Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cruising Dream - Fantasy to Reality

Those who have known me throughout the years, recognize that the dream of a cruising adventure is one that has had a long incubation period. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, my father was the first to introduce me to boating and boat handling. I spent time during my childhood with my Dad, on the power boat he built, exploring the Bay, fishing from Point Reyes, to Princeton and up into the Delta, where the entire family spent many cruising vacations.

My first experience with sailing was in a Snowbird dingy at the age of 13. It belonged to one of our marina neighbors who offered it for my use one sunny afternoon. Despite my sailing incompetence, I was able to maneuver it up and down the harbor without major mishap and I was hooked. It would be a number of years before I could indulge my sailing fantasies.

Going to college at San Diego State University brought me back to the ocean and eventually back to sailing. My expertise in sailing hadn't progressed since my first experience with the Snowbird dingy. That realization, fueled by my dream of a future sailing adventure, led me to a small boat sailing class offered through the Park and Recreation Department of the City of San Diego. Learning the basics in Sabots and progressing on to Lido 14's and Coronado 15's, I finally began to gain my first understanding of sailing theory and basic sail handling. While the experience was a very small first step, it cemented my passion for sailing and offered hope that someday I might have the experience to turn my cruising dream into a reality.

There was another hiatus to any serious sailing following my college years. First there was an extended road trip to Mexico (starting along the pre-highway stretch of Baja California) and through most of Central America. Upon my return, there was the business of starting a career, which initially interfered with almost all of my 'free' time for several years. Eventually, a like-minded colleague and experienced sailor, Doug Anderson, suggested we explore chartering options in San Diego.

Chartering allowed my graduation from dingy to keel boat sailing. Chartering also provided my first sailing cruise to Catalina Island. It was a two couple charter, my wife and I along with Doug and his wife, on a Yamaha 33. There were many years of local chartering to keep my dream alive. It also provided experience in sailing a variety of production boats in the 30 to 50 foot range, giving me an opportunity to compare the strengths and weaknesses between boat designs.

One of the local chartering companies allowed boats to be used in non-spinnaker racing. With Doug driving the effort, we put together a group of interested people to try our hand at sailboat racing. About this same time, another newly hired colleague, Nancy Harding, had a sailboat she and her husband campaigned from San Diego Yacht Club. There was an active PHRF fleet in San Diego where they regularly competed on their Cal 34. They eventually traded up to a Peterson 34 and began racing in the IOR fleet. Crewing regularly for Nancy and Rick, allowed for developing more contacts and opportunities to crew on other boats. As the adage goes, if you want to learn to sail, sail with people who race. The bottom line was that I wanted to gain as much experience as possible in order to pursue my cruising dream.

During the 1980's and 90's, racing allowed me to meet a wealth of great sailors, including several recognized world class competitors. I gained experience racing one-designs, IOR, IMS and MORC boats, sailing on J-24's, J-35's, Hobbie 33's, Shock 35's, Olson 33's and several custom one-design racers. Each time I went sailing I learned more from each of the people I was privileged to sail with. I was gaining the needed experience to morph my dreams of cruising into reality. An unexpected divorce would interrupt sailing, while I worked at getting my financial and psychological house in order.

Thanks a small windfall from my father's passing, and the insightful prodding of my new bride, I finally purchased my first sailboat in 2005. After many years of boat shows, chartering and sailboat racing, I knew I wanted something in the 34 to 40 foot range that was a recognized performer under sail. It also had to be affordable and reliable for coast wise and possibly off-shore cruising. The 1982 Cal 39 by Bill Lapworth fit my criteria. It belonged to three previous owners before us, all of whom kept the boat updated and in near bristol condition. My wife and I purchased it from George and Doris Hubbard, a wonderful couple from Arizona. The reality has its' first beginnings.

1 comment:

Marisol said...

Bravo! You're off to a great start. I look forward to following along with your progress and adventures as you continue to fulfill your dreams.
Hugs to both you and Kath.