June 16, 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

Portlights and pianos, Boat Show Week
I did manage to close my mouth, just barely; as Bob Bitchin, editor and publisher of the ultimate cruisers' magazine, Latitudes and Attitudes pulled me close. My grin nearly split my face!

Installment No. 4 -- Annapolis, Maryland
Portlights and pianos, connected? How? It's boat show week. Everything is connected.
'I am the boat show!' Scotty Robinson boomed over the raucous clatter of piano keys at Phillips bar on the Annapolis harbor waterfront. There were no challenges from any of the patrons, only the raised eyebrows of amused agreement as they continued to sip their drinks.
Pitching in at the Boat Show
Pitching in at the Boat Show

The Boat Show Gang
Jim and Gwen with Bob Bitchen and Scotty Robinson

Papa Hemingway in the flesh complete with Greek fisherman's cap and a silver tongue. But devil, he's not. Rather a corporate VP from Washington state who extols the virtue of the vagabond life shunning the comforts of hotels to the questionable repose offered by two neophyte cruisers aboard a 36 ft Catalina sailboat.
Over wine, cigars and cognac with old friends; we found a new friend. And Scotty is himself, a true gift.
'I can't believe he's going to stay on your boat. Where's his hotel?' Mary Sue laughs as she reaches for her Chardonnay. 'He could rob and murder you in your sleep. Anyone can have business cards printed.'
'Sure, Mary Sue,' her husband Art counters, 'he's the boat show slasher. He pays the hefty fee for a booth to prowl the boat show, selecting his victims at random hoping their electronics are updated and they're carrying cases of Captain Morgan.'
'I just want Jim and Gwen to be safe.'
'Stop worrying, Mary Sue. The man appears to know everyone here. They'll have a ball, see the boat show from a different perspective. I wish we were staying,' Art says with a quick wistful glance at Jim and Scotty deep in conversation seated side by side across the polished surface of the grand piano.
So Scotty became the crew of the Damn Yankee. A knowledgeable dispenser of information, a wily raconteur of numerous tales, indispensable company on board through an unseasonable cold snap when it was too cold to venture far from the boat. We huddled below, turned on the heat and the new pressure cooker then stuffed ourselves with a Yankee pot roast washed down with the luxurious taste of Cabernet.
Thus fortified, Jim and I felt well prepared to tackle the last day of the sailboat show as Scotty's associates, working his booth. Had we only known; we would have opened another bottle of wine in celebration. A body could expire from that much fun!
Scotty Robinson, of Port Townsend in Washington State, is a purveyor of portlights of such beauty and symmetry to make a sailor weep! One long look, a slow slide of hand over the sheen of bronze, chrome or stainless and Jim and I quickly realized that portlights from New Found Metals Inc. are 'Your Only Port in a Storm.'
An all too spare briefing by Scotty and he was off.
'You'll be fine. Anything you can't answer, give them my card and take their name. I'll call them. And I won't be long.'
With people to see, deals to make, Scotty meandered through the kaleidoscope of people, silver pony tail swishing across his shoulders. We were on our own!
A few deep breaths and we tried out our smiles on each other over the knots in our stomachs. Please God, I prayed, don't let anyone come to the booth and ask a question we can't answer. Scotty's depending on us. Jim slants me a ragged grin and shifts his gaze to the passing crowd. I know we need to make eye contact. Get someone to fall out of line. Walk over. Take a look. But, I'm not ready yet. My fingers smear the shiny chrome. Trust the portlights. They say it all. And they did.
In less than a minute Jim was leaning over the booth, A bronze portlight raised for better viewing, talking with an Annapolis grad interested in re-fitting his 42 Pearson. I join him offering the matching screen.
Within a half-hour we sold a patent pending deck wash system that delighted the gentleman who bought it. More fun we've never had!
Bob Bitchen with Author and Husband
Bob Bitchen with Author and Husband

Scotty and Gwen at the Piano in Phillips
Scotty and Gwen at the Piano in Phillips
'That's Tom Neale, Gwen, from Cruising World.
'You're right,' I whispered to my husband forcing myself not to stare. 'God, don't let us blow this! I always read his column, 'On Watch,' first thing. And he's standing right there.'
How could Scotty leave his booth to us? My knees felt rubbery and Jim was sitting in the only chair.
Tom Neal and his wife were obviously intrigued with the portlights as they talked in low tones with each other.
Jim eased down off the director's chair to move closer and struck up a conversation.
'...And you use 'Never Seez...each port takes...about three hours...but they install easily.' Tom and his wife nod at each other, pleased.
'We're just minding the booth for a friend,' Jim continues. 'Let me take your card. Scotty will phone you.'
Jim was carrying this off. Then why was I hiding underneath the booth frantically rummaging through cardboard boxes?
I've enjoyed Tom Neale's insightful humor for years. I write. I'm always thrilled when someone compliments my work. Tell him how much you enjoy his. Get up off your knees. So, I did.
Gracious with a warm smile, we talked portlights and Bahamas. He left his card for Scotty and good wishes for Jim and me with the added promise that we would love the Bahamas.
Excited from the warmth of inclusion the Neales left me with, my stomach knots eased. Between, Scotty's portlights, which are the standard by which all others are measured, and Jim's easy confidence, I had worried for nothing. We were doing fine.
'I'm talking to you! Jim, Gwen come on, it's lunch.'
I blew out a breath. Scotty was back. Relieved and ravenous we followed in his wake through the doors of Phillips and ordered lunch.
The grand piano stood in a sunlit window, deserted. Crowds milled and moved just beyond the glass. Our beers arrived. Scotty snagged his rum and coke. With nary a word he stepped down then crossed to the piano and lifted the lid. He set his glass carefully atop the surface and began to play. Bourbon Street blues, honky-tonk, classic Rachmaninoff, his fingers flew over the keyboard. Jim and I sipped, awed into reverent silence. We'd met a renaissance man. What other talents were hidden under the bluster?
Then he sang. Miles of gravel road coursed through that voice. People pulled stools settling themselves around the piano bar as Scotty segued into 'Georgia on My Mind.' He finished with a flourish and grinned up at us all as though what he'd done was nothing really, then he left the piano stool for another drink.
There would never be another boat show like this and we knew it. Jim squeezed my hand. Monday afternoon and all of us perched on stools around a piano bar happily oblivious to time as we introduced ourselves, traded stories and became acquainted if only for the duration of an hour, all because of Scotty's joie de vivre.
Dr. Peter and his bride, Shelley from Terrapin Springs, Florida lingered with us sharing their hopes to steal a little more time out of busy schedules to do more sailing. Then they left so Shelly could sample her first taste of Maryland crabs. The captain and crew of the Damn Yankee wish you both 'Fair winds' and 'the joy of each other always.
'Time to get out of here. Let's go. I've got a friend for you to meet.'
'But, the booth...'I mumbled.
'Booth's fine.' Scotty said as we three swooped out the door and back into the slow moving swarm of people.
'Where are we off to now?' I asked.
'You'll see.' Jim said.
Scotty and Jim steered me ahead of them until we rounded the waterfront when Scotty stepped into the lead. Hurrying to catch up, I barely noticed we'd entered a display tent.
'Hey you old sea dog! Still drinking, I see.' Scotty growls.
'What else.' Bob Bitchin raises his glass in salute.
'Get on out here. Meet some friends.'
'You got it, Scotty.'
Bob rises, filling the booth's space. I stand open mouthed as he seizes Scotty in an embrace that would rattle a smaller man's teeth.
'These are my friends, Jim and Gwen. I'm bunking aboard their boat this week. Gwen is going to do some articles for you. They're cruising off to the Bahamas. Now, we need a few pictures for the web site she writing for, Seeboat.com. They'll give you some publicity.'
'Never say no to that.' Bob grinned as he held out his hand.
Stunned silent, I watched, heart pounding, as my hand was swallowed up in Bob's grasp. I did manage to close my mouth, just barely; as Bob Bitchin, editor and publisher of the ultimate cruisers' magazine, Latitudes and Attitudes pulled me close. My grin nearly split my face!
My heart pounded loud enough for Bob to hear. I searched for something intelligent to say.
'Where's Jody?' I ventured after finding my voice.
Great Gwen, I curse myself. Like I'm acquainted with Bob Bitchin's wife.
'She's off visiting, somewhere.' He answered. 'You know women.'
I nodded up at him. I would have agreed to anything. Here I was talking with this larger-then-life biker's parody, a sailor's paradox whose dead on irreverent observations vex the establishment. I've loved his scribblings in Latitudes and Attitudes from the first issue. For what lies beneath is the mind and heart of a poet; Bob's writing touches deep. You believe.
I had to step away and crane my neck to make eye contact. Bob Bitchin is one imposing hunk of male!
'I can't leave you for a minute.' Jody laughs and shoots Bob a look as Scotty and Jim snap pictures.
More introductions to Jody and I still can't think of anything to say. Surely, they think Scotty's friend is witless, but quiet.
Meanwhile, Jim's chatting away like they were old friends. Boat talk; sailing routes, anchors and portlights will bring men together quicker than nude sailing. Almost.
My senses straight, I managed to string a whole sentence together and promised to send Bob articles and pictures covering travels aboard the Damn Yankee.
Of course, I couldn't leave without my own autographed copy of Bob's book, 'Letters from the Lost Soul.' I intend to wade in slow, wallowing in the words and treading through the thoughts. I'm anticipating a two bottle of wine book leaving me with a marginal hangover with no headache. Participating in one of Bob's up close and personal story-telling sessions would send me to the hospital to dry out, sure as I'm sitting here. Though guaranteed well worth the expense, I'll save that for another time...
'Hey Scotty, were you serious about Jim and I doing the next boat show with you?'
'Sure am.'
'We're there.' I give them all my best smile.

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