Remembering Icarus: Epilogue–Across the Atlantic and Sold

/Remembering Icarus: Epilogue–Across the Atlantic and Sold

Remembering Icarus: Epilogue–Across the Atlantic and Sold


Mid April of 2003 found us back in Gaeta, Italy, and contemplating whether to continue sailing or to move on to other things.  We loved our life on Icarus, and certainly found the Mediterranean to be fascinating for its varied cultures, and we are not ‘island hopping’ types so sailing the Caribbean never had much appeal.  But with a lovely house in Santa Fe, New Mexico we had hardly lived in, and the desire to do more extensive travel inland on other continents, we decided it was time to end the sailing life.

And this in turn brought us to another decision.  The obvious market for catamarans was and still is southern Florida.  So we had to decide between sailing Icarus out of the Med and across the Atlantic, or using a company called Dockwise to transport him to Florida.  We decided on the latter.  Because most boats are being shipped from the Caribbean to the Med at that time of year, he would be on the ‘deadhead’ run.  This would result in a steeply reduced price for the passage.  And Dave, importantly, was given permission to travel across on the ship as well, freeing up the thirteen days crossing to work on Icarus in preparation for selling him.  In addition, we would save the time necessary to sail him ourselves across, typically forty days, and would avoid the inevitable damage such a journey would likely inflict on him, given his fourteen years of age.  And there are very few sailors who describe a transatlantic crossing as fun!

So early on we contacted Dockwise and made arrangements to meet one of their ships in Palma de Mallorca, Spain at the beginning of May.  We set sail from Gaeta to Sardinia, a waypoint in the journey and spent a couple of days in Cagliari on the southern coast.  Unfortunately we fouled a mooring line in one of our propellers as we were departing.  This necessitated a return to the dock and a twenty-one minute period in the freezing water for Dave, who finally emerged without managing to free the line and with a full blown case of hypothermia.  It seemed almost comical to both of us, what with his uncontrollable shaking and inability to even stand.  This was only amplified when Bonnie attempted to apply the well-known best means of warming someone up, which anyone who ever sails in cold water should know.  That is to both strip naked and share a sleeping bag.  Unfortunately, Bonnie thought she was to be outside the sleeping bag, so there she was, stark naked, atop Dave but on the outside of the bag!

We finally made it to Mallorca, only to learn that Dockwise had changed the Mediterranean port for its incoming ship from Palma to Toulon, France.  But we were well ahead of their schedule and could afford a few days on Mallorca, one of our favorite places in the world.  Since Bonnie already had a plane ticket to fly back to Florida, Dave continued north to Toulon, assisted ably by a young sailor from Mallorca.  Dave had several days in Toulon before the ship arrived, and on the last night was visited by five French police who searched literally every crevice and cranny of Icarus, clearly in search of drugs.  We only learned later that a prior boat aboard a Dockwise ship had smuggled a huge quantity of heroin into the United States, and thus the attention we got in Toulon.

The next day in the early afternoon, Dave was alerted by radio that the ship was arriving and he should leave the dock and circle in the harbor in preparation for boarding.  And it was only about an hour before the Dock Express 12 appeared.  Now these are amazing ships.  They have huge tanks–called ‘bilge tanks’– to take on seawater, and when they fill, the ship sinks.  If you look at the photograph at the very top, you will note that the waterline is perhaps a foot beneath the Dockwise lettering on the side of the ship.  This photo was taken when the ship was almost completely submerged, but as you can see in the photo below, it sunk even further before disgorging its cargo of boats, fourteen in number including the giant eighty foot powerboat you can see peeking over the side of the ship.


Then the huge door that forms the stern of the ship can be opened

and the boats inside are driven out into the harbor itself.  Once all the boats aboard have left, a new load of boats can be driven in, as Dave is doing with Icarus in this photo.

The yellow Italian ‘cigarette boat’ ahead was the only other boat aboard Dock Express 12 so there was lots of room in the hold or interior of the ship.  As soon as we were positioned correctly, divers appeared and placed huge blocks of timber under the keels of Icarus.

Then the water in the bilge tanks was pumped out and in the end the hold was well above the waterline and dry but for puddles like after a storm.

The huge rear door was then raised and steel braces set against the sides of Icarus and welded directly into the deck of the hold.  With super strong nylon tiedowns across the decks of Icarus and attached to the bottom of the hold, there was no way he was going to move even in the roughest storm.

It took a day and a half to go from Toulon and out of the Med at Gibraltar, and thirteen days in total to reach Port Everglades, Florida.  And there were a number of things to be done to Icarus to prepare him for sale, so the time was well spent.  The first job was to remove the enormous growth of sea life that had accumulated on the hulls during the prior year.  It was the thickest we saw any year and Dave had to scrape it off instead of just blasting it with a pressure washer.

No wonder we couldn’t make more than 6.5 knots when sailing to Mallorca and Toulon!

While Dave slept on Icarus just as if he were in the water, he ate with the ordinary Philippino crewmembers who did all of the normal seaman’s jobs.  The officers were all Dutch and had their own dining room and lounge.  Here is the Second Mate next to one of the pistons of the diesel engine that drove the ship.  It should give you some sense of how enormous that engine was.

The Cook for both dining rooms was also Philippino and a really fun guy, full of pranks and jokes, and whose Philippino food was wonderful!

But it was the Ordinary Seamen who were on deck with Dave and working while he worked on Icarus,

and with whom he shared beers in the crew lounge after work that he really got to know and appreciate.  

The last Sunday, their normal day off, before we reached Florida, two of them spent the entire afternoon helping Dave stretch a new trampoline into the foredeck of Icarus.  We went around and around it, tightening it further each time until it was absolutely taut.  He could not have done this without their help and it was deeply appreciated.

When we drew close to Florida, a horn sounded over the public address system, followed by an announcement from the Captain.  It seemed there was a ship burning ahead of us, and while the Coast Guard thought all crew members had been evacuated, they weren’t certain and requested that we prepare to rescue by lifeboat and bring aboard any survivors still in the water.  In such a situation, every crew member had a specific task and set about preparing to take survivors aboard.  Here is a shot of the Third Mate throwing a ladder down so any survivors could climb up over the side.

As a passenger, I was ordered to climb to the bridge and man a powerful set of binoculars to keep the burning ship in view.  Here is the Captain giving instructions to the First Mate as the Third Mate stands ready to the rear and a Philippino sailor steers the ship by joy stick.

And then suddenly the smoke we had been heading for disappeared.  The burning ship had sunk.  In a minute or two the Coast Guard confirmed its sinking by radio, and a couple of minutes later a Coast Guard Lear Jet flew over us and wagged its wings in appreciation of what we had done.

In a little over an hour, we drew into the enormous facilities of Port Everglades, with its miles of warehouses, docks, loading cranes and shipping lanes, our dock clearly ahead.

Soon we had a huge tugboat at our stern nudging us into the dock

And there below, just entering through a gate and checking in with a security guard, were Bonnie and Reggie, our dear friend and mentor on all things sailing, particularly engine repair and maintenance, some six years before.

As an aside, Reggie and wife Edna were lifelong sailors, the last twenty on their thirty-two foot sailboat Dixie, which Reggie had built himself and in which Edna baked every single day–mostly pies but cookies and cakes as well.  They had sailed her to the Mediterranean and back, and were living aboard in a marina in Dania, just south of Fort Lauderdale.  Bonnie had slept the night before aboard Dixie and we spent several more days enjoying their company before doing anything further toward getting Icarus ready for sale.

After a check of our registration papers by U.S. authorities and an abbreviated inspection by a Customs official, there was nothing left to do but back Icarus out

and turn into the Intracoastal Waterway toward Hollywood, Florida a few miles to the south.

There we spent about two weeks finishing all the work to have Icarus ready for sale, then motored up the waterway to Fort Lauderdale and left him, with very strong feelings of regret, at the large catamaran boat dealer there.  Here is our last picture aboard him, taken a day or two before the trip to the dealer.

Icarus spent about two weeks at the dealer’s dock in Fort Lauderdale before being purchased by a Frenchman whose intention was to take his two daughters up the Intracoastal Waterway to Chesapeake Bay where they would spend the summer.  We were sailing on the coast of Maine with a friend from Santa Fe, New Mexico when we got the cellphone call with the news that Icarus had sold, sold quickly, sold in hurricane season. We imagine Icarus was probably comfortable with his new owner, a seasoned sailor from the land where he was built.  But it left us with the sense that an enormously important and loved part of our lives was gone.



2019-01-02T21:10:12-07:00April 21st, 2016|Categories: Florida, France, Italy, Mediterranean Sea|

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