I myself had never really traveled. Hawaii, Mexico and the occasional holiday with my family, I was quite content to stay in Southern California forever. And then a job opportunity changed my life.
My father has been building sailboats since 1958. A pioneer in the construction of fiberglass boats, his companies, Columbia, Lancer and Mediterranean Yachts are known throughout the world. In 1984 a Lancer 65′ was being delivered from Newport Beach to a client in Hong Kong. A delivery crew was hired, one of whom was my brother and another being my future husband. The boat still needed a cook and I briefly entertained the idea until I realized that at 19 years old, I would be the only girl on board with three guys. I decided to take a pass and continued my studies at Orange Coast College and working at a retail art supply store.
I went to the boat to say goodbye to my brother, he would be at sea a long time. Their plan was to sail to Hawaii, Guam and then Hong Kong. I met the rest of the crew, the captain and his 17-year-old son and an English guy named Peter who had been travelling the world. I kept in touch with my brother through radio and phone calls when they reached each leg of the trip. They saw blue whales, had some bad weather and some mechanical problems but all in all the trip was fine. He had made friends with Peter and they had planned to do some travelling in Asia when they arrived in Hong Kong.
Several months later when my brother returned, I listened to his tales of the electrical panel shorting out and how they cooked their food on the engine block (my husband’s idea) as all the appliances on the boat were electric! How they would pick up the flying fish that landed on the deck and fry them up for a midnight snack. His travels in Hong Kong and Thailand sounded amazing. He said that Peter was still travelling but that he invited him to stay on his boat in Newport Harbor when he was travelling back through California on his way to the Caribbean in a few months.
In November, I got a call from my brother to meet him and Peter. Peter’s background is in hotel catering and management. He has worked in hotels all over the world as well as managing yacht charter companies and marinas in the Caribbean. The Caribbean is where he learned to sail, and he was going back to a job he had lined up as a charter yacht captain. Peter was looking for a cook to run the boat with him. He needed an American on board, as the boat was a documented vessel. This all has to do with the Jones Act. If a vessel is documented it means that in the time of war, the military can call up the vessel for military use. Thus, the captain has to have the same nationality of the boat. Otherwise, you could have an American vessel with an English captain fighting against England (like that will ever happen). I am sure this is way too much information and not really relevant…
So my brother recommended me for the job, “Ya, she can cook, ya, she knows how to sail”. The job was for six months in the British Virgin Islands on a 52′ sailboat, $500 a month. Of course, I said no. I could not possibly leave Newport Beach, I had to stay! I had a crappy job and was going to community college, why on earth would I want to go to the Caribbean? My sister and her husband took me to dinner that night and told me I was an idiot. “Some of the best sailing in the world is there, “are you stupid? Go!” So, I talked to my dad and explained that I was going half way around the world to meet up with some guy we really didn’t know (although my brother vouched for him- a month at sea is a long time!) to go sailing. To my surprise my father was all for it. He was probably thinking, I won’t have to feed her or help her with her car payment anymore. But more so I think it was because it was something he always wanted to do. Sail the world. He never had the chance. He had his own company and six kids by the time he was 30. His sailing was limited to racing with clients and taking his family to Catalina.
So, on December 23, 1985 we had a going away party of sorts at the Blue Beet. And the next day, wearing my topsiders and carrying my Land’s End bag, my friends accompanied me in a limo (my sister owned a Limousine company at the time and it was the 80’s!) to LAX and I flew through Puerto Rico to a place called Beef Island, Tortola.