When I lived on the boat people would often ask me what living on a boat was like. I was a kid them and my best response was, “what’s it like living in a house”. I wasn’t trying to be rude, it’s just that boat life was all I knew and I didn’t know how to explain what it was like.
In the Beginning
Growing up my family consisted of my dad (Bob), mom (Joan), Sister (Kari) who is three years older than me and myself.
We started off as a family of three then four in a middle class neighborhood in Orange County Ca.
My dad had owned his own barber shop before I was born. Due to hard times he sold his business and became a bar tender.
When I was still a toddler my parents separated for two and a half years. They reunited when I was four. It was also the same year I drowned and the same year my moms dad died.
My dad met some men who were involved with boating in the yacht races and he began to join their team and race with them in the Ensenada races. He would often join Dick Wallis’ team aboard his sail boat called the Trius (or was it Tryus?), named after his place of employment.
My dad approached my mom about the idea of purchasing a boat. Since we couldn’t really afford it she suggested we sell the house and buy one we could live on. A few years later and a few lectures on how dangerous the idea was from the grandmothers we finally sold the house, moved in with my Aunt Jo’s family in Tulare, Ca and started boat shopping.
I was pulled out of the last semester of my 4th grade at Orange Christian School and put in the Tulare public school to finish it. When the year was over my teacher explained to my mom that she didn’t bother to teach students who came in late so she just graduated me. My mom was appalled and came to the realization that since we planed to travel that would mean being placed and pulled out of school often and she would end up with a very stupid daughter. As it was I was really struggling in school and quite behind. Thankfully my mom had collected many text books from her time as a volunteer at our schools. When ever they were getting rid of books she had the chance to go through them and take what she wanted. We didn’t know about corespondent school or home school so we didn’t join one right away, we just used the books she had in her position which was more then enough. Home school was at that time unheard of and some thought illegal so we were taught to be very discrete about it.
My dad desired a sail boat that would be a ketch, meaning have two masts (or sails) and he wanted it to be a 41 footer and he wanted to name her Moon Shadow, he also liked the William Garden design. He spent long periods of time away from the family while out on his “shopping” trips. One day he and my mom were at a place in Oxnard, Ca inquiring about boat sales. The sales rep opened a book and the page fell to a boat that was a 41′ Garden Ketch already named Moon Shadow and owned by a man named Bob. My dad exclaimed that it was the boat he wanted even if it was on the bottom of the bay. The boat became ours though her previous owner tried a few time to renege on the sale.
We moved aboard her I believe the summer of 1980 close to my 10th birthday. My sister was almost 3.
We were spoiled at first. Not in a discipline way but in a boat way. When we moved aboard the Moon Shadow she was docked in a marina with a club house membership and we had electricity, phone connection, and everything. The club house had a pool, weight room, place to get coffee and hot chocolate and a park to go roller skating in. It was a short walk to town too where we often stopped at Thrifty Drug Store and got a scoop or two of ice cream.
We had quite a few wind breakers from Dick’s boat with the Tryus logo and wind breakers from my Uncle Bud with the Michelin Man logo on them that my sister and I would wear and lift the bottom up high on our roller skates as the wind sent us sailing down the side walk.
My dad taught us to row there by tethering us to a rope and pushing us out on the dingy. We learned pretty fast, he was a good teacher.
The spoiling came to an end after a short time when we had an impromptu family reunion and said good by’s to our grandmas, aunts and uncles, cousins and such and cast off for good from the marina in Oxnard.
Santa Barbara, CA
Our first order of agenda was to sail to Coos Bay, Oregon. We heard good things about living aboard and the good prices of being in a slip there. However, we were apparently uneducated about the timing of a sail north and that we were headed up at the same time the fog rolls down. We got as far as Santa Barbra, Ca and anchored in the open water area just outside the harbor. There is no anchoring inside the harbor.
I don’t remember exactly how long we stayed out there but it was long enough to lose our land legs, that much I remember. While anchored out there we got used to the constant swells and holding onto our plates and cups when we had a meal. Swimming was both ominously scary in the dark water and fun since one is very buoyant in the ocean swells. There was a very old ship next to us with a large crew that got up every morning and heaved-ho the sails up and so on. It wasn’t there for our entertainment but it sure provided some.
My dad made regular trip to the harbor and occasionally my mom went. It was wonderful when he finally announced we were all going ashore. He took my sister and I first since he didn’t feel our dingy would make it in the swells with all of us. Then he went back for my mom leaving my sister and I in the second story office of the harbor patrol. The Harbor Patrol office had wall length windows facing the beach. We enjoyed the view sitting there board waiting for our parents. We enjoyed it even more when suddenly the ocean came up to the window then back down again, land sickness was about to set in. It was crazy and fun at first. We realized right away no one else could see what we were seeing and that due to being on the boat in the swells so long our equilibrium was off causing it to look like the sea was rising to the large windows and back down and up and down again. We were thrilled again that when my folks got there and we began to walk down the street that the side walk did the same rise and fall the ocean had been doing. It was such fun….until we got to the restaurant and all we wanted it to do was STOP! I remember whining at my dad asking when it would stop cause it was making me nauseous. My dad let us know that eventually soon it would just go away and like he said, it did.
We spent enough time ashore to eat a hamburger and do laundry. Someone had told my folks that the streets in Santa Barbra were not safe which made me feel a little uncomfortable. I remember a lot of hills and I remember a beach overlooking where out boat was anchored with palm trees lining it.
While in Santa Barbra my parents learned about the fog issue so they decided it was better to head south for the time being.
Dana Point, CA
We often spent time in Dana Point, Ca when we were in transition. It was a harbor my dad was familiar with. Even when we lived in the house Dana Point was the beach we would travel to when we wanted to go to the beach. Dana Point has a very long rock jetty that seems like it goes for miles along the shore before you actually enter the harbor. I used to be terrified we would hit it even though it was big enough for many boats to go through at the same time. My dad told us that once when he was there fishing a rouge wave hit the jetty pulling everyone off. He managed to grab a rock and save him self. He said the man next to him did too but lost his boy. He told us it happened often and made sure we knew to be very alert and careful while on jetties.
I don’t know exactly how many time we went to Dana Point, I lost track. One time we anchored for a few day and were very close to the now maritime museum called The Pilgrim. It was the ship Richard Henry Dana was stationed aboard when the harbor was first discovered. At the time we were anchored near it they were doping the play Pirates of Penance aboard her. We couldn’t hear them except when they were singing loudly together but we could see them when ever they swung off the halliards and dropped into the bay. On their swing out they would often wave at us which we just loved. It was so fun to watch. I didn’t actually ever see the play until I rented the movie many years later. It’s such a fun one!
Picture of the Pilgrim found at http://www.paintingtucson.com/the-pilgrim/.
We usually spent a few days tied up to a dock and used the dock showers and laundry facility. We had a small shower on the boat but it’s not the same. We also enjoyed the board walk along the marina to the marina shop and restaurant area. My dad liked the restaurant there called The Brig.
One time just before pulling into Dana Point we actually caught five Bonita’s. Bonita’s are in the tuna family but are of a whiter and less fishy tasting meat and less bony. My family was not known for their fishing skills so when we caught fish we were extra excited. Plus this time, we were out of food. Each fish we caught while trolling in the ocean was big enough for one person. What do ya know, my dads BF who we called Uncle Don popped in on us after we tied up in a slip. So we had a fish to feed everyone. Later we met a lady at the showers. My mom is good at talking to strangers and finds people to talk to everywhere she goes. This ladies family just got back from a failed attempt to sail around the world. When she heard we had sail around the world plans she offered us their dehydrated food they had stored for their canceled trip. BTW, dehydrated food back then meant hard as a rock veggies which when soaked in water and cooked came out to be flavorless food. But at least it was food.
New Port Beach, CA
We ended up making our floating home in New Port Beach, Ca for a while.
While still new to New Port and boating in general we had our first big storm initiation. Naturally it all went down at night. We were anchored in the designated area just behind a large mooring can area. We were careful to keep a distance from the moorings because these cans were all connected by chains running along the floor of the bay and we didn’t want out anchor getting stuck in them. The storm didn’t respect out carefulness and drug out boat right to the mooring area and it’s maze of boats. Our big nightmare was running into another boat and ruining it. While my dad tried to gain control of the boat my mom went to the bow with a large broom to push us away from other boats with. My sister was also called above to help them out. I was told to stay inside the cabin and I didn’t dare disobey my dad. It was all very terrifying. My mom was screaming out things like, “Jesus help us” in very terrified tones. Our dinghy got caught and started going under our boat toward the rudder. Though my dad knew the danger of jumping in the dinghy to try to release it was extremely dangerous he did so anyway and succeeded. He had to cut her lose those and let her drift off which was a big loss of us.
The craziness went on for hours. The folks on the boats we were threatening to crash into tried to help but there wasn’t much they could do. Eventually the storm died and we were able to get secured. My sister and I whinnied about how much we hated the experience and wanted to move off. My dad told us that in three days we would change our minds and have a blast telling out wild story. Sure enough, in three days he was right. Thankfully another live aboard who was my sisters age named Mike Seacore rescued out dinghy and returned her to us.
Making school official.
I believe it was here that we finally discovered correspondence school. I’m surprised it took us so long to figure out such things existed. After all my Grandpa Barney took his collage classes though a corespondent school and that was when my mom was a child.
Though we had been studying and likely advanced a grade my mom didn’t know she had the power to advance us a grade so I officially went into 5th grade and my sister into 8th grade making us both a year behind. The corespondent school we were enrolled in was designed for missionaries kids and was very tough so that they could reenter school anywhere in the world and not be behind. Before moving on the boat I was a terrible reader. After spending some time being taught one on one with my mom I became a very advanced reader. My parents didn’t have any trouble teaching me but my sisters curriculum was a difficult task. It was very advanced and my folks often couldn’t keep up with the math. Rather than telling her that they had no idea how to do it they would just ask her what she thought and even give her the teachers book to help her figure it out. My sister has a high IQ which in those days was considered very valuable and prized. She was able to challenge herself and figure out how to work her problems.
Though we loved boat life and home school we did miss interacting with people outside our family. Our parents let us know how much better than other kids we had it. After all other kids only knew how to relate to people their age but we were around people of all ages and thus we could communicate with a spectrum of different kinds of people. Or so that is what they told us.
Time to go.
New Port Harbor has an illegal rule that you can only anchor there for thirty two hours. After that you must rent a mooring can or a slip or leave the harbor. The reason it is illegal is because all ocean territory and beach front is government owned and free to the public. One time a Canadian boat was anchored there or maybe it was Australian, I can’t remember. They didn’t plan to stay long but they did plan to stay longer than thirty two hours. So the New Port Harbor Patrol boarded the vessel and tore it apart looking for drugs. The Canadian boat left like everyone else who went through the same thing. We did rent a mooring can for a while but when the owners needed it back we had to rent one from the city. The city rented us one near the middle of the harbor then had us move to one close to the entrance of the harbor. When our time on the can was up we were aware of the anchoring issues so we took off for the island of Santa Catalina.
Santa Catalina, CA
You may have heard of it in the old 50′s song, or maybe not. I found a nice video of the song at - I don’t know the folks who put it together but it’s nice to see the pictures.
We had visited Catalina several times and this time we went there to live. The most famous place on Catalina is her main harbor called Avalon. It’s a small compact city built on the mountain side. It’s harbor is open water but has mooring cans and a large dock for quick tie ups and a pier with a Harbor Patrol office on the end of it. During the 40′s and the 50′s it was a popular place to take a ferry to and go dancing and party. Doris Day stared in a movie there called Glass Bottom Boat. My dad told us about the horrible storms that rip through Avalon and swore he would never be caught in one. It’s open water harbor made it very vulnerable.
When we moved to Catalina (1981) Avalon was owned by the city of Long Beach. The rest of the island was mostly owned by a man named Bombard. There were a few areas controlled by people other than him closer to the middle and a few small harbors. My dad found employment under Bombard as a Harbor Patrol man in Two Harbors. Two Harbors is at the west end of Catalina which is the opposite end from Avalon. Two Harbors are two harbors directly across from each other. The one on the same side that Avalon is on and facing the main land is the Isthmus and the other one is called Catalina Harbor or better know as Cat Harbor. It’s name Cat isn’t just short for Catalina but for the cliff marking the hidden entrance to her harbor. If one doesn’t know to look for the cat head shaped cliff just before the entrance it is likely they will miss it and sail right on by.
My dad picked Cat Harbor as our new home because it has the safest harbor in the area. Due to being on the other side of the island and so well protected by the cliffs it rarely ever sees a storm. Actually there is usually only one every 100 years that makes it down the funnel entrance and racks havoc on it’s harbor.
My dad was put in charge of Cat Harbor and given a HP boat to use for patrol. He found out fast that the fisher men both spoiled and hated him. We often got bags of crab and lobster as well as squid and abalone and other interesting fish like sheep’s head. Sheep’s head are the meanest looking fish and after filleting them we got to enjoy being freaked out by watching their bones quiver. With the fishermen it was really a love hate relationship between them and my dad. The anchorage there was also limited and there wasn’t a lot of room. So thus the bribing and the scourge of being told they had to leave for a while and not to do other things that really were illegal.
At times it became dangerous but my dad having grown up in an abusive home for children learned how to manipulate and take care of himself. You see, the only official “law” there was Sheriff Bob and his rottweiler Bear. Rottweilers were not well know then so Sheriff Bob’s dog was a well known big scary deal to any west end frequenters. My dad made previous arrangements with the Sheriff and when there was “trouble” my dad would call in over the CB to Sheriff Bob and the Sheriff would tell him he was headed over with BEAR. They had it coded so the Sheriff knew to not really come unless otherwise indicated. It always worked, the fishermen were terrified of Bear and thus behaved themselves.
At that time Twin Harbors only had about a hundred employees in the winter time. Most didn’t even work for Bombard but worked at the science facility that housed a decompression chamber there on a hill nearby. They just lived in the Isthmus area.
I loved living on Catalina. There was so much to explore for an eleven year old. My sister didn’t care for it so much, she wanted friends her age to hang out with. There were sisters there who were my age and my sisters age. The one my sisters age hung out with the folks who were in their twenties and had no interest in being my sisters friend. The one my age played with us on occasion during summer. During winter the girls took the long bus ride to attend Avalon schools. My parents didn’t want us to take the bus because it traveled along the cliffs and because we would only be home at night since the trip took a few hours. So they kept us in home school.
Catalina Island had a lovely animal life. A long time ago California Bison, also incorrectly known as buffalo which is the more popular name they are called, were brought to Catalina. There are also wild goats and boar. They have a hunting season to keep the animal population down. My sister and I were told to behave ourselves during hunting season because it was big business for the Bombard corporation. The reason we had to “behave” ourselves was because the buffalo are normally quite docile. Their herd often took over the dirt road we used to go between harbors. We would walk around them even though they were not dangerous. After all they were wild animals and potentially dangerous if there was young with them or if stupid tourists had been teasing and throwing rock at them. We would shake our heads at the disrespectful tourist who would sit on one that was lying down and snap a picture. It just didn’t seem right. So the issue with us and the hunters was that the hunters would wear camouflage and go off into the hills to hunt with their hunting guide. We just found that hilarious! But we couldn’t show it or we’d get in trouble.
When we were still new there we were disturbed for a while by the sound of a baby wailing in the cliffs near by. We learned later that there were wild goats making that noise.
There were wild cats there too. Not wild cats like in the California hills but wild cats as in people lost their domestic cats and they mated and birthed “wild” cats in the cliffs. Those little guys had serious attitude issues we found out personally when we rescued a baby stuck under the dock slats. We went through a lot to rescue him and once he was freed he gave us a disgusted look and stormed out of there and back to the cliffs.
To be continued…
I had edited this and forgot to update. So as of 12/30/12 it has been updated and edited. I also plan to add more photos when I have time to go through my old pictures and post them.