May 29, 2024  

Adventures of the Damn Yankee
Ahoy shipmates! Here's your chance to experience sailing the Caribbean! Our guest writer aboard the Damn Yankee provides a weekly narrative relating the adventures of life at sea. Join the crew aboard the 36' Catalina as her First Mate recounts the exploits of a couple who have moved into the lifestyle many dream of living. Insightful and compelling, Gwen Schuler will keep us posted in a series of articles and photographs as she and her husband Jim set sail for adventure. Dock here regularly!

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Lord of the Reefs
Installment No. 14
One Particular Harbor
Installment No. 13
Lucayan Marina Village, Bahamas
It’s Better in the Bahamas
Installment No. 12
The Bahamas
The Crossing
Installment No. 11
The Florida Keys
Changing Channels
Installment No. 10
Wrightsville Beach, SC
Follow in our Wake
Installment No. 9
Beaufort, N.C
Into the Ditch
Installment No. 8
ICW, The Ditch, Virginia
Down by the Waterside
Installment No. 7
Norfolk Harbor, VA
Mileage, Majors and Norfolk
Installment No. 6
Norfolk Harbor, VA
Installment No. 5
Zahniser's Marina, Solomons Island, MD
Portlights and pianos, Boat Show Week
Installment No. 4
Annapolis, Maryland
It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me, but my darling when I think of thee.
Installment No. 3
Great Oak Marina, MD
There's a glitch
Installment No. 2
Upper Chesapeake Bay

Let the Adventure Begin
Installment No. 1
Fairlee Creek, Maryland

Let the Adventure Begin
The dream is now reality. Our ten-year plan has reached fruition. Only the house closing and the installation of radar remain.

Installment No. 1 -- Fairlee Creek, Maryland
It's September 6, 2000 already. Where will Jim and I be one month from today? Hopefully, moored in Annapolis harbor ready to scour the sailboat show for the snappiest foul weather gear, hunting down that final waterway chart and purchasing the safest coastal life raft.
Two months from now? We'll be underway riding the current through the tidewater of Virginia, soon to be snapping pictures at mile marker zero entering the Intracoastal Waterway headed south. Our ultimate destination; Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, where we've been told it's better.
The dream is now reality. Our ten-year plan has reached fruition. Only the house closing and the installation of radar remain.
The Damn Yankee
The Damn Yankee

Gwen Schuler
The Author, Gwen Schuler

'So how long will you cruise?' 'You really sold your house?' These two inevitable questions we answer automatically, 'Till our money doubles.' And 'Yes.'
The men nod, their arms folded over the top of the nearest piling. Knowing smiles crack their faces. I watch our same dream coalesce in their eyes. In seconds it's gone, drifting off like the smoke from their cigars. But their smiles stay fixed.
The women are tougher. Flimsy smiles through tight lips, I see incredulity arc in their eyes to be rapidly displaced with suspicion. And they are irrepressibly vocal.
'You've got money. You retired.' 'How can you give up your house…?' The 'to live on a boat' echoes exclamatory, though unspoken. Before I can frame a response comes their final summation delivered in tones of righteous rebuke. 'You're leaving your kids!'
Jim and I exchange glances and grin. 'And your point is…' we ask simultaneously. 'Why should the kids have all the fun?'
Our kids are grown, gainfully employed, own a home and contribute to 401Ks. Enough said.
The women don't look convinced.
'You'll be homeless,' Mary Sue insists as she clutches her husband's arm and pulls him away.
He shrugs off her restraining fingers. 'They're living on their boat, Mary Sue. They're not homeless. They're having an adventure.'
'Adventure, to live on a boat! I could never live on a boat.' Her tone rings like a sentence of doom. 'To me, they're homeless.'
The Girls
The Girls (from left, Gwen Schuler, Sue, Mary Sue, Cindy and Elizabeth

The Boys
The Boys (from left, Jim Schuler, Joe, Lou and Art)

'I think it's deceivingly clever,' opines Jay, captain of Irresistible. 'Think of it. No mortgage or monthly utility bills, no more landscapers to keep up the yard that we're too busy working to enjoy. No cable bills and no car payments…'
'What? No car, you have to have a car.' Mary Sue interrupts panic edging her voice.
Tension swirls, eddying within the group. I'm verging on apology for even considering such mindless folly when my husband responds to Mary Sue with a smile and a wink.
'We can't tow the car behind the boat, Mary Sue.'
'But no car…' She whispers with a shake of her head.
Art her husband rolls his eyes.
Hey, time out.
Are we women so conditioned to our SUV's and cell phones that all sense of adventure has been socialized out of us? I hope not. Still, I wondered, restless through that night.
Watch any man at the helm of a boat, any boat.
Their hands ride gently on the wheel an expression of pure pleasure plays across their features as they conjure themselves rounding Cape Horn or making landfall after a long passage. If you're paying particular attention, you're witness to the boy who remains forever within the man.
We women are nesters. We may have sand in our shoes but we'd prefer to remain landlocked making our stand on solid ground. We're the hub of the wheel with the attachments of family and friends like the wheel's spokes extending outward but held within the rim of home and community, except for some of us.
Funny how I'd never thought of Jim and I as particularly adventurous. We each worked for the same corporations for over twenty-five years. Even after sailing thirteen years, we raise the mainsail on the Damn Yankee, what, three times a season? Yet early on, once Jim broached the idea of cruising, images formed. Women can conjure too. I knew then, it would be only a matter of time and money.
'So, what did Jim say that made you relinquish your home?' Al, our dock buddy aboard Dimar asked over a few beers the next afternoon. 'I really want to know.'
'Wagon Train,' I shot back without thinking.
'The sixties TV show?'
'That's right.' I catch his surreptitious glance at my half full first glass of beer.
I meet his gaze. 'Remember the pioneer women? They piled their wagons with barrels filled to the brim with their life's possessions? They took the ultimate risk, leaving the familiar to embrace the unfamiliar?
Al lowers his head; the brim of his Panama hat hides his eyes. He takes a long swig of his beer. He knows.
So, like the frontier women of a previous century who trusted their dreams to remain safe within the fragile confines of wood and canvas, I'll set out a few of my life's possessions and lay my trust deep into the hull of the Damn Yankee and embrace the unfamiliar.
Easier for me than those women, I'll use e-mail, digital phone and camera to expand the rim of my wheel to keep in touch with family and friends. I can leave with the knowledge that there are airports and available. The kids are planning a Bahamas vacation this winter.
'Not so bad,' I say to the women, 'to embark on a dream.'
Cindy pours Rabbit Ridge Reserve all around. 'To the dream.' She raises her glass.
We all drink to dreams.
'I'd do it in a minute,' says Sue.
'Not if you had grandchildren…' pipes up Mary Sue.
'Mary Sue, I'd be going if I had grandchildren.'
Wagons Ho!
Let the adventure begin!

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