What is GO Time? According to the Urban Dictionary, “go time is a phrase to say when it is time to undergo a task and get serious about doing something.” It’s time for Aaron and Heidi Stagg to get serious about leaving the safety and security of being tied to land and venture out on Sonho to Live Our Dream on the open ocean and in foreign coves of warm, turquoise water.
For us, “GO” is also short for “GET OUT” as in “Get Out the Golden Gate!” We bought Sonho for the sole purpose of living aboard and crossing oceans and are determined to see that vision become reality.
In January, it’s cold and feels like a very long time until my favorite season of fall. It’s a little over 7 months and precisely 232 days from today (January 29, 2022) to September 18th. We’ve lived aboard for almost 13 years now, so you’d think we could just throw off the docklines and head to sea. It’s not that simple.
Life at the marina includes readily available water, electricity and garbage service. We simply plug in for energy needs and pull the hose out to fill our water tanks. We take our trash and recycling to shared refuse cans and someone else hauls it away. A pump-out boat comes to our slip, sucks out and disposes our toilet/head waste. And if we forget an ingredient or get a hankering for a particular food, we drive to any number of stores with a myriad of choices. We can easily call specialists with help for our systems or visit a chandlery for specific maritime needs. What we can’t find locally, we can order online and have delivered to our postal box in a matter of days.
I’m a goal-driven person. I’m also a list-maker. So New Year’s Resolutions are totally in my wheelhouse. I make them every year and, for the most part, I achieve them. Usually, they’re focused on personal intentions … beginning a new exercise or health routine, setting goals for writing, or learning a new skill.
Five years ago, I set a big goal of launching a blog to chronicle our preparation to circumnavigate. I was so very proud when I hit the button on the first published post. It has given me much joy as I share our life aboard our 42 ft sailboat on the Alameda Riviera, culinary creations from my tiny kitchen/galley, short stories and random musings. I posted weekly for three solid years, even as our goal to leave kept getting pushed back due to family circumstances. My audience grew to over 10,000 followers across the globe, and I reveled in the knowledge that I really was a writer.
Life onboard can be challenging enough, but surviving a virus during a pandemic and having to isolate for 10 days meant for lots of patience and biting of the tongue a time or two. I’d say that our marriage is unbelievably strong at this point … we spent a month on a 46 ft sailboat with our friends and then came home to catch Covid and went into lockdown on our own 42 ft boat. All the anchors are still attached and no one is missing, so I’m calling it a success!
We’d both done a lot of reading about the virus during the course of the pandemic. But when one contracts a deadly disease, so many questions arise. Perhaps the most disappointing thing has been the lackluster communication from our health provider, Kaiser. I know that doctors are overwhelmed with emails these days, but taking days to answer about symptoms and then answering with canned replies after we tested positive isn’t very compassionate. I’ve still not talked to my doctor; an associate reached out and I finally had a call from their Covid team as I was on the road to recovery. I did get a call from a doctor with the offer to receive a dose of a medicine that helps to lessens the symptoms; but since I was on the tail end of my infection, I was no longer eligible. I sure would have loved that opportunity early on!
Seriously? There must be some mistake. I am Queen of Covid Avoidance and have followed all the CDC guidelines to stay healthy in this pandemic. I’ve been known to chide others to wear masks and stay socially distanced, and I avoid those who are unvaccinated like the plague that it is.
This result was from a Rapid test and was followed up by a call from a nurse at the testing site who recommended we both get a PCR-24 hour test as soon as possible as it is more accurate. I had already gotten a PCR test at Kaiser upon the advice of my doctor and Aaron suggested driving through the airport Rapid test site on our way home. As soon as I got the Rapid test results, he went and got a PCR test. His results came in before mine and he is positive. So there’s now no doubt that we are both infected.
This is no joke. My symptoms went from lethargy and a mild cough and low grade fever to a hacking/wheezing cough that leaves me completely exhausted, whole body aches and a raging headache. All I want to do is sleep. Oh, and I’ve lost my sense of taste and smell! I realized this when I put a drop of pure peppermint essential oil under my tongue to help with my congestion and didn’t taste a thing. I won’t go into detail on the stomach issues after eating a fast-food cheeseburger. Oy vey!
“Seriously, Heidi, do you really need 50 pairs of shoes?”
My girlfriend had dropped by for a chat and caught me in my bi-annual shoe-purge. I was sitting on the floor with a huge mound of leather, vinyl, rubber and sequins in front of me. “You don’t wear all of those, do you?” she asked incredulously.
“If the shoe fits,” I quipped, slipping a darling, light teal, bejeweled kitten heel sandal on my foot and waving it in the air. “And there’s not 50 pairs anymore. I’m down to 37.”
“You do realize that you live on a boat?” she laughed.
Yes, I live on a 42 ft sailboat. No, I don’t really have a shoe fetish; I only buy a few pairs a year but I take good care of my shoes and keep them forever. My husband gave up on lecturing me on the fact that high heels really don’t belong on a boat and installed a fabric shoe holder behind my hanging clothes, against the hull. So my collection doesn’t take up needed space and is out of sight. But I know they are there; and that makes me happy.
We are committed to crewing with our dockmates, Scott and Joanne, on the Baja Ha-Ha and, come Hell or high-water, we are going to be sailing south on their gorgeous Bavaria Vision 46 for the first three weeks of November 2021. (Please, God, don’t take this as a challenge to mess with our plans. We really, really need this sea time!)
What, pray-tell, is the Baja Ha-Ha? (Doesn’t it just make you smile to say it?!) It’s not a race … it’s a cruiser’s rally that starts in San Diego, makes a couple of stops along the coast for rest and partying, and ends in Cabo San Lucas. There’s no trophy for being first to an anchorage or to finish. The goal is to safely traverse the Baja Coast in the company of others. Basically, the Ha-Ha is a 10-day slow journey south buddy-boating with about 150 other vessels. Power boats are welcome, but since there’s really only one stop for fuel, it’s generally about 99 percent sailboats. It’s a great segue for folks looking to spend a winter (or a few years) in Mexico, prepare for the big Pacific Ocean crossing to the Marquesa Islands or Hawaii, or perhaps continue south to Central or South America or go through the Panama Canal to reach the Caribbean. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me yearn for our turn to go.
Deep breath. You can do this, Heidi. You can focus and get back into that groove, that happy place, where words come easily and you pull stories and recipes and musings about living aboard out of your brain and heart and soul (and yes, sometimes it seems, out of your ass!) and they flow into your lightning-fast typing fingers onto the page. You’ve faced far worse challenges where you felt like you were drowning and always burst through the waves for that big gulp of fresh air and a fin-flip to take you in a new direction. So why not NOW?
For two solid years I posted at least once a week on this Blog. If I knew I’d be busy, I’d write the posts and schedule them to go live so I wouldn’t miss a week. Not a single week for two years … over 100 posts and now at nearly 200. I had a nice following of people from around the world that read my writing and the feedback was always positive from friends and family. I would joke to my husband that I was an “International Blogger” and I had to keep up my Blog so as not to disappoint my “Fans.”
I wrote daily and scheduled time to write. I went on writing retreats, met with our writing group at local coffee shops, and found inspiration all around me. I submitted my work in competitions and read it aloud in front of live audiences. After not believing that I was good enough for decades, I proudly proclaimed myself a “WRITER.”
Then COVID-19 swept across the globe. Life turned upside down. Our plans to go cruising were put on hold. Again. I became the caregiver and Head Schoolmistress for my beloved grandchildren. I had to cease swimming at the gym and working out with my personal trainer. Grocery shopping was more for survival than for enjoyment so meals became boring. We watched the terrifying news of the infections and deaths as they rose and panic and fear were the prevailing emotions. Add the election, with so much hatred from the Trumpers, and there seemed to be very little light in the world.
In the past decade-plus of living on board I have learned to cook, at first by necessity and later because I enjoyed it. When the Captain and I moved aboard Cool Change (Aaron’s dad’s Freedom 32) in 2009 we ate simply. Mainly because neither of us knew how to cook very well and the space was also challenging. The galley is pretty teensy with only two burners, an oven about the size of a toaster-oven, and an ice-cooled refrigerator. Since it was summertime, we barbecued/grilled chicken, beef, fish and veggies the majority of evenings.
Growing up, my mother did all the cooking for the family and never invited my sister and I to participate. (And the rare time we did, the majority of the meals were from cans and boxes.) In my previous marriage to Brett he did all the cooking. I worked 60 hours a week and came home after long days and late meetings to a warm meal nightly. I rarely ventured into the kitchen and when I did it was mostly reheating. He enjoyed cooking so it wasn’t an issue and we hosted many dinner parties for family and friends with him in the kitchen and me doing the event coordinating. It wasn’t that I didn’t like cooking; it was more that I never really had the encouragement, motivation or opportunity until I was in my forties.
2020 flat out sucked. The pandemic changed everything. We went from anticipating our life on the open ocean and exploring foreign ports to basically locking down at the marina. Our busy social life and wide circle of friends closed to just family and dock neighbors.
Eleven people that had some form of effect on my life died. Of those, three were my husband’s family members (Uncle Bob, Uncle Bill, and his mother, Donna Perry), one was a dear childhood friend’s mother (Margaret Sloane), one was a much-loved sailor (Jim Hild), one was a special writing group friend (Catherine Phillips), and five were influential in my careers (Cliff Benson, Julian Polvorosa, Charlie Gilcrest, Dr. Marshall Mitzmann, and Tom Guarino). I have never experienced so much loss in one year.
I started this blog on April 16, 2018 … one year to the day we planned to cut the docklines and begin cruising the world on our floating home. This was already a delay from our original dream of retiring early and leaving in 2015. Life happened and we changed the departure to 2019. Family circumstances and necessary medical procedures for the Captain and First Mate didn’t allow us to leave the country then either. So being conservative, we readjusted to leave in the fall of 2020 and winter in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
This would give us the summer to put a bit more money aside, finish final boat projects and make sure our family was healthy, happy and settled. In Spring 2021 we’d decide what our next course would be and go from there.
Then COVID-19 rocked the world. Back in March, we all believed that we’d be through this and back to life as usual in a few months; six at tops. We’d wait until December or January and then head south.
I live aboard a 42 ft Tayana Vancouver sailboat, hull #5 laid in 1979, with my husband and little dog. We are preparing to head to Mexico in Fall 2022 and I enjoy blogging about our preparations for our journey, cooking in my tiny kitchen and writing short stories.