Tuesday, December 8, 2009

crazy heart

"Life, unfortunately."

Watch this movie trailer and you'll hear country singer "Bad" Blake explain to a reporter where he gets most of his songs.

I haven't set foot in a theater in years but I am looking forward to going there soon to see the Crazy Heart. Why would I bring up a film about a broken down country western singer on a blog about sailing? Reading books is one of the true joys of sailing - particularly those quiet evenings when single-handed sailing and there is nobody around for miles - and I read Thomas Cobb's Crazy Heart in 1988 on my first ever cruise on the original Spartina, a modified Sam Devlin-designed Nancy's China (below).

I, along with a lot of help from my Dad, built the Nancy's China in 1986-87 while I was living in Waco, Texas. I'm a southern California boy but spent seven years living in Texas and loved every minute of it. To this day I miss it all - the weather, the food, the music.

Trying to get information about boat building and cruising in the middle of Texas was difficult in those pre-internet days. I scoured every page of WoodenBoat Magazine and Small Boat Journal that I could find. Asking about epoxy and marine plywood at Dallas marine suppliers would get me nothing more than eye rolls and vague answers. But with Dad's help I got the boat built. I left off the cabin that Devlin drew for the boat (even back then I knew I wanted to do open cockpit cruising) and used a gaff rigged main instead of the sprit rig (the heart of Texas in the 1980's, a couple of hundred miles from the coast, was not the place to get advice on the intricacies of handling a sprit rig or, for that matter, anything else about sailing traditional wooden boats) .

I launched the boat in December of '87 on Lake Waco, and in late May of '88 trailered it five hours south to Padre Island for a five day cruise behind the barrier islands of Texas. In retrospect I was very poorly equipped and poorly trained - basically I had a camp stove, boom tent, flashlight, sleeping pad, bucket and cheap rain coat. But fortune favored me, the weather was good and I had a great time. And to this day I remember sitting in the cockpit in the evening, a baseball game out of Houston on the radio, reading Crazy Heart.

There is some great sailing territory along the Texas coast. The area I cruised is part of the territory travelled each year by the Texas 200 fleet. Someday I hope to join Chuck and the rest of the sailors for that event.

At the time of that first cruise I planned to be a regular visitor to the Texas coast. But less than three months later I was unexpectedly trailering Spartina across the country to a new home in Virginia. It was "life", as Bad Blake says, but I'll leave off the "unfortunately" as this life on the mid-Atlantic coast has worked out pretty well for me.

As for the original Spartina, I sailed her for couple of years in Elizabeth City, NC (just across the state line), then put her in the garage when kids (and responsibilities) arrived. I refitted her about seven years ago when the girls were old enough to sail with me. Then sold her to a guy from South Carolina to help pay for building my Pathfinder. The new owner moved to Missouri and then sold her to someone in Fort Worth, Texas. Then that guy sold her to someone in Dallas. I haven't heard from that latest owner in years, but I'm glad to know that the original Spartina made it back to her home state of Texas. I hope she is doing well.



Marius said...

Hi Steve,
Thank you so much for keeping your interesting blog going even in the months between trips. I visit your blog daily to see what's new. I am a South African openboat enthusiast and you might have seen an article I wrote in the latest Smallcraftadvisor magazine.

Steve said...

thank you for the nice note. Yes, I did see your story in Small Craft Advisor. I'm a big fan of that magazine and consider it to be today's version of the old Small Boat Journal. Haven't had a chance to read your story yet, but it is definitely on my reading list for a cold winter's night. Enjoy your sailing season.