A Visit From the Skelton Crew, and the Champagne that Went Bad

Jessica opening champagne

It’s not every day, I would assume, that you meet someone whose interests can be so aligned with your own.  Throw in the fact that this person found you via, the internet,  happens to be the same age as you, shares the same exact random thoughts as you, and even live within 30 miles of you to boot, is nothing short of astounding.  Yet this is how I met one of my best friends Jackie just over three years ago.

She happened to be a Lake Michigan sailor, just like me, who had plans to leave her life behind to cruise the Caribbean with her husband who has some obsessive compulsive tendencies, just like Matt.  From the very first time we met in person, participating in a Wednesday night race on Muskegon Lake, we instantly connected to the point we could finish each other’s sentences. Ever since that night we’ve had dreams of cruising the Caribbean together in our boats. Afternoons snorkeling, evening sundowners and dinners together, and night time bonfires. Fate appears to have something against our plans though, and for some reason keeps trying to squash our dream to sail together.

From the time Jackie and Ron were scheduled to come spend a week on our boat in the Bahamas, and we were delayed in Florida and stuck on the hard due to an accident; to our plans taking us to Europe when they were ready to begin their cruising, it was starting to look as if we’d never get our time together on the water.  Although this was disheartening, I had begun to think fate may have changed it’s mind when we purchased Daze Off, and had hoped to have her cruise ready just in time to intercept them at the end of the ICW.  That obviously has not happened.  As it turns out though, we will not be cruising with them for other reasons.

When Jackie and Ron left Muskegon Lake on the 4th of July, I began monitoring their progress south toward us, stood by to give advice when asked (and sometimes when not), and also lent a sympathetic ear when some of the not so glamorous realities of this lifestyle set in.  Admittedly I sometimes became a bit distracted with work on my own boat, but I always made sure to go back and read their blog posts to see what kind of adventures they were getting themselves into, and trying to catch them to chat on the occasions they had internet.

As their arrival date to south Florida approached I had the mixed feelings of being incredibly excited to see them, and also incredibly sad that we were not in cruise ready condition. For so long I had wanted nothing more than to throw off our lines and join them on a Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas.  As it turned out, this second part did not matter.  For as much as I wanted the four of us to be official boat buddies, the universe did not have it in store for us.

Since it has now been announced on their own blog and I am not putting out any spoiler alerts, is they have realized the cruising lifestyle is not for them.  An unforgettable experience, that’s for sure, but after many discussions on their part they realized that their joy lies in the purpose the daily routine that work brings, with the benefit of weekend pleasure cruising.  I can remember the slog that is putting on miles just to get south, sitting behind a wheel for hours on end with no real enjoyment, only making sure you didn’t stray off the magenta line, and I can’t say I blame them.  That part of cruising was not enjoyable for us either.  Matt was missing work, just like them, but luckily for both of us I was so determined not to go back to work that I made him stay the course until he fell into the routine of having no daily plan.

I kind of want to cry about the fact that we’re losing our first boat buddies, but I can’t.  This is what is right for them, and if anything, at least the world brought us together through cruising.  They’ll be lifelong friends that we’ll always cherish, and just because we may not be sharing the same anchorage does not mean we won’t stay in contact.

So when Hullabaloo pulled into Indiantown Marina where she’d be hauled the following day to be put into storage until she’ll be shipped north in the spring, it was still a reunion for the books. Full of hugs that went on for ages and diving right into a case of beer as we caught up with each other.  Taking up residence at one of the tables at the patio, we sat and talked for so long that it wasn’t until I realized my stomach’s growls were taking over the conversation and Matt and I had never had lunch.  Except it was almost time for dinner already!  Taking a short break, we agreed to shower, I was going to shove a few slices of peanut butter bread in my mouth, and we would reconvene for dinner an hour later on Hulabaloo.

As a special treat for this occasion, I had been saving a bottle of champagne for the past few months for their arrival.  A bottle I had swiped off the Free Table at the marina, but that is neither here nor there.  Although I should have realized that one should be very weary of free champagne.  As Ron stood on deck taking down sails, and Matt chatted away with him about boat projects, Jackie and I went on the offense in the cockpit trying to get this bottle of champagne open.  That plastic top was in there damn good.  Passing it back and forth to one another and breaking out towels and rags, we finally passed it on to one of the guys to loosen, and handed back to Jackie for the honor of popping it open.

Pouring it into one of the 8 gazillion Tervis tumblers that sit on their boat, we noticed right away that something seemed odd about this particular bottle.  It’s contents were along an amber line of coloring.  Not to be deterred from free champagne though, I tilted my glass back to drink up.  And in doing so, learned there was probably a reason of why it was on the free table.  It tasted like a bad batch of fermented apple juice.  Both Matt and Ron dumped their glasses overboard after we did the initial toast, (Cheers!, I got you rotten champagne! So glad you’re here!’), and Jackie was polite enough to finish what was in her glass before passing the remainder of the bottle to me.

champagne that went bad

Jackie opening champagne

Jessica opening champagne

Jessica & Jackie

I asked Ron to take a photo of Jackie and I.  This is what I got.

 

It was determined that this gift was not a success, but also that none of us had enough beer to get us through the rest of the night.  So while Jackie got to work starting on the meat for a taco dinner, Ron and I made the run up to the local IGA to pick up a couple cold cases of beer.

Through the next few hours we went through nearly both cases of beer, and even Matt was getting into throwing a few back.  Ron brought out his guitar, and even though I had been promising for the past few years that I’d be ready to play with him when we got to Florida, all I could conger up was the ability to sing along to a few tunes.

I sampled a few of the alcohols they picked up at the St. Augustine Distillery, and Jackie forced around a bottle of cherry soaked rum.  Like that would have been hard to turn down anyway.  We only had one night together, and we were going to do it up right.  It may not have been what we’d all originally imagined a year ago, or even six months ago, when I’m sure all four of us thought we’d be on our way to the Bahamas together.  It doesn’t mean that can never happen though.  By this time next year we might actually have a boat in the water and ready for company.  And I can think of no one else we’d rather save our quarter berth for as our first guests.

Jackie cooking dinner

Ron on computer

Ron playing guitar

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