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Old 05-25-2011
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Prairie Pirates

There's a group of midwesterners who have coined the term "Prairie Pirates" to describe their enthusiasm for assisting with boat transit in and out of the Caribbean. Sailing on the Great Lakes is terrific, but it's not blue water! To introduce myself to this Sailnet community, I am posting a recent blog entry about my orientation to the Prairie Pirates! This adventure happened just last week and I am sure will prove to be my own renaissance into a lifetime love of blue water sailing.


I found myself in the right place at the right time on May 10th when a couple of fellow sailors walked into the bar in Chicago and relayed their fantastic experience on the Atlantic Cup Rally. The Atlantic Cup and the Caribbean 1500 are the origin of the famed "Prairie Pirates". These are the events where yachts are moved to and from the Caribbean in response to hurricane season. Boats are delivered down south in November, returning in May. My friends had just returned from the first leg of the rally and indicated that the vessels were delayed in Bermuda because of high seas. The delay led to a problem because many crew had to abandon the journey and get back to work. This planted a seed in my mind that I ought to do a little snooping and find out if I could help in the important mission of getting the boats back to the United States.

The following afternoon I made contact with another yacht club member who was still on site in Bermuda. "Want to participate?", Loren asked, "just get down here by Saturday morning when we depart for Maine." Mind you, I had no blue water sailing experience and only minimal crew experience on beer can nights. The extent of my sailing education has been volunteer work with the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Program and graduation from Skipjacks at Columbia Yacht Club! What I lacked in experience though, I made up for in enthusiasm! The next thing I knew, I had purchased a one-way ticket to Bermuda and spent a thousand dollars on foul weather gear, a fancy PFD and other sailing bling at West Marine! I found myself on a 6am Thursday flight to Bermuda, arriving mid-afternoon.

Arriving on a one-way ticket, I was immediately flagged at the immigration counter and sent "to the office" to explain myself. The official was quite cordial when he asked if I was prepared to pay the $23,413 departure tax for those leaving by boat. I said "sure" and asked if he accepted cash! The officer could not hold back his laughter, knowing that I did my research ahead of time and bringing the correct twenty-three dollars and fourteen cents in cash. All I had to do was identify the name of the vessel I was heading for and give the approximate location in the harbor. I was quickly on my way and into a taxi, ..... which promptly took me forty-five minutes away to a harbor on the wrong side of the island!

I had both duffels over my shoulder and watched the taxi pull away before coming to the conclusion that I was in the wrong place! I labored with my gear toward the end of the dock where some nice chaps informed me that St. George's Harbor was on the opposite side of the island! Lucky for me, there was a commercial ferry departing in just a few minutes which would take me directly where I needed to go. These fellows actually whisked me over to the ferry dock in their powerboat! My bonus for the day was a $4.00 ferry ride which lasted nearly an hour and gave a terrific perspective of the island surroundings.

Arriving in the correct harbor, I walked like a true mariner with my gear .... looking high and low for the proper vessel among dozens of boats rafted and tied up in the marina. What a welcome sight when I finally saw my friend Loren on the deck of the Skitterygusset, my new home for the next six days! Having left my lovely girlfriend behind in Chicago, I did what any self-respecting boyfriend would do, I set forth to find her a crew spot on a completely different boat heading a hundred miles in a different direction with three male strangers. And that's exactly what I did. Chantal arrived on the island Friday evening to her assigned vessel!

More later about the details of our voyage. Suffice it to say, this adventure has reignited my love of sailing and is causing me to seek out more opportunities like this. Who needs crew?
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Old 05-25-2011
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Wow! Great intro! Welcome aboard.
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Old 05-25-2011
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+1 on the welcome and I look forward to hearing about the sail back.
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Old 05-25-2011
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And what a great attitude you seem to have. I would bet that any lemons entering into your life will promptly be turned into lemonade before they exit.

Always great to hear about adventures. Especially when the story teller talks about everything that comes their way as part of the adventure. Keep us posted.
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Old 05-25-2011
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You put you girlfriend on a boat with three male strangers??
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