I’ve Got A Whale Of A Tale To Tell You Lads – 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea 1954
Dale was one of those carefree adventurous spirits who happen to believe he was the best sailor ever. Dale also had the ability to convince me that his adventures would always turn out to be great fun, which they seldom were. Let me tell you about the time we braved the treachours sea.
It was nineteen seventy something near the middle of September at Cocoa Beach, Florida. Most of the summer tourists had gone home for the fall and the snowbirds had not landed for the winter season. It was a bright sunny morning and the winds were high coming out of the west pushing hard from the coast to the open sea.
As we kicked around ideas about what to do that Saturday several were discarded. Fishing? Nope, too windy. Watch TV? Nope, we can do better than that. Ride our bikes down the beach? Nope, the tide was too high.
“I know”, Dale says with a gleam in his eyes. “Let’s take the Hobie Cat out for a spin!”
The Hobie Cat that Dale lovingly called his “yacht for the poor man”, and for those of you who haven’t been around sailboats, was officially a Hobie Monocat. A sailboat that came out in the early seventies that uncomfortably held two people and was prone to tipping over at the slightest hint of a stiff breeze.
“I don’t know Dale,” I say as I look out the window of his family’s oceanfront condo while watching the sole fisherman on the beach pack up his gear and futility try to keep the wind from blowing his baseball hat off his head. I continue to watch the old man battle the wind and note that the wind has won as the old curmudgeon rips the hat off his head and forcibly stuffs it into his tackle box.
“That wind is pretty stiff out there. Your boat isn’t made for that kind of stress.” I say turning my focus back on our plan to put ourselves into a battle with the wind and the high surf.
“Come on, man!” Dale continues. “We’ll just take it out past the pier and back in. We can say we braved the high seas. it will be fun!”
The Cocoa Beach Pier was two condos down from Dale’s place. The Pier was built in the early sixties and is about eight hundred feet long, jutting out into the ocean.
After a few more moments of debate and deliberation, I was convinced of the fame and glory that would be ours would well be worth any slight amount of risk we were about to be exposed to.
“Anyway, what could possibly go wrong?” Dale asked as I find myself on the other side of the Hobie Cat pushing it from the safety of the sandy beach into the churning surf a few hundred yards away from the Pier.
We hop into the unstable boat, sail up, rudder down and secured ourselves to the boat with leg straps you use to counterbalance the Hobie Cat when it starts to tip over.
Crashing into the boiling surf with the wind to our backs at what must have been thirty miles per hour we race to the end of the pier in a matter of minutes. No small feat as the waves would pound on the small deck of the craft making it shutter as we pitched up and over the monstrous mountains of water that were insistently marching towards us.
We could smell the sweet victory as we reach the end of the pier and Dale trims the sail to make the turn around the horn to head us back to dry land.
And then it happened. With a sharp crack like the sound of a major league heavy hitter breaking a bat on an inside fast ball. Snap. The mast that holds the sail, our source of propulsion, was gone. Ripped from the hull of the boat and plunged into the murky depths of the seething ocean.
Dale shouts over the roar of the surf, “We’ll be fine the waves will push us back to shore! We’ve got this!”
The surf did not push us back to shore as the wind was winning the tug of war with Dale and I clinging to the side of the Hobie Cat as it drifted out to sea. Before the distance between the boat and the pier was too great at the end of the wooden structure we see Dale’s Mom frantically waving her arms and shouting something indiscernible.
Dale’s Mom must have seen us pushing off the beach and ran to the pier to see what nonsense her son and the goofy friend were up to this time.
“Maybe she wants us to swim to the pier!” I yell at Dale.
“No, the surf is too rough! She is probably telling me how stupid I am for doing this, she likes to lecture.” Dale says as I see the bravado leaving his body. “Hopefully she will call the police or something.”
We both hold on to the boat, put our heads down and hope for the best. Getting spun around like a turd in a toilet, we knew without saying it was not going to end well.
It seemed like we were out there for hours but at the speed we were moving it couldn’t have been more than forty-five minutes. The multi-story condos starting to look like the hotels in Monopoly from the distance we begin to lose sight of land. At that time a small Coast Guard Cutter pulls by us at a safe distance.
A burly looking man with a helmet and heavy weather gear shouts over the ships PA system, “You boys need some help?” Two other Guardsmen are throwing us lifelines as a fourth is securing the Hobie Cat to pull it into port.
I don’t remember much after getting pulled onto the Coast Guard vessel. I remember looking down at my feet and not making eye contact with any of the crew and the burly Guardsman telling us how we endangered ourselves and his crew with “that stupid stunt.”
I do remember the tears of our respective Mothers and then the yelling about never doing anything like that ever again.
I also remember that I was glad to be on solid ground and alive.
Retelling this story, I know I learned a lesson. Things can go terribly bad in a short amount of time. I can happen in life and it can happen in business. When you have the right team to help you even the most desperate situation can have a happy ending.
Live, Love, Matter