Chuck, Patricia Jones enjoy sailing venture

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Fayette Faces

By Panzi Blackwell

Charles Melvin “Chuck” Jones had always felt that he would like to sail, but never had the opportunity to even be on a sailboat until his wife, Patricia, won one in 1995.


This was just the beginning of planning, working hard toward and taking a dreamed-of journey for just the two of them, sailing away on waters from which, at times, no land was in sight … on an old sail boat that had not been on the water for years, that Chuck had to practically rebuild and repaired himself.  
Getting Their Feet Wet
“It was a sign-up thing in Greenville,” he said, “We brought it home and tried to sail it a couple of times on the Vandalia Lake.
“Then in 1999, we bought another small sailboat and we tried to sail it on the Carlyle Lake a few times, but we really didn’t know just what we were doing.
“Then about six years ago, we joined the Carlyle Sailing Association and got a few lessons and so forth, and started sailing with them.”
Chuck and Patricia are both good swimmers, but, “The key is never to fall off the boat,” Chuck said, laughing.
“When you are out on the ocean, if you fall off the boat, you are likely never to be seen again. It’s just too hard to find a person out on those waves.”
While Chuck has always been interested in sailing, it was a newer idea for Patricia. “She probably is not as much into it as I am,” Chuck said, “But we had just been back home a few days and she said, ‘You know, I didn’t think so, but I really miss being out there, sailing.”
Getting Ship-Shape
“The sailboat that we took had a diesel engine, which I had to rebuild as part of fixing up the boat,” Chuck said.
“We bought the boat from the marina in Boulder a couple of years ago, from someone who had bought the boat to fix up, but never did much with it.
“We started fixing it up and put it in water and sailed it a little. There was a lot to be done to get the 'Clarity' ship-shape. It had not been in the water for several years. He worked on it until the day they set sail. The Boulder people never figured it would ever set sail again."
The Necessities
“We had an ice box, but we used it only occasionally. Everything was expensive. I paid as much as $8 for ice. Prices were ridiculous, in Florida and especially in Maine.
“We usually anchored out. The marinas up there wanted as much as $4 a foot, and it would cost $124 just to tie up and anchor for one night, so we would just anchor out,” he said. “We ate a lot of dehydrated-type dinners, things we could heat up a lot. We had a little stove that used sterno. It was set up so it would rock with the boat, so it would stay level with the boat. A sailboat is very often tilted 20 degrees for days at a time.”
A few crackers and ginger ale were on board for the few times Chuck would feel a little fuzzy-headed or a headache coming on.
A first aid kit was also on board. “It’s just like anything else,” Chuck said. “On the ocean, you really have to be prepared. You are completely alone. We did have radio, we had ERPIB (emergency).
They also had “Spot,” a device on which they would push a button and it would send an e-mail to several people they had on their list to show a little map of where they were. They would send it out about every day, but told their contacts not to get worried if they missed a couple of days.
“We also had an emergency beacon they could send out that would go to everyone,” Chuck said.
Weigh Anchor
The Cheoy Lee ketch Clarity set sail on April 13.
“The first 650 miles were mostly motoring, because I started in the Kentucky Lake dam. I did it alone for the first 650 miles, from Kentucky Lake dam to Mobile, Ala., because Patricia still had to work” he said.
“So, probably 90 percent of that was motoring, but I was able to sail the Kentucky Lake, about a hundred miles.
“The rest of it is upstream, in fact, for the next hundred, where you get to Lake Pickwick, you have to go up a lock and dam. They raise you up a hundred feet up to the lake there, then you get on what is called the Tennessee Tom Bigbee Waterway.
“Once you get out of Lake  Pickwick, there is a canal that is cut, a kind of divide that gets you down into the Gulf of Mexico watershed,” he said. “You start going downstream at that point, but there are 11 locks and dams from then on down that you have to go through. They take you down step by step, from about 450 feet elevation to seal level.”
Encountered Storm In Alabama
Going downriver, “I got into all that bad weather they were having in Alabama, where the tornados had killed all those people.
“I was at anchor and the storm came through and it completely knocked my boat over flat, bent the anchor and just about drove me up on shore,” he said.
“I was on board and it actually knocked it all the way flat one way and spun the boat around and knocked it flat on the other side, and trees were flying through the air. It didn’t really hurt anything and the boat popped right back up.
“A sailboat with a keel can be knocked over farther than 90 degrees and it will pop back up. It has 3,000 pounds of lead in the bottom of it, and even if it rolled over, it will pop back up,” he said.
Co-Captain Patricia Boards and It’s Anchors Aweigh
Patricia boarded in Mobile and the adventure was just ahead, with GPS and maps to chart the way.
“My wife joined me and we sailed across the Gulf of Mexico, non-stop to Key West,” he said.
“That took six days. We were out of sight of land for six days. It was the first time she had been out of sight of land on a sail boat. But as long as you know where you are, with GPS and maps, you can figure out where you are going,” he said.
“We got to Key West and we stayed around the Keys for a few days. It was pretty hot by then, and it was hard sleeping at night, because it just got down to about 80 degrees at night,” he said.  
“Our goal was to make it up to Maine,” he said. “So we sailed through the Keys and along the coast of Florida.  We got out into the Gulf Stream and sailed about 500 miles. “They would make stops about 250 miles or so, because, “When you get out on the ocean, it is a little hard to sleep at night, at times, if it is a little rough, and we had some pretty rough weather,” he said.
“After about two nights at sea, we would get tired and come in and anchor out and rest for a day or two.  We worked our way up the coast to North Carolina, then went into what is called the intercoastal waterways, a series of rivers, bays, more protected waters.
“We went on up into Norfolk, Va., up into the Chesapeake Bay. Again, it was hot there. We spent about a week there. It was a nice place, and we just kind of zigged-zagged back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay, and stopped at several places,” he said.
Back on the Atlantic Ocean…and Caution Needed
“We sailed on up to New Jersey and back out on the Atlantic Ocean again,” he said. “Then we sailed straight through to Rhode Island. That was a good sail. We saw a lot of whales and dolphins.
“We almost got hit by a fishing boat. You have to watch out for them, because they can’t really see you sometimes.  When we were just sailing along at two o’clock in the morning and not making any noise, and they have bright lights on, pulling nets, all of a sudden, they will change course, because they are sailing in a pattern sometimes, on account of the nets.
“You try to stay away from them, but it seemed like every time we went to turn to avoid them, they turned right toward us. They came way too close,” he said. We took turns, two-hour watches. One of us would go down and take a nap, and the other one would stay up and watch for ships.”
“Some of the big ships – you won’t see anything, and all of a sudden, a big ship will appear. If it is coming straight toward you, they can be going as much as 30 knots, which is 33 miles an hour, and if you are only doing five or six knots, and they will appear over the horizon, within 10 minutes they will be where you are.
“If you aren’t paying attention, they can come up behind you and be on you before you know it,” he said. “It isn’t likely that you will be run over, but it happens.
“We do have navigational lights on our boat, but there are so few people manning the big ships anymore. They are all automatic and they don’t have people on watch anymore. They have radar maybe, but sometimes sailboats don’t show up on radar. They are more concerned about other big boats.”
They sailed up along Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, and that was where they really enjoyed the cooler weather. “There were also a lot of other sailboats. There was a lot to see along Maine, sailing along, including the lobstering,” Chuck said. “We couldn’t leave in the morning a lot of times until the fog lifted.”
Drop Anchor-Journey’s End
Patricia flew back home, while Chuck remained to clean up the boat. They shipped their belongings back in plastic cartons.  He put the sailboat on Craig’s List and, “People were almost fighting over it,” he said.
“That was the original idea, to buy a boat and then sell it at the end of the trip. We didn’t have time to sail back, because Patricia had to get back to work.
“I think a lot of the guys at Boulder was sorry to see it go, because that boat was on Carlyle Lake from 1988 on. It hadn’t been in the water a lot for the past 12 years and a lot of people thought it would never be in the water again."
Chuck and Patricia-In Person
Patricia (Street) Jones works at Memorial Hospital in Springfield in the Intensive Care Unit. She also helps her husband by making arrowheads in their family business, Black Rhino Bows.
Another interest Chuck had for many years, that of making bows and arrows, has evolved into the business which he now owns and operates.
They have a daughter, Jennie, who lives in Springfield and is a nurse practionier. Their son, John lives in Italy. His wife is a Navy commander. They also have grandchildren.
Footnotes for the Ship’s Log
Chuck Jones left the Kentucky Lake dam on April 13, and the journey ended on July 25, the couple having traveled 3,500 miles on their first voyage.
Maps and charts are very expensive, but necessary for plotting your course, staying on track, etc.  
There were times in rough weather when water came over the boat and got to the point when they had to have foul-weather gear on. They encountered and went through thunderstorms out there.
Chuck admitted that he tends to get motion sickness on rides and things, “But this time, for some reason. The rougher it got, the better I felt,” he said.
He added, grinning, “Patricia’s hair was darker when we set out. By the time we were finished, it was blond, from the sun.
“It is a lot different than sailing on the Carlyle Lake,” Chuck said, “because there are the tides and there are times when the tides can be against you.”
They had to know about the times of the tides, so they wouldn’t be stuck on land after the tide went out. Patricia’s cell phone was set up to record the times of the tides.
There are already tentative plans being made by the couple for the next sailboat journey on an ocean. They would like to sail across the Atlantic someday.  It would not be easy “keeping up with the Joneses.”