Reminiscing

Captain Jack here…

Marietta and Papa time on deck

Reminiscing under sail

There is a magical moment when you put to sea on a sailboat. It is the moment when you have cleared the harbor and the reefs or the rocks, the sails are set for the next hundred miles and the engine is turned off as the yacht begins to heel and work in that rhythmic hobby-horse motion, the bow splitting the waves, the smell of the sea and the mixing of hues of clouds, sky and water, the sound of water rushing and the wind in the rigging is all you hear. At that moment, standing at the helm, looking out in to the expanse of the deep blue sea, with all the work of preparations and concerns of land life behind, with nothing else but the journey before us knowing we have done all things well and feeling secure in our hardy vessel one can begin to kick back and relax. All of a sudden the myriad of things that had occupied the mind prior to this moment seem to fade in our wake like the stars behind the USS Enterprise as she shifts into warp speed. At that moment we have transitioned into the speed of thought. Dreams, images of faraway places, all the places we could effectively go to, the anticipation of it all and yet the resignation to the fact that we are actually traveling at the speed of a healthy runner, certainly slower than a bicycle brings us to the place where we realize we cannot get in a rush about it, so we may as well just kick back and relax. Like the height of the sun over the horizon changes each day ever so slightly, this journey will unfold as the pages of the story turn with the change of seasons. Peace and contentment fill the heart and the mind is freed to travel at warp speed.

Columbus

Admiral of the Ocean Sea

Orion was high in the sky in that pre-dawn moment. I could see it through the hatch over my berth. The Kitty Hawk was anchored in the bay in front of Trujillo on the north coast of Honduras. Trujillo, was named by Christopher Columbus after the house of King Ferdinand of Spain with Punta Castilla across the bay named after the house of Queen Isabella. It was on the second of August, 1502 on his fourth and last voyage when Columbus discovered mainland America and landed at this very spot which was to become the earliest European settlement on mainland America and the first capital of Honduras. Here we were 500 years later having organized a sailing boat race from Guanaja to mark Columbus’ historic event. At this time of year most boats are hunkered down in the Rio Dulce which is a hurricane safe haven but a few hardy sailors, now regulars in the North West Caribbean cruising community, joined the event. Scorpio, the constellation dominating the summer sky had set and Orion would not rise in the early evening sky for a few months yet. I got out of bed and made some coffee and sat there in the cockpit reminiscing before the dawn erased the diamonds in the sky, the Milky Way clearly visible still. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I had returned to the place where I did most of my sailing as a child. This is where my family spent the summers.

Cayuco

Colorful Cayuco

While growing up, other than the fishermen’s dugout canoes (Cayucos) that raised their lateen rigged sails there were no sailing boats in the bay. After a night of fishing you would begin to see their sails in the early morning as they made their way back to the beach to sell their catch to the waiting women who carried those big enameled pans on their heads.
A cayuco had been my first sailing craft. My father who cut our ranch out of the jungle had charged a local to fashion a cayuco for me from a Santa Maria tree felled there. My brothers and I learned from watching the local fishermen how to tow a cayuco upwind along the beach up to the Laguna Guaymoreto and like them, before I had a sail of my own, we sailed downwind back to Trujillo using a palm frond stuck in the hole in the forward seat where the mast would normally go. Later my mom and I would go to the local general store to buy rope and muslin cloth to have a proper sail fashioned by one of those fishermen. But this is not where I had learned to sail.

Schooner America

Schooner America

At thirteen I was sent away to boarding school in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and Narragansett Bay, the town of Newport at its mouth, with so much sailing history and enthusiasm became my sailing ground. While there I learned about the America’s Cup and became enamored with the lines of that graceful ship, the America, from which the cup takes its name, fashioning a tiny model of her using balsa wood and paper for sails, sewing thread and tooth picks for her rigging. That little model sat on the shelf in front of my desk where I spent countless hours under the rigors of the prep school curriculum, stopping from time to time to glance at her and day dream of the warm Caribbean sea, sailing and exploring around the world. It became a survival tool which saved me from the depression that the dreary New England weather with its endless foggy, gray wet days brought on.

Schooner Mystic

The Mystic in foggy Newport

On that ship I would escape not only from the weather but from the whole atmosphere of the place. To me it was a place of prejudice, persecution and injustice. It was a stormy sea, cold and relentless in its advance to consume those about it.

It was at Portsmouth where I first read “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham, who at sixteen set out to sail around the world single-handed. His story got me dreaming about doing the same one day. I began to think about all those things which now give me the ability to be in command of my own ship, all those skills that had been acquired over life’s experiences. Like learning knots and learning about navigation through the woods with a compass or without one, looking to the stars to get a bearing or knowing that the moss grows on the north side of trees when I was a boy scout. Who knew that this skill would lead to this? It is as if my whole future lay hidden within my DNA and in some unspoken fashion my desire to learn about things and how they worked would lead me down a path, fueled by my particular curiosities, which would cause me to accumulate the very skills which all together would make me a better sailor, seaman, self-reliant, an over-comer, not only a captain, but an accomplished yacht engineer.

IMG_1053

Kitty Hawk in Southport, NC

It was in 2002 when the Kitty Hawk came to be my ship. All of the sudden, spanning the horizon before me, lay a sea of possibilities, those dreams of a teenager now probable but not yet within reach. Besides the acquisition of the vessel, there would be a price to pay. Not fully aware of all it would take to embark on that voyage, in love and blinded to what this marriage to this ship would bring, I dreamed of the places we would go.

Future Captain

Papa and the Future Captain
Oh the places he will go!

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About Oh, the Places We've Been!

In 2008 I married Jack, the love of my life and the only man that could ever keep up with me. Instead of the nice little French Colonial with a white picket fence, we opted to make our home on the 46-foot catamaran "Let it Be". Since living on a sailboat we've had two kids and sailed thousands of miles along the coast of Central America, the United States, the Bahamas and currently Baja California. Our family of four is always ready for the next adventure and we’re never quite sure where it will take us next. Oh, the places we still have yet to go!
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7 Responses to Reminiscing

  1. ku4ou says:

    Hi Jack! Thanks…this brings back good memories of the “Regatta” from Guanaja to Trujillo. You were always the most gracious host and I’m so glad you’ve found your happiness! You’ve got an awesome family. Enjoy! Blessings…..

    Donna Conyers

    • Oh, the Places We've Been! says:

      Hello Donna,
      Leaving Newport today, had a great evening with Paul and Nancy Dias (s/v Xtacy) who raced along with us that time. Had not seen them in ten years. We were all reminiscing. Blessings to you too. Jack

  2. Tom & Gloria Oates says:

    Enjoyed !

  3. memoryrose says:

    WOW!! Jack, I love your eloquence. You speak to the heart, mind and soul. I speak often to the wall with what I feel are ‘facts’ too much… facts are certainly necessary but images are worth every penny! 😉

    Keep a smile mi amigos. Ron

  4. unclelawwy says:

    Nice work, Jack. When my vet and her husband took a year off to travel the US and Canada, they blogged irregularly but one of the great appeals was that they sort of took turns writing and since their styles and focuses were very different, it brought a whole different freshness to the effort.

    Really enjoy that you and Cookie are doing that and look forward to every post… especially when threre are photos of wee Midences included.

  5. Belinda Linton says:

    Great Story Son, brings back all those memories of our sailing experiences when you were just a young kid, in Trujillo! I will never forget you and Felipe sailing in Trujillo Bay with just a fresh cut palm from a palm tree …., for lack of a real sail ! The ride on the trapeze is still very clear on my mind!! Those were the days. I love you son, keep sailing and writing . MOM

  6. gubragh says:

    Really touched by this. Yesterday, here in Cangas, near Vigo, Galicia, northern Spain, we were talking to the lady who served us our “chipirones frios” tapas, about that magical moment when, the harbour left behind, you stop your engine to pass into another world. And now I’m reading your post. Thank you for your marvelous stories.
    Fair Winds,
    The Roz Avel crew (www.rozavelitineraies.wordpress.com)

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