Bucket list shrinks with sail to Cat Island _lowres


Based on actuarial tables, after reaching age 60 I have about 21 more years to live. So last spring, I began to compile a list of items to achieve in the limited time I have left.

The list had three items:

No. 1 was quickly scratched off the list. Despite possessing a great Cajun two-step, I had no chance of winning “Dancing with the Stars.” Even by that show’s lax standards, I am not a star.

So that moved going out on a date with my boyhood crush to No. 1 on the list. But the star of “I Dream of Jeannie” is now 85, and though still quite attractive, Barbara Eden as a grandmother now represents a socially less appropriate object of desire. Alas, that goal was jettisoned leaving one item remaining: sailing my boat to Cat Island.

Though a sailor for years, I had only sailed out of sight of land one time. I am not even sure that trip counted since it had more to do with losing my eyeglasses overboard than the distance from shore.

For someone in a powerboat, motoring the 10 miles off the coast of Mississippi to Cat Island is no great feat. To someone who owns a sailboat that is shorter than 12 feet long at the waterline and does not have a motor, it is a challenge.

My wife was not supportive. She always pointed out that the island offered nothing of interest. In fact, she insisted, there weren’t even cats on Cat Island. She suggested I reconsider “stalking” Ms. Eden.

Still, for me, the trip became an all-consuming goal.

A month before my 60th birthday, I launched “Rosie” from Pass Christian and did not even get close to the island. Eventually my ribs healed, and it only cost a few hundred dollars to fix the boat so that attempt was not really a failure. It was a learning experience. I learned that one should not base their Gulf weather predictions on a week-old copy of The Advocate.

Three months later, I tried again, this time bringing along a crew member. Mark is a child at age 50, but what he lacks in maturity he makes up for in courage. Possessing no sailing experience, he had no fear. He was from New Orleans and by nature unfazed by the dangers that water can present. Water only frightens him when you try to pour it in bourbon.

No matter how little I knew about sailing, he knew even less. What an inspiring team!

We launched early one morning and despite little preparation and even less skill, we had a spectacular sail out to Cat Island.

That evening we viewed the wildlife on the island (the cats are actually raccoons), enjoyed the sunset and then got caught in a horrible windstorm. Eventually the wind grew so fierce it shredded our tent and blew the metal frame down the beach. Mark’s reaction was to look up at the stars where the tent once was and state, “How cool is that?”

The blowing sand stung us, and each time I reset the anchor I got wetter and colder. We got no sleep at all.

The return trip was worse. The wind quit on us making the trip back to shore hot, uncomfortable and interminable.

Still arriving at the dock I felt rejuvenated. I was 60 and my “past due date” was fast approaching, but I had sailed out into the Gulf in a tiny boat and reached my goal.

Now, how cool was that?

— Monaco lives in Baton Rouge

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