Founder & Instructor
This seemed like the dream of a lifetime: to get paid for sailing and working on boats.
I learned to sail the summer I was 11 years old. Our family vacationed at a beach house on Mission Bay for a week and Dad rented a small wooden daysailer to "show us the ropes." He had sailed in his youth and wanted to share his passion for the wind and the water. The experience is still vivid in my memory now over 30 years later. My older brother recorded it on his super eight movie camera, and now, transferred to video, I can remind myself of the tranquility and adventure of my first encounter with what would ultimately become an obsession that would dominate my life in years to come. I wore a white sailor hat on my butch hair cut as we reached back and forth on a gentle breeze in Mariner's Basin.
When I was in high school, Dad bought an M16 scow, a high performance 16-foot flat bottom boat with way too much sail and no ballast. The crew had to be lively to keep it upright by staying on the high side. On a windy day it could plane like a rocket! Unfortunately I had more practice righting the boat than planning it. I once sailed it right up and out of a small residential lake when a gust took control. That was my first opportunity to learn the fine art of fiberglass repair and how it stays sticky and doesn't get hard if you don't know what you are doing.
My high school buddies and I often went to Saguaro Lake or Lake Pleasant to use the sailboat and we developed an interest in scuba diving. This led us to dive trips in Rocky Point and San Carlos, Mexico, where I would return many years later to sail the Baja. I had tried power boats for a while but was never able to afford one that would run consistently.
My buddy and I even had a submarine, a project that someone else had abandoned. It was a wing tank from an old jet with an electric motor and two seats cut out for scuba divers to sit in. Her name was proudly scrawled on the side, "Sea Gar" and it did look like a cigar.
When I was going to ASU, I came across a Cortez 16 sailboat that had not been finished. It needed rigging and a trailer. It was delivered to my backyard where it sat on the ground until I had raised enough money to complete the project. A picture of that boat hangs in my office with the beautiful blue and white sails flapping in the breeze while at anchor. I had a lot to learn about anchoring but I had learned a little about rigging and trailers. I took that boat to San Diego and also found out about outboard motors that quit, halyards that get tangled and people who live aboard and don't like you to drift down on their boats. (They can be rude!)
After graduation, I took a job in the Midwest and met some guys who sailed on Lake Michigan out of Monroe Harbor in Chicago. The Windy City should be called the Cold and Rainy and Windy City. The best day of sailing there was like our worst in Arizona, but it was still sailing. Our boat was a 29-foot Tumblaren built out of mahogany in Norway in the 1930s and sailed across the ocean to the Saint Lawrence Seaway, through the locks to Chicago.
Wooden boats need a lot of work. Old ones need more. For every hour we sailed, we spent two or three hours working on her. I remember sailing from Chicago across Lake Michigan to Benton Harbor, Michigan and Michigan City, Indiana. The waves were huge! We would drop into a trough and ride to the crest, then back down into a trough. I felt like a child going up and down on a teeter-totter, looking over the fence to get a glimpse of other boats occasionally and then being surrounded by water again. I can see how the Edmund Fitzgerald broke in half. I'm thankful we were in relatively good weather (for Chicago).
I returned to Arizona after getting enough bad weather for a lifetime. Here boating is a year round pastime, not something to be crammed into 3 months with 9 months to work on the boat in between. Maybe that's why wooden boats are popular back there. No time to sail them, just time to work on them when it's too cold. A friend of mine had a business called Cape Cod Fiberglass. He taught me a lot of secrets about boat building and repairing fiberglass, including how to make it so it wasn't sticky two months later. I owned a Santana 21 at that time. It was a sweet-sailing boat and took me to many exciting and wonderful places in Arizona, California and Mexico.
When I had an opportunity to go to work for Sails West as the service manager, I couldn't pass it up. This seemed like the dream of a lifetime: to get paid for sailing and working on boats. That was more than ten years ago and I have since had many unforgettable experiences: chartering in the Caribbean, Florida and the West Coast, and cruising in Mexico and the waters of beautiful Arizona.