This was so damned amusing that we just had to share it. LOTH has now had a Facebook post go viral. You may have noticed that we added a Follow Us On Facebook box off to the right side of the page a few months ago. We’ve been throwing little bits of this and that up on Facebook when we want to share something that doesn’t really merit a full-blown blog post. Typically we get between 50 and 100 views on a post. On a really good day, maybe 200. There aren’t any young women in bikinis on our site to drive traffic, after all (unless maybe they’re in the background). And that’s fine, because it’s really not important to us. We just want our friends and family to be able to stay up with what we’ve been doing. So it was a bit surprising when our recent post about seeing Daniel Craig shooting a new James Bond trailer at our favorite beach bar last weekend topped 500 views within minutes of posting.
We knew something was definitely going on when we checked again while stopping at Starbucks on the way home and saw we’d hit 1000 views. Before we turned in for the night, it was over 5,000. Next morning, over 10,000 people had seen it. It was really funny to watch. 25,000 views, 30,000. Now we’re waiting to see if we can make it to 50,000. All for a silly little post that was supposed to be a joke and which has nothing at all to do with cruising. Yes, the Internet can be a pretty strange place. But it has given us a few days worth of chuckles. 🙂
It’s been almost two years now since this blog was born. We’ve covered a lot of ground in that time as we moved inexorably toward our goal of breaking free from a wage slave existence and departing for our Life On The Hook™. There have been some big days along the way, which of course we’ve documented here. But today is among the biggest. You see, Rhonda got up, got dressed, and went to work this morning for the very last time. It has been her greatest leap of faith, voluntarily retiring from a well paying professional job for no other reason than that she loves me and believes in me when I say that we’ll be fine in every sense, and that the journey is going to be amazing. And I love her for taking the leap with me. With this last major step, we’re now so close we can taste it.
So the last big push now starts. Tomorrow begins a flurry of final preparations. Doctor’s visits to get prescriptions written and vaccinations administered. Getting our vehicles ready to sell. Clearing out all the onboard stuff that we needed for a comfortable life at the pier in order to bring onboard the gear we’ll need once we depart. Updating our will and providing family with guidance regarding how to handle our affairs in our absence. And of course, provisioning for a voyage where we never know when we might encounter the next grocery store or market.
As a menacing storm bears down on Pensacola, rescuers frantically search for a missing sailor who mysteriously vanished from his boat at Palafox Pier…
If we weren’t actually living it, I would have thought it was the plot for a television drama. But a truly epic storm did have us dead in its sights:
Everyone went nervously about their preparations, one eye on their boat, evaluating its readiness, the other on the ominously threatening sky. Hail and damaging winds of up to 60 mph with the possibility of tornadoes was the prediction. Just a week earlier a similar storm had wrecked havoc on the town of Century in the northern part of the county, a funnel cloud carving a 16 mile long swath of destruction through the center of town. This storm was predicted to be worse.
That alone would have put everybody on edge. But then there were the dozen police and Search and Rescue personnel walking the piers of the marina, scanning the waters for signs of what everyone hoped they wouldn’t find—the body of one of our dockmates. When he had failed to show up for work the Sunday before, his friends thought it odd. It became even odder when they arrived at the marina the next day to check Painkiller, the catamaran on B dock that he called home. They found the boat unlocked, his wallet, keys and cell phone all onboard. No signs of foul play. He was just gone, having vanished from the face of the earth. There was some murmuring that he drank heavily. Rumors that he had last been seen at The Oar House and Pensacola Bay Brewery on Saturday night. Was it true? I don’t know. But it pointed to an obvious supposition. Perhaps he had returned to his boat late Saturday night, possibly drunk, and somehow gone overboard. If so, he may still be somewhere in the marina…
Was it plausible? Well, it had only been the week before that I had fished another sailor out of the marina waters who had staggered home drunk and fallen in while trying to board his boat. He’d split his chin open when it hit the swim platform of his boat as he went in, and was bleeding so profusely that I called EMS once he was fished from the water and laid out on the pier. If he had knocked himself out (and it’s a miracle he didn’t), then he probably would have drowned. So yes, I think it’s entirely possible.
It was now 48 hours since the man failed to arrive at work, and searchers began the grim task of searching the surrounding waters.
Divers arrived to investigate under the boat, and a cadaver dog was lead through the marina. They searched for hours, while the missing man’s mother stood quietly watching from the patio of the restaurant that overlooks the marina. I don’t imagine I’ll ever again complain about having a bad day after watching what she had to endure, standing for hours in the cold west wind while they searched the marina waters for her son’s body.
The storm finally grew too close. The divers were called from the water, and the search boats returned to their slips. Resolution would have to wait for another day.
That night a tornado touched down on the northeast side town, just blocks away from the apartments where our youngest son lives. Over 70 homes were severely damaged or destroyed. The good news is that no one lost their lives. To the surprise of some, we rode out the storm onboard. But we had six stout lines securing us tightly to the pier, and other than a great deal of rocking and rolling, we did just fine.
And first thing this morning, the missing man’s mother resumed her vigil as the search for his body resumed…
In The Beast Arrives, we posted about our new 55 lb anchor from Mantus Anchors in Kemah, Texas. Once it was hung on the bow roller, we then had the little matter of what to do with our old 35 lb Manson Supreme. Since both anchors are modern spade designs with roll bars, they weren’t going to fit side-by-side on the bow. But the Manson is just too good of an anchor to let go of. After all, the only time it ever let us down was during the 50+ knot winds we encountered in Our Perfect Storm. I had this idea that if I could find a way to store it on the stern pulpit, it might make a great emergency brake if we ever needed to stop the boat in a hurry.
As it turns out, the folks at Mantus make what looked like a terrific solution to our dilemma. It’s a rail-mounted anchor bracket that holds a wide variety of anchors. But the specs on the unit say that while it can carry up to a 45 lb Mantus or Rocna, it can only hold a 25 lb Manson. Wondering why this would be so since all three anchors are very similar, I called Mantus to ask why.
It turns out that the stock on the Manson Supreme is extra tall to incorporate their unique rock slot, and this prevents it from fitting in the bracket properly. But this is where the folks at Mantus stepped up. Rather than just saying, “So sorry, thanks for calling, buh-bye,” they instead offered to grind the bracket so that the internal rollers could be set deeper and allow it to take our Manson anchor. For free. While also giving us a Miami Boat Show discount, when we weren’t even at the show. Sold!
Unfortunately, after taking some measurements, they emailed me back to say that it wouldn’t be possible to modify the bracket the way they thought. So we brainstormed a little. And I said, “You know, it looks to me like if you removed the bracket rollers and just used the roller axle bolts, the anchor should fit.”
“You might be right,” they said. And then they actually took the time to remove the rollers from one of their brackets and take it to West Marine, where they pulled a 35 lb Manson Supreme off the shelf to test it. And then they took pictures and emailed them to me to show that it would work! Now understand, I’m not talking about a $5,000 item here. This bracket was less than $150. How hard would it have been for them to just say, “Not worth the effort,” and blow us off? So I’d definitely call that “going the extra mile.”
So the bracket arrived and after playing around with it a bit, I found that you could leave the bottom roller in place, only the top one had to be removed to allow the 35 lb Manson to fit. I just slid a short length of scrap water hose onto the axle bolt to cushion the anchor. Color me happy. 🙂
In addition, I had heard about some fancy new rail clamps that Mantus had developed, and I wanted to try some. They looked like they could be really useful as we work out where we’re going to store all the gear we plan to bring onboard prior to departure. So I purchased a pair. When they arrived, I tested one out, snapping it onto our bimini frame, the new top rail we recently added, and the companionway handholds. But when I tried it on the aluminum cargo rack we had made for our cabin top, I broke the clamp. I could tell that there was some extra resistance when I tried to clamp it, but I forced it, and it snapped. I was really puzzled by this, because everything I tested the clamp on was supposed to be 1″ railing. But I pulled out my micrometer and took some measurements, and learned that while the stainless steel bimini frame, top rail and handholds were all 1.000″, the aluminum cargo rack tubing measured 1.04″. This was apparently enough to overload the jaws on the clamp when I tried to close it, as it just wasn’t able to compress that aluminum tube down to 1″.
“Oh well, lesson learned,” I thought. I also thought that the folks at Mantus might like to know that their clamps probably aren’t suitable for use on aluminum railing, so I sent them an email describing what had happened, along with a picture of the broken clamp. That’s all, I wasn’t really looking for anything from them. But less than 30 minutes later I received a return mail apologizing for the problem I’d encountered and informing me that they were sending me two more clamps for my trouble!
So this is a little shout out to the folks at Mantus Anchors thanking them for their devotion to customer support. A company that tries this hard to earn your business is a pleasure doing business with.
Rhonda: “I still have five days of vacation left this year. How do you think I should use them?”
Robert: “It’s getting too late in the season to spend a week out sailing. Maybe we could take a cruise?”
Rhonda: “How much would that cost?
Robert: “Probably about $2,500 all in.”
Rhonda: “That’s a lot of money to spend when we still need things for the boat.”
Robert: “Yeah, I suppose it is. Well, I’ve been wanting to make a Disney run again. Care to spend a few days in Orlando?”
Rhonda: “What’s that cost?”
Robert: “Well, I think we’d be looking at about $400 a day with the room, park tickets and meals.”
Rhonda: “Hmmmm. Pretty pricey.”
Robert: “I suppose so. I guess for the cost of three or four days at the parks, we could just about pay for the dive gear we want.”
Rhonda: “So what do you want me to do with my five days?”
Robert: “Well, you have been telling your Aunt Evelyn in Charleston that we’d come visit her someday.”
Rhonda: “And from there we could drive up to North Carolina and visit the rest of my family. I’m sure they’d put us up, which would save a bunch of money. Probably feed us, too.”
Robert: “And I suppose we could swing through Jacksonville on the way to Charleston, and that way we could pick up the dive gear I’ve been wanting.”
And so Rhonda’s Family Farewell Tour was born. Her father was one of ten children, which means she has a lot of aunts and uncles. And they were all born in the 1920’s and 30’s, which means they’re getting pretty darned old. And since our plan is to embark on a five year mission seeking out the absolute best Caribbean beach bar on the planet, well, the odds are fairly high that many of them may no longer be with us upon our anticipated return. So we packed our bags, rented a car (we always prefer to put road trip miles on someone else’s vehicle rather than our own), and hit the road, headed northeast.
It was definitely a trip that was long overdue. Even though Rhonda and I have been married for 36 years, I’d never met most of these people, and it was nice to make their acquaintance. One thing I learned is that there are certainly some good genes on Rhonda’s side of the family. Even though they are all in their 80’s and 90’s, they were all active, alert and wittily charming in that down-home southern sort of way.
Between stops to visit extended family, I was able to indulge my inner history buff. Charleston is where the American Civil War basically began, and Fort Sumter has always been on my places-to-see-someday list.
Consisting basically of an adapted 42 inch wide steam boiler, the vessel’s propulsion was provided by seven men straining at a handcrank, while the eighth man steered and controlled the depth.
Imagine sitting here for hours on end, cranking for all you’re worth along with six other men, the only light being that of a single candle. (This mockup is actually about 25% larger than the real Hunley)
A truly amazing thing to consider is that it was only 80 years, or the span of a single human life, that separated that primitive weapon from this scene, from the engine room of the WWII era submarine USS Clamagore at the nearby Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
While at Patriot’s Point, we toured the vessels on display:
and came across this memorial, which I didn’t even know existed. It’s dedicated to the men who served on submarines during the Cold War and their families, 1947–1989. So for my submarine service brothers out there:
After a week of visiting extended family and taking in the historical sights, it was time to return home. Since we still had a couple of days before Rhonda had to return to work, we stopped off in Atlanta for a day, where we found Pensacola’s wayward observation wheel. For almost a year, this wheel had graced our beach in Pensacola:
before abandoning us and moving north to Olympic Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta.
I guess we forgive it for giving up on us and moving on, but personally, I think it looked a lot better on the beach.
It was an impressive facility, supposedly the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere.
It’s breathtaking to stand in front of a 28 foot tall, 63 foot wide viewing window gazing into a six million gallon tank, watching whale sharks and enormous mantas swim majestically about. It’s a stop well worth your time if you’re ever in Atlanta. Allow at least four hours to take it all in!
Since we still had a little time, and it was right next door, we stopped in to visit The World of Coca-Cola, because I basically wanted to see how you could turn a soft drink into a major attraction. It actually turned out to be a fun two-to-three hour diversion, outlining the history of how one man’s drink formula grew into a worldwide multi-billion-dollar business.
Part of the self-guided tour included a look at what is supposed to be the vault where the only written copy of the formula for Coca-Cola is kept:
From there, the tour concludes in the tasting room, where you can try samples of over 100 beverages from around the world that are produced by the Coca-Cola company. Some were quite yummy. Some tasted like stale bilge water. All represent the unique taste preferences of the particular cultures for which they are produced. I’m just glad we escaped before descending into a diabetic coma.
It was a good trip, and one I’m glad we made the time to take. But with our time winding up and Thanksgiving right around the corner, we hit the highway for the five hour drive back to Pensacola. We now have the holidays to plan and prepare for (our first holiday season as full-time liveaboards), and then we’ll have one more big push to take care of the last few things on Eagle Too that we believe she still needs to be ready to transport us to wherever we wish to go. Stay tuned!
I had a post half-drafted in my head this morning that would have looked at the ins and outs of propane tanks. But while I was finishing my breakfast and sipping a third cup of coffee, I heard the distant cadence of a marching band drumline drifting on the cool morning breeze, and I suddenly remembered today’s parade.
Even Google Took Note With A Special Doodle
It’s Veteran’s Day here in the United States. Some confuse it with Memorial Day, which is the day in May on which we honor those who gave their lives in service to our country. I suppose I can understand why there’s a bit of confusion on the matter, since the primary focus on both days seems to be Huge Blowout Sales! on furniture, cars, and crap at the mall. But while much of the world observes November 11th as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day to mark the end of the First World War and recognize those who gave their lives fighting it, here in the US it’s a day to salute anyone who has ever worn the uniform of our country and their families. And I just felt that the propane tanks could wait for a day or two.
So. Some random observations, since this is basically a stream of consciousness exercise.
First, one of my favorite quotes on the subject of veterans and military service comes from President John F. Kennedy, who in 1963 said:
“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy’.”
I feel a surge of pride whenever I come across that quote, because as you may know, I’m a Navy veteran. As is my brother, our oldest son, and Rhonda’s father. I guess you could say it’s in our blood. Playing a very small part in the mighty effort to collapse the Soviet Union and free hundreds of millions of people from communist oppression is something I’m rather proud of. Now let me be clear here—I didn’t enjoy my time in the Navy, I tolerated it. We had an agreement, the Navy and I—I’d give them six years of my life, and they’d teach me interesting and useful things. And we both held up our ends of the bargain. The morning I awoke and realized that I was no longer in the Navy is among my happiest of days. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it if I had it to do over again. It was that important to everything Rhonda and I have accomplished since.
Another quote I’ve seen recently that resonates with me is this one:
I once took a solemn oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Be advised that no one has ever relieved me of my duties under this oath.
I think its a sentiment that most veterans can relate to, this belief that even though we no longer wear the uniform, we feel a special obligation to continue to do what we can to ensure that the blessings of liberty accrue to our children and grandchildren, and thus why so many of us tend to be of strong opinion and politically minded. Particularly when we see the increasing level of contempt many of our institutions seem to have for our founding document and the freedoms it grants.
I have to just shake my head at many “adults” in today’s world, and how much they would have benefitted and grown as people if they had put down their video game controllers and smart phones, pulled up their panties, and given four to six years of their lives in service to something greater than themselves. Because at least until recently, the military hasn’t had the ability or desire to coddle and infantilize young men and women the way the rest of society does. You’re given great responsibility at a very young age, and expected to perform without excuse.
When I was 22 years old, I sat at the controls of a nuclear reactor on a billion dollar atomic submarine that carried more destructive firepower than all the munitions dropped in World War II. I had a superviser, an Engineering Watch Officer, to make sure I didn’t do something batshit crazy, but I knew more about how the reactor operated than he did and was basically trusted to make the right decision no matter what happened. And a lot can happen on a submarine at test depth, believe me. And you don’t get to hit “pause” so you can look up a cheat code to fix it. If you’ve never had the opportunity, I wish you could have lunch someday at the club on a military base, and see just how incredibly, almost unbelievably young these men and women are who fly enormous aircraft, pilot huge ships, lead armored brigades, and yes, drive submarines through the ocean’s blackest depths.
Today, a 26 year old is still a “child” covered under their parents’ medical insurance. At an age when I’d already finished my six years of service and moved on with my life, many of them are still living at home, bitching about wanting $15 an hour to serve french fries. Now let me be very clear that I think there are a lot of really terrific young men and women out there, working hard, making good decisions and applying themselves, improving their lives and the lives of those around them. But it also seems that our focus on meritless self esteem and cultural narcissism has produced way too many self indulgent children-in-adult-bodies who believe they are owed a comfortable existence and entitled to freedom from exposure to anything that could hurt their feelings or make them the least bit uncomfortable.
I thank God that our country has that strong foundation of 20 million armed forces veterans and their families to lean upon, people who know what it means to take the watch, stand a post, remain vigilant, and accomplish the mission regardless of the challenges. I believe we owe them all a debt of gratitude for voluntarily answering the call to service, as it is upon this foundation that I believe our country will continue to remain a place of unparalleled opportunity and freedom. So if you would, please join me in thanking a veteran today.
Now I’m off to Starbucks to get my free cup of coffee… 🙂
“What’s that?” Rhonda asked as she arrived home from having dinner with family and climbed aboard in the gathering dusk.
Sitting in the cockpit awaiting her return, I took a final deep pull on my cigar, and then leaned my head back and exhaled a stream of pungent smoke into the cool night air. “Drums,” I said. “They’ve been at it for over an hour now. Want to go see?”
“Sure,” she replied, her curiosity aroused.
A moment to fix a couple of quick cocktails, and then we ventured out into the deepening darkness, following the rhythms riding the mild sea breeze. They led us to Plaza de Luna, where we encountered this somewhat unusual scene:
As the percussionists explored variations on a rhythm, a small crowd of onlookers gathered, some swaying and twirling to the tribal beat. As we watched, others arrived carrying drums and took their places in the group.
After following the tempo through what seemed every possible iteration, someone would spontaneously vary the beat, and the drummers would adjust to the mutation in the rhythm as the dancers adapted their movements to keep time.
“Well this is something we haven’t seen before,” Rhonda observed.
“Indeed. In the ten months that we’ve been here, this is definitely new,” I agreed.
Who were they, and why were they drumming at our marina on a mild Tuesday evening? We have no idea. Like the man with the wild hair and bushy beard who randomly shows up to blow a ram’s horn (the voice of God, he calls it), it’s just another one of those little things that adds to the atmosphere of this place and makes it an extremely interesting location to live.
We may not have yet thrown off the lines and headed somewhere south of somewhere, but if one of the goals of cruising is to fill your life with new and interesting experiences, then I think we’re already well on our way. 🙂
Here’s something you don’t see often. It’s the (replica) 16th century Spanish galleon El Galeon sailing into Pensacola Bay.
I’m pretty sure the round white fenders aren’t historically accurate.
We do get some interesting visitors around here. You may have read our earlier post Meet The New Neighbor!, in which I described the visit of the Spanish tall ship Juan Sebastion de Elcano earlier this year. Well they must have given Pensacola a good review on Spain’s edition of TripAdvisor, because now another Spanish sailing vessel has dropped by to say hi.
While nowhere near as pretty a ship as the Elcano was, this one has stronger ties to our area. It was on vessels like this one that Spanish colonists first sailed into our bay over 450 years ago to establish America’s first European settlement. In fact, our local university’s archaeology department is currently conducting an investigation and analysis of two similar vessels that sank in Pensacola Bay during the great hurricane of 1559. The one that cost Pensacola the title of “America’s Oldest City” and allowed St. Augustine to grab the glory instead.
So what is she doing here? I have no idea. Unlike the Elcano, there was no one here to meet her when she arrived. No one official, anyway. Not the Mayor, no dignitaries from the local Navy base, not a crew from the TV station, Just a lone drone buzzing around shooting arrival video. The $10 per head they’re charging to tour the vessel can’t possibly cover their operating expenses. But I’m not complaining, mind you. We’re happy to have her here.
Some things I learned while talking to a crew member:
She’s a wood and fiberglass composite. After the hull was built using traditional shipbuilding techniques, it was given a layer of fiberglass.
The sails are dacron rather than canvas.
The running rigging, however, is sisal rather than nylon.
The masts are made of laminated lumber rather than tree trunks.
The ship has a modern diesel engine and generator, current electronic navigation instruments (there’s a radar there but you have to really look for it), and even air conditioning.
She carries ten cast iron cannon, but they’re not functional (darn!)
Just like the galleons of old, she has a flat bottom and no keel, and really can’t sail in any direction except dead downwind. I was told she can take 50 foot seas from the stern with no problem, but hit her with a five foot sea on the beam and she wallows at least 35 degrees.
She did not appear in any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Would you like to take a brief look around? Here are a few shots we took when we toured her.
I knew that someday I would write this post. It’s been long enough now that I think I can actually capture these thoughts and not be overwhelmed by the feelings that result. I decided to finally address this subject because I’ve seen several discussions lately on other blogs I follow that talk about the costs of cruising. They always focus entirely on the dollars and cents of it all. But there can be other costs to embracing this life that I seldom if ever see mentioned. So for those of you considering embarking on your own cruising adventure, here’s one cost some of you may have to incur that you might want to think about and prepare for.
I guess you could say Tiger was a rescue kitty. We met him one night at the home of friends. Their daughter had found him, hungry and trembling, hiding under a car in the street in front of their house. He couldn’t have been more than six or eight weeks old, and practically fit in the palm of my hand. We all just assumed that someone had abandoned the poor thing in the neighborhood to either be loved or lost.
Our family cat had recently vanished. I can’t say we really missed him terribly. His name was Sneaker, and he just wasn’t much into people. You have no way of telling what they’ll turn out to be when they’re just tiny balls of fluff, whether this will be a cat that would enjoy fooling around with the kids, or one that just bitches and scratches and acts like the only reason for you to exist is to feed him regularly. Unfortunately, Sneaker had turned out to be more the latter than the former. We don’t really know what happened to him. He just didn’t come home one day. It’s possible he ran afoul of one of the coyotes or owls or hawks in the neighborhood, or sometimes cats just do that—wander off and never come back.
So there we were, not really looking for another cat, when this little guy showed up, frightened and hungry. Our friends already had a full complement of pets—several dogs and cats, and I think their son even had a snake. And we had no pets and this empty cat dish that wasn’t being used. None of us could even consider putting him back out in the street or taking him to the animal shelter.
So Tiger joined the family. And he actually turned out to be a pretty darned good cat. He’d bring us mice and moles and the occasional cardinal or mockingbird, because that’s what cats do to show affection. He’d tolerate a pretty amazing amount of abuse from the kids. While he’d sometimes seek alone time in some hidden place to sleep away most of the day, he would also often follow us around or lay where he could keep an eye on us if we were outside working. He knew early evening was Cocktail Time, and would almost always appear from wherever he had been when we sat down at our patio table to have a day-ending adult beverage. And although he spent the majority of his time outside, he always, always came home again.
But the day came 14 years later when the kids were grown and gone, the house had been sold, and the movers were in the process of packing our remaining possessions off to storage. We were pursuing a crazy dream, embarking on this Life On The Hook™. Everything was falling into place. Everything except Tiger. We just couldn’t see how he could possibly adapt to this next phase of our lives. He’d spent 14 years as a free-range kittie, living as lord and master of our four acre property, which he regularly patrolled and defended. We thought it unlikely, unrealistic, indeed even cruel to try and force him to suddenly exist on a 37 foot boat at a marina in the heart of downtown Pensacola with all its people, dogs, and scary garbage trucks. And I should mention that Tiger hated litter boxes. Absolutely refused to use one unless he was about to burst and it was his only option. That’s one of the reasons we’d turn him out for the day when we both went to work. We were both still working when we first moved onboard, and we just couldn’t see leaving him on the dock every morning to let him wander the busy streets of downtown Pensacola.
Our boys couldn’t take him. One lived in an apartment that didn’t allow pets, and the other one already had a cat and couldn’t accept another. Oh, they loved Tiger a lot, but I think that somehow they just assumed that Mom and Dad would figure something out and it would all be fine, because usually we did and it was, no matter what the problem.
None of our relatives wanted him. None of our friends wanted him. None of the complete and total strangers who came to our yard sales wanted him. And since he was fourteen years old, even the animal rescue shelters all said he was just too old. They prefered to take in cats less than five years old, because they were adoptable. While the county animal shelter is a no-kill facility, we couldn’t bear the thought of him living his remaining years in a 2 foot square cage. We even briefly considered just leaving him behind, hoping that maybe our home’s new owners would take him in. But it was equally likely that they’d have their own pets already and he would end up starving alone in the woods.
Unfortunately, Tiger didn’t help the situation. Apparently in the year before this all played out, another cat owning family had moved somewhere close by. A family whose cat was younger and tougher than Tiger, and who routinely beat the living crap out of him. Three times we had him at the vet’s office having abscesses on his face drained and festering wounds fixed, we assume incurred in territorial fights. So even if we’d ask someone if they’d please consider giving Tiger a home, he really didn’t present his best appearance. He was a bit shredded up.
So the day finally came, the day I’d become increasingly resigned to. With the way that everything else just fell into place, I’d hoped against all odds that surely something would happen and Tiger would find a home. But it never came to pass. The sale was closed, the furniture was gone, and we were moving to the Homewood Suites until we could get Eagle Too out of the shipyard and back in the water. And so I had to perform that duty that husbands and fathers often have to do. Rhonda and I hugged Tiger, and petted him, and thanked him for the fourteen years of love and companionship he’d given us. And then while she went outside to compose herself, I put him in his carrier and took him to the veterinarian’s office to be put down.
The last picture I can find of Tiger
It was a hard thing to do. Even now, almost a year later, I’ve had to take several breaks while writing this post. If circumstances had been different, maybe we’d have had other options. If he’d been younger, or more of an indoor cat, or even better able to tolerate a litter box, maybe we could have made it work. But we knew in our hearts that taking him from the only home he’d ever known, where he was free to roam over acres of fields and woodlands, and confine him to a 37 foot boat, would leave him miserable. I can’t imagine how he would have reacted the first time we threw off the lines and went for a sail. I know there are people who sail with cats onboard. We just couldn’t see Tiger adapting to that life. And so we did what we felt we had to do. But it was a cost that still takes a toll on us.
Was it worth the price we had to pay? Of course. Two people don’t make providing a home for a pet for the final two or three years of its life the focus of their lives. That would just be crazy. As I’ve said in several previous posts, you never know what the future may bring. Right now we have the family circumstances, the financial ability, and most importantly, the good health necessary to embark on a Life On The Hook™. If we’d sat around for three years waiting for Tiger to live out his time, who knows if any of those would have still been true.
But I can say with all my heart and soul that I wish it were a price that we had not had to pay.
No, we’re not the type of people who dress up our animals. I just thought this would be funny, and Tiger was willing to put up with it for a few minutes.
Rhonda’s maternal grandfather Byron Woodside taught her to sail. He would take her out on Chesapeake Bay in his Cal 25, where he showed her basic boat handling and how to use a chart to maintain a plot. He called her Skipper. Thanks to his efforts, when Rhonda and I met, she already came equipped with a basic understanding of port and starboard, range and bearing, a feel for the wind and an eye for depth, and the ability to tell when there was too much or too little of either.
Mr. Woodside passed away a long time ago. Rhonda and I were newly married, and decades away from having our own boat. So he never got to see what an accomplished sailor she grew up to be.
Rhonda’s mother also passed away six or seven years ago, and Rhonda’s connection through blood to her grandfather was irrevocably severed.
Last week, we had the privilege of taking a delightful lady out for a sail. Martha is a spry woman who, even though she’s experienced almost 80 years of life on this world of ours, had never sailed before. A woman who was an old friend and high school classmate of Rhonda’s mother, and who had known Mr. Woodside very well.
We motored when the wind was light. We sailed when it picked up a little. We offered Martha the wheel, and she willingly took it. We saw dolphins leaping. We saw a waterspout. And she had a wonderful time.
And when we were done, she told Rhonda, “Your grandfather would have been very proud of you.” And the connection was finally made.
I didn’t know Mr. Woodside very well, but he appears to have been an extraordinary gentleman. A lawyer and a senior member of the Securities and Exchange Commission under three Presidents, he was sent to Japan by President Truman after WWII to help them create a new postwar economy. But he was a man that was so grounded in the soil that he and his wife also ran a chicken farm on the rural outskirts of Washington D.C. So I have no idea what he might have thought of our plans to spend the next few years being gypsies of the sea. But he loved to sail. And we have it on good authority that he would have indeed been very proud of his little Skipper.