This is a particularly special day for Annette and me as it was 5 years ago today that either of us had ever stepped foot on a sailboat. With the help of “Dealers” and “Enablers” we are, as we like to say, a demonstration of what is possible.
Since Annette and I were married in 2004 we have always known we wanted to do “something” besides work and live, but we had no idea what that might be. That all changed on November 5th, 2008. Ty and Suzanne Giesemann (aka “Dealers”) had just retired again to take off on their sailboat “Liberty.” Before they departed the area, they were kind enough to invite us out for a “harmless” afternoon sail on the Chesapeake Bay and dinner at this new restaurant in Annapolis they referred to as “Chez Liberty.”
(Ty prepares for departure)
(Suzanne suggested Annette take the helm for a while)
(“Wow this sailing thing is pretty cool!” BTW, last time I was ever this “dressed” on a sailboat or wore a Blackberry on my belt)
After our day on Liberty and many email discussions with Ty and Suzanne, we decided to charter a sailboat and skipper to take us for a long weekend sail in Key Biscayne, FL. We wanted one more opportunity to back away before we completely lost our minds and got after this sailing thing.
In the end we were lost causes and returned to Washington focused on how to turn this idea into reality. Heck, I am a Missile Monkey, you buy a book of course! After that you start at the bottom of any project and work your way up. In our case we joined the Pentagon Sailing Club and working with our new friend, Patricia Peters, we sanded the bottom of the clubs 22ft Catalina sailboats. As you can see, bottom paint is blue. That was the only the beginning for we quickly signed up for the club’s “Basic Keel Boat” training.
(First Solo Sail)
Literally the day after we graduated Annette and I borrowed one of the club boats and did our first “solo” sail. We will never forget it. The weather was a little aggressive for newbies and damn if we did not tangle the jib. None the less we sailed up and down the river on just the main sail. We were on our way!
As our luck would have it Ty and Suzanne were on their way back through town on Liberty and heading for Block Island, RI. They were kind enough to invite us to crew on the adventure.
As you can see on our departure Aeolus (Greek God of Wind) sent us on our way!
This picture of Ty and Suzanne looking at the charts always cracks me up. I visualize Ty coming to his senses and saying to Suzanne, “We can probably dump them here and be rid of them!” I only jest because they are patient with newbies aboard!
Gretchen and Rudy kept a very close watch on us. They were not use to strangers on board, but they were completely welcoming the entire time!
Though we planned to sail all the way to Block Island we learned our first lesson of boating — there is no such thing as a schedule. The weather is your master, accept it and live with it. We made it as far as Atlantic Highlands near Sandy Hook, NJ before we needed to pull the plug on the journey. None the less what an experience!
About the same time as Ty and Suzanne were sailing off, Greg (of Greg and Marie) (aka “Enablers”) started working with me at the office. Ty and Greg had know each other when they were both sailing in the Mediterranean and so it was only natural Greg would come in to replace Ty. The only surprise was that little did Greg know he and Marie inherited Annette and me too!
Knowing their boat was currently more “home” than “sailboat” I offered, “hey we don’t have a boat, but we can get one of the club Catalinas if you and Marie want to get underway.” There was not a second of pause and in spite of the weather off we went! As the picture shows, it was pouring rain, but we still had a good time.
Annette and I continued our training with the Pentagon Sailing Club making trips to St Michaels and organizing a super fun event we referred to “The Poor Man’s Regatta.” All the while Greg and I talked sailing on a daily basis. The whole time he was making me think. What is the thought process when it comes to sailing and boats? Those discussions formed the basis on which we operate Magnolia today.
Annette and I joined the Seven Sea Cruising Association and attended the annual meeting held near Annapolis, MD. Ty was the President of the SSCA then so we had the opportunity to spend time with Ty that weekend as well
Annette and I continued our training and involvement in the PSC. We were awarded the most improved sailor’s award at the 2009 Annual Banquet.
It was important to Annette and me that we obtain our American Sailing Association (ASA) credentials. We spent months studying and building our skills with the help of the PSC. We travelled to the British Virgin Islands and sailed with Capt. Pat Nolan of Sistership for a week of exams and testing.
While much of the action was taking place in the mid-Atlantic, Ty and Suzanne were at their home in Florida thinking “boy, sure glad we are only “dealers” and not “enablers”. Poor Greg and Marie!” That all came to an end when Annette and I asked them to come look at a boat with us since they were in Florida and so was the boat. I will never forget looking at this Kelly Peterson with Greg on the phone asking me to look at specific things and Ty thumping away on the deck checking for rot and Annette and Suzanne peppering the salesman with questions. I swear he was on the verge of giving us the boat.
None the less we eventually found “Wind Fetish” aka “Magnolia” with Ty and Suzanne’s help evaluating her. She is our 1990 Morgan 44 from Tampa Bay FL.
(Annette takes the helm during the survey and inspects the hull)
We have a problem, the boat is in Florida and it needs to be in Virginia. From the movie, “Who ya gonna call? ‘Enablers’ of course.” I will confess here and now that I cannot recount this part of the story with a dry eye. Keep in mind we had no idea the scope of the help we were asking for. We asked Greg and Marie if they would “sail with us for 2 weeks to bring our sailboat to the Chesapeake?” In hindsight and I know what Greg heard at the time was “will you please work like dogs for a couple of weekends in Florida before we leave? Then just before we leave go down a couple of days before us to make final preps and sail for at least 10 days, 1000 miles, sometimes 100 miles offshore on a boat you have no history with and a crew that does not have a clue? He and Marie readily took on the challenge. And we are still friends!
(I look at this picture often and vowed never to be the guy watching and soon as we got Magnolia home I spent every moment I could learning about her – AND spent hours pestering Greg via phone/email on “stuff” which I still do to this day.)
Many may not beware, but you simply cannot rename a boat, you have to ask permission from the gods of the sea and wind and only perform such an act with appropriate pomp and circumstance. When we acquired her, she was referred to as “Wind Fetish” which just did not work for us. The name Magnolia comes from Annette’s mother, Orpha. Her favorite tree was a large Magnolia that grew in the family yard in Falls Church, Virgina. As stated by our friend, Jill Roberts, “Magnolias are relatively easy to grow and pest free – isn’t that what you want in a boat?” With that simple logic we knew we would name our boat S/V Magnolia. A proper renaming ceremony and party was held June 2011.
The next year S/V Second Sally (Greg and Marie’s Boat) along with S/V Magnolia made a “cruise” south to St Mary’s, MD
(The real treat and perhaps what this “life” is really about is about, was being able to introduce our new sailing friends to our old sailing friends – Mike and Tina Moreau)
In the spring of 2013, Annette and I quit our jobs, readied our house, and called Magnolia “home.” Below are our friends, all of us “Class of 2013” (first timers heading south one way or another). All the stories are different, yet similar.
I can not speak for all of the class, but for Annette and I simply feel so very, very privileged to being doing this. We have had much help from many along the way, yet without our “Dealers” and “Enablers.” we would not be here. We are so very, very grateful to you. Thank you so very much Greg, Marie, Ty and Suzanne.