Published in Boca Magazine, Trinidad & Tobago

Imagine three couples, long-time friends in land-locked Dallas, Texas.  Imagine  further that they first met in a 30-boat sailing club on a lake five hundred miles from the nearest salt water.  How unlikely is it that all three of these couples are now blue-water cruising?

Unlikely but true.

They are known as “that Texas bunch” — fun-loving, big-hearted and rowdy as only Texans can be.  Kris and Jim on Windsong, a custom South African 48-footer, have been sailing the Caribbean since April 1996.  Ann and Dave aboard Ferric Star, a steel Goderich 35, left the corporate world to go cruising in September 1997.  Three months later, Kerri and Mike joined in with Kosrae, a Morgan Out-Island 41.  Their ages range from 36 to 48, and they have a very good time.

They were trained well.  Their alma mater, the East Hill Sailing Club of Dallas, Texas, “specializes in having fun,” says Jim, and its members find an excuse to party together almost every weekend.  An East Hill bareboat flotilla has hit the Caribbean nearly every year since 1982.  The club sponsors racing events at home but, in keeping with its laid-back approach, does not allow protests.  Anyone too seriously competitive, Ann relates, is banished to the “Evil Empire,” the more formal yacht club across the lake.  How well do club members know each other?  As Dave says jokingly, “I remember all their first wives.”

At sea, the three boats keep in touch via single-sideband radio or e-mail, and they arrange to meet in port from time to time.  Ann is the undisputed social director and class clown.  Mike is the resident electronics expert, and Kris can make a bimini cover from scratch.  Dave and Jim share the honors as most experienced sailors.  Though the group claims to have no particular leader, they agree that “we all follow Kerri if she says she’s cooking.”

On a serious note, these cruisers are cognizant of their good fortune.  Their long-time friendship and shared backgrounds create a support group enjoyed by few in the social but transient world of the blue-water cruiser.  For a major life event, such as Kris and Jim’s recent wedding on Mayreau, best friends are nearby.  Such is the camaraderie of the East Hill Sailing Club, though, that no fewer than fifty Texans arrived for the party.  “We think it lasted about three days,” says Kris.  Jim grins widely, “but we really don’t remember.”

What made that Texas bunch go cruising?  Did some magic in the East Hill Sailing Club ignite the spark?  Or did the club merely benefit from the warmth of three couples who independently dared to live the dream?  We will never know.

But for a group whose official mascot is “Captain Ron,” their futures are well-conceived.  Ferric Star plans to transit the Panama Canal in March and to circumnavigate over the next four to five years.  Mike and Kerri report that Kosrae, too, has a five-year plan but will remain in the Caribbean for now.  Windsong will visit the Western Caribbean in the next year or so before heading to the Pacific side of the Americas.  Like most cruisers, their plans are flexible.  As Jim sums it up, “We will continue as long as we’re having fun.”

In the meantime, they are easy to spot.  The Lone Star flag of Texas flies proudly from the spreaders.  If the wind is right, the aroma of a Tex-Mex dinner may waft through the anchorage.  From their cockpits ring out laughter and an occasional medley of old television theme songs.  Y’all come back now, hear?

Published in Boca Magazine 1998

Categories: Voyaging Life