Towards the end of my time working for Lockheed Martin we won the Orion contract. I did most of Quality Engineering acceptance for the drawings and work orders for the Ground Test Article and for the capsule for the OFT-1 flight test article while working at Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. When we finished the work at MAF the capsule was moved to Denver for testing, and eventually it was sent to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. I needed one more year to get full retirement so I volunteered to work at KSC on TDY (Temporary Duty Yonder) and they took me up on it. I saw an opportunity I couldn’t pass on. When Terri and I were married we had only one week for a Honeymoon before we had to be back at work so we only went to Catalina Island on the ferry. It was really a much better honeymoon than one might expect. We weren’t rushing anywhere or blowing a large sum of money. We got to hang out and relax away from everyone. Two amazing things happened there. Terri got carded for the first (and only) time ever and that meant I had to buy wine at a store and take it to our room. We did get a laugh out of that however. She’d been sipping margaritas etc all over the place with me during meals. I was usually the one that got carded. The other amazing thing that happened was that we set our first long term goal as a couple. We were watching the various catamarans and sailboats cruising in and out of Avalon Harbor and I finally told her we would be idiots if we didn’t do that at least for a while. She agreed and when we got back we started looking at yachts. We never found a live aboard slip in Los Angeles, or a boat to live on in the non-existent slip. Eventually I was transferred to Denver and that dream was put on a back burner. One year and seven months later we were headed to Mississippi and some acreage. Neighborhoods no longer agreed with me. That goal (or dream) we had set began to simmer a bit, so we looked at boats several more times, but still we never bought one. After nearly forty years I think we both had pretty much decided that particular dream was never going to bear out; but when I had the opportunity to go to KSC the dream reared its head. I reminded her of it and she also saw the opportunity.
I started out at a nappy motel in Cocoa Beach and wasn’t there for long. It was a decent studio apartment arrangement so I didn’t have to eat out all of the time, but my first night there someone opened fire with a 9MM in a one sided gun fight. I was tracking their progress along the wall outside and keeping the maximum number of cinder blocks between myself and them and I found myself laughing at the irony. Finally I heard a windshield cave in and then a long silence. The entire area was dead silent for twenty minutes and a few police cars cruised by slowly before it returned to normal. When I finally went outside everything was cleaned up with no evidence that anything had ever happened. That weekend I began my search for a sailboat and a new place to live for my stay in Florida. I went to a marina in Titusville to look at one boat, only to find and buy a different one. I can’t remember what kind of boat I looked at first, but eight months later when some kids sailed away in it I wondered if they’d ever be heard from again. That boat looked like it would handle very nicely in blue water, but there was very little room inside of it. The other boat I looked at was one I wasn’t familiar with. This boat was a Contest 31. When I went back to my room I sent pictures to my wife and began researching the boat. One of the stories I ran across was about a guy named Zeke Hollander, I think his name was. He had been sailing back from the Bahamas when he was caught in a storm. The boat rolled twice in fifty-two and 1/2 foot waves. It developed a six and 1/2 foot crack at the deck to hull joint, and he still made it in. I knew right then that was the boat for me.
You might wonder how I knew that was the boat for me so here it is: I have really weird luck and you might not believe me unless I give you an example, so here are a few. I point back to my first night in the motel in Florida. Then there was that second winter in our house out in the country. I had taken a shower and was sitting on the couch listening to the wood burning stove humming along. Suddenly our two dogs began to bark, jumping off of the porch and snarling viscously. A deep rumble was starting to fill the room. I knew what it was, a swamp panther and a damn big one based on the sound. I walked into the bedroom tossing the .357 magnum on the bed next to my wife along with the ammo. “Load it please.”
“Why?” As she tried to shrug off the sleep she’d been under the influence of.
Suddenly the dogs retreated to a spot right under our room and Terri was just starting to put the first round in when the panther let out a roar and swung wildly at the dogs and even our cats who had joined into the fray. Terri turned to jelly and dropped the first round when one of the critters hit some of the plumbing and rattled everything, especially our nerves. I took the pistol and popped the ammo in two at a time. I was good to go. She eyed me suspiciously as I headed for the door wearing a stern look, underwear, boots and a very dim head lamp. She turned on the lights as I stepped out to meet this evil cat. Once on the porch I stood silently taking in the scene. Suddenly a very large panther, which is pretty much the same size and build as a mountain lion, shot out from under the house, ran behind the parked cars and into the woods, where it stopped to look at me. It was huge. I knew it was a cat by the way it held its tail. Then it darted into the foggy woods. It was a full moon that night. I headed into the woods and then my faithful dog, who was currently standing at my side, looked at me and essentially called me a moron by turning tail and running at her top speed back to the house. You couldn’t see a thing in the woods because of the fog. These are just some examples of the weird luck I have.
Anyway recognizing that my luck and the boat made a perfect match, I bought it. Two more incidents at the motel, one involving me making sure an attacked girl was safe until the police arrived and one with a pimp trying to help me score either sex, drugs or both, helped with the decision to move onto the boat. It was a no-brainer, but the inside of the boat was a mess. Before I show pictures I’d like to add that my wife asked me if we could put a dragon on the boat. I told her we would have to have a bowsprit first and then foolishly found one at a reasonable price and fixed it. Then I had to carve a dragon. It followed that I would have to have a lot of other things like belaying pins on the shrouds as well as a pirate flag. (I think there’s a law for grandparents with sailboats to have pirate flags. Maybe it’s just a rule, but in either case if you have grandkids you have to have a pirate flag.)
What follows are pictures of the boat before and after.
Here is what the boat looked like in the V-berth when I got it ….
…. and what it looks like now.
Here are pictures of the main salon before.
And here it is after.
I have added a new table that is a bit smaller. It takes up considerably less room, but is still sufficient for two people. The contraption on the bulkhead is a wood burning space heater designed for boats. It’s very low profile, uses very little wood and puts out an immense amount of heat in a very short time. It can also run on combustible trash if necessary.
Here is some of the mess I had to clean up.
The head before ….
…. changed to The Head after ….
At this point the Airhead composting commode hasn’t been installed for use, as you can see from the pipes and connectors in the commode basin. As of this writing it has been fully installed and works like a dream!
The interior of the storage cabinets in the salon was really nice (not)!
But with some scrubbing and painting they now look like this ….
Here is the dragon for under the bowsprit in works at various stages.
The bowsprit was purchased used and had a small crack in it. It was easily repaired and won’t affect its functionality. The dragon was hand carved (by me) over the course of several months. I did some of the large shaping using power tools and smaller shaping with Dremel tools, but the fine shaping and detail work was done by hand with hand chisels, X-acto knives and various grits of sandpaper.
Here are two pictures of the signage – one while in the works, and one installed.
Here are two pictures of the outside before and after. The after picture is missing the Pirate flag. What was I thinking, right?
Here are a few before and after deck pictures.
Here are the seats and grating with the table that I fit checked just before I painted it.
When I started this I knew I had two ways I could go about doing it. Paying someone else to do the work and going broke or learning how to do it myself and coming away with a new skill. I had to make the hard top to mount the solar panels on, and had to work around the mast I had installed for the wind generator. I learned all kinds of new skills and I loved every second of it. Not sure I’d do it again, but maybe. Now before I finish up here there is a message I want to leave you with. Never forget to dream and if you have a good dream hang on to it. This boat was a dream that started in our honeymoon. My father used to read Zane Gray novels (I think they were) and he had always dreamed of owning the La Garita ranch, which is mentioned in many of his books. When he retired he was looking at some land near Trinidad, Colorado. He went to see it many times and the man that owned it talked him into looking at the buildings instead of just the land. It was a sale at that point. What is interesting is that when he was closing on the deal he discovered he had just bought the original headquarters to the La Garita Ranch. Dreams do come true and one last one that happened for me. I always enjoyed Alice Cooper and wanted to meet the band. I was an aspiring musician at the time. I stayed up all night in line to buy advance tickets for the show. I was first in line and as they were about to start selling the tickets a young lady asked me how many tickets I was buying and for which night. She explained I could only buy tickets for one night at a time and only four tickets at a time. I was buying for three on the first night so she asked me if I’d buy one for her too. I agreed and waited for her after I bought mine. She paid me for the ticket and explained Vince (AKA Alice) was going to be visiting her brother at the Air Force Academy on the day of the concert and for me to stay close as she would try to get me into the party after the show. When the show actually played several months later she was there. She was backstage pretty quick. She told me to stick around and I said I would. The show ended and she never came back out. We waited for a while and the two girls I was with asked me what I was waiting for. I roadie walked up to me and told me one was to go to room “such and such” at the Radisson and one was to go to another specific room. I kept a straight face and said I’d get them there. They once again asked me what was going on. I told them we know where the band is staying and I got us there as quickly as I could. We just sat in the lobby until one of them came down and I started a conversation with him. I think it was a mellotron that he played, and had been added to flesh the sound out in concerts. He explained how they might try to fix it so we can’t follow them to the party and told me what to do. They whisked him out before I could get us to the car so I was about to call it quits. We were walking to the car and I heard someone cough I looked over at the source and saw my friend pointing at the car she was heading for and mouthing “Follow us” silently. I did. She was with Michael Bruce, the rhythm guitar, and a photographer. After an insane drive down Broadway we got to the party motel. He walked over to the car and asked who was driving. I said “Me” He smiled and said “Congratulations you’re going to a party.” He messed with me a lot that night. He was a really nice guy. The next two weeks were spent hanging around with the band that opened for them, Flo and Eddie of Frank Zappa fame. The point is …. Hold on to a dream and let it happen. If it doesn’t it’s not meant to be. I’ve had more dreams that didn’t come true than did come true. Learn to be happy by letting go if you have to, but never forget the dream. Sometimes it might take years (nearly 40 in one case), but if the opportunity arises be ready to grab it!