3.03.2009

Guest Speaker.. Mr Andy Smith

The following excerpt is written by Andy Smith regarding his trip from Miami to St Pete via 43 ft Hanse sailboat as crew for Capt Don Montgomery. We asked Andy to write about this experience from his perspective and we appreciate him doing so.

Now Andy is not one to blow his own horn... but "a toot toot!!"

My name is Andy Smith and I was fortunate enough to crew for Skipper Don on a Hanse yacht for 5 days in Florida. This is my best attempt to recount the epic journey that was my time with Don, Lana, my father Bill Smith, and myself. This is a story of survival, hope, and Chips Ahoy. Like many good stories, this one begins in a scary, foreign place and ends in one of safety and revelation.

I did my best to prepare for the trip, scouring the library in my current home of Seattle for books relating to the ocean. Big, heavy, expensive and unnecessary, it was with a thud that these books landed in the back of Skipper Don’s truck. My father greeted me at the airport in Miami, rambling off details about the sail ahead, but before we could depart, we took an airboat ride.

I found it interesting that we searched out the business with the smallest airboats, the most private ride. Fishtailing through Everglade grass rivers, finally learning the origin of the word hammock and encountering an alligator in a deep, boring, midday trance. The Everglades, once the worlds best water filter, still percolate with life, sunlight charging one of earth’s great photosynthetic playgrounds.









After the airboat ride we made great time in organizing our provisions (no blueberries Bill!) and loaded up the gorgeous Hanse yacht that was to be our vessel from Miami to Tampa Bay. Skipper Don announced that we were leaving that night, why not I said, lets get the show on the road!

We gingerly slipped the yacht out of the harbor and our journey began. The Miami skyline looked like neon lipstick as we cruised down the narrow ship channel. Once out in the open ocean, the waves quickly grew alarming. Humongous, deep-rolling waves rocked me into instant nausea, a puking epiphany, and seasickness as thick as the waves we rode. No pills could appease my condition, I just held on as we motored into the deep Atlantic Ocean. That night I hung on to my harness, wedging my arm under my back to stabilize myself, laying down in the cockpit of the boat. I would occasionally wake to confirm that it was incredibly dark, the waves still punishingly strong, the ocean, still not giving me any relief.

Now, many of you know Don, but this was my first time hanging out with him. While I was sicker than a dog, Don casually ate Chips Ahoy and stayed up all night. Navigational glitches did not phase him. I was so glad to have him guiding the boat through that scary night.

When the sun finally rose, it was glorious. With the light, came perspective and dimension, the ocean whispering its vibratory map, I felt much better.




We eventually made it to Marathon Key, where a manatee was loitering in our parking space to get more fuel. The gentle sea cow was a totem in my mind, saying, YES, you have survived the bad part, now enjoy Florida and mama ocean. We ate at Porky’s in Marathon, enjoying some live music. Skipper Don got a round of laughs at my expense, saying the corn I was eating would reappear as phosphorescent fish food once I got back on the boat and returned to my habit of constantly vomiting. Generally, it felt great to be in the tropical sway, far from chilly Seattle, alive in a new place.

We set sail the following morning, my father kindly administering as much seasickness medication as his son could hold. I remember the turquoise water off the coast of Key West, Lana tactfully using the navigation system, father and son doing our best to remember the menagerie of different colored ropes, known as sheets that allowed the boat to sail. I learned a ton, grooved out on my Dad’s Ipod play list and remained generally speechless at the vast ocean around me.

The final leg of our journey was in the relatively shallow, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. For long stretches of time, we only saw the occasional shrimp boat. I hummed along to the sound of the diesel engine and ate turkey sandwiches. We maximized the available wind and I let some wind pass of my own.

On the edge of our return to land, my father made a feast of Ramen noodles and I watched dolphins play off the bow of the boat. Lana took photos and got excited at the prospect of seeing her and Don’s special home, Mary Rose.

“Is that a red triangle Bill, Andy what’s our depth, Lana, take the wheel, “ Skipper Don gave us orders as we entered Tampa Bay. Finally arriving at the familiar marina, we were greeted by friends and Mary Rose, a delightful boat, as cozy as a diner, as tough as a biker. I had the great fortune to sleep on her for a night and assert that she is bonafied, ready for the epic journey ahead of her.

I feel blessed to have gone on such a trip. I know that with Lana making crazin/oatmeal cookies for the locals and Don making sure the sails are fine tuned, everything will flow. Thanks Don and Lana for all the laughs and friendship. Thanks Dad for the opportunity, starry night conversations, and pushing the recharge button on his son’s soul. Safe travels!






Thank you Andy for sharing your time and thoughts with us. You gave me a blessing more than you will ever know by joining us on this adventure!! You are a great person and friend.

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