Rhumb Lines October 2017 Issue

Surviving the Great Hurricane

Would the owner of the boat pictured below please call or write me again? I imagine by now, in the wake of Harvey and Irma and whatever heartbreaker came after, there are a few more people like me who would benefit from your tale. People in need of a bit of encouragement, some cloud-vaporizing wit, the kind of inspiration you brought me over the phone. Sadly, I’ve forgotten many of the details.

Hurricane Ivan
Hurricane Ivan brought the end to many cruising dreams in 2004. But this boat, as the owner related to us earlier this year, refused to succumb.

You called me last year . . . around spring, I believe. I was in the middle of a divorce and a move and feeling the malaise that can come when you cross the shadow line, that point in life when you suddenly recognize you’re closer to the end than the beginning.

And deadline. I was definitely on deadline.

You told me how you’d seen your boat in Practical Sailor recently, and that it wasn’t the first time. In fact, you said, the photo of your cockeyed boat—high and dry on the rocks somewhere after Hurricane Ivan—kept reappearing in our pages at the start of every hurricane season. I remember being struck with a sudden sickness, imagining how awful it must be for you each June, watching your boat’s final hours replayed online and in the pages of our magazine. I remember trying to apologize.

You laughed—the laugh of a man whose last mooring pendant has unraveled and come loose, I thought. But then you explained: you had an epilogue to share.

Those weren’t the final hours for your boat. Not by a long shot.

As it turned out, the hull wasn’t too badly harmed—nothing that couldn’t be fixed if given the right attitude and enough time. I think you said it was a Mason 43, and though it’s hard for me to confirm with the photo (the cove stripe is the only solid clue), that seems right. Like the many other offspring of the Cruising Club of America offshore racing rules, these solid fiberglass hulls can take a beating before they give up the ghost.

The resurrection took a long time. I forget exactly how long—months, maybe years—but I remember the words you used: “You’d hardly recognize her now.” I remember considering the phrase. How it can be interpreted two different, nearly opposite ways. How the intended meaning relies so much upon which words we emphasize and the tone. Said one way, it could describe a grandchild who is well along the path to self-sufficiency, said another it could refer to an old friend who never quite recovered from a downhill slide.

There was no mistaking your meaning, even over the phone. The Mason was once more your pride and joy, a beauty from stem to stern. All it took was the right tools, grit, and the wisdom to focus on one project at a time. Don’t allow the long list of other “to dos” distract you from the task at hand, you said.

I hope this request reaches you, and you’ll reach out again. Deadlines or no deadlines, I’ll take better notes this time. And I’d love to see the “after” photos you promised, when she finally sailed again.

Your story, more than any I’ve heard or told about oceans and boats and storms, served as a poignant reminder that the most trying moments are the ones that make us stronger. We’d all be pretty sorry sailors if we never faced a storm.

Godspeed to all who lost (and gained) something in the storms of 2017.

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