Adventures in Sailing, part 2
There are adventures in life that you might undertake that, afterwards, you might say, “What was I thinking?” Sailing to Hawaii for me was one such adventure.
I saw a flyer in my high school at the beginning of 11th grade, advertising for crew to sail to Hawaii the following summer 1980. It was intriguing enough for me to take the flyer home and talk to my parents about it. The trip was advertised at $800.00, enough money for the captain to completely redo his boat in preparation for the voyage. The captain was Captain Mathias, former Merchant Marine and current football coach at our high school, having just completed a successful year with John Elway has our quarterback.
My parents look at the flyer and then kind of laughed at me.
“But you get seasick!”
It was true. I get seasick. In fact, I got motion sick at just about every activity I did except for walking. I ruined every car we ever had. On trips to Sequoia and Yosemite, my parents had to drive very slowly or risk me throwing up. Whether I sat up front with my head out the window, sat in the back, or sat in the far back in the station wagon, nothing seemed to help. I couldn’t ride any amusement park rides that went in circles. Whenever my parents took me deep sea fishing, I spent my time throwing up over the side, fishing pole in hand, no bait on the hook, catching fish anyway. That’s possible when you chum the waters yourself. On airplanes, just a little turbulence, and that air sickness bag better be open and ready. Otherwise, it would be everywhere.
I had earned the nickname “King of the Barfers” in my family, and my motion sickness was legendary. Family friends drove me up to the cabin one time, determined to drive the road they knew well fast. I told them I would get sick, and they just said, “Oh, Frank’s a good driver. You’ll be fine.” There is nothing quite like a vehicle filled with the rotting smell of vomit. I could never hold it back like some people can. And I never was on to projectile vomit either. When I got sick, it happened quickly, without warning, a giant puddle at my feet.
So my parents were quite surprised when I came home with this flyer for a sailing voyage across half the Pacific Ocean. They enjoyed sailing, fishing, and any boating activites. In fact, we own a little wooden boat with an outboard engine that we took to the local lakes and the Colorado River. They saw this adventure for what it was — a once in a lifetime chance.
I was 16 years old, had never drank alcohol in my life, was a secret smoker, had just started working, and an honors student. I was legendarily afraid of heights and prone to motion sickness. What possibly could go wrong?
There was an orientation, a get-to-know you meeting for potential crew to meet each other and the captain, and for parents to ask questions. The trip would begin with preparing the boat through the year, one weekend a month from October 1979 to June 1980 and include in-class sailing lessons, first-aid lessons and certification, and on-the-water sailing trials.
My parents decided to call it an early graduation present. They gave me their blessing. What were they thinking?
I think back now how that adventure led to my love of sailing and years of living on a sailboat. But back then, this trip was more challenge than success. And afterwards, I didn’t think I would ever sail again in my life.
Grab a cup of grog, toss a bit of rum in there, and I’ll tell you what happened.