My Daddy Was A Sailor – Part 7

It was sometime when I was late in my 10th year or early on when I was an 11 year old that my mother and father decided to sell our Ericson 41 sailboat and buy a “classic” wooden boat called Pandora III. Pandora was a Bugeye Ketch, built on the East Coast on the Chesapeake Bay in Solomons, Maryland, if I remember correctly during the second decade of the 20th Century.

A Bugeye Ketch is a very unique design as far as sailboats, there are not many of them in existence. She had a rather clipper like bow, nice lines, with two very tall masts (they were equally tall if I remember correctly) that were raked back at about a 5-7 degree angle. The unique design with the “rakish” masts came about in an effort to make these vessels very easy to handle with a 2-man crew. Originally bugeye ketchs were designed as Oyster boats for the Chesapeake Bay. The rakish design of the sails, combined with sails that had loops around the mast (rather than a metal channel) and a gaff rig on the sails, made the sails virtually “fall” down when the halyard was released. That was the original design anyhow, Pandora was a modified bugeye, I’m not sure but what she wasn’t originally made the way she was.

Some of he differences in Pandora were that she did have a metal track running up both masts, did not have the gaff rigged sails, but had much more “typical” triangular sails. Pandora had the “normal” double cabin appearance of a bugeye, but the cabins were actually cabins, and not hatch covers as would have been on a working version of a bugeye.

Still, nobody can doubt she was a bugeye. I will try to get some pictures posted of her as soon as I can. She was very pretty, the hull was painted white, the masts were natural pine, solid I believe. Since she was a “ketch” the masts were designated as “Main” (the one in front) and “Mizzen” (the one in back). The main mast had a ladder that led up to a platform, some 40-50 (about 47-57 feet above the water) feet above the deck. It was quite a thrill to be at sea and climb up there and hang out on that platform while the boat was rocking, or heeled over, or both.

The cabin area on Pandora was absolutely huge! There were two main salon cabins, both quite large, and there was a dining area that could sleep 4 – 6 people and seat about 12 for meals. There was a small wood-burning stove (or coal burning I suppose) in the main salon, it had a “chimney” bored through the main deck with a deck funnel attached to it. The forward cabin (the forepeak) contained bunks for 4, along with the sail storage and chain locker. I wish my memory was better, there was writing on a forward bulkhead that had the date of manufacture, the tonnage of the vessel and so forth. The “manufacturer’s designation” said that she was 90 tonnes, I believe, and built in 1919 (?).

Aft on deck, there was a lazarette (locker) that had a manhole cover for a hatch cover. It was not a full manhole size, it was about 24 inches in diameter. It was a solid piece of brass, forged, with the name of the manufacturer, and the location of manufacture (Solomons, MD). I remember that one clearly, but cannot remember the name of the yard where she was built. That lazarette was quite roomy and was used for storage of all kinds of “spares.” The steering linkage was also inside that compartment, I believe we had to repair it once, and it was checked regularly also (by me several times).

She had about a 10 foot bowsprite, as is typical on a ketch type sailboat. At the waterline she was 63 feet, overall length was 77 feet. Absolutely amazing, and gorgeous she was! She had an electric windlass (anchor chain winch) that was quite temperamental. The engine room was literally a room, all done up with soundproofing, and I think it was fire-proofed with asbestos too. There was lots of rather nasty looking stuff in there, covering piping, exhaust pipes and so on. The diesel engine looked huge to me, probably because I was still a little kid. It was a 6-71 GMC Diesel engine, literally big enough to power a Caterpillar tractor! The propeller blade was about 3 feet in diameter, maybe even a little larger. I remember well because I dove under water many times and cleaned off the growth from it.

Our weekend trips to Catalina Island continued, in fact we might have even started taking more trips when my folks bought Pandora. She was the pride of King Harbor (Redondo Beach, CA). She was moored in a slip (believe it or not, the largest slip in the harbor) right in front of the King Harbor Yacht Club for many years. She acquired the slip that another famous sailboat (Scirocco) had occupied for many years. Scirocco’s owners had blown it one time when coming in and had overshot and punched a hole in a wooden barrier in the parking lot above the dock (directly in front of the bowsprite, it was the bowsprite that went through the wooden fence). That hole was always there as long as we had Pandora there too.

My folks owned Pandora for several years while I was growing up, she was very unique, and sailing on her was a thrill. There were stories about her, a few of which I can pass along. The couple that owned her before my folks had sailed around the world on her. Coming across the Atlantic, they were both asleep and ran into a hurricane. The hurricane knocked her right down, but the fellow got up, took his knife, cut the sails and she popped right back upright. She had a battleship keel you see, not like a regular sailboat, but a heavy thick keel that ran the full length of the boat. That gave her wonderful stability, even in heavy seas.

I don’t remember ever being in anything that rough when sailing on her, maybe 15 foot swells is the most I ever saw on Pandora. After having been through 30-35 foot swells on the Ericson, none of those swells ever looked big again, at least anything less than 20 foot never seemed that large I guess. It’s amazing how your perspective changes after having been in one “tremendous” storm at sea.

Pandora did not come with a very suitable dinghy, we had wrecked a friends “Sprite” sailboat (the one that broke in half in the big Thanksgiving Day storm on the Ericson) prior to this, so my dad decided he wanted a decent dinghy. We found a nice 11′ Boston Whaler, and my daddy liked the fact that Whalers are unsinkable, even if they break in half.

The Whaler came with a 40HP Mercury engine, she was fast. The whaler also had a driver’s seat with a wheel. She had a throttle next to the wheel, with reverse and all. I had never driven a motorboat with that type of arrangement before, all our previous dinghy’s had just a simple outboard that you steered the engine by the handle of the engine, like a tiller. Anyhow, having the whaler greatly increased our range for fishing trips and so forth when we were at the island, or anywhere we went. My dad and his buddy Bob built a cradle so we could hoist the whaler out of the water and lash her to the deck between the two cabins on the port side. I think we had her nearer one side rather than towards the middle that is. It was easier to get back and forth on the deck without the whaler directly under the boom. Anyhow, the deck was so wide at the midships that there was room for a whaler on each side.

The decks on Pandora were teak, I remember that clearly too because I cleaned them so often. There are many rituals on board a sailboat. You got prepped for a voyage, checked gear, stowed supplies and so forth, then you went on your trip, the routine was similar no matter the length of the trip, then when you got back, you unloaded, buttoned up the hatches and washed everything down to prevent the salt from crystallizing all over everything. There was stainless steel all over Pandora, the railing posts were made of stainless instead of brass. There was some brass too, but the winches were all stainless as well.

She had huge anchors also, we used those many times, as she was so large that it was sometimes difficult to find a buoy to tie up to at the island so we just anchored instead (remember the temperamental windlass I was telling you about?). We spent one 4th of July over at Catalina Island, and I had brought all my fireworks along (typical kid, eh?). We couldn’t figure out any decent mechanism for doing the fireworks on board the boat, they would not let us land on the island to do them on the beaches or anything like that. So finally, we decided to pull the fuel tank from the dinghy, let the dinghy out about 100 feet from the boat on a line, and Bob Watt and I lit all our fireworks off, me holding the box, Bob holding each individual cone, piccolo pete or whatever, he held them and pointed them away from everything (and up in the air and downwind). What a guy! It made the 4th of July for one little fellow (me) very special. I’m sure quite a few others in the anchorage appreciated it too.

My dad got kind of excited by the whole thing, it was somewhat inspiring I guess, so he went below and got the flare gun. It was an old gun, probably dating back to WWII. Everything on board this boat was OLD! Anyhow, he loaded the flares and fired them. It was a fun change of pace for a 4th of July celebration, and we paddled over and collected all the flares after they landed. The parachutes from the flares were so old they just fell apart when we found them. I guess my dad had to have been a little drunk to do that though, because if the Coast Guard had wanted to, they could have busted him pretty badly for discharging a “distress” call when not actually in distress. Oh well, it was 4th of July, right?

We went again to Mexico on Pandora also. It was probably somewhere between a year and 18 months since we had gone down there on the Ericson. This time, my daddy was determined to make it to Scammon’s Lagoon to see where the California Gray Whales bear their young. So they planned the trip, my sister and I went along, but I don’t think any other kids went along with us this time. It was just me and my sister. My dad’s friend Ron Marshall went along this time too. Ron worked at the Boat Yard with Bob, they were all pretty good friends now. Ron was a good crew member, he knew sailboats pretty well. Ron’s specialty in the boatyard was racing sailboats, he was an expert in bringing out a mirror finish on a hull. So, he went along with us, I don’t think his wife went along though, my memory is failing me on that point.

We left King Harbor, sailed the day and a half journey to Ensenada, we must have been motoring some as we needed fuel when we got to Ensenada. We got filled up with Diesel, and proceeded. I think the reason we were motoring is that the winds are not very favorable for that tack, in that vessel. To go from Southern California down the Baja peninsula, you are heading pretty much due South, with a bit of east thrown in some of the time. The winds, the prevailing winds that is, come from the southwest usually. To head straight south, without delaying yourself by tacking you’re pretty much going at a 45-50 degree angle to the wind. I don’t think Pandora would hold that tack very well. She was big and heavy, and had a long heavy keel, I’m pretty sure she would only hold about 60 degrees into the wind, nothing higher than that. Modern sailboats, even older boats that are built for racing and such, have narrower keels, much more streamlined hull shapes underwater. They are designed to be able to “point” higher into the wind.

Actually, pointing the bow anywhere in the general direction of the wind is “reaching.” Going at an angle of precisely 90 degrees to the wind is called a “Broad” reach. Anything going downwind from there is “running.” I didn’t plan to educate you all about sailing, but it’s necessary to catch the basics in order to know why certain things are the way they are. The bottom line is we were using fuel to go south, so that we could go as fast as possible. That was not a great decision, because of something unexpected. But, as I’ve said before, when on a boat at sea you need to expect the unexpected. The fuel we got in Ensenada was full of water. Fortunately it was ordinary water (not salt water). The water in the fuel killed the engine though and we were forced to sail around in the middle of the night off the coast of Baja.

We knew where we were, not in any shipping lanes or such, but still we had our radar reflectors up, and running lights as it was night. We didn’t see too many other vessels out that night, or any night off the Baja Coast. As I was saying though, this was quite unexpected, the motor coughed and then sputtered and then quit. That’s not a good thing! My dad and Bob went below to run a “visual” on the engine, nothing apparently was wrong, all the gauges and dials were OK, I don’t think we had a fuel pressure gauge, it would have read “normal” anyhow. It took Bob a minute or two to spot the fuel filter canister and see that it was full of water. The water, along with the crud from the drums from which we had filled up clogged the fuel filter. We had run the engine out of fuel!

I mentioned drums, we had “docked” at a fuel dock in Ensenada, very crude by United States standards, it was a pier of sorts that we tied up to. Not floating, but fixed. Very dirty, very rickety. And they had these 55 gallon drums stacked up there with “Diesel” fuel. The drums must have been sitting there for a very long time to be full of water and crud as they were. It took Bob several hours of cleaning, priming and so forth in the middle of the night to coax that engine back to life. When it did come back to life we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. But you know what? You know how you prime a diesel engine that large when you don’t have an electric pump? By mouth! Bob had to sit there and prime each and every cylinder in that engine by taking the fuel line off and sucking fuel into the line ahead of the intake manifold. What a job!

My dad was so fortunate to have a friend like Bob along. Bob always did the dirty jobs like that. He never complained about it either. He just considered it his way of paying my dad back for getting to be first mate. What a guy though, very few of us have friends like that. It was a dirty nasty job to get that engine going again. Sucking fuel through those lines, I remember a couple times when Bob coughed and spit the fuel in his mouth out into a bucket. It was nasty! Fortunately, he didn’t get sick, and fortunately, we had enough fuel filters to get by the rest of the trip. At least now that we knew there was a problem, we kept an eye out for the filter clogging, and were ready to shut the engine down and swap filters at the first sign of trouble. I don’t remember we actually had trouble the rest of the trip (with the engine anyhow).

That was far from the only “incident” we had on that trip. We had plenty of opportunity to sail on that trip, and we stayed at Isla San Martin again too. On this 2nd trip that I made with my folks to Mexico, there was no red tide this time, and there were far fewer whales. I do not remember we saw much of anything actually. We had several interesting incidents with people though, and one while staying at Isla San Martin.

We were anchored there at night, and these fishermen came up in their boat. Remember, it was only something like 18 months after the first time that we were visiting Mexico again. This time, apparently, there were fishermen living on the island. Perhaps they were there the first time, but more likely it is a “seasonal” place where they live part of the year and fish, and the rest of the year they live on the mainland. The first time we had been there was during a tremendous red tide, so the fishing was probably no good, and that may have been why they were not there.

Anyhow, these fellows come up in their small motor boat and we all greeted one another. They spoke no English, and I was the only person on board who spoke any Spanish believe it or not. Even still, at this time I don’t think I said anything, as they only wanted to trade for whatever we might have for trading goods. They held up a couple very decent sized lobsters, one was definitely over 5 pounds! My dad and Bob Watt immediately got out some cigars, a few packs of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey. That proved acceptable to these fellows and we had a wonderful lobster dinner that night. It’s funny, when even though you can’t speak the same language that still there is always a way to communicate, and bartering, the oldest form of commerce is always simple and easy to do.

We had plenty of trading goods on board, my folks had decided they were going to be prepared this time. We had several bags of clothing on board too that my sister and I had gotten together, as well as a large bag of candy for any children we might run into. Mexico seemed like such a dirty place to me when I was that age, and today most of it would probably still look the same. But, when I visited Europe in the 1980’s it was even dirtier! Not the buildings and the architecture, but over a century of the Industrial Revolution had left soot and grime covering all the beautiful buildings, and everything had a look of blackness to it.

Mexico did not have that kind of sooty, grimy appearance, rather just dust and dirt. There were few paved roads in any of the places we visited, and the ships, water taxis and cars that we saw were always old and run down looking, but very colorful. It seems to be part of the Mexican culture to use bright colors everywhere, from houses and other buildings, to cars, buses, taxis and boats. Everything is colorful! It’s just tinged with a bit of dirt, which I would attribute to the arid climate and lack of paved streets, dust is everywhere! The people appear dusty too, from their feet to their clothing and so on. But, they always had big smiles, with lots of crooked teeth, and they seemed to be happy people.

We in the US have no concept of true happiness I don’t think. There are so many of us who are always striving for more. Ours is a very materialistic society, we of the “rich” U.S. that is. We don’t think about ourselves normally, how well off we are that is, until we travel and see the rest of the world. Some parts live in actual squalor, and we live like kings. I envy the ones who live with so little and seem so happy. I know it’s a relative thing, but it just seems to be one of those axioms that the more you have the more you worry.

I heard a quote from Patch Adams, remember him? The quote says: “The richest 360 people in the world have the same amount of money as the poorest 2.4 billion people.” Is that amazing? It’s so startling that it’s nearly unbelievable. That is, until you travel and see the rest of the world and how they live. These trips that I took with my mother and father when I was a boy have had a profound impact on my life and how I live. I don’t think about the poor everyday, but we do try to do something to help out. Cheryl and I both volunteer at our church, we help fill our food bank, and we give generously because we think that our local church is the best avenue to give. That keeps the money primarily in our own neighborhoods. But we support missions too, we have a missionary from our church who is in Nigeria running schools for children. We support a child over there in Nigeria too. I’m not tooting our horn, I’m just showing you that we practice what we preach.

So, getting back to Mexico, where were we? Yes, I was comparing Mexico, to the rest of the world. It just seemed “dirtier” to me because the people there didn’t have nice neat paved streets like we have here in the U.S. But, we forget that paved streets didn’t even come about until sometime in the 20th century. There were cobblestone streets prior to that, and brick roads and so forth. It takes an awful lot of bricks to make a road! It’s a very expensive way to pave, but it has been done in many places (Indianapolis Motor Speedway, e.g.). The lack of paved or cobbled roads make a place “seem” dirtier, but only to us who are used to not having dusty streets, dusty people, dusty buildings, and dust everywhere! To the folks who live there, it’s quite normal.

So, Mexico was a simpler place, back then, 40 years ago, and even today there are still parts of Mexico where life is much “simpler” than here in the U.S. or Europe. There are simple towns in Europe as well, we know, we watch a lot of Rick Steves on PBS. We love the idea of “Backdoor” travel, and in reality, that’s what I had an opportunity to do with my folks when I was a kid. We saw the _real_ Mexico. We didn’t go to resorts, and today, I still don’t much care for the whole “resort” way of travel. It’s nice and all, but you still have just you with you, if that makes any sense. Americans are famous for traveling all over the place and then taking “tours.” We did that a couple years back with my mother for her 80th birthday.

We took a cruise on Holland America lines, not that I would ever criticize them, or their service, I wouldn’t, the trip was fabulous, but it cannot compare to getting on a sailboat, sailing somewhere and meeting people, real people. Not servants, not other “rich” folks. Let me give just one other example, then I’ll get back to stories of Mexico. Cheryl and I got married in 2000. We took a long honeymoon trip to Bali. We stayed at a 5 star resort, the vacation deal was an “all inclusive” package deal. Anyhow, we took tours while there. That was the one way we got out and meet folks that was similar to “backdoor” travel I think.

So, on this one tour, we visited the “Mother” Temple, on the side of the largest volcano on the island. It was very interesting and all, but we enjoyed the talks our guide gave us more than anything. It’s always much more interesting to hear stories about a place than it is to “see” it. At least, that’s my personal opinion. That way (my thinking is) you have some sort of “experience” to ascribe meaning to the memory. A thing is just a thing unless you know what it’s used for, who used it and how it was used. That’s not the half of it though. On this particular tour, our guide had to become part chaperone, part tour guide, part nanny, you get the picture. We made a couple other stops that day before it started raining. We stopped for lunch at this restaurant on a hill side, and it had started to _really_ rain hard.

Cheryl and I were outside dancing in the rain. We’re just a couple weirdo’s I guess, we never grew up, neither one of us. Anyhow, we’re enjoying this monsoon, so that when we leave the restaurant we notice that the street we’re driving on, the only road there is really, is about 4-5 inches deep in water now, and the water is just pouring down this road. The road leads down the volcano from the mother temple, and there are just a couple side roads every now and then, and a few villages along the way. The Balinesian people are still doing their thing, riding their mopeds up the hill through this raging torrent of water (to get home I assume). You know they pile an entire family onto a moped don’t you? At least in 2000 that was the primary mode of transport on the island. So, we’re going down this hill, they’re going up the hill for the most part passing us with water splashing all over them as we go by.

Then the drivers are talking to local authorities over the radio and they find out that 3 bridges have been washed out this particular afternoon. We have to detour around another part of the island, and it took till about 2a.m. to get back to our hotel. Cheryl and I were fine, because everywhere we go we take food and water. But the other folks on the bus – the “tourists?” Those folks were furious with the driver, the tour guide, the bus company, their hotel, anybody they could vent on they did! Like it was their fault? Are you kidding me – this isn’t Disneyland for gosh sake!

So, like I said, I have never considered myself a tourist, and I hope I never do. I’m strictly an adventure traveler, and so is Cheryl. That’s one of those things that makes a couple truly compatible I think, if your philosophy about life is that it’s an adventure. You’re more apt to be awed and wonderstruck by things than you are if you simply go around looking at “stuff” and saying “Oh, that’s so pretty.” Maybe it’s Jesus who gives us that attitude, that each moment should be savored and contemplated for what you get out of it and what you can give back. I don’t think it’s human nature. All I’ve ever seen in this life is that most folks like to complain about things, but few ever try to do anything about it.

Gads, I got on a soapbox here! Sorry! I better end this chapter now and go on in the next about this trip on Pandora to Mexico. It was the only major trip we took on Pandora and there were other things that happened that make it quite a noteworthy journey.


One thought on “My Daddy Was A Sailor – Part 7

  1. Hey people!! Happy Thanksgiving!! .!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and every year I like to get into the mood-extend the holiday, since it were-by reading “Thanksgiving novels.” Of course, those stories are mostly about family and friends, about coming together to heal old hurts and giving them thanks for the gift of love. … . – —
    Have You Been Currently Far better Off Today Than You Were two Years Ago?

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