It all began just about a year ago, one perfect night in the Bahamas sitting on the tramps of the 51' catamaran Quantum Leap.
We'd been aboard three weeks, much of which had been spent cleaning bottoms, tweaking the watermaker and helping with a haul out. In between there had been some fantastic sailing through those blue waters and some stunning anchorages, in particular several in the Exuma Land Sea Park.
There we were, just the two of us, sipping an Amarula as the big catamaran floated over the moonlit shallows, and suddenly, the possibility of the Two Captains having another boat clicked over from daydreaming to a real urge.
When we walked away from Tackless II, our beloved CSY 44, in Scarborough, Australia, back in April of 2009, I did not believe we would ever have another cruising-capable boat. Indeed for the seven years we have been landlubbers back in Florida, I did not think we would ever really own another boat bigger than a kayak.
Speaking for myself, it wasn't that I didn't want one. In every conversation my first five years ashore, it was clear to anyone who listened that I was sorely missing the boat and the cruising lifestyle. I'd say flat out that, if given the opportunity, I would move back aboard in a flash.
At boat shows (yes we still went, mostly to see friends), Don and I would look at day sailers, and weekenders, and even coastal cruisers ten feet shorter than what we'd had, but we simply could not drum up any enthusiasm for such reduced circumstances. We'd also look at power boats, imagining ourselves zipping out into the Gulf with our grandson who likes to fish, but those speculations were always about him, not us, and a kid's dedication to any particular entertainment is not something build a plan on!
What I wanted, and again I speak for myself, was our old boat back... the home we had fine tuned, decorated and equipped to our taste, that had been our shared platform for adventures for twenty years. When I found out several years ago that the folks who'd bought Tackless II from us had her up for sale again (someone sent us the link to her page on Yacht World), I ran right out and bought a lottery ticket, telling the ticket seller that "I need to win. I need to buy my boat back."
I didn't get a single number.
I did not think Don felt the same way. But it seems our three long trips aboard the 51' catamaran Quantum Leap had begun to stir the juices for him too. The first voyage, eight weeks from from Darwin, Australia to Singapore via the Sail Indonesia Rally, gave us our first real introduction to catamaran sailing. It was fun for Don to step aboard and tackle someone else's boat projects, especially since he didn't have to pay for them!
The second trip, from St. Lucia to Georgetown, Bahamas cemented the experience in lots of different conditions in waters we already knew. By our third trip through the Bahamas, being aboard a cat felt like coming home.
Quantum Leap is a big handsome boat owned by Tom and Bette, friends we truly adore who are the most wonderful hosts. Life as guests aboard Quantum Leap was darn near perfect. And yet....
And yet, when you have had your own boat and been your own captain, there is just a little something missing when you aren't doing things your way.
Bette, actually, is the one who started things rolling two years ago. It was Bette who first suggested, in the abstract, that we should check out the St. Francis 44, what would be Quantum Leap's little sister, which the company had stopped building in favor of the 50s.. She thought we might be able to see one when we reached our end destination at the St. Francis Resort, near Georgetown, Bahamas, which had been built and operated specifically to be a base to show the South African built boats to the US market. Several weeks later, when we pulled in we found in addition to two new 50-footers, two veteran St. Francis 44s.
We were able to look at both. One was in condition to be shown for sale. The other was packed to the gills for storage and looked like it hadn't had any attention for years, so heavily loaded a veritable reef was growing on the bottom and partway up its sides. The first was listed at a price we could not remotely afford. The other was not officially for sale. However, it was suggested that the owner had health problems and that he might, or surely his wife would, be interested in offers.
We tossed the idea around a bit, knowing it was probably the only catamaran we could ever afford but wondering if we really wanted to take on such a project, and so left without getting the contact info.
A year later we were back, and there the boat yet was, still looking bereft but still afloat. We circled around it in the dinghy, thinking and imagining, but sailed away with Quantum Leap to the boat yard and several lovely weeks sailing the islands. And then, the night before returning to Georgetown, there was that special night under the stars.
When we rounded into the anchorage off the Resort, to our amazement there was someone aboard "our" boat, bending crisp white sails onto the mast! Oh, dear! Had it already been sold?