BOAL (Boats Of A Lifetime): I Was Born In The Sight Of Water

My First BoatMy first boat

Riffing off the Little River Bands “Cool Change” and based on a quick google search it’s not literally true, but my parents were living within sight of the two lakes at the site of the then upcoming Worlds Fair.  Queens General Hospital where I was born was about halfway between the East River and Jamaica Bay (about as far from water as you can get in Queens) and you probably couldn’t see either of them from the hospital.  However, boats and ships have been a big part of my life.

1963 Rhodes 19Rhodes 19 (photo credit: 1963 Fixed Keel For Sale – $6K – Rhodes 19 Class Association)

I learned to sail on Long Island Sound on what I thought was a Rhodes 19 but in reality was a Southern Massachusetts Yacht Racing Association (SMYRA) class boat in 1974.  This was a 19′, Sloop Rigged, wood hulled boat designed by Phillip Rhodes and originally built by the Allied Aviation Corporation of Cockeysville, Maryland in the 1940’s.  In the 1950’s a fiberglass hulled version was put into production.  By 1958 George O’Day had sole proprietorship of the boat’s production.  That year he obtained Rhodes’s approval to rename the design “Rhodes 19,”

That initial class was on a boat that had been donated to my city’s parks & recreation department.  The boat lived on a mooring at the Echo Bay Yacht Club and was accessed by the club’s launch.  This boat had no motor and we sailed it off and onto the mooring.

Blue J's at playBlue J’s (photo credit: Sail Blue Jay – Photos)

The following summer I attended a Boy Scout day camp that had a small fleet of Blue Jay sailing dinghy’s.  These were also Sloop Rigged.  I don’t recall if there’s were wood or fiberglass hulled.  The summer of 1976 I spent two weeks on the waterfront of a Boy Scout sleep away camp where I earned the swimming, lifesaving, canoeing and small boat sailing merit badges.

LaserLaser (photo credit: Laser (dinghy) – Wikipedia)

After graduating from high school I enlisted in the Navy.  I spent a little over a year stationed at the Orlando Naval Training Center.  On the bigger lake they had a sailing center with a fleet of Laser sailing dinghy’s.  These are about the same length as the Blue Jay and are cat-rigged.  In exchange for working the check out desk for a couple of hours each weekend I was able to take a boat out any time I wanted and ended up sailing nearly every day.

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

060617-N-0490C-010 Atlantic Ocean (June 17, 2006) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) steams in the Atlantic Ocean.  U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Miguel A. Contreras

After completing my training; Machinist’s Mate “A” School, Naval Nuclear Power School and Naval Nuclear Prototype Training I was posted to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (known informally as “Ike“).  I joined Ike in Naples Italy in July 1983 during her fourth deployment.  According to my DD214 I was stationed aboard Ike for 1 year, 3 months and 28 days.  I spent a significant portion of those last 4 months in limited duty status at Naval Hospital Portsmouth (VA) after the accident on my first motorcycle (Chapter 5).

Highlights of that Med Cruise included a confrontation with Libya in early August, participation in Exercise Bright Star 83, several months on station off the cost of Lebanon in support of the Multi-nation peace keeping effort, a cruise through the Dodecanese enroute to Naples which featured a “Steel Beach Picnic” which included a beer ration after 90 days at sea and after a few brief days in Naples a rapid return to the coast of Beirut after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings.

Shortly after our return to Norfolk I bought the CJ7 (Chapter 4) and my first motorcycle.  In May and June of 1984 we deployed on a cruise to Lisbon, Portsmouth and Normandy to support the 40th anniversary of D-Day.  In the 42 minutes before President Reagan mentioned Gen. Eisenhower we answered about 100 bell changes (changes in ships speed).

Catalina 22 - Long Beach HarborCatalina 22 – Long Beach Marina

A few months after moving to California (after graduating from the University of Arizona in Dec 1989) I purchased my first boat.  It was a mid 70’s Catalina 22.  I was walking the docks at the Long Beach marina when I spotted the faded “for sale” sign.  The boat had been unused since the seller had injured his back 14 months earlier and the asking price was less than he’d paid in slip fees since last he’d sailed the boat.  The 4 Stroke Honda outboard was worth more than I ended up paying for the boat.  A couple of weeks later I got my first offshore experience (in a recreational boat) as I sailed from Long Beach down to Huntington Beach to get the bottom painted and then up to San Pedro at the other end of Long Beach Harbour to a significantly less expensive marina.

The trip down to Huntington Beach was quick.  On the trip into San Pedro I went almost all the way out to Catalina Island (22 miles offshore) on the first tack and was able to make it to within a mile of the north entry jetties to Long Beach Harbour on the second tack.  There I learned the relationship between speed thru the water vs. tidal flow rate (and the importance of checking the tide tables) as I sat in essentially the same spot for several hours.  About 4 hours into that ordeal I was almost at the mouth of the jetties when I had to give way to an outbound ship.  A couple of hours later the tide slacked and I made it into San Pedro.

I joined the Lomg Beach Singles Sailing Association (now the Long Beach Singles Yacht Club) and participated in many of their sailing events.  Over the next 11 months I sailed the boat two to three times a month but never ventured outside the jetties again.  The summer of 1990 I joined the LBSSA cruise in St. Marteen and the following summer (after moving to Houston) I joined their cruise in the British Virgin Islands. Those were my first cabin class sailboat experiences.  When I moved to Houston I sold the Catalina to one of my roommate’s friends for what I’d paid for it plus the cost of the bottom job.

BounderTMI 30 – Bounder in Galveston Bay

A year after I moved to Houston I was trying to decide between buying a house and buying a boat to live aboard.  My father had briefly lived in a house on a barge, but I wanted something functional.  Enter the TMI 30, Bounder, a 30′ Fractional Rig Sloop designed by Halsey Herreshoff.  A sound vessel with off shore capability.  On a 7/8 Fractional Rig the forestay does not go to the top of the mast.  Typically on a 30′ boat the top of the mast will be 30′ above the deck.  On this boat the top of the mast was approx 34′ above the deck.  Texas Marine International acquired the molds for Chrysler Marine’s sailboat line when Chrysler restructured in the late 70’s (there’s that Chrysler theme in my life).  I’ve never come across a Chrysler 30 but have seen (and sailed) on the 15′, 22′ & 27′ Chrysler versions.

I bought this boat about a month before Hurricane Andrew slammed Florida and entered the Gulf.  I immediately had the concern that the insurance coverage on my new home would not be effective.  Marine insurance policies have to be in effect for 30 days before they’ll cover damage from a hurricane.  To my great relief Andrew did not visit Houston.  The rules of the dockominium, Portofino Harbour, that I chose allowed for 10% of the slips to be occupied by live aboards.  For the next four years I was one of those.  Slip owners got preference so I bought a slip.  For most of that period I got the boat off the dock 2 – 3 times a week.  I joined the Texas Mariners Cruising Association (TMCA) and participated in many of their monthly overnight sails to destinations around Galveston Bay.

Houston Ship Channel (Looking at the Fred Hartman Bridge)At Brady's LandingAt Brady’s Landing (Inside of Loop 610)

The most memorable trip with TMCA was a mostly motoring trip up the Houston Ship Channel to Brady’s Landing, at the turning basin of the Port of Houston Ship Channel must a few miles from downtown Houston.  I also twice participated in the Harvest Moon Regatta and numerous other sailboat races on other peoples boats (OPBs) including the 1996 National Offshore One Design Houston Regatta.

On the Quay, possibly Kalymnos

A Land Rover on the same island

July 1994 found me in the Dodecanese again.  This time on a bare boat charter out of Kos with a group of people that I’d met on the Usenet Newsgroup  IIRC our skipper was an Aussie, in addition to myself we had two Kiwi’s, a Microsoft engineer (also named Seth) and an engineer from  the Idaho National Lab.  Shortly after that I initiated the Request for Discussion (RFD) for

In 1996 I got engaged to my wife and moved ashore.  We continued to sail Bounder and participate in TCMA.  Our first child was born in November 1999 and we decided to move back to the east coast to be closer to our families.  In July 2002 we settled in Baltimore and my wife’s new job shipped Bounder as part of our household move.

Bounder’s new home was Maryland Marina across Frog Mortar Creek from Martin State Airport where the Allied Aviation Corporation first built their 19′ Sloop.  With a toddler at home my sailing frequency dropped and I only got out on Chesapeake Bay a handful of times over the next year.

For the summer of 2001 I secured a job flying for a Part 135 Charter outfit out of Groton, Ct.  Needing someplace to stay that summer I decided to take Bounder with me.  In mid June I departed Maryland Marina and single handed Bounder up Chesapeake Bay, through the C&D Canal, down Delaware Bay, through the Cape May Canal and up the coast to Atlantic City.  A friend from Houston joined me in Atlantic City for the rest of the trip up the New Jersey coast, through New York Harbor, up the East River and up Long Island Sound to New London, CT.  Towards the end of August my wife (who was pregnant with twins) was put on limited house arrest (not quite bed rest but close) so I headed back towards Baltimore solo.  I passed through New York Harbor a couple of days before Labor Day.  Along the way the Ocean City Yacht Club granted me reciprocity (I still belonged to TMCA) and allowed me to spend a night tied to their dock.  Departing Egg Harbor the next morning I brushed the bollards of the draw bridge and as I exited the channel out to the Atlantic Ocean my outer starboard stay came off the spreader.

Up The Mast Up the Mast (on the dock in Houston) – Outer Stay in Upper Right Corner of the photo

I headed straight offshore and about 5 miles out I locked the helm into the wind, donned my climbing harness, clipped onto the main halyard and went up the mast to get the stay back on the spreader.  This is the only time that I’ve been scared on a boat.  The next day (Labor Day) I took a rest day in Cape May, NJ.  I arrived back at Maryland Marina on Wednesday September 3rd and knowing that with twins on the way I wouldn’t be sailing for a while had Bounder hauled and blocked at the end of the week.  This would be the last time I had her on the water.

Bounder On the HardBounder on the hard (Intrepid in the foreground will be Chapter 14)

The following spring I joined Baltimore’s Downtown Sailing Center and sailed their boats for the remainder of my time in Baltimore.  In July 2003 we moved to Philadelphia and I donated Bounder to a local preschool that auctioned her off.  Years later I found out that she’d landed in South Carolina and was sitting on the hard when Hurricane Hugo hit.  Her mast which had never been re-stepped was destroyed 🙁

My Blue JMy Blue J (with the prior owner & his family)

After we lost Columbia on STS-107 Boeing got authorization to beef up their Safety & Mission Assurance (SMA) staff at Johnson Space Center and I rejoined them in 2004, commuting from Philadelphia.  In 2006 I was hired as a SMA engineer by NASA and we moved back to Houston.  A colleague had a wooden Blue J (hull# 899) which I soon acquired.  The following spring my 1944 Willys came back into my life and I needed the space in my garage.  The Blue J which I’d sailed only a few times was sold to a gentlemen who also owned a 1954 Chris Craft runabout and understood the challenges of owning a wooden boat.

SunfishMe on Uncle David’s Sunfish

Shortly after we moved to Houston my brother in law (who lives in Maine) acquired a Sunfish that we get to sail when we take the kids to visit Grandma at her lake house.

Since 2007 I’ve been boatless (and technically still am).  For a couple of years I occasionally sailed with friends from Portofino Harbour (where I still owned a slip until a few months before Hurricane Ike when my then tenant made me a very good offer).  In 2014 the church down the street decided to add a Sea Scout Ship to their scouting units.  Sea Scout Ship 1701 Enterprise was chartered and my oldest daughter and I were among the founding members.

Rhodes 19 - PoloRhodes 19 – Polo

The very first boat that we obtained was a Rhodes 19 (this is when I learned that the wooden boat I’d first sailed on was technically not a Rhodes 19 because that name didn’t exist until O’Day started manufacturing the fiberglass version).  This boat had an outboard motor, but the very first time that we took it out the motor did not want to restart at the end of the day and I got to demonstrate that I really could get it back on the dock under sail.

Mercator 30 - AltairMercator 30 – Altair

The next boat that was donated to us was a Mercator 30′ which we named Altair.  When our committee chairman asked if I was familiar with the boat I replied in the affirmative.  To my knowledge there is only one Mercator 30′ in the Houston area and I’d sailed on this boat in the 90’s.  Shortly thereafter we were given a Mariner 19′.  This is the enclosed cabin version of the Rhodes 19′

Mariner 19 - MarcoMariner 19 – Marco

In the spring of 2017 I recruited several new families to the ship.  The father of one those families Joe P. is my brother from another mother.  His grandfather had lived in the Bronx just a few blocks away from my grandfather and had belonged to the Echo Bay Yacht Club.  The summer when I was riding their launch and learning to sail he was also learning to sail on his grandfather’s boat.  It’s extremely likely that he was one of the other kids on the launch.

Morgan 45 - Cool ChangeMorgan 45 – Cool Change

The Sea Scout Ship now has a small fleet which includes several Lasers, a few Holders, a Hobie Cat, a couple of small power boats, the Mercator 30′ and a Center Cockpit Morgan 45′.  As a member of the committee, I have access to all of these boats.  This a cross between boat ownership and sailing OPBs.  I assist with maintenance but don’t have the financial responsibility of ownership.