the best and worst of buddy boats
It's been 7 years since we've seen Jack Hoos. We called him, out of the blue, and asked if we could stay with him while searching for boats in Florida. Without hesitation he said yes! It's times like that, that I realize how awesome the cruising community is.
We met Jack in 2010, on our first boat, Lorax. We crossed over to the Bahamas together and then spent the next 4 months sailing all over the islands. We first laid eyes on Jack at a "Bahamas Bound" meeting in Marathon, Florida. It is an event that an individual puts on in order to assemble buddy boats to cross the gulf stream into the crystal clear, Bahamian waters. Spencer and I have some qualms with this system. Especially in Marathon.
A weather window arrives, everyone assembles days before departure for a meeting to discuss leaving times, weather and check-in documents. The next day they meet again and you start to hear it. One little voice says, "Well, I did actually look at another weather source, and it said winds would be North at 20." Things dissipate from there, until so many people have been convinced that the outlying weather model is correct that they begin to pressure and scare the boats still on the buddy list out of making the crossing. We've seen boats there for entire seasons waiting out weather windows like this.
This very same thing began to happen to our buddy boat group. The night before departure everyone was calling over the VHF saying they were opting out of this weather window and staying in Marathon. Spencer and I decided to continue on, by ourselves, which resulted in a barrage of VHF calls as to the storms we would face and the risks we were taking. It was all in good conscience and there was no ill will, people were simply concerned. We decided to trust our weather watching methods and take off that next morning.
As we were sailing into Bimini, after a wonderful crossing, we heard some familiar voices on the radio; Longshot, Sea Eagle, and Forever Free. It would seem some of the other buddy boats had broken from the confines of Marathon's chicken harbor and ventured across as well.
Longshot was Jack's boat and we stuck with him since that first day in Bimini. Together we anchored through storms, spearfished sting rays, got rip roaring drunk in George Town, floated an estuary at midnight for star gazing, and so much more.
Buddy boats, when used for personal reassurances in safety, weather or protection, is never a good thing. It puts pressure and undue responsibility on a few boats to take care of the others, and it forces people to stay in anchorages when they might, otherwise have gone on. However, buddy boats for the shear enjoyment and revelry of friendship is something different entirely. We share so many wonderful memories with Jack Hoos and having him in the anchorage was always fun. We are so lucky he crossed that day and decided to be our buddy! If you would like to hear more about Jack and some of our times sailing together, check out the podcast where we interview him: http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/8056775