Despite the fact that we moved in during hurricane season, we are living in a fairly protected spot docked five miles up New River, Ft Lauderdale, FL. There are a few slips in this dockage, and we consider ourselves blessed to be neighbors with Captain Rich and Lyn.
One of the key selling points of the voyaging lifestyle is becoming a part of the community of sailors. We looked forward to getting to know like-minded individuals who through trial and error learned to become self-sufficient and bond over common tribulations and successes.
“There is an instant bond formed with the cruisers. Whether standing on a dock, getting into your dinghy, shopping at the local market, checking in at customs, or anchored in the harbor, friendships develop easily and are maintained. Sailing into a new harbor brings with it not only the excitement of discovering and learning about the island, but also the excitement of possibly seeing old friends.” ~ Jackie Cohen from s/v Feisty
So on our second look at s/v Rachel J Slocum, we first met Rich, a spry 83 year old sailor with a white bushy beard. He offered to help us with the bow lines on the day of our sea trial, and since then has been a great friend and fount of stories and information.
When I reflect on each exchange with Rich, I am put at ease with how he conveys information. Especially as a neophite to this lifestyle, I am inclined to find comfort in knowing what the rules are and to follow them.
Rich doesn’t prescribe to rules. He describes actions and consequences, and then you get to choose what you want to do. He has over 40 years of perspective and experience gained from sailing all over the world. He has seen it all. He has done it all. He has lived through it all. While he could certainly prescribe with authority, he chooses not to and he offers up suggestions just as he did when we had clanging halyards or needed to clean out the bilge.
He offers up his knowledge with humility and humor.
We also have the pleasure of knowing Lyn, Rich’s girlfriend. When we first moved in, Rich had been back from a delivery with Lyn. After a couple days trudging through unpacking, I introduced myself when I went up on deck and she was just getting some sun in the afternoon. We had a great chat about docking palpitations… apparently still a thing after a lifetime of sailing… to Andrew’s chagrin.
We also talked about sailing up and down New River and dealing with the strong currents. Rich advised watching the tides as well as waiting until after rush hour and hang out at Las Olas Marina or Lake Sylvia, which confirmed what I had researched weeks ago.
On the day we bid farewell to our car rental - and with that the mobility of getting around effortlessly beyond a 3 miles radius - Lyn asked us if we had any plans for dinner. We hadn’t. She invited us out, and we welcomed the opportunity to pause after 3 plus weeks of relentless cleaning and moving.
As the sun was setting, we walked along the docks and weaved our way toward Hardy Park Bistro, a local spot started by a galley cook on a megayacht. In its heyday, the place was packed, according to Rich, with lines of people in expensive cars waiting for coveted tables. After the COVID lockdown (and even now), the place is a shadow of its former self. As we sat at a communal high top in the covered patio, I took in the atmosphere. It’s more relaxed and quiet, and therefore more to our liking as social introverts.
The conversation at dinner meandered as we got to know each other. Some of the highlights include learning that Rich:
- crossed several oceans in a Westerly 24’ sloop
- has been a vegetarian for over 70 years
- is part owner in a boatyard in the Bahamas
- restored and flipped a brand new, hurricane-wrecked Lagoon 44 for $300K profit
- traversed the european canals several times (in a kayak, a sailboat and a houseboat), especially enjoying the wine, cheese and baguettes in France
- has hundreds of acres of land in Tasmania including forests of Huon pine
- delivered a new boat on a long passage that had many equipment failures including the watermaker which he fixed by disassembling a vaccum and using its parts to jury rig a fix
- for 8 grueling months, pulled up wrecks and recovered 21 fatalities following 1995 hurricanes Luis and Marilyn, which both caused catastrophic damage in the Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands and contributed to 182 fatalities and over USD $12 billion in damages
These are just a sample of the stories that we heard that night along with suggestions of what to look out for on our boat.
Rich had spent some time aboard s/v Rachel J Slocum working on repairs with Bill in August. The repairs included fixing the heat exchanger as well as tracing and pulling hoses to replace them in order to pass the insurance requirements. In the short amount of time he has had to see the boat, he had some thoughts which we were keen to hear on what we can do to repair or upgrade our floating home.
Did I mention how blessed we feel living next to Rich?
Not only does he have an encyclopedic knowledge, he is also genenerous with his time and insights. He offered a small jar of Tiger Balm when he first learned Andrew had fallen into the lazarette. (He swears by both Tiger Balm, hydrogen peroxide and 3M blue tape… the three things you absolutely must have on board). He and Lyn gifted us an enormous avocado and offered to give us rides in Lyn’s jeep whenever we needed it.
I am reminded of the passage from Beth Leonard’s Voyager’s Handbook, where it took over 2 years before she and her husband felt they were finally part of the cruisers community. After years of taking from generous new friends and more experienced sailors, that moment happened when they could finally give and contribute back to the community.
It will be some time before we’re able to do the same for this community in person. However unlike the sailors of decades past, Andrew and I can help immediately by documenting our experience now and sharing it through Serenade Wind.
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