A Sail of Two Idiots|
100+ Lessons and Laughs from a Non-Sailor Who Quit the Rat Race, Took the Helm and Sailed to a New Life in the Caribbean
Renee D. Petrillo
International Marine/McGraw Hill, 290pp, $22
Whatever hair-raising, life threatening or down-right silly mistakes this audacious experience-taught sailor/author has made, the choice of her book's title wasn't one of them.
Petrillo explains her impulse this way, "Nothing personifies the idea of freedom more than boating. There's a mishmash of people in the sailing world. Michael and I were of the midlife crisis variety...just turned 40, no kids, decent paying jobs, small house in town (in Arizona), favorite hikes, restaurants, TV shows. We were sooooo bored!" She was also on a quest for warm weather (Arizona's temps were too extreme). "The Caribbean seemed an obvious place to consider"...obviously.
Next problem...how to get there? "While reading several guides...I couldn't help noticing all those pictures of sailboats anchored in various harbors...Hmm...we’d be able to see all the Caribbean Islands without having to worry about how to get there and where to stay...Even better, we could bring along our 16-year old cat, Shaka, while we looked."
See what I mean about her choice of title?
With their house under contract, (doing the math in advance...proceeds of house sale, less down payment on boat, with their numbers, equals $50,000 a year for three or four years). They went boat shopping. The boat they bought was a 37-foot, 2001 Island Spirit. Then the house sale fell through...to quote the author, "AAAAAAGHH!" She‘s still Arizona with the house and the cat. He's in Florida with the boat and a repair list. She sums up the whole experience with several aphorisms, like: B.O.A.T. = "Break Out Another Thousand."
The financial storm is somewhat weathered; they get in a few hours sailing with someone who knows how, hire a captain for the crossing to the Bahamas and head out. The captain "eschewed all electronics (other than his basic hand held GPS), so he didn't understand the chartplotter." Ten minutes away from where they had been anchored, they hit a sand bar. The crossing from Florida to West End Marina, Grand Bahama Island is 98 miles...the territory is "very shallow, very reefy", so they keep their sails up, turn on the engines and try to plow as straight as possible to their destination. "Sailing...motorsailing. Who cared? We were on our way to the Bahamas!" (They made it...but by doing so, they have spent at least all the luck that 100 similar idiots could have used to survive.)
Needless to say, skills improve as distances are accomplished. In fact, in the course of two plus years, Jacumba (named for a cute little California town) and her crew virtually scoured the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, all the way to Grenada. Indeed, they learned a thing or two about sailing on the way, enjoyed some major partying and very pleasant sight-seeing, (which rarely acknowledged any local unpleasantness except as it affected cruisers).
Eventually, and in direct proportion to the money-pile shrinkage, they chose to settle on St Kitts. First mate/husband, Michael is offered a job with a developer and captain/writer Renee can write from anywhere. Envious? Who wouldn't be? Just not enough to follow suit, I hope...at least, not without a better suite of sailing/water/nav/weather/-skills than these folks began with.
Petrillo breaks up the cruising narrative with boxed inserts labeled "lessons". There are 104 of them and they range from financial to emotional to technical. "Lesson 1: Own Up" scrutinizes the initial plan for financing the trip. "With hindsight, I wish we had paid for the boat outright, which would have prevented our obsessing about keeping up its resale value...We might have worked out the kinks and maybe even learned how to sail while we accumulated more cash. Of course, then I wouldn't have had a book to write."
This isn't your "average" account of a sailing experience. From finances to free time, these folks had more than most of us dream of but they had a vision, and ran with it, learned a lot. Taking the tiger by the tail is always admirable. In this case, they found their "perfect climate" and learned a lot and had fun along the way.