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The task of leaving the land and moving onto the ocean was a daunting one. There was so very much to do. We had lists, and had established priorities. The first thing I had to do was to gain the expertise and proficiency necessary to sail "Magellan."
The selection of a name had been going on since we first decided to live onboard a boat. It was one of the first things on our list, which now seems a little silly, but it was important to us at the time. We had long lists of names, but we kept coming back to "Magellan," so that was it. We liked the sound of it, the nauticalness of it, and its non-descriptiveness. It was a name without an innuendo.
I had to get my ham radio operator's license, which meant learning the Morse code and being able to copy it at 13 words per minute. The first time you hear a transmission at that speed it just sounds like a jumble of unintelligible "dih's" and "dah's." Those are the correct names for dots and dashes, and that is what they actually sound like. I signed up for class, got my practice key, books, and learning aids. I listened to the tapes everywhere I went. First at a mere three words per minute. Then five and then ten words per minute. The final jump to 13 words per minute was really hard. I worked at it and worked at it. It was not an intellectual pursuit, but a listening and hearing thing, and I had a tough time. I wouldn't give up, though, and when I took the test at the Coast Guard, I passed (just barely).
No one actually uses Morse code; the spoken word is used on ham radios. For this reason, the entire experience was maddening. Knowing that I was never going to use this difficult-to-acquire skill for anything except to take the one test made it all the more frustrating. I received my General Class Radio Operators License in the mail from the FCC. I was now N7MXP, and a member of the club. I then started to learn the technical skills: How to tune in the ham radio, how to find a frequency that worked, how to actually speak to someone thousands of miles away. The first time I made it work and spoke to someone was a very satisfying accomplishment for me. This is a skill more than a knowledge thing, and it required many, many hours of practice.
Steve made his trips to Taiwan to supervise the construction of the boat. We were emphatic that she had to be a well-built ship but also she had to be beautiful. We had selected a black hull with full teak decks, cockpit, and trimmings. We had everything that could possibly be constructed out of teak made out of teak. We redesigned many details of the woodwork for appearance and comfort. Some of our designs became standard for the boats that came after us. We couldn't do all that much about the physical building of the boat, however, so we concentrated on learning all that we needed to learn about sailing on the ocean, which was quite a lot.
Steve and Rhonda told us to take proper sailing lessons and learn the ins and outs of actually cruising on the seas. There are schools for racing sailors, and schools for novices, such as the one we had already taken in Marina Del Rey, but no schools for ocean crossings. We needed a highly skilled and experienced sailor who would teach us privately. We were very lucky to find a charming and wonderful man, Al Huso, who lived in Oxnard and who had a sailboat. Al had been on the sea most of his life and was sought after as a crewmember for yacht racing and ocean crossings. He was a schoolteacher in the public schools, and could no longer go on long ocean races or crossings. Our offer to hire him to teach us privately fit in with his schedule, and we went out sailing on his boat, the Potpourri, every day after he finished teaching.
The daily sailing lesson became the most important part of our schedules. We were still working, plus arranging the sale of our homes and distribution of our possessions, plus overseeing the boat, plus taking various courses, but no matter what had to be done, we made sure to be at the dock on time every day for this sailing lesson. When the Magellan arrived, we began to conduct the lessons on board her, which was very exciting. We spent lots of time with Al. He was a great and patient teacher.
We went out every day, no matter the weather. We could be found sailing in every kind of wind and sea conditions, because we needed the experience. We had to be able to dock, undock, and sail in light winds as well as heavy winds. We sailed in every direction, no matter the sea, wind, and weather conditions. We learned how to handle every point of sail.
When you are going in the same direction as the wind, running before the wind, the sailing is easier. When you are going against the direction of the wind, beating into the wind, you must tack into the wind. Tacking means going at an angle into the wind and constantly changing that angle from one side to the other side in order to maintain your correct course and direction. Tacking was a difficult thing to get down properly. We made every mistake it was possible to make. Lucky for us, we made those errors while Al was aboard to correct the problem before there was any damage to the vessel. Slowly we learned.
On many days out on the ocean for our sailing lessons, Barbara and I were very seasick. We would drive home from one of those days and ask one another what we had gotten ourselves into. We'd wonder if we'd made a bad decision, but the feeling went away quickly. There were days when we were cold and wet from the open cockpit of Al's boat, so we decided to have a cover for our cockpit to protect us from the sun and cold and wind and rain. This cover is called a dodger. Racing sailors will not have anything to do with a dodger because it cuts down on speed and visibility. The comfort it provides, however, is well worth these drawbacks. We put on a full dodger, which makes the cockpit into a room. It has sides and walls; that is, there are clear plastic walls that can be rolled up or down to protect from wind and chill, and there are also canvas sides, which also roll up and down and are used for harsher conditions. You can see with the walls down, of course, but not with the sides rolled down. The dodger, then, could be adjusted in a wide variety of ways to maximize comfort. In nice weather all of it is rolled up. In the rain and the cold wind, you roll down whatever you need.
One of the drills we had on Potpourri regularly was the man overboard drill. At any time Al would throw overboard a yellow cushion and yell man overboard. Barbara and I would then go into our routine. Whoever was steering would call out the course we were sailing on. If you don't do this you may never find the person in the water. The ocean is a vast place without any signposts or markings. If there were any size sea running at all the yellow cushion would disappear between the waves and swells, often never to be seen again despite our efforts to find it. If the cushion had been a person, he would be lost at sea to a certain death of cold and exposure. I would run up on deck and deal with the sails to make whatever change was necessary to turn around and find the yellow cushion, which was the man overboard. We did this drill over and over again in every sea and wind condition until we got good at it and no longer lost cushions.
It was during one of those man-overboard drills that we had our first encounter with a whale. A large humpback surfaced quite near Potpourri and it simply laid there on the surface of the water resting or sunning itself. It rolled over to look at us and then rolled back to continue its rest. We were very impressed, although a bit frightened, at its size. Al calmly went over and turned on the engine. Whales are more comfortable around boats with their engines running, why I don't know, but when you have a whale nearby, you do whatever you can do to put it at ease. We continued with our drill and the whale remained for a while and then quietly slipped beneath the surface.
Barbara and I learned to read the wind direction without looking at the gauges. We learned to estimate the wind speed and force without a wind speed indicator and how much sail to put out in how much wind. We learned, more importantly, which sail or combinations of sails to use in a wide variety of conditions. Heavy weather going downwind, or upwind, or sideways to the wind. Light weather in all the various aspects of the wind direction. It was more complex than I imagined it could be. It looks simple watching the racing yachts on TV; wrong again.
We learned to dock without an engine, just using the sails. If the engine dies or is out of order, you still must be able to dock the boat. Another skill we practiced over and over again was setting an anchor. Anchoring is not complex or tough, but to do it right, so that the anchor doesn't move or pull free, is a skill which must be acquired. We made sure, with the help of Al and Steve, that the anchoring gear aboard Magellan was oversized and tough. We had a larger anchor than Tayana recommended, with larger and heavier chain (no rope, just chain). We wanted to be certain that we would not pull free in a storm or bad situation. If you do pull free in a bad wind, you are in big trouble, whether heading for shore or out to sea. Al agreed to my request for additional stoutness of the gear, and we worked on becoming experts at setting an anchor. We learned to do it with a winch, without a winch, in wind, and in calm.
At the same time, I was pouring over the charts and pilot books. I was learning the terminology, the symbols, and what information the charts contained. And, more importantly, what they did not contain, and what I needed to pay particular attention to. This was fun, and I planned our various cruises and destinations while at the same time learning about the charts.
Al was a ham radio operator and taught me the proper procedures on the radio itself. We spent hours at night talking to each other on the ham radio to hone my radio skills. Barbara and I learned how to properly use the VHF radio, that is, the etiquette and proper procedures. We learned how and when to talk to the Coast Guard, foreign ports, and to harbormasters. We felt guilty that we had been so lacking in this knowledge while we were on the Roberta, but we knew it now.
There was also a very real danger factor. There are pirates and bad guys on the oceans and we needed to be prepared. It is a surprise to most land people to learn that pirates still exist, but they certainly do. The South China Sea is so controlled by pirates that it is virtually impossible to traverse unless you are in a convoy of yachts. Single vessels that venture into that part of the ocean disappear. They are boarded by the pirates, robbed, raped and killed. Usually the boats are sunk to get rid of the evidence. Every once in a while one turns up for sale in Hong Kong or some other Southeast Asian port. Interpol will investigate and will confiscate the vessel, but the people are gone. The pirates are also long gone and untraceable. Mexican fishing boats also add to their income with a little piracy from time to time. I had to learn how to properly use a pump action, 12-gauge, pistol grip shotgun. It was a lovely new Remington model that one of my clients obtained for me, as this is an illegal weapon to own in the US and in most places in the world (unless you are in the police or military). But it would be legal to have on board and I became proficient in its use.
I also had a number of flare guns. Some fired large flares a long distance, and others fired smaller flares. Some were single shot and others held a clip of eight flares. Flares are much more efficient than shotgun shells. A shotgun makes a nasty hole in things, and that's it. A flare makes a similar hole, but then also sets things on fire. Most flares must be extinguished with a chemical, as water spreads the fire in small explosions. If you fire a series of flares into a pirate's boat he then has more problems than you to deal with, so pirates will usually depart quickly once they see the flare gun.
The governments of many countries actively operate as pirates. Indonesia and Malaysia are the leaders of the pirate business. Since they have proper military vessels, which a flare gun is not going to scare off, you must avoid the parts of the world where they operate. This information is not found on CNN or in Time magazine. For whatever reason, it is not widely known outside of the marine community. It was obvious that we had to get plugged into that community and its information network.
We joined the SSCA, the Seven Seas Cruising Association. This is a cooperative, which is comprised of yachts that are sailing the world. Part of the deal when you join the SSCA is that you will supply information from wherever you are sailing and send it into the SSCA for inclusion in the monthly newsletter. This is an update of what is going on all over the world at the present time, so the SSCA members know which areas to avoid and why, which places welcome yachts and which don't, etc. It also warns you about boatyards that rip off yachties. They tell you which are the good places to supply your vessel and where not to buy provisions. This organization is an absolute must for anyone intending to sail the oceans of the world. It is literally a lifesaver. We obtained dozens of back issues from Al and read them over with care, taking notes and compiling information on do's and don'ts. I made copies of all the pages which mentioned the places we were planning to visit within the next couple of years. I made sure that every copy of the SSCA Bulletin got to me wherever I was sailing, often via FedEx or DHL when the mails and local post office were unreliable. Which is most places in the world. The postal service, which we take for granted in the US, is not available in most of the world. In the Middle East (except Israel), any letter which contains a check is likely to be opened and the check stolen. Any parcel which seems to contain anything of any value is opened and if they like the contents you receive an empty box. There is no insurance, return receipt requested, no registration, or any of that sort of service available. Sometimes they are willing to charge you for such services, but that is the end of it, no service is actually provided. These lessons we learned hard, and often very expensively.
********** I was reading a borrowed copy of the SSCA Bulletin as I waited for my client Vera to arrive for lunch in Beverly Hills. I was phasing out the last of my business connections and legal consulting matters. This winding down of my interaction with the business community was strange. Most people reacted by saying, "You can't do this - you can't leave me!" I told them that my wonderful partners would take good care of them, but nevertheless most did not take it well, and our associations ended unpleasantly. This, after years of my taking care of their legal needs and listening to their problems. I was very surprised that most people felt abandoned by me and were very resentful about it. The richer they were, the stronger was their view that I should make an exception for them and continue handling their cases personally. When I explained that I couldn't do that, they'd become insulted and angry. I began to wonder if they were angry about being abandoned, or jealous that I was quitting their world. Vera, surprisingly, took it very well. She was interested in the SSCA Bulletin and wanted to know all about it.
I happened to be reading an article about piracy and shared the major details with her. She was horrified, and asked how could I put myself in such danger. I tried to explain, but she thought I was crazy. The very next day a messenger arrived at my home in Tarzana with a large heavy box and a note from Vera that here was a good-bye present that she hoped would help me. We opened the box to discover a shiny new stinger missile. This is a shoulder held and fired missile which is very accurate, deadly, and clearly illegal for a private citizen to own. If the US Coast Guard or any navy in the world came on board for an inspection, which they do, I would go directly to jail as a suspected terrorist once they discovered this armament onboard. It would have been effective against pirates, but the risk of having it was far too great. I returned it to her with a heartfelt thank-you for thinking and caring about our safety. I have since learned it was worth more money than the entire cost of our yacht.
In truth, it was very strange and out of character for Barbara and me to be so oblivious to the extreme dangers we would be facing. We did not like to live dangerously. I was always extremely upset and angry when I felt that our security and safety weren't being handled properly, be it at the ski slopes or on cruises. We had not at all enjoyed the risk we took in Russia (although the result, of course, was well worth it). We were not fearless, bravado types; we were careful and cautious people. But here we were, going full speed ahead, knowing we'd face pirates, possible man-overboard scenarios, whales, and who knew what (not to mention dangerous weather conditions), with very little concern for the same risks that had put us off so many other things. It's not that we were ignorant and unprepared; we had weapons to deal with pirates. We had technology to deal with weather problems. We had spent a lot of time learning how to best protect ourselves. For example, we knew that in extreme wind conditions, like a hurricane or typhoon, you cannot continue to sail. We therefore bought a para-anchor. This is a very heavy-duty parachute, which is deployed at the end of a long, 300-foot, very stout line. We had a special heavy-duty deck cleat installed to handle the strain of this device. In very heavy winds you put the para-anchor in the water behind the boat. It opens up, and then slows you down dramatically. They work quite well unless you get near land, where they can become fouled and cause terrible problems. If you are near land in a hurricane, however, you are probably in extreme danger anyway. So we would look for ways to gain extra safety, in keeping with our cautious natures, but the overall risk didn't seem to penetrate.
Another thing we were doing that was very much out of character was the giving away of all of the physical accouterments we had worked so very hard to obtain. The houses, cars, condos, antiques, jewels, and all the other stuff was going. True, some of it was just going into storage, but most of it would never be seen again. In addition, and it's not very macho to admit this, we also were heavily dependent on creature comforts and good food. We were not the hardy, happy go lucky, make do with whatever comes along, types. We had insisted on more creature comforts than probably any other yachtie we knew, but the comforts of Magellen were still a far cry from our usual minimum requirements.
Many of our acquaintances couldn't believe their ears when they heard of our plans, and they thought we had some ulterior motive and secret plan which we refused to share with them. More than one person called me a liar. My law partners came to Ventura to see Magellan, just to see if we were telling the truth because they hadn't believed me. They were shocked, and walked away shaking their heads, sure that there was something I wasn't telling them, but uncertain what it could be as Magellan actually existed. Some creative people thought we were working for the CIA. One thought we were doing some dastardly deed like joining an international conspiracy to defraud banks of billions. People couldn't accept that we were giving everything up in order to live on a boat, and a small boat at that. I suppose some of this was due to the fact that it was all so out of character for us, and that's why they thought we had something cooking. I imagine that others took us at face value and were insulted by what we had done for philosophical reasons. We were giving up our homes and giving away most of our possessions; what did this say about the value we put on "the stuff that dreams are made of"? If an analyst is spending ten hours a day listening to people's misery so that he too can have the condo in Vail and the five cars and the decorated homes, the cruises, and the fancy restaurant meals, and then we come along and scrap all that, indicating that it's meaningless to us, how's the analyst supposed to feel? The same would hold true for the lawyer who was putting in 80 billable hours every week, and for many of our other professional friends.
Then there were those who were angry with us because they feared for our lives. Our parents were livid about the entire boat concept. Barbara's father stopped talking to us over it. My father was very angry and didn't know what to say or do, so he said nothing. My mother was beside herself with anxiety for our safety. Even our children were worried about us, and expressed their uneasiness, but in the end they put as good a face on it as they could. They wanted no part of the boat, and never sailed with us, but they agreed to fly to wherever we were in the world, stay in a hotel, and visit with us on shore.
********** Al Huso went over his routine of daily activity when he and his wife, Karen, sailed around the world for a couple of years. He was preparing me for what to expect on a day-to-day basis. The most important thing which he emphasized in capital letters was that you must love up your engine. Do what to my engine? Love it up. Your engine must be in perfect condition at all times. All liquids must be full and topped off, including oil, coolant, and fuel. Check the belts for wear. Check the air filters and fuel filters, and make sure they are clean. You do this even when you are at sea and sailing and have not used the engine for days or weeks. You then do the same thing for your generator.
In addition to this, Al gave me a detailed and extensive list of spare parts that we must have on board for the engine and generator. Who installs those spares? How do I know they need repair? Al replied that there are no mechanics available on the ocean. The mechanics in Mexico and the South Pacific will be incompetent, and you do not want them working on your engines. You must learn to take care of your engines yourself.
I went into a state of panic. I had never known anything about automobile engines or any internal combustion engines. I had this fear that I couldn't deal with an engine. This fear had to be overcome at once, so the next day I went to the local technical arts school where they have courses about engine repairs and such stuff. I signed up for a six-week course in diesel engines. I purchased all of the tools on the required list that very day. I didn't know what many of them were for, but I would soon learn. I also took a beginner's course in electrical repairs, which focused on household electricity, but which translated great to the boat systems. I learned all of the details that I needed to know to take care of the electrical problems that I might encounter onboard. Each electrical plug on board had both an AC plug and a DC plug. All the wiring was also in tandem AC/DC.
It was strange going to school with the 18 to 25 year olds that were my classmates, but I enjoyed the experience very much. I am only sorry that I hadn't taken the course many years earlier, as it would have been fun to know what was going on inside my cars. As soon as Magellan arrived, I went straight to the engine and examined it and all its components. I read the engine manual cover to cover and understood what I had and how to take care of it. This thing that had always been so scary turned out to be simple and straightforward.
It took only a couple of days of reading the radar operating manual to understand its operation and features. Once I had that down, the radar alarm was a snap. There was nothing I could do if something went wrong with the radar, as that required a radar technician and too many specialized monitors and tools. So if the radar goes out, you are out of luck until you can get to an authorized Raytheon dealer. Which means that if it goes out in the South Pacific you are really out of luck.
While I was learning about the electronics and other gear which we were putting on board, Barbara was learning about details that I would never have thought about, and which were equally important to our comfort and safety. Toilet paper rolls had to be placed in zip-lock baggies, one per bag, with all excess air removed. If you did not do this the toilet paper quickly absorbs moisture, becomes damp, and then becomes moldy and useless. This was true of most kinds of paper products. Canned goods had to have their labels removed and the contents noted with a waterproof marking pen on the can. If you didn't do this, the paper molded and insects lived on the glue and multiplied aboard. Cockroaches were the most severe problem with canned goods. They love the glue used to put on the labels and lay their eggs there. There were all kinds of housekeeping tips that Barbara learned about. One crucial matter was learning how to pack the cabinets, so that nothing moves when you are at sea and the boat is moving about. She spent hours with Rhonda and Karen to learn all of these fine points of living on board. Most of these things we never would have figured out by ourselves.
Another thing Barbara learned about was the necessity to have a detailed log of the location of every item onboard. We had to put spare parts, canned goods, clothes, and you name it in many nooks and crannies all over the vessel. There would be times when we had to be able to put our hands on something quickly, without tearing the entire boat apart. So when you put everything away, you log it in the book. Each and every item is listed alphabetically, and each location has its own list.
My doctor friends gave me more information than I really wanted about our medical requirements while at sea. There is no doctor you can call. You are the doctor, surgeon, and dentist. OK, what do I do? The first step was going to the UCLA Medical Bookstore to buy books. The Merck Manual tells you what to do about just about every medical situation you can encounter. It is well cross-referenced and tells you in detail what the various symptoms and conditions probably mean. If you have a pain in your side, you look that up and it then asks if you also have other symptoms. By simple process of elimination you can diagnose most problems. I found this book to be amazing and used it not just for ourselves, but also to diagnose the problems of many other yachties. In strange and remote places, I became a doctor, which was really frightening.
The next required book is the Physicians Desk Reference, which lists every drug and medicine available on the market. It tells you the generic options and substitutions you can obtain around the world. You could then look up what drugs or medication is needed for any particular illness or problem.
The last of the must-have books were Red Cross manuals for a variety of problems. What to do in emergencies, and first aid techniques and instructions. These were illustrated books with good diagrams and how-to instructions. What to do with a broken arm or leg, what to do with a bad cut. Pressure points to stop bleeding. They covered just about any first aid problem you could think of. These books were used and well worn after a couple of years, mainly to help others who did not have the information. Being forced to take action and help fellow boaters gave me confidence. All of these books are available at your local large bookstore, or at Amazon.com. It is fabulous to have this information at your fingertips without having to call doctor. They also tell you when you cannot fool around yourself and must go to the hospital. If the symptoms indicate an appendicitis problem, you need a hospital. Many animal bites and infections require a hospital, but you can take steps to reduce the serious side effects by acting quickly and doing first aid.
My friend Doctor Dick prepared an extensive medical kit for us. We had syringes, bandages, splints, and a wide variety of medications, most of which required a prescription. We learned how to give injections to each other. We had sutures, needles, and medical thread. The only thing we couldn't do was start an IV. That required too much skill and was too great a risk for us to do ourselves. We were well equipped to handle a wide variety of problems. If there was a truly serious injury or illness, we could be in trouble, but we were as prepared as it was possible to be. I read the First Aid books cover to cover before we started out so that I'd have an overview in my mind of what to do. I took a couple of first aid courses in artificial respiration, the Heimlich maneuver, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and whatever else was offered. I was turned away from a course or two, which were for nurses. My protestations that I needed the information as I was going out to sea fell on deaf ears.
I felt that I had done just about all I could do without going to medical school. The medical kit we had with us was overwhelming. We put stick-on labels on all of the bottles in several sessions with doctor friends. How much to inject, how often to inject, when to stop, etc. The dosages were of the greatest concern so as not to kill ourselves in the process of medicating ourselves. At last there was nothing else we could do to increase our medical safety.
I was on the ham radio every night. I was constantly reading and re-reading all of the booklets and manuals for every system on board. I felt like I had felt while studying for the Bar examination.
Weather forecasting was another area which took up a great deal of time. I had books, charts, and various how-to-predict-the-weather tools. I would read the weather maps and check my barometer and temperature gauges at home and then attempt to predict the weather. I was getting fairly competent at getting it right. Some days I would get it totally wrong, but mostly I was correct in my forecast. I would check what the weatherman said after I had made my predictions.
I worked long and hard at learning how to use a sextant, the anachronistic tool used by Magellan and Columbus to find their way on the sea. It does work, to some degree, and it is crucial to be able to use the sextant if all the electronics fail to operate for whatever reason. I bought a good quality sextant. I had a good compass aboard and those two instruments are all you need, together with a little math, to tell where you are. Nothing like the accuracy of the satellite navigation system, but not all that terrible either. There were some confusing calculations dealing with magnetic variations which change depending on where you are in relation to the magnetic north pole. Every chart has on it a compass rose which shows you which way is true north, the North Pole, and magnetic north. It is amazing how far off true often is from magnetic north. There are often strong local magnetic sources that greatly bend north on a compass. But after substantial practice, you can get it right. Not the most fun thing I was learning, but very satisfying when I got it right. Then I tried it at sea; it was much tougher with a moving boat under your feet.
I spent many hours in front of the TV learning to tie knots. Nautical knots are a must, as they cannot become undone when under pressure. So you work on getting them right. Actually there are only a couple of required knots that you need to know. Barbara got by just fine with a bowline, pronounced bowlin. This is a simple knot to tie, untie, and holds forever in any situation. Al insisted I learn a number of knots to cover many situations where a bowline may not work well. So I tied and re-tied knots.
********** Barbara was now fully engaged in packing up our houses, deciding what to keep and what to give away to charity. We gave truckloads of stuff to charitable organizations, but it was tough to let go of items of sentimental value. There was a lot of stuff we felt we absolutely couldn't part with which we packed in boxes and stored. A few years later we returned to LA to look for things among the stored boxes. We then gave away seventy percent of the so-important stuff which we had been sure we couldn't part with. Over the years since then, we have given the rest of it away. Our children now have the remaining antiques and prize possessions in their homes; about all that we have left from that stash are photographs and diplomas.
We had to do the same thing with our clothes. You do not need three-piece button down suits, shirts and ties on a yacht. Our wardrobes changed almost completely. I had hundreds of ties of which I now needed none. Deck shoes were the only acceptable foot gear onboard Magellan because anything else damages the teak decks and finished teak flooring of the cabin. So all the wingtip shoes, dress shoes, tennis shoes, etc. were out. This process was much harder for Barbara than it was on me; I viewed clothing as a necessary evil and didn't care about it. Barbara was a fashion designer who dressed well every day. This was a very painful and difficult process for her. She had to store and give away many outfits which she loved and many of which she had designed and had sewn for her. The shoes were probably the most painful single item: no chic Ferragamo shoes were going onboard.
When Magellan arrived and we actually saw the amount of the storage space which each of us would have, Barbara was depressed. She was not going to have nearly the amount of space she had hoped for to store clothes. I gave up some of the space which we had designated for me on the plans and blueprints. I was going to have to make do with very little space, but I really didn't care. Barbara was still not going to have enough space and was not a happy camper about this issue.
You cannot force or convince any woman to go sailing and live aboard a boat on the ocean. Everyone we met where the husband pressured the wife to go along had serious problems. Many wives jumped ship. Many couples were divorced because of the battles which the boat generated. We know of a few boats abandoned in strange places by couples who just could not take it any more, flew home, and gave it up. All of those situations were due to a wife who couldn't take it and had had enough. Living on board a yacht in cramped quarters requires a good relationship. Anyone looking to solve marital and relationship problems by sailing off is going to be sorely disappointed and let down. The people who sailed away with girlfriends and boyfriends never made it very far; they lacked the experience and the give-and-take that married couples develop over the years.
The starry-eyed view of sitting on a sandy beach in paradise is not real. We did spend many days doing that on a magnificent beach in utopia, but those days are far outweighed by situations, which require cooperation and full partnership. The rigors of the ocean put most relationships to a true test. We bought Magellan after (literally) years of discussions. We had been on the ocean on cruise ships many, many times, and knew we loved the ocean. Being on a cruise ship, however, has virtually no relationship to being on a private sailboat. They are both on the ocean and that is the only similarity. We discussed our decision over and over again and were both very sure that this is what we wanted to do. Almost all of our friends and relatives were strongly opposed to what we were undertaking and did their best to talk us out of it. We listened to their arguments and did not dismiss them out of hand. We discussed their views and their arguments, but we kept coming back to the simple fact that we wanted to do this adventure together, as a team. This is an absolute minimum requirement. Without this type of commitment a couple is not going to be happy or make it on the ocean.
********** We were ecstatic and excited about the new experiences and discoveries we would have on Magellan. We couldn't wait to move on board and begin our travels. The moving on board and giving up the land-bound existence was the beginning of a new freedom which we couldn't wait to taste.
The sales of our homes were straightforward and easy. The cleaning out of accumulated years of junk and stuff felt good. The arrangements for our finances also went smoothly. We hired a business manager to handle our income and expenses. It was necessary to have a steady income so that we would not have to deal with financial details while at sea, which would be too difficult to do over a ham radio. It is tough just saying hello, sending your greetings, and getting family news. So we would rely on the income generated from the real estate holdings, and we felt very fortunate that we had this income.
The rigging of the boat and full installation of all of the equipment took two months. The ham radio alone took a couple of days. We had a wood-burning fireplace installed. We ourselves installed additional storage by using baskets. We stored the hardwood for the fireplace in baskets firmly tied down. The hardwood burned slowly and gave off good heat and allowed us to carry less wood onboard than if we had used a softer wood. We knew we would need the fireplace for heat, and did. The places where we used it to take a chill off of the air were sometimes surprising; we used our fireplace even in the tropics.
While all of this work was going on, we started to move on board little by little. A very few of our friends came by to see how we were going to live. Most were put off and, sadly, we never heard from them again. We were surprised that many close and good friends dropped us, including Carol and Marvin Flicker, our companions in Russia and many other places (they wouldn't even return our calls).
The ties to the land were gone. Magellan was ready. We moved onboard and settled in. We were happy and felt good about our boat and ourselves. The pressures of the land life had stopped almost entirely. We would still get an occasional message through our business manager, but even that would die down soon. Our children were both in school, happy, and doing well. Our son David attended UCSB in Santa Barbara and lived on campus. Our daughter Tiffany was leaving for Switzerland to attend Le Rosey, just outside of Geneva. This was a classy finishing school for kids in the 8th through the 12th grade. This was a school that Tiffany had chosen herself, and she was very happy about going to school in Europe.
Barbara and I decided to start out on short shake-down cruises. First we'd go to Catalina Island for a weekend. Then for a week. We discovered small glitches and went back to Oxnard Marina in Ventura and repaired them. There were no big surprises. We were happier sailing by ourselves on the ocean than we had even imagined we could be. We picked nice sunny days to go the short distance to Catalina and the sailing was smooth and easy. We picnicked on deck and couldn't believe we were sailing on our own boat, free of the world and its cares. There was a clear feeling of being released from bondage. The release was amazing. Barbara and I had been so engaged and so busy in our businesses and our lives for so long, that being free of those responsibilities and commitments was difficult to assimilate. We had worried about how we would feel without our jobs. After all, we had been raised on the work ethic, and we had believed in it. However, at some point it had started to seem illogical; we worked ourselves crazy to afford fancy vacations and meals so that we'd feel fit and refreshed in order to work some more. I was 44 years old and Barbara was 41, and we had already worked more total hours than much older people, especially considering that a great deal of our social life was actually more work, i.e., networking in order to obtain more clients. In addition, there had often been an edge on our vacations and cruises, knowing that the work was piling up and there'd be a great deal of pressure to deal with when we returned home.
We were suddenly free to enjoy each other and the world. For the first time, we could sit back and enjoy the sunsets without the worry of the schedule of duties awaiting us on our return to work. That was over. The lists of things to do now were minor upkeep on Magellan and grocery lists. The taste of freedom was palpable; it was joyous, wonderful, and euphoric. It is difficult, if not impossible, to describe. We had retired and we had total, unlimited freedom, and yet we weren't like elderly pensioners who have to deal with making ends meet and health problems. We were young, we had a lot of energy, and we had enough money to live comfortably. We were very, very lucky.
We had been incredibly busy the last six months getting ready for these moments, and now they were finally here. We wanted to savor them and inhale them, to revel in the feeling of openness and lack of commitments and schedules and meetings and obligations. We began to laugh a great deal. With the exception of the joy we had as parents, we felt like we were enjoying life for the first time. I know this sounds strange given the life we had led with the fancy restaurants, the condos, the cruise ships and travels. But the tuna fish sandwich on our own vessel while watching the dolphins jumping in and out of our bow wake was greater than any meal we had ever had. It tasted so good. It felt so good.
The big decisions now were, what do you want for lunch, and what should we do this afternoon. We had a rough plan of where we wanted to cruise, but it was subject to change without notice. We could go where we pleased, when we pleased and stay as long as we wanted. We would leave when we had enough of where we were. No schedules.
An interesting change took place in our daily routine. We went to sleep when it got dark and got up when it was light. This happens to most yachties on the ocean. It is natural and feels good, and it happens without any planning or discussion. Sleep experts say that we need a minimum of eight to ten hours of sleep every day. When we are younger and older we need more. If you only get six hours, you have a sleep deficit that you must make up during the next few days. In the hectic, pressurized world in which most people live, there is not enough time for proper sleep. People then do not function well. For example, a person who doesn't get enough sleep won't learn or remember well. All of this has been proven. Barbara and I probably hadn't had enough sleep for many years. Now that we were sleeping properly, we were feeling more alert and happier. In addition, getting enough sleep added to our feeling of well being, and made us feel sure that we had done the right thing.
We sailed to San Diego and spent some time there. We sailed back and forth between Catalina Island and the other Channel Islands. Most of these islands are nature preserves untouched by man, beautiful, quiet, and wonderful. We were in heaven. We were now getting our sea legs, and gaining confidence about our ability to handle Magellan.