Monthly Archives: December 2018

Hey honey, let’s buy a boat.

It was the late 70s, and we still practically newly weds, when I said something like “hey honey, let’s buy a boat”.    Brenda and I had been sailing together since our junior year of high school when we sailed aboard a Carl Alberg Typhoon out or Norwalk with our friend Chris.  It was from Chris that I caught the sailing bug.

Well, Brenda must have said yes, or is perhaps guilty of not putting up a better fight, but one way or the other, we settled on our first boat.   Somehow we found a tiny, although it didn’t seem particularly tiny to us at the time, Cape Cod catboat, a Mystic 20 built in Groton CT named Tao.    She was named, as are so many “cat” boats, after a cat.  In this case, the Siamese cat in the Disney story “The Incredible Journey”.

We looked at her in Mystic CT and it was love at first sight.  Our very first boat.   I believe this is a shot of her in the marina, the day we took delivery.
We headed out, aboard Tao, with our friends, Chris and Pat for the run back to Bridgeport where we planned to keep her.    I was a happy guy.   Happy to have a boat that was better looking than my hat.    Well, this shot wasn’t taken on that exact day, but it illustrates my point. Brenda, perhaps happy as well but only until she discovered, to her extreme distress, that she was prone to nausea when things got bumpy.  Which on a small boat, is nearly all of the time.  I wish I could say that she eventually got over it, but not completely, even to this day, 40 years later.

Look at her. Her expression is very nearly “come hither”.  Worked for me…

I guess it was a calm day on the water.  Nice sweater,  she knitted this one and many, many others, over the years.  Hundreds?  Quite possibly.
Well, we finally made it to Bridgeport where I had arranged for a mooring to be installed off of the beach, down the street from the duplex apartment that we were renting at the time.

That arrival day, when we tied up to the mooring off of the beach,  was not a calm day.  Not at all.  Once we were secured to the mooring, Brenda leaped overboard, foul weather gear and all, and waded ashore.   I don’t recall what she said or perhaps thought exactly, about that first cruise but I am pretty sure it isn’t printable.    Not a great way to begin our sailing life together.

Shortly after that horrible beach landing, perhaps the very next day, I moved the boat to a more sheltered mooring in a nearby harbor.

From that day forward there has been an ongoing quest to find calm anchorages.  Sometimes we were actually successful. We hung out with our friends Chris and Pat along with others, nearly every weekend.   No outboard engines on our dinks in those days.  Chris and Garrett with me in the bow.  Good thing it was a calm anchorage.   Rub a dub, dub…

Chris and Pat’s Sea Sprite 23 had an outboard.  Way to small for an inboard.
We joined the Catboat Association and were members for many years.  Eventually, Brenda and I ended up on the board, or “steering committee”.  Get it “steering” the association, like a boat?  Clever?  We thought so.

We also participated in many catboat races in those days.   However, like today, back then, if you ask Brenda what her favorite part of sailing is, she will say, predictably, “being anchored”.
And anchor we did.  I particularly like this shot of Brenda.   What a dish.  I’d totally date that girl.   To starboard, a mop, or some bleach blond chick.  No, a mop, really. However, anchoring alone was rare for us as we nearly always rafted up with other small boats.  Somehow three tiny boats tied up together don’t seem, well, so tiny.   That became even more important when we all started popping out kiddos.    However, we weren’t in a rush, as while we were “yacht owners” we didn’t want to bring kids into the world until we were really settled.

To us, being “settled” meant a microwave and garage door opener which weren’t in place until we’d been married for nearly 8 years.  Actually, there was more to it than that as we were pretty much kids ourselves when we got married, our early 20s.  Kids having kids doesn’t always work out so well.

Here’s Tao rafted with her bigger sister Lady Bug, a Legnos 10-3 and Petrel, a sister ship to Tao owned by Toby and Martha Forbes.   We met them. along with their son and his family that owned Lady Bug in Port Jefferson.   We became long time friends and eventually moved into the guest cottage on their estate Oak Knoll, in Ridgefield not long after this shot was taken. This is where Toby and Martha lived, in the main house.  It was built by Frederick Remington, the artist, as a summer home.   We loved it there and lived on the estate for, I think, three years.   Oak Knoll was designated as a historic site in the 60s. I was a really charming little cottage, once the home of the estate gardener and also built by Remington.  It was a great spot and the deck, nearly as large as our cottage, provided a spectacular view. I loved working out in the yard, or should I say, the South 40, clearing brush and cutting dead wood for the wood stove.   Toby and Martha were very happy to have the help, I think.  I am not absolutely positive about that, but they were always very gracious.   They left us pretty much alone and it wasn’t until years later that we really became good friends.  We all wished we had spent more time together when we lived in the cottage.

Toby and Martha met during WWII in SanDiego.  Toby was a PBY Catalina amphibious airplane Navy pilot.  Martha love to tell the story of how she was smitten by him when she first saw Toby in his uniform and went right up to him and took his arm.  They were a wonderful couple.

Here I am with my college buddy Tom, driving the tractor.  “Bob, let me drive, let me drive!”  Tom now lives in Marblehead MA and is an active sailboat racer with his wife Lisa.  It was a lovely cottage.  I believe this is a shot of the living room.  Want to guess what time of the year it is?  That’s right Christmas.  Gold star for you.

Notice the stuffed decorations on the tree and the skirt.  Brenda sewed them all.  We also sewed those lovely covers for the chair cushions.  Not a bad pattern.  Since then we’ve upgraded.  No more vinyl sling chairs for us.
It was aboard Tao that we learned to enjoy gin and tonics, perhaps from Toby and Martha.  It must have been too early in the day for that when this shot was taken.   We are still in regular touch with Chris and Pat, to this day.  Our youngest is named for Chris, actually.
We fished but once caught, we had no idea what to do with our catch on on such a small boat.  Besides, who actually eats bluefish?
In those days, no protection from the weather so foul weather gear was in use nearly all of the time.  Brenda just loved being coated with salt, even on a sunny day.  Tao was a wet boat and to make matters worse, no shower.   There’s that hat again.  I guess it was on sale.  I can’t think of any other reason I’d buy it.  Heck, perhaps it was free.  Had to be…
Not sure about how this shot fits in.  I just like it. We sailed as late into the season as we could and I can still remember the one Memorial Day Weekend when I couldn’t get the boat ready in time.  I wasn’t happy at all about that.  Mechanical problems, I recall.  Isn’t that always the reason?
I guess Brenda hadn’t yet seen “Jaws”.   Thanks Stephen, I never really got over that, myself.   DUH DUH…DUH DUH…DUH DUH DHU…However, I have always been fairly sure that sharks don’t eat clammers.   Well, mostly sure.  Don’t you just love the speedo?
We sailed Tao, far and wide, farther and wider than was reasonable, in such a tiny boat.  Oh, did I mention that it had an even tinier 5hp one cylinder diesel?  When it was running, it sounded like someone rattling a stone in a coffee can.  Bang, bang, bang… I still have the prop on my desk as a paper weight.

We covered a lot of ground from Bridgeport to Nantucket and down to Barnegat Bay NJ.  Brenda was not amused when we went through NYC, Hell gate sideways and into a snotty SW wind under the Verazanno Bridge with a full ebb against the wind and a huge chop.

After that experience, it wasn’t until we headed south in our SAGA 43 Pandora, that she went through NYC again, more than 20 years, or was it 30 years later, declaring “Well, that wasn’t so bad”.  You go girl!  She is such a sport.

Once, we even sprung for spot on the dock at Bannister’s Wharf in Newport, behind the famous ocean racer Boomerang.  For a 20′ boat the cost of dockage, by the foot was about the same as a fixed rate mooring.   It was a really long way down from the dock to the deck at low tide.
Remember Buzzards bay Light near Martha’s Vineyard?    It’s now a tall flasher but no longer manned or with a chopper deck for switching crew.
We passed the light on our way to the Vineyard and Nantucket.  It was a really long way to go in a 20′ boat.   Perhaps easy to get there, with the SW prevailing winds but tough to get back in time to go to work after our two week holiday.   And, when it got foggy, no radar, GPS, just dead-reckoning in pea soup, not sure what was coming our way.

And, there was always a lot of commercial traffic coming our way.  This freighter pre-dates the current container ships that dominate world trade.  This sort, the type that sports it’s own cranes for loading and unloading, are still used in some really small ports but most have been scrapped. Our one trip to Nantucket aboard Tao was to visit the Opera House Cup, an annual gathering of classic yachts.   This is the original Malabar class schooner, by the same name, designed by John Alden .  I tried my best to get a spot on this boat for one of the races.  No luck. Back in the early 80s, there we still a lot of older fishing boats out on Block Island Sound.  That was before the modern draggers that decimated the fish population.
And, there was no fishing village more charming than Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard.  This is an old style sword fishing boat.  A spotter would stand on the cross tree on the mast, supported by the hoops.  When they saw a fish swimming along the surface, they’d go up on a long bowsprit and harpoon the fish.    A lot of swordfish were landed at these docks.However, adventures aside, and there were plenty of them aboard Tao, we had some of our best times just lazing along on a calm summer evening, G&T in hand.
And it was on this very evening, when this shot was taken by our artist friend Chris, while aboard his own boat, that he immortalized Tao and her crew in the painting that he did for me as a gift on my 25th birthday.  For me, that painting immortalizes those wonderful times along with those famous words, “hey honey, let’s buy a boat”.   I’m pretty sure that sometimes Brenda still wishes she had said, “let me think about that for a while”.

Setting that aside, and I do, it’s been a great ride.

Times change. So far, so good.

Now that I am settled, sort of, into the reality that cold is going to be the word of the day for the next few months, I have been wondering exactly what I will write about.  In years passed before I retired and we headed south for the winter, I somehow found a way to keep posts flowing, but for this winter I fear that I will find myself  at odds as to what I can write about for the next few months.  It’s really easy to write about boats and such when we are aboard one but now, not so easy.

Sure, I can write about the upgrades to Pandora but just how much scintillating prose can one absorb about heat guns and scrapers as I tease out the mess that’s ,no longer, holding up the headliner?

My brother Bill had suggestion that is intriguing.  He had initially shared this idea with me a while back but I never took it to heart and that was to write about the “olden days”, a sort of “what I did on my summer vacation” story.  Ok, described that way perhaps it, does sound like a big yawn but I am going to try a version of that.  With that in mind, I’ll try to go easy on you and bring something to the discussion beyond the “we went from Block Island to Cuttyunk and it rained with wind on the nose and took xxx hours….”

No, instead I’ll, well I’m not sure what I’ll write but I’ll try to make it interesting.

So, yesterday I went up into the attic to pull out a few boxes, and let me tell you these boxes are big, full of years of photos, both prints and 35mm slides.   I’ll admit that I got a bit teary eyed as I sorted through nearly 50 years of photos trying to decide where to begin.

As it’s close to Christmas as I write this, I also found myself thinking about an Osborn Family Tradition of watching National Lampoon’s Family Vacation with Chevy Chase, on Christmas Day, after all the packages are unwrapped.  Griswold had the crying gene too, big time.

My trip to the attic reminded me of the scene in the movie when he becomes trapped up in the attic.  If you recall the scene, skip this 2 minute clip.  If not, view on and you’ll get the idea.  And, speaking of wonderful memories and old photos.   I ordered a photo converter that can handle negatives, slides and prints and scan them to digital.  It’s a pretty neat unit and I should have it in a few days.  No wait, it’s going to arrive on Tuesday.   Amazon promises…and I believe.  I BELIEVE!

We have been planning to get a quality scanner for some time now as Brenda still has hundreds of slides to scan for the book she’s working on about Archie Brennan, the tapestry weaver and her long time teacher so we needed it anyway.

“So, Bob, do tell.  What scanner did you order?”   Well, if you insist, it’s an Epson Perfection Document Scanner, and can handle slides, negatives and photos as well as digitize text from a book or magazine which will make plagiarism ever so much easier.  I chose this particular model as it was recommended by Brenda’s publisher as easy to use and fairly fast, even with high density scans.  It even has a few “magic” features that removes dust spots and scratches as well as re-color faded slides and photos.  How do it do dat?

In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to kick off this “series” and write a bit about Artemis, our third boat that met an unfortunate and untimely death when she tangled with a granite dock years ago.

Artemis was a Pearson, Invitca Yawl, built in 1962, one of about 10 built from Bill Tripp Sr’s design.   I am told that the design was similar in form to a Bermuda 40, which you can see from the lines.  She was a beautiful, if slow boat.  We sailed her quite a bit, although she wasn’t very fast, with her 25′ waterline and small sail plan.

As a particular point of interest, Artemis had a famous sibling, Burgoo that won first place, for the entire 142 boat fleet, on corrected time of course, the Bermuda race in 1964.   Event the NY Times wrote about her feat in this article.   Don’t you just love Google?

So, back to Artemis,  and our time aboard her.   We spent a lot of time cruising in those days although it was always in short stints over weekends and our obligatory summer vacation.

Our boys Rob and Chris were a lot smaller then.  Along the way, we often visited Selden Creek, on the CT River, not far from our home now.  It was, and still is, a beautiful spot.  However, we don’t visit aboard Pandora as she’s as long as the creek is wide and draws to much water to get over the bar where the creek meets the river.

Don’t tell anyone but I was trespassing when I took this photo, probably in 1995.    Like the bimini?  I was a striped bed sheet.  Only the finest. A lazy day ghosting along in light air with her mizzen staysail up and drawing nicely.  Brenda and Chris enjoying the easy sail.
I always thought that she was had beautiful lines, and felt the same way about Artemis.   Here we are at the dock at Norwalk Yacht Club, where we were members for many years. Yes, we had some great times aboard.  However, good times do come to an end, sometimes more dramatically than others and Artemis met her end in the harbor during the October nor’easter of 1996.  Many boats went up on the rocks in Long Island Sound that night, over 200, I heard.    There was considerable damage in Wilson Cove, where Artemis was moored with nearly every boat ripped from their moorings.

I had received a call from the club that Saturday morning reporting that “Artemis isn’t on her mooring”.   Off to Norwalk I headed, not knowing what I’d find.   The beach near the club was littered with boats washed up on shore.  During the few short years I owned her, I took great care of her and did what I could to make her a proper yacht.  The name on the transom was hand painted by a sign painter.  That was in the days before the computer created vinyl lettering of today. So, there I found her, poor Artemis, tucked up against a granite dock.   You can’t see it, but she was sitting on top of a J24 which she had crushed under her heavily built fiberglass bulk.  You know the phrase, “they don’t build them like they used to?”   That’s how Artemis was built, but she was still no match for the granite blocks she was pitted against. They duked it out, Artemis and the dock, for hours and the dock won.  Being the “d0-it-yourselfer” I was and still am, I set about to salvage her myself.    First I stuffed bedding, cushions and towels in the huge crack, over 30′ long that ran down much of the port side where the deck and hull separated.   Notice the oil slick that covered everything down below and around the boat. I was able to get a work boat from Tavern Island nearby to help pump her out with a huge fire pump.   All that “stuffing” of the holes helped and once the bulk of the crack was above water, up she rose like Lazarus, from the depths. When the pumps finally took hold she came up in only a few moments.   Then I towed her to a marina where she was hauled out of the water.  I don’t want to think about what would have happened if she had sunk in the middle of the channel on the 2+ mile run to be hauled.  Oh, the ignorance of youth.

Actually, she was scheduled to be hauled for the winter a few days from then as we had our “final” cruise for the season on Columbus Day, only a few days before the storm hit.
She had a lovely galley with a very nice Force 10 Stove and oven. Not quite as nice after…How about the fridge.  At least, I think that’s what this was. Those cushions, the ones I plugged that 30′ crack with, well, they were never all that nice. But, by comparison, beautiful… Oh yeah, we had recently had her re-powered, about a month earlier actually, with a brand new Westerbeke diesel replacing her worn out Atomic 4 gas engine that finally gave up the ghost on our trip up to Martha’s Vineyard only two months earlier.  I think that the engine only had ten hours on it.   Particularly easy access from the cabin sole and particularly easy access for the engine oil and diesel to rise up and soak everything.  Thank goodness that the EPA wasn’t paying attention as I worked to raise her. Note the mooring pennant in the cockpit.  Oops.  Didn’t hold.  She was a great boat and, boy, was I sad when I lost her.  However, she was the only boat I ever owned that actually paid me back.  Not only was she insured for an agreed value of twice what I paid for her, prior to all the improvements, but I was also paid to salvage her.  When all was said and done, I ended up nearly doubling my money.   Not likely to EVER happen again, that’s for sure.   We are talking about boats, after all.

However, like many smitten by being on the water, I quickly doubled down and brought a boat that was cost even more, Elektra, our Tartan 37.  But, that’s a story for another post. so stay tuned.

Of Artemis, I will always have fond memories of times aboard with Brenda and the boys.   Especially in “The Pit” in Port Jefferson, Long Island.  Those were great times.   Well, great except when the weather was crappy, the wind was unfavorable and everyone was feeling a bit under the weather.  Perfect except for that…These days that harbor is chock full of moorings and it’s party city on the weekends with boats rafted up from one shore to the other.

A lot of water has gone over the dam, we’re retired now and both Rob and Chris are on their own and doing well.

I guess that about covers this for now so I’ll close with a shot I took last week of Rob and his brood.  My, times have changed, haven’t they?  But, in a good way.  Aren’t they cute?  Love Tori’s hair.  She’s going to be two in a few weeks.  Time flies indeed. And, Christopher and his girlfriend Melody, as we dropped them at the airport last week after their visit for Thanksgiving, to head back to CA.   They will be back soon.  So great. Yes, things have changed, but in a really good way.

So, there you have it, a bit of reminiscence of times past.    We’re all grown up now and no Artemis didn’t fare so well, but for us, so far, so good.

Let’s hope that our good luck holds.

As far as this post goes, I hope that it doesn’t read too much like “what I did on my summer vacation”.  Actually, it’s seems more like the Poseidon Adventure with sinking boats along with vacations and such.

Griswold, you aren’t alone in getting a bit teary eyed about days past.   Me, I have the crying gene too.    Just don’t get me started.