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by Dan Rogers - Diamond Lake, Washington - USA

Sometimes I think I’d forget my own name if it wasn’t stenciled onto my seabag.  Most of what happened, even yesterday afternoon, is lost in the mists of trivia and haze of confusion.  But, something a guy did for me six years ago still stands out quite vividly.  And, it should!

Back when the legendary Texas 200 was still young, I towed my peripatetic pocket cruiser, Lady Bug, half way across the continent from San Diego to the original starting line in Port Mansfield, Texas.  It’s a long damn trip.  Really, nothing much more than rocks, sand, and very hot pavement once you get a few miles inland from coastal California.  California deserts turn into Arizona deserts, into New Mexico deserts, and finally Texas deserts.  Before I left, Kate asked me, “You’re going to Texas in June?  For what??”

An emergency root canal at Fort Huachuca, a dramatic truck tire blow-out someplace along the Rio Grande, a shredded trailer tire in El Centro, and an alternator failure in the 105 degree sun of Chorizo Springs came in staccato fashion.  Kate’s question seemed pretty much spot on.  But, my answer at the time, and still is, was pretty simple.  “Texas, is where the cool kids are gonna’ be…”

Andy Linn and Jason Nabors and Mike Monies and John Turpin were just names on Chuck Leinweber’s website.  Names, at the end of dramatic accounts of sea monsters, and pirates, and derringdo.  I grew up with the Hardy Boys.  I was an Eagle Scout before the 8th grade.  Heck, I still help “little old ladies” across the street.  Although, most of those little old ladies are younger than I am, these days.  Anyhow.  Adventure is a strong calling card.  And, as I already knew, “…adventure is anything exciting and dangerous that doesn’t kill you outright…”

I just had to meet these guys.  I just had to go where all the cool kids were gonna’ be.

Like I said; I was a boy scout.  The idea of being “prepared” is one I take very seriously.  Too seriously, sometimes.  Lady Bug was loaded to the gunnl’s with extra food, and extra water, and extra parts, and enough outboard gas to motor half way to Cuba.  I could rewire and mend and replace just about anything the sea monsters and pirates could demolish.  Yeah.  She was really heavy.  And, as it turned out.  SLOW.  Really, slow.

Once the lot of us deposited our tow vehicles and trailers a couple hundred miles up the coast, and rode the bus back to the starting gate; we were all pretty well committed.  Some would say, we should be committed.  But, heck.  This was the second running.  Almost nobody died on the first one.  Most of the cool kids were back.  I can do this…

From the get-go I was almost mesmerized by this double-ended boat that seemed to pass me like an apparition.  One moment, Merlin would be hull down on the horizon astern.  Then, pretty soon, she’d be wafting on by me.  This rather grizzled-looking “old guy” in a head scarf would smile and wave from under his hard dodger.  I couldn’t help wondering if he was one of the pirates.  Sure looked the part.  And, “poof,” Merlin would scoot on ahead.  Of course, as slow as Lady Bug turned out to be; EVERYBODY seemed to scoot on ahead.

Dave Ware

Dave Ware, “the pirate”

Dave and Merlin.  A happy pair!

Dave in his dinghy, after rescuing a drifting boat, Hap’s Cut

Dave Ware sets his anchor, and beds Merlin down for the night, alongside his new found, AND RESCUED,  friend - that would be ME!

Goodbye Dave

Day 3 dawned sort of gray and kinda’ extra-breezy.  I was determined to stay up with the rest of the fleet.  I got underway with the lead boats.  Merlin caught up with me in the channel, and quickly showed me her heels.  So did everybody else. 

I figured I’d have to take the “short cut.”  Seems like, that was the long day to Army Hole.  The infamous run to infamous Army Hole.  A day that Mike Monies and John Turpin and Carl Haddick and the whole flock of Ducks will never forget.  Those ladies with the O’Day open boat.  Marty and Kim.  A lot of stuff happened that day.  A lot of ordinary people stepped up, and did some damn fine things that day.

Me?  I just sailed off by myself, and got lost.  Well, not really lost.  The chart said I knew right where I was.  Even, where I was going. 

All the hot shots had blasted on by.  The little guys, with shallow draft and pull-up appendages, had all taken their own “short cuts” someplace off to the south.  I was all alone in the world.  On a dead run.  Trying to keep it between the poles.  To tell the truth, it was blowing hard enough, that I had simply chucked my charts and GPS into the cabin and slammed the hatch shut.  I wasn’t really in trouble.  I wasn’t even really scared.  But, suddenly, I really began to question where I was.  Mostly, where I was headed.

With every passing year, the waves get higher.  The wind’s shriek gets shriller.  We old guys get to do that.  But, it was pretty boisterous in that sharp-edged channel.  And, it looked for all the world that I had picked a dead end!  Nothing but surf up ahead, where the poles disappeared into the trees.  The choices seemed to diminish to just two.  I could wander out of the channel, run aground with my fixed keel and deep rudder.  And, maybe, broach!  I could keep on downwind and put her on what was really looking like a line of rip-rap in what was really looking like surf. 

Not everybody with a sailboat is actually a sailor.  Not very many sailors are really seamen.  Not all seamen are gentlemen.  Not all gentlemen are thoughtful. 

To my reckoning, Dave Ware, designer, builder, and master of Merlin, was all of those things.  He did something for me, that I’ve done a bunch of times for other people.  Not very complicated.  But, he simply KNEW I was getting into deep kim chee.  I was going the wrong way, and would soon be walking home - if I was that lucky. 

Out of the spume, that double-ender with the hard dodger reappeared.  Not where I thought the channel was supposed to be.  But, pretty close.  Then, a most remarkable thing.  Merlin started reaching back and forth across the same patch of water.  He was marking the trail for the green horn stumbling along behind.  Maybe I wasn’t gonna’ loose my boat, after all.

After about 30 minutes - one of the longest half-hours I can recall - I ran on by that rip-rap and was inside the shelter of the Rockport channel.  And, there was Merlin!  Just tacking and gybing around up ahead.  Waiting for me.  I still get puddledup when I think about what Dave did for me that day. 

One of those “Random Acts of Kindness” that needs to be told.  And, retold.

I hailed him, and asked if we could stop someplace.  Maybe find lunch, and a cup of coffee.  He pointed ahead to a small marina, with a faded café sign nailed to a piling at the edge of the channel. 

We tied up, and while I can’t tell you what I ordered for lunch; I can report that the company was extraordinary.  Turns out, Dave lived in Rockport.  We talked about my prospects of catching up with the fleet, and some of the obvious Unk Unk’s of threading those final reefs and labyrinth channels in what would most certainly be darkness.  After a while, I made one of the most fretful decisions in a very, very long sailing career.  I decided to quit.  Give it up.  Bail out. 

Dave didn’t know me from Adam.  I was just another Texas 200 wannabe that had gotten himself into a jam.  A guy that had brought the wrong boat, and then made things worse - thinking he’d made it better.  I was only half way to the finish.  And, a long damn way from home.  I didn’t know anybody in Rockport.  I really didn’t even know where Rockport was.

Dave showed me where I could anchor in the little commercial basin, around the corner from where we stopped for lunch.  As it happened, we both wandered out of the channel and both ran quite firmly aground while avoiding a tow boat and barge combo enroute to the anchorage.  The only anchorage available for the rest of that day’s planned route.  Dave took it with good nature.  I don’t remember being quite so forgiving, at the time.

Anyhow.  Dave not only spent the night anchored alongside Lady Bug in that rather squalid little harbor of refuge.  He took me to a seafood boil at his friend’s boat shop.  He introduced me around.  He called his wife, and arranged for her to nursemaid me the following day.  I got to see the Texas Maritime Museum, go hull-thumping around the Rockport waterfront, and have lunch at a Jimmy Buffett-inspired burger joint.  And, best of all:  she arranged for a friend to drive me up to where I could re-claim my truck and trailer.  And, then haul Lady Bug out at Rockport. 

Random Acts of Kindness that this particular sailor - veteran seaman, actually - will NEVER FORGET. 

Dave Ware is my hero.  We’ve all lost a great friend.  We should never forget what a fine seaman, and total gentleman, he was.  He’s someplace up ahead.  Keeping her in mid-channel…


David Arthur Ware, 71, passed away June 25, 2014. He was born November 18, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts to William and Willie Ware. He retired from CPL as a pilot. He served two tours in the US Army during Vietnam. He flew UH-1 helicopters, both gunships and transports. He flew Mohawk airplanes with recon cameras. He was a Warrant Officer and later went to Iran with Bell Helicopters as an instructor. He was awarded the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Bronze Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Rockport, and was co-leading the Retrofit Program. He was also a member of the American Legion and Vietnam Helicopters Pilot Association. He was active with the Rockport Yacht Club and Bay Yacht Club in Corpus Christi. He enjoyed building, sailing and racing sail boats. He is preceded in death by his parents; previous wife, Linda C. Ware; son, David John Fleischer.

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