The Dream a.k.a The story prior to the stories
In mid-December 1990, I attended a business conference in San Diego, CA. It was held at the Marriott Marina, right next to Seaport Village. For those of you not familiar with that area, this hotel looks out over the harbor to the south and west. You can see Coronado Island to the south, with the huge US Navy base, the high, arching bridge, and the famous Hotel del Coronado. Right next to the hotel is Seaport Village, with itís shops and restaurants. A short walk north is downtown. Most importantly, a good-sized marina is right outside the hotel.
Being a couple of weeks before Christmas, there were numerous boats in the marina that were decorated. Seeing the lights strung up masts and along lifelines gave me, for the first time, the idea that a boat could be a home. I had never had a boat before, nor even had an interest in one. But on that trip, the seed was planted that the liveaboard lifestyle was something I might like. A year later, I returned to this same conference in the same hotel and the idea was reinforced. Over the next couple of years, I visited San Diego several times, since I lived only a few hours away in Phoenix, and every time, I was drawn to the marina just to look around.
A few years later, I attended a personal growth seminar. As part of the program, I filled out a questionnaire that had a question that asked about goals in your life. Pretty much out of the blue, I wrote, "To sail the Caribbean". Up to this point, while I had been attracted to the boats in San Diego, I had not consciously thought about how to make this happen. But once I wrote that down, it became more of a tangible thought. I started reading more about boats. I subscribed to Cruising World and Sail, and bought several books about living aboard.
About 1995, I got to know the husband of a woman that my now-ex wife worked with. Due to job availability, he lived on his boat in Alameda, CA (San Francisco area), and she lived in Phoenix until their son finished high school. They made regular weekend trips to be together, and some of these were on the boat. Knowing of my growing interest in boats, we were invited to join them on one of the California weekends. Now those of you familiar with sailboats in the 30-something foot range, can appreciate what a sacrifice it was for this couple who only saw each other every other weekend to share their boat on one of those visits. I was given a valuable lesson on living aboard that weekend Ė when you have overnight visitors in a house, you are sharing your home with them Ė when you have overnight visitors on your boat, itís like sharing your bedroom with them. You have to all be good friends, and we quickly were. Doug had been sailing many years and was a good teacher. In several weekends of sailing with him, I was able to put much of the knowledge I had gained through reading, to practical use. Also, spending those weekends in the marina reinforced my liking for the liveaboard lifestyle. I believe it was then that I realized I liked that aspect of having a boat as much or more than the sailing itself. Early morning coffee in the cockpit with smooth jazz softly playing in the background and the sounds of gulls and the breeze in the rigging remains among my favorite things. I started thinking about how I could get a boat and keep it in either San Diego or San Francisco. I assumed my job would keep me in Phoenix and I would just have to play every other weekend or so for the time being.
In 1997, I found myself at a turning point in my life. I was single, my kids were on their own, and, unexpectedly, I was out of a job. (Thatís a whole other chapter.) A company that I had worked closely with over the years in a vendor/client relationship, asked me to come talk to them. They were in Houston, and in the past when they had approached me about coming to work for them, I expressed my reluctance to live in Houston. Well, things were different now. For one thing, I needed a job. More importantly, Houston is a lot closer to water than Phoenix. This could work out nicely. In February 1997, I made the move. I rented an apartment near my office, on Houstonís west side, but every other weekend or so, I made the trip down to Kemah, TX on Galveston Bay just to be near the water and the boats.
In the spring of 1998 I was awarded a three-day cruise to the Bahamas by my company. This was my first taste of the Caribbean. The water, the weather, and the sights amazed me. Even though I was on a cruise ship, I suppose I could have considered that old goal complete. I was sailing the Caribbean. ButÖ
In October 1998, I attended the same industry conference that started this whole thing, but this time it was in Washington, DC. Over the previous year, I had been communicating via e-mail with a broker in Annapolis. I figured that as long as I was in the area, I should go meet him face to face and be sure he knew I was serious about a boat, although I wasnít quite financially ready. I didnít want to look at boats yet because I didnít want to get my heart set on something I couldnít do. He convinced me however that if we looked at some, he would have a better idea of what I really liked or didnít like. So, we went out to look at some boats. The first boat we looked at was on the hard, right outside their office. I had a good idea of what features I wanted, and what style of boat I wanted. This first boat we looked at was exactly it. Now I faced exactly what I had been afraid of. I wanted this boat and wasnít sure I could swing the deal yet. Thanks to that broker and a flexible finance person, the boat was on a truck and on itís way to Texas in a few weeks.
Rechristened MoonSail, my new home was in the water in the Kemah Boardwalk Marina on December 18th, 1998. One week later, I spent my first Christmas aboard. I was by myself, and it was cold and very windy and rainy, but it was still a great Christmas. I had no TV, no stereo, and didnít know anybody in the marina yet, but I had my boat. The dream was coming true.
Since getting the boat, I have lived aboard and done primarily day sailing on Galveston Bay. Many overnight trips to Galveston (about five hours each way) have been taken. And once, I have actually been "offshore" in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2001, I participated in the Harvest Moon Regatta from Galveston to Port Aransas, TX. This was my first time out of sight of land, and overnight. My good friend Tilton crewed for me, and although we were near the back of the pack arriving in Port A, we learned a lot and had a good time. The return from Port A was up the ICW, which gave me lots of experience dealing with barge traffic and locks and bridges.
In November 2002, I moved to a more liveaboard-friendly marina called Portofino Dockominium.
In December 2002, I chartered a Jeanneau 40 in St. Thomas, and spent ten days cruising the USVI and BVI. There were eight of us on two boats. Now I could really say I have sailed the Caribbean. Unfortunately, just days after that trip, my friend Tilton succumbed to the cancer that he had been fighting for a year. He was the second close friend to die too young in the past year. This combined with now having a taste of sailing in the islands has made me consider the future in a different light. My plans a few years ago were to retire in the 2004-2005 time frame and go cruising. The current state of the economy has made that unlikely. The more I think about it though, the more I think of just going for a few years, until the money runs out, and then going back to work. Stay tuned.