By Peter Isler
© 2018 Isler Sailing International
In my life as a professional sailor, I log thousands of miles a year under sail and spend many days and nights afloat. But it’s all about racing – I (almost) never go “cruising”. Sure, like any sailor, I dream of heading off into the sunset (say a South Pacific sunset) with my loved ones on a beautiful wooden schooner – cast off the ties of civilization and all that good stuff. But half of my “day job” is probably pretty similar to yours – stuck behind my laptop and tethered to my cell phone – and the other half requires getting on an airplane and flying to some beautiful place to sail on some incredible boats – with some of the best racing sailors in the world. Ah, the good old treadmill.
But over the holiday season this year – I did something quite out of character – a busman’s holiday of sorts. I chartered a sailboat and went… Cruising! There were four of us – two couples, and we decided to go for something different – a 40-foot catamaran chartered from ASA’s long time affiliate Marina Sailing located in Long Beach, California. It was more expensive of course than a 40- foot monohull – but viva la difference – it was a rare New Year’s Eve cruise. And on top of that, in my role on the Board of the American Sailing Association, I thought it would be prudent to experience cruising in a cat – since that’s a burgeoning part of the charter and education business.
We had a wonderful time – there wasn’t much wind and we planned some pretty cushy cruising grounds – the island of Catalina only 20 miles from Long Beach. The catamaran was perfect. Our friends, Lenny and Cindy had the starboard hull – and Miriam and I bunked in the port hull. Clean sheets and hot water 24/7. That left most of our Leopard 40’s interior (the main saloon) available for lots of good meals, games and general reverie. We averaged about 2 hours a day under way – leaving plenty of time for all the fun you get when you are tied up to a mooring ball or hanging on the hook. The highlight for me was the day we went totally off the grid on the back side of the island. Nestled in a tight cove – at anchor – with just enough room for us to swing – we were a minute’s dinghy ride to the beach where we got to meet one of Catalina’s most famous residents… Up close and personal! Taking a stroll on the dirt path we came around a corner to find a giant bull buffalo grazing – only about one boat length away! After inspecting us up and down carefully he got back to the business at hand and we enjoyed a magical moment with him.
Now with all the time I spend on boats – you would think that operating a 40-foot cruising cat would be a piece of cake for me. But normally I have a bevy of professionals on the boat (and the shore team) with me, so I don’t exercise some of my boat operation skills very much. It had been about 3 years since the last time I chartered a boat – and on the sail back home I made a list of the things that I wish I had paid more attention to (or asked further questions) during our check out. The guy who checked us out did a great job – but really it takes a day or few living and cruising on a boat to really learn most of a boat’s unique systems. Here’s my list that I promise I will look at before the next time I charter. Most of the points are subjects to make sure you understand before you leave.
All in all, we had a great time and saw in the new year in style and comfort. Our boat was fantastic, the weather was mild and it’s always great going to a beautiful cruising ground in the off-season. I want to do it all over again. It reminded me of the famous saying…