Preview: Learning from Experience; My Biggest Disaster and What it Taught Me.

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s Gannon and Benjamin (on Martha’s Vineyard) owned a 72’ yawl named ZORRA. Purchased at a Federal Marshal’s Auction in 1986, she had had a fire onboard that had badly burned portions of her interior and filled the rest of her full of smoke When she arrived in Vineyard Haven under sail after the engine had seized just as she left the dock in Virginia, she was a mess. Over the years, after she arrived in her new homeport, and in between passages, she was rebuilt and turned into a very shapely, comfortable and sea kindly as well as fast sailing yacht. She was (and still is) one of the few designed by the legendary and revolutionary British powerboat designer Renato “Sonny” Levi. She had been built in Italy in the early 60’s and was originally named HERMITAGE. G & B used to sail her to the Caribbean each winter where she would charter, carry freight between the islands, or act as a floating home while Ross Gannon or Nat Benjamin was onboard, during which times they would help the boatbuilders of Carriacou, Bequia, or whatever other island ZORRA might be anchored.  The crew was normally occupied in upgrading (or repairing) ZORRA’s very basic gear and in improving her cosmetics. Deliveries on ZORRA were always exciting: she was very sound but skimpy on high-tech gear, and frugally outfitted – “shabby chic” before it became fashionable. The sorts of toys that charter guests expect weren’t included in her amenities; in fact, the sales pitch at first was “third world charters” – a reference to ZORRA rather than the islands — and she often headed south late in the year after the hurricane season had ended but when winter storms were frequent.

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4 Responses So Far to “Learning from Experience; My Biggest Disaster and What it Taught Me.

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    Ginny Jones says:

    Thank you William for another solution — not sure that I would have wanted to try that even if we had any fire arms on board — as Zorra rolled and pitched we could have ended up putting a hole through the hull since her long counter stern (the back porch) completely obscured and blocked the rudder. Someone asked me why we didn’t rig the emergency tiller, and I cannot remember. It could have been because the pedestal (with the binnacle and the primary compass) was in place and we couldn’t attach it, or ? I just can’t remember. I do know, however, that given the possibility of losing the use of the compass and the ability to navigate, our situation would have done a rapid downward slide.

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    William Parke says:

    I remember reading about a similar solution to your steering problem where an attachment point was not available on the trailing edge of the rudder to attach steering lines. This was remedied when the skipper leaned over the side and shot a hole in the rudder with the vessel’s handgun.

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    Benjamin Mendlowitz says:

    Thanks Ginny, great story. Zorra was an impressevive pressence on the Vinyard when I first visited there in the 80’s, it’s nice to finally hear some about her life with G&B and your ingenious solution during a tough delivery.

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    Ginny Jones says:

    An edit to the version I submitted has the galley stove landing on the cabin sole; it didn’t but several kerosene lamps, galley gear and clothes, towels, blankets, and personal gear did end up in a soggy, smelly heap under the leaking sky light.