spiritofatlantis.com | Duane K. McCullough

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First Class Adventure

By Duane McCullough

The two above images were created by me during about a month stay aboard the 62’ catamaran named Tsje-Tsja back in ‘81. Tsje-Tsja, which means “hurry-up” in the Zulu language, was built out of African mahogany in St. Maarten by Peter Spronk using the Wet Epoxy Saturation Technique method. I was asked by some friends if I wanted to help crew the boat from St. Maarten to an island in the Bahamas where it was to be kept. I was told it was to be a “first class adventure”. Of course I accepted and the following story is a quick overview of the adventure.

We blasted off from Miami International airport in a Lear jet up to about 40 thousand feet in our two hour flight to St. Maarten and I my clothes were still damp from the wild ride in the rain while sitting in the back of a pickup truck to the airport. It was quite the contrast from a third class ride to a first class adventure in a matter of minutes.

The Lear landed and we went to a local motel where the boat was anchored offshore and boarded her with provisions for the trip. That night we left during a near full moon at our backs with plans to be in the British Virgin Islands by next evening. Waking up to a tropical morning in Road Town Harbor to the sounds of roosters on shore, we stopped by Nanny’s Cay marina during the day before departing towards the sunset and passing the west end of Jost Van Dyke island.

I remember listening to Beethoven’s song “Ode to joy” on the headphones of a walkman radio at 2 AM while steering the boat over the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean just north of Puerto Rico. The next few days we took radio signal fixes from the Turks and Caicos Islands and came real close to the first Bahamian island of Mayaguana one evening.

After passing the north shores of the Crooked Islands, we sailed up the east coast of Long Island and then headed for Wax Cut in the northern Exuma Islands. Waiting for morning light, we passed through Wax Cut and I remember seeing a small cargo plane sitting in the water off the end of a island runway on Norman’s Cay. These were drug smuggling days and I guess the plane had a problem at landing at night.

Arriving near the eastern coast of South Andros Island near Mangrove Cay, we anchored in South Bight near Lisbon Creek where the boat was kept for several months. The settlement at Lisbon Creek is historical because for generations Bahamian sloops were once built there using timber from the large nearby forest of Mangrove Cay and South Andros Island. Leroy Bannister’s old sloop on shore stood as a testament to an lost age of boat building at the settlement .

One week, three of us sailed Tsje-Tsja to Nassau in New Providence Island for supplies without incident. A fine ship, she could sail into a 20 knot wind at 18 knots. With full headroom in each hull and the main cabin, and drawing about three feet, the boat was one of the best of its kind.

Later that year, Tsje-Tsja came to Key Largo, Florida and anchored in Largo Sound for several months. The last I ever heard about the whereabouts of the boat was that it ended up in some boatyard near Ft. Lauderdale.

UPDATE 2015: Tsje-Tsja was renamed "Jolly Mon" some years ago and can be found as a charter catamaran in the US Virgin Islands.

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