Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Dream Transferred

For most, the dream catches them later in life. I was born into the dream, but that's not to say that I've always wanted to go cruising. In the beginning, the dream wasn't mine.

For most of my life, sailboats were the vessels of my father's difficult life. That I carry my deceased, troubled father's unfulfilled dream with me would make any psychoanalyst giddy.
As soon as my father could liberate me from the Costa Rican hospital, he did. The train ride was long and rough back to Punta Arenas and to the boat my parents were building on the beach. It was too long and rough for my mother who had given birth just hours before, but how eager he must have been to see his dream of his family afloat coming together.
We are sailing a friend's leaky vessel up the Pacific coast of Central America. My father's drinking and recklessness surface repeatedly. Fearing for my safety, my mother permanently disembarks.
My father finishes the Mariposa, but he sells her to cover debts.
My father moves onto a boat in a Sausalito, California slip. Sometimes, when jobs are scarce, he anchors in the adjacent Richardson Bay. I live nearby and occasionally work for him, painting or sanding boats. He pays me for my company; I am a lousy apprentice. Helping him deliver a large sailboat, its mast strapped precariously to the deck, no lifelines, I fall overboard. Tapping the superhuman strength of lore, he reaches past miles of freeboard and pulls me onto the deck.
A crossroads moment in my life at 26. I'm sitting with my father in the cramped cabin of his boat eating hard boiled eggs in brown rice. He points to a notice in Latitude 38, "We should put our names on the crew list." I brought the magazine home and sent my information to the publisher. My father did not follow through.
Mike from Ventura hires me as crew on his boat, Del Viento. We leave the Bay Area to cruise Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Marriage follows. Kids follow. More cruising plans follow. My father remains in Sausalito.

My father passes away in the spring. We scatter his ashes on the water beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
The trajectory of a life is guided by innumerable and varied forces, forces that cannot be ordained or anticipated: the weather at a particular moment, a phone call missed or answered. But sometimes, a life's trajectory is serendipitously guided by the dreams of another. My father’s cruising dream is his legacy, his lasting gift to me.


  1. Yes, it's a happy-sad story. I love love love that picture of us though.

  2. Great story, nicely told. My dad also spent too much time in bars and on boats, ending up living on a 32-footer named Namaste in Sausalito and later Napa (near my sister). When he died in 2000, we scattered his ashes just beyond Point Bonita. His cruises took him to Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska. We learned to sail together on the Bay (Catalina 27 - we had two of them). My circumstances don't allow me to inherit the dream, but I still fantasize about living on a boat one day. With prices the way they are, it might be a decent retirement option. All the best to you and your family where ever you are out there.


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