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From Stagecoach Reservoir to Fiji: Sailing chronicles of a Tica 

We bought our first sailboat, a tiny 15 foot Coronado, from a toothless fat man in a white unmarked van outside of an empty Westminster parking lot. For $500. Trailer and sails included. To say Bravo is an improvement on that first choice is an understatement.

Andy and older sis figuring out how to re-rig the SV Moneysucker

I tend not to count a weekend capsizing the SV Moneysucker at Stagecoach reservoir in Colorado as my first sailing experience. We spent more time draining water out from its not-so-watertight hull than actually sailing it. In retrospect though, it was a fantastic experience. It taught us the importance of trust, teamwork, and fiberglass repair. And not to buy things from questionable men in unmarked vans in an abandoned Big Lots parking lot.

Andy draining water out of the SV Moneysucker

Fast forward to September, one year later. The Moneysucker was still in our Denver garage when Andy got a call from his cousin. He needed crew to bring his sailboat, Bravo, up to San Francisco from Los Angeles. Few people tend to raise their hands to volunteer for this up wind passage, but we were game. Andy desperately wanted to sail, and we felt I needed a true sailing experience.

I spent my first time sailing out of Los Angeles on night watch. Riding swells in the dark. Learning to steer in the right direction by keeping an eye on the instrument panel that shows the heading. Not before being schooled by Aaron for 45 minutes on what a bad idea it would be for me to fall overboard, and how tough rescues can be. No need to emphasize, I didn’t intend to test this theory.  I was also tasked with keeping an eye out for lights (passing vessels) and, as we neared Santa Barbara, the massive monstrous oil rigs. It was so cold I wore foul weather gear, boots and a warm hat the entire trip. I was harnessed and tethered to a secure clip at the base of the helm, Andy sleeping by my side. I was taught from day one that two people should stay up top, should the person on night watch need assistance – a practice we’ve kept to this day. I spent 90% of the time up top, to keep myself from getting sea sick. I remember being very proud of myself for making breakfast one morning – coffee and oatmeal. Aaron said “you call this breakfast?!” I’m pretty sure he was just giving me a hard time. I remember replying “what color rope is that?” when being asked to bring in the main sheet. I am so grateful I didn’t get kicked off the boat.

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Two years later, I’d do this again. Bash into the wind with Andy and Aaron up from LA to SF for 90 consecutive hours. Two years after that, I’d be writing about this memory from Fiji, having sailed our sweet butts over here. In between, there was a relocation to San Francisco, American Sailing Association courses, sailing clubs, Delta Ditch runs, beer can races, weekends to Half Moon Bay and Drake’s Bay, and countless hours over a 4-year period in the ultimate sailing school that is the San Francisco Bay.

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My first time at the helm

Some sailors are surprised I stuck with sailing after beating up the California coast in rough conditions my first time out at sea. Most Costa Ricans are surprised I sail at all. How can you avoid getting bit by the sailing bug when you wake up to dolphins dancing at the bow, hundreds of them off the coast of Catalina, and witness a display of breaching whales in Big Sur? You can’t. Once you see what’s possible, the rest is history.

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A whale outside of Big Sur, California

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Visit from a large pod of dolphins