Building a Better Boat Day 7, Part 2: A Thoughtful Passage and Hawwbaaar Shawwwping.

Drake's Atlantic Explorations
30 Sep 2018

We pulled into Red Hook at 1015 exactly an hour after leaving Virgin Gorda. It was a scenic and pleasant ferry ride traveling downwind with the waves and current. I love the trip through the Sir Francis Drake channel.

From the hills of St Thomas, Tortola and St John, Sir Francis would stalk French and Spanish merchant ships hoping to escape unmolested from the world’s greatest privateer. In the age of piracy, Captain Kidd, Bluebeard, and other famous buccaneers buried treasures on the small out islands that mark the southern edge of the channel. It’s rumored that the caves of Norman Island still contain unfound loot from Blackbeard himself…

I am a romantic and a sailor. Being on the same water as those infamous men connects me to their stories of adventure and exploration in a way so profound it is difficult to explain….I am relentlessly pushed onward to the next adventure by my wanderlust and need to experience everything–all the time. Just like the trade winds pushed the pirates and explorers over the oceans, I travel not knowing what’s below horizon but confident in my ability to make the best of what surprises await.

I’m also keenly aware of the costs associated with this way of bring. Today I am sitting alone on this lovely terrace with my thoughts and a cup of coffee…I have read that the great writers and modern explorers of our time seem to have the same challenges I do. They struggle with love, partnership, and maintaining home and love while needing, with every part of their being, to be on their adventure.

Though I in no way claim to have their talent, I certainly see the same themes in my life. Hemingway ran from his wife and family to document the Spanish Civil War. Buffett spent most of the 80’s hopscotching from one island to another on his sailboat and seaplane while his family stayed in Florida. Even mainstream American artistic heroes, like Springsteen, have taken off on their motorcycles for weeks on end.

Hemingway in Spain

Most writing on this topic talks of these sojourns as searches for inspiration–getting stories to write the next book or pen the next song line. I think it’s different than that. These heroes of mine just didn’t have a choice. In the same way we need to eat and sleep, those of us with this affliction of exploration and creative expression through words can’t be grounded in a repeating pattern.

We instinctively understand that settling is what we are supposed to do as participating members of our society. But we are simply incapable of doing that. We aren’t programmed to seek continuity and stability. We have been designed to build new patterns, new connections. And that can only be done from new places. The novels, songs, and blog posts are simply the happy derivations of this non-standard code.

I suppose you could call us entrepreneurs of life. Whereas the Zuckerburgs and the Musks of the world have built products, we, as writers, have built experiences to be documented and shared. We are the content producers. They are the infrastructure builders. Neither exists without the other. Neither is more important than the other.

My friend Andy Ray wrote a post on his excellent blogĀ  about how the origins of art are not original. Artists steal from each other all day long, every time. I admit that that post has been on my mind all week and I’ve thought deeply about it. It’s certainly the inspiration for this posting…I’m stealing it–just like he said I could. Thanks Andy.

Back to the story.

When I arrived in St Thomas I had one goal in mind–get to Harbor Shoppers. Harbor Shoppers (pronounced Haawwbaaa Shawppaas) is a liquidation company that is parting out the wrecks from Tortola and selling 1/2 sunk salvage boats. They sold us Downwind Dogs in January and we’ve been in contact with them since.

I’ve got a long list of replacements and I much rather recycle than buy new–both for cost and environmental reasons. So in true “American Pickers” style, I got a cab over to their office at Compass Point Marina and met Chad, the owner of the company who sold us the boat. He’s a nice guy, totally overwhelmed, and has no idea how to manage inventory.

His place is a mess which means deals to be had…

So on my still sore ankle, we rummaged around the overgrown shipping containers and I found some replacement parts including 3 new stanchions, some rope clutches, and some railings. I think I got a good, not great, deal. And like all other salvage places, you need to be very careful what you buy since it’s “as is, where is. ALL SALES FINAL.” He’s going to ship the parts to Puerto Rico on Tuesday so, if all goes well, I’ve have them in 2019.

Compass Point is located, literally, on a point, on the south side of St Thomas in the mangroves of Benner Bay. You have to walk a mile over several steep hills on a winding, potholed road to get there. On the way over, the taxi dropped me right at the gate but there was no way to get a cab back. Knowing this would be the case, I wore my running shoes and was prepared for the hike up to the main road.

Fortunately, as is usually the case on island, a young man is his beat up island car picked me up and took me to the top of the road saving me, and my ankle–now sore from climbing around piles of junk–from an extra mile of walking. From the intersection of the main road, it was only another mile or so of mostly downhill walking back to Red Hook and the ferry.

I got to the ferry at about 1230–30 minutes before departure with a screaming ankle and a deep thirst. When you’re island there’s only one way to deal with that problem–head straight to the bar. I had a bottle of water for my head and a strong pina colada for my ankle.

Then it was off to St John…but that’s the next posting.

Island Aspirin




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