January 25, 2003
Ode to Latitude 38
The following was a letter published
in the San Francisco sailing magazine, Latitude 38:
What a treat to have San Francisco pay us
a little visit by way of Latitude 38! My boyfriend Curt and
I have been cruising the Caribbean aboard our boat, Force
Five, since May 2002. Today a neighbor at anchor here in Anegada
saw that our hailing port is San Francisco and brought us
the latest copy. Reading through it and news of the city I
love, it reminded me of how I got here and the crazy path
we seem to be taking. I am a San Francisco "Marina Girl"
turned cruiser - having done it the rather reckless way. I
say that because until we bought our boat in Saint Martin
and started our run south for hurricane season, I had never
It's been a long road to becoming a Cruiser,
and I did not trade in my Marina Girl status for sailor easily.
Swapping my Kenneth Cole loafers and Kate Spade bag for flip-flops
and a back-pack was the beginning of a long initiation into
the club we call "Cruisers". And though I can now
confidently call myself a happy member, still on Sunday mornings,
I sit in our cockpit at anchor beside yet another paper white
sand beach in gin clear waters (to which I am longingly reminded
of martinis) feeling my heart ache to be having brunch at
my favorite spot on Lombard Street with the San Francisco
Chronicle in one hand, decaf latte in the other. A true testament
to the incomparable merits of the fine city of the Golden
How did such a strange transformation begin,
you might ask? In true metropolitan city dweller bravado,
I fell dramatically in love with my Captain, Curt, over New
Years Eve in Tahoe 2002
with passion and with both feet
first. We mused about sailing off into the sunset, throwing
both convention and our cares to the wind. And somewhere along
the line, the starry eyed idea started to become a discussion
of reality. We didn't want to be one of "those"
people that talked about doing such things, but then never
It sounded perfect. Adventuring to exotic
destinations in the Caribbean, sailing from port to port while
our Bay Area pallor gave way to a healthy golden glow. Never
mind that I had no idea how to sail. I mean, I had been to
plenty of parties at the Saint Francis Yacht Club, and spent
even more Saturday afternoons at the docks at Sam's - I thought
that had to count for something, right? I just loved the idea
of trading in my all black, city wardrobe for a bright palette
of sailing, Caribbean style, attire.
Now certainly, I jest a bit here. A little
anyway. I really didn't have a clue how to sail, but then,
that's where Lin and Larry Pardey come in: the gurus of cruising,
I had been told. I thought, "I'd done well in undergrad,
surely there are enough books out there to help me find way
through life on a sailboat
." And the Pardeys seemed
to have written the guides for my coursework: Self Sufficient
Sailor, Cost Conscious Cruiser, The Capable Cruiser, and the
like. It wasn't until later I realized that the books I'd
read were wrong!
We are not cruising among 28' boats with
no engines, no watermakers, no refrigerators, and no showers.
But this was the premise under which I'd entered into the
purchase of our boat, ala my Pardey U. education. Forgoing
modern amenities such as proper showers is one thing if your
cruising brethren are all in the same boat, but it seemed
to me quite another when the retirees in their 45 foot floating
RVs around us were enjoying all the conveniences of life on
land. I felt like I had been had. I wanted to dinghy over
and shake "The Self Sufficient Sailor" at them -
and scold them for not doing their homework. This just isn't
the way cruising is supposed to be done!
Adjusting to life on board was more than
downsizing from a San Francisco studio apartment to a thirty-four
foot Lavranos Holiday racer/cruiser (who would have ever thought
you could "downsize" from a SF studio anyway?!).
The world around the walls of our new home (or hull as the
case may be) was drastically different as well. No Whole Foods
or Molly Stones, no Trader Joes from which to provision. I
have yet to find even a single recipe for calabash or salt
fish in my monthly arrival of Food & Wine Magazine. From
Sonoma to Saint Vincent- how was a Bay Area couple to get
by without our wine country neighbors to fuel our sundowner
cocktails after laying anchor in a new bay? Something felt
Ten months Starbucks and Union Square shopping
spree free, I had an eye opening experience the other day.
We had just arrived in the BVI (not long after a five hundred
mile sail due north from Venezuela
take THAT all you
island hopping forty-five footer, ex-regatta racers turned
"Cruiser"), and walked from the North Sound of Virgin
Gorda to Spanish Town to clear-in with customs (did you notice
I said walked, not hailed a taxi?). Upon handing the immigration
agent our paperwork, he read it over and passed it back through
the slot in the glass window - "Your occupation please."
"That's right." We don't work."
"No, what do you do back home?"
"We're unemployed. We don't have jobs"
"Yes, but what do you do?"
"Well, we live on our boat and sail
"Okay - so you're a 'sailor' then.
Put sailor down."
I just had to laugh out loud! "BAH!
Me? A sailor?" What would my girlfriends back home say
to that? But then of course, upon later reflection, I suppose
maybe I am. Huh. Marina Girl turned sailor. Who'd have thought
it? Along our path from Saint Maarten to Trinidad, and from
Trinidad to Venezuela, and from Venezuela back up to where
we sit at anchor now- the Disneyland we call the Virgin Islands,
I somehow must have earned my Cruiser wings. Perhaps I was
too busy hauling jerry jugs with water, or adventuring off
to find a little market, or plotting our course for an island
a distance of five days at sea away, to notice.
That doesn't mean I can't still miss the
home we call San Francisco, and doesn't mean I can't long
for just one brisk afternoon hike in Muir Woods or along the
headlands of Marin. And it certainly doesn't mean that after
everything we've seen and done, we don't wholeheartedly believe
San Francisco is our favorite city in the world (all something
for wanna-be Cruisers to remember as they revel in their most
recent issue of Latitude 38 from their Bay Area base). But
at least for this afternoon, I'll continue to put together
our plans for our next big adventure: our sail to Cuba. We'll
let you know how it goes.