There is nothing - absolutely nothing -
half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
Water Rat - The Wind in the Willows
It’s still very hard for me to believe that in 1960, when I was seventeen, and my best friend, David C. about the same, we could, and did wander down to Balboa, California and into a yacht broker’s office to be treated as if we were scions of Rockefeller or Carnegie. We mentioned we were interested in purchasing a sloop, ketch, or other sea-worthy vessel of around thirty feet and without hesitation the gentleman gave us the addresses, the slip numbers, of several boats he thought might interest us. And so we simply walked on board the boats on our list without the slightest interference. I'm sure this would be impossible today. We explored all the nooks and crannies of the various vessels at leisure, striking what we imaged were nautical poses for each other. One beautiful craft I remember reminded me of a scaled-down galleon, complete with poop deck, and most likely a pirate flag in one of the locked chests. I was in love and ready to cast off the hawsers immediately and sail for Treasure Island with Robert Newton, after all I was a Hawkins. One we were intrigued with was a large Chinese Junk. And another, had we followed our hearts and not our narrow socially obedient minds, might have changed the course of our lives forever. It was a sloop provisioned for several weeks at sea; the cabin table overflowing with sea charts held down by a cup half filled with cold coffee. It was evident someone lived aboard. A silver key was in the ignition. Though we didn't know the difference between a spinnaker and a jib we thought that if the boat were under mechanical power it would be the equivalent of driving a car, and once outside the harbor we could raise the mainsail and learn how to handle the rigging at our convenience. What did we know? Visions of Bora Bora, Tahiti, Fiji, even Catalina Island danced in our heads. I wonder sometimes, where would I be today if one of us had found the nerve to turn the key.