THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
My biggest sailing experience to date is 2 weeks I spent on the Star Cat in January of 2008. My dad had gotten into sailing while I was away at college. I had a little experience on his first sail boat, a Hobie, and his Maine Cat 30, Star Cat. My dad passed away in November 2009, and I cherish having these memories, and regret not taking more opportunities to travel with him.
My dad was an adventurer. His 16′ Hobie cat was practically a toy, but he pushed the boundaries of its use. I remember one night sailing with my Dad and my brother in Galveston Bay. I don’t even know if we had lights on, but it was pitch black out in the bay. The three of us clung to the boat in our life jackets, passing abandoned oil rigs that we could only see when they momentarily blocked out the lights from shore.
Dad continued to push his adventures when he upgraded to the Star Cat. He would leave for days at a time, checking in as needed with his staff. One time he didn’t tell anyone he was leaving and when he was gone too long, Search & Rescue was called.
At one point Dad decided to take off. He crossed the Gulf f Mexico singlehandedly, clinging to the shore line and stopping as needed. There were times when he went too long with out sleep. One of his favorite stories was how he was off the coast of Florida and he got a lobster trap caught in his props. He jumped in the water and clung to the boat while he cut the traps loose. Coming into a marina the next day he was telling fellow sailors of his adventure, and they politely informed him that he jumped in notoriously shark infested waters.
I joined my dad by flying into Miami, where he picked me up and we drove back to Marathon. This was my first provisioning experience. We rode a water taxi to the nearest marina, walked to the grocery store with our backpacks, and picked out food for the next few days.
The next day we left for the Bahamas. The Star Cat does have berths, but we slept in the cockpit, in open air on air matresses just above the engines. I don’t remember much from the crossing, just that my seasickness manifested in lethargy, and I napped a lot (in fact, to this day, I love a good nap being rocked to sleep by the boat). Dad took care of most of the watches, setting an egg timer to wake him up every half hour to check our progress. We saw a cruise ship out on the horizon – just a speck in the dark until you pull out your binoculars and find a whole city of lights. We did have one instance where we were approched by a speed boat. We kept our eyes keen and when he got too worried, Dad grabbed his handgun, just in case.
We arrived in Cat Caye for our check in. From there we went to Nassau. Nassau provided most of the home luxuries. We went to a Starbucks everyday for internet, where we booked flights for 3 people to visit us. We also went to Paradise Island for it’s buffet, and Dad insisted on giving me $20 to gamble for the first time.
My dad loved off the beat path places, and he told me about this shop I just had to go to. We walked there through an impoverished neighborhood and found the store with bars on the windows and plastic flaps for a door. But once you walked in, it was the mecca of rum cakes, Tortuga. There were photos all over the walls of famous celebrities shopping for rum cakes.
I also developed a disdain for cruise ship passengers, of which most cruisers share. Nassau was a quiet and typical caribbean town when the cruise ships were gone. When they were in port, it was bustling full of tourists taking pictures, eating at Señor Frog’s, shopping at duty free stores, and pushing through the streets with their heavy bags and strollers.
When our guests arrived we left Nassau. We stopped at Rose Island to snorkel and explore. My first sense of how amazing catamarans were was when we cruised over a sand bank. The depth was somewhere around 4 feet, and with the water crystal clear, it was like you were gliding over the sand.
We also tried spear fishing, and did catch two fish. I took charge but we were pitifully unprepared to catch anything; I broke a knife trying to cut the heads off. We did succeed in filleting the fish, and barbecued them for dinner.
We explored Spanish Wells and Eleuthera before leaving on a plane for back to school. Dad kept going on the Star Cat, but only got as far as Georgetown before turning back to Florida.
The next Looking Back is joining my Dad in Palm Beach and crossing through Florida on the Okeechobee waterway.