The Florida 120 is an unusual event for me and my newly finished Core Sound 17 mk 3/Bones, one that I look forward to completing.
My crew Rogue Wave and I launch from Mahogany Mills in Pensacola. We float/sail?/motor a couple of hours to “The Sandbar.” Upon our approach, I realize I had spent a couple of days here in 2004 after the hurricane that did so much damage to the area. I remember this spot vividly, cause at that time the storm had deposited a sailboat near the top of the sand dune.
Our approach to the beach muddles my brain with indecisiveness when I see most boats are med moored. Our bow anchor is not easy to reach or set from the boat and our stern anchor risks fouling the engine or rudder. Should I go in bow first or spin the bow out. As I vacillate between which direction to take the bow I find the boat sliding up on the beach, stern afloat and Groot wagging impatiently wondering what in the hell the captain was thinking. I murmured an impolite word that starts with F and I said it to myself several times Oh,____!
It is pretty sad when ones’ own boat is embarrassed by the captain.
OK then. We have arrived no matter how indignantly. We lower the sails. But wait! I have never lowered the sails without putting them away for trailer transport. What the heck do I do with them?
Aw, _____. After an excessive exercise in futility, the sails are wadded up and secured, after a fashion, looking all wrinkled and nasty. It is good there was no wind blowing, I would still be there wadding sails.
In order to hide some of my angst, I slip a folding chair into the water and sit facing out so no one will know who the dummy captain is. Unfortunately, the chair only sinks into the sand a bit and does not allow me to hide my head underwater.
People come by to say hi and introduce themselves. There is no hiding, it is what it is. Much to my amazement, no one is hiding chortles of laughter but are genuinely interested in the boat and crew. I am thankful.
Later in the evening, I figure out Garth Brooks is right:
I’ve got friends in low places
Where the whiskey drowns
And the beer chases the blues away
Down on the oasis. OK, it is really a sandbar, but you get the idea.
So I am kinda sitting and listening to the sea stories get bigger and bolder as the sun gets lower. Suddenly, backlit by the setting sun appears a bulbous glass flask filled with an exceedingly clear amber liquid. The flask is passed. First a cautious sniff, then a testing sip, (lip-smacking optional.) Then the huge gulp over lips over gums look out stomach….Whoa! This is the nectar of the gods in the form of fifteen-year-old whiskey. Truth be told, I snuck around ahead of the passing to get another snort. Mmm, that is some smooth stuff.
But, alas, the whiskey is a distraction for the main event. Pat pulls out what looks like a five-gallon carboy of canned meat. To be precise, it is Myocastor coypus meat. To be polite it is nutria. To be truthful nutria is a fourteen-pound herbivorous semiaquatic rodent. In reality, ITS RAT MEAT!
Alrighty then, let’s get on with it. We drank his liquor we gotta eat his rat meat. It gets passed around. Everyone pulls ugly faces before sampling. As the huge jug approaches, I feel like a judge on Americas Worst Cooks. Pat hands me a small fork full of this, this stuff. I take it and want to swallow fast but he is watching closely to see I do not cheat in any matter. The meat has good texture and light in flavor and holy cow patty, it tastes like rich canned tuna. I want more, but amazingly the five-gallon container has shrunk to a pint jar. Pity, just enough for one pass around.
I did not know the evenings were going to be a sharing adventure and my crew and I brought nothing to share. That will change next time.
This article is meant to be about sailing, but there was not a lot of challenging sailing so it is not about sailing, but more about learning what the 120 is about and exposing deficits in my experiences. The 120 challenged me and exposed my inexperience in the following areas:
· Launching off a busy ramp
· Anchoring off a beach with grace and efficiency
· Securing the Cat-Ketch sail system when at anchor
· Boat camping management
· Bushwacker endurance/Survival
OK, launching is an acquired art form, I get that. Anchoring off the beach requires some yet to be learned or understood boat skills and also refitting the anchoring systems. Understandably not developing boat camping skills is cause I don’t really care for camping of any sort. But I can learn, really, I can.
Bushwackers? I see no problem there. I like chocolate, Bushwackers have chocolate what could be so bad. I have experienced the best every bar in the Bahamas can muster, well mostly. PainKillers in Annapolis were a challenge, but manageable. But a chocolate Bushwacker with a float, I am sure to do easy peasy.
Rogue Wave takes me to the “Sand Pit” at Juana’s for music and a beverage. I reluctantly accept his purchase of a Bushwacker–float free. Mmm good. We go to the upper bar where the music volume is about right and there are nubile young women playing volleyball below. Sweet.
Now lets pause right there for a moment to develop a firm understanding. I have been practicing all my life to be a dirty-old-man. Upon reaching 76, now I are one—and perfect practice has made me the perfect dirty old man. Translation. I just look, never touch.
Watching the volleyball game I order another Bushwacker, this time with a 151 float. Soon all the women in the bar turn drop dead gorgeous and I must celebrate them all with yet another Bushwacker with a float.
Now fast forward, out of necessity, to morning. (please do not ask). I find myself sitting in my folding chair once again in the water up to my chest drinking a double Starbucks Instant Coffee with a rum shot given to me by my son. Hair of the dog he sez. I look around and see no dog—I shrug. Nor do I see any of the dozen boats that were there when I went to the bar yesterday evening for dinner—I shrug again.
The group previously decide to return to Pensacola Pass for Friday night. On our way, after a very, very late start after the Starbucks with the hair in it, my son points out that we had already been to the sandbar and that while it is technically a bar there were no Bushwackers there Wednesday and he suggests there was no reason to suspect that had changed.
Hence, we abandon our new friends of the Florida 120 for new friends at the Tiki bar near the launch ramp, the one with logo of a female fish with big red lips. This bar does not have Bushwakers either, but does have, wait for it, Shipwrecks or is it Shipwreckers. Taste like a Bushwacker to me. My final thought on Pensacola. I am sure glad they have Uber.
My feelings on the Florida 120 crew. Thank you Pat for everything! You all are great people! Thank you for sharing your wisdom, comradery and thank you for sharing those wonderful Bushwackers.
Capt Bones & Rogue Wave