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When your plans change - sailing a "big boat" in Florida Dec 2006.
By Tony DiStefano

My winter vacation was to take the big boat that I own with Ed Goodhue and another from its resting place of St. Pete Florida to the keys for Christmas. Friends from Arizona were joining Mona and me for the trip.

Rule number one; do not try to do a three day sail (223 miles) with non sailors. We left early the first day, after 6 hours of motor sailing we had gotten about 35 miles from the dock when mutiny set in. This is boring and we want to do something. It was like being with kids on a car trip. The weather was a bit cloudy and warm but no wind so no excitement.

Now behind schedule it was decided to go back to the dock and do day trips using the boat as a motel (not what a sailboat is for but then again this has 2 staterooms and 2 baths.) So this is what we did with a trip each day out into the bay with little or no wind fished and relaxed till after Christmas when the guests left. We were visited by another set of guests from New Jersey who wanted to sail, it was overcast but windy and we hit 6.7 on the GPS great sailing.

Rule number two: You can do it. With just Mona and I there was no one to help with the launching and docking (Mona does not do that) we sat on the boat reading when I decided to take it out. And sure enough we got out; Mona did help with the lines. We had sailed and back again to the dock with no dents in the boat or my pride. (Go no faster than you want to hit something).

Rule number three: Do not listen to the people on the dock. The boat in the slip across from me (a 54 foot Irwin) was leaving for the 2 day trip and those of us in the area helped with the cast off. There was a little problem and the words "too much boat for the owner" came up. It was my turn to leave and no one was around so with those words in mind I was overly careful and it took much longer as I kept watching to see if anyone was looking, and still made it out and in with no dents.

Rule number four: Don't let them know you have fear. The roller furler for the jib was not working as halyard was twisted at the top of the mast. Someone had to go up and there was only Mona and she would not go. So I had to do it up the 40-45 foot mast. I did it (some view from up there) and again no dents. A little work on the furler and it worked fine.

Rule number five: Install the depth finder you brought with you. Left the dock again getting to be a pro, sailing was great we were clipping along at 5.5 heading for Fort Desoto beach for the night. We were talking and just enjoying the boat when the water color change and before I could adjust my direction the boat came to a sudden stop. I put on the motor but it was no help. Unlike my Mac (additional 12 feet and much more weight) I could not get out and move it. As if they knew there was trouble first one then about 10 dolphins came around the boat and stayed there till towboat US confirmed my location. Then they were gone, just before the towboat arrived the dolphins came back and did a circle of the boat and gone again. It was as if they knew we were ok now. What a thrill that was. It was also a thrill to find out that my unlimited towing made the tow free.

Rule number six: It's a sailboat with no place to go so just enjoy and let it happen. I could not have been in a better place to be grounded. The water was clear and the weather was beautiful so we turned up the radio and opened our books and enjoyed till the tow was present. I still have five days left and cannot wait to see what else will happen. But I'm mellow and can get the boat in and out of the dock with no dents, they will not talk about me. What more can you ask for.


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