Saturday, August 31, 2013


Tornadoes that happen over large bodies of water are called waterspouts.   Somehow, the name doesn't seem to invoke the same panic as the word tornado, which sounds like havoc about to happen.  During the time I was cruising, I saw quite a few waterspouts, but two will remain etched in my mind forever. 

The first one was in Marathon in the Florida Keys.  The boat was on a dock at a tiny marina on Florida Bay.  This was in back of a fish house that has since been torn down to make way for more lucrative properties.  It was the middle of the afternoon and I was up at the fish house talking to some other residents.  Someone from one of the other boats came up yelling loudly about a waterspout, a giant waterspout that was headed directly toward our boats.  We really couldn't see much from where we were - buildings were in the way, so we all ran down to the docks. 

As we reached the docks, I realized that if it actually did come to our marina, there was no way to help the boats.  We couldn't get them out of the way and if we tried, we could be running right into it.  The only thing we could do was stow the canvas, wrap the sails and clear the decks of anything we had laying around.  It was a big waterspout and we had no way of telling how fast it was coming toward us, it just seemed to be sitting there looking ominous. 

In the end, it just seemed to dissipate.  The funnel detached itself from the water and lifted itself into the cloud.  What a sense of relief! 

The second major one I saw was in Venezuelan waters.  We were traveling from Los Testigos, a group of small islands that are mostly unpopulated except for a few fishermen.  We had been hit by lightning and were on the way back to Trinidad to get everything repaired.  We left early morning and the weather was overcast, but not threatening.  By the time we were about halfway to the mainland Venezuelan coast so that we could run along the coast and stay out of the eastern tradewinds, we were totally out of sight of any land and the clouds were building. 

We knew it would be a soggy trip, rain didn't bother us much since we had a good bimini, dodger, and we put up the side curtains, so we were mostly covered.  Of course, by that time we saw a waterspout, another huge one, off to our starboard side.  Since we had no background except the sky and the Caribbean Sea, there was no way to tell which way it was going - we couldn't just go the other way.  There was no way to figure out how close it was either.  It could have been a smallish one really close or a huge one a mile away.  Again, it just seemed to be hanging there.  We watched it for what seemed hours, hoping it would disappear.  

We kept on moving, hoping we were going the right way to leave it behind us.  We figured we had just been hit by lightning the day before, nothing much worked on the boat because all the equipment was fried -  so why not add some more excitement with a waterspout!  Luckily, it seemed to fade and we could see it disappear into the cloud above it.   Our passage along the Venezuelan coast that night was a bit tense because there were thunderstorms all night - we had already been hit by lightning the day before, but we were the tallest thing out there - and I had my hands on the wheel.  Of course, here could have been more waterspouts, but we couldn't see them in the dark.   Sometimes it's better not knowing.

In both of these situations, we were lucky enough to have those waterspouts dissipate and return to the clouds and leave us unharmed.  What a relief. 

Betty Karl

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt is my favorite female singer, I have always thought she had a great voice.  I had her albums from the 60s and 70s, and then purchased the CDs when they came out.  I loved the fact that Glenn Frye and Don Henley, plus two others who went on to become the Eagles, were her backup band in the very early 1970s.  She had multiple platinum albums throughout that decade and recorded covers of songs previously recorded by the Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Eagles and others.  And to top off all that talent - she was attractive!

In the 1980s she went on to other, less rock/popular music projects, including songs of Mexican folk music.  She is part Mexican and had written the song "Lo Siento Mi Vida" on the Hasten Down the Wind album - one of my favorites.  She has produced many more projects and won many awards throughout the past 4 decades.  In the 1990s, she adopted 2 children, first a girl, then a boy, although she has never married. 

I read something today that saddened me.  There is a report that she has Parkinson's and can no longer sing.  What a shame that this fine artist has been silenced and is unable to participate in an art that she has produced and loved for decades.

She has written a book called "Simple Dreams", a title of one of her best-selling albums, which is due out in a few weeks.  I know I'll be watching for that.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Boat Repo

This is a picture of the boat I was able to sell twice.  She was a storm boat, had been washed up on a seawall during a bad unnamed storm and had a 4' gash in her side.  She was taken to a marina, put up on stands and her owner was supposed to fix her.   Nothing happened for months and then the marina owner told me I could have her for storage fees.  OK, that wasn't much at all.

So, I got a fiberglass man to fix the gash, I had not yet learned the fine art of West System epoxy, and it was way beyond that anyway.  I cleaned up the interior, dried the cushions, cleaned them and made covers for them.  Got a bracket for an outboard for the back of the boat.   The day came when we were ready to put her in the water and get out for a sail.  Of course, we knew nothing about sailing, but hauled up those sails and figured out which way to turn to get the boat to heel over a bit and get going. 

After a few months, my partner said the boat was too small to spend a few months in the Keys.   HMMMM,   guess he didn't read those books about people crossing oceans in boats that size.  OK, so I put the boat up for sale and started looking for a bigger boat. 

The person who really wanted the boat, was really enthusiastic about it, was a young guy with a wife and a baby on the way.  He could afford a small down payment and some money per month.  He was so excited about it, I decided to give it a chance, against my better judgment.  I wrote up a contract stating the facts and that he would be in default if he was 30 days late on a payment.  I included a clause about notification and repossession, should he be in default.  I was really good at writing contracts back then. 

He paid on time every month for about 6 months.  Then one month, he was late and I sent him a late warning - no phone call or check from him.  I called him and reminded him that he would be in default in a few short weeks and he needed to come up with some money in order to keep the boat.  Since the contract also included a clause that I would be kept informed of the location of the boat, I went to check to see if it was safe.   It wasn't where it should be. 

Still no payment when his grace period ended, so a friend and I took off one morning in a boat loaned by a friend - a very cold day to be out on a boat trying to locate a boat when you have no idea where it might be.  We knew where he worked and lived, so we started checking all the little marinas and places there was dockage.   After a few hours, we located the boat, safe and sound in a tiny area that had multiple docks.  She was safe and all locked up.  We elected to come back that evening to do the actual repossession. 

We notified the police that we had a contract that was in default and we were planning on repossessing the boat that evening.  It's standard procedure for repo people to notify them so that when the defaulting party calls in saying the car or boat was stolen, the police will tell them what happened.  We came back at dusk, I climbed back onto the boat I had sold and disconnected the dock lines and tied a line from the boat we were towing with.  I felt like I was stealing my own boat.

Everything was going smoothly until we came to a bridge that we had to have open in order to get under it.   We called the bridge tender, telling him we had a boat in tow and needed an opening.  He said to come on and he would have it open when we got there.   We kept moving toward the bridge and didn't see the gates coming down.  We called again and the tender again assured us he would have the bridge open before we got there.  By the time we were almost at the bridge fenders, it was either go under or turn around - he still had not put down the gates to open the bridge.  We made a hard turn back the way we had come, just in time. 

We called the bridge tender and told him we had to abort because we felt it was unsafe since he didn't even have the gates down  and there was no way the bridge would have been opened by the time we needed it.  He made the excuse that he had someone on the bridge and couldn't get him off.  We told him that as soon as he had the gates down and we saw the bridge opening, we would be coming through.  Everything went through on the second try, but we were not rushing it since we waited until we were sure the bridge was actually opening.

We towed it to a marina that was close to the house where we had dockage for our "new" boat, a 35' Morgan.  The next day, we talked to the owner of the dock about having 2 boats now.  He later called us to tell us his neighbor wanted to buy the boat we just repossessed and he was going to buy his neighbor's little boat.  What a great deal! 

We cleaned up the boat again and a few days later, made the sale.  That's the only boat I was able to sell and made money on it.  What a deal!

Betty Karl

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Buying a boat, Selling a boat.......

This is a picture of my 4th sailboat.  I have purchased each boat with dreams of sailing off for an extended time, possibly never coming back to reality.

My first boat was a storm-damaged boat with a 4 foot gash in the side, an old 25' Hunter.  It was almost free, but there was a lot of work to get her ready for sailing.   I didn't even try to work on the gash, I hired a fiberglass guy for that - he made it bulletproof at that spot.  This was my boat to learn on and decide if I really wanted to go cruising.   It didn't take much to convince me and I was trying to convince my partner we needed to take a few months and sail to the Keys to see how great it was.   He told me it wasn't big enough to travel in.

OK, so I started looking at bigger boats.  I had convinced him that we needed to sell everything and visit the Caribbean in our own boat.  He went along with the plan, probably assuming I'd never get it all together.  The next boat I found was a 35' Morgan, an oldie, but solid.   It was in my price range and so I made a low offer and it was accepted. 

In the meantime, I had sold the Hunter - on time payments.  Great idea, I ended up repossessing it one cold winter evening - but that's another story.  It wasn't easy to resell, this time for cash, I made pretty good money on that little boat.

So, after a couple years of getting the Morgan ready for cruising and having multiple garage sales to get rid of everything, I was ready to leave.  I left my rental property in the hands of a supposedly good rental management company.  We sailed down to the Keys and landed in Marathon after visiting the Dry Tortugas and Key West (of course).  When I got my mail, I found that the management company was not doing what I needed, so we got jobs, I put the properties up for sale and we made more improvements to the boat.

Almost a year later, we crossed over to Bimini and moved down the islands to the Dominican Republic and beyond.  By the time we got to Grenada, I had not seen a bigger boat that I liked, but I sure found one there.  She was a CT47, cutter rigged and just beautiful.   And I bought it.  So,
now 2 boats - one has to go.  It took me a few months to sell the Morgan and even though I loved my new boat, I'm glad I didn't see it leave the harbor, I felt very sad about selling her, after all we'd been through.

About 7 years later, 3 years after my partner abandoned ship, I felt I needed to sell my CT47.  It was way to big for singlehanding, all the repairs and maintenance cost a fortune.  It was a tough decision and the day after the sale, I was at the airport walking out to the plane and trying very hard not to cry about leaving my boat and leaving the life I loved.

I landed in Daytona Beach, unfortunately an area populated by NASCAR and Harley fans and not sailboats and sailing people.  Sure, there were a few, but certainly not like I was used to.   After a couple years, I found myself looking at ads for sailboats - and bought a really sweet little 32' Morgan.  And I know when I sell her, I will again try not to cry at the closing.

I know it's not just the sale of a boat, but the realization of the end of the dreams I had when I purchased each boat.

Betty Karl