Saturday, November 19, 2011

Then we went sailing...

It was one of those afternoons, when you can grab a few minutes to just sit on the porch and tune into the sun, the wind and the sky. I noticed the bright sunshine, the blue sky and the honking wind. “Today’s the day” I said to myself. I climbed on to my bicycle and pedaled off to the Key West Historic Seaport. I had decided to go for my first sail aboard the newest schooner to join the Key West fleet, the Schooner America 2.0.

Again, I arrived early, to watch the crowd and see the anticipation grow. What a lovely vessel she is, lying at the dock with her 105 feet of sleek black hull enticing passers by to spend a while with her, as she lures you onto our turquoise sea, and into our ocean breezes. With free standing carbon masts over head, she makes a magical statement. Come sail with me.
She has the look of a traditional schooner, but under the hood she is all 23rd century technology. Built strong and light, she is a mistress of wind and speed, winning her first races, driven by Captain Andrew Neuhauser; she came first in the AA class at The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.  

The passengers boarded, the amusing safety speech was delivered, the horn sounded, this regal vessel slipped her lines, slowly proceeded from her slip, and turned toward the harbor. The excitement of the passengers aboard was palpable.  As we turned nose to the wind, the crew jumped to their duty, raising 3 sails. I noticed that Captain Andrew, perceiving the strong winds, blowing 20 – 22 knots, had the main and fore sails reefed down. Yet, as we turned to catch the wind, she was like a steed when the starting gate opens, launching forward, grabbing the wind, slicing the seas. She made the other vessels look like they were standing still.

Underway, there were complementary beverages served; beer, wine, champagne, soda, water; platters of fruit and veggies; photo opportunities, chances to steer the boat, opportunities to chat with the crew or share this thrill with other passengers.

The other passengers were as excited to be sailing aboard this black beauty as I was. Speaking with one gentleman, he said that he had been walking down the dock, and seeing America2.0, he decided that she was the only vessel on which he would sail tonight. He also said that he would have paid much more the thrill, the pleasure.

As a long time mariner, I nosed around, going below into a beautiful salon; inspecting the heads, very clean; checking the Galley, spacious and well laid out; and the Nav station, very well thought out as well. Forward is the Fo’c’sle, where any blushing bride and her bridal party would have comfort and privacy to prepare for her special occasion, a wonderful wedding at sea.

Proceeding out the harbor, passing Mallory Dock, we waved to those stuck on shore. As we approached the mouth of the Harbor, Captain Andrew asked if the passengers wanted to go farther. A roar of “yeas” went up. I heard the Captain say ”Raise number one.” The crew went forward and raised our 4th sail, the jib. Again, she jumped, taking hold of more sail, she dug into the seas as if to fly to Cuba. Heeling over at 30 - 45 degrees, our speed increased to over 12 knots. As we cut through the surf, spray dotted our faces, and the passengers cheered. The racing spirit surfaced in all, as we approached our sister ship, the Adirondack III, and easily passed her on the leeward side.

As the sun was setting, the clouds were squatting on the horizon, and the sun slipped behind the cloud, only to peek out from the bottom, to say a last farewell to the day, and kiss the seas until tomorrow.

The lights were flashing, the terns were scooting across the water, rising and swooping as one, as we lowered sail and prepared to return to our slip. As she turned to go into the Historic Seaport, looking west for one more glimpse of the beauty surrounding us, I saw a shooting star flying across the sky. This was a perfect ending to a fabulous experience on the water.

Schooner America 2.0 is located in the Historic Seaport, at the foot of William Street. She is available for morning, afternoon and sunset public trips, or for private charters. For more information call 305-293-7245; or visit them online at

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