As I was saying…
have a tendency to go broke. I have a tendency to seek out change; it’s been good to me. I have a tendency to believe in the actions of crazy people like Jack London, Earnest Hemmingway and Paul Theroux. Which means, I have a tendency to sell everything, quit everything, and take off for the horizon; it’s also been good to me.
It started shortly
after I graduated from UC Irvine in 1990.
I packed two surfboards and a few pairs of boardshorts, gave away the
little else I owned, and bought a one-way ticket to
father passed away in early 1991 and I had to cut my trip short after four
months, three of them in
When I returned, I
I gladly did it, though, because the other half of my job was spent in editorial. On this side of the magazine I did research for writers (and drove it to their homes), chose photos for stories (and drove to pick them up) and fact-checked important articles (how many people can boast that they’ve received a two-minute lecture on privacy by Tom Cruise’s publicist for asking what kind of ice cream he eats?).
At night, I’d hunch over a computer in the one-bedroom Sunset Boulevard apartment I shared with my future wife, Gayl, and write truly terrible fiction that no one would publish (this seems to be a lifelong trend, by the way). Yes, it was all glamour.
But there was one thing
missing from my life: the ocean. I had
grown up on the water on
So I quit, and Gayl and
I took off. We had about $5,000 saved,
plenty for three months in
It was a great
trip. Australians are all outdoorsmen
The highlight of our
trip was a four-day sail through the
During the final month of this trip I was tracked down by the editors at Movieline. The position of Assistant Editor was opening up and if I wanted it, they’d hold it for me. The pay wasn’t great but it was a bona fide editorial position. I didn’t like the idea of moving back to the sooty city, but career-wise, it seemed a mistake to pass it up.
So back to the office I
went. But not for long. The people at Movieline were great and I had
a position for which we got a dozen hopeful applicants a week, but as I hunched
over copy in a drab air-conditioned
Then something happened that pulled everything back into perspective: A good college friend, a great athlete in top shape, died of cancer at age 28. It was a brutal reminder that tomorrow is truly promised to no one, and suddenly that office got a lot smaller, the future less sure. Gayl and I couldn’t afford to take off again, yet, but we had to get closer to the ocean.
I took an editor/writer position with a regional called Coast magazine. I did get to do more writing, but the subjects – local politics, human interest stories, development updates – wasn’t nearly as flashy. But I surfed a lot more and Gayl and I were able to go to the beach on weekends. This was 1994.
And again, everything would change.
In November of 1995,
Gayl and I bought what we called a
Finally, in our second
year of toil, with lackluster results, something happened that would change our
lives forever. A brochure for the
After about 30 seconds
I decided he was totally nuts. Another
10 seconds and I decided that I was just like him. As he worked to untangle a bad knot he had
tied, he told me Lidos were just the first step in his grand scheme to some day
buy a 30-foot boat and sail into the horizon.
“I read Cruising World,” he said.
“A lot of people are doing it. If
they can, I can.” His plan was to take
every class the
That night, it took a few more words of persuasion to convince Gayl of the plan. After all, it meant selling the house, quitting our jobs and postponing the start of a family. Oh, and neither one of us knew how to sail, let alone take a star sight. But those star-filled nights in the Whitsundays played like romantic old movies through our minds and soon we were in a dinghy together learning the wind and dreaming of far off lands.
Finally, after four
years of classes – from celestial navigation to diesel maintenance – selling
the house and buying and fixing up a 1976 cutter named Tamarac II, we literally
sailed into the sunset, bound for the
Things didn’t exactly
work out the way we planned and we had a pretty rough introduction to the
cruising life (read about our maiden voyage in Still
Shaking). We landed 800 miles south
But from there, life
only got better. Gayl and I sailed the
We then cruised all of
It was always our
intention to start a family after a few years on the sea and things could not
have worked out better. Gayl and I flew
So we were back, homeless, jobless, and pregnant. You’d think I’d be nervous. You’d be right.
Now, I make my living
as Staff Writer for Coast. We do still
travel; I write about four travel pieces a year, most of them with an ocean
theme. In fact, so far Leila has been on
two sailing adventures through the