Sometimes friendships go beyond simple companionship.
“I was chatting with a friend about how much I missed sailing,” said Gary Sisler, 81, who formerly sailed Biscayne Bay on “Horse Feathers,” a 28-foot sailboat he sold just before moving to East Ridge at Cutler Bay.
That’s when he learned fellow-retiree and East Ridge resident Bert Colville, 86, still sailed out of Coconut Grove Sailing Club with one major obstacle.
Bert owned a boat but had no car to drive 12 miles to Coconut Grove and sail aboard his 30-foot sloop on Biscayne Bay. As a consequence, for the past three years, Bert walked, biked and rode buses and Metrorail to stay afloat and keep his lifetime love of sailing alive.
From his East Ridge home, Bert rode his bicycle to the SW 87th Ave. bus stop, just outside the entrance gate, and then took a community bus to Dadeland South Metrorail where he boarded to ride to Douglas Road station.
There, he took a second bus to the Sailing Club entrance near Bayshore Drive and MacFarlane Road, walking into the Club grounds. Coming and going, those door-to-dockside trips consumed nearly four hours.
Upon learning about Bert‘s schedule, Gary said, “There was only one thing for me to do. I invited Bert to lunch and said, ‘I’ve got the car. You have the boat. How about I drive us if you’ll let me come aboard your boat for a sail once in awhile’?”
Now, the two East Ridge ‘salts’ try to get in weekly sails together, Gary happy to drive the pair and eliminate the near four-hour roundtrip Bert once endured to board his sailing craft with the unique name of “Yemanjah”.
“I know it‘s an oddity but it was painted so well on the boat’s stern that I left it alone,” said Bert. He Googled the inscription and discovered that when he and Gary sail they are “motherly protected” by “Yemaya,” name of a mythical African Goddess of the Living Ocean, even though the pair limits themselves to seagoing jaunts on protected bay waters.
“Biscayne Bay is really a very unique asset to this area,” said Colville, a former TWA ticketing agent, originally from Connecticut. “It’s not like Fort Lauderdale where you sail directly onto ocean waters. Instead, you have this protected Bay, 50 miles long by 10 miles wide to enjoy a day of sailing.”
For Gary, retired from his commercial real estate business, it was “an end to three years of frustration, after he’d been sailing all his life.
“It was just great to meet up with a fellow-sailor like Bert,” he said.