Friday, May 6, 2016

Chief Instigator - Sam Weigel

Recently I've been reading Beth Leonard's excellent Voyager's Handbook, and early on she talks about how for 95% of the cruising couples out there, the man was the instigator and the woman was the often hesitant, sometimes resistant participant. I'm afraid we're not about to break the mold here: going cruising was definitely my idea.

I'm the oldest of six kids hailing from the decidedly landlocked town of Princeton, Minnesota, and seem to have inherited my father's adventurous streak from a pretty early age, perhaps via the road trips and camping expeditions on which our large brood frequently embarked. I was obsessed with airplanes from early on and began flight lessons at 13, soloing on my 16th birthday and earning my Private Pilot License on my 17th. After high school I got my degree and advanced ratings at the University of North Dakota, graduating in 2002; I've been working as a professional pilot since. In the meantime my interests have broadened to include skiing, camping and hiking, writing, motorcycling, scuba diving, and travel. After a few years at the airlines, I got back into general aviation with Dawn's encouragement, just in case I didn't have enough expensive hobbies. We currently own a 1953 Piper Pacer and also have a share of a 1946 Piper Cub, both outrageously fun in their own way.

Ever since learning on a Sunfish at Boy Scout camp when I was twelve, I've also enjoyed sailing, though for many years it took a backseat to my other interests and hobbies. Actually, at age 22 I wrote a list of goals I'd like to achieve in my lifetime, and one of them was "sail around the world," though I had little idea of how to go about it and Dawn was highly resistant to the idea of such an undertaking. I can't blame her, for over the years it sure seemed like every time we went sailing it was in big wind and waves in a little boat, which combined with my inexperience made for a generally wild ride.

A few years back, I linked up with a group from my former airline, Horizon Air, at the 2012 Interline Regatta in the British Virgin Islands, which was my first time to the Caribbean, my first time racing, and my first time sailing anything over 30 feet. This was also shortly after my brother and I had bought a little 21' Santana trailer-sailor together, and served to greatly increase my interest in sailing. In 2013 I took a week-long ASA course from Basic Keelboat to Bareboat Captain out of Marina del Rey in Los Angeles, and immediately started chartering as well as taking over captain duties for our multi-boat group at the annual Interline. Thus far I've skippered Beneteau 37s and 43s to Catalina Island in SoCal, Beneteau 43s and 50s in the BVI, a Leopard 46 catamaran in the Bahamas' Abaco Islands, and most recently a Leopard 39 out of Phuket, Thailand (I've also since crewed quite a few places, including at the Heineken Regatta in St Maarten where our crew won the fastest bareboat around the island trophy). Dawn has been on five of these charters and with each one her confidence level and comfort with sailing has increased. She's still pretty adamant that she doesn't want to circumnavigate, but I myself have eased up on that idea quite a bit. Better to cruise for a couple years and see how we like it, I think.

I'll write more about our work plans in the next post, but I'm fortunate to fly for an airline (and specifically for a fleet) that has large seasonal fluctuations in their flying, making it relatively easy to take extra time off during the Nov-Jun cruising season and make extra money when we're off the boat Jul-Oct. I also have a side gig as a writer that I'll maintain on the boat; I currently write a monthly column plus occasional features for Flying Magazine, the world's most-widely read aviation publication, and will likely start doing some sailing writing as well.


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