Do you ever wonder how a
Can we tell the exact moment when a lifetime passion
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.
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 !!
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
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
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
So much for the Prolog....
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