Saturday, May 2, 2020

A View from Pandemic Newport- Cats!

J/80 sailing in Chile
Following the thoughts and perspectives last week from the two J/Boats founders- Bob & Rod Johnstone, a few friends encouraged the "next generation" to describe their "home sheltering" experiences in the past few weeks.

Your J/News publisher/ editor- Stu Johnstone- has had one prominent theme while working at home for the past few weeks- "CATS"! LOL. 

My wife- Julia- and I live in a quaint "craftsman's cottage" in Newport that is shared with three complete characters (cats), each unique in their quirks and personalities. Living here is a bit like living on a boat, you're supposed to stay at anchor, stay on the boat, and occasionally you can row to shore to get supplies.

Stu with Allie cat
Meanwhile, the cats rule the roost. We started off a few years ago with one Russian Siberian forest cat we named "Allie". As an alpha female, she tries to rule the others, but at a strapping 8 lbs, her efforts are often for naught. She does claim your editor as her protector (as seen here) and enjoys spending lots of time hugging my shoulder while I type away and write the J/Newsletter. 

Our second cat came about for one simple reason, "Allie" seemed lonely or bored at times. So, Julia decided to call back the cat breeder of Allie and find another cute Russian Siberian forest "kitten".

While the story of meeting the breeder to pick-up "Allie" the first time would be described as "epic", the second adventure was even more adventurous. You might describe it as an "interstate buying trip." I had decided to buy a powerboat (yes, going over to the 'dark side' has its merits). But, without a tow-vehicle, I had to rent one! Thanks to Enterprise, I got a nice Ford F-150 quad-cab pickup with a hitch, drove from Newport to New Haven to pick up a brand new aluminum trailer, then drove through New York (via I-287/ Tappan Zee Bridge), through New Jersey (past Delaware Water Gap) onto I-80 in Pennsylvania to meet our "cat lady" halfway across Pennsylvania.

Hobie cat
Much to our surprise, when we met her in a brew-pub parking lot just off the I-80 highway, she hops out of her car with a 7-month old "kitten" that was enormous- just your basic 17 lb. black panther hugging her shoulder. I nearly died of laughter... or, maybe it was shock! Nevertheless, "he" was a "lover" (as described by her breeder) and our new black kitty was promptly named "Hobie". Off we went to pick up the boat- a 30 ft Intrepid center console- in southern Long Island, with "Hobie" crawling all over inside the truck. Ultimately, we picked up the boat on Sunday 8:00am and drove back to Newport with the new "J/CREW" in tow (a bit larger than its predecessor- a 16 ft Boston Whaler!).

As if having two cats was not enough, segue forward three more years and my wife is now working at the Kitty Corner Cat Clinic in Newport. While I was "away at sea" over Thanksgiving weekend/ first week of December (I was racing a TP 52 with my cousin Jimmy in Phuket, Thailand, sailing in the famous King's Cup Regatta); my wife decided to add a THIRD cat to our household. This one was no spring chicken. Like Hobie, she was an enormous cat- a 13-year-old female Maine Coon cat tipping the scales around 17 lbs, too. Yikes! Sadly, she was a 'rescue cat', left by a previous owner, and was very timid at first. Her name was "Impy", but I nicknamed her "Whimpers". With both of us at home all the time, she's slowly coming out of her 'shell' and feeling more comfortable, and less intimidated, with the other two cats- Allie and Hobie. Thank goodness. 

Charleston Harbour Marina
As for your J/News editor, I had two "Throwback Thursday" moments while writing on Thursday. My calendar program promptly notified me at 9:00am that Charleston Race Week was taking place this weekend- remember that event? It was a poignant moment for me, as the original plan was to sail with my "Meatballs" friends on their J/88 ALBONDIGAS. Bummer. It reminded me of all the other wonderful times sailing in Charleston Harbour, racing J/70s and J/111s in the past. With Doug Curtiss on his J/111 WICKED 2.0, Heather and Joey on their J/70 MUSE, and Brian Keane's J/70 SAVASANA. Fond memories all...wishing that we can enjoy Charleston again in the near future...

The second throwback moment was a truly epic, adventurous trip to Chile that Julia and I took a year ago. Fourteen days. 12 hours flying from Boston to Miami to Santiago to Punta Arenas. A 30-hour trip by water on the Yagan Ferry down the Straits of Magellan, across the spectacular Beagle Channel (at least two-dozen glaciers spilling down to the seashore) to Puerto Williams, the truly "southernmost city" in the world.

Torres del Paine, Chile
Puerto Williams is part of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago; it’s known as a starting point for trips around Cape Horn. It’s also a gateway to trails around the jagged peaks of the nearby Dientes de Navarino. (

How far south is it? 55 deg south latitude...versus the next closest place to the north familiar to many sailors, the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island- 46 deg south- just 540 miles north!

So far, that is the furthest south the J/Newsletter has ever been published- Puerto Williams! Coincidentally, there is a J/24 fleet there- part of the Chilean Navy's training program (the southernmost J/24 fleet on the planet)!

J/24s at Puerto Williams, Chile
Thereafter, we did hike the trails up to Dientes de Navarino (they do look like "teeth"). From that height, you can see Cape Horn down south! Then, visited the famous Torres del Paine National Park north of Punta Arenas. Then, up to Puerto Montt and visiting Lago Llanquihue- famous for being surrounded by three volcanic snow-covered peaks- plus there is a J/80 fleet on the lake.
Volcano Osorno at sunrise
Thereafter, it was a fun trip up to Isla Negra (remember last week's visit to Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's museum?). A trip to a spectacular vineyard northeast of Algarrobo, a day tour of eclectic Valparaiso. And then home. Next time, New Zealand's South Island!

Best wishes to all. Stay safe & healthy. Cheers, Stu & Julia"