Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Last Post of Flying Cloud

This is the last post, number 295, for the sailing yacht Flying Cloud. I'd like to devote this post to all the people who helped make this amazing journey a reality. They say it takes a village to raise a child; I say it takes an army of friends to help you sail halfway around the world.  I'd like to thank people in chronological order, and save a very special thank you for the end.

There is no doubt that first on this list has to be Trygve and Anni Johnson of Largo, Florida. Meryl met Anni over forty years ago when they were both Pan Am flight attendants. Over the years we traveled the world with Tryg and Anni, from the Napali Coast Trail on Kauai and the British Virgin Islands to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Panama, and beyond. 

When we initially bought the boat in Fort Lauderdale in May 2011, we needed a boatyard where we could refit and prepare Flying Cloud for offshore sailing. Without a skip of a beat Tryg said, "Why don't you bring it over to Tampa and put it in the parking lot of my factory?"  Tryg even arranged for a buddy who owns a large boat transport company to pick up Flying Cloud in Fort Lauderdale and transport it to The Wood Company in Clearwater (outside of Tampa).  We left the boat on the huge trailer, which solved the problem of how to engineer the boat stands and supports you would normally get in a boatyard. Also, if there were ever a threatening hurricane we could simply hook up a truck and take it someplace safe.

Although Tryg laughs about it now, I know he was thinking "Oh we'll have Walter here for about a month while he gets the boat ready."  That month stretched from June all the way through December. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I was living with Anni and Tryg for most of that time. My routine was to fly down to Tampa from Seattle around Monday and work for a week or two, then fly back to Seattle to see Meryl. In Florida, my daily routine was to have breakfast, drive to work with Tryg, then walk across the parking lot to Flying Cloud to start whatever projects I had that day. Tryg graciously left me with the keys to his BMW in case I needed to go get tools, parts, etc. After work, we'd drive home together, grab a couple of beers, jump in the pool of their beautiful lakefront home, and tease Anni about what was for dinner. Anni is a fantastic cook and if it weren't for the heat and hard work I surely would have put on fifty pounds.  Towards the end of the year, Meryl took early retirement and came down to help out. I'm sure Anni was delighted to have another woman to talk with after putting up with Tryg and me for all that time.

Meanwhile, back at Wood Company, I mentioned to Tryg and his brother Butch that it was around 110 degrees inside the boat.  When I returned from Seattle the next week Butch had undergrounded a 220v line out to the boat and installed an air conditioning unit on the top. It was like I had died and gone to heaven. It was now a cool 76 degrees inside the boat all day. On another occasion, I was pondering how to run the diesel engine so we could do some maintenance.  

Several days later Butch came back with an ingenious rig consisting of two 50-gallon drums welded together, with the top one filled with water. The height worked out perfectly with the waterline of the boat and we ran a hose down to the raw water intake under the hull. We could now run the engine at will (although the factory workers had to be careful of the exhaust water splashing out the side of the boat). Butch is a genius at "McGyvering" mechanical things together. Part of the success of Tryg's millwork company was all the innovations Butch made at duplicating much more expensive jigs and machinery out of found materials at the factory. I could go on for pages about other ways Anni, Tryg, and Butch helped out, but I couldn't have done this without them. A huge thank you to the Johnson family.

It was nice to be able to pay back a bit when we invited Tryg and Anni to help us transit the Panama Canal on Flying Cloud, a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people, and when Tryg flew to the Galapagos Islands to crew on the 18-day passage to the Marquesas. We learned a lot about each other on that trip and solidified what was already a good friendship. Another thanks to Anni and Tryg.

Our second shout-out goes to Jim and Chris Berry in Sammamish, WA. Jim and Tryg were childhood friends and we met the Berrys through the Johnsons. The three couples had a long history of hiking and camping trips, and our kids all knew each other.  Jim has devoted his life to helping others through his volunteer work, and it was natural for him to be out at North Bend to help us pack up our house and move into a nearby storage unit. When we flew back from various parts of the world, the Berry's always graciously hosted us at their home and listened to our far-flung tales of adventure and discovery. They even babysat several pieces of our furniture, so much so that the bed in the guest room was our daughter's old bed. It was so reassuring to know that we had a welcoming place to stay during our Seattle visits and to wake up to the smell of Chris' famous coffee cake at breakfast time. Thanks, Berry's for everything you've done for us over the years, 

There are also a plethora of people to say thanks to who helped get the boat ready: Carl Humbert and the crew at Elite Marine Specialists who helped with the installation of equipment and bottom paint, Andrew Cheney and the riggers at SSMR Riggers, and diesel engine specialist extraordinaire Dave McFarland at DEMPSI.

Leaving the Salt Creek Boat Yard in January 2012 and venturing out into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time, we quickly realized how little we knew about ocean sailing, and especially about transiting the waters of the Bahamas and the US East Coast. Our first major stop was Key West, Florida. We had barely anchored when a dingy flying the Conch Republic flag came roaring up. It was Capt. Bob Bloecher who lived in the anchorage on his Catalina 42 Digger Kat. He gave us the 411 (everything we needed to know about Key West) and several days later even took us into shore on his dingy so we could drive to St. Petersburg, Florida for a wedding. He also offered to watch our boat while we were gone. While we were amazed by his hospitality, we came to learn this was typical of the bluewater cruisers with whom we spent the next six years. 

Our first set of guests onboard were old-time friends Paul and Irene Ballew, neighbors from our first house in Eastgate when Meryl and I were newly married. Paul and I had later worked together at Prepared Response and he and Irene were as good of friends as you can find in life. In 2012 they flew into Marsh Harbor, Abacos, and joined us on the boat for a week in Hopetown.  We stayed in a marina and enjoyed the blissful buzz produced by too many Goombay Rum punches. In the later years, we stayed at the Ballews house in Issaquah (to give the Berrys a break) and were spoiled by Irene's incredible cooking and Paul's martini hours. We always talked late into the night getting caught up in each other's lives. Their hospitality is unmatched and we were always made to feel welcome.  We ended our cruising trip with a wonderful visit with the Ballews in Australia. Thanks so much, guys.

It's important to note that in five of our six years of cruising we were in primarily third-world countries. Many times we (and other cruisers) were the only white people there. Many people have asked us if we were fearful during those times. Quite the contrary, we actually felt safer than when we were in the US because the local people always seemed to keep an eye on us and protect us.  As an example, when we were in Coral Harbor, at one end of Providence Island in The Bahamas, we had to take a local bus up to Nassau to buy supplies. At the transfer point of the bus, in a rather sketchy section of Nassau, I asked the bus driver where we had to walk to catch the second bus.  He was on his break at the time, but said, "Just follow me, and stay close." Since this native Bahamian was the size of an NFL linebacker, I wasn't too worried. He took us about two blocks (we would never have found the place) and told other locals to help us ID the proper bus when it came. He wouldn't accept a tip for his services. The same day, on the way back to Coral Harbor (which is off the normal bus route), two local ladies sitting behind us heard us trying to figure how to get home. One walked up to the bus driver and gave him specific instructions on where to take us, and then told us not to pay a penny more than $1 for the service. This was typical everywhere we traveled. We have literally hundreds of these stories. The bottom line: we found if you treat people with courtesy and respect, they will return the favor.

To help keep this post to a reasonable length, the remainder will be photos and captions of our sailing friends as we encountered them along the way.

Our first buddy boat friends were Heather and Derek (and son Grant) on the catamaran Parallax. When we first met them at Coral Harbour near Nassau, she was pointing out various stars. I joking said, "What are you, some sort of rocket scientist?" She quickly replied, "No, actually I'm an astrophysicist. I helped program the Hubble space telescope." Husband Derek taught Physics at the Air Force Academy. Lots of brains in that family.

At Norman's Cay in the Bahamas we met Jeff and Kelly on Tiger Sea. They were as fun-loving a couple as you will find. Both were expert divers and Jeff taught us how to find and clean conch shells. We spent many carefree days with them diving and exploring the island. We coincidentally anchored near them in the same harbor the following year and it was great fun to see them again.

In the Abacos, we met Kevin and Sharon Duffy on s/v Timaru. Sharon was the penultimate planner (from her corporate days) and figured out our courses through the Abacos and Exumas all the way down to Georgetown and back, even calculating where we'd get the best deals on diesel fuel. We spent many enjoyable days with them at Emerald Bay Marina and in Georgetown, and sailed all the way back up to Cape Canaveral, Florida together. They were so thoughtful to let us use their home in Annapolis when we later sailed up Chesapeake Bay.  While relationships with other boat people are generally tightly bonded, you typically didn't know much of people's past lives. It turned out Kevin and I had very similar jobs with two high-tech competitors, but didn't discover that until well into our friendship.

We met the crew from Field Trip during a "going south on the Thorny Path" seminar in Georgetown, Exumas. Mark, a recently retired tech executive, and his beautiful wife Sarah, a school teacher, were headed south along the Thorny Path, which involves some tricky early morning and night sailing off the coasts of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and typically ends at the southern Caribbean island of Grenada. Sarah and I talked about buddy boating and we began a casual "shadowing" of each other. Mark and Sarah had a pristine 44 ft. Antares catamaran straight from the factory in Argentina. With his state-of-the-art electronics, he could pull in weather charts via a satellite dish which was invaluable to us as we cruised south. Since the headwinds are notoriously strong along this route, we tended to sail during the night and anchor around 10 am when the winds got stronger. It's impossible to list all the help Mark and Sarah provided to us, and we are forever grateful.

During our trip down the eastern coast of the US in 2012, we ended up on the Megadock in Charleston, South Carolina. We had a dock party one evening that was attended by a group of Europeans, Brits, and Aussies who had just crossed the Atlantic from the Med. This group included Americans Kurt and Katie on Interlude, a Deerfoot 74 and John and Deb on Moonshadow, a Deerfoot 2-62; Brits Chris and Sue (with kids Wilf and Sid) on Yindee Plus, Mark and Sue on Maculsha, a Bowman 40, and Steve and Carol on Innamorata II; and Aussies Andrew and Clare on Eye Candy (Bavaria 40). We ended up loosely sailing with most of this group all the way through to the South Pacific. The amount of expertise represented in this group was amazing, and once again, it's impossible to thank everyone who helped us along the way. 
While staying in Portsmouth, Virginia with Eye Candy and Innamorata II, we met one of the most helpful guys on our whole trip:  Bob McBride (walking in photo). Bob ran a yacht chandlery called Mile Marker One where we all bought various gear. On the 4th of July he invited all of us over to his house to enjoy the pool and do laundry. He even ordered a bunch of pizzas and beer for the celebration. We'll always remember your kindness, Bob.

We probably spent more time with Australians Andrew and Clare on Eye Candy than any other boat. We seemed to end up together at various anchorages from the Caribbean to South Pacific over our six-year voyage. Andrew, an engineer, was always available to help me with various problems on the boat. Miss you guys and good luck in your future travels.

While in Portsmouth, we had a ton of boat projects to complete. I had to remove the traveler and I couldn't get the screws to budge. Someone mentioned there was a machinist who lives down the dock. I introduced myself to Paul Boggs and described my problem. He was busy working on his own boat and gave me some tips to do it myself. A bit later he came walking down the dock with his tool bag. He carefully showed me various techniques for removing frozen screws and got the screw out. He used to be an aircraft mechanic and said he spent all day removing screws from Navy Tomcat jets. Thanks my friend for helping us out.

John and Deb Rogers from San Diego owned a beautiful Deerfoot 62 sailboat. We met them various times on our way to the South Pacific. They kindly invited us to sail from Papeete to Moorea on Moonshadow to enjoy the Pacific Puddlejump party.

Brits Chris and Sue, with twins Wilf and Sid, on Yindee Plus, were part of the Megadock group we originally meet in Charleston. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with them and thoroughly enjoyed talking with their very knowledgeable boys. Yindee Plus ended up sailing around the world.

Also part of the British contingent, Steve and Carol on Innamorata II wandered around Port Washington on Long Island Sound. Steve was a former rugby player and looked the part. A great fun-loving couple.

The crew of Ednbal (name of a small tree frog in Australia), Roger and Sasha (on left) and Eye Candy (crew on right).  Ednbal was another of the boats we spent a lot of time with across the Caribbean and South Pacific. Rodger and Sasha, both electrical engineers, were always helping us with various electrical problems on the boat. Thanks so much, guys.

Brits Phil and Monica on Good Golly Miss Molly (Phil was a former rock musician) spent a lot of time with us in Cartegena and the San Blas Islands. They were always a lot of fun to hang out with and we enjoyed their company.  

Our son-in-law's mother, Dottie, and her friend Dirck, actually visited us on the boat more than anyone else with visits in Block Island, St. Martin, and the Galapagos. We had a great time exploring and enjoying Meryl's delicious meals on the boat.

Long time friends Jim and Mary Ann from Seattle flew down to Staniel Cay in the Exumas for a wonderful visit that included sailing and snorkeling in the James Bond Thunderball cave. Jim was a former crew member of mine on Phoenix, our first boat. Sadly, Jim passed away this November. He was an incredible guy and will be fondly remembered.

We met Belgium Albert and his wife Josie in Trinidad when we hauled out at Peakes Boatyard. Albert helped me with some rigging issues and we ended up buying a drifter sail off his 50 ft. boat, Exbury.

Escape Velocity, a Manta 40 catamaran, is another boat we spent a lot of time cruising with all the way to Sydney, Australia. We spent Christmas together and always enjoyed their company. Jack and Marce were great fun to be with and we admire that they are still out there cruising somewhere in Thailand.

Long time sailing friend Rod Johnson and his wife Mary Helen flew to Antigua to visit Flying Cloud. It was just before Antiqua Rack Week so we enjoyed walking the docks at English Harbor and seeing all the superyachts and race boats.

We met Pat and Carol on Songbird in Bonaire where Pat helped reintroduce Meryl to SCUBA diving. Pat was a former jet air-ambulance pilot when he met Carol. He had incredible levels of patience getting both of us back into diving and we enjoyed some great dives right off the back of our boat.

Anchored in the famous pirate enclave of Portobello near Panama, Steve and Sondra on Yonder came over in their dingy and introduced themselves. Steve was the former spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute and Sondra had a rather interesting (but unidentified) government job. We explored the old forts and environs of Portobello, and later met up with them in the Galapagos Islands where they went on a tour.

Linda (on right) and Chuck (not pictured) sailed on the vintage yacht Jacaranda. Linda was very talented and made stunning shell necklaces that sold at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Chuck was an old salt who had sailed the South Pacific as a young man. He came from a family of famous San Diego sailors known at Holihan's Navy. On the left is Sandra, a Swiss lady who sailed with her dad Franz on the yacht Kyory. They were both having the time of their life.

Dave, a former American Airlines pilot, and Kim, a former AA flight attendant, sailed on the beautiful catamaran Maluhia. We first met them in the tiny harbor of Hiva Oa where they hosted an incredible Thanksgiving dinner for a large number of cruisers. Dave was probably the most knowledgeable and helpful captain we met; it seemed every time I turned around he was there helping us with something. Thanks so much, El Capitan.

We met Ryan and Nicole on Naoma in Fakarava Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. We were at a 4th of July party when the host said "Why don't we all give a brief description of ourselves." I remember Nicole looking over at Ryan and saying "This should be interesting." Even at his relatively young age, Ryan has had an eventful life. A super athlete, he rode on Lance Armstrong's cycling team in Texas, ran a kiting school in San Francisco, was an EMT, was on the Para Olympic Sailing Team, and is the poster boy for the National Muscular Dystrophy Association. He never let MD control his life; he found ways to compensate. He is a truly remarkable man. He's still out sailing in Tahiti with Nicole, a super swimmer and former Baywatch ocean lifeguard in San Diego. What a remarkable couple!

We ran into Huzzah in the Tuamotos when Captain Jerry and crew Fred and Ken were coming into a tricky pass and I served as Net Controller on the high-frequency radio net the cruisers used. Turned out Jerry and I had been competing skippers when we raced Thunderbird sailboats in Seattle, and Ken was crew on another T-Bird. Also in the picture on the right are Lili and Steve on Liward. Steve is an accomplished guitarist and singer and entertained everyone in various bars and other venues. Lili was a rocket fuels engineer with NASA.

At the same 4th of July party where we met Naoma, we also met Mark and Cheryl (also from San Diego) on their Beneteau 50 French Curve. Mark is an architect and Cheryl is a graphic designer. She also had experience working as a stewardess on superyachts. We hung out with them in the Tuamotos, Tahiti, and other South Pacific ports. We crewed a 6-man ocean racing canoe with them during the Pacific Puddlejump party in Moorea and even came in first in our heat.
We met Charlie and Jenny on a Catalina 50 Lady in Shelter Bay, Panama. Charlie was a former Oklahoma oilman and a complete character. I loved his deep southern accent compared to Jenny's very proper British accent. We enjoyed exploring the environs of Shelter Bay and continued to meet up in Fiji and other spots, just generally hanging out and laughing with them.
Jeff and Katie on Messaluna were true "cheeseheads" being Green Bay Packer fans and having come from Wisconsin. Jeff was a great guitarist and we had a fun time in the small Marquesan village Hapatoni celebrating New Years' with the locals. Katie was one of those women who could cook and make just about anything. They are still out cruising (but temporarily on hiatus in Wisconsin until COVID is over).

We met Mark and Aileen on Wavelength anchored in a small bay on Ta'haa, French Polynesia, during a rather bad storm. Mark was an anaesthesiologist and Aileen had a nursing background. We ended up snorkeling the fabulous Coral River and exploring the vanilla farms on Ta'haa. They even later visited us in our new home in Bend, OR.

Neil on Pandora is the first truly famous sailor I'd ever met. He was a skipper on the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race. Neil also worked as a superyacht skipper and his wife Heather was a chief stewardess. We met them in Vanuatu, where Neil helped me through Customs (he speaks fluent French) as well as Customs in New Caledonia. They were anchored near us in Pittwater, Australia when we were selling Flying Cloud, and treated us to a wonderful day-sail aboard Pandora in Sydney Harbor as our going away gift.  They are now in COVID-free New Zealand and continuing to enjoy the cruising lifestyle.
We became good friends with the Austrian boat, Plastic Plankton, in French Polynesia. Katharina is an Austrian doctor, and Wolfgang (Wolfie) is an architect. Katharina kept busy helping locals and other yachties with medical issues along the way. We enjoyed snorkeling with them at various locations and even ran into them in Sydney during our final days. They completed their circumnavigation a couple years ago. After we sold Flying Cloud, we traveled to Vienna, Austria, and enjoyed a delicious traditional Austrian dinner with them. They are recently married and are now back to their careers.

This trip would not have been possible without the support of our children. Our son, Brad, his wife, Ashely, and our two grandchildren Brody and Bennett, have always shared their house and hospitality during our numerous trips to Seattle.  We had many long-distance conversations with Brad, especially when we were stuck in a bad storm off the coast of Tonga and were not sure if we could get into the harbor in one piece. Thanks for being there for us.

The final thank you is to my daughter, Christa, and her husband, Nash, along with kids Quinn and Conner.  Most children would be mortified to have their 60+ year-old parents setting off to sail around the world, but Brad and Christa said, "Go for it!"  World travelers and adventurers themselves, they have been totally supportive of our trip from Day One. When we traveled back to the US to visit friends the Nash-Webbers generously let us use their car (on numerous occasions). We traveled to Hong Kong over four times during our six-year voyage and they were always consummate hosts, taking us on outings, introducing us to their friends, and exploring exotic restaurants. In 2012 we met them in Neisko, Japan for some great skiing. They tried to visit us in the Marquesas, but the scheduling was difficult, so we all met in Okinawa where they hosted us and we all had a great time. We visited them at their summer place in McCall, Idaho in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and enjoyed hiking, waterskiing, and SUPing. Finally, when we decided to move to Bend they let us stay in their newly purchased home for over six months, even letting us use their car while we searched for a new house and a new car. They have always been there for us, and for that, we are forever grateful.

I sailed an ocean, unsettled ocean

Through restful waters and deep commotion

Often frightened, unenlightened

Sail on, sail on sailor

I wrest the waters, fight Neptune's waters

Sail through the sorrows of life's marauders

Unrepenting, often empty

Sail on, sail on sailor

Caught like a sewer rat alone but I sail

Bought like a crust of bread, but oh do I wail

Seldom stumble, never crumble

Try to tumble, life's a rumble

Feel the stinging I've been given

Never ending, unrelenting

Heartbreak searing, always fearing

Never caring, persevering

Sail on, sail on, sailor

I work the seaways, the gale-swept seaways

Past shipwrecked daughters of wicked waters

Uninspired, drenched and tired

Wail on, wail on, sailor

Always needing, even bleeding

Never feeding all my feelings

Damn the thunder, must I blunder

There's no wonder all I'm under

Stop the crying and the lying

And the sighing and my dying

Sail on, sail on sailor

Friday, April 24, 2020

End of a Dream

 During the 14-hour flight from Sydney to San Francisco, we had lots of time to think about our last six years sailing Flying Cloud. Departing on Jan. 2, 2012, from Tampa, Fl, we sailed around Florida to Key West, then out to the Bahamas for a season, back to Cape Canaveral and up the US East Coast to Newport, RI, then back down to the Bahamas, Exumas, Windward and Leeward Islands, and on to Grenada for hurricane season, followed by a trip back up to the Virgin Islands and down to Grenada to complete one more season in the Caribbean.  

In November 2014 we departed Grenada to Bonaire, then sailed across the Caribbean Sea to Cartegena, Columbia for Christmas, and on to the San Blas Islands and through the Panama Canal in March 2015. We soon departed for the Galapagos Islands, then sailed our longest passage, 18-days to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. We spent two seasons in French Polynesia, then departed for remote Palmerston Island, Fiji, Vanuatu, and finally crossing the Tasman Sea to Newport, Australia -- 17,000 miles of blue water.  Whew!

How was all this possible? I remembered that surprising day in North Bend in 2010 when Meryl mentioned to me that "maybe she'd be interested in doing some bluewater cruising." Wow! We then put a loose plan in place where we'd slowly start looking at sailboats to see what we liked, what was available, and at what price.  After two months of looking in the Seattle area, we happened upon a boat we really liked called a Taswell 44, a custom ocean cruiser built in Taiwan. The problem was there weren't very many of this type of boat for sale -- anywhere in the world. I worried that our search for a boat would drag on forever and Meryl would lose her interest in the whole idea.

We bought the boat in Ft. Lauderdale, put her on a flatbed trailer, and drove her across Florida to Tampa where a friend had a millworks with an enclosed security fence.

I recall the Saturday morning when our broker called and said "Quick, get on the Internet and look at this boat that was just listed on Yachtworld; it looks exactly like what you are looking for."  There was only one poor quality photo that didn't tell us much, but the price was certainly attractive. The broker said he'd have a buddy in Florida look at it. Later in the day our broker's partner showed up and recognized the boat immediately; it was a Seattle boat named Caroline that he had sold to a real estate developer in Telluride who had used it as "dock queen" (a boat that never leaves the dock) in Florida. I was already flying to Florida to help sail a boat from Boca Raton up to New York, so I got to take a quick look at the Taswell the day before we left. It was a perfect boat for us and we made an offer that very day. The only problem, we weren't remotely ready to do this. We hadn't sold our Catalina 36, our house in North Bend, or acquired any of the equipment needed to sail the boat offshore. Luckily a bunch of improbable things fell into place that allowed us to purchase the boat and move forward.

So began the mad summer of selling our Catalina 36, purchasing the Taswell in Ft. Lauderdale, moving it to a friend's factory in Largo, and Walter commuting every week to Tampa to work on the boat. We put in an incredible amount of time, sweat, and money into making the boat "bluewater ready." I remember a July day when the guys in the air-conditioned millworks were staring at me outside, drenched in sweat while working on the hull of the boat. That's when I learned why you don't do hard labor outside in Florida in the 100-degree heat and humidity. It did, however, serve to acclimatize me to the tropical heat over time.

About six months later, on Jan. 2, 2012, we departed Tampa Bay, sailing under the Bridge of Americas and south to Key West. While we had sailed our whole lives, what we were about to undertake was way beyond our experience and abilities. It was like going from sand-lot baseball to the big leagues in one fell swoop. And as Captain Ron said, "If it's going happen it's going to happen out there." After surviving three hurricanes during our first summer, we found that Captain Ron was right. The learning curve was steep and the consequences could be fatal. I remember thinking "Holy Moly, what have we gotten ourselves into?"

Waking from my reminiscence, our United Airlines 747 had begun its descent and I looked out the window to see the familiar coastline of San Francisco peeking through the clouds. We cleared customs at SFO and took the next flight up to Seattle. Talk about culture shock after living abroad for the last six years. Grid-locked traffic, stores on every corner, and a crazy orange-faced man "running" the country. It was so good to see our son, our grandchildren, and close friends after the long separation. We stayed for about two weeks with our close friends, Paul and Irene Ballew, and spent much of our time planning for the next phase of our life. It was cold in Seattle and I remember wearing socks to bed for the first time in years. Back to reality.

Our trusty moving crew helps unload hundreds of boxes at our new Bend home.
We did eventually get a car into this garage.

While in Seattle, we got a year’s worth of medical appointments done and had many enjoyable visits getting caught up with the grandkids and friends. We went out to our storage unit in North Bend, opened the roll-up door, and were met with a solid wall of stuff -- all our possessions that we hadn't seen for the last seven years. Why did we keep all this stuff? We then rented a big black Chevy Tahoe (think FBI Swat Team), stuffed it full of as much junk as the car would hold (including our eight bags from the boat), and drove seven hours to Bend, Oregon. The drive down through the wheat fields of eastern Washington was very cathartic for me; I love the wide-open spaces. I guess they remind me of the endless expanses of ocean we were used to after six years at sea. 

Choosing a new city to live in after spending almost all of our life in Seattle was a difficult decision. We loved living in Seattle and raising our kids there, but it had changed dramatically since we left. Traffic jams, the constant buzz of competitiveness from all the high tech companies, the sky-high housing costs, and the months-on-end of depressing clouds and rain made our decision easy.

Hiking along the Crooked River beneath Smith Rocks near Bend with our daughter and her family.

With our daughter relocating from Hong Kong, her family also had to choose a new city to live in. Ironically we chose Bend independently from her, but for all the same reasons. A ski and summer resort town nestled near the Cascade foothills, but surrounded by high desert. The smell of mountain air and fresh pine trees in the morning, the 25-minute drive to the ski area in the winter and the 5-minute ride to some of the best mountain biking in the US, all capped by the near-constant sunshine and dry climate made Bend a perfect city for us. I loved the local bumper sticker: "I live where you vacation."

The Deschutes River in front of our daughter's house is perfect for paddleboarding and inner tube rides in the summer.

We were very fortunate that our daughter Christa, and son-in-law Nash, had just bought a house in Bend (they were on a one-year sabbatical traveling around the world after living in Hong Kong for 15 years). We stayed with Christa and the grandkids for about two weeks, then they flew back to Spain to finish their sabbatical. We were so lucky to stay in their beautiful old house right on the Deschutes River near downtown Bend. Unfortunately, the house was quite old and difficult to remodel, so Christa planned to demolish it in August and build a new house on the site. Meryl and I now had one priority in life: to find a new house and move a huge amount of junk from our North Bend storage unit down to Bend.


The City of Bend commissioned a river hydraulic project that created a standing surfing wave on one channel of the river, with the right-hand fork used by inner tubers.
Kayaking on Sparks Lake with the Sisters mountain in the background is a special treat in early summer.
Tamolitch (Blue Pool) on the MacKenzie River trail is a highly popular hike.
With our new R-Pod travel trailer we enjoyed hiking and exploring around Crater Lake.
Literally minutes from our house is some of the best mountain biking in the US.

Our early days in Bend were idyllic, living in a beautiful cozy house, watching the industrious beavers in the river right outside our window, exploring the Bend environs, and skiing at Mt. Bachelor. Most of our days, however, we focused on finding a house to buy since we had to move out of Christa's by July. You'd think buying a house out in the middle of the high desert of Oregon would be a relatively simple task, but not in Bend we learned. 

Bend is one of the most popular cities in the US for relocation, and as such, houses lasted only a few days on the open market. We spent most days driving around with a realtor looking at the scant number of available houses. You'd think that being out in the middle of no-where the housing prices would be reasonable, but not in Bend. The prices seemed to go up every week, making our house search more urgent. 

We had made a full price offer on a house a year earlier when we were on the boat in Fiji (an interesting task as we were anchored in the outer islands with terrible Internet connectivity). We quickly learned that a full price cash offer wasn't enough. We finally found another house we liked and made another full price offer, but the owner wanted to delay the move-in date for about three months. We said two months and that scotched the deal. We were now getting to know Bend real estate fairly well, but getting increasingly frustrated with the very limited supply and high prices. Then one day we viewed a small house in a great master-planned development (Northwest Crossing). The house was basically a long galley kitchen (like a boat) with three bedrooms attached. The front and back yards were minuscule, but it had a great park nearby (for the grandkids) and a wonderful small restaurant/shopping area one block west.  The house had been on the market for about two hours. It wasn't perfect, but we had a very short time to make a decision. We made a full-price offer with no contingencies and sent a very nice letter to the owners that seemed to seal the deal (another offer $10,000 over ours had come in about four hours later). A few days later the realtor called to say our offer had been accepted and we could move in about three weeks.

Soon afterward we got notice that our 49 boxes from Australia had arrived in Seattle and needed to be picked up at the customs broker. We jumped in Christa's car and drove up to Seattle, rented a small U-Haul trailer, and prayed as the forklift carefully maneuvered the two plastic-wrapped pallets directly into the trailer. Then another beautiful drive down to Bend where we unloaded everything into Christa's small garage.  

Since we owned virtually no furniture, our next weeks were spent scouring Bend's wonderful consignment shops where we found two recliner chairs, a kitchen table, and a wonderful leather couch. We learned that many equity-wealthy (i.e. California) families have second homes in the Bend area and like to keep their furniture updated every few years, meaning you can find great deals at the consignment stores. In our past life, we bought most of our furniture new from local stores. Being retired and on a fixed income, however, we learned that we could get near-identical furniture at a fraction of the cost by visiting the consignment shops and Craig's List.

After living six years in a cramped sailboat, I figured Meryl deserved a great kitchen.

We took possession of our house on May 16th, and on the 20th flew up to Seattle, rented the largest truck UHaul offered, and hired two guys to help us move everything from our packed-to-the-brim storage unit. They weren't the most careful movers but we managed to fill the truck all the way to the top and squeezed the remainder into a rental car. The next morning we began the drive over Snoqualmie Pass and down the backside of Eastern Washington through the open scrublands to Bend. We were lucky to have a great crew help us unload in Bend and quickly filled our garage to the brim with all the boxes.

Moving from the 400 sq. ft. living space on the boat to a house was quite a transition. First, we knew the house would be in the same location when we awoke every morning (since the anchor wouldn't drag in heavy wind). The house wouldn't sway as heavy gusts of wind hit it. We didn't have to check the weather each night to see if we needed to put an extra anchor out. We could take long, uninterrupted showers without depleting our water supply.  We could leave the lights on without the batteries running down. We could drive our car to the grocery store rather than walking three miles with backpacks. We could speak the same language as our neighbors. And finally, we could waste inestimable amounts of time watching mindless shows on our first high-definition wide-screen TV (when we left nine years ago these we still fairly rare items).

We soon learned that you need to shovel the snow off your walks before it turns to blue ice.

Downtown Bend is a magical place in the winter. The local movie theatre, The Tower, is a five-minute drive from our house with easy parking.
Again, pre-Covid, Bend is famous for its almost daily events and music festivals both summer and winter.

We skied Mt. Bachelor while in college and still find it challenging to this day.
About 15 minutes from our house is the Virginia Meissner Sno Park, with miles of groomed XC ski trails and two wonderful shelters, both with warm pot-bellied stoves.
The grandchildren are both in the Mount Bachelor Ski Education Foundation ski racing program and they are fast skiiers. We can barely keep up with them anymore.
So nice to have both our kid's families visit during Thanksgiving and other holidays (pre-COVID).
The annual "luminaire" event at Virginia Meisner Sno Park features a 40-foot-long snow dragon.

To date, we have thoroughly enjoyed living in Bend and remind ourselves daily how fortunate we are. As always, it's been slow making new friends, but through our neighborhood socials and our daughter's friends we now have a nice group to share our lives with. Winters are spent skiing at Mt. Bachelor, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Virginia Meisner SnoPark, and ice skating at the Pavilion.  During the summers we hike in the Cascades with a local group, the Broken Top Ramblers, ride our mountain bikes at the nearby Phil's Trail complex, golf at one of the 30 local golf courses, kayak on the Deschutes River and the Cascade high mountain lakes, and take daily walks in our neighborhood (although a lot of this is now tempered by COVID). We especially like being able to leave the house 10 minutes before a concert or show downtown, and having a maximum drive of 15 minutes to reach anywhere in Bend. Small town life is wonderful and we could never go back to a major metropolitan area to live.
We certainly miss the social times and international friendships we made. Here are Katherine and Wolfgang from Austria (on left) and Maria and Maurice from France.
The finish of the famous Hawaiki Nue Va'a canoe race from Tahiti to Bora Bora. The Tahitians know how to throw a party!

We truly miss the highly social lifestyle of bluewater cruising and the hundreds of interesting people, some of whom will be lifelong friends. While some have quit cruising, many are still out there exploring exotic ports of call (although most are now quarantined because of COVID-19). We follow many of our friends who are still cruising through their blogs and miss the cruising lifestyle, but realize it was time for us to "swallow the anchor" and move back to land. Now our focus is on maintaining our health, spending time with our kids and grandkids, and hopefully getting back to doing a little more international travel as soon as COVID-19 runs its course. We will never, however, forget the incredible people and experiences we shared in our six-year voyage halfway around the world.

Sunset over Lake Paulina near Bend, OR.