San Diego Lemonade

December 11, 2013
Del Viento family with Jeanne Socrates
Aboard Nereida with Jeanne Socrates. We hadn’t seen her since she left Victoria for her non-stop circumnavigation and we were in Alaska when she returned. Catching up in person has been a San Diego bright spot. There is nothing wrong with my girls’ necks. I don’t know why they’re tilted like that. Michael Robertson

I hate not knowing. It’s the one thing that makes me anxious and unsettled and unhappy and unproductive. I don’t mean lack of knowledge, I mean not knowing and being powerless to know, forced to sit by the phone and wait for others, with no avenue available to work proactively towards a conclusion, uncertainty the only known variable.

And that’s what fixing our boom in San Diego has been like.

It’s a funny thing that I adore this cruising life—what other path presents a less-certain future? Windy says my secret is my eternal optimism. I eagerly dive into any project or embark on any path to resolution only because I envision nothing but a rosy outcome. She’s the realist who sees the red flags beforehand.


Just a few days ago and 125 miles north, when I thought we’d be 72 hours in San Diego, tops, she was less assured. “In and out,” I promised. And for the first twelve hours, my naiveté held. We sailed into the harbor, found a cheap slip, and I was dismantling the boom before the last dock line was secured. The rigging shop closed at five and I knew that if I moved quickly, they would pick it up that day and start working on it the next morning.

“Three, maybe four hours is all we’ll need—one day turnaround shouldn’t be a problem.” Said the rigger on the phone before we left Oxnard.

It was almost noon the following day when the rigger hauled our boom away.


“…and for all those reasons, I want you to know that this could take longer and be more expensive than we anticipate.” The rigger told me on the dock in San Diego.

Day three dawned with me standing in the rigger’s shop, staring down at two booms and agreeing that the used replacement boom wouldn’t be a good fit for Del Viento.

“You’re better off buying a new boom. I’ll get you a definitive quote on Monday.”


It’s Monday. I have no quote. We’ve been in San Diego longer than 72 hours. It looks like we’ll be here longer still, waiting, not knowing, uncertainty the only known variable.

Sure, I’ve been able to call and leave messages with other riggers, to post long-shot, used-spar-wanted ads on Craigslist San Diego, to research online, to query my knowledgeable friends. But none of my efforts have put a boom on Del Viento. We’re still sitting in San Diego aboard our un-sailable home just scant miles from the Mexican border.

I think we’re doing the right thing, addressing this in the land-o-plenty. But I’m also thinking that I’d rather be fixing my boat in an exotic location—the way they say cruising is supposed to be. Sure, that would likely be much more difficult, but it would be different. It would be more interesting. It would have me running to and fro, all the while taking steps that seemed productive, giving me a more tactile role in the resolution. I’d be brainstorming a solution with locals and fellow cruisers. I’d be learning new Spanish. I’d be…I wouldn’t be waiting, not knowing.


But I’m making the best of things here.

Yesterday Eleanor went kayaking in the harbor. We had lunch at the San Diego Yacht Club with my friend Jeanne Socrates who is also passing through. Then we moved Del Viento to the free cruiser’s anchorage and though the sound of the jet traffic is significant, last night’s view of the sparkling city-scape stunned my daughters. On Wednesday, we’ll rent a car and drive eight hours north to meet my wife’s extended family for a Thanksgiving family reunion she was, before the broken boom, resigned to miss.

Life is unpredictable, the cruising version even more so. But this circumstance is a good reminder that we have the flexibility to change our plans, to make lemonade out of lemons—and that’s part of the beauty of this cruising life. And if uncertainty is the cost, I can live with that.


In 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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