Saturday August 19th. Cape Charles Cup regatta

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 24th, 2017

The 14th annual Leo Wardrup Memorial Cape Charles Cup participants are coming in to the harbor. Eighty four boats registered for this 20 mile sail from Little Creek on the north shore of Norfolk side of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. This evening they are dining and partying at The Oyster Farm Marina at Kings Creek and racing back the same way tomorrow. The event draws many visitors and a band concert is given in the town’s park this evening. 

The schooner “Virginia” won her class, she always does because she has a class of its own. She takes up 122 feet of the Cape Charles Yacht Center dock.

Virginia state flag on starboard spreader and California on port. Apparently a west coast passenger. But not sure what the (looks like) USA flag is for on the forward mast port spreader.

Virginia state flag on starboard spreader and California on port. Apparently a west coast passenger. But not sure what the (looks like) USA flag is for on the forward mast port spreader.



Wednesday August 16. On the evening news.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 16th, 2017

Shortly after the shipwreck I was invited by LTJG Brad Millikken of the Portsmouth Virginia, Hampton Roads sector, US Coast Guard station, to meet the crew who coordinated the rescue with the Helicopter personnel. Today I had the pleasure to thank the men and women. The chopper crew stationed in Elizabeth City N.C. sent the rescue swimmer Sam Fuller out to our meeting. I was very impressed with the command center. It looked like pictures we have seen of the Cape Kennedy Space Center. At least ten men sitting behind their computer screens monitoring the traffic and emergency calls. The three main TV stations were present to cover the encounter.

You can view the streaming of their part of this evening’s news at:

Local Channel 10 WAVY.COM -FOX. This is the most complete coverage.

Local Channel 3  WTKR-CBS This is a shorter version

Local Channel 13 This is an excellent photo gallery 

With Sam Fuller, the rescue swimmer

With Sam Fuller, the rescue swimmer. Photo by Channel 



Wednesday August 16. Enjoying my free gifts.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 16th, 2017

When I am asked: “What is your favorite spot you visited on your travels?” I answer that my very first stop, the Marquesas, tops the list and that Romania is next. The Marquesas steep volocanic formations covered with magnificent lush tropical splendor, in an unspoiled isolation are an obvious contender. But Romania needs an explanation. You need to look up the details and photographs in “SoloMan”.  In a nutshell: I spent parts of all four seasons in Calafat and Zimnicea, about 50 miles apart on the most southern part of Romania on the Danube. It is also an unspoiled isolated part of the world. You will not find it advertised anywhere as a tourist destination. Only a handful of European bicycle tourist pass through here on their way to the Black Sea. It was for me the first opportunity to watch the changing nature, the fall harvesting, winter plowed fields, Gypsy farmers collecting firewood, spring blossoms, summer fruit. Growing up in the city I never experienced this progressive scenario. This long stay on the Danube was caused by the time it took to try and revive my old Renault engine and then to install the replacement.

I am getting another taste of it here in Cape Charles but hope that it will not end up in another of Vivaldi’s Le quattro stagioni. Time stood still in Cape Charles. Until the Chesapeake Bay bridge/tunnel was built it was the rail ferry terminal for the Atlantic sea board. But it has changed since I stopped here on my 2008 Chesapeake Bay cruise. It has a world class golf course, tourism is on the increase, and the Cape Charles Yacht Center has become a popular destination for the sail and power boat cruisers. They recently brought one of the 75 ton super large travel lifts across the continent from the Port of Skagit county, Washington. “Fleetwood” is sitting on a large grass field. I managed to get the port bunk cleaned up enough to sleep on board. It is on a dead end road and the only noises I hear are the crickets and cicadas during the night. Behind a strip of tall Pine trees I hear the braying of a donkey as soon as I stick my head out of the companion way.  You might consider a donkey as an upgrade from your guard dog. My favorite stainless steel folding bike went to the dumpster, this stainless steel does stain. The Marina has a nice beach runner bike for their visitors and I have been able to get around much better than walking across the rail road tracks to town. Yesterday morning, on the road side, I came upon these glorious glorified morning glories and it turns out they are related, Wild Potato Vine. Their roots are very similar to a sweet potato and are edible. For these kind of pictures I wished that I still had my Nikon D50, instead of my cheap smart phone. When there are still savings left after the rebuild I shall look for a replacement.IMG_20170815_074943

There are cotton fields all around the area which are now in bloom, pretty white and red flowers. I have seen cotton fields just before and after harvesting but never green plants with colorful flowers. The other crops here are peanuts, soy beans and potatoes. Lots of Ospreys and I can still fool them with my two finger imitation of their shrill calls. 

I love the Northwest but the southeast has more bird and flower variety. When I was waiting for the insurance decision I’d take my first caffè latte to the porch at my daughter’s house at the crack of dawn, say my prayers and watch the squirrels. The neighbor across the street must have a rabbit lair. IMG_20170808_181851One morning I saw one of this year’s crop stand on his hind legs and rub his front paws just like he saw the squirrels do. One of them made it into our backyard. The mocking birds sing, the incredible bright colored cardinals fly across. One evening at dusk I saw a fire fly, which I have not seen since I was a child. The ground and vegetation smells are much more pronounced than in the lower humidity of the Northwest. 

It seems that the fewer “things” I own, the more I enjoy and appreciate the apparent small free pleasures of God’s creation.


Sunday August 13th Cape Charles today and nine years ago.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 13th, 2017

A friend from St. Therèse parish, Ed, gave me a ride from Chesapeake to Cape Charles last Thursday. I was back at my daughter’s house by 8.30 am that morning from my MRI. The x-ray operator commented that I was the first patient he had ever seen coming in on a bicycle.  The surgeon had requested this because I had not felt any improvement from the back operation when I saw him on July 27th. I have another appointment with him on the 24th. In the meantime I have less discomfort and can walk straighter. Yesterday I worked a little too hard and felt it, today I did not get going till the afternoon, with church and my administration. It rained practically uninterrrupted for most of yesterday. I have plenty of work to do on the inside of the boat. Today, when leaving the church I got wet on the way back. But the rest of the afternoon was sunny and not too hot.

The task I have take on is overwhelming. And I wondered if I made the right decision. Today was a better day than Friday and yesterday and I got more done. I enjoy the work and Cape Charles is a beautiful spot. Looking up the meaning of the mushroom circles that are sprouting up all around the boat, I learned that they are called Fairy Rings and bring good luck. In Holland they are called Heksen Ringen and in Germany Hexen Ringen (Witches Rings) and they bring bad luck.

My French two burner propane stove will need new parts and 12 volt power for the off switch and ignition. So, I have been eating out. Most of the restaurants in town cater to the summer visitors and are pricey. When I had the rental car here, I drove 5 miles to the highway shopping center and bought Chinese take out and for breakfast had my Mac Donald sausage McMuffin. René, at the marina office suggested the pub on the Bay Side golf course. I went there Friday night and  used the beach runner bicycle to get there through a beautiful gated community. The food, location and service was excellent and reasonably priced, too much for me and half of it makes lunch the next day. Today I had breakfast at the Drugstore before 9 o’clock mass at St.Charles.  Rob, the harbormaster, stopped by with a fishsandwich for lunch. It looked like it would be a stunning sunset tonight and  rode the bike to the board walk. I decide to skip dinner and just try the ice cream parlor. There is always a lineup and probably makes more money than any of the towns restarants. So here is the picture of the purple beach runner, me and the blackberry purple icecream. Note that the bike has a white cup that is too shallow for a waterbottle but perfect for the icecream cup. But when I was done shooting the setting sun, I spotted the Mexican food truck. I had been looking for it since I arrived on Thursday. Turns out they only come on Friday and Saturday, but because of the rain they skipped Saturday and came today. I bought a Huaracho with pork and lots of fresh vegetables and avacado. I ate half and the rest is tomorrow’s lunch.

The 2008 picture of the sky after sunset was taken on August 12, 2008. I sailed from Cape Charles, via Winter Harbor to Deltaville and arrived on the 14th in Urbanna on the Rappahannock River. I met Lynne the next day at the marina. We became friends and thought that my solo sailing days were over.  Nine years ago, it seems like yesterday, I hold on to the good memories.

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This Wednesday I have been invited at the Portsmouth US Coast Guard station to meet the men who rescued me by helicopter on June 23. Rob McGuire, the harbormaster here, will give me a ride back to Chesapeake. On the 21st my granddaughter Gabrielle returns on the nuclear carrier “President Ford” from a six month deployment in the Med and Persian Gulf. I shall attend her homecoming in Norfolk. On the 24th I have the follow up back surgeon meeting. On the 26th there will be a funeral service at St. Thérèse for Mary Dion, a friend, who passed away on her 93rd birthday. I hope to be able to get a few days boatwork in between these dates. Before I know it fall be here and winter soon behind it. Say a prayer that I will not let “Fleetwood” down.

I am having an issue in Word Press that all of a sudden you are unable to enlarge my pictures. Another problem to solve that takes my preciuous time away. I’ll work on it.


Wednesday, August 2nd. “Fleetwood” will rise again. _/) _/)

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 2nd, 2017

A week ago, after a week of cleaning up, removing the remaining sea water and thick mud from the bilge, I discovered additional dammage besides the split along the lower port chine and the damage of the rudder post and “sugar scoop”. The lower chine on the starboard side is also split and the stringers broken at the masthead bulkhead and the floor timber at the masthead bulkhead.

I was ready to throw in the towel after all the nasty cleaning and the discomfort of the back ache. But after consultation with Todd, the builder of this particular NAJA kit, I decided to go for it anyway. Monday I got the confirmation that the insurance will cover the $19,000 wreck removal bill. Now I can draw my plans. It will take a number of months. Chisseling out the damaged stringers and parts of the chines and floors, cleaning out the breaks, scarfing in replacements. Reinforcing the weak areas with carbon fiber, etc. After I have repaired and repainted the underwater parts of the hull and installed the engine replacement and the solar panel, I plan to move the boat back to the Nautical Boats Marina in Portsmouth to finish the interior and above the water exterior, wiring, electronics, etc. Make up new floor boards, cock pit grills and the one lost hatch, companion way entry, etc.

In case any of you have suggestions, I am looking to replace the one cylinder 10 1/2 HP engine with a two cylinder 12 to 18 hp, Kubota Nani N-14) or Mitsubishi (Sole Mini 17) block, Westerbeke 12-D or a Yanmar YM2GM or similar in a good used or rebuilt engine. Preferably near the Chesapeake Bay.

Once I get the damage where the weather does not affect it any longer, I plan make the postponed trip to Quebec to meet up with Roger Simard of the 1980 Naja “Bonita”. On this road trip I might be able to stow an engine in the trunk and plan scrounge the  New England consignment/salvage yards for the many items I have lost. Fisheries Supplies will be getting a long shopping list I am working on. Fortunately I still have a decent discount set up from the days that I was selling and assembling the NAJA kits under my company A&T Marine Services. I have not been in Cape Charles since last Wednesday evening. On Thursday I had an appointment with the back surgeon. Since I had not experienced any relief from the surgery, he ordered another MRI and X-Ray, which is scheduled for the 10th. My occupation with the boat did not help in the recovery. In the meantime I am house and cat sitting for my daughter and son in law on their 9 day vacation. I may end up as cat food unless I hear from them soon as where her dry food is hidden. They took the bicycle I was using with them and walking the three miles to the nearest market is not agreeing with my back.

Here are a couple of pictures of the additional dammage I discovered:





broken bulkhead and 4 mm gap from keelson

broken bulkhead and 4 mm gap from keelson







Just the replacements of the lost/ruined items is over $ 10,000 and that is a little more than my current savings. This does not include the repair materials. The alternative would be to walk away from the project, hope that enough salvage items like winches, deck hardware, rigging, etc would cover the cost of what is left to go into the dumpster.  Then I might find a fiberglass substitute for say $ 10,000 that would take another $5,000 plus to outfit. But it will never be the sailboat that “Fleetwood” has been and potentially will be again. I realize that my age is slowing me down but I am looking forward to the challenge and progress and to be reunited with my faithful friend with the hand on her tiller a bone in her teeth and a smile on my face.

Every last week of the month there is a nearly $2,000 Social Security deposit on my account. My books royalties are slowly growing. One of the regular readers of this blog has already stepped up with a very generous offer towards the “resurrection” with a $1,000 offer. My twin brother, Jan, has already deposisted a similar sum on my Euro account in The Netherlands. In 2010 I had to replace the old Renault engine in Romania on the Danube, far from any marine cacilities and that added to the expense of about $8,000. It cleaned my savings, but I managed to restock and when I lost the original “Fleetwood” in 2013 in the Mediterranean I managed to purchase the current boat for $7,000 and again built my savings back up. So, I am expecting that the Lord will again take care of it.  But if I get in a bind, I will avail myself of your aid.

You can do me a great financial favor and your self the pleasure or as a gift to your friends to purchase “SoloMan” and/or “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”. In particular if you buy the printed version from instead of Amazon. I am also keen on giving a presentation to a crowd of potential readers in the Northwest in November/December or here on the Atlantic Coast.

I insert part of my spreadsheet of the insurance estimate with the items that need replacement. Just in case you might have it in your garage or know of a good source.

Repair Estimate sailboat “Fleetwood”

Replacements: Costs

Solar Panel Kyocera and controller $350.00
Inflatable Dinghy $750.00
Engine, installations rebuild mounts $7,000.00
Engine upgrade from one to two cylinder -$2,000.00
Engine hatch material, lost $50.00
Life Raft $2,100.00
Boat tools $1,000.00
Two batteries $700.00
All wiring including mast $375.00
Horse shoe life ring $50.00
Windvane vane $60.00
VHF radio $400.00
AM-FM radio $150.00
Handheld GPS $150.00
Galley two burner propane stove $350.00
AIS-GPS transponder Vesper Marine $940.50 (This might still be resurrected)
Cockpit floor grates, teak $150.00
Cabin floors, oak strip $200.00
Hardware boat spares $350.00
Broken lines & halyards $50.00


Sunday, July 23rd. A hot weekend in Cape Charles.

Written by Jack van Ommen on July 23rd, 2017

Last Monday I got a ride to the boat with Rob, the harbor master, who lives close to where I am staying in Chesapeake. I got some cleanup done but I need to pace  my self with the healing process of my back surgery. Last Thursday I rented a car to be returned this coming Thursday. Good thing that the rental car was upgraded from an economy to a mini van. This allows me to sleep in the van. I hope to get the yard here to present me with an estimate of the repairs for the insurance company. The way I understand it is that if it comes out higher than my coverage they will pay the maximum coverage and then I will use it to pay the $19,000 tow bill.  I made up an Excel spreadsheet of the items lost by floating away and destroyed by the saltwater and it alone adds up (conservatively) to over $14,000 including the engine. And since I made up this list I keep discovering additional items. After I have flushed out all the mud, the area where the boat is standing will become a priced garden plot.

Cape Charles is a charming little town. Hard to reach at the very southern tip of the peninsula that starts in northern New Jersey. The Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. The personel at the marina are very helpful. Jeannine and Sean came out today to help me. Sean took the two deep cycle batteries out which way over 40 lbs each and would put me right back on the gurney. Jeannine brought lots of my favorite treats and an ice chest. They also set up a tent where I can sleep and keep the cleaned “keepers” under roof. On Thursday I have a post-op appointment with the back surgeon. I am rehearsing my white lies on keeping the BLT (Bending-Lifting-Twisting) commands.

The country around here is very rural, farms, woodlots, tidal sloughs. A farmer’s trailer sells produce on the honor system, every item is priced and you put the money in the slotted box. The peaches, canteloupe, corn, etc. are a a real treat here. On Friday I had a visiting papillon for a while flapping its wings and aerial acrobatics. I believe it is a Red Spotted Black. A week or so ago, in the back yard of my daughter in Chesapeake, I saw this unusual Dragon Fly, a White Tail Skimmer. Never seen before, but apparently they are also seen in the Pacific Nortwest.

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And aIMG_20170721_195139 picture of the magnificent sunsets we have here in Cape Charles. All taken with my $30 ZTE android phone the      replacement for my single reflex Nikon cameras and lenses I lost in the wreck.



Sunday, July 16th. Fleetwood’s Fate.

Written by Jack van Ommen on July 16th, 2017

But first an update on my back surgery. I was released on Saturday July 8th. after Friday’s surgery. I never needed any pain killers but still taking muscle relaxers. Frankly I have not felt any benefit from the operation yet, right this moment the opposite, but figure that will eventually come. And this all came at an inopportune time. Because I need to clean up the recovered “Fleetwood”. She was towed into Cape Charles Yacht Center marina on Monday the 9th. I rented a car on Tuesday to see the damage. She is repairable. But the uncertainty I am faced with is how I am going to pay the $19,000 recovery/towing bill. In my previous blog I mentioned that the young man, Jake, was going to dive and determine where the water was coming in from. He found a crack in the lower chine on the port bow, and made an attempt to close it with epoxy. He had an electric pump and generator with which he and his brother got “Fleetwood” afloat. But he had to abandon the effort by dusk because he did not have enough fuel to keep the generator going while towing the boat the 35 miles to Cape Charles. Now I was left with the only other option I had after several salvage companies had turned me down. For one the remote area and the possibility of un-exploded ordnance in this once bombing practice range.  The Ocean City, Md., Tow Boat US had found out what the maximum insured value of my policy was and they had me between a rock and a hard place. They had the pump and the float bags and towing equipment. They wanted $21,000 for the job. I ended up settling on $19,000. My maximum coverage is $ 18,900. I already paid Jake his very reasonable bill for his attempt and inspection, a little over $1,100. But I need to get the boat cleaned up in the interior to better determine the damage. I shall try to do this tomorrow. The harbor master at the marina lives not far from where I am staying in Chesapeake and he offered me a ride. Commuting from here to Cape Charles is costly, $13.00 each way for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tolls. If I retain possession and see my way to repair her, I shall stay on the boat, like I do in Green Cove Springs and enjoy the quaint old harbor town still glowing in its glory of the time this was a very busy railroad ferry junction.

I managed to recover some of my clothes and some my boat/personal papers.  Everything below decks is covered with a layer of mud/clay. The small 2 gallon diesel canister leaked and the smell of it is in everything. The cockpit floor grates and the engine hatch floated away, the solar panel fell off its frame mountings. All the wiring will need replacement a very tedious and time consuming prospect. The rudder post bent backwards and pushed the leading rudder edge into the bottom of the “sugar scoop”, making a difficult to repair hole.

One thing some experienced boater might be able to explain to me: The lower mast shrouds are loose, the uppers appear unchanged.  I am baffled. The lowers are attached to the same chain plates as the uppers.

Here are some of the pictures I took last Tuesday:

Heavy chafing from shell covered sandy bottom

Heavy chafing from shell covered sandy bottom

The underwater epoxy repaircrack with underwater epoxy


A disaster scene in the cabin

A disaster scene in the cabin

In Cape Charles

In Cape Charles






Thursday July 6th. Keep your fingers crossed.

Written by Jack van Ommen on July 6th, 2017

Or better yet say a prayer for two successful operations. On my back tomorrow and on “Fleetwood” on Saturday. The first one, the kyphoplasty, is well prepared and should be routine. There is a chance that “Fleetwood” could be resuscitated. I had a number of turn downs from salvage contractors to refloat and dispose of the wreck. Then late yesterday a plan formed to drag the wreck onto a “bulkheader” a small flattop barge that is used to construct seawalls and docks, with an excavator. This would effect the removal order but it would be highly unlikely that it would leave the boat in a repairable state, just salvage and dumpster junk. A little later in the evening I received a FB message from a young man who had spotted the boat last weekend on an outing to the islands. He took a close look and he has come up with a possibility to refloat and lift the boat with a travel lift at a boat yard in Cape Charles. He is going to dive to take a better look at the keel joint this Saturday. If there is too much damage and to difficult to pump her dry for towing then we will go for the “bulkheader” plan. So, pray and stay tuned.

The other good piece of news is that I just bought a hard disk drive enclosure and the hard drive on my old Toshiba is good and I am transferring the files to the (even older) Toshiba Satellite that Jeannine has donated. Most of my pictures of the last part of the circumnavigation are on there, my e-mails and word files etc. The hard drive of the newer lenovo is up next.



Fourth of July. Dependent on Independence Day.

Written by Jack van Ommen on July 4th, 2017

Moving right along after the shipwreck. You all have lifted my spirits with your reactions and encouragements. Thank you very much, I love you.

My back operation, the kyphoplasty, is scheduled for this coming Friday. More X-Rays and an EKG were done yesterday. They will keep me overnight and then I’m good to go on Saturday.

The next operation to deal with is the wreck removal. The Virginia Marine Police showed up at the crime scene while I was hoisted into the helicopter. Last Saturday two husky officers showed up at my daughter’s address and I had to sign the affidavit that I will have the wreck removed by July 22nd., or else. The officer in charge has been very helpful and sent me the below pictures. The first one was taken that Friday morning and the one deeper in the water two days later. The boat was at a fairly steep angle when I abandoned ship but the keel has apparently dug into the sand and therefore straightened out. I had managed with great difficulty to get a liability insurance in 2014. Wooden boats are tough to insure. The coverage was limited to US waters.  I cancelled the insurance in San Diego last October and obtained coverage for Mexican waters. Then last May, back in the USA, I re-applied for liability at the same State Farm agency. They confirmed coverage. But then I received a notice of cancellation by mail to my daughter in Fife’s address. The reason they gave in the letter was that I had not given the answers to an earlier e-mail. But I had. So, when the accident had happened I was desperate. But in the end it turned out that the cancellation takes effect on July 19. So, I am covered for the removal costs. The real reason turned out to be that the underwriters did not want a client who pops in and out of the country. I have asked a few towing/salvage companies for bids but still waiting for answers. There is a remote chance that “Fleetwood” can be repaired. But the longer I wait the lower the chances and fewer the opportunity for recovering items like the windvane, life raft, etc. These Barrier Islands were once used for bombing practice and still contain some unexploded ordnance, complicating things.

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Once I have this operation under way, I intend to drive up to Montreal to meet Roger Simard who has invited me to sail down the St. Lawrence on his Naja “Bonita” to Quebec City for the Tall Ships Parade, July 18-23. This is the second Naja kit imported from England after my “Fleetwood” kit. I flew to Montreal in the winter of early 1980 to see her exhibited as a hull in the Montreal boat show. Roger is the second owner, he did a very successful refit and upgrade of her about 10 years ago. I shall visit friends and my Vermont cousin along the way. In my previous blog I suggested house sitting and it looks like that is starting to happen. I plan to be in the Northwest for Thanksgiving and probably confirm an invitation from friends in Carpinteria, near Santa Barbara, for September and part of October.

Suggestions and offers have been made for a “Fund me” action to finance a replacement for “Fleetwood”. There is a good chance that I’d like to spend a few more years exploring by sail boat, but I have no firm plans yet. I have savings and, thank God, for now a loving home with Sean and Jeannine in Virginia. I am sad that the “Great Loop” did not work out. Cuba and the West Coast of South America remain on my wish list, by boat or by air. In the meantime, I am financially supported by my book sales, especially if you purchase the print versions from Create Space instead of Amazon (see details on the books web sites) tell your friends. I replaced my salt ruined cheap cell phone with a $30 android. Same 253 are code number starting with 441-. Now I am no longer the butt of snickering when I place the phone to my ear.




Saturday June 24. A new chapter.

Written by Jack van Ommen on June 24th, 2017

I am sad, embarrassed, but grateful that I am alive and excited as to what God’s plan is for the new chapter.

Another shipwreck. “Fleetwood” grounded near Mink Island on the Virginia Eastern Seaboard at around 4 a.m. yesterday. A coast guard helicopter from Elizabeth City, Va. lifted me off the life raft at daybreak. This is the scenario that led up to this. I had planned to leave before noon on the low tide to be able to clear the bridge near the marina in Portsmouth, Va. When I tried to start the engine the ignition switch was loose, after several attempts to fasten it, I ended up having to replace it. I left the dock at 16.30 hours and then sailed against the incoming tide arriving in the Atlantic and out of the  Chesapeake shipping lanes at sunset. At 2.30 am I had cleared the lower Eastern Seaboard peninsula sailing  N.E. and felt safe to set the alarm and take a one hour nap. But I had not realized how tired I was and I most likely slept through the alarm, in the mean time the wind must have changed from a westerly to a south westerly and with the wind-vane changed direction towards shore. The “should haves”: Prudence would have been to leave the next morning to get out to open water earlier without the lack of sleep. I had paid the moorage and the adrenaline was pumping.

The boat was moving at over 5 knots with full main and the 140% genoa.  I awoke by the grounding and dropped the sails, started the engine and reversed.  It was pitch black and difficult to determine which direction the deeper water was without going down in the cabin to check my position. It was hard sand bottom and with every new wave I was getting harder aground. The boat was bouncing like a wild bronco. I called a May-Day on channel 16. At first there was no response. Then I pushed the alarm on my Garmin In Reach tracker. They received the signal at 4.30. I put the two laptops, billfold, two back up hard drives, ship’s log and my Nikon and Go-Pro camera in the new ditch bag I had bought since losing my laptop in the Cabo San Lucas surf. Water started to come in from the bilge on the cabin floor. I was constantly talking to the Coast Guard dispatch. When the water was coming in heavier I pulled the life raft from the cabin floor into the cockpit. This turned out to be a near impossible task. Never stow a heavy valise like this below deck, in ideal conditions this might work but not when the boat is bouncing and you are under stress and getting exhausted. The boat started listing but when water came up to my knees on the cabin floor it straightened out. I managed to step/dive straight into the open canopy of the life raft. I took my portable VHF and the Garmin Tracker with me in the raft they turned out to be the only survivors out of the ditch back. The bag turned out to be useless for keeping equipment dry. I dried the log book pages and my wallet’s content.

The coast guard rescue swimmer pulled me through the water on my back with my inflatable PFD and put me in a steel wire basket and then swam back to the life raft to bring the ditch bag through the water. The crew chief then winched him up by his harness. I was told at first that we were flying to Elizabeth City, their base, but they were directed to search for a boater* in the water at the mouth of the Neuse River, just north of Beaufort, N.C. My shin had a deep gash and was bleeding the rescue swimmer put a bandage on it. All that I wore was a t-shirt, wool sweater and my under shorts and boat shoes. The copter had to refuel at Cherry Point US -Marine air station. Here I went without pants, still dripping wet into the air conditioned lounge, shivering. We got a hold of my daughter Jeannine to come and get me, a three hour drive. She brought her husband’s sweat pants, a t-shirt and underwear. She insisted to take me to the ER of the hospital across the street here in Norfolk to check my shin wound, get antibiotics and a tetanus shot. I have mentioned that I injured my back in a nasty fall in the cabin in a storm off Cabo Malo the day I reached the Panama Canal. I have had a constant back ache, since. I walk with a stoop and cannot straighten my back. She and her two sisters insisted that I have this checked out as well. We spent from 10.30 until 18.30 in the ER ward of the Sentara hospital. The X-Rays showed an 80% compressed vertebrae, next the MRI showed more problems higher up at the neck but no nerve damage. According to the neurosurgeon I have two options to relieve the pain, besides rest which has not been easy while sailing and maintaining the boat, a corset or surgery injecting a plastic (Kyphoplasty) to raise the compressed vertebrae.  Since I am no longer a free man and can sail and go where I please, that decision shall be made by my keepers, my children.

I have to cancel my presentation at the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic Seaport, the books I had hoped to sell are now flotsam. I had roughly a thousand dollar sales value of my books aboard. They are replaceable. I loved this boat. The last I saw of her with just her name visible at the waterline. Two Fleetwoods lost. May they rest in peace. I am very grateful for the excellent and professional response of the US Coast Guard, the help, love and friendship from my family and friends.

I have no idea what my next destination will be. The Great Loop trip has taken a great leap out of my reach. My reputation as a navigator may be somewhat dubious but I am a good multi language boat hand and cook and excel as a house, pet and chicken sitter. Keep that in mind  Something good will come out of the loss and disappointment.

  • The search ended by finding the lifeless body on the Neuse river shore. A sad ending to his boating mishap. I count my blessings to get an other chance.