It was my very first ocean voyage. I was on Bob and Jody’s Lost Soul. On the evening of the fourth day of our 13 month adventure I got my first taste of what the cruising lifestyle was all about. We had sailed south from California and were hold up in a tiny anchorage in Mex. We were the only boat there. For that matter, we were the only humans for a hundred miles. The sun was setting. We three were kicking back on the aft deck enjoying cocktails, listening to Nat King Cole and dipping into the hors d'oeuvres Jody had just brought up. It was shaping up to be a perfect sunset. As the sun dropped low we saw that it was going to set over the edge of the headland that we had anchored behind. Bob was telling me some great story from his biker days when he stopped, noticed our sunset predicament, and said, “Woody … go on up and let out 50 more feet of chain.” I did and Lost Soul slowly drifted back, just far enough so that the sun would set into the sea … as it should. Was it the conversation, the company, the food, or the ability to enhance our environment that ruined the rest of my life that evening? Of course it was a little of everything. Corrupted by Bob and Jody, I had given up a successful business, my apartment on the beach, my convertible bronco, and also the taxes and the bills and the rest of the rat race in order to live a dream. That night I drifted off to sleep knowing that I had made the right decision.
I’ve gone on to complete my own tour of the planet by sea and since then have spent some time helping out at the worlds greatest magazine and doing my small part to help Bob and Jody get back out there – they leave in two weeks as I write. But as you would expect, I’m itchin’ to head out on my own cruising adventure. Of course I’ve got a plan and as usual, I’m sharing it with you. Unlike most people, arranging the time for such an adventure is not a problem for me. Neither is it a problem to rid myself of a lifetime of junk since I have not acquired any gear or items that are unessential for the next adventure. Finding a boat is a key part of the process for most people but alas, I still have Low Key. I love that boat. She’s ready to go as always but, if I decide to take her out again, I’ll be laying up some more glass, 'round the keel, for piece of mind. On the previous voyage that my only concern with her. If I can get into another boat without delaying my departure much, I’ll consider that. No, for me there are not a lot of obstacles to setting out again, you know, besides the $ one.
Before he died my dad used to say, “Do what you like doing, eventually someone will pay you for it.” I learned that this was true. There are a surprising number of ways to make money in sailing. I’ve narrowed them down to the few that suit me. Skippering private yachts is the best way for someone like me to acquire the funds to get back in the game and I’ve started putting my name out there for those ‘jobs’. The downside to skippering yachts is the full-time out-of-the-country nature of the position. Of course, if you like where you’re ‘cruising’, this is hardly a downside.
Deliveries are another way to make some fast cash while allowing a life ashore including time to put a boat together. A couple weeks ago I did my first real delivery since returning home from the circumnavigation. The boat was called Nonnie (no-nee). I sailed with Paul and two of his friends from Bellingham, WA to San Francisco. It’s a sad thing to report but the delivery was largely uneventful, very fun and even hysterical at times but it lacked crisis. Keeping things uneventful is very good for delivery referrals but is decidedly bad when you write stories for a magazine like Lats. Since I can’t fill this space with tales of harrowing sailing feats while braving the tempest waters of the north Pacific, I’m going to promote the merits of hiring a pro (pick me!) to move your boat and/or jump start your own cruising adventure.
Most delivery skippers don’t allow owners onboard. Besides messing with their command structure (some owners are uncomfortable with being told what to do on their own boat) most delivery skippers like more predictability in their offshore crew so they bring their own. I kinda like having the owners onboard. It’s more fun for me to figure out your boat with you there. We learn together and you get to see that even seemingly insurmountable problems are often easily solved. When the conditions merit it I prefer to have the owner act as skipper with me as a constant advisor. This is the best way to get you up to speed on your cruiser and my version of the cruising lifestyle. While hashing out the details for an owner onboard delivery I make two things very clear. 1) When there is a “situation” I’ll be taking over. 2) I determine when there is a “situation”.
Competent boat skippers aren’t cheap but if what you learn from them prevents you, down the road, from seizing a motor, blowing out a sail, wrecking a spendy piece of gear, running aground or most importantly, instills safe habits that prevent injury, you’ll come out way ahead. It’s often that first month or two of a cruise that can wreck a new cruiser’s impression of cruising forever more. Trying to climb that steep learning curve while adapting to the boat and the cruising lifestyle and encountering sea states that they previously thought occurred solely in story exaggeration can be hard to take all at once without the confidence earned from some time with someone who’s at home on the ocean.
Another way to get some ocean experience is to crew on other people’s boats. My friend Hank Schmitt runs a crew placement service called Offshore Passage Opportunities. For an annual fee he will match you with an endless list of boats looking for crew. You can get a hold of Hank at http://www.sailopo.com/. Want to get into the skipper side of things? Get your Captain’s License. On the east coast contact Mariner’s School at: http://www.marinersschool.com/. On the Left Coast contact me at the edres below as I will likely be running some courses for them out here. At both places, ask for your Captain Woody discount.
Just as I am about to revisit my cruising origins with a leg on Lost Soul, another member of the Lats family is coming full circle. Tania Aebi is striking out again, setting sail this time with her two boys Sam 12 and Nicolas 15. They are planning a cruise from the Caribbean to Australia. I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Trinidad with her to look at potential boats. We looked at lots of abandoned cruisers in all shapes, sizes and conditions. She made an offer on a 38 foot steel cutter. It’s just what she was looking for. I want to thank Yellow Shoes Jake (and Cheryl) for letting us hang out on their big beautiful cruising yacht, appropriately named Yellow Shoes, while we were in Trinidad. Tania especially liked the central vacuuming system though there are no plans to install one on her cutter.
In two weeks I’ll be heading south with Lost Soul as far as Cabo … for old time sake. As you read this, I’ll be sitting there, in that Mexican anchorage or one just like it, doing the same thing with the same people on the same boat and most importantly having the same feeling; the feeling that I have made right choices in my voyage through life. I wouldn’t change a thing. Thanks Bob and Jody.