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The Guitar That Turned Into A Sailboat


How A Guitar Turned Into A Sailboat

Here is a little sailing story from the time that I lived aboard my small boat in the Caribbean.

A few years ago I left the United States on a sailing adventure which lasted for several years. I was able to do so because of the proceeds from a home that I sold, and by downsizing all that I owned into one small used sailboat, a few personal items and safety gear.

I'm back on land now but I still cherish the years that I spent aboard the two small sailboats that I owned and which I eventually shared with my wife whom I met along the way. You might think that one has to be rich to buy a sailboat and go off to the islands on a sailing adventure. While it does help, this is far from the case. During my travels, which took me from Texas to the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, The U.S and British Virgin Islands, Eastern Caribbean, Trinidad, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, Mexico, etc, I met people from all walks of life living aboard sailboats and living the cruising dream. A few of them that I met were young and adventurous souls that were sailing southward on rickety old sailboats they'd found in boatyards or bought for a few hundred dollars up north in the US and put some sweat equity into.

I met one such young sailor who went by the nickname of "Bailing Bob", possibly because that is what he spent a lot of time doing, due to numerous leaks in the old 1978 Catalina sloop he owned. I first met Bob in Marsh Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas, in 1999, while ashore in one of the little tourist and sailor bars along the waterfront. It was just before hurricane Floyd was to hit Marsh Harbor and destroy most of the boats that were moored there. My boat survived the storm but Bailing Bob's Catalina did not. His was one of the ones that ended up on the bottom of the harbor and which I eventually helped raise while working for a local salvage operator as a diver.

How A Guitar Turned Into A Sailboat

I lack any kind of musical talent and can't even keep time tapping my foot to music. Despite this I had thought that I could acquire musical ability simply by having some kind of instrument aboard. I'd bought what I thought was a cheap acoustic guitar from another sailor in Key West, a few weeks earlier, before making the crossing across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. I never did learn how to play it, but it looked like it belonged in a single sailor's cabin, so I kept it. After the destruction wrought by hurricane Floyd, and having seen so many folks like Bob lose everything they owned, including their musical instruments, I couldn't justify letting it sit there onboard, unused. I had seen Bob play a similar guitar ashore at Pete's Pub, in Little Harbor on Abaco Island, and thought someone like him, who actually knew how to play, could use it.

I happened to find my friend Bob, looking very downtrodden, strolling along what was left of the main street beside Marsh Harbor's waterfront a couple days after the storm. I told him that I had something for him and invited him back to my boat to see the guitar. It seemed to lift his spirits. He told me it was just like the one that he'd once owned and which had sunk to the bottom with his sailboat during the storm. Bailing Bob picked it up and began to strum it gently and tune the strings by ear. He thanked me for the guitar and we parted ways. The next time I saw him was at the newly re-opened bar where many of the "yachties" or sailors hung out. He had already written several songs about the hurricane and about losing his beloved boat. It seems that he had gained a bit of a local following and the old guitar sounded really good in his hands..

How The Guitar Became A Sailboat

I went up to him after one of his sessions at the bar and asked him how it was going. "With this guitar you gave me, I'm going to buy a new boat", he said. He said that his aim was to save up about five hundred in cash that someone was asking for a late model 30' ketch. He said that the boat was laid up on a nearby cay with a hole in it and he was sure that he could fix. The owners, a retired couple from Alabama, had retrieved what was left of their possessions from the damaged boat and were ready to give up the sailing life for good and return home to the states. The little guitar that I'd bought for a few dollars in Key West, as it turned out, was a rare and highly sought after model. It was worth at least $500, possibly more, and with the proceeds Bob could not only purchase the boat he had his eye on, but a cheaper guitar as well. I was happy for my friend and had no regrets about parting with the valuable guitar.

I sailed away from Marsh Harbor Abaco a few weeks later and slowly lost track of my friend. However, about six months later I was elated to see Bailing Bob and his new girlfriend sailing into Samana, in the Dominican Republic. The hurricane damaged boat that he'd bought for $500 and fixed up looked amazing.

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As a token of his appreciation he invited me over to his boat for dinner and afterward put on a small performance for myself and other sailors with his new guitar, singing cheerful sailing songs that echoed across the water as night fell on the little harbor. I hear that Bailing Bob is a regular performer now in a small bar back in the Bahamas. I was glad to have played a small role in his success and hope to go and see him again someday.

So, that's how a guitar turned into a sailboat.

© 2010 Nolen Hart


Nolen Hart (author) from Southwest on October 19, 2011:

Thanks, it was a pleasure writing this Hub.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 16, 2010:

A splendid hub about a period of your life. Thank you for the joy of reading it.

Bail Up ! on November 15, 2010:

Loved your story! And at the mention of Key West...well you put a smile on my face. I'm not a sailor but I do love the ocean. Somehow I have an uncanny feeling I might have been a pirate in a past life. Cheers, Capt'n.

Lee A Barton from remote on November 15, 2010:

Really enjoyed reading this!

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