To the City of Peace

December 20, 2013

Kayaking San Diego

The girls kayaking through the San Diego mooring field near our anchorage. Michael Robertson

We’re leaving San Diego as we came, our boom broken. We’re going to try to get it repaired in Mexico.

Absurd? Crazy?

Maybe. I can’t find a knowledgeable person Stateside who thinks we’re doing the right thing. But that’s not to say we’re acting without reason, only that we’re acting against the grain.


There are three ways to address our broken spar problem: fix our boom, swap it with a used boom, or buy a new boom. Now, there are a lot of sailboats in San Diego, and a whole lot of businesses that have hung a shingle to support them. You’d think this would be the best place in the world to deal with a problem, I did.

But the single area company riggers turn to when they need a spar replaced doesn’t want to fix ours (and it would cost $300 just to transport it back and forth to their L.A. shop). And I’ve called around for suitable used booms and have come up empty-handed. There are a few that could be made to work, but each has a complication that requires too many $80-per-hour hours to make it cost effective. “You’re better off buying a new boom” is what we hear. But that’s a $2,000 proposition.

And I look at my 17-foot-long aluminum spar with a crease in it that simply needs to be repaired. Why can’t I just get it repaired?


A week ago I began emailing mechanically-minded friends who know La Paz, Mexico like the back of their hands. And I emailed their friends. And I emailed the Shroyers who own Marina de La Paz and who have spent decades in the city and who used to build boats there. I’ve sent photos and I’ve learned enough to believe we can probably get our boom repaired in La Paz. And we’re gonna sail there (carefully) and find out.

In February, 2001, Windy and I bought our first house. It was a fixer-upper—with a capital F-U, really bad. A couple of the problems seemed formidable: a retaining wall outside the basement entrance had failed and the first-floor fireplace was leaning into the living room. You can’t believe the tens and tens of thousands of dollars that engineers and contractors said were required to address just these problems. We agonized over this for the first year while we went about addressing less-formidable repairs.

Then I met Dickey. He was an old-timer I’d seen building brick walls in the neighborhood, a real craftsman. He was a one-man operation with a 1972, red Chevy pick-up. I asked if he could stop by and take a look at my failed retaining wall. He told me he could replace the wall and walked me through the simple, straight-forward approach he intended. He said it would cost $4,800. Skeptical, I asked about all the complications and issues raised by the others who’d quoted three times that amount.


“Young man, I been layin’ brick for 45 years…”

The wall Dickey built was beautiful and could have served a bomb shelter.

Inspired, I removed the basement ceiling, borrowed a couple of Dickey’s 12-ton bottle jacks, lifted our living room fireplace, through-bolted some massive sister joists, and then called a company in to rebuild the cracked fire box for $1,800.


Ten years later, the retaining wall and fireplace were still solid.

I’m looking for the nautical Dickey to fix my boom and I think I may find him in La Paz.

Absurd? Crazy?



I__n our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we slumbered through the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along at


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