About the same time we purchased Windchime, we signed up for an American Sailing Association's three course series to certify us to charter boats up to 50 feet. There are many ways to take these courses - over several weekends in California or over a full week charter in Hawaii. Hawaii sounded nice, so we signed up for a one week charter/practicum on a 43 foot Beneteau named Gauguin, with Mike Macklewait as our captain.
A week or so later, a set of books describing the basics of sailing arrived in our mailbox. I opened up the heavy manila folder and stacked four books neatly on my kitchen table. Just shy of completing my second year of legal practice, I could still smell the burnt hair and charred brain cells resulting from thinking, trying too hard, and learning something new every day. Did I really want to crack open study manuals for how to sail? I wasn't certain I had it in me, but after all the projects for clients and collegues I knew neither Andrew nor I could be satisfied with a life that didn't include progress on a project of our own. So, I cracked open the first volume and stuck my nose between the pages. I inhaled the fresh smell of glossy paper, book binding glue and started reading.
I worked my way through, reading a chapter every other night; the alternating nights belonging to Windchime. We would close up work six, seven or eight p.m. whenever possible, and head straight out to the lake. Light wind, heavy wind, we would fire up Windchime's motor and putter out to fool around with whatever skill we were supposed to be learning in the book. Man overboard drills with life jackets we named Fred; docking exercises; picking up mooring balls, etc. Our Hawaiian "vacation"/test was coming up fast, but we were determined to be prepared.
This was our first vacation since starting our jobs, and it was a new experience. When I asked my boss for time off he said: "No problem! Just don't leave me hanging." Of course not! I thought to myself, not realizing how complex of a request this would turn out to be. At the beginning of October, I looked ahead at all my deadlines and realized I had no other choice but to do all the work that would typically be spread out over the course of the entire month, in the first two weeks of October. I burned the midnight oil and learned how exhausting taking a vacation could be. By the time we boarded our flight to Hawaii, we were running on fumes.
We arrived in Oahu, and checked into a hotel room over looking a mooring field of sailboats. This is the closest we have gotten to boats capable of crossing oceans. We sat on a patio outside our hotel window and imagined what it would be like to live on one of those sailboats, just out there. Our future, just another eight years of work away.
We met Gaugin, Captain Mike, and our fellow boat mates Mark and Ann Fink on the dock the next morning. In early chit-chat, we declared ourselves to be future circumnavigators; I'm sure Captain Mike sniggered. We were determined to declare ourselves insane early and often so that we couldn't back out on ourselves later. Gaugin rumbled to life and we headed just offshore of Oahu. Our plan was to sail from Oahu, to Molokai, Lanai, Maui, back to Molokai and then back to Oahu. Late season foul weather was stirring up the North Pacific Rain pelted us, waves bounced us around, but the wind never appeared. As Gaugin's diesel engine chugged along, we inhaled the bitter fumes. It was not long before Andrew was leaning over the side, issuing the first of his trademark dainty and silent pukes.
Hawaii Lesson #1: Andrew gets seasick.
We arrived on the protected side of Molokai all feeling a little queasy, but the anchorage was well protected and calm. We observed Captain Mike expertly set Gaugin's anchor. We swam to shore, put our toes in the sand, enjoyed open ocean stars, and a beautiful sunrise the next morning.
Enough fun! It's time for the first of our multiple choice test. Let's see how well you studied! After taking our test, we left the protection of the anchorage and sailed on to Lanai for lunch on a pink sand beach. We each practiced our anchoring, then donned our snorkel equipment. In we go! We enjoy beautiful coral and colorful fish. Captain Mike dives to reach lobster in the reef. Andrew definitely wants to dive for lobster someday.
Hawaii Lesson #2: Andrew loves to snorkle.
Next, we sail over to a marina where Captain Mike tops up with water. Even though it's only been two days, we have run Gaugin completely out of water. We also discovered that one should never, ever put toilet paper down a marine head. (Don't ask. This is vacation, people!) I have been yelled at at least twice a day for "slamming the lazarettes" (storage cubbies). I am so sorry, Gaugin, but, your lazarettes keep pinching my fingers so I keep letting the lid drop!
We sail to the first of two anchorages on Maui. Everyone is still too queasy to enjoy sundowners, so we take another multiple choice test on marine engine mechanics and trouble shooting. Then, we decide to head to the beach to find Mai Tais and Mahi Mahi for dinner. Unfortunately, Gaugin's dinghy was not large enough for all of Mike's crew in one trip. Andrew and I volunteer to swim in, and change into dry clothes when we reach shore. This was a great idea during the light of day, but as I changed into my already wet swimsuit after dinner, I realized I had to swim quite a distance in the ocean. At night. After several Mai Tais.
Hawaii Lesson #3: It is possible to swim in the ocean at night without being eating by a shark, but I don't want to push my luck.
Next we head to a black sand beach for our second Maui anchorage. The sixty year old Captain Mike pulls out his surfboard and gets away from his wily crew for a bit. Andrew and I swim to shore, where Andrew completes his quest to find a coconut for consumption. By now, we all have our sea legs and we are able to enjoy a beautiful rainbow and the open ocean sail back to Molokai, then back to Oahu. We each take turns at Gaugin's helm, double reefed, with thirty knots of wind and four meter swells. She sails along briskly, and it takes shoulder work at her helm to keep her steady in the following seas. I would be nervous, but Gaugin was not, so I followed her lead.
Hawaii Lesson #4: Sea sickness abates for most people after three days.
Hawaii Lesson $5: Four meter swells (twelve foot waves) look horrifying, but sailboats just ride them like a car driving up and over a nicely paved lump unless the waves start breaking.
Hawaii Lesson #6: Spending your life on a sailboat makes you a youthful 60.
By the time we return to Ohau, we have completed three multiple choice tests and all of our practical skills. We sailed in light winds, motored in no wind, and surfed down wind in blustery conditions. Andrew and I are both certified as passing the ASA Chartering Course, and we walked away from our trip thinking that this circumnavigation idea is not entirely out of reach. I would call that a successful vacation.