Welcome to Wayfarer World
Christina and Garrett are members of the Ventura Yacht Club. Garrett’s father had lived at the club since before he was married and started his family. Garrett was born, raised, and then had his own children and by fact of residency is the club’s most permanent fixture. Garrett has lived aboard his entire life. His son and daughter, one in the United States Marines, and the other an aspiring wildlife photographer and college student have known no other home than the families 40’ sailboat. Three generations have spent their lives right here. Garrett’s wife from the day they vowed understood the terms by which they would live their lives.
This was the stout stock and first souls we met walking the initial steps on terra firma in Southern California.
Gulf Star 50
Morro Bay Yacht Club
We were steered in the Ventura Yacht Club direction north of here while still in Morro Bay. A club member had been out harbor hopping up and down the coast with his ketch rigged Gulf Star 50. Refinements included a 600 gallons per day watermaker and Cummins turbo diesel for punching the 17.5 ton sailboat to weather. Talk about shipshape! The skipper spent some 320 hours reskinning, sound-dampening and fireproofing the engine room and workshop.
The Newport, Oregon native started out in the music business. Tom pulling the wild card from the deck of his life concocted a sound blended with sunshine and a less fully employed pace. For some years the gigs were fat and sweet, his music and touring was all upside, but as the wheel turned the smoke filled one night stands became more grind than grand he finally closed the backstage door for the last time.
The Evergreen State College alumni had no more stomach for the long hops and short stops. Today Tom, wife, dog and sailboat devote the lion-share of their days exploring the Channel Islands. A professional mariner, Master licensed, Tom hires out now and then to deliver large fine yachts from one port to another. Tom’s part bard and poet and one-hundred percent hard scrabble. According to the dog in his life Tom Varley is something more than a ordinary-run-of-the-mill good man. Tom’s dog was canine blessed having partnered with a real human being. Dogs are never wrong about character.
A Real Sweetheart This One…
I spoke with two licensed ocean sailors from the Ventura Yacht Club. Including Tom Varley the three all had distinct opinions about how to approach an ocean passage. Jeff, a delivery skipper, who along and his wife have sailed for personal pleasure to Mexico and across the Pacific. Their Passport 40 is a capable circumnavigating sailboat. Passport owners possess seafaring confidence. As the veteran offshore sailor explained he’s got a plan when the weather gets heavy, it’s a plan he’s tested and proved to work. The anvil willed mariner invited me aboard. He demonstrated how to shorten sail fast. We went over the tactic aboard my boat and where modification and changes might make more sensible and efficient work of this task. Smaller sails are necessary for higher wind speeds. Going to weather (upwind) in 30 knots for days on end without strain to boat or crew is necessary. Like most other blue water veterans Jeff possesses a Darwinian sensibility. Survival of the fittest comes to mind while examining his hands, beard and brains. He is nobodies fool and goes to sea intending to make it back to port come what may.
Weather Fax Machine
The other gentleman I chewed on time and crackers with sailed a C&C 37’. Lighter displacement, larger mast, a spirited racer/cruiser design- one of the most popular sailboats of its era. I had spoken about ocean sailing and this yacht club member quickly disabused me of this misstatement. I had not been ocean sailing I had been coastal sailing. Even though he had sailed his boat to Mexico, had for decades sailed to the Channel Islands by his reckoning he had never been far enough off the coast to describe his experience as ocean sailing. There were two reasons; first, a boat and crew setup for ocean sailing is prepared to meet a different set of challenges. Second, an ocean sailing boat because of the vast distances back to land can’t get off the water and escape the forces of heavy weather. The club member explained he didn’t mind facing difficulty for part of a day but he couldn’t stomach the notion of having to ride out a storm for day upon night and day. Below the surface the man tamped down on the swamp of his emotions. There wasn’t much more he could say. The club member had that look behind his eyes. The expression was something of a game face. Sailors are not the type to bellyache (with one notable exception…). The coastal sailor knew what he was up for and not up for and that was his reality. Coastal sailing was plenty. Enough said.
Naming the Unspeakable
Smooth sailing… that’s the aim. The part that isn’t so smooth, the part that tests character, sets its mark right there beneath your ribcage— between the “trust and know and doubt and fear…” In some instances the distance between is as tight a spot as you are likely ever to face. Sailors have to account for the mettle, the God given spine they inherit. A sailboat will tease the unavoidable fact of your fear right out of you. A rough day at sea is truth serum. I got some big time respect for small craft offshore warnings and plenty to spare. Feel free to borrow mine, there’s buckets more where that came from.
Times wasting mate. There’s a head to repair, bilge pump to replace, a new rigging splice to make— a chart to study. Smooth sailing mates… smooth sailing