Monday, July 28, 2008

Marital Promise

Monday, July 28, 2008

On May 29, 1998 at our wedding, Tim and I promised each other that when we had kids and they were old enough to swim and talk, we would take them sailing on a boat in the biggest ocean in the world, the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t going to be a day sail in San Francisco Bay, but a huge adventure west out the Golden Gate Bridge, to Mexico and beyond.

It’s funny how time whizzes by, so in 2008, ten years later, and feeling enmeshed in our land life, Tim reminded me of our marital promise, our dream of living on the ocean.

First we needed to find a boat for our journey. We lived in Hood River, a mecca for windsurfers, not sturdy ocean sailboats. After putting the kids to bed, we spent late nights examining boats for sale on Most boats look pretty snazzy on a website, but you can’t sail them, feel them or smell them on the computer screen. We looked around the country, as far as Annapolis, Maryland then Seattle until we accidentally stumbled upon Kamaya.

Finding Kamaya

We found Kamaya, then named Julia, in May, 2008. Tim went down to the Bay Area looking for a boat and even made an offer on an Outbound 40 as it seemed like it would do, but the owner rejected our offer. Perhaps insulted, he fortunately counter-offered more than $80,000. Fortunate? Well, if he had accepted we wouldn’t have found Kamaya.

It just so happened that the yacht broker, Larry Jacobson, who had helped negotiate the Outbound was trying to sell his own boat, a Stevens 50, that he had sailed around the world. Fifty feet! That seemed humongous! I called Trevor Baylis, who I knew from junior sailing at the San Francisco Yacht Club, for advise. Trevor said that 50 feet might seem big and expensive at a dock, but when sailing in the ocean we’d want a big boat to plow through the huge waves. Poppa Nate wanted us to find a boat that was heavy and safe as he wanted to make sure his grandkids wouldn’t disappear into the ocean.

I kept looking at Larry’s fancy website of his boat sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge with her rainbow jib. Larry’s slick video highlighted the luxurious water-mister under the large bimini for those excruciating hot days. Kamaya had nice lines, but she had a cluttered deck, a monstrous bimini and a large dodger. When I talked with Larry on the phone, he urged me to consider his boat, “the Outbound is a Mazda; my boat is a Mercedes.”

Tim had seen Julia, named after Larry’s mom, when he made the offer on the Outbound and he thought she was impressive, yet way too big. Still interested and feeling that if we were going to fulfill our marital promise, we had better find a boat soon, so I flew down to Oakland to take a look.

Oma and Poppa Nate picked me up from the airport and we drove to Emeryville Harbor, getting lost just before the final turn under the freeway. Larry told us he would wait for us at the gate. On the way, I showed Poppa Nate the boat’s marketing materials and he deemed the literature a little much, but he said he would have an open mind. Larry looked nautical with his Bermuda shorts; I felt rough with my cowboy boots from Oregon.

We walked down the dock and I remember my first sight of Kamaya. She looked huge, much bigger than I had imagined. My Dad asked the technical questions: about the engine, generator, autopilot, radar, and water maker. Larry apparently had the right answers: 90 horsepower Westerbeke engine, Westerbeke generator, Raymarine autopilot and chartplotter and Spectra water maker,

Larry told us how he found the boat in Florida and then shipped her back to San Francisco to prepare her for his circumnavigation. Poppa Nate seemed impressed and the boat seemed well equipped and perhaps even overbuilt. I stood at the galley with the three sinks, trying to imagine our family living on board. I could see Maya and Kai sleeping in the port cabin with the bunk bed. I could imagine myself cooking crepes in the galley and Tim figuring the maze of electronics.

Perhaps reading my mind, Larry looked over and with a salesman’s smile, “She’s a floating condo, you’re going to love her.”

We agonized over our decision, made lists of pros and cons and ultimately decided to make an offer. One of the challenges of buying a boat is that you need to make an offer before being allowed to test sail. So we drove down to the Bay Area and went for a test-sail.

My brother, Zach, joined us on our test sail and he took one look at the main and shook his head. He hated the bimini as it impeded his view of the sails and he thought the boat was sluggish. Well compared to his boat, an International-14, it doesn't maneuver well. But Tim and I liked the interior of the boat and felt it was sturdy and safe for our kids. It wasn’t a racing boat and it was super heavy – 2 tons, almost 50,000 pounds! How many elephants were we going to lug around the ocean?

With new sails, she’ll definitely perform better. Yes, she has potential. Zach was a little less enthusiastic, thinking that we should wait and look for another boat. But the truth was time was ticking. It was the beginning of June and if we were really going to leave in September, we needed to find a boat and get ready now. Most people give themselves a few years to prepare for their journey, but we didn’t want to take that time.

So fast forward to June 27th, the day we took possession of the boat. To avoid paying the California sales tax, we had to sail five miles out the Golden Gate Bridge to the Lightship buoy. It was blowing 35 knots. We needed two witnesses: my friends Karen and Susan who both sailed with me on the UC Berkeley Sailing Team. We documented the day with a newspaper and GPS reading.

Both “little Kai” and “sister Karen” got a little seasick in the big ocean waves.

And Susan, well she just kept talking and laughing along the way. Ken, Larry’s partner, continued to drink multiple glasses of white wine.

As soon as we reached the five mile point, Larry and Ken handed us the wheel. “She’s yours now,” Larry said relieved. Tim and I kissed each other in celebration.

“Turn off the engine,” I commanded and we sailed her back into the bay.
At first, there wasn’t enough wind but then it clocked behind us and we started moving, making 10 knots under the gate.

“See you didn’t buy a lemon,” Larry assured us.

Now we're packing up our house, preparing ourselves and our new yacht and getting ready to live our marital promise. How will we get everything done in time???

Looking Back

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