Who We Are
We are a married couple in our early 60s who have each been working nearly incessantly since age 16 or before, and are ready to make the most of the new chapter of our lives in retirement. Our children are all grown and out of the house. We have a beautiful home on one and a half acres up in the northern California foothills alongside a popular whitewater rafting river, which we are renting out.
We were both mid-level managers, Rick in the telecommunications industry and Cindy in local government. We have some modest amounts invested in our retirement accounts, and we each receive modest retirement pensions. We hope to be comfortably situated for the cruising lifestyle, albeit not extravagant. Money doesn’t buy happiness, they say … all we need is enough to keep the boat and our bodies running, and our land-based home out of foreclosure, right?
Here is a picture of us with our new boat before her name change:
Sailing Skills and Experience
Rick and Cindy both love the water. Maybe the fact that we both sprout from seafaring ancestors (Rick’s heritage is Greek and Cindy’s is Norwegian) has something to do with it, because it certainly feels like it is in our genes and runs through our veins. We met whitewater kayaking, we live on a river, and still run whitewater whenever we are not sailing. Rick bought his first sailboat with his paper-route money when living in Tiburon as a child. His family laughs now about how they panicked as he boldly leapt out onto Raccoon Strait in varying wind and current conditions in his little sailing dinghy. Cindy didn’t get an opportunity to sail until she came from the midwest to San Francisco in her early 20’s. She took a few inexpensive lessons, and sailed with a friend on the Bay and up the Delta a few times, but never really pursued the sport for a variety of reasons, turning to fresh water instead.
But then one fateful night in 2009 at a get-together of our raft guide friends up in the foothills, one of them invited us to buy a share in his 1977-vintage 23-foot Ranger, docked at a marina in Sausalito. It was ridiculously inexpensive, and a great boat to learn on. Our partners couldn’t or wouldn’t afford to put much money into her, so she was sailed “as is.” We’d patch the sails if they began to tear, replace a line or two if it began to kink, and otherwise, it was nearly free except for the share of the slip fees and gas for the outboard. As the sailing bug invaded our beings, we got a false sense of how easy and inexpensive sailing could be. It was also about this time that we had the epiphany that sailing was a far better way to see the world than anything else we had experienced so far. We like going places to explore – being there for as long as we like, letting the synchronicity of life guide our path. Cruise ships are therefore not our style, and airline tickets have deadlines and require the additional payment of a place to stay every night so time is necessarily limited. But sailing has none of those constraints and all of the benefits! To be limited only by the nature of winds and weather is much more our style. So, we began seriously considering sailing “around the world,” so to speak.
But that meant we had to learn a lot more about sailing. Rick may have had more experience than Cindy when we started, but neither of us had really had any formal training. We needed it if we were going to cross oceans together. So we took the leap and signed up (and paid in advance for!) the full gamut of classes with a U.S. Sailing-approved organization called Club Nautique, operating out of Sausalito and Alameda, California. We have now made it through all of the classes, and are certified Ocean Passage Makers, a distinction held by less than 300 people nationwide at the time we were certified by US Sailing. We feel well trained and well prepared. We even know how to find our way by the stars, for goodness sake!
Investing in training was the beginning of the realization that sailing wasn’t quite as inexpensive as it first seemed. Then, Cindy started complaining about trying to store food and cook and clean up and spend the night in a cabin that was too short to stand up in, that her back was killing her from being hunched over all the time, and how a sit-down toilet with a door was no longer something she could do without. So, we began looking. Cool Change was the result.
Besides the fact that we strive for equality and balance in every other aspect of our lives together while recognizing each has their own strengths, we knew from the start that sailing skill redundancy between the two of us would be critical for safe sailing. If something goes wrong, we’ll both be equipped to discuss and diagnose the problem, brainstorm solutions together, and help each other address the issue. If one of us gets sick or is simply off-watch when an emergency occurs, the other one will be able to handle it. No sense having the guy torture himself to near exhaustion for 24 hours straight at the helm in a gale because the woman never learned to handle a storm, or having the woman resent spending all her time down below in the galley getting seasick while cooking all the meals; we plan to share all the jobs equally, while recognizing that there may be some things that one of us is better at than the other, and taking advantage of those strengths.
The US Sailing program include “Basic Keelboat” and “Basic Cruising” classes, each consisting of 4 days on the water over two weekends, plus a written test. The next class was “Bareboat Cruising,” consisting of 4 consecutve days on the water including night sailing and a more challenging written test. Passing those classes qualified us to charter up to 55′ boats in inland waters, including such exotic destinations as the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. We then took a 24-hour in-classroom course on coastal navigation, followed by another challenging test (Cindy got the best score in the room). The biggest accomplishment was passing Coastal Passage Making, which consisted of a series of several weekend-outings along the California coast in chartered boats up to 50′, accompanied by 3 to 5 other students and an instructor. The culmination of those outings and written test was the “Coastal Passage-Making” certificate. Apparently, Club Nautique goes far beyond the U.S. Sailing requirements in this course, requiring students to prove competency in a several page check-off list of skills and knowledge, including advanced traditional (pre-GPS and chartplotter) navigation techniques, how to handle emergencies, engine failure, large boat maneuvering in small spaces, etc. Club Nautique claims that it has the “most extensive passage making training program in the country.” All the better for us, aye, mate? And as if that course weren’t enough, after that, we also passed the “Celestial Navigation” classroom course. The “Ocean Passage-Making” course entailed sailing away on a 6-day voyage of at least 600 miles, at least 250 miles of which must be 50 miles or more from shore. What a learning experience it has been!
On August 1, 2014, we moved onto Cool Change full time, having rented out our home. On September 1, we set sail!