I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but my father raised me to be a sailor.
My earliest memory in life is of sailing. I was terrified at the time, but somehow, it is a good memory. I was so young, my feet did not touch the cockpit sole while sitting on the benches of my father’s Pearson Ensign. We were close hauled in heavy wind with an even heavier ebb flowing, and getting swept out the gate. My father was sailing as hard as he could, but we were going backwards. I was on the high side, holding on through the slats of the bench, and I KNEW that if I lost my grip, I was going overboard and would drown. Thinking back, I know that wasn’t the case, but I knew it to be the truth then. My dad remembers this day as well, and thinks I was around 3 years old. I still think about it every time I sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.
In 1975, my father quit his job and started his own company, The Sailboat Works. He built fiberglass boats, restored boats, and did other custom fiberglass work. The main class boat he built was the Mercury 18, and the events around that class were a constant thread though my childhood. I didn’t get to sail on them as much as I would have liked, but I was constantly around them. The few times I did get to race on them with my father were highlights of my childhood, but mostly I was out on the committee boat for the races. My father closed The Sailboat Works in late 1980. Regretfully, this was right around the age where I was getting big enough to be able to seriously race with him. It closed the sailing chapter in his life, and put mine on hold until I was old enough to do it on my own, but by this point I was well hooked on sailing. We still did some sailing here and there after that, but nothing like while the company was open, and I wasn’t living in an area where I could pursue sailing on my own at that age. Luckily, my grandparents lived in a private gated community with a lake in the Sierras. They had sailboat rentals there, and I took advantage of that as often as I could when I was there in the summer, with little to no adult supervision while on the water.
At 17, I decided I was done with school, joined the Navy, and went to boot camp what would have been the first day of my senior year of high school (I finished high school in the Navy). I wanted to see the world, but all I saw was San Diego for boot camp, and was then stationed in Hawaii. Both are places I had been before. I became a Boatswain’s Mate, and learned a lot, both in boat handling and rigging, but I didn’t not see as much of the world as I would have liked. I got out at 22, medically discharged due to a shoulder injury.
Although I stayed living near the coast as much as possible, I stayed away from sailing for a while after the Navy, but the itch was still there. In my mid and late 20’s, I found myself drawn more and more to the water, and found myself at the SF Maritime Museum more often that is probably normal. In my late 20’s, I started volunteering there and crewing when I could on one of their boats. Soon after that, I bought a Catalina 22, and kept it in the water at Coyote Point Marina in Burlingame. I sailed that boat quite a bit, but more importantly, it lead to other boats. I was soon working part time for a sailing school and charter company, and started racing. I raced on a few different boats, but the standout one was a J105. It was on that boat that I started really developing my skills, and rekindled my love of sailing. Regretfully, it also re-injured the shoulder injury that put me out of the Navy, so I had to slow down a bit. I raced off and on, when I had the time and my shoulder was up to it, but I was unable to commit to a specific team again because of the injury. A few years later, I moved to San Diego for a couple of years, and sailed often down there. I lived on a boat for half of the time I lived there, but the sailing did not have the same intensity. I missed the conditions and beauty of San Francisco Bay. I started moving my life back towards the SF area, but in December 2009, I had an accident that put my shoulder past the ability to sail at all. When I would manage to get out on a boat here and there, it always took me days to recover. Finally in March and April of 2014, I was able to have two surgeries to put it all back together, and even correct some of the things that the military put back together wrong. After some time to heal, and some very intense physical therapy, I was able to get back on the water.
In that time in dealing with my shoulder, I also got divorced and remarried, and moved to the North Bay. Nobody in my new life sailed, so I decided to fix that. I started teaching my wife and some friends to sail, and my wive was instantly hooked. About that same time, I met Hang Black. We met at an event that had nothing to do with sailing, but we soon got on the topic, and shortly after we met, she asked me to meet with her about helping with the sailing side of her events company. With that, I started getting to know the people at Modern Sailing, and that started me on the path I’m on now.
For the past year and a half, I’ve been pushing hard to sail as much as I can. Even going so far as to change my “day job” to be able to spend more time on the water, and at the same time still pay my mortgage. I completed the 100 Ton Masters License course at Modern Sailing, and am now in the final throws of completing my sea time for my license. I’ve been helping in the race clinics at Modern, racing double handed with the head of the race program at Modern, and I picked up an old Mercury 18 that I am racing that when I can with my father or wife as crew. Once I am done with my license, the next push is to work my way through the ASA instructor courses, and I will be teaching at Modern Sailing.
But now, we are getting into future plans, and that will be another post.