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by Jackie Monies - Eufaula, Oklahoma - USA

Sometimes we are blindsided by life and the infinite we cannot control. No one would have ever suspected that Mike Monies, the clean living, healthy living, active living sailor would suddenly have almost untreatable lung cancer.

It wasn't fair. He had never smoked a cigarette in his life, never used a drug. Mike had ridiculous good health and stamina and athleticism that thirty year olds envied. Suddenly that was all gone.

Mike and the Red SCAMP
A shot of Mike sailing Red SCAMP

Mike lost most all of one lung but showed remarkable resilience in rapidly recovering. That all changed when he began chemotherapy. He had already lost a great deal of weight but was otherwise fit. We thought he'd do well in chemo, only to find out differently.

There are many cancer survivors among our boating friends and Mike intends to be one of them. I have learned of so many who faced this same merciless disease, either themselves or their spouses. They do not complain, I only know some because they have told me, either through Duckworks' or Sail Oklahoma's forums and letters to me. The Great Texas Duck Migration sails this year as a flock of fifteen this June, part of the larger Texas 200 fleet. What is a Duck? It is any small, more or less rectangular boat deemed to be one. Basically about four by eight feet, the flock incudes a Mouse, Bolger Bricks, Oz Racers and some class legal Ducks. The Paradox may be the Ugly Duckling swan?

This year in the Texas 200 Chuck Pierce and a flock of Ducks will be sailing to raise money for cancer research, treatment and aid to those who need it. We cannot be there to help but Mike and I will be there in spirit, cheering them on. I read the list of those doing this, Texas, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Connecticut, and British Columbia. All the names are those well known in our world of small boats, all of them are friends of mine and of Mike. They are doing what they can to fight for some of us who cannot.

Chuck Pierce proudly shows off the EC Duck
Chuck Pierce's EC Duck with signatures all over
The EC Duck sailing at Lake Charles
Chuck Pierce collecting more signatures for his EC Duck

Suddenly I was struck that it reminded me a great deal of the names and birth places on the plaques in the Alamo in San Antonio. These heroes came from everywhere to fight for Texas, just standing up for a battle they believed in.

Chuck Pierce and his wife Kathy are both cancer survivors, first Kathy and then Chuck. Chuck is organizing events for the EC Duck to attend and sail to fight cancer. Her name is End Cancer. She is a humble yellow Duck, built by Scott Widmier in his attempt to complete the Everglades Challenge. He donated her to Chuck for an even greater challenge. Chuck and Kathy have two sides of EC Duck, one for those for whom they sail in memory, the other for those survivors for whom they sail in victory. People are asked to place names on her in permanent marker at each event she goes to.

Fort Desoto, the start of the Everglades Challenge

I asked Chuck Pierce about how important sailing and the Texas 200 was to him, but I already knew the answer. He had read about the Texas 200 the first year she sailed and wanted to go if it was held again. He had no idea he had cancer of the throat and tongue but when he was diagnosed he decided to take part. For nine months of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation the Texas 200 was his goal, his reason to keep on. He planned for it, read about it, prepared for it and when the 2009 Texas 200 left shore, Chuck was in his boat with his brother-in-law as crew. I don't even think he had finished his treatments, he was weak and thin, but he was there. It was the Texas 200 that kept him strong enough to survive.

John Goodman's Chevy Duck. John lives in Houston and is a veteran of several Texas200's.

Because he has bad days and some not so bad, Mike has been unable to do much building but he will not give up. He walks out to the Boat Palace to clean a little, organize or just visit. The Core Sound 20 is on the floor waiting for him and he goes out and thinks about what his plans are for her. She was a gift from me that he could use to sail the 2015 Everglades Challenge, fast and nonstop. I named her "Hard Core" because that is what Mike is.

He has spent his "down time" buying her sails, shopping for a motor, purchasing materials to finish her. She is a bare hull but he is working on outfitting her as a winning boat. Her paint will be red and white with bright work trim. Her name plate will be golden. Dave Gentry, our boat designer friend and teacher will sail with Mike as his partner.

Bill and Paul Moffitt in a past Texas200 - father and son will both be sailing Ducks this year. Bill is coming from Atlanta and Paul from Philadelphia.

He continues planning for and buying for future and current builds. The tiny motor for the Tender Behind, also to be red and white and bright, arrived this week. He bought and received sails for the B and B Spindrift 10, "Fast Eddy" She is partially built already out in the Boat Palace. The Tender Behind "Fancy Free" sits behind the Boat Palace in her protective shed, epoxied and waiting for her own red and white paint and her mother ship, the Footloose by John Welsford. We have all the plywood for Footloose stored in the Boat Palace and Mike is shopping for her motor, probably as I write, on his laptop in bed. Most of her materials are bought and stored, stove for the galley, foam for her bunks, wheel and captain's chair, electronics and essential communication equipment. Mike says he is too weak to do much but he can still shop and sign his name on a check!

Kellan Hatch brought this inflatable boat to the 2008 Texas200 all the way from Utah. This year he will be sailing one of the Ducks.
Kellan Hatch's Duck for this Texas200

This is what I think has made so many of you reading this survive. The attitude that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. That you will come through and build and sail again. That life will go on. So long as Mike believes this, I too will believe. I am asked often how I can remain calm throughout all the fear and anxiety. I do not have boat building to fall back on for peace. But somehow I have found that strength and I think that it has come from you.

Wade Tarzia, a Texas200 veteran from Connecticut, will captain a Duck this year.

When I first decided to once again enter the world of boating, there were certain people that I instantly recognized as soul mates. One was a Virginia free range chicken farmer named Paul Helbert who I began to correspond with. He described himself as a hillbilly chicken farmer and handyman and we talked about building Oz Racers and carving boat parts by hand. I went to Georgia with a group of Duckers and Paul arrived in a red Miata sports car towing a Duck on a trailer, rock music blaring from the radio." Hillbilly Rock Star out of Control" I said to myself. Over the years I got to know Paul, his family, his boats. His enthusiasm for life was contagious and inspiring to be around. I always looked forward to Paul's opinions and thoughts and his boats. At the end of Sail Oklahoma 2012 I hugged my good friend Paul Helbert as he left for home in Virginia. The last thing he said to me was that he would see me in October for Sail Oklahoma 2013. And then he hesitated. Paul was so fit, so healthy I could not believe I wouldn't. But Paul had a leukemia he did not know about. I saw Paul again in October when we held his memorial service in our back yard during Sail Oklahoma. It was a joyful celebration of Paul and Paul's life, which was unique and full of wonder all the way to the end. Many of you took packets of Paul's ashes back to your sailing waters to continue Paul's journeys. I mailed the remaining ash packets to sailors and boaters worldwide. Because of you, Paul is with us in the waters of the world, continuing his miraculous journey throughout eternity. It was not the end.

Jason Nabors, an original Texas200 Ducker, will sail a Duck again

What I am asking from each of you is that you donate to the Texas 200 cancer sail "The Great Texas Duck Migration" in honor of Mike Monies, in honor of Paul Helbert, in honor of Chuck Pierce and his wife Kathy, in honor of the countless others of our groups who have fought the good fight but lost, for those who have fought and won, for those who are currently fighting for their lives.

The link to the LIVESTRONG team Page.

You can donate to the entire team “Texas 200 Ducks” or select a team member to donate to. You can donate directly to the site by credit card or print a donation form and mail in a check.

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