steady and let the boat move and then correct herself.
It was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I took the wheel for a while and then Dave took it again and Pauline did too, but she didn’t like the down wind run, so she gave it up to Lewis again. I got him tacking and keeping the wind on the back of his neck on a down wind run. Very impressive.
When we got back to the dock, Lewis’ ride was waiting and Dave and Pauline went there own way. I was left with one hell of a salty boat, a new hat from Dave’s marina and a feeling in my heart of how much I enjoyed my day with my new friends. Dave and Pauline, come see me again, and if you are reading this Lewis, thanks from the bottom of my heart for giving me things to think about, again. I needed you at that point. Funny how that works out.
All I can say is I love my life. I meet incredible people. I hope they all come back and enjoy their time on the sea and I want everyone to know that you give me energy as well as fill my life with understanding and love. It’s a great trade. I know you are having a great time and I am too. It’s a good exchange.
As fast as people come into my life, they are gone. BUT I know that we’ve made a connection. We have engaged in a moment of time and it’s not the days we remember, it’s the moments.
So call me. Sailing on the Gulf of Mexico, and chartering in Fort Myers Beach is wonderful. I’m here for you and I also know you are here for me too. Thanks.
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