A Peek into my Former Life

Sometimes I forget that I used to have this whole other life before I moved to Vancouver. And then I come across something like the video below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Start of the Atlantic Crossing on…“, posted with vodpod

The voices in the background (other than mine) are the group of girls I worked with at the time – Carolina from Australia, Katarina from Sweden, and Sandra from South Africa. We called ourselves the “United Nations.” They were some of the best people I ever worked with.

I took this video in June of 2005, as the yacht that I worked on at the time was embarking on its estimated 2 and a half week journey across the Atlantic Ocean, enroute to France, or Spain, or Croatia – I can’t remember where we were headed. The funny part (or maybe not so funny part to me) is that we never made it to the Mediterranean as planned. A mere 8 to 12 hours or so into our Atlantic crossing – we had only reached the Bahamas – we realized that something was wrong with one of the engines. We later found out that the shaft to the propellor had been bent and cracked. The captain made the decision to turn around and head back to Florida using only one engine. We went reeeeally slow. It was painful. Especially since we were heading in the wrong direction!

Now, because we had given up our spot at the dock of the Fort Lauderdale Marriot (you can see it in the video, but it’s now called the Fort Lauderdale Grande), we had to find somewhere else to go. I guess during our many hours of travel back to the U.S., the captain had organized a space for us at the shipyard in Jacksonville, FL. At the time, we complained a little, because we knew there were many shipyards in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach – why couldn’t we go to one of those? Ha! If only I knew then what I know now…

Now this next part gets a little interesting. I had never experienced anything like this in my life. The US Coast Guard requested to board our yacht as we neared the Jacksonville shipyard, because they were suspicious of this yacht that left U.S. waters for just a few hours, only to turn around and come back again to a different city. They must have seen us coming on the radar from miles away. This is a common problem for yachts that are registered under a foreign flag (our vessel was registered in the Cayman Islands), because you can only stay in the U.S. for up to 6 months I think it is, until you have to leave the country again to renew your U.S. Cruising License. The Coast Guard guys were very friendly, though. We asked if they would wear these little white cloth booties over their big boots so they wouldn’t trample dirt onto the teak decks and into the interior of the yacht which *I* so dutifully cleaned everyday, and they obliged. No big deal. No stains on the white carpet. Phew!

Then, when we came to dock at the Atlantic Marine Shipyard in Jacksonville, we had the U.S. Department of Homeland Security waiting for us in their brigade of black SUV’s. Wow. Talk about gobsmacked. There were probably a dozen of them that boarded the yacht, and I think it was a woman who was the one in charge. They did not wear the little white cloth booties, to say the least. They said it was too dangerous, that they might slip. (I would have loved to have seen that!) Our Chief Mate had to take them around the yacht while they opened up all of the cupboards and drawers, engine room hatches, and even *gasp!* my underwear drawer. How invasive! The rest of us had to assemble on the aft deck while they called each one of us forward and asked us questions about where we were from, all the while meticulously studying our passports. Cue sweat. Everywhere. I couldn’t even tell you what they asked me. I can’t remember.

Now, it wasn’t that bad. While I thought they were really conceited, overly serious (there were NO smiles coming from them, that’s for sure), and totally rude, we hadn’t done anything wrong, so they had no reason to be angry with us. Later, we had to admit that although it would have been courteous of them to wear the white booties or at least watch where they stepped while they trudged through someone else’s very expensive private property, it would have taken away from their “cool” factor, because as much as we despised them, we were kind of in awe of them.

Anyway, moving on… the Jacksonville Shipyard. It’s actually kind of a lie to say that we were in Jacksonville, really, because we were about 40 minutes from downtown Jacksonville. We were in the boonies. Nothing but roadkill for miles. One bar down the road, and an entrance to the highway in the opposite direction. To say we were bored would have been an understatement. They had to take the boat out of the water to repair it, and because it was a Feadship, all of the parts had to be custom made and sent from Feadship, located in Holland. Plus, two engineers from Feadship had to fly in to do the job. Because this was not a planned shipyard, or “drydock” period, no one had organized for the crew to stay in temporary housing on land, and we had no idea how long it was going to take. Instead, we had to stay onboard the yacht, climbing a rickety staircase everyday, suffering through broken air conditioning, and the South Florida heat throughout June, July, and August. Ugh! I would be dripping sweat before I even stepped out the door.


The crew somehow found a way to get through it. We wakeboarded after work, we drove out to the beach on the weekends, and often drove or cabbed into town to enjoy some Jacksonville nightlife. We had BBQ’s when it was someone’s birthday, we played bocce, and I *tried* to keep up with my running to stay fit. It didn’t work. I got… let’s say, I got “healthy,” as my Grandfather would put it, during my time in Jacksonville. This is most likely the reason why every time I say the word “Jacksonville,” my friend Jerra says that I say it with complete and utter disgust. My dreams of sipping on cappuccinos, and drinking wine in St. Tropez… well, they were shattered. Instead, I was eating coconut shrimp and french fries while sipping a Budweiser at a bar called the Sand Dollar. This could explain how I got so “healthy.” No comments here, please!

Now, it was not as terrible as I make it out to be. After our new shaft and propellor were installed, and we succeeded in our sea trials, we were finally ready to leave Jacksonville. Woohoo! By this time though, the Summer Mediterranean season was basically over. Instead, we headed North to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, because the owners were anxious to get some time in on their yacht. I actually really enjoyed Charleston, and I wish that we would have been able to spend more time there, but this was hurricane season. This was the year of the category 1 Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Lousiana, and many other tropical storms in the area. Every time we got comfortable somewhere, we had to pick up and leave again. We finally ended up back in Savannah, GA for a paint job (more shipyards!), and later on ended up back in Fort Lauderdale for the fall, and eventually the Bahamas and the Caribbean for the winter. So don’t shed too many tears for me.

And the next summer, the summer of 2006, I finally made it to Europe. It took 17 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and I can say that I have done it. I got to sip on cappuccinos, and drink wine in St. Tropez. All is well with the world again.

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8 thoughts on “A Peek into my Former Life

  1. This is why blogs were invented. So you could tell your family (and future generations) crazy stories like this.

    wooot! Awesome Jan, thanks for making use feel like we were there, kinda. Awesome post.

  2. Janis………. that was very entertaining…enjoyed the read. You should carry on with a few more stories so we can get a better understanding of what you were up to for those years away from home…:) Love you Aunty Donna xo

  3. Yeah, that’s what they keep telling me, Auntie D. I’ll try to come up with something else newsworthy for you all. Thanks for reading, and for the comments.

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