Sunday, October 24, 2010

21st Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race

Friends Philip, Frank and Steve joined my son Emmet and me once again this month for the GCBSR. This is the same terrific crew I had two years ago on my original Windfall. It was a great cruise to Baltimore and back with lots of fun and excitement even though gale force winds off the mouth of the Potomac caused us retire from the race and use the engine to reduce sail so as not to risk damage to sails and rigging. We still managed to continue to Portsmouth for the festivities there.

Frank brought the only camera so I'll post some of his photos.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Well, Hurricane Earl has come and gone with no damage to Ocracoke other than to the first part of our Labor Day weekend business (which, of course, is nothing to sneeze at). It could have been much, much worse. The storm served as a drill opportunity for the inevitable "Big One." It gave us a chance to put our new schooner into hurricane prep mode (see photo). The family was originally planning to ride it out at home, but when school was cancelled until after the holiday, we began to see it as a chance to have a last bit of summer fun somewhere else.

We ended up driving to Raleigh, checking into a hotel for 3 nights and taking the kids to the museums. On Friday evening we went over to Chapel Hill where we had dinner with other Ocracoke refugee friends and my old UNC roommate and his wife. Then we all took in a great puppet show at the Forrest Theatre. It was called Islands Unknown by a talented group known as Paperhand Puppet Intervention. Four-year-old Mariah loved it even though the social commentary was a bit over her head.

We returned Saturday afternoon via Cedar Island and had a full sunset cruise Sunday evening.

It's great to be back under sail!

Monday, August 30, 2010


It’s not easy sitting here in the Outer Banks when the autumn breeze starts to brisk up and all the birds start flying south. It’s even worse when everyone I know with a boat is talking about sailing to the Bahamas in November. I mentioned as much to my “admiral” the other day and to my surprise she said, “Go for it.”

“But I’ve got bills to pay and some things to catch up on,” I protested. “Maybe I should put it off until next year.”

“I don’t think you should put it off,” she said.

“Do you know something I don’t?” I asked suspiciously. “You been talking to my doctor?”

Well the upshot of it all is that I’m seriously contemplating an early November departure for the Abacos and it would assuage my conscience if I could take on a few paying passengers to justify the expense.

Over the years, many of my day passengers have commented that they would like to make such a voyage in whole or in part, so I’m putting this out there in case any such folks are reading this blog and might be serious about such a venture. I’d be leaving Ocracoke during the first week of November and heading down the coast to Ft. Pierce or West Palm (which can take between one and two weeks depending on weather and fitness of the crew for offshore passage-making). The next several days would be spent crossing the Gulf Stream and island-hopping to Green Turtle Cay, Great Guana Cay or Man-o-war Cay where we’d leave the boat and fly back in order to be home for Thanksgiving.

The schooner, while rather small, has most of the amenities generally found on cruising boats: hot shower, refrigerator/freezer, Bimini awning, cockpit table, autopilot, chart plotter, 10’ inflatable dinghy with outboard. While there are numerous larger charter boats available for such a cruise, only a very few have skippers with as much experience.

I’ve been cruising between N.C. and South Florida since 1974, made my first of many crossings to the Bahamas in 1979 and have held a U.S.C.G. captain’s license since 1978.

I’ve made well over fifty passages through the Intracoastal Waterway during that time and consider myself as knowledgeable a tour guide as any.

The ideal passenger for this trip would be someone who has long been contemplating a trip like this on their own vessel and wants to learn as much as possible about sailing and cruising beforehand.

If interested, send me an e-mail and we’ll explore the possibilities further.

Monday, July 5, 2010


JULY 4, 2010

Independence Day, 2010 will be over now in forty minutes. My wife and daughters are in Ohio visiting family so Emmet, my 15-year-old son, and I have been roughing it for a couple of weeks. The girls should be back Tuesday.

It’s the first July 4 we’ve ever spent here without the whole family being here, but Sundae’s mom passed away suddenly on March 2 and there were some things she had to take care of. We did a lot of the things we always do on the fourth: went and looked at the antique cars on the Pony Island Motel lawn. Turned out we were too late to see the sky divers who’d already landed safely by the time we got there. Never made it out to the beach to see the sand sculptures. And, since 4-year-old Mariah Daisy wasn’t here, we didn’t even bother to go see the wild ponies.

I even broke a long-standing tradition and took a couple of sailing tours out on my new schooner. My policy, since about 13 years ago has been to take the 4th off. Seems like half the people who signed up to sail with us in those days didn’t show up and the half that did were so wasted that I wished they hadn’t! “If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em” became my Independence Day motto.

Yesterday afternoon, Emmet and his buddy Andrew woke me up from my afternoon nap and said they had an idea for a float for the parade. “The deadline has already passed for registering,” I told them.

“Call Tom and see if we can still enter,” they pleaded.

I did and Tom said, “Heck with the deadline! The more the merrier. Make sure your float is at the Sweet Tooth by 2 p.m.”

I drove the boys to the dump in the Ford pickup truck I own a third of and we rounded up lots of cardboard then stopped by the hardware store for duct tape, paint, sharpie markers and candy. Back at the house we cut up an old sail from the original schooner Windfall.
By supper time the truck was sporting a gaff schooner rig complete with the helm, hatch cover and side lights of my old girl.

This morning, after finishing his bussing job at one of the restaurants, Emmet donned my pirate suit and rounded up a couple of saucy young pirate wenches to join him on the truck throwing candy, gold coins and Windfall tattoos to the crowds. I drove and my left leg is still killing me from riding the clutch!

The good news is that we won the prize for Best Business Float. The $50 check might possibly cover our expenses!

When Emmet strolled in at 11 p.m. as agreed, I showed him a passage from a book I’d picked up at the library used book sale yesterday. It was a brief contribution by Raymond Carver called, “My Boat.” He read it, handed it back to me and said, “Yeah.”

I told him there’s something about sailing that’s wildly addictive and that that passage sort of described it. I said it’s what keeps me doing what I do and that on tonight’s trip I felt like a little of it got communicated to the folks we had on board. Four of the six of them had sailed on the older schooner and confided upon leaving that they’d liked this one better. Emmet said, “I know what you’re talking about and I get it when we’re cruising more than I do on our short trips.”

I thought of Lord Nelson’s final words at Trafalgar: “Thank God, I have done my duty!”

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, June 7, 2010


For the most part, the weather's been great, the dolphins cooperative, and our passengers terrific.
I mentioned a wedding in my last entry. Photographer Mary Haggerty of Ocrocoke Photo has kindly sent a couple of the better shots of that momentous event. As you can see, some dolphins dropped by to wish the couple a happy life together! One of the nice features of the new schooner is that passengers are close enough to the water nearly to reach out and touch the dolphins. A few nights ago, our friends Kati and John came out with us and took some great sunset shots, one of which appears before the wedding shots.

Monday, May 31, 2010


The Windfall II, our recently-purchased 32' schooner, is beginning her third week of cruising Pamlico Sound. She's already busy with nightly sunset sails (1.5 hrs. $40 per person) as well as 1-hour cruises departing at 5 p.m. ($25 per person). We've even had our first wedding aboard a couple of weeks ago. With our passenger capacity now limited to six, however, we don't expect to have nearly as many of those!

We've been seeing a lot of bottle-nosed dolphins out there which is a bit more exciting with the new schooner since the passengers are seated closer to the water and can practically reach out and touch them.

We donated some scraps of the original Windfall (gaff jaws, belaying pins, etc.) to the annual Firemen's Ball Auction this past weekend and they brought in big bucks. There's plenty more of that cluttering my tool shed, so if anybody's sentimental about it, drop me a line.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

BLOG ENTRY May 6, 2010\

On Easter Sunday my son Emmet, two friends and I sailed the schooner Windfall up to Scott’s Boat Yard in Buxton. The wind was fair for sailing all the way, but with deteriorating weather forecast for later in the afternoon, I kept the old Yanmar chugging along and didn’t hoist the jib as it would have restricted visibility a bit. The old schooner performed beautifully as she always had in my nearly 25 years of owning her and we arrived more than 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Had I but known this would be her last trip, I would have shut off the engine and let her take her own sweet time. Probably would have invited several more friends and opened some champagne.

But life is like that. Who ever knows how much time we’ve got left?

For the past several months leading up to this haul-out, I’d become aware of a few issues that would require some serious attention. With biannual Coast Guard inspection due, I knew it was decision time. As the boat yard crew and I began to delve into the deteriorated areas, it soon became apparent that bringing her back up to the required condition would not be economically feasible. Rather than patch her up and sell her cheap, I chose to strip her and have her broken up. The least I could do for a vessel that had served me so well for so long was to give her a proper burial. We’ll never have to bear the pain of seeing her masts protruding from the mud of some neglected backwater creek.

A few years ago, when I saw this day looming on the indefinite horizon, my dear wife reminded me of how much I enjoyed sailing that schooner. “Hell, Rob,” she said, “She doesn’t owe you anything. Sail her till she falls apart underneath you!” And that, in short, is pretty much what I did.

So that’s the bad news for those many friends from throughout the world who have had fond memories of the Windfall. Although I’m sure many of you will be disappointed in my decision, believe me – I feel your pain.

On the other hand, I’ve been considering for quite some time what I would do when and if this day arrived. I’ve always been impressed by the Lazy Jack 32’, a production fiberglass schooner designed by Ted Brewer and built in New York by Ted Hermann. When I made the decision to abandon ship last month, there were four Lazy Jacks for sale on the East Coast of the U.S. I looked at two of them then recently purchased one in New Jersey.

Of course she was white with white sails. Sundae (my admiral) insisted that I couldn’t dock her in Ocracoke until she was black. So a couple of weeks ago, I drove up to NJ, had her surveyed, bought her, hauled her out and painted her black. The photo shows her about to be launched by the boat yard in NJ just before two friends from Ocracoke helped me sail her home. We arrived the day before yesterday.

Yes, WINDFALL II is smaller than her namesake. Capt. Rudy saw her yesterday and asked me what kind of detergent I used to wash her decks. “Why?” I asked and he said, “She’s shrunk!” She’ll be limited to six passengers but will be taking longer sails in a more relaxed manner.

I’m looking forward to that. I hope you are too and if so, I look forward to sailing with you soon!


BLOG ENTRY May 6.doc