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What Sailing Means to Me
By Paul Amundson
• C30 • Valhalla

If you gathered a group of sailors together and had a philosophical discussion amongst them about what sailing means to each one of us, you would probably get as many answers as there were sailors present.

I have been a sailor for over twenty years. My first boat was a Catalina 25. On this boat I really learned the art of sailing. I sailed in light air, heavy air, and in perfect ten conditions. I overnighted on this boat and explored the unknown harbors and waters of Long Island Sound. Five years ago I upgraded to a Catalina 30 with the expectations of cruising further and longer in this larger and more sea worthy vessel.

Throughout my sailing career our youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, was my first mate. She was the one that experienced my learning curve and learned the art of sailing along with me. You see, my wife of fifty years never liked the boat but never stood in my way or denied me the joy I received from sailing. However, on March 2007 the love of my life, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and to put it mildly I was totally devastated. My first reaction was that I was going to sell the boat so that I could devote my full energies and time to caring for my wife who I love dearly. It was our daughter Mary Ellen, my first mate that told me "Dad you can’t do that, you have to have an outlet; we'll make it work" she was right at the time because my wife was in the early stages of the disease and I could take time out of my caregiver duties to engage in my passion to sail, which helped me face the many challenges the disease presents.

As the disease progressed, I curtailed more and more of my sailing activities and knew the day was fast approaching when I would eventually have to sell the boat. However, last year my wife said to me that she wanted to go sailing with me. I didn't know what to make of this at first, but I did take her sailing. Nothing crazy, very conservative, just a nice close to home day sail. Guess what? She loved it. Last year she accompanied me on each of my sails. Like I said, nothing crazy, very conservative day sails. She's a different woman when she is on the boat, it's almost as if she did not have this affliction; it's almost therapeutic. I know that there are those skeptics that are going to say that's not possible but take it from someone that is witnessing it first hand; she's a changed woman when she is on the boat. Now I'm a realist, I know the prognosis for this disease and I know there will come a time when she and I will no longer be able to engage in this activity that we now both enjoy, but for the current time she and I will continue to enjoy the remaining time we have together.

Now you would think that my story would end here but it doesn't. On September 8, 2009 our youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, my first mate, suffered a massive brain aneurism and almost died. In fact, none of the doctors that cared for her expected her to survive. She beat the odds. On the night she suffered the aneurism they bored into her skull to relieve the pressure on her brain and then performed what is called 'coiling' to stop the bleeding of the aneurism. She was then in a coma in intensive care and we were told that she could suffer vasospasms that could lead to a stroke and possible death. My wife and I were at her bedside every day worrying if she would ever wake up, and when she did, what disabilities our daughter would have.

We didn't know if she would ever wake up, but one evening she opened her eyes and said to me, "Dad when we are going sailing?" It was at that point I knew that our daughter was going to make it. It's now May, 2010. After one month in intensive care and eight months of rehabilitation, my wife Laurene and our daughter Mary Ellen and I have just returned from a perfect sailing day. While Mary had some difficulty getting on the boat because she still has numbness and lack of motion in her left leg, she hasn't forgotten the feel of the wind in her hair and the helm under her hands. It was pure magic to see her enjoying the love of sailing once again and to have her mother on board to witness this phenomenon. So whatever you feel about sailing and whatever your sailing experiences are, please don't tell me that sailing is just a sport.

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A New Life In 100 Cold Miles
By Patrick Ponsonby
• C25 • Black Pearl

Sailing is as addictive as a narcotic, or maybe it is a narcotic. One sail and you can be hooked for life. There is nothing quite like the magic of sailing – the gurgle of water rushing by, crackling canvas, soft murmurs of a breeze, and the special sense of catching the power of the wind. I learned that on a Hunter 34 I once owned and enjoyed sailing and racing, and the memories stayed through the intervening years when I traded sails for engines.

Recently, while fishing from my pontoon boat, I saw a sailboat slip by; I started dreaming again. My heart warmed, and my desire rose. I started checking the classifieds. I was hooked again. A Catalina 25 in Hampton, Virginia caught my eye. It was October, and with winter approaching I reasoned that it might be a good time to buy. There is always a good reason.

I contacted the owner and we agreed on a price, but there was no trailer. That meant my reintroduction would be a 100 mile sail and motor from Hampton, Virginia to Hertford, NC via the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

My son had just had surgery on his ankle, but he agreed to go with me. He didn't need a functioning foot to steer.

We left Hampton, Virginia on a cold December day. Wind from the NNW at 12 MPH and a temperature around 30.

I served 22 years in the US Navy and sailing past the carrier and destroyer piers at Norfolk Virginia brought back more memories. We were motoring south past the Naval Station en-route to downtown Norfolk, VA. As we arrived at Norfolk amid the busy water traffic we went past the battleship Wisconsin, and berthed in front of the battleship was the schooner Virginia.

After passing between Norfolk and Portsmouth, we continued south to the ICW split. The passage to port (East) would take us down the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal to Coinjock, NC. This is a stopping place for boats waiting to cross the Albemarle Sound on their way south via the ICW, but the Albemarle Sound is rather shallow and can get very rough in a hurry. Also, a Nor-Easter would put waves on the beam. Leaving Coinjock, you travel down the North River into Albemarle Sound and cross to the Alligator River.

Since I wanted to stop in Elizabeth City, NC, we chose a starboard turn to the Washington Canal and Dismal Swamp, a passage reportedly originally surveyed by George Washington. It's a winding passage until you get to Deep Creek, where you enter a lock and are lifted eight feet before exiting into the Dismal Swamp Canal. We tied up for the night after clearing the Deep Creek Bridge. The overnight temperature of 19 degrees had left a coating of frost on our decks for our early morning exit from Deep Creek.

Fifteen miles of motoring down the Dismal Swamp Canal brought us to South Mills, North Carolina. After passing through the South Mills lock it put us on the final leg of our journey for the day and an open bridge to welcome us to Elizabeth City, NC.

Elizabeth City is a very friendly port of call. They provide 48 hour free docking and the "Rose Buddies", dockside greeters who bring a rose to every lady on board, but only the ladies.

After leaving Elizabeth City the next day we had to break ice passing down the Pasquotank River. We actually got to sail for about 15 miles with a light wind from the west. Upon reaching PR1 (The day marker at the entrance to the Pasquotank River) we turned west, into the wind, and that was the end of sailing. We motored from there, and upon reaching my entrance canal at Holiday Island found the water was low. I needed 2' 10", and it was a little lower than that. With the 9.8 Nissan running wide open and my son on the bank pulling, I found if I went to the bow the boat would move some. After some time we made it inside the opening and from there it was a slow ride up the canal dodging overhead trees. I knew I would have to come back in my pontoon boat and trim trees later.

Although she started the journey as Day Dream, Black Pearl earned her new name and new life in a hundred cold miles.

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