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Bumbling Through Paradise

Bumbling Through Paradise

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Bumbling Through Paradise

4/5 (3 valutazioni)
206 pagine
2 ore
Feb 13, 2014


In 1985 Nancy and Jerry Thacker bought a 37 foot Tayana 37 cutter sailboat for recreation sailing in Long Island Sound, a popular sailing venue between New York and Connecticut, their home. After sailing on weekends for two years they sold their home and moved on their boat. They headed for the Caribbean,with thoughts of of someday sailing to the south seas or Europe. Their neautiful candy-apple red sailboat became their home for the next six years. As novice sailors, they experienced many unexpected obstacles during their years on the water, including several narrow brushes with death. This book, while it discusses some of the many pleasant parts of their journey, emphasizes some of the many problems experienced in their six years living and sailing in their sailboat in the Caribbean.

Feb 13, 2014

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Bumbling Through Paradise - Jerrold Thacker



This book is about 8 years aboard our 37-foot sailboat Hyperion. For six of those years it was our only home, living the good life in the Caribbean. But this idyllic life was not without its problems—enough, in fact, to fill this book!

Perhaps from inexperience, or occasionally just bad luck, my wife Nancy and I had a lot of unpleasant experiences, some even life threatening. This book chronicles many of these experiences, including here and there some pleasant ones. If you are contemplating cruising sometime in the future, or just sail occasionally for pleasure, perhaps you can learn from our experiences.


I was born and raised in the Midwest, and knew absolutely nothing about sailing. My first experience with sailboats began when I moved to Westport, Connecticut at age 50. Westport is on the shore of Long Island Sound, and about 5 miles across the sound from Long Island, New York. Long Island Sound is one of the premier sailing venues in the United States, with many marinas along its shores, and perhaps more than a thousand square miles to sail in. For the most part it is quite deep, but where it is shallow, the bottom is rocky. It has a 7-7 1/2foot tide, which is a challenge, and can sometimes also be a problem.

I first got into sailing there with a friend Mike, who had a 12-foot catamaran similar to that above. The canvas deck was just large enough to hold a 6-pack and the two of us. We would launch it at the public launch area at Norwalk, Connecticut and sail it up the channel. It was great to be on the water, but whenever there was the slightest breeze heading down the channel, we could not make much progress, no matter how hard we tried to tack into the breeze. Very frustrating!

But I was hooked! I took a few sailing lessons at the Westport marina, sailing 12-foot sloops. These sailboats had no motor, so we learned to sail the old-fashioned way, and to take off or land at a dock under sail. Those lessons served me very well in the following years with larger boats when the motor failed.

I convinced Mike that he needed a bigger boat, and found a used 22-foot Catalina with a swing keel (a keel that can be retracted for easy trailering). It came with a trailer, so Mike could keep it in his driveway when not in use.

Sailing in that small (I now realize) sailboat was a joy. We would go out every Saturday—Mike, Donna, his wife, and three children. It sailed very well, and had a small cabin. I remember one Sunday when I brought a copy of the New York Times, and went below in the cabin to read it. Donna looked down into the cabin and almost threw up. I could never go down there, she said. Fortunately I never got seasick. Not so for the rest of the crew. A while later as we were under sail, Donna felt the urge and leaned over the stern of the boat to throw up. Still leaning down, her children asked, Whatcha doing, Mom? Just watching the water was her reply. I realized how lucky I was not to get seasick.

Eventually I tired of sailing only one day a week, and offered to buy the boat from Mike. He declined, so I went looking for a boat of my own. I finally found one I could afford, a fairly old 30-foot Catalina. This is a very popular design, with thousands in use. It has a 12 horsepower internal gas engine (the 22-foot did not), a kitchen area, dinette, and two sleeping areas. Since it had a keel that drew about 5 feet, it could not be trailered, so I found a mooring in the Norwalk harbor. To reach the mooring I bought a small fiberglass dinghy, but it was only about 100 feet to the mooring. The mooring area was a tiny finger of water, perhaps 200 feet wide and 200 yards long, so each boat was moored front and back to prevent swinging into other boats. It was a little tricky getting in and out, but it was quite convenient and inexpensive.

At the time I bought the 30-foot Catalina, which I named Hyperion after a portable computer I was fond of, I was divorced. On my first outing in my new sailboat, I brought along a girl who had experience with other sailors. As we left the mooring, I attempted to raise the sails. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had never seen the sails! Foolishly I bought the boat without having it surveyed. (Don’t ever do that!). Fortunately, the sails were worn but acceptable.

As we sailed out of the harbor, my friend looked below into the cabin. Where are the dishes, pillows and things? she said. I looked at her with a rather stupid look. I don’t know, I said. Truth is, I never thought of the cabin, which was quite large, as anything I would ever use. Chagrined, the next time she came to the boat, she brought plastic dinnerware, cookware, pillows, sheets, and anything else needed to make the cabin livable. It became a second home to me, and I happily sailed night after night, and all weekends. Unfortunately for that girl, I sailed with numerous other girls as well. I called them Sail Bunnies.

Then I met Nancy. Nancy was in the process of a divorce, and had sailed on an identical sailboat with another gentleman. When she came on the boat, she was amazed at the similarities. We connected immediately.

About that time, Hurricane Gloria, unusual this far north, came ashore in Norwalk, where my boat was moored. Somehow Hyperion survived without damage, while a number of other boats in the area were driven ashore and damaged.

Eventually Nancy and I bought a unique home in Westport, and settled down. This was a party house, which at one time had been in Architectural Digest and whose landscape had been featured in House and Gardens. The pool had been seen in the movie "The Swimmer" with Burt Lancaster. It sat on 1 ½ acres of wooded land, and was quite isolated. It had been somewhat neglected, but with some paint, stain and carpet we made it home. It had just two small bedrooms, but it was perfect for us. When we moved in we had a catered party with 90 guests, for Nancy to show me off (she is a little crazy), and later had parties at least every other week.

Eventually, at one of the parties (a surprise for Nancy’s birthday), I proposed, and we were married in 1987. She was too good to let go, although I had declared I would never marry again. We’re still going great today!

We had tired of my Catalina, which was showing its age, and decided to get another boat. We selected the Tayana 37’, which can be customized and is built in Taiwan. This is an ocean cruising sailboat, with over 600 scattered around the world. It weighs 24,000 pounds empty, and has a fiberglass hull over 1" thick. I worked with the salesman to design it exactly as we wanted. After several months, it was delivered to the sales office in Stamford, Connecticut, and was exactly what we wanted. We named her Hyperion.

Hyperion was a cutter rig, meaning that it had two sails before the mast—a jib and a smaller staysail. Both were rigged with roller furling, meaning you could roll them up from the cabin like a window shade. It was 37’ long, but with a long platform at the bow (bowsprit) and dinghy davits at the rear, it was actually more like 45’ long.

The inside was much roomier than most sailboats of its size, and included a navigation desk, two very large (and deep) coolers, a 3-burner stove and oven fueled by one of two propane tanks, and a forward sleeping area. It had a 44 horsepower Yanmar diesel engine (very good!), and carried 90 gallons of diesel fuel—enough for about 600 miles of motoring. We also had two 50-gallon water tanks, a full standup shower and flush toilet. We carried two anchors—one a Plow on 100’ of chain with a windlass, and a Fortress anchor with 100’ of 1" rope. We had a stereo, a VHF radio and a Loran receiver. Those days were before the advent of GPS. The hull was extremely sturdy and made of fiberglass more than one inch thick.

I think we understood when we bought Hyperion that one-day we would do some serious cruising, for this was not the type of boat you would want in the Long Island Sound. Winds there were typically 10 knots or less, while we needed at least 15 knots to do any serious sailing with the sails we had. So most of the time when we sailed in the Sound (usually only on weekends) we either lazed along at a ridiculously slow pace under sail, or more often, motored. After all, fully loaded with fuel and water she probably weighed 26,000 pounds. The captain (me) is shown below.

The rest of this book describes various experiences we had during the next 8 years aboard our wonderful sailboat Hyperion. It is divided into three sections. The first section covers the first two years we sailed (or motored) out of Connecticut, where we lived. The second section covers our trip south to the Leeward and Windward Islands, and eventually Venezuela. The last section covers a number of years we spent on the boat in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, before our return to land. This is not a travelogue, but more of a telling of the bumpy parts of the trip—things you might want to avoid if you ever contemplate cruising.

The First Two Years

The first two years we owned our wonderful sailboat Hyperion we were complete novices. We had moved from a sailboat that weighed around 5,000 pounds to one that weighed 26,000 pounds—somewhat like moving from a bicycle to an 18-wheeler. This was not an easy boat to maneuver. It had a full keel with 6’ draft and an angled rudder, making it turn like the Exxon Valdez, and nearly impossible to steer in reverse. As mentioned before, the sail layout was designed for ocean cruising, and not for the light winds of the Long Island Sound. But we loved it anyway, and had a blast. The following are some of the circumstances we encountered in our early, novice period. They are not necessarily in the order in which they occurred (because I can’t remember the order!).

Bludgeoning a Bluefish

For some reason this is my favorite story.

I don’t really like fish, and I am certainly not an experienced fisherman, but for some reason we had bought a fiberglass fishing rod to troll behind us as we sailed. We were sailing along in the Sound, trailing a lure from our rod, when unexpectedly we caught a fish!

We hauled it into the cockpit, and it turned out to be a Bluefish, native to the Sound, and about 3’ in length. As it flopped around the cockpit we had no idea what to do with it. Finally Nancy picked up a winch handle and began flailing at the flopping fish. Blood went everywhere, but eventually brute force prevailed, and the Bluefish lay subdued. After cleaning the blood from the cockpit, Nancy cooked it that night, using lots of home-made tartar sauce to cover the fish taste, and it was quite good. Below is Nancy’s weapon of choice.

A few days later we were talking to a local fisherman about our experience, and he gave us a tip. He said that if you pour a little Rum down a fish’s gills, they die immediately. No more bludgeoning! We tried it later (using Vodka instead of Rum) and it works! But we still seldom fished.

A party of 34

Nancy loves a party—particularly if she is giving it. We were anchored at Block Island (between Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard) with a group from our yacht club. We were rafted up, meaning the boats were tied together so you could move from boat to boat without getting in the water. Somehow, Nancy (after a few glasses of wine) invited everyone to our boat for a party, and everyone accepted. Problem was, we had no food on board.

As it turned out, a nearby marina had periodic trips to a local market. Nancy jumped at the chance, and was soon on her way to provision for the party. The kicker was that she had only 15 minutes in the market to do all her shopping. Reports are that, with shopping cart clutched in her hands, she mowed down numerous fellow shoppers as she desperately navigated the aisles and grabbed what she needed.

She got it done, and we had a nice party, with 34 people on our boat. Of course not everyone could get below, and the small

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  • (5/5)
    I enjoyed the book, i thought it was an easy read..