Once it was decided Jen and I were going to sail the boat back to California by ourselves we then needed to find crew. The plan was that Jen was going to stay at home with the kids, because Sierra and Wyatt had state mandated testing in their schools during the time they would have been away and Chismosa was an unproven boat for us. She looked and felt sturdy, but we didn’t know just how safe and sturdy she really was. So they stayed at home and I flew to Florida.
If it had been solely up to me to find crew I would’ve been screwed. I only seem know 5 or 6 people on social media, but my wife has nearly 1000 friends. So when she began to recruit people who were interested in helping out there were many people who did what they could to take time off work and to join the team.
Of all the people who went out of their way to help out, (5) names came to mind of people who really got involved and spent some time crewing on Chismosa; Danny, Jake, Alba, Clem and Flo.
When I left California for Florida, I didn’t know any of these people. I had spoken to Danny and Jake on the phone and knew a little of their background respectively, but we had never met in person. The others were people we met along the way and they turned out to be great company. I certainly hope that our paths cross again in the near future.
Danny has been sailing most of his life and it certainly showed during our passage. From the beginning Danny had agreed to stay with me until the boat arrived at its final destination and he lived up to that. In fact, we were not able to get the boat as far north as we wanted to and Danny will most likely move the boat north for me when I return to work. Danny has an uncanny ability to focus on a particular task and to see it through to the very end. Danny has a lot of racing experience in his background and taught me a great deal about sailing. It was truly a pleasure having him on board and I would certainly sail with him again in the future.
Jake has his captain’s license and in fact I paid him to be the “captain” for our passage from Florida to Panama. Jake was a pleasure to sail with and was truly a leader on the sailboat. I say that because this trip was basically a “shake down cruise” for the boat. The crew pushed her hard and for long periods of time in order to get to our destinations in a timely manner. This served as dual purpose in not only getting to where we needed to be on time, but also to push Chismosa hard enough to see how she handles. She handled the stresses perfectly, but small things did break. They continued to break for days, the weather was horrible when we left and it was a cold and miserable ride Leaving Florida. Jake saw how this was affecting people and found ways to lift their spirits. He recognized the importance of having good moral on the boat and he definitely made the group laugh.
Jake’s ability to problem solve on the boat was unlike anything I have seen around a boat before. He rigged things that broke in a creatively yet secure way, rapidly fixed issues that arose before they became serious problems, used out of the box thinking to solve a potentially serious steering failure we had on the boat near Cuba and there was always a sense that the boat was in good hands with him around. Jake is another person that I would sail with again.
Alba was great company while she was with us. When we arrived in Colon, Panama (Atlantic side), we stayed at the Shelter Bay Marina for nearly a week waiting for our transit window through the canal to open. Boats our size traveling through are required to have (5) people on board; one skipper and 4 people to serve as line handlers. At the time Jake had flown home and it was just Danny and I. If our departure window opened and we were short crew, we would be delayed until crew could be found and another transit date set. That could easily be another week or two so we couldn’t let that happen. I found Alba’s contact information on a 3”x5” card near the main office. She was offering herself up to be a line handler and agreed to be apart of the team. Alba is from Spain, but was currently living in Panama. Alba was extremely helpful and was not like the crew I saw on some of the other boats who were more focused with preparing a snack or taking pictures of their surroundings when work had to be done.
Alba was interested in learning about the canal, learning to sail and she was easy to talk to. Once we arrived to the Balboa Marina (Pacific Side) we were short crew to bring us north to Mexico. During a transit the boat is constantly moving so at night we have shifts. Basically there is always someone awake. Although Danny and I could have done it by ourselves we really didn’t want to. If you do the math for the shift work that means little sleep for either of us for days on end. Just having that extra person is a huge help. So we asked if she wanted to join us and she agreed. Lucky for us, she just starting taking antibiotics for an ear infection she had. Her day job is that of a scuba instructor so she had to stay out of the water for a week. She jumped at the opportunity to sail with us and it was certainly a pleasure having her along.
So 24 hours out from the beginning of our transit through the canal, I had Danny and Alba committed to being line handlers for us, but we were still two people short. As luck would have it; a French couple, Clem and Flo just arrived to the marina and were looking for the marina office. It turns out they were going to leave their boat at the marina while they searched for some parts they needed for their boat. That basically meant for the next 48 hours they had nothing to do. They were asked if they wanted to crew with us and they quickly agreed to help out. Clem and Flo have a great story that I feel is worth sharing. It was not long ago that neither of them knew how to sail. They hadn’t taken any formal sailing classes, but they knew they wanted to buy a boat and sail around the world. So that’s what they did. They bought a boat and sailed locally for a brief period until they got the hang of it, then crossed the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean and to the Panama Canal. Clem’s family at first didn’t want her to go, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her and later her father realized how good of a sailor she had become and he ultimately changed his mind about them going. I have a ton of respect for people who push through the nay sayers and do what they want to do in life.
Clem and Flo were fantastic crew on the boat. They were helpful when it came time to getting the work done, followed directions well, we had some great conversations with them and they were great cooks too.
That’s one thing I have to say about all five of these sailors; they are all great cooks. There were so many different types of meals prepared during the trip that I failed to lose any weight during this transit. Jake, Flo and Clem were spared one of my horrible meals, but unfortunately Danny and Alba were not. One night from Panama to Chiapas, Mexico, I tried to get creative in the kitchen. Well it was a disaster and I have never seen people put so much seasoning on their dish just to make it edible. Needless to say, I am not a good cook. My wife, Jen is an incredible cook and that’s the sole reason my kids eat so well. If the kids having had to survive on my cooking, they would look malnourished because they would constantly throw away the food I made for them.
Clem and Flo have documented many of their adventures on their website at WWW.AVENTURIERSDELATERRE.COM. Check out their videos to follow their journey.
Sailing is one of the few activities that bring so many people from so many different backgrounds together. It has always been fun to meet new people, hear their stories and to be inspired by how they live their lives. I truly hope that once my family and I are sailing that we are able to cross paths with all of these folks at some point.