Hope everyone enjoyed (or at least remembers) Part One of this little missive. As I was halfway through writing it I recalled another “knots-per-dollar” story that had to do with iceboats and yachts and, while seemingly innocuous at the time, ended with me getting fired from a perfectly good job.
This one was a life-changer.
A few years back (around the turn of the Millennium if you must know) I was working as a first mate / deckie on a big carbon maxi boat. 80 feet long, lightweight, former race yacht turned daysailer. She went pretty well to say the least. It was a cool job but we never raced and I found myself increasingly bored with the same ol’ same old. Iceboating had reared it’s ugly head the previous winter and I was hooked — and had a bit of an attitude I guess…. Anything less than 45kts or so wasn’t fast enough to impress me anymore.
The boat’s owner was really proud that he had paid for the boat by selling a vintage Ferrari to a certain (recently retired) late night talk show host. The sale price of the car was the same as the purchase price of the boat. He liked to mention this- often. I used to kid him that he’d been ripped off as the Ferrari was faster than the boat. He would kid me back by saying not as many people could sleep in a Ferrari and it didn’t even have a galley.
All in good fun of course.
So there we were one summer day, beam reaching down Buzzard’s Bay toward Newport, RI in about 15 knots of breeze. Boat making an easy 10-12 knots. Pretty darn idyllic.
I was chilling out in my usual spot by the running backstay grinder pedestal, watching the scenery go by. I was still jazzed about a bunch of whales we’d seen in Cape Cod Bay the previous day and looking forward to seeing friends in Newport. But mainly I was wishing winter would hurry up and arrive so I could rig my ultra-cool, new-to-me 1962 DN (US 2172) and get on the ice for my second winter season.
I was already hooked in a bad way.
The Boss was steering, happy as could be when we surged to about 13 knots on a puff and he mused aloud that he was probably getting the best knots-per-dollar ratio of anyone out on the water. I won’t say what he paid for the boat but his Kts/$ ratio was hovering at about $70-$80K at that moment.
What can I say? Bored and feeling a little cocky I pointed out that “Hell, the iceboat I bought last year goes fifty or sixty maybe and I paid just shy of $700 for it! Wanna do the math on that one?” I must have gone on for another sentence or two, just for the hell of it but I do recall the Captain looking at me out of the navigator’s hatch, bugging his eyes out and making throat-cutting gestures telling me to zip my lip. I guess he realized that the boss was getting a little annoyed…
Did this shut me up? Shockingly, no — I just kept babbling about it. Finally, I got the hint and let it go.
But about a minute later (right on cue!) we were passed by a couple on an orange Hobie 18. What they were doing out in the middle of Buzzard’s Bay is beyond me but there they were — not even trapezing, just sitting on the hiking racks, possibly drinking beers, waving and having a great time as they smoked by.
Now, I grew up sailing a Hobie 16 and the sight of this couple on the Hobie set me off all over again; speculating at length about the cost and speed ratios of the Hobie 18 mixed in with a few comments about the male/female ratio on that boat versus ours. (All guys on our boat. Bummer.) Oh, I was on a roll alright….
Once again, the captain is making a face that says “Dude, what are you thinking, the guy is annoyed enough!” And once again, I just had to keep going, wondering aloud if they were going double our speed or only 30% or so faster, noting that they weren’t even pushing, that they would be in the bar and/or at dinner before we would, that there are things besides sailing that are also fun to do on a Hobie trampoline…. You get the idea. Basically, I was being an ass.
That trip and season finished up without incident but the writing was on the wall. I was (very rightfully!) let go at the end of that season for a list of things which of course included an attitude problem (which was worse than they thought) and a tendency to not work much during the winter when the boat was in the shed and the lakes were frozen. I was already skipping work to go iceboating. Writing. Wall.
So there I was, the day I got canned, in the middle of my “retirement party.” By which I mean that my awesome neighbor Jules and this guy Tony I worked with were over and we were blasted drunk by about 10:45AM. Seemed like a reasonable course of action at the time.
Have to back track a little here: A day or so before all of this I had emailed Lloyd Roberts (one of the very first emails I’d ever sent, by the way) looking for guidance on how to make a new plank — I’d broken my first one the year before and needed to replace it. I’d met Lloyd on the ice once and had read “Think Ice” but didn’t know him that well. He called in the middle of the festivities and in my condition (blotto) I think I was a little short with him —I didn’t realize who it was. (I think anyway. You’d have to ask Jules.)
As the fog lifted the next day I had a hazy recollection of talking with him and felt terrible that I had snubbed him. So I emailed him, explained what had been going on the day he called, and performed a full mea culpa. Tacked on a plea for forgiveness and begged once again for help with a new plank.
Shameless then as now!
His response confirmed my hunch that he might be one of the coolest people I’d ever met. I recall it verbatim to this day. He wrote:
“T — Don’t sweat the job thing — the happiest, sailing-est iceboaters are the ones who don’t put too much emphasis on things like work. Call me when you’re ready and I’ll tell you how to make a new plank. THINK ICE! Lloyd” Thanks Lloyd!
I took his advice to heart, built a new plank (Still have it!) and have been having a blast sailing iceboats ever since. Even if it’s meant a few lean winters over the years….
And by the way, my knots per dollar ratio is still way better than that carbon maxi boat’s….
THINK ICE! T. US 5224