Untying The Lines – A nautical send-off

Sunset Cliffs San Diego California

The beautiful tidepools of Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

The boating world is full of tradition, ritual and quite a bit of superstition.

Of course, any endeavor where you take your life in your hands — or, more accurately, hand your life over to the whims of Mother Nature and King Neptune — is worthy of all kinds of superstition, blind faith and silent prayer.

Certain wise truths are written in the hearts of sailors:

— Never start a voyage on a Friday
— Don’t change a boat’s name
— If there’s a red sky at morning, take warning!


Sunset Cliffs View

Sunset Cliffs is a magical place where many people feel great peace
and a strong connection to the universe

Although, in today’s age of science and skepticism, some boaters look a little askance at these pearls of wisdom, all it takes for many to change their minds and take heed is to start a voyage on a Friday and subsequently run into some big challenges at sea.

Along with cracking a bottle of champagne across the bow, some new boat owners go through special ceremonies and rituals to change the names of their boats and circumvent the wrath of the sea gods.

And most sailors, even those on Navy ships, go through unique rites for crossing the Equator for the first time.


Sunset Cliffs sentinel rock in the water

It is a place for communing with nature
and expanding your soul…

But I’ve never heard of a nautical ceremony for saying goodbye to your ship, and wishing it fair winds and safe voyage, when you pass its command on to new masters.

As we prepared to leave our sailboat Groovy behind at our broker’s docks in San Diego, she was in as pure and virginal and showroom-ready condition as she would ever be.

The caves at Sunst Cliffs

Down below the cliffs, near the rocky shore,
we had an unusual encounter…

She wasn’t sold yet, but we had moved everything off of her and we were leaving her behind so we could resume our land-based travels in our trailer.

Our truck was ready and waiting in the parking lot, stuffed to the gills with our remaining personal belongings, and we were polishing our way out of the cabin and into the cockpit.

“I want to do something special before we leave,” I said mournfully to Mark.  It didn’t seem right just to walk away from the boat.  I wanted to recognize the occasion somehow, to say goodbye to her, and to wish her well in her future adventures

Suddenly his eyes lit up and he ran off to a dock cart that was overflowing with our last boxes of stuff.  He rummaged through a little container of knick-knacks and then came back into the cockpit.

Living One Vibrational Energy

This little stone came to us in an intriguing way

“I have just the thing,” he said, holding a very round rock out towards me in his palm. Hand painted on its face were the words, “LOVE – Living One Vibrational Energy.”

Some weeks earlier he had been given this odd stone by an intriguing, nature loving, free spirited woman we had met while we were prowling around at nearby Sunset Cliffs.

We had noticed her doing some reverential poses on the rocks, her long hair and soft dress billowing out behind her.  She had seemed to be summoning the spirits of the sea by the water’s edge.

It was a classic California sighting, and we chuckled to ourselves.  But then she turned and began to engage Mark in conversation.

She was loving this day — the ocean and the sky and the beauty of everything — and she wanted to share her good feelings with all the world. Suddenly she cupped her hands around this little stone and pressed it into Mark’s palm. Then she wafted away. He slipped the stone in his pocket, amused and touched by her unusual gift.

A woman on the shore appeared to be invoking the spirits of the sea

A woman on the shore appeared to be invoking the spirits of the sea

Now Mark put the stone in my hand, and I rubbed its round, smooth surface.  There was something appealing about it and the funny way it came to us.

“I’ll toss it in the water right here below the boat,”  he said.  “That will definitely give Groovy good vibes.”

With that, he knelt down by the hull while I grabbed my camera.  He held the out stone and let it fall.

Such a simple gesture.  Such a fleeting moment.

But the gravity of it caught us both off guard.  Suddenly we were embracing, tears in our eyes.


We devise an impromptu goodbye ceremony for Groovy

A neighbor on a newly purchased Hunter 46 spotted us from his cockpit.  His Mexico cruise was still ahead of him, and for the few days we had been docked side by side, he had been as excited about loading up his boat up with goodies as we had been about unloading gear from ours.

“It has to be bittersweet…” he said as we walked past him on the docks.  His bright smile oozed happy anticipation of his own adventures ahead.

We nodded with a sniffle and trudged up towards the truck.

Throwing Stone 2


We promptly bumped into our broker who greeted us with a great big salesman’s grin.

But his expression changed to a look of surprise when he saw us blowing our noses and wiping our eyes.

“I guess you really loved your boat!”  He said incredulously.  “So many people just hand me the keys and say, ‘Sell it!'”

Not so with the Groovy boat. She was our little home on the sea, a fabulous cruising platform and our dream boat.

I have never cried when I moved out of any other home.  I have always been excited to leave.  I’ve never felt a deep emotional attachment to any house I’ve owned. But saying goodbye to our little pad on the water was really hard for both of us.

We had poured our hearts and souls into making her as ideal for living aboard at anchor as possible. We had lovingly polished every inch of her, inside and out, over and over, and we had worked on every system, from the tiniest pump to the largest sail.

Sitting in Groovy's transom lockers

Groovy was a wonderful little floating home for us.

That’s the way it is with boats.  You get to know them on a very intimate level!

She had delivered handsomely on all the promise we had seen in her when we first laid eyes on her.  Steadfast and secure, she had taken us to all kinds of new sights and experiences, in safety and in style.

With hopes that some caring new owners will discover her and be as inspired by her as we were, we waved goodbye from the top of the dock ramp and climbed into our truck

There were lumps in our throats as we drove the city streets out onto the highway in the morning light.  But by the time we crested the hills that separate the lush coast of San Diego from the desert to the east, we were smiling again and talking excitedly about the future.  We had closed a beautiful chapter in our lives and were now turning the page to see what would happen next.

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Living, Loving and Perfecting “The Dream”

Sailing Groovy

Happy days aboard Groovy!

June 2013 – We’ve been living the Good Life here at Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta for three months now. Wow!

This is a wonderful place to hang out, and lots of folks stay for years at a time. But the reason we have stayed here so long is actually because we’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and thinking about our next move.

Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez

Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez




Heaven on earth at Las Palmas Resort in Huatulco

Heaven on earth at Las Palmas Resort in Huatulco

We’ve had an unbelievable run of good fortune and exciting times this past year.

Last summer in our trailer, and this past winter in our sailboat, we were gifted with one beautiful experience after another.

Groovy Isla Coyote, Sea of Cortez

Groovy at Isla Coyote, Sea of Cortez

The jewel box interior of Morelia's Our Lady of Guadelupe church.

The jewel box interior of Morelia’s
Our Lady of Guadelupe church.

It seems that everywhere we went we met kind and caring people who quickly became friends.

All year long we have been pinching ourselves, saying, “Is this all possible? Are we really living this life?”

It may seem strange, but on that very high note we have decided to make a huge change in our lives and take Groovy back to California and gradually close the cruising chapter of our travels.

After sailing up and down Mexico’s west coast several times, we have fulfilled our cruising dreams completely — and then some.


Monte Alban - the first ancient pyramid ruins we ever saw

Monte Alban – How stirring it is to see these ancient pyramids.

Throughout our travels this past year, in the background, behind all our exhilarating escapades, we have been digging deep in our hearts and pondering all the different ways we could move forward with our cruising lifestyle.

Cruising is a unique way to travel. Even though you move from place to place, the focus is always ultimately on the boat and the process of boating rather than on the destinations you visit.

Groovy anchored at Isla Coronado in the Sea of Cortez

Groovy anchored at Isla Coronado in the Sea of Cortez

As one seasoned cruiser told me before we started our sailing adventure,

“The boat takes up the majority of our budget and the majority of our time.”

We have found that to be true!

When we started cruising we had already traveled full-time by RV for two-and-a-half years.

We thought that cruising would be much the same as RVing, just doing it on the water instead of land.

Sea of Cortez

Sea of Cortez – RVing on water?

Colorful Bahia Careyes on the Costalegre

Colorful Bahia Careyes on the Costalegre

But we have found that while RVing is all about the destinations we visit, cruising is largely about the boat.

Why is the boat such an important part of cruising while an RV is so much less important in RVing?

Because a cruising boat is a very complicated vehicle.

The boat’s Plumber, Electrician and Mechanic are all very busy people as they work to keep the boat’s power plant, water treatment plant, sewage plant, mechanical propulsion system and wind propulsion system all functioning.

Aboard Groovy, my sweet hubby Mark filled all these roles while I concentrated on navigation and sailing the boat.

Barra de Navidad, a favorite cruiser hangout.

Barra de Navidad, a favorite cruiser hangout.

Needless to say, we were both very busy, but Mark bore the brunt of the responsibility of keeping us afloat, and it weighed heavily on his shoulders.

Unlike a sailboat, an RV, especially a trailer, has very simple systems that rarely require any maintenance or repair.

In addition to the boat itself being more complicated than an RV, living aboard a boat at anchor is infinitely more complex than living in an RV anywhere.

In the cruising life, simple day-to-day tasks like provisioning, doing laundry and getting around require forethought, planning and time.

A spotted eagle ray soars over the sand in Huatulco

A spotted eagle ray soars over the sand in Huatulco

They often involve dinghy rides, crazy beach landings, intense study of the weather forecasts and all-night travelJust showering is an adventure!!

And then there’s the simple maintenance of cleaning. After every sailing passage the entire boat would be covered with salt crystals, and although it was sometimes a fun adventure to swab the decks underway, it was still a chore that had to be done regularly!

Not only did the decks need swabbing, but barnacles needed to be scraped off the bottom of the boat every few days. Every time I jumped over the side to snorkel and enjoy the reef fish, I took a few tools too so I could to spend an hour cleaning the hull!

One huge surprise was the crazy noises at night. Nevermind the live bands that played at the resorts lining every beach in every anchorage, but the fish were surprisingly loud too! This often made sleeping a challenge, as the boat rolled relentlessly in almost every bay.

One of our favorite pastimes - swimming and playing on the back of the boat.

One of our favorite pastimes – swimming and playing
on the back of the boat.

In contrast, in the RV lifestyle you’ve always got wheels to get around, the weather plays a much less important role in travel planning, you can let a few weeks go between rig washings, and nighttime is for sleeping.

Therefore, out of necessity, Travel, in the traditional sense of sightseeing, mingling with the locals and becoming immersed in a new culture, is a secondary focus in the cruising lifestyle.

Sunrise in Santiago

Santiago – Land of Sunrises!

In our sailing travels we’ve found the happiest cruisers are those that have a deep and lasting passion for everything to do with boats and boating. Many are skilled handymen who love working in, on and around boats as well.

We love our boat Groovy. It is our dream boat in every sense: beautiful, sleek, well engineered, meticulously maintained, easy to sail, and as comfortable as a sailboat of its size could possibly be.

We have poured our hearts and souls into making it ultra-efficient for long-term life afloat at anchor.

Misol-Ha waterfall in Chiapas

Misol-Ha waterfall in Chiapas

However, as we have cruised Mexico for the past three and a half years, we’ve discovered we are actually more passionate about Travel than we are about Boating.

We are drawn towards seeing the sights, spending time with the locals, taking photographs and writing about our adventures. Time spent working on the boat and on the logistics of our lifestyle afloat often feels like time away from what we really wanted to be doing: traveling.

Our recent phenomenal trip to Guanajuato was a peak experience we’d love to repeat over and over. We absolutely loved our visit there. But Guanajuato is nowhere near the coast and has nothing to do with sailing, the sea, boats or living aboard. How do you put all this together?

As we spread out our maps of Mexico and Central America and studied our options for cruising beyond Mexico’s border, we pinpointed the many fabulous destinations we wanted to go see and then thought long and hard about whether it would be best to travel there by sailboat or to go another way.

Guanajuato city street

Guanajuato, like no other!

It turned out that most of our bucket-list locations were well inland from the coast and not easily reached by boat. Cruising further south just doesn’t make sense for us.

If we could use the boat for just three months each winter and temporarily leave it behind inexpensively and with confidence that it would not deteriorate during the rest of the year and need loads of work upon our return, we might continue cruising.

Sailing Groovy

Sailing Groovy

Then we could enjoy all the things we do love about boating each winter. However, that’s not possible, at least not in the areas we’ve explored that are within a reasonable distance of Pacific Mexico.

We will miss the lively day-sailing we’ve had in Huatulco, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo and near Loreto. It will be really sad to give up swimming off the back of the boat and living in our tiny home in the middle of beautiful tropical bays.

However, we have lived that dream — and loved it — and we have three-and-a-half years of vibrant memories, tens of thousands of photos, and hundreds of stories that we bring away from the experience.


Palenque - an evocative and mystical place of the ancients

Palenque – An evocative and mystical place of the ancients that fascinated us.

So we have made the most of our time in Puerto Vallarta as we have waited for July to approach. The 1,100 miles between here and San Diego are a very difficult voyage.

Sailors call it the “Baja Bash” because it can be a very long, scary, miserable and dangerous slog directly into huge winds and waves. After making the trip last month, a cruiser said simply: “I thought I was going to die.”

The advice from experienced sailors that have made this trip many times is that the best months to go are July and November.

Agua Verde anchorage, Sea of Cortez

Agua Verde anchorage, Sea of Cortez

We are waiting for a weather window to make the first 280 mile (48 hour) jump across the Sea of Cortez to Cabo San Lucas. From there we will take it section by section, trying to catch the best conditions we can as we make our way up the 850-mile coast.

If this post has surprised you, or saddened you or just seems strange, because you thought we would be out cruising “forever” — or at least a lot longer than three and a half years — here are some parting thoughts:

In the end, going cruising is all about dream fulfillment. The most important thing is to HAVE a dream and then to make it come true.

Beach time at Playa San Agustin in Huatulco.

Beach time at Playa San Agustin in Huatulco.

The thrill of having a dream and making it come true is being able to live it, to live WITH it, and to find its true essence.

Only when you are actually living your dream, day in and day out, can you decide which parts of it are dreamy and which parts need a little adjustment.

Many people allow themselves to be scared away from pursuing their biggest dreams. The fear that pens them in is fear of the unknown.

However, if you don’t jump into your dream with both feet, you’ll never know what that dream might have become once you wrestled with its limitations and figured out how to make it even better.


Enjoying some sweetie time in the romantic hot tub at Paradise Villaage resort.

Enjoying some sweetie time in the wonderfully romantic hot tub at Paradise Villaage resort.

It is said that cruising is about “The Journey,” and in our experience the most important journey you end up taking is one that goes within.

It is a journey where you learn a little more about who you are and what you truly want out of life.

As we have lived our cruising dream, we have learned that we are Travelers more than we are Cruisers. It took us a while to understand this.

While we love doing both, our preference is to spend our time seeing new sights and experiencing other cultures rather than taking care of and living on a boat. We can’t wait to see Mexico’s Caribbean side — by plane, bus and hotel!


The sun sets before our overnight passage.

The sun sets before an overnight passage.

Once we get settled in San Diego, we will be offering our beloved boat Groovy for sale so she can continue her own adventures with new hands on her helm.  She has been our “dream boat” in every way.

We so appreciate all of you who follow our travels. We have many many more adventures ahead, not least of which is this upcoming voyage (yikes!).  We should have internet in many locations along the Baja California coast, and we expect the trip to take about three weeks, so stay tuned for more stories from the sea and for many future land-based capers!

Note added later: Our Baja Bash trip had exciting moments but went very well in the end. Here’s the story:

Never miss a post — it’s free!

For more comparisons of the cruising and RVing lifestyles, see the two articles I wrote for Escapees Magazine, “RVing by Land and Sea” and “Life Afloat and On the Road” which are about 1/2 way down this page in the Other Articles section.

More thoughts on Living the Dream in a sailboat or RV:

Our most recent posts:

Groovy – How We Came to Own a Sailboat

Sail blog post - When a very GROOVY sailboat came up for sail in San Diego, we flew back from the Caribbean in a hurry to make her ours.

A cool boat pops up for sale in San Diego

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising & sailing

It looks clean...

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

...and inviting

Leaving St. Vincent & The Grenadines and heading for St. Lucia

Leaving St. Vincent headed for St. Lucia

JKF Airport

New Year's Eve on the conveyor belt at JFK airport

s/v Groovy sea trial

Sea trial of the cool boat...

s/v Groovy haulout

...suspending it for a while...

s/v Groovy survey

...and having the surveyor tap the hull to check

out its integrity.

San Diego bird of paradise flower

San Diego gives us a warm


Sea Dragon urban tree in San Diego, CA

"Sea Dragon," one of San

Diego's Urban Trees, greets

us at Seaport Village.

Seaport Village, San Diego California

A mom captures herself and

kiddies in a self-portrait

s/v Groovy Seaport Village, San Diego, CA

This fellow was balancing rocks

in impossible positions.

Hot Licks has every hot sauce

known to man.

A retired Navy officer shares

tales of war on the high seas

The Bob Hope commemorative statue park.

Segway lessons.

sv Groovy ready for us to take delivery

Back on the boat it was time to take delivery.

s/v Groovy delivery

Offshore delivery involves proving that the boat

was signed over from seller to buyer "offshore"

sv Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

The seller's captain signs off.

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

Groovy is officially ours... What did we just do??

SV Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

Proud new owners

For two weeks we call Kona Kai marina home.

Surfin' community Ocean Beach

sports a lot of funk.

Surfin' hamburgers

A street musician entertains us

at Ocean Beach

Now that's a coffee kiosk!

s/v Groovy becomes our liveaboard home

Prepping for our sail to Mexico.

sv Groovy sails like a dream

Our test sails are a blast.

A schooner slips past in the distance

s/v Groovy - just a groovy boat

The sun feels good. Hard to believe we

were in short sleeves a few days ago.

sv Groovy - our wonderful Hunter sailboat

A happy family moment as the desert dwellers take to the sea.

A New Chapter:  Groovy

January, 2010 - I have mentioned John Lennon's insight that "life is what

happens to you while you are busy making other plans" elsewhere on

these pages, and once again, while in Carriacou, those words proved so

true for us.  I have long had a dream of going cruising in a sailboat and

have gradually lured Mark into this dream.  His response has ranged from

all smiles to the rare bout of kicking and screaming, but he finally agreed

to purchase a boat a year ago.

The boat buying process left us so stressed out last May that we got into a

fender bender with the trailer in California and ended up touring Michigan

by car and motel for seven weeks while the trailer was repaired and while

we decompressed.

We returned to the

trailer determined to let the boat idea slide for a while, but found ourselves

glued to Yachtworld, the online MLS for boats.  Every time we got online to

check for email, no matter where in the world we were, we did a quick check of

Yachtworld too.

When we went to the Caribbean for the winter we vowed not to look at

Yachtworld any more.  But one afternoon, while sitting out on our balcony,

Mark slipped up and took a quick peak.  "Wow!  Look at this!" He jumped out of

his patio chair.  A boat we had seen for sale almost a year earlier was back on

the market, but this time hugely discounted as a foreclosure.  I shrugged it off.

It would be gone by the time we got back to the States.  But over the next few

days, Mark wouldn't let it go. The bank had an online bid form, and one afternoon

Mark entered a bid. "Sweety, what do you think of this?" He asked as he went to take

a shower. Aw heck, that was much too high! I lowered his number by $10k and clicked Send. 30 minutes later we got an email

saying the bank had "respectfully" countered our offer by $1,500. Holy cow! Now what?? Dash away from paradise to the hurly

burly of buying our dream boat for an amazing price in the middle of winter, with the very real chance that things could go awry

and leave us empty-handed, or stay on swimming and walking and

mixing with the locals on the white sand beaches of the Caribbean?

While casting about for an answer, discussing our options, reasons,

hopes and fears endlessly, Mark woke up one day with Simon and

Garfunckle's song Feelin' Groovy running through his mind.  He had

been coming up with prospective names for boats on a sometimes

hourly basis for the past two years, to the point where it became a

comical game for both of us, but none of the names ever stuck.

However, when he rolled over that morning and said, "We should name

the boat 'Groovy'," we both knew we would be owners of a new boat.

New Year's Eve found us flying out of St. Vincent, staring down at the

turquoise sea dotted with little white sailboats, wondering if we would

truly be out there joining them soon or if we were totally out of our minds to be leaving.  The long holiday weekend was a crazy one

for international travel, and especially for last minute ticket purchases.  Starting with the hike from our Bequia apartment to the ferry

boat, then on to the St. Vincent bus ride across town to catch a small inter-island flight to St. Lucia, followed by an hour-and-a-half

taxi ride over that island's mountainous interior to its bigger airport, and finally hopping on three jet flights that bounced up the

Caribbean chain and across the US to San Diego, we were in transit for

a total of 33 hours.

Because a terrorist had tried to bomb a flight to Detroit on Christmas

day, security was extraordinary.  Apparently St. Lucia is a "country of

interest," so not only were we patted down and each of our carry-on

bags hand-searched when we entered the St. Lucia terminal, but all

passengers were patted down and every pocket of every piece of

luggage searched a second time as we all boarded the plane.  It took

two hours to get everyone aboard, and we, of course, were the last ones

on.  The gazillion TSA agents were high-fiving each other as we left their

clutches, the final plane of the day.  They were oh-so-ready to celebrate

New Year's Eve island style.  We rang in the new year at New York's JFK

airport a few hours later, while standing in line at Customs.  Back on

American soil, we snagged some blankets and pillows from the plane

and bedded down on a nice, comfy, secluded conveyor belt in the terminal to await our morning

flight to California.

Once we arrived in San Diego, we went

straight to the boat to check it out. It was

just as cool a boat as it looked in the

photos.  It is a 2008 Hunter 44DS (44'

long), the last unit of that model ever built.

After crawling through many many boats

over the past four years, we had decided a

year ago that this was the exact make and

model we wanted. 

What incredible good fortune.

Boat purchases involve a "sea trial" and "survey" which are something like a test

drive and home inspection, but you must reach a price agreement with the seller

before either can take place.  For the survey, a professional examines the boat

very carefully, checking all the systems and hauling it out of the water for a look at

the bottom.  Groggy from lack of sleep, jet lag, and still wondering if we were doing

the right thing, we were both ecstatic as we took turns at the helm on the way to the

boat yard.  Our surveyor

studied every inch of the boat

for a full day, tapping the hull

with his hammer to check for

problems and making endless

notes on his clipboard.  In the

end he declared it the cleanest

survey he had ever done.

Wow.  Gorgeous weather greeted us and

our spirits rose higher and higher -- even

as fear gripped our souls because this was

such a big move for us.  We were glad it

was shorts weather, as all we had with us

was tropical-wear and airport-wear.

Everything else was in Phoenix.  We

stayed with our son and daughter-in-law and took some time

out to explore Seaport Village with them and catch our breath.

This area was as charming as we remembered it being a year

ago.  Families were wandering through the boutique stores,

enjoying the last bit of the holiday break

together.  We spotted a mom with her two kids

getting a picture of themselves with their cell


A little further on a man was demonstrating

rock balancing, placing rocks in impossible

positions on top of each other and

miraculously willing them not to fall down.  He

claimed there were no tricks or gimmicks, but

how he could sense where the balance point

was of each rock was beyond me.

The boutiques were all well stocked with their

Christmas goods and the paths were

meticulously maintained.  There is something

ever-friendly and ever-accessible about the

San Diego waterfront.  We stopped at Hot

Licks, a store with a dizzying array of hot sauces lining every


Down at the Midway Aircraft Carrier museum a retired Naval

officer told stories of various ships and their adventures on the

high seas long ago.

A group of statues nearby commemorates Bob Hope's many

USO performances, and a little girl wandered among the

statues, carefully checking out each one.

You never know what you'll find on the San Diego waterfront,

and as we strolled a little further we came across a group

Segway lesson.  Those contraptions look like so much fun.

A few days later all the pieces were in place for us to close on the boat.

A mad dash to Phoenix had augmented our clothes collection so we

could handle the weather that was becoming increasingly cool and

damp.  At the same time we had had to stand in the trailer and decide whether to take the kitchen tools, favorite books, bedding,

etc. or buy new things for the boat.  Our plan was to split our time between RVing in the US/Canada and sailing in Mexico, hitting

the prime summer spots on land with the trailer during the southern Mexican hurricane season.  So we didn't want to raid too much

from the trailer.  But did this new move really mean stocking two homes?  What about tools?  Hoses?  Holding tank chemicals?

Personal papers?  We had planned to stay on the boat for the first twelve months before we started splitting our time between

RVing and sailing.  So were we really saying goodbye to the trailer for a year?  Yikes!  We loaded the truck and sped back to San

Diego in time to sign all the paperwork, sticking with the tasks at hand to keep all

these wild emotions in check.

Since our intent was to use the boat outside of California (in Mexico), we

qualified for the state exemption from paying "use tax" (similar to sales tax) on

the purchase.  However, California (like all other coastal states) has strict rules

that state precisely how a boat buyer demonstrates his/her intent to use the boat

predominantly outside of the state.  One of these is to take the boat out of

California waters for the closing.  This is just 3 miles offshore, but requires a

captain to sail the boat until the closing takes place, and then lots of photos

proving both the day's date and that the boat is at a GPS coordinate outside of

the state when the documents are signed.  We had especially memorable

headlines on the newspaper that day, as an earthquake had just devastated


This was an exciting moment and was our first extended period of time out in the boat on the

water.  It was great to be out there, but we both felt woefully inadequate to take charge of

this vessel all by ourselves.  Our next trip out there would be no guiding hand, and we

wondered how we would fare.

Once back at the dock, we hung out in the cabin in a state of disbelief.  We had done it.

Fourteen days from the time we left the islands, we were sitting on our own boat.

Were we out of our minds?

The seller was kind enough to pre-pay a two week stay at Kona

Marina in San Diego, one of the nicest marinas in the harbor.

We had spent many happy hours in the past sneaking onto this marina's docks and then wandering

around checking out all the boats and talking to the

owners.  It was a strange and wonderful feeling to

have a card key to the gate and to walk onto the

docks as bona-fide boat owners.

We had signed our names on the closing

documents, but there was still a lot more to do.

The second part of California's requirement for

demonstrating intent to use your new boat outside

of California is to leave the state as soon as

possible after the closing and to stay out for at

least six months.  We decided to sail to Ensenada,

Mexico, 65 miles south of San Diego.

Our to-do list to prepare for this international

voyage was several pages long.  From a

small sail repair to testing the radar

to remembering how to sail and

navigate, we had a lot to do to

make this easy 65 mile trip a safe


Taking a little time out, we explored

nearby Ocean Beach.  This is a

surfing community that has a hippy

kind of air to it, and it's a place

where it seems that anything goes.

A little dog in a froo-froo dress fit

right in.

Surfing, hamburgers in paradise and cheap

beers at outdoor bars overlooking the beach

invite all tourists to partake of the classic

California beach scene for a while.

A street musician sang his heart out as we

strolled by.

Pirate's Cove Coffee is the most elaborate

coffee kiosk I have ever seen.

Back on the boat we were slowly getting used

to the idea of being boat owners, living on a

sailboat, and starting a new chapter in our lives.

Out on the water the weather got steadily cooler.  Short sleeves gave way to hats and jackets

as we gradually remembered which lines on the boat do what, how sailboats work with the

wind, and what all those crazy markings on the charts are all about.

Then San Diego got one of the worst dousings of rain

in the last decade.  In one week they got almost as much

rain as they had in the entire previous year.  We

alternated between huddling inside and running endless

errands to the big box stores as the rain fell in torrents.

In a way, all that miserable weather was a blessing in

disguise, as it kept us ticking down our non-sailing to-do

lists.  I read 150 pages of Chapman's Piloting's

navigation chapters to refresh my skills, and Mark read

the chartplotter and radar manual, engine manual and

Hunter's user manual.  When the day finally arrived that

the sun came out, we were able to focus on sailing.

We had one brief family day aboard, taking our son Rory and his wife Colette out for a

day sail.  It was a moment that Mark had long been waiting for, wanting to introduce his

son to the world of sailing.  Rory caught on quickly, and we found it was so much easier

to sail with a strapping young

man on board who could handle

all the lines one-handed without a

winch.  After a pleasant few

hours on the water, we hugged

them goodbye at the dock.  Thirty

hours later we untied the lines at

Kona Marina for the last time,

and left San Diego in the morning

mist behind us as we headed for

Puerto La Salina, Mexico, our

first stop on the way to