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Abby Went Flying and Sailing Again

On October 2, Abby and I flew down to Tampa agin so I could spend a week on the boat, working and sailing. Not to worry, though: Abby doesn’t have to ride in the belly of the plane; she sits in my lap the entire way. How, you’re undoubtedly asking yourself, did I manage that!

Those of you who know me personally probably won’t be surprised to learn that I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve been known to have panic attacks…not often, but unpredictably. Abby’s gotten pretty good at recognizing something about me that changes when I’m getting especially anxious, so I’ve decided that she’s a service dog who helps me avoid panic attacks at times of great anxiety. She now has her very own Service Dog vest and photo ID card and she’s already an old hand at going through airport security (where she gets patted down like everybody else), going through the airport, and enduring long plane rides. She usually just goes to sleep in my lap while I read, although she likes to watch out the window of the plane while we’re on the ground…there’s always so much going on for her to see.

When we arrived at Tampa, we took the SuperShuttle to the friend-of-a-friend’s home where Barbara and I left our car back in August when we drove down there, took the car cover off, and drove over to Clearwater Beach where Dream SeQueL is docked. We spent the next several days working on various projects, most of them fairly small, but time-consuming. Abby’s not as much help as I’d like her to be, though. I’d really like her to be like my first Sheltie, Merlin, who could go grab a screwdriver or pair of pliers out of the drawer for me. Maybe over time…

For a variety of reasons (including a bit of anxiety), I didn’t manage to go sailing at all for the first several days we were there. But on Thursday afternoon, Barbara talked me through the excuses that I had been making to myself to justify not going out for a day. I ended up spending about three hours Thursday evening getting the boat prepped to go sailing on Friday (the last possible day for it, as I would have to spend all of Saturday putting the boat back to sleep so we could fly home very early Sunday morning).

On Friday morning, Abby and I had our breakfast, then started the engine and went up on deck (Abby with her life vest on, of course) to put the gangplank ashore and cast off the dock lines. Now, the silly thing about me in this situation is that I agonize about going out sailing by myself. I’m not scared, per se, but I overthink the whole thing and exhaust myself before doing anything at all. But once the dock lines are cast off and I’ve gently motored out of our slip, I’m just fine.

As we always do, we motored the 40 minutes or so to exit the canal where Dream SeQueL is docked, transit the little channel to the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW), follow the ICW to the turnoff that leads to Clearwater Pass out into the Gulf of Mexico, and then through the pass and into open water. As soon as we got out of the Pass, where we would normally put the sails up and kill the engine, I noticed that a Coast Guard helicopter was hovering pretty low over the water about five or six miles out into the Gulf. So I raised the sails, but left the engine running, and motor-sailed out to where the chopper was, along with a small Coast Guard cutter than I hadn’t been able to make out clearly when I started. It took me almost an hour to get out there, but I wanted to be able to offer any assistance I could in case they were searching unsuccessfully for a “crew overboard” victim or a sunken vessel victim.

As it happened, once I got out there, I realized that the Coast Guard was engaged in exercises to practice the skills they need for search and rescue operations. I watched for about 15 minutes, then killed my engine and started sailing. Abby, who had been a little anxious while we were motor-sailing (perhaps because the engine is pretty loud), was much happier. We sat in the cockpit for a while, just enjoying the breeze. I then finished setting up Dream SeQueL’s windvane steering mechanism (like an autopilot, but it always keeps the boat positioned to the particular wind angle I select…plus, it uses no electrical power at all) and we sailed for hours with little effort on my part. Whenever we tacked to a different heading, I’d have to readjust the windvane so the boat would hold my new preferred angle, but that was it.

During part of this time, Abby and I went up to the bow of the boat and just sat there watching the water go past us, hoping to see dolphins riding our bow wave. No dolphins showed up, which disappointed me, ’cause I knew Abby would love to watch them. After about five or six hours of this, we decided we’d better head back to the dock before it got dark. So, back in through the Pass, up the ICW, and into our canal. We docked without incident, and I concluded my fourth — and so far, most extensive — day of single-handing our sailboat.

Sure, I was anxious the days before and until we cast off, but I ended up being very proud of my accomplishment when it was over. And I was equally proud of Abby for being such a brave little sailor. She’s really beginning to get her sea legs and enjoy sailing more than worrying about it.

The next day was Saturday, so we spent the day cleaning up the boat, putting things away, doing a bit of laundry, completing a few tasks, and getting to bed early. On Sunday, we arose at “oh-dark-thirty” (actually, about 04:15), drove the car to where it lives when we’re not there, took the previously-scheduled SuperShuttle to the airport, and flew home! Great trip…and a wonderful way to strengthen the bond that Abby and I have.

On this day..

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5 comments to Abby Went Flying and Sailing Again

  • I love it! And would LOVE to see photos of little Abby on the boat in her life vest. And oh, how I’d love to see her sitting in your lap on the plane, looking out the window. Sounds like a wonderful trip!

  • Bobbie, I’m hopeful that Barbara and I will go to the boat again in late November or (more likely) December. Assuming we do, I’ll be sure that we get pics of Abby sitting on my lap in the plane and of Abby on deck in her life vest. I can’t believe that I didn’t think to get photos of her in her life vest on this trip…tunnel vision, I guess.

  • DeBoys and Me

    Sounds like a wonderful trip…peaceful & productive.  We, too, would love to see photo’s; so we will hold you to your promise of December photo’s of all of you.

  • Glad you had fun, I know the feeling of trepidation going out on a boat alone.  I get nervous too and I’m not even out in the ocean! 
    So how many, if any, of the 70+ shelties did you end up with?

  • Sounds like a great trip for you and Abby!  Can’t wait for pictures in December. 

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