shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Stone Free

December 19, 2011

If our priorities define us, then Dave and I are irresponsible, capricious, and more fond of boats than money. A few Novembers ago we sailed back to St. Croix for the fourth time with our annually depleted cruising kitty. As usual, within a week, he and I were employed, and our son, David, was bored. At 14, David decided this particular boredom could best be remedied with a small sailboat easy to single-hand, yet rugged enough to sail with friends to Buck Island--the local day sailor's Mecca, 5 miles upwind from our anchorage.


Thinking this would make the perfect Christmas present, Dave and I sent out a request via the coconut telegraph. While wandering around the boatyard, we saw a friend who had not yet heard of our search. He turned to his brother, whose wife manages the yacht club, and asked, "Do you want to sell yours?" We surveyed the boat while he verified with his wife that the boat was indeed for sale. Arrangements were made to exchange $600 for the boat the next evening. So just five weeks before Christmas, leaving ourselves with only $200 in the bank, we bought our son his first sailboat: a Catalina Capri 14.2.


Only five people knew the boat was for David, and they were all sworn to secrecy--no easy promise to keep on a little island. We hid the boat out in the open; since Dave works on other people's boats for a living, we told everyone (including David) that Dave was repairing the Catalina for the owner (which was technically true). Only a few people knew that the owner had recently changed.

The first day Dave took a grinder and removed the entire cockpit floor while I gasped in the background. Was it really that bad? As he pulled out the rotten, water-logged stringers, I was reminded why he works on boats and I tend bar. The mast step received the same violent treatment and was completely rebuilt. He removed all the rot, rebuilt, and painted the pieces.


We pieced together the rig, had used sails sent down from Bacon's in Annapolis, bought running rigging, and set up a mooring and anchoring system. Dave built a boom tent so David could stay dry if he were ever anchored in the rain or overnight.

On Christmas Eve, with a rainbow to windward, Nick (who was home for Christmas) and a friend helped us launch her. Then Dave and Nick sailed her to her mooring: our boat's temporarily redundant 35-pound CQR. After the boys were asleep, we rowed to the Catalina and tied on a giant red bow. The stage was set. Not since I was a child, have I been so eager for Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve

Knowing this would eclipse all other presents, we saved it for last. I had printed pictures of the repairs, put them in a small album, and wrapped it. David opened the gift and flipped through the pictures, not sure what he was seeing, until he came to the last page where I had inserted a note that read, "So, David, what are you going to name your boat? She's all yours. Merry Christmas!"

On her mooring

For several seconds he stared at the note before he looked at me and whispered, "Really?" After being assured that he was not still sleeping, he ran on deck to look at her, floating behind us. He and Dave rowed over so Dave could show him how to rig her, how her boom tent was designed, and the items we had gathered and stowed for him.

David sailing up to his mooring.

Since Christmas turned out to be too windy to fully enjoy sailing a small boat, David asked for a second set of reef points and spent the day gathering lifejackets, a flashlight, bailer, and various other goodies to personalize his boat. What she needed now was a name. Being a Jimi Hendrix fan, David easily decided: Stone Free. To ride the breeze....

Sailing friends in the harbor

We believe the purpose of money is to provide ourselves and our children with happy lives, relatively free from stress and worry. To this end, we work a few months a year at jobs we enjoy to earn the money necessary to enjoy not working the rest of the year. Stone Free made David happier than that money ever could have done for us. It was indeed money well-spent.

Christiansted, St. Croix

Whatever you give your loved ones this year, may it be from the heart rather than the wallet, bring smiles to those who share it, and make memories to last a lifetime. Happy Holidays. (Previously published in Good Old Boat Magazine.)

Because of our traveling, I've given up on Mondays, but I will still aim for a weekly post. Click the "Like" button (near the top of the right column) for Facebook updates.

NEXT TIME, it's time for a knot that not a knot, but a hitch.

Recent Articles



People and Places

Yarns and Opinions




Bolger AS-29


Can't find your favorite post?

Did you find something of interest? Consider donating $1.
Thank you.