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Homeward Bound By John Herlig
t was May of 2017, and my time in Jamaica was drawing to a close. Ave del Mar, my 1967 Rawson 30, was in need of help. The decomposition of her old, black-iron fuel tanks had sped up dramatically, her jib was threadbare, and the tiller pilot had stood its last watch, leaving me rather dramatically in a blaze of blinking lights and smoky glory somewhere between Haiti and Jamaica. I sent a letter to a friend letting him know that Panama was off the table and that a return to North American waters was inevitable. It was time to breathe new life into both the boat and the bank account. A reply came quickly, and it buoyed my spirits about the tough decision I had just made. “You don’t want to
##A crew member savors the Caribbean.
be one of those derelict boats sitting in some third world backwater, a victim of ‘bad luck,’” he wrote. “You’ve got enough sea stories to keep people entertained until the next trip.” How right he was. Choosing the route Next came the decision of routing the trip back to Florida. I could sail northeast from Jamaica, back up through the Windward Passage and follow the north coast of Cuba until it spat me out into the Florida Keys, or I could duck west underneath Cuba, pass by Cayman, and take a free ride up the Gulf Stream. Everyone around me had an opinion and a reason for it. No two were alike. I eventually decided that the slightly tougher Windward Passage route would be best, simply because it offered more opportunities to duck into safety if things went awry. I knew the anchorages on the west end of Haiti and knew as well that Cuban harbors and shallow Bahamian waters offered opportunities to stop and hide that didn’t exist around the western route. That decision was made, doubleguessed, and made again. It just felt right, and I suppose that that counts for something in sailing. Finding likeable crew Decision made, a friend suggested that as a smart sailor I should look for crew. I pondered this and soon decided the advice was good, so I logged into my Cruisers Forum account and wrote an ad.
I am a singlehander preparing to return to the States aboard my 1967 Rawson 30. I sail safely and responsibly. I do not take unnecessary risks on the water. My vessel is in good shape, although far from perfect. She has been re-rigged and re-wired and has the most up-to-date VHF, AIS, and SSB. I’m not suggesting you have to be Gandhi, but don’t bring hate onto my boat. Bring smiles, and love for all people, and maybe your ukulele. There may have been a bit more, but it matters little. It was 18 minutes later that a promising reply came through. “I’d take you up on the offer,” it said, “but my daughter’s wedding is in Cancun late May. If you change your plans and leave later, let me know.” This message came from a man named Larry. I liked him, so I changed my plans. Everything about Larry seemed right. He was in the process of renovating a condominium that he owned with the intention of selling it, buying a sailboat, and casting off on a grand sailing adventure. For this he wanted some offshore experience. He decided that crewing was the best way to gain that. He was former military, which suggested he both knows discipline and how to work with others, even if perhaps they didn’t agree on all things. Time at sea makes boats incredibly small, and if you find yourself stuck aboard one with someone you don’t really like, you’d better know how to cope. Most importantly, his tone SpinSheet.com September 2021 57