How did Dianne and I get here? How are we living in the tropics of Florida near the shores of the Gulf of Mexico? How did we escape the grips of suburbia in Northeast Ohio? How did I go from driving a semi tractor trailer to captaining a beautiful sailboat on Gulf Waters and meeting incredible people along the way? Why didn't I get to the Dry Tortugas sooner? Why is there a palm tree just outside my window in the kitchen? So many questions and only a lifetime to figure them out. Its been a while since I've spilled my guts on this blog, but now I've got some time between charters and here goes.
Since taking over Magic Wind Adventure Sailing in 2009 and offering the best sailing charters in Fort Myers, time is flying by. Not the sorta time that you regret flying by, but the kinda time that flies by and messes your hair up...taking you along for the ride. I like it. Dianne likes it. We've made some new friends along the way. I met a great guy in Fort Myers named Doctor Henn who performed my microdiscectomy on my back and got me back to normal after 13 years behind the wheel of a truck. Thanks Doc! Dianne like it when I can walk with her in the store and not lay on the floor to stop the pain. Ha! There are some really great people here in Southwest Florida. We look forward to meeting more of you.
Lets talk sailing in Southwest Florida. Star of Orion is sailing awesome! She's been given some serious attention lately. A new main sail to start. What a difference! Full battens, big roach, heavy cruising cloth....hang on tight! An electric conversion for the halyard winch was installed to help raise the new, heavier sail. Fresh bottom paint. Yep, we hauled Star out in April and my good friend Captain Ron sanded her bottom and applied 2-3 coats of Sea Hawk Island 77 anti-fouling paint. I replaced 3 thru hull fittings, removed one, and replaced some sea cocks and hoses. Her hull even got waxed above the waterline. She fast, safe, and beautiful on the water. She likes it. Inside here hull, she got a new A/C unit from Marvair. The old one locked up after 10+ years. In the head, we installed a new electric toilet from Jabsco. Push the button and watch it all go away. Love that thing. 170 watts of solar panels were mounted to the rear bimini top to help power all these new goodies. Almost 10 amps back to the batteries in full sun. Not bad!
In May, we sailed with 4 other boats to the Dry Tortugas and Key West. We left on May 15th with one of the boats in the group as the other 3 left earlier. Once we were in open water around the sandbar, we experienced pretty good seas left over from the previous night of storms. 6-10 footers at times that were needless to say...confused! Dianne got a case of sea sickness that lasted the remaining 18 hours of the trip. Because of her unwillingness to give up and stick it out, I've got a new respect and love for her. She never once asked to turn back and I would have if she asked. She wanted this trip as much as I did. She is amazing. After 20 hours, we arrived at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. What a site! If you ever get a chance to get here, do it. The bluest, clearest water we've ever seen. The fort has an amazing history and so little people know if it. I feel blessed that I've gotten to experience this place and the surrounding waters. There are pictures on my facebook page that you need to see. The snorkeling was out of this world and the fort was fascinating.
After 2 days in the Dry Tortugas, we all set sail for Key West via the southern route south of the shoals and Marquesas Keys. Smooth, calm waters were in the forecast and were a welcome sight from the trip previous. South of Marquesas Key, we passed a Mel Fisher salvage boat. Mel Fisher was the man who found the wreck of the Atocha, a spanish galleon that sunk in the 1620's. After talking with a rep at the Mel Fisher Museum in Key West, I was told that is still the wreck of the Atocha they are working. Only about half of that wreck has been recovered. We sailed right over a 17th century spanish galleon wreck with endless treasure right under our keel! How cool is that. It was one of our highlights. Dianne and I now sport silver coins (replicas) made from the actual sunken treasure of the Atocha around our necks. A piece of history nearly 400 years old.
We arrived in Key West after just 10 hours. We docked at the Galleon Resort as usual in the heart of Key West. Some highlights included Alex dancing at Irish Kevins, fresh caught Mahi Mahi on the charcoal grill, shopping with Dianne, drinks and live music at Schooner Wharf Bar, and of course Duval Street. Key West is a special place and when you arrive by sailboat after many miles and hours, its even more special. Don't know. You feel like you hold a secret, but its a secret not everyone can understand. 3 Days in Key West and it was time to head home.
We set sail for For Myers at about 11am. The Trip took us 20 hours again and was pretty uneventful. Lots of motor sailing as the winds were on our nose most of the trip. Again, Dianne impressed me. This whole trip she was more than my wife, but also a competent partner sailing with me. I look at her differently today and look forward to our next long sail together.
On all the legs of this trip, there is alot of time to think. Lots of dark, star filled evenings. Dianne is usually asleep next to me and I'm wedged into a comfortable position that allow me to keep watch without using too much energy. In darkest of night, when you feel your most tired, your mind awakens. Like I've mentioned in prior blogs, you start thinking about all the people in your life both past and present. Its just you and them out there on the sea. I smile at some thoughts, hold back tears on others. Its some real highs and lows, that believe it or not, feel like they just now found their exit and are escaping. We needed this. I needed this. If you ever really want to "get away", sail a boat well offshore in the middle of the night. You'll find a new religion...I promise.
As you can see, life is pretty darn good. Special moments are happening at a rapid fire pace. The sun is shining and the waters are warm. Sailing on the Gulf of Mexico is special. In a perfect world, I would have Dianne sailing with me everyday. But for now, she's got the real job with benefits. I will just have to keep sailing and sharing these moments with my guests. Not a bad gig!
Capt. Dan Mendat