We developed an itch to sail after retirement while living in Seattle and volunteering at the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union in the late 90s. While surrounded by "liveaboards" (something new to us), we quickly realized that one doesn't buy a boat at retirement and just sail away! One must have the boat for a number of years and learn not only to sail it, but also how to maintain it, because "out there", one is definitely required to fix things that break - there are no boatyards or boat repair gurus in the middle of any ocean.
Fortunately, we had an amazing broker who patiently quizzed us on our sailing plans, and then helped us find our beloved Westsail 42, which we named "Chamisa". She* was formerly named "Dido", for Dieter and Doris Pieper, the previous owners. We felt that her name was too personal for us to use, and so we chose to honor our love of Albuquerque by giving her the name of a desert plant - chamisa (aka "rabbitbush"), and our love of Seattle by giving her that as the "hailing port". Thus, if you run across an older, graceful Westsail somewhere out there on the earth's waters with "Chamisa" and "Seattle" emblazoned on both sides of her canoe stern, we should be aboard so please stop by and say hello!
Westsails were built in the 70s in Costa Mesa, just down the coast highway from where we lived in Long Beach, so after a few years heading north up the coast, "Chamisa" finally returned to her roots here in Southern California where she is most happy and so are we - warmer!! She is a heavy displacement, full-keel boat - the type made to carry you anywhere on any ocean you choose (as long as the weather is warm!). During our years living aboard in Long Beach, we learned how to sail, dock, anchor, live aboard, repair everything even when hidden behind the "walls" (aka "bulkheads"), dispense of the last of our worldly goods - no more storage unit, no more cars, no more suits or heels/hose - shall I go on? No, you get the idea, I'm sure.
Finally, in the fall of 2008, we managed to retire on our respective birthdays in September and November at the ripe old ages of 61. We didn't make the Baja that year because our son was married on New Year's Eve. But in June 2009, we did manage to cut our ties to land, and head south* to Catalina.
We lazed away that summer practicing our anchoring technique, and managed to do a circumnavigation of the island, so I guess we were not complete lollygaggers. In August, we fired up to attend some first aid classes for cruisers over in Newport Beach, and then started our long slog uphill to San Francisco to serve as a test of our skills and the additions Keith had made to the boat.
Arriving at the end of September, we joined the Aeolian Yacht Club on the southwest tip of Alameda (the island in the SF Bay which parallels Oakland) so we would be in walking distance of our daughter's house. She was married in 2006 on the beach in Cancun, so I think we could say that the whole Baja/Mexico idea is all their fault, right?
Hmm...as it turned out, we didn't make the Baja that winter, nor the next one either! I had the worst year of my life, medically-speaking, with three shoulder surgeries in 2010. It's not worth your time to read the how/why of it all - just suffice it to say everyone was extremely supportive, most of all my nurse/cook/laundry-man/driver/cheerleader/pill-giver and ever-dedicated spouse Keith.
At long last, on Memorial Weekend 2011, Keith sailed out under the Golden Gate with wonderful crew aboard so I wouldn't risk another shoulder injury. He sailed in two legs - first to Monterey with our daughter and her husband, then on to Santa Barbara with a father/son team from the Aeolian Yacht Club. I relieved that second crew in Santa Barbara in mid-June, and together Keith and I at last made our way downhill to Long Beach for a reunion with our old marina-mates. They generously loaned us cars so we could re-provision make some minor repairs (as always!) and do the usual medical appointments. Then, happily we headed over here in late June to spend the summer once again at Catalina.
We are still here through "Cruisers' Weekend" in the middle of October. Then we will do that provision/spares/repair/doctors thing again in Long Beach before making our way to San Diego. Once there in November, we will meet up with friends who plan to buddy-boat with us down to La Paz. Hmm...or will it be Mazatlan? Who knows which will be warmer by then? That's the best thing (and sometimes the worst thing) about cruising - we have read that cruisers should always "write our plans in the sand" because sometimes (most times, in fact), those plans seem to change. The reasons include weather (the real boss), repairs needed, friends popping up unexpectedly (by land or by sea), or just plain changing our minds with a "let's go here" instead of "there".
Next time, I'll share more about our trip up/down the coast to/from San Francisco, and more about Catalina, along with some photos to show you what we've been seeing. We hope you enjoy reading about our dream almost as much as we do living it. Please leave your comments or questions and I promise to reply in the next post (or when we have internet service!).
*You may not know that ships are always referred to as "feminine" - I have forgotten why!
*You also may not know that the ocean is actually south, not west, of Long Beach - check it out - weird!