The "DREAM". It takes as many forms as there are people who become infected with it's potent power. Mine started developing pretty early. In my childhood I can recall a short trip on a lake in Florida in a dingy my father had no clue how to operate. Interest in boats and sailing competed with jet planes and fast cars in those days. However, the first time the dream entered my consciousness in a real way was in junior high. A fellow student in my shop class had recently moved from California and he talked about the sailing he and his father had done while describing plans to visit the islands of the south pacific. Now that sounded cooool! We discussed it as junior high students do-blowing it all out of proportion and quickly moving from reality into fantasy. He even invited me along as we talked of sailing and scantily clad island women. It never went beyond our fantasies, at least for me, but a seed had been planted, the virus had found it's foothold.
Over the next decade or so, I would have occasional flare ups. Having always been artistically inclined, I would draw designs for the various vessels that would carry me to the four corners of the world. I read and reread "Mutiny on the Bounty" and while I was dating the wonderful woman I am now married to, we shared our first kiss while watching a movie of the same name. I also read the account of James Cook's voyages and those of Francis Drake. In my romantically inclined mind I could see myself at the wheel of a classic schooner, rounding Venus Point in Tahiti to drop anchor in the turquoise water while being surrounded by friendly natives. It's a vivid picture I carry in my mind's eye to this day.
While my wife Kelly and I were having and beginning to raise three children, subscriptions to various boating magazines fueled the fire. After engaging is a variety of boring or awful jobs following college I decided that if I had to do something to earn a real living and take hold of the American dream, I would do something I liked. A growing passion for all things nautical and a degree of artistic talent led me to enroll in the West Lawn School of Yacht Design. In the back of my mind was the plan to one day design and build the boat that would take me to all the places I had read about and dreamed of. Kelly wasn't ready yet, she still had her eyes on the big house in the country. The realization that this would require both of us to continue to work in jobs we would rather not be in for the next thirty or forty years to achieve and maintain it would hit her a little later than it had me. The 'rat race' soon lost it's luster for both of us.
We also had our young children to think about. We had already decided to home school them because there were a lot of influences in our society we wanted to keep them from. Our religious community also began to delve into the benefits of the nomadic lifestyle, a way of life that started gaining appeal to us. We had enjoyed a lot of travelling over the years we have been married and continuing such a lifestyle full time was not a thought that had seriously occurred to us....until now.
I would like to say that we sold everything, bought a boat and took off at this point but it wasn't, and isn't, that easy. As home schoolers, we had decided to live on a very limited income and had no savings or equity in our home. Financially it wasn't easy to visualize. There were other things that weren't easy to visualize either. Our sailing experience was very limited. Before we had children I had built a sixteen foot daysailer that we sailed occasionally, fought on consistently and had been rotting in the backyard since our first child was born. Kelly also had a vision of sailing that involved spending most of her time bent over the rail feeding the fish. Then there was leaving family for extended periods of time, how we were going to support ourselves, whether it was good for the children and about a million other questions. Our decision to live as cruisers was not one made that day.
What day it was made is hard to say. But by the spring of 2001 we had bought an old 20' sailboat on which to learn and when my thirty-fifth birthday rolled around I set a goal to be on the water by the time I was forty, with Kelly's reserved approval. Our first few trips out on our daysailer were less than encouraging. We sailed on a lake near our home in south east Pennsylvania that was surrounded by hills, making the wind somewhat gusty and it seemed to be constantly changing direction. This led to a lot of unintended tacks and jibes with the attendant screaming and panic among Kelly and the children. This wasn't a good way to start. But in spite of our sailing follies, Kelly was beginning to really come around. I began designing our schooner, the one of my dreams, the one that would be fast and stable and elegant. It needed to be big enough for five and allow Kelly and I some privacy from the kids as well as have room for occasional family visits and other guests. We assumed that no matter what the size, we wouldn't be spending much time in marinas and it had to be able to be maintained mostly by us. We settled on sixty feet length on deck, a narrow fourteen foot beam and a reasonable six foot draft. I expect it to be tender but very stable and speedy. Once the interior was worked out, Kelly signed off on the design.
That was the easy part. Now we had to come up with the money and the space to build such an ambitious project. Our city row home with its fourteen by thirty foot back yard was not going to do it but we couldn't move just yet. One of my greatest finds during this time was "Buehlers Backyard Boatbuilder". Now here was a philosophy I could relate to. Building boats to be simple, strong and cheap with no frills. Now even a huge schooner seemed possible. I was ready to get started.
On November 19, 2002 I built my first part, a wooden cleat that has the date inscribed on it. Following this there were other smaller parts, dead-eyes and other various sized cleats, medium sized parts like hatches and even some big parts like frames and roof beams. Seeing these parts accumulating in the basement, and other places in the house, was encouraging. We were, however, only going to get so far with the space we had. It was time to think about moving. Two places presented themselves as possibilities. Maryland's Eastern Shore, where we had vacationed and done some of our sailing, or Florida, which appealed to Kelly because it meant no more harsh northeast winters. In an effort to please my beautiful bride, we opted to concentrate our efforts on Florida. After several months of frustration, we decided Florida was not the place. It seems that county officials in every place we looked would not approve of our project in anyone's backyard. The government officials in Maryland did not seem to have a problem with our intentions so Maryland it was.
The spring of 2004 was a good time to move. Several months earlier, I had almost run out of things to make. One of the last projects before the move was the construction of the ship's wheel. Originally, I had designed the boat for a tiller but we decided a wheel would be better for the smaller members of our family crew. The four and a half foot diameter wheel slowly took shape on the living room floor, fashioned from pine and oak boards and oak spindles from the lumber store. Once the pedestal was built we could stand at the wheel in the living room of our city row home and dream of far off places and idyllic landfalls. Kelly's enthusiasm continued to grow-we were ready to set sail! All we needed was a boat to attach our wheel to!