Do you ever wonder how a dream begins?

 Can we tell the exact moment when a lifetime passion begins ?


I think that I can trace my dream back to five books that I read one summer vacation when I was 11 or 12 years old. Howard Pease, author of books for boys concerning the sea and ships, started me off. Howard wrote many books mostly about boys who were stowaways or were Shanghaied aboard old sailing vessels or tramp steamers. The boys always were the heroes of the story, stopping the evil captain or crew from some dastardly plot. These books started me off on a lifetime love affair with the sea and ships, followed by books like Moby Dick, Ti Pia, Enchanted Vagabonds, Sailing Alone Around the World. To help matters along my father was a merchant seaman during and after the second world war. His stories of ports around the world whetted my appetite for traveling. Reading these and many other books slowly built up a dream of someday sailing around the world in a sailboat just like old Josh Solcum did in the late 1800's.

Dreams like these have a way of growing over time, and it wasn't until I was 45 years old, that I set out to accomplish my 30 year old dream.

June 1973

When I first stepped aboard the old wooden ketch, she reeked of mold, diesel oil, and general decay. Among all of the sleek, go-fast, fiberglass racing sloops in Jack London marina, she looked like a rank weed in a beautiful tended flower garden. Her top sides were layered with months of dust, dirt and grime. Her halyards were loose and the gentle thunk that they made against the wooden mast was in sharp contrast the the wire halyards clanging against the metal masts of the other 100 or so go-fast sloops.

This yacht broker (why aren't they called salesmen?) had listened to my description of the 'ultimate round-the-world cruising sailboat' with a dead pan expression. I had some very specific requirements. Requirements based on reading every book that I could find about 'blue water' sailing. More that 100 books, read over 30 years, convinced me that I knew what the perfect boat would be. I expected the same answer that I had gotten from twenty other brokers..They would put on their salesman grin and say something like "We haven't got anything like that, but I do have this sleek 'racing-cruiser' that sleeps six...blah,blah,blah". But this broker kept a dead-pan expression and said "she's down on D dock, you'll know her, overlook the cosmetics, she's a sound boat, and has already done one circumnavigation. If you like her we'll do a survey" .

I stood there in the filthy cockpit and dug the key out of my pocket. Opening that lock changed my life for the next 14 years!!. The lock opened easily, but the hatch and companion-way boards were so warped that getting below involved borrowing tools to pry every thing loose. Below was even worse that topside. The boat had been shut tight and even the June heat had not dried the layer of dew that covered the whole inside. I found a rag and made a swipe at the gray colored ceiling...Lo and behold..beautiful white epoxy paint. The mold covered every thing, but under the mold the teak woodwork still had a fine gloss varnish finish. The layout was conventional, facing main bunks, galley on port side aft, quarter berth starboard aft, head forward of mainmast, mainmast stepped through to keel, The only change, and a damn good one was built-in storage drawers on the port side of the forward vee berth. I stood there and mentally went through my 'perfect cruiser' checklist and the match was good, now if only it would fit in my budget.

The broker and I played 'dead pan' with each other as I described what was wrong , while he extolled her virtues. We finally agreed that I'd spend all of the next day carefully going over the boat, and if I liked her, then I would pay for a survey. The survey cost would be deducted if I bought her. He then handed me the inventory list, four typewritten sheets!! That night I went over the inventory lists and almost everything required for a 'well found' yacht was there. Three anchors, 600 ft chain, 6 extra sails, survival raft, etc. The list went on and on. Obviously, somebody was getting ready to leave but now had the boat up for sale. Why?

The next day was a long one, starting at dawn and ending near sunset. I pulled that boat apart, checking for any flaws that I could find. Everything that was wrong was pretty minor. I knew that the survey would do a better job, but by now I was pretty sure that she was what I was looking for.

Over drinks the broker and I haggled. The asking price of 15K was a reasonable price. After some additional dickering I countered with 11K, depending on clean survey. The short of it was that on the 14th day of June 1972 I became the worlds' proudest owner of the worlds' scruffiest boat !!

Now that I was the captain of a world class cruiser and ready for a circumnavigation, there remained only one thing more...TO LEARN HOW TO SAIL !!

odj on the delta

Oliver David Jones on SteamBoat Slough Sacramento River, California July 1973


Bought a sailboat and you don't know how to sail ?

That is the question Alan asked me. He stared at me like I was nuts or something. He was right ! I had read everything that I could find about sailing...I had the theory done pat, my head was crammed with it, but I had never sailed before. Alan Acrell was the only 'real' sailor that I knew..he owned a 23 ft Columbia and had even raced ! So Alan and his wife were invited aboard with the following instructions..'sail the boat from Berkeley to the Golden Gate, performing all of the basic sailing maneuvers' then I would take over, lowering the sails, raising them, and repeat all of the maneuvers myself. That day was my sole instruction for sailing. I raised the sails and went through all of the basic maneuvers myself, even to going forward and changing head sails, and reefing mainsails after we cleared the 'gate'. Alan confessed that he was nervous, never have being outside the 'gate' before. I figured that if I got this far I could do anything (how dumb we are, when we think that we're invincible in our ignorance).

The best way to learn to sail is, very simply, go sailing.

But before I could go sailing there were a few MINOR (!) problems to take care of :

1. I was married to a woman who thought that my dream was a 'crack-pot' idea, and she wasn't about to give up everything to go sailing.

2. I worked for a living and couldn't just walk off, climb on a boat and just sail off into the sunset. I needed some money and income.

3. I didn't really want to sail alone. I'm a people kind of guy who had never really been alone before. So I needed crew.

 As with most problems, they can be solved with a little thought, luck and planning. For instamce:

1. If Ruth wouln't go with me, and I definately was going, then either we separate or divorce. Her first thought was that there was something wrong with me and insisted that I seek help.`Both the medical doctor, the 'shrink', and our best friends gave me a clean bill of health and they even expressed envy for was I was about to do. Ruth was very angry and said that not only were we to divorce but she would see that I would be flat broke 'after she got done with me'. I had been willing to split with the price of the boat and ten thousand for a couple of years living expenses. Her lawyer said that I would get 'zilch', so though I didn't want to I got my own lawyer. When the 'smoke cleared' I had not only what I was willing to settle for, but lots more money and property.

2. The second problem was solved by the solution to the first problem! After the divorce settlement I figured that I had enough money to sail for five or six years. Plenty to sail clear around the world.

3. The third problem resolved itself a couple of months after Ruth and I seperated. Our very best friends Mary and Merv were also going through a divorce, and I had spent a lot of time consuling both of them to stay together. After their seperation Mary and I drew closer and I asked what she was going to do. She planned to return to college and finally get her degree. I asked her to postpone it for a year and come sailing with me. BINGO she said YES. So now I had crew.

So much for the Prolog....

TIMELINE Moves to an index of all the sailing stories.

First passage south continues the stories in sequence.

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