If you're lucky enough to live to 100, the years between 50 & 75 are your third quarter. That segment in life could be the waning of your physically agile years, so it's a good idea to stay active. It's also a good time to challenge your brain to keep things limber up there - by mastering something new. We decided to go sailing, and this is a chronicle of our journey.


Naming your Boat: So, what's in a name?

Besides deciding what boat to buy, the next big decision was what to name the newest member of our family.  While contemplating the name, we learned it was a good idea to subject the potential names to a few tests — compiled by Latitude 38 magazine in California — before putting it on our transom:
  1. The explanation test. How often do you want to explain what the name means? Bizarre Greek gods, in-jokes and Latin phrases (Carpe Diem doesn’t count) usually fail this test. The non-cute test. How sappy is the name? Puns, childhood nicknames and in-jokes usually fail. 
  2. The brevity test. Imagine repeating your boat name three times, especially if calling “mayday.” Are you hoarse yet?
  3. The hubris test. If you’re racing, try not to pick names like Magic Bullet unless, of course, you have that one-in-a-million boat that actually wins every time.
  4. The “Been There, Done That” test. There are a lot of Obsessions and Odysseys out there already.
  5. The omen test. Naming your boat the Money Pit one day may mean you need a new engine the next.
  6. The radio test. Lots of words that look good — Slithery, for example — sound pretty funny on channel 16.
So we had a few names but decided on Florian.  Why?  Read on...
Florian lived in the time of the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian, and was commander of the imperial army in the Roman province of Noricum. In addition to his military duties, he was also responsible for organizing firefighting brigades.  The Roman regime sought to eradicate Christianity, and sent Aquilinus to persecute Christians. When Aquilinus ordered Florian to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods in accordance with Roman religion, he refused, and cheerfully accepted the beatings of the soldiers, who used clubs, spikes and fire to torture him. He was executed by drowning in the Enns River with a stone tied around his neck. Florian is the patron saint of firefighters.
For me, the connection to Florian is that I became a Fire Fighter while working through college.  I've been an IT professional for nearly three decades, but I am also still a firefighter. 

I'm the tall guy on the right in Trabuco Canyon in 1980

Back in 1981

Apartment building fire in 1981

One of Florian's accomplishments was that he organized Fire Brigades, and while College prepared me to be an IT Professional, I never lost that spark. They say that firefighting gets into your blood, and I believe that's true.  So in 1989, while working for the Walt Disney Company, I had an opportunity with a co-worker to establish the Walt Disney Studios Fire Department, with the primary goal of protecting our employees and properties during a disaster or other catastrophic event.  During production each day, the population on the Burbank lot (California) can swell to more that 15,000 people, so for example, if an earthquake happened during work hours, the city's resources would be overwhelmed, and that's where our internal Fire Department would play a critical role. 

Over the years; a couple of my favorite officers - (left to right) Dave Davis with 
Disney, Tracy Panzini with Burbank Fire Department, and me on the right.

At Disney's Golden Oak Ranch in Santa Clarita (30 minutes north of the Studio lot),  
training with LA County FD Air Operations.

Every Department has a mascot; we have a mouse.

One of our favorite charities is Firefighters Quest For Burn Survivors
and we help them whenever we can.

My Grandson Eli, stopping by Fire Service Day in Burbank.

CNN Money did a little puff piece on the department.  To read it, click here.

While I earn my living managing technology, the best job I don't get paid for is with the Walt Disney Studios Fire Department.  There are about 1.2 million firefighters in the U.S. and nearly 1 million of them are volunteers, I count myself among them - a proud and capable volunteer.

After much consideration, the name Florian seemed like a good fit for our boat, and it passed the naming tests, so we're happy to place that name on the transom of our Robinhood 36. 

Florian will be our boat, and Belinda and I will be her crew.


Searching for a Sail Boat; and Finding One

The welcome sign at Robinhood Marine Center on the coast of Maine
In the previous post, Don and I got a little side tracked with all the shiny at the Annapolis boat show. We thought about abandoning our plan to find a trusty Cape Dory, and instead we'd get a new boat, because Don loved the light, the styling and the features in the newer layouts, and I was pretty excited about how many more family members we could accommodate with all the beds (smart boat designers).  After Annapolis,  I went directly to visit my family in Connecticut, and Don left for a business trip. We reconvened at home, and compared notes, and luckily, we both came to separate but matching conclusions that a new boat just wasn't us. It didn't fit our plan.  So, we spent the next few weeks getting our Cape Dory search back on track.

Robinhood Marine Center in December; all the boats are put away for the winter

In late November, Don found three boats that looked great; two Cape Dory's and a Robinhood - and all of them were at the Robinhood Marine Center in Maine. We already established that we were willing to go to the East Coast to look at a good boat, but Maine was about as far from California as you could go.  But, in addition, we would get to visit Cape Dory history.  The company was founded in Massachusetts in 1963 by Andy Vavolotis. In 1991, the Cape Dory name and their powerboat designs were sold to a (now closed) New York Shipyard, and parts of the Cape Dory boat building operation, including some of Carl Alberg-designed hull molds, and the marine hardware division of the company - Spartan Marine - were moved to Robinhood, Maine. The Robinhood 36 and 40 are still being manufactured from the Cape Dory 36 and 40 molds, and many of the original Cape Dory staff, including Andy Vavolotis and Dave Perry, are still making and selling great boats at Robinhood.

We booked a quick red-eye trip to Maine for the first weekend in December, and truth be told, I sort of braced myself for disappointment, even though I was excited to see and meet some of the history of the Cape Dory sailing community. We stayed in Historic Bath, and even though we froze our tails off, we were both utterly charmed by the maritime history of Portland, Bath and the surrounding areas. It was a good sign.

Don standing in Dave Perry's office, taking in the view of the marina

Dave Perry met us in his office, which is at the end of a narrow, wooded road that opens out to fingers of coast dotted with white birch trees and clapboard houses along the water. All the boats get hauled out for the winter, so the marina looked a little lonesome, but the yard and the buildings were filled with tons of Cape Dory's, Robinhoods, and an assortment of beautifully cared for and classic old and new boats. The smell of fiberglass resin in the cold December air reminded me of my step Dad's boat supply shop in Santa Barbara, CA in the early 80's - The Lazarette. I was freezing cold, but really comfortable and glad to be there.

One of the Cape Dory molds in the yard. I think Dave said this was from a CD28.
Dave drove us off-site to see the first boat, which was very nice. We spent about an hour checking her out in another boat yard, and as I was snapping photos, I was imagining warmer weather, a beam reach on a sunny day, and what it would it would feel like to move an East coast boat to Pacific waters.

Don and Dave back at Robinhood to look at the second
boat of three we were interested in.
After taking us to a neat little restaurant in a coastal village for lunch, and telling great stories (I admit to quizzing Dave just a little) about the Cape Dory manufacturing history in Massachusetts, we went back to the marina to look at the second boat, a Robinhood 36. I was curious about what - if anything - they had changed in the manufacturing of this boat, but I found that most of the differences in each sail boat related to what previous owners had chosen for equipment, comforts and level of care and upkeep.

The lovely, curved swell of a Robinhood hull, made with a Cape Dory mold.
The second boat was in the yard at Robinhood Marina, under peaked wood slats and a tarp, so we climbed a ladder, and hopped up to her deck. I could see my breath, and I wished I had two pairs of pants and fleece-lined mittens on, instead of leather gloves - my fingers were numb. Even though I'm a New England girl, I don't do cold well at all. But here's the thing; even amidst my teeth chattering, knee quaking discomfort, I had an immediate crush on this boat.
Don and Dave talking about the engine (Yanmar)  on the Robinhood 36
Don and Dave walked around and reviewed systems, while I took the camera and snapped close ups and distance shots from all sorts of angles, trying to keep in mind what I might want to review once we got back to California and I was thawed out, and thinking more clearly.
Dave Perry answering Don's questions about the Robinhood 36,
on the hard, under wraps for the winter.
Even though this boat was similar to others we had seen - same length, same layout, same t-cockpit, same helm, same galley, etc. ... there was something about her that felt righter-than-right to me - more than anything we looked at over the past 6 months. I had a hunch Don felt the same way every time we looked at each other across the deck; matching happy eyes.
I am so cold in this photo (I feel it all over again just looking at the image),
but inside, I was already singing love songs to this boat.
We made an offer on the Robinhood 36 before we left Dave's office. After thanking him for a great afternoon, and a wonderful tour of the boat yard, Don and I went to an Irish Pub in Bath, and ordered a couple of beers. We expected to get a call from Dave the next day, since the owners were traveling, but before Don finished his Guinness, Dave called us back, and we were suddenly, very excitedly, all grins and toasts, boat owners.
Our surveyor took this photo in late afternoon sun,
and I like the geometry of light, shadow and wood slats.


Searching for a Sailboat: Crossing the Country & Getting Sidetracked

Amazing October skies on the east coast
Knowing there were only 11 Cape Dory 36 sailboats on the West Coast, we spent the rest of the summer and early Fall researching, studying and scouring the net.  We were about 4 months into our search when we spotted a CD36 on the East Coast that looked like it fit our criteria. We contacted the broker, and planned a trip. Since I'm originally from New England, I added a detour so I could visit family. Shortly afterwards, we discovered the Annapolis boat show was being held that same weekend. (This is what my husband Don calls Scope-Creep. Our travel itinerary was getting a little exuberant.)

 When you look at boats for sale online, you can bet that the owners and/or brokers have spit shined the hulls, varnished the teak, polished the brass and added throw pillows to the fluffed cushions. The photos are shot on gloriously sunny days with canopies of blue sky. Often, some of the listing photos are from the seller's personal archives; beauty shots of reflective hulls on glassy water in secluded coves at sunset.  It's broker boat porn.
At anchor in Key Biscayne, Florida on my step Dad's Cape Dory 31 Heiress
 By the time we saw this CD36 - we had already learned that no matter how gorgeous the photos are, you have to see the boat in person. The photos make you fall in love.  You start fantasizing about being the Captain on that boat, on a balmy day, in a beam reach, wearing a bathing suit & holding a cool beverage. But stepping into the cockpit will reveal details the photos didn't show and tell truths buried under the bling. Even if she's on the hard, there's something visceral between people and the boats they're distance-dating - as soon as you finally meet. Regardless if her cosmetics are flawless and her gear sets your heart a thumpin', the one-on-one chemistry has to be good too.

The boat we traveled East to see was plenty pretty, and the broker said she had been sailed hard, and far, and had the gear to prove it. She did indeed have the gear, and she had recently completed a bit of a cosmetic face lift, which - for me - backfired a little. In contrast with the new shiny, her bones seemed weary. Among several things I noticed, all her top sides had a topographic map of hairline cracks, and her cabin showed too many signs of fatigue. We felt uneasy about the contrasts in her presentation, and we had a gut-feeling that this wasn't our boat.
The line to get into the Annapolis Boat Show
We consoled our disappointed hearts by going to the Annapolis Sailboat Show.  This is one of the oldest and biggest boat shows out there. It's in historic Annapolis, literally next door to the Naval Academy, surrounded by historic, slim little antiquated storefronts along the water.

The Beneteau boat section at the Annapolis Boat Show (Oct 2011)
Annapolis is beautiful, and even though it was October, we strolled the docks in shorts, enjoying sunny skies and 70 degrees. The show was packed elbow to elbow and the crowd was clearly international, because we heard languages we couldn't identify. Each boat manufacturer had a floating, carpeted, covered dock, encircled by a selection of their boats, and a pretty posse of polo-shirted sales staff, passing around slick photo brochures to entice every sailor to step aboard and start dreaming.

A beautiful Hyla 56 at the Annapolis Boat Show (Oct 2011)
Every boat at the show had a placard with their specs, a floor plan and a giant price sticker. Quite a few of the "slip models" had huge red SOLD signs on them to encourage the urgency to 'get one while you can'. If you wanted to see up close and down below, you left shoes on the carpeted dock, and waited in line to step aboard with your spouse & brochure to see all the shiny. The layouts of the new boats are broad and tall and built to host parties. Generous cabins, big, plush settees, and tons of beds! We sat in swivel leather chairs at broad teak navigator stations, arranged with with recessed panels loaded with all the latest technology twinkle. There were speakers everywhere, flat panel tv's, clear acrylic and chrome grab bars and lit curio cabinets. Galleys (kitchens) had microwaves, two refrigerators, wine cellars, corian counters and trash compacters. Even smaller boats had two heads (bathrooms) with stand up showers, and easy access to the engines from three sides!
The Tartan booth at the Annapolis Boat show (Oct 2012)
The lure intoxicated us. Even though we never set foot in the Hendricks Gin booth where a Pretty stood outside the tent, hawking cocktails for show attendees, we felt drunk with boat bling. These were not the boats we imagined buying and sailing, and they certainly cost more than we planned to spend.... but daaannnnng, they were so roomy and new and designed for comfort. You could really take your family sailing with you on one of these beauties, with seating and beds for everyone. We started to wonder.... maybe we should re-think this. We went to dinner and talked about our original plan and pondered the what-ifs of buying a new boat. We went back to the show the next day, and looked at the boats we liked again. We left with a bag full of glossy brochures, price lists and spec sheets, marked in pencil along the margins with all our notes and questions. 

I flew out of Annapolis to see my family up north for a few days, and Don flew back to California for work. Our months-long plan felt like it ran aground on a sandbar. We needed time to marinate on what we saw, compared to our original vision for this journey. We were both overwhelmed. 

Don, sitting on a Bavaria, feeling a little saturated with boat bling.
To be continued....


88 Seconds of Intermission

Sailing and boating blogs are everywhere. There are hundreds and hundreds of them. You can peruse just a sample of them on our sidebar on the right of this blog.  But to get you started, here's a little eye-candy intermission for your day: Claudia and Tassio are a Canadian/Brazilian duo, adventuring aboard s/v Netzah. Their project - Terra D'Agua - is a long term vision to 'sail the world for a bigger picture', and share what they find with storytelling, film, photos and blog entries.

Here is a little 1 min 28 second film of travel visuals they posted on their blog (click the photo caption):

Short video of travel and sailing beauty from Terra D'Agua
Two people, one sailboat, a dream and many miles to go...

Netzah from the mast


Searching for a Sailboat: Looking farther from Home

Driving along the Central Coast of California to look at a sailboat.

Since there are only about 11 Cape Dory 36's in California, we realized it was likely we'd have to travel to see anything listed for sale. After looking at and deciding against the first one we saw close to home, we ventured a little further - to San Francisco - to take a gander at another one.  Since my step Dad Tom lives halfway between us and our SF destination, we took the opportunity to stop for a night at his house, and take him with us for the drive up to see the boat.

Driving through San Francisco
 During the drive, since Tom's boat was still for sale, we talked about the boat market, currently and historically. The innovation and manufacturing process for boat building between the late 60's and early 80's got so streamlined, everyone could own a boat. Because of innovations with fiberglass molds to build hulls and decks, boats could be built assembly-line-style, for a full range of prices, instead of building one boat at a time, for a much higher cost. Boat manufacturers were very busy. Since fiberglass doesn't rot like wood, or rust like steel does, after a time, boat manufacturers were competing with their own used boats on the market that were still in great shape and totally sea worthy. A couple decades of brisk boat production resulted in a saturated market. In the mid 80's, there were more boats than slips and marina's to hold them. I lived in Santa Barbara in the early 80's, and I recall the wait list for a slip at that marina was 7 years. Yikes!
One of many lovely waterways in San Francisco
Once we arrived in San Francisco, I was strolling around at the marina, wondering how many sailboats in front of me were actually from the 60's, 70's and 80's. Most of the Cape Dory boats we'd seen in listings spanned at least 3 or 4 decades. Tom's CD31 is almost 30 years old, and she's in great condition. I saw plenty of newer boats in the marina that day, but the classic shape and swell of the older boats have always tugged at my attention.
Not the boat we looked at, but a mighty fine house/slip/boat set up, for sure. :)
So, we looked at a very sweet CD36 that day, kept pristine and conditioned by her very proud owner.   Not long into the conversation - it became clear to the three of us that the owner didn't really want to sell his boat.  His attention to detail and meticulous care of her was a labor of love, and I can't say I blame him one bit; she was beautiful.  We drove home - dropping Tom off at his house along the way - and talked about the next steps in finding a boat to love that much. I felt very encouraged to have what I already knew confirmed: Cape Dory boats hold up very well over time, especially with just the right amount of love and attention.

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.  ~Isak Dinesen


Searching for a sail boat: Looking close to home

Don Water Skiing on his boat in the early 90's
Belinda on board Tom's Cape Dory 31 Heiress in 1989 in Chesapeake Bay

When Don and I were in the early stages of looking for a boat, a few of the folks we shared our plan with asked if we were going to buy my step Dad Tom's 1984 Cape Dory 31 (HULL #15). He listed it for sale a few months before we concocted this plan. While we have amazing memories of that boat - especially since she was the first sail boat I ever spent time on shortly after Tom purchased her on the East Coast in 1987 - he told us that in retrospect, he thought he should have purchased a CD36, but he was discouraged from that notion by friends who told him it was too difficult to single hand a boat that size. With the benefit of his experiences on Heiress over the past 25 years - along the Intra-Coastal Waterway, the Chesapeake Bay, the Florida Keyes, the Bahamas and then up and down the Pacific Coast for two decades - he doesn't believe this is true.  Don and I took Tom's experiences to heart, and set our sights on a Cape Dory 36.

Tom & Belinda after washing the deck of Heiress in the broker's slip, Channel Islands 2011.
After a few weeks of researching archived reviews of Cape Dory boats, stories about the different vessels Carl Alberg designed, and looking at photos of CD36's on blogs and web sites, we knew that finding one on the West Coast might be a challenge. Cape Dory manufactured the CD36 in Massachusetts between 1978 and 1990, and there were 165 of them built.  Through the Cape Dory owner's registry, we found 11 of them in California.  There's an old saying that "Every boat is for Sale" but I've seen (and felt) the inexplicable bond between a captain & his boat. Boats become part of the family, so I couldn't imagine cold-calling or emailing the owner of a CD36 to ask 'Hey, wanna sell your boat?'.

 Later in the summer, we contacted a broker who had one listed not too far from us.  We met with the broker on a sunny day, and walked (skipped) down to the slip to look at our first prospect. I knew right away that this CD wasn't right for us. I'm not even sure why. It was an intuitive feeling in the heart of my gut - I felt it the moment we stepped aboard. She was pretty, and well cared for, but something about her just didn't feel right. It was like slipping on a splendidly pretty shoe that seemed rockin' in all aspects of design and manufacturing, only to find that it pinched my toes. I might have felt discouraged, but I read a lot of stories online about other people's experiences searching for boats, and I knew it would take time - maybe even a year, especially given the shortage of the CD36 on the west coast. We drove away from the marina and this first available CD36 feeling thoughtful, but resolved, because we always listen to that "little voice", and the introduction confirmed that our plan was real; we were looking for our sailboat.

Sail away with me honey
I put my heart in your hand
Sail away with me honey now, now, now.
Sail Away, by David Gray


Learning about Sailboats Online

Don on board Tom's Cape Dory 31, Heiress, contemplating boats and sailing in his Third Quarter.

After our initial pondering about buying a boat, we shared the idea with a handful of family members. Folks were surprised and curious,  and we were even asked if this idea was a symptom of mid-life crisis.  I explained that we had always planned to do something in our Third Quarter that involved either a motorhome, a motorcycle, an airplane or a boat. Since I nixed the airplane and the motorcycle options over the years of this discussion, being the nervous nelly that I am, that left the motorhome or the boat. After talking about it a little more, Don thought the motorhome should be part of our Fourth Quarter plan - between the ages of 75 and 100 - if we're lucky enough to live that long. :) Maybe by then, when we're maybe not so physically agile, the activity of sitting in a big, cushy chair steering a rig while we drive through terra firma all over the U.S. might be a groovy thing to do. So, from the original four 3rdQ categories we were saving for, that left only one: a boat.

Tom and Don talking about Cape Dory sailboats and getting her ready to sell.

Over the next few weeks, Don and I spent our evenings researching boats online, looking at sailing videos on YouTube, and meandering the Cape Dory Owners Association site. Along the way, we discovered sailing blogs, and we subscribed to several of them.  The blogs were a wonder for us; by reading them, we were virtually invited aboard to see everything from maintenance practices and mechanical challenges, to provisions planning and sweet anchorage spots. Sailing blogs are a relatively new thing; they certainly weren't around in the late 80's when Tom was sharing his sailing experiences in the Bahamas with xeroxed hard copies mailed to everyone in the family. I love these blogs, and along with the books and message boards and videos and web sites, we spent the next few months marinating in everything we could find on the subject of sailing and boat ownership. It pretty much sealed the deal; we started looking for a used boat before the end of the summer.

Tom's boat the Heiress in the Chesapeake Bay in about 1989.  I crewed for Tom with two other friends along the Intra-Coastal Waterway, and it was a glorious and unforgettable experience. Except for one squall. I admit it; that was a green sort of not fun.

Tom's boat in the broker's slip in Channel Island's Harbor earlier this Fall.

Tom donated a pile of books to our expanding collection, so we cleared a bigger space on the book shelf. We figured we should start learning everything we could get into our brains immediately, and our book collection is now three shelves and growing.