Sailing Vessel QUIXOTIC is crewed by Lewis and Alyssa (aka El Cap and The Mermaid). We met on the docks at Bair Island Marina in Redwood City in early 2012 and were living aboard together later that year. After extensive brainwashing, I convinced Alyssa to postpone the cubicle life and take a leap of faith with me. We spent the next year planning our escape and left the docks on August 13, 2013. The rest of our story is being written every day….
[The below bios were written prior to departure from San Francisco in the summer of 2013]
The Mermaid (aka Princess Turtle Pea … and Miss Lyss)
What a whirlwind the past year has been! It takes a lot of preparation and courage to finally take the leap to quit your job, sell all of your assets and stop buying stuff to put on the boat. Thankfully, as Lewis pointed out to me, I had very few assets to begin with since I just graduated college, lived on my parents boat to save money on rent, and was still driving my car from high school, a ‘96 Honda Accord (aka Super Trooper for getting me around the dirt roads of AmadorCounty).
I was born in the bay area and lived around San Jose until I was ten. My parents then moved my sister and I to a historic gold mining town in the Sierra Foothills. It was close to the rest of my family, and the entire town seemed like they quickly became an extended family member. I’ve always been one to move around a lot. I used to snowboard about three days a week in high school on the alpine race team, while also playing soccer and volleyball. Since graduating high school, it took me five years and seven different colleges before graduating from SFSU with a finance degree.
I guess sailing runs in the family blood because my parents went from “Newbies to New Zealand in 6 years” as they once termed it. I joined them on a 3 month passage from La Cruz, MX to Tahiti before coming back for college.
Lewis always jokes that my dad altered the course of my life by introducing us. Lewis was buying our 8-gal/hr HRO watermaker, and my dad had mentioned I should talk to Lewis about his road to success in finance at such a young age. Little did he know Lewis was on the opposite track, planning to sail around the world single-handed! He was rapidly turning from a Wall Street suit to a marine electrician, mechanic, plumber, carpenter, captain, and as our favorite wax guy calls him, “the biggest white Mexican he’s ever met” because he does everything himself.
Both of us can vividly remember the very first time we locked eyes, knowing there was trouble to come. Lewis and I started climbing together at Planet Granite every week, then started taking weekend trips to Lover’s Leap outside of Strawberry to climb Corrugation Corner and camp, drove half of the Rubicon Trail in his jacked up 4Runner, went crabbing out the Golden Gate to have a feast with our dock buddies, and danced the night away in Petaluma after selling his power boat. There’s never a dull moment with Lewis, and it’s hard to keep up sometimes! One of my many nicknames is Turtle, since he’s always waiting for me. Even if I move at a turtle’s pace (at least compared to him), Lewis inspires me everyday and I have fallen in love with his drive to make his own path, regardless of if it’s “what you should do,” his need for adventure, his ability to coerce me into doing something outside of my comfort zone, and his guidance in exploring my own interests. He opened my eyes to a whole new array of, not simply opportunities, but lifestyle choices that make me a happier individual, no matter how much we make, what we have, and what we can or cannot afford. I’m still not sure where that may lead, but we can make money doing anything. Our next adventure is to explore all that brings us joy on the ocean.
So how did the mermaid get her name? Besides the usual association of always loving the water, the real nickname came from when we made our first trip to the delta. Lewis had just built a platform in the back of his 4Runner so we could get lost in the backcountry for days with enough storage space underneath a luxurious futon mattress for fishing gear, climbing harnesses, food and a jack lift in case we get stuck on a boulder. We decided to take a long weekend to go fishing for salmon up the Sacramento River in our inflatable dingy. After building a rock platform to stabilize the truck on the side of a levy, we lowered the dingy from the roof of the truck, inflated it and went on our way. After 4 hours of trolling two lines, we were running low on beer and I was in desperate need of a bathroom. We stopped in the tiny town of Walnut Grove, and the only working restroom was in a bar at the bottom of the hill just across the public dock. This dark cave had just one customer, fairly normal at 1:30pm, yet he seemed like he’d been there since opening. We returned there only 10 minutes later as soon as I mentioned the word “bar” to Lewis. A beer later, Lewis heads to the ATM at the end of the bar to pay, when the old salt turns to him and asks in a drunken, raspy slur, “Where’d you find the blonde mermaid?” Lewis responds with no hesitation, “Oh, down in the South Pacific. They’re tons of them down there!” Since then, my two nicknames have morphed from princess (from Princess and the Pea), to turtle (for always trying to keep up with Lewis on all of our current projects and adventures), to Princess Turtle Pea, to Princess TP, alternating to Mermaid when the mood is right.
[To finish the rest of the story about fishing in the delta, click here.]
That pretty sums up my “about me,” which you will learn much more as you follow along the blog. I’m also hoping to post more about some of the recipes I come up with along the way, provisioning in foreign ports on a budget, and learning foreign spices and local recipes. Lewis tends to get spoiled with my cooking. My favorite food is sushi and fish, go figure. I never seem to follow a whole recipe because I try and stay creative with what’s readily available. I always found that funny in cruising guides. They always mention in the provisioning section “what you cannot find outside the US” so you could stock up before you left for your cruise. How about the old phrase, “do as the Romans do”? I’ll let you know how it goes…
For as long as I can remember I have dreamt about sailing away in a boat and getting ‘lost.’ I vividly remember telling my college buddies that all I wanted was a large sailboat to go explore the world on. It took me ten years to pull the trigger and follow my dream, but what a wild ride those ten years were, and it all led me to the place I knew I wanted to be.
I was raised on a three acre ranch in central California where I was fortunate enough to be able to run wild and explore my surroundings with bb gun in hand and brothers to hassle. The first sail-vehicle I ever made was fast as hell….ok I thought it was. I made it out of a red rider wagon and a 12’ x 8’ blue tarp with a large pvc pipe I used as a mast. I threw the top of that tarp into the air and I flew down the gravel driveway; I was hooked, and have been ever since. I was eight years old.
My father taught me how to ‘properly’ sail. He owned his fair share of small sailing vessels; from the laser to the hobie cat 16. We sailed nearby lakes, Monterey bay and the San Francisco Bay. I remember turtleing that hobie cat more than a few times just because Dad wanted to get wet. He taught me how to ‘read the water’ and anticipate the gusts with the main sheet in hand; on a hobie you never want to cleat that main…
I remember going to scout camp and only wanting to pursue the sailing merit badges. I told the supervisors to ‘pound sand’ and that I was only sailing. I did. I sailed every day I was at scout camp and broke the shrouds on a hobie 16 I pushed too hard while flying a hull singlehanded – in front of a regatta that were all flying chutes none the less! I was on the trapeze and flew head over heels above the masthead like a sling shot; but I unclipped while laughing and helped the frantic race committee boats tow me out of the way.
I graduated high school and decided I needed to make my own way. I strapped my 12’ windsurf board on the roof of my 1982 Toyota Celica GT (that I bought with a months salary – $640) and headed off to college in Utah. I rented a bed for $200 per month near the State College and worked at Big 5 sporting goods selling tennis shoes. Those tennis shoes partially funded my Associates in Business degree. I then transferred to the University of Utah and decided I would upgrade from Shoe Salesman to Camera Salesman at Best Buy.
I graduated near the top of my class with a finance degree and aimed high. I wanted the BEST job out of college; being a finance major, that meant Investment Banking – so I went to New York City and harassed every person that would listen to me until I convinced them I was a good candidate and they gave me a shot. I was offered a position as an Investment Banking Analyst at Citigroup in Manhattan; I accepted on the spot.
Three years later I moved back to the bay area and was working my ass off in a job that had become mundane. This is about the time that the sailing dream came back into focus and resonated so clearly that there was no stopping it. I moved onto a 37’ sailboat. I was still working but now for a very different reason – I was socking away money to get the hell out of dodge. I was back on the water. I was sailing. I was cruising. I was smiling. I was very happy. I still am.
I spent two and a half years living on the boat and saving every penny I had. I was going to sail around the world and nothing was going to stop me. I had a finance degree; hell ya I ran the numbers and I knew exactly how much I needed. I spent too much money outfitting a 1999 Hunter 376 before I learned it wasn’t the boat for my trip. I don’t regret it though because I learned a ton by wrenching on that boat and sailing her all over the bay and up and down the California coast. I singlehanded her at night through gales and dense fog offshore with a busted autopilot. I sailed. I got my ass kicked. I was scared. I learned. I felt alive and I loved it.
About a year into living aboard I met and fell in love with an amazing woman who conveniently happened to also be a sailor! Alyssa has been living aboard with me for a year and will be joining me on this amazing adventure. How she puts up with all my ‘antics’ I’ll never know but I’m sure lucky I have her and her love.
Once I had saved enough money to sail around the world, it was a little hard to actually put forth any real effort into the desk job and thus resignation was soon to follow. I quit my job one week after they promoted me to Vice President of the bank. Later that summer we were sailing south and chasing the horizon.
We are very fortunate. We appreciate all who have helped us through the years. Please join us on our journey and perhaps we can all learn something and have a hell of a time!