A Second Chance

Leda had been sold.  I was busy with a new business and getting lots of time on the water with running freight via landing craft throughout Southeast Alaska.  But she still haunted me.  By late winter I had started having dreams about Leda.  Vivid dreams about sailing on her.  It was at first pleasurable, but eventually depressing.  I was literally haunted.  

I might mention here that I am not particularly superstitious, unless of course its about playing cards, baseball or boats.  With cards the superstition is mostly for dramatic effect at the poker table.  Regarding baseball, its the tradition of the sport.  Boats take on a life of their own.  I don’t really want to come right out and say that Leda was calling to me, but I might as well hint at it strongly.  I don’t really have another explanation for how these events unfolded.

So, spring finally arrives, I’m still dreaming about Leda.  I wake up expecting to be able to taste the salt on my lips from the spray coming over the rail in my dreams.  Memorial Day rolls around, which is a big three day weekend near the end of May.  Ginny and I had gone to Sunday brunch at one of our favorite restaurants.  Our local paper wasn’t published on holidays, so we were enjoying the big, fat Seattle newspaper and browsing through it while we dined leisurely.

I’m guessing I was reading baseball box scores or something equally enthralling when Ginny says from across the table “Leda is in the paper”.  I really had no clue what she was talking about, so she showed me.  There in the middle of a large expanse of classifieds was a tiny ad for a “53-foot custom wood cutter”.  I don’t know how we knew it was Leda, but we just did.  She had been seized and was going to be auctioned off to satisfy the debt.   There was to be a day for viewing the vessel in mid June.

You can be sure, we cleared the calendar and were in Seattle for the viewing.  We spent the entire day on board.  When other prospective buyers showed up we went into our act.  I’d stick my head in the bilge and start listing off all the things that needed repair while Ginny would take notes.  We tried our best to scare everybody away.  I have no idea whether we fooled anyone or not but we gave it our best.  All the while we were spying on everyone else in an effort to suss out our competition.  

Leda sitting among the ships in Salmon Bay, July 1990

We had a survey from a few years earlier, we had read the book Leda by Sandy Wilson, we had even been sailing on her, so we knew the boat.  We decided not to let her slip away again.  Not all the problems we pointed out were fictitious.  Frank Hyland and kept Leda under a full mooring cover, which helped keep her dry in Seattle’s wet climate.  Her mooring cover was nowhere to be found and she had spent the winter getting wet inside.  Her coach roof was delaminating and there was some signs that something was going on in her bulkheads as there was some strange bulging of the sheeting.  The seams in her mast were coming apart.  Of course I was unfazed because I was young, full of myself and clueless.  Oh, I’d done a fair amount of work on wooden boats including a new deck on a 40-foot navy hull I had once owned and lived on, but still, I think there is no one quite so clueless as someone who is completely sure they have everything figured out.

Eventually the bids were opened.  Yes of course it was silent bidding.  Nothing quite as unnerving as putting in a price and wondering if you did the right thing.  It was ten days later or so when they opened the bids.  Ginny was on hand for that, just to make sure there was no foolishness.  We weren’t taking chances.  We were, of course, the high bid.  By a rather large margin, not that it matters now.  It didn’t matter then.

We were lucky in that Ginny was working for Alaska Airlines, so we could fly back and forth to Seattle with ease and little expense.  We were allowed to keep Leda on the pier where she had been impounded, in an area called Salmon Bay in Ballard.  I kept busy flying back and forth to Seattle, staying on the boat and working on getting things squared away for the trip to Alaska.  It was an amazing adventure.  Ginny and I got to spend our first night together on Leda on July 4th, 1990.  Independence Day.  There was still an 8-track player on board the boat and a bunch of Frank’s old tapes.  We listened to Glen Miller and danced as the city of Seattle set off fireworks all around us.  It is a night I will never forget.

Next:  Leda to Alaska

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