Taking along a kayak aboard Amtrak's Auto Train in January for two weeks of paddling in the Florida Keys called for a rugged, small inflatable that would fold up and stow inside my car.
I thought it might also perform additional duty this summer on Chesapeake Bay as my tender and as a fairly stable boatwork platform, able to fit inside my boat fully inflated when cruising. I named it Gonzo because handling such offbeat functions may also aid in my kind of participatory boating journalism.
When I began sailing in the mid-1960s, my watery world was limited to the Severn River, which opened to the great unknown (to me) Chesapeake Bay some three miles distant.
My first sailboat, a National One-Design, was moored in a cove near my home in Severna Park, Md.
I regularly cruise to Oxford, Md., on the middle Eastern Shore
— not primarily to eat, drink and make merry, but to poke around a remarkable time capsule of an old, traditional boatyard.
Some friendly boater decided somewhere at some time to hail a stranger on the water.
When that stranger returned the wave, a nautical tradition began that is now considered de rigueur.
As a sailboat-weary veteran of all 40 October sail shows at the City Dock in Annapolis, I have never been discouraged by snow squalls, gale-force winds, torrential rain, 100 degree temperatures, super-high tides with workers rowing about in dinghies, super-low tides with risky boarding on boats hard aground, and invasions of stinging honeybees.
Even after boat show owners suspended the good old freebie press luncheons of beef and booze at the Fleet Reserve Club on Ego Alley, I persevered and continued my habitual attendance.
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Jack has been cruising Chesapeake Bay and writing about the region for more than 25 years. His critically acclaimed book, "Maryland's Vanishing Lives," was published by Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University Press and is now in its second printing. Before joining Soundings, Jack was a feature writer at the Washington (D.C.) Star for nearly 20 years and a senior editor at Chesapeake Bay magazine from 1995 to 1998. His monthly Bay Tripper column focuses on the Chesapeake.