I first got interested in sailing sometime in the early 1980s when my wife Marcia and I took an introductory sail on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, WI. That was all it took to realize that we wanted to do that. I started reading about sailing and we would often go to Milwaukee or Chicago and watch boats enter and exit the harbors.
In 1984 I accepted a job in Southern California and I found a sailing organization that offered lessons and rentals. This was a business that managed sailboats that were offered for rental by the owners. They charged a monthly fee to belong and would waive the fee for the months where you spent an equivalent amount on rentals. The lessons cost extra, but were not very expensive. There were four classroom and four on the water sessions followed by a written and on the water test.
Having learned the basics, we started renting 30 ft. Hunter sailboats practically every Saturday and Sunday. We would find 2 other couples from friends and co-workers to split the cost. That made it very affordable. It gave me the opportunity to sail in all kinds of conditions, learn how to do coastal navigation, and find my way back to the harbor in fog. During this time, I continued to read and think about the boat that I would like to own. We attended many boat shows.
In 1985, we had narrowed our wish list to the Robert Perry design Tayana 37. A cutter-rigged, heavy displacement, canoe stern boat with a reputation as a solid world cruiser. After seeing several, we bought “Secret Sharer” from a couple that had recently returned from cruising the Pacific as far as Tasmania.
Shortly after the purchase we moved aboard in the Los Angeles Harbor. Our marina was behind Terminal Island and had 75 all live-aboard slips. Many of the boats never left their slips and weren’t able to under their own power. However, there were quite a few active sailors. We were often able to get 4 or 5 boats together for weekends to Catalina Island.
We continued to be very active sailors. Our Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends were normally spent anchored off Santa Barbara Island. This is part of the Channel Islands and is not near the city of Santa Barbara. Seals and sea lions had very large colonies there. Sea Gulls nested on the island. There was a park ranger, but no businesses or other inhabitants. Vacations were always spent exploring Catalina, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara Islands.
In 1989 we took the summer off and spent 3 months cruising the coast of California from Los Angeles to San Francisco. We continued into the San Joaquin and Sacramento River Deltas. We left SF just before the large earthquake of that year.
The next few years we continued to live-aboard and work ashore. In 1995 work and family health problems had us moving ashore and about a year later, we sold the boat.
Years passed, life’s priorities changed, and I moved on. I didn’t think about sailing that often. I did miss being at anchor. Over the years, I only went day sailing a couple times with a friend. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t ready to buy another boat. Maintaining a house and a boat is just too expensive.
In 2010 we had been retired for 3 years, but were still under 62. The financial crisis ate into our portfolio and home equity. Health insurance was crazy. So we sold the house and all of the contents and moved to Costa Rica with 6 suitcases and two cats.
We live in the mountains, north and east of San Jose, at an elevation of 6,000 ft. The town of Zarcero is small and is very quiet and very beautiful. The people are very friendly and we have been accepted into the community. There aren’t many other Gringos (not a slur) here and that’s the way we like it. After 5 years, we are permanent residents and have been part of the government health care system for several years. My Spanish has improved a lot. I now am comfortable doing everything in Spanish. Many of my friends don’t speak English.
Our healthcare premium is about $80 for the two of us. The care is pretty good. When there are long delays to see a specialist, we go to a private doctor. Initial consults with a specialist run $80 – $85. I had a colonoscopy for less that $300.
In late 2014, we attended a pot luck dinner at the home of a friend who lives near San Ramon. That’s about 45 minutes from us. There is a large expat community there. We have a few friends in that group and have met many of the others. In an attempt to make small talk with a lady I knew, I asked her, “Have you had any sailing adventures lately?” She and her husband are long time sailors and cruisers. To my surprise, she answered, “No, but Paul is looking for someone to crew from Guatemala, through the Panama Canal, and to Mexico.”
That set off a chain of events that started all of this. It took about two full moon, star filled nights to give me the bug again.