Sunday, December 11, 2011

Andrew's Introduction

I first started hearing adventures of sailing in a  series of youth books, Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransom, read to me by my father on rainy days and at bedtimes, and sometimes just because.  It was a story about the children of two families meeting each year on family vacation in the English lake district.  The four walker children sail a dinghy named swallow and the two Blackett daughters sailing a dinghy named Amazon.  The first book is set in 1929, so the crafts being imagined by the reader are romantic old wooden plank-on-frame working skiffs.  They spend their days sailing to island and new lake shores, camping, fishing, adventuring, making repairs on abandoned lake shores after running aground in shallow creeks, and generally having fun.  The romance in those stories, of young school children being free to roam local wilderness and sail a boat of their own during school holiday caught my fascination.

But it didn't stop there, nor am I even sure it started there.  Dad's book collection featured prominently on our bookshelf, and I had access to and browsed and read everything.  It may have started with Jack London's “Sea Wolf”, a story of a soft aristocratic young writer who, through a ferry accident in the San Francisco harbor, ends up becoming a sea hardened sailor while stuck on one of the last great sailing whaling schooners for a season in the pacific with a brutal Captain “Wolf Larsen.”  Or maybe it was reading Robin Lee Graham's accounts during his voyage around the world on his sailboat “Dove” as the youngest circumnavigator of the time.

But the technical books about rigging and sailboat hull design and boat plan catalogs interested me just as much...  Add to these the National Geographic global encyclopedias, charts, maps, watching Sir David Attenborough's “The Trials of Life” and a couple other collections of books about global flora and fauna, plus a short wave radio that allowed us to hear global broadcasts of ocean weather reports or the atomic clock broadcast for synchronization.  I'm a nerd at heart, and all these inputs in my youth were soaked up with fervor.

By the time I was in high school I had assisted my dad in building a 14' sailing skiff and we sailed it on the local lake.  I already realized that I would be sailing a boat in my life.  Secretly I began planning and making lists of what boat I would build and how I might equip it.  I shifted my reading from those earlier books of childhood wonder and inspiration to how-to books by low cost cruisers such as Lyn and Larry Pardey and Pete and Annie Hill who were out successfully sailing themselves, finishing the formula of inputs needed to ensure that there was little other option in my life, now it was just a question of “when?.”  I decided the answer was “as soon as possible.”

By college I was setting aside money and seriously considering boat plans and a place to build with my then-wife Hannah.  I joined the Army as an officer and continued to save and talk about our future on a boat.  After a couple years of marriage, she asked me “So when are you going to outgrow this phase?”  …  I could not believe my ears.  She had seemed into it when we met, but later she told me that was just because she wanted to seem “cool,” and she was now ready for her first child a career and our first house.  I said no, and unfortunately the relationship dragged awkwardly on for another year before we went our separate ways right as I was beginning a deployment to Afghanistan.

I would not be dissuaded, and was fully ready to exit the Army and begin sailing right after my return from Afghanistan in 2007...  The Army would not cooperate, and the plan was delayed another four years.  Luckily at the start of those four years, I met my high school sweetheart again and took her on a romantic trip to Amsterdam where we solidified both our relationship and joint dedication to the task of a life of sailing, and of course, our subsequent marriage... but you can read about that more in-depth in her blog entry titled “ How the Plan to Sail Away Began"  and "Detour to Germany."  



  1. You're both very good writers, I look forward to following your adventures!

  2. It's interesting because as your childhood friend I don't really recall noticing your interest in sailing at all (with the exception of helping your dad build that boat). It wasn't until late college that I began hearing you talk about boats in earnest. I think my perception of your interests was that you were obsessed with swimming and trials biking (mostly junior high and high school pursuits). It's interesting that your childhood interest in sailing didn't really actualize until you were a full fledged adult. There are things like that in my life--quite a few interests that I developed when I was really young, but which kind of got "sidelined" in Junior high, high school, and early college. I often look back and wonder how much more complete and fulfilled my life would be now if I had not been distracted by other "youthfull/teenage" interests; i.e. things that I associated with being cool. Ah well, perhaps that's part of growing up--realizing that some of your childhood interests were actually more legitimate than your teenage, sexually charged, young adult interests. Not sure if you would agree with that, but I felt compelled to share.


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