Ever since my husband and I returned from sailing over 9,000 nm around the Pacific Ocean, we dreamed of going back. Reality has kept us landlocked for 12 years now and it’s really putting a cramp in our style. We just spent the last 10 months looking for a boat to take our family cruising on and so far have spent over $4500 on flights and surveys. It’s a little discouraging to say the least but we feel so much wiser and even more determined to find “the boat!”
When we said we wanted to go the first time we ran into many obstacles and deterrents. From not having any money to people telling us we were nuts to go with the little experience we had sailing, we could have easily given up. We did a few times because the weather wouldn’t let up, my husband got a notice in the mail from the IRS and we both got terribly ill right before our departure.
But, we pulled ourselves together and double checked our systems and safety equipment, let loose the dock lines and set off on May 2, 2000. We both remember the day like it was yesterday. Calm winds, clear skies and as we passed Pt. Loma to starboard we just kept going: sailing southwest for 27 days. We experienced our first warm front just south of Ensenada with big seas and strong winds that made the 12 ton sailboat surf down waves dipping her bow and scooping water along her gunwhales. I remember trying to sit down in the head that was located forward in the most uncomfortable part of the boat thinking “Why the hell are we doing this!?”
But the fears and unknowns of going offshore dissipated and by the 4th month of sailing around the islands of French Polynesia we were very happy and hooked on the lifestyle. It is like nothing you can experience here on land. It is a lot of work but work that is satisfying and valuable and worthy. Our hands were calloused and our skin was dark even though we wore hats and long sleeves all the time. We met the most wonderful people who knew how to fix things and make things with their hands and were willing to help their fellow sailors with any boat project or teach them how to make home made tortillas.
This is how life is meant to be lived.
We also experienced a grounding with no other boats around to help. We worked as a team kedging our boat off the reef at 2:00am inside a tiny and distance atoll in the middle of the Pacific. While I sat watch at the helm with the engine running, my husband trekked into a remote and distant town to get help. His first encounter was with the “mayor” who wanted to know how much our boat was worth. Then he crossed the channel and found a diver to recover our anchor and chain rode. We had to have the boat pulled and spent six weeks on the hard in Raiatea with a view of Bora Bora in the distance. While we toiled over the boat, cockroaches flew under my skirt on the way to the yard’s bathrooms. These are the things that will discourage you but you have to keep going. Just like life. The challenges are great and the rewards are greater than the day to day grind of driving the freeway to a cubicle and back or even just taking the easy way by sitting back and doing the same thing over and over every day.
So we are on the pursuit again for that life. But the roots have gone deep and are strong on land so the greatest fear now is the fear of not being able to break free of the foundation we have built here in San Clemente. We knocked our first hurdle over by making an offer on a boat after 10 months of looking at boat after boat and thinking “This is not going to work.” Putting that offer down was the most important thing we’ve done so far even though we did not end up buying the boat. Our deposit is being returned and we are out $1500 for the rig, hull and mechanical surveys which have been the most enlightening part of the process so far. We both learned a tremendous amount about trusting our instincts, looking-really looking-at a boat and questioning every little ‘weird’ thing that is staring at us in the face. How we did not see the missing shroud, the decaying cheap aluminum chocks, the poorly matched chain in it’s gypsy, the jury rigged fixes to the gooseneck, shackles and lifelines I do not know but I know one thing: we will look more closely and understand what we are getting ourselves into next time around.
It’s easier to overlook the bad and only see the good things but with a boat you just can’t do that. It could mean the safety of your crew. It’s not like buying a house where spackle and paint can cover up most problems. We have so many systems that are less than perfect at home right now-window coverings, a garage door, a washing machine, a dishwasher that don’t work well, sprinkler systems and lighting systems that are imperfect and incomplete-but life goes on and those things can and do wait. All systems on a boat must function well on a day to day basis and if any one broken or less than operable part is left for too long things can go bad really fast. There is no “get to it later” on a sailboat.
I spent the entire day yesterday working with a contractor to install a steaming light on our 38′ Downeaster which has sailed all over the Pacific twice and never had a steaming light before. The county is requiring us to have one so I hired someone to do it because I don’t have the time. This is what stopped me in my tracks. I paid someone to install a lamp on the mast that I could have done if I didn’t have to work to pay for it to be done. And he installed it incorrectly the first time around (off was on and on was off!) so I had him come back and make it right. It’s these little things that make me realize how much I love the life of freedom on a boat. When you don’t have to work you can work on the things yourself that need to be worked on and you gain a great sense of accomplishment in doing so. This is what I really miss about living on the boat and why we are in hot pursuit of this dream.