A Human Fireball
by Gary Watkins
"Heck, I just fire that Jolly Roger up there and attack em."
To Jeanne Combe, life begins in a 16-foot buccaneer Fireball loaded with laughs and giggles and if you don't believe that....just watch her.
Combe, turns heads in Gimli, Harbor, Canada with her "hardi-har, har" 360's and wails of "Aye... thar matey, ..... stand-by, I'm turn'in about" before shoving the tiller and ducking a whipped boom for the next assault.
"Heck, ya gotta just love it, eh!"
What started as the simple purchase of a friend’s dinghy last summer "on a lark" has simply changed Combe's life. Divorced, with grown children and challenged with the affects of Lupus, this spunky farm girl from Gimli, Manitoba decided last year that her life was going to be a living fireball.
"Hah...what's life, if ya can't laugh, and enjoy it."
For Combe that means first on the water and boat-ready. With sails, tarps and halyards draped through her 450 square foot house this retired art teacher dabs a 10 foot psychedelic yellow butterfly on the jib, a serpent on the genoa, and a gawking orange bird "that's really weird…hah," on the main.
"Hey...ya gotta liven things up a bit."
Adorned with hand painted spider's web and crossbones, "Giggles" is ready.
And so, with a "heave-to" and "tally-ho" Combe finagles a d-ring out of scrap twine, stuffs a wad of a water noodle into the drain plug ("hey, it works") and runs a flourescent Jolly Roger up the masthead.
"Thar...ain't she pretty."
With a four inch anchor under the bench "just to be legal,” and a shoelace-reefed mainsail, Combe grabs her bubble sword and shoves off. "Yippee, I'm the first in."
"My kids think I'm nuts," said Combe. “Heck I might act like I’m twelve (years old)...but I'm not nuts."
Sporting a bright orange life jacket (“the one with the hand painted fluorescent genie bottle”), Combe clips in and sets sail. "Hey,...there's the lake, here's the boat...I'm gone."
"It’s that simple, " she said.
The burly Combe paddles the 250-pound Fireball into a dead wind and settles onto the floorboards. "Gonna take awhile," she hollers. From shore, it's the moving tip of a mast on a hot, blue sky....and then it's a gliding art mural with a lifejacket.
With one arm on the tiller Combe sculls around yachts and steel trawlers towards her berth at the end of the quay. From shore, it's the quiet tip of a mast across a hot, blue sky....and then... it's the art mural with the orange lifejacket.
"Hey, could ya blow some wind my way," she hollers to bystanders on the dock.
"Hah,...people just gotta laugh more," adds Combe who spent most of last season laughing at herself and those towing her off the rocks. "Heck,if ya can't laugh, yer dead." And for this giggly sailor that’s a mainstay.
With plans to spend five months on the water, armed with boom tent, sleeping bag and car heater this feisty salt seems ready for the long haul. "I'm giving up grocery money for sailing," said Combe, who's budgeted $20 a month for food: like carrots, biscuits and maybe the odd hamburger patty she can stoke on her make shift fondue burner. "And I can always walk or hitch-hike rather than take the car," she said, "but I can't sail without the boat."