This is our view today. Exactly one year from now we will cut the docklines and begin to live our dream of circumnavigating the globe and experiencing sunsets around the world.
We … that would be me, Sonho, Captain Aaron, First Mate/Admiral Heidi, and First Dog Tiki.
I’m Sonho, a 42 ft Tayana Vancouver sailboat, hull number five, built in Taiwan in 1979. My first owners commissioned me, and I spent 30 years sailing San Francisco Bay, the California coast and Mexico with them as “Windy.” In 2008, my owners aged out of sailing and transitioned to land-cruising aboard a motorhome and I sat at a broker’s dock waiting and waiting and waiting for a new owner. And then along came Aaron.
Aaron is our Captain. He, his dad and grandfather were given sailing lessons on Christmas in the early 1970s and learned in dinghies on Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, California. The sailing bug bit quick … soon after the lessons, Aaron’s dad bought an Excalibur 26, “Isis” (named after the goddess), and the family of three sailed the Bay and went on yacht club cruise-outs for years before moving up to a Newport 30, “Cool Change.”
In the 1990’s, after much searching and a flatbed truck delivery from San Diego, the new “Cool Change,” a Freedom 32, arrived. She was Aaron and Heidi’s first home while they looked for me, and has been the source of hundreds of family day-sails, trips to Half Moon Bay and virtually every yacht club on SF Bay, as well as serving as the “Guest Boat” for friends of Heidi and Aaron. She’s located a few fingers down from us and during the period where my engine was out of commission she was their sailing fix. As boats go, I think Tayana’s are the best of the best, but I have to admit that I am quite fond of our Cool Change.
Aaron’s interest in dinghy sailing went from learning to race on a 13 ft Banshee to El Toros in the Oakland Estuary at the Island Yacht Club Junior Program, which his dad started. He moved to Lasers in high school when he was chosen to represent their yacht club at the prestigious St. Francis Yacht Club annual Tinsley Island Junior Racing Summer Camp. From there, he moved to mono-hulls on race boats in the Bay.
Sailing with his family and racing weren’t the end of Aaron’s passion for all things boating related. In his freshman year he got a job building hulls and decks for Sailnetics at Alameda Marina. But after six months of continual itching from laying up fiberglass, he accepted a job washing boats at a local broker for $1 an hour more, commissioned boats and, when they learned of his fiberglass skills, ended up installing molds for man overboard polls. He was moving boats between marinas before he even had a driver’s license.
A wife who preferred socializing to sailing limited his time on the Bay and he turned his interest to ski boats on lakes and biking and skiing, but the passion for sailing still burned and he would take Cool Change out a few times a year to stoke the fire.
After a brief stint in the grocery business after high school, Aaron followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the electrical trade. He has been a proud IBEW 595 Union Electrician for 29 years, serving on the Executive Board, a trustee for the Pension and Health and Welfare Trusts, and an apprentice instructor. He quickly moved up the ranks, working as a general foreman for several projects and will retire at the age of 55.
Heidi is our First Mate and also holds the title of “Admiral.” She is as close to a Mermaid as a land creature could be; preferring to be in or on the water than anywhere else on Earth. It has been her lifelong dream to live on a sailboat and cruise the world.
Her grandfather, Sam Benson, served in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy and was the Belfast Harbour Master. Her father, John Benson, was also in HMRN as an Electrician’s Mate on HMS Caroline before coming to America in 1961 to marry his sweetheart, Heidi’s mother, Hilary Hanna.
Heidi began sailing San Francisco Bay with her family on their first boat, a Bristol 22, “Electric Eel,” when Heidi was five years old. In 1972, they traded up for a Pearson 30, “Belfast Lady,” and explored the Delta and made treks out the Golden Gate to Drake’s Bay, Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. She was one of Encinal Yacht Club’s first Junior Sailors, spending Wednesday nights, weekends and summers sailing El Toros and Lasers in the Oakland Estuary throughout her teenage years. In her Junior and Senior summers, she served as crew on the 101 ft training schooner, Adventuress, in Puget Sound.
After the devastating loss of her father, his best friend and their Moore 24, “Bad Sneakers,” on the Double Handed Farallon’s Race of 1982, she joined the US Coast Guard and performed search and rescue crew duty on 44 ft motor life boats out of Coos Bay, Oregon, before heading to Radioman school in Petaluma, California. As a Radioman in San Diego, California, Heidi answered distress calls from vessels in Southern California waters and dispatched air and sea resources to their aid.
In the early 1990’s she owned a Hunter 34, but her family wasn’t much into sailing and it was too much boat for her to solo-sail, so it was sold and she spent a few years boatless. In the early 2000’s Heidi bought her beloved Sweet Pea, a 1969 Ericson 23. She spent many happy days teaching other women to sail, eventually teaching herself to singlehand. She crewed from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas on the 2005 Baja Ha-Ha on a Jeanneau 43, brought a Cheoy Lee 52 powerboat from San Diego to San Francisco with a crew of three, and prayed and puked her way through the tail-end of a tropical storm with 40 kt winds and 15 ft seas on a Cross 54 ft trimaran from SF to San Diego with five other women, one guy and a blind skipper. She brought the same trimaran from Mexico to San Diego with the last 300 mile portion of the trip being towed by Vessel Assist, this time with three Mexican nationals, a blind owner and skipper.
Heidi left the Coast Guard to raise her daughter, had a career in advertising sales and management at the Alameda Journal, Coronado Journal and ANG Newspapers, served as the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce CEO and Executive Director of the Chabot College Foundation. She was on staff when Latitudes and Attitudes magazine was devastatingly sunk by two shysters, and proudly took on the challenge of Head Wench when Bob Bitchin founded Cruising Outpost. Stints as an admin at a local synagogue and managing a charter boat fleet at a yacht brokerage followed. She’ll finish out her working years at a Jewish non-profit where, for the first time in her life, she doesn’t take work home with her.
Heidi has two grown children: Meghan, who served in the Coast Guard Reserve and is now a full-time mommy and part-time photographer and married to an active duty Coastie, and Harley, a college student and entrepreneur.
Tiki is our eight-year-old pound puppy. Aaron and Heidi adopted her from the Alameda Animal Shelter. She had been found wandering the old Navy base and was incredibly timid, having to learn how to walk on a leash and not quake when a leaf dropped from a tree. She quickly took to boat life and now loves running up and down the dock, chasing ducks and greeting other boaters. She’s a 12-pound Chiweenie … and definitely a big dog trapped in a rat dog body. She’s also a snuggly little thing that loves to kayak, ride in the dinghy and take naps in the beanbag in the cockpit.
The only thing in the world that we all love more than sailing are our two young GrandBoys, and our Princess-in-Waiting due in the Fall. We love having the Boys onboard and all three will be joining us for summers and holidays as we cruise the world.
Aaron and Heidi have been together nine years, married for three … but first met when they were four-years-old. Their fathers went through the IBEW 595 Electrician’s Union apprenticeship program together and at a Union picnic in 1968 they won the the dance contest. A decade later they were schoolmates in eighth grade at Lincoln Middle School and were both members of the Alameda High School Sailing Club. They double-dated to their Junior Prom … Aaron with his country club girlfriend and Heidi with Aaron’s best friend, a sailor. They spent many teenage hours on the phone and at the beach together, but lost touch after high school. Thanks to Facebook, they reconnected in 2009 and discovered their kindred passion for sailing … which led them to me.
After crewing together on a friend’s Catalina 42 from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to San Diego … sharing a small cabin, experiencing dolphins dancing across the bow and singing to Sinatra during night watches … they knew that they wanted to live aboard. They toured many boats for sale before Aaron found me. I didn’t show well with 1970s orange cushions, a layer of dust and few personal items onboard. But my pullman berth in the master stateroom, roomy salon, cozy galley and hull built for crossing oceans caught their eyes and they pooled their savings and bought me. It took exactly one day for Heidi to fill my empty cupboards, dress my bunks with pretty covers and enhance the salon with cushions to complement the orange decor. They married on Angel Island in 2014 and I hosted the after-party onboard for a dozen plus boaters who arrived via kayak and dinghy.
These past eight and a half years have seen many changes in me since we became a family. I’ve been given another chapter with a new engine, sails, upholstery and many other upgrades, with more to come this summer.
I will be able to generate power with solar panels and convert salt water to fresh water and be outfitted with the latest electronics. I might be pushing 40, but these bones were built solid and I’m confident that I will safely and comfortably take our crew across oceans and around the world.
For the next year, we’ll be posting about our preparations to cruise and life onboard a sailboat. Aaron will share his projects and Heidi will post tiny kitchen recipes and her short stories. And on April 16, 2019, Aaron’s 55th birthday, we’ll cut the docklines and begin our world adventure.
We appreciate your interest in our adventure and are excited to share our journey to Living the Dream!
Happy 54th Birthday, Aaron!