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post #12 of Old 09-22-2008 Thread Starter
The Elephant
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And this story is about as big as it gets from one of the nicest, most knowledgeable sailors on this site. It's long, but it's great:

Here ya go smacky, I'll start a little tale about a real sailor.

I spent a few years growing up with Harold.
He was my brother, four years older than I. (apologies to Paul S.)
One of the memories that really stand out was when I was about 10 or 11. We were anchored in Richardson Bay off Sausalito. We lived aboard the Oscar Tybring. A Colin Archer built double ended ketch. She was built in 1898 or there about and was credited with saving over 100 vessels and 300 + lives. All without an engine and in some pretty rough waters, (Norway).
Everyone had gone to shore that day. I had taken them in the dory. Which I had learned to scull rather well by that time.
I can't remember just what was bothering Harold that day, but he was in a foul mood. That I remember. It may have been around the time that Dad had signed a guy on to help him take the boat up the coast. Harold was so pissed. He would sit for hours whetting his knife. A fillet knife that he carried in a sheath on his waist. The guy asked him once how sharp he was going to get it and Harold replied, "sharp enough to cut your head off". He really felt insulted that Dad had brought this guy aboard and let everyone know about it.
Anyway, sometime after I had returned to the boat, I must have said something really annoying, something that only a kid brother would say I'm sure. Anyway, he snatched me up quicker than I could run, (and believe me, I could run), held his knife to my throat and after a short lecture as to how a little brother and cabin boy should behave, gave me a little slice below my right eye and tossed my butt overboard.
I don't remember how long he made me swim around but eventually he let me back on board.

Sometime around that time, (I really can't remember if it was before or after), during one of my Dad's trips up or down, (can't remember which) the CA coast, I remember being below in my little berth in the foward cabin. We called it the foc'sle. It was blowing like hell. We were rounding Point Conception. There was only the three of us aboard but I wasn't allowed on deck that night.
The Oscar was groaning and creaking like something alive. The wind was shrieking and I was scared sh!tless. All of a sudden, an explosion. Or it seemed that way to me. The Jib blew out. I don't know if it was a storm Jib or not but it sounded like a cannon. I could barely hear my Dad yelling from the helm and the pounding of my brother's bare feet on the deck as he ran forward to bring in the tattered remnants of the headsail. He was no older than fourteen at the time and wearing canvas pants that he had made by hand from a drawing on a book.
My brother was a sailor.

My Dad was a pretty good sailor too. Lousy Dad, and not a really great husband either. Or so I heard. But at least he had the decency to never marry after my Mom died.
Anyway, after he was forced to sell the Oscar he loaded me and my brother in an old station wagon and drove across the country to New Orleans. He almost killed Harold on the way due to an exhaust leak. Had to drag him out of the car and lay him on the road for about a half hour before he came to.
He found a rotten old Dutch canal boat sitting and sinking at the dock and bought her. The three of us spent a few months cleaning and patching her up at the dock. He never did haul her but I remember him reefing and caulking seams above the waterline. His plan was to sail to FL and do a complete rebuild. If I remember correctly, he was going to use the boat as a mold to build a ferro cement boat. The fad was just beginning to take hold around then. Anyway, bottom line is, we didn't get far.
February14, Valentine's Day, 1968. We got as far as Lake Pontchartrain. A storm blew up and the boat started leaking faster than we could pump. Dad made the decision to run her up on a beach. Which he did. The boat was barely floating by that time. He told us that we could grab one thing each. Dad grabbed the ships compass. A huge thing. Harold grabbed his boom box. I grabbed my puppy. A three month old Shepard pup.
Only one of these things survived the trek across the marshes, the compass, but at least the three of us did. Barely.
Dad knew that there was a fishing camp out there somewhere, according to the chart. He didn't count on the fact that it was off season. Fortunately, (and truly I mean Providentially), there was a caretaker on the property and he and his family saved our lives. No ****.

I am going to relate the following with a caveat, I am going to get spiritual here. Take it for what it's worth and do with it what you will.

We, Dad, Harold and I had walked through waist deep marsh, across numerous bayous, (we were all wearing PFDs), for hours. We tried valiently to hold onto our treasures, but after a few hours about all that was left was the compass. My puppy didn't make it far.
We reached another bayou. The sun was setting, It was getting dark and it was raining and cold. Dad was laying on his back exausted. He was in his mid fifties I think. Always smoked. Harold had a side ache. Stiches some call it. He was just laying on the bank. I remember bawling my head off and being more scared than I had, (have), ever been in my life.
I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday, looking across this next watery barrier and falling to my knees and praying. I have no recollection of the substance of my prayer but when I opened my eyes. I saw a light. Not too far away either. One more bayou and a short distance across another marsh. I didn't say anything. I just went. I remember Dad yelling at me but no one stopped me.
Sometime later, It was pretty dark by then, I got to the fishing camp. There were a lot of little cabins but only one of them had a light on.
A single bulb burning on the porch.
I pounded on the door and when it was opened I found that I couldn't speak. I was making lots of noise but no words. The woman took me into the cabin, removed my life jacket and put me into a hot shower. A few minutes later the man gave me what I later found out was a hot toddy. I have a fondness for them to this day.
When I could speak, I told the man that my brother and father were out there. All I could do was point. He didn't hesitate.
The next morning, looking out over the distance we had trekked the day before, there was only water. No land anywhere.

After this little adventure, Harold hit the road. He was 16 at the time. Dad left me with some folks he got to know while we were in Louisiana while he went on down to Ft. Lauderdale and got a job at a boat yard. He got back on his feet and sent for me a couple of months later.
I didn't see my brother for a few years after that.

The tale goes on and doesn't really have a happy ending but I don't get the feeling you are into happy tales as much as tales of adventure. And my brother Harold was man of adventure.
A man to be emulated? I'm not sure about that. But a man who embraced life certainly.
He and I eventually became friends. Sadly, I didn't have much of a chance to know him that way, but such is life.
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