Yesterday was a beautiful warm fall day, with pleasant breezes and blue sky with a patina of haze. So I went bicycling with my good friends Herb and Gina on a trail in Westchester County, NY. It's one of those that used to be a commuter rail bed, but was torn up in the late 50's. Although whomever did the tearing thought it a good idea, it has left the area woefully under serviced for public transport.
But that's not really why I'm writing.
I met Herb and Gina (pronounced Gin-a as opposed to Geena) when I had Mudlark, my first boat in the Haverstraw Marina. Mudlark was a '62 25' Rhodes Meridian, with a fiberglass hull and wood mast and boom.
Anyway, they had their beautiful Ericson 28, Impulse Too. Now listen to this: every boat they've had is beautiful because Herb is constantly fixing and improving it. Compared to Mudlark, where I was constantly fixing it to keep it afloat.
Don't get me wrong - Mudlark was the perfect learning boat - she was built like a tank, beautifully balanced, and incredibly forgiving. If I had pulled some of the stunts in my other boats that I pulled with Mudlark, we wouldn't be talking now. But that's for a later entry. It will come up, I'm sure.
Anyway, Herb and Gina (almost always said in the same breath - invariably, we speak of them as if they were the same person. They're not, but they are the same 'unit', with all that implies. If you had to emulate any long term relationship, this would be the one) had sailed their boat from Connecticut, which to me was, at the time, incredibly far away! An adventure! Like around the world!
Meanwhile, I had, as my longest trip, sailed up to Chelsea near Beacon, NY and down to Nyack. Perhaps 30 miles in all, at different times. Mudlark was fun to sail, but less so for overnighting.
But back to Herb and Gina. Herb is an engineer by trade and an experimenter by avocation. And what bigger thing to experiment on than a boat? He's come up with bottom paint that really resists growth, a once-a-year wax for fiberglass (which does work). He's not afraid to try things 'that should work', and more often than not, perform as well or better than expected.
That said, Herb is the conservative of the group - the voice that tells us that going sailing in a gale is perhaps not the best idea we've come up with. And he's what we lovingly call "the curmugeon'.
Still, when faced with a disagreeable task, he's the first to volunteer. What you wouldn't guess from his demeanor is that he can be an animal on the boat. On Wind Hawk (my Ranger 30), he was bowman, and he was incredible. More on Wind Hawk later.
What all that means is that I'd trust Herb and Gina with my life.
More on Gina later, too, because she definitely deserves more coverage. She's outgoing, giving, social, and a voice of sense in the rest of our somewhat senseless group (not really, but sometimes it seems that way).
We've known each other since 1982 or so - and sailed, raced, partied and currently are growing, um, older together.
When Herb & Gina decided to get a bigger boat they found one in Annapolis, MD. It is the very same Ericson 34 that I now own. They named it 'Moonraker'. I helped them bring it up from Annapolis. I told him when he was ready to sell it, I wanted first dibbs. That seemed to work out, eh?
Also on that trip was Laura, Dave, and Lori, who sadly for us and the rest of the world is deceased. We all get together annually and have a Lori's Brew party where we make, well, Lori's Brew. It involves vodka, blueberries, and sugar. And waiting for 90 days. But when completed, yum yum!
But I digress.
Dave is no longer in the group either, but from divorce.
On the finger on the other side of Mudlark from Impulse Too was a Rhodes 19. Look, some of the most pretty boats designed came from the drawing board of Phillip Rhodes. Check it out.
During the summer when I was busily repairing Mudlark for whatever ailed her, Laura would come down and work on the Rhodes. We often talked. It wasn't until I got involved in racing a few years later that I started seeing her regularly at regattas up and down the Hudson.
Eventually, we started talking at these after-race parties, and when I got my Ranger 30, I asked her to race with me. At the time she was crewing regularly, but her captain's son, Dave raced with me so we kept in touch both on and off the water.
Soon she bought an Alben 28, Penn Central and started racing that. Dave wanted to race with her and I was getting tired of racing my boat, so we both went to Penn Central to race.
Well racing led to cruising, and so on - more on that later, too, but you'll know Laura because of her current boat Cassiopeia, a Benetau 42.7 S that came in first overall in the 2005 Marion Bermuda race. She was also the skipper of the first all women crew to do the same race.
She is also someone I'd trust my life to.
So, today, you've met the core group. There's a lot more to be said about them and our adventures together but this will do for today.
See you on the water!