As with Mischief, boats left behind by otherwise loving owners isn’t uncommon at all. Probably half the boats in a marina have owners who do little to nothing with them. Boats need constant attention, especially in a saltwater environment. But that maintenance is also expensive, as marine parts are sold at premium prices. Often the alure of sailing passes and the boat spends more time docked than used and a boat becomes a floating condo for a while. Then after a while, people often get tired of paying for the upkeep. One unaddressed issue snowballs into more and then they stop using the boat entirely and then it sits for months and months turn into years. This is why you can often find boats for sale for so little. There are few things that are more expensive than a free boat. In Mischief’s case, the previous owner had just walked away and stopped paying the slip fee leaving her to be someone else’s problem. In the end, these boats end up hauled out, crushed and sent to a landfill.

A dock neighbor knew that I was looking for a blue water boat and mentioned that she had come on the market. Considering the condition of the boat, I was hesitantly interested. But, it never hurts to look, so I contacted the owners who said they were planning on coming down to the marina in a few days and offered to show the boat to me. I also asked them if it was okay if I got on the boat and inspected the deck, they said that would be fine. So I crawled around and hopped up and down all over the deck and around hatches looking for any indication of decay beneath the fiberglass of the deck. If I’d found any indication whatsoever, I would have walked away then. I found none.

What I did find was that the steering wheel was stuck. That could either be a mechanical problem or the underside of the boat was an oyster farm. Or both.

A few nights later, we met with the owners to look at the inside. Keep in mind that I had heard horror stories about this boat so I was prepared for the worst.

The owners were lovely people. They were an older couple who shared stories and photos of their sailing adventures. They both had green eyes and had painted the boat green and named her Emerald Eyes. You could tell that they genuinely loved this boat. They still had everything on the boat from their cruising days and so every drawer and cabinet had something in it and the upholstery was in bad shape. But the boat itself didn’t look as bad as I’d prepared for. They admitted there was some electrical issues that needed to be addressed. And that indeed a rat had made its home on the boat for a while and chewed up a lot of the plumbing hoses but most of that had been repaired. I asked to come back when it was daylight for a more thorough inspection. She had also gone through Hurricane Katrina and come out on the other side impaled on a dock piling through the hull. But, had been completely repaired afterward. We talked for a while, I told them what kind of sailing I wanted to do and quickly formed a friendship.

But, as much as I liked the boat, I was having my doubts. This might be more than I wanted to get into. I still owned a fully functional boat. It wasn’t the boat I wanted anymore, but it was the boat I had.

I came back the next afternoon and started removing floor panels and did not like what I saw. The first thing was the bilge was completely full and the engine was sitting just above the water. The transmission was submerged in it. The second thing was that this boat had been set up with every conceivable option available at the time it was being used and the amount of hoses and wires and different devices that I didn’t know what function they served was overwhelming. I like things to be clean and simple. This was anything but.

I was having serious doubts. Maybe I could just do some upgrades on TC instead?

I told them I’d think about it and think about it I did.

I called a few days later and said that I was going to pass on the boat.

Weeks went by and I kept going back to look at her. There was something about this boat. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I kept sneaking over to her dock and letting my mind wander. I’d stand in the cockpit and hold the wheel that did not turn. I kept asking myself what if I’m capable of doing this? What if?

I grew up on a farm in Arkansas. I built my own log cabin from scratch. I was used to doing things with my hands. But even though I’d been down here for a few years, this stuff was still relatively new to me. Yes, I’d put Mischief back together, but she was super simple with none of the systems that a big boat has. The problem with TC is that most everything worked. I’d never had to do any major work to her which was awesome because it allowed me to spend more time sailing and less time fixing.

This felt over my head. This was going to be a lot of work and money. But, what if? What if I could do this? They don’t make boats like this anymore unless they’re fully custom builds. And a fully custom build of a boat like this would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I was a journalism professor at a division 2 state university and hadn’t had a raise in years. I didn’t have anywhere close to that kind of coin. And I was also feeling more and more like Captain Hook and turning increasingly resentful about the state of my life. Like the wheel on the boat, I felt stuck.

And then late one night, my brain wouldn’t shut down and I couldn’t sleep and so I got up and went wandering around the marina. Naturally, I ended up back at Emerald Eyes. I crawled on board and sat down at the helm and let my mind wander.

What if?

I stood up and grabbed the wheel and tried to turn it knowing that it was still firmly stuck.

And then I felt something that seemed like electricity in my hands and the wheel turned. Whatever had been holding it let go.

And in that moment I realized that the boat had chosen me.