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Working against the wind

By on January 31, 2018 in Travel with 0 Comments

Scott White at the helm: Some people like sailing, Scott loves sailing.

Dreams of sailing around the world were realigned to sailing to Mexico… and even that took refitting a boat

By Jessica Draggoo

Many dream of buying a sailboat and learning to sail but often those dreams are squashed by jobs, family and the ho-hum of life.

Scott White managed to do it all, eventually.

Married to Mona and now with three grown children, Sara, Laurel, and Kevin, he’s never lost enthusiasm over the years for sailing on the big ocean.

I had the chance to sit down with Scott and his wife Mona to talk about how he made this happen.

The Sea Wolf at anchor: The 1976 Formosa 41-foot sailboat built in Taiwan took about two years to get sea ready.

Mona — an active traveler and photographer who married Scott in 1975 in Arizona — began by saying, “I like sailing, but Scott, he loves sailing.”

You can always tell when someone enjoys something immensely — they have a certain zing when the subject is brought up.

For Scott, it started about the time he was getting out of the Air Force and was working in Omaha with a co-worker who bought a 16-foot sailboat. Problem was the friend only had a Volkswagen Beetle, so he couldn’t exactly pull his new boat around. Scott had the rig to pull the boat and his friend had the boat, so it all worked out.

Scott said, “It seemed I caught the bug of sailing. It was just amazing to me how a boat can go against the wind. I could barely walk against the wind and a boat can go against this strong force with ease.”

Scott decided he better move to the San Francisco area so he could be by the ocean and sail year round. He came close, moving to San Diego.

“All I could think about was sailing, I didn’t care about making money I just wanted to sail.”

The first sailboat he bought was an Islander 34, almost twice the size of the boat he had been sailing on. “I looked at it and thought, look at all those lines. I will never know all of this.”

There is standing rigging and running rigging. Standing rigging doesn’t move, it just holds up the mast. “Probably 80 percent of those lines I would never move. The running lines control the sails and those don’t take too long to learn.”

The previous owner of the boat took Mona and Scott sailing and Scott said he probably learned 40 percent of sailing the larger sailboat that day, and the next time he learned a lot more. After that, it takes a lot of experience in different situations to become a true sailor.

“At this point we had no kids and we wanted to sail the world together,” said Scott.

They had the boat for a few years and did a lot of research. Then they had a couple kids but still planned on taking them around the world on an adventure of a lifetime.

“(But), they say if you don’t go now, you never go,” said Scott.

Then they lost their good paying jobs, got out of sailing for the next 30 years and moved to the inland Northwest where there was absolutely no ocean.

This could have been the end of the sailing story for Scott — but it wasn’t.

When Scott retired from Verizon Telephone as an outside technician in Wenatchee, he still had the sailing bug and although he didn’t feel like sailing around the world anymore he decided he was going to do ocean sailing.

In 2011 he bought a 1976 Formosa 41-foot beautiful teak wood sailboat built in Taiwan, and he set out to make the neglected, depressed sailboat Sea Wolf seaworthy.

It had two wooden masts. Scott changed out the rotten wood aft mizzen mast for an aluminum mast and spent a couple of years battling leaks in the fiber glassed wooden cabin and decking.

The first extended voyage Scott decided to take was to be from Bremerton to somewhere in the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal. Scott kept his sailboat in Bremerton while he was working on it, almost exactly 200 miles from his house in Wenatchee to the marina parking lot.

Scott left the first part of September 2014 and headed towards the Caribbean with his son-in-law, Mike, from Tucson. They went as far as Winchester Bay, Oregon, where Scott’s parents reside.

Mike flew home and two of Scott’s friends flew in from Bremerton for the sail to San Francisco. However, once in San Francisco, they left, and Scott was without a crew. “Everyone wants to go sailing, until it’s time to go sailing.” Scott waited two weeks in San Francisco with no prospective crew.

“I never sailed the world and now I wasn’t even going to reach the Caribbean.” Scott reminisced.

As for Mona, she didn’t feel exactly as Scott felt about sailing anymore. She agreed she would fly and meet him places but she wasn’t interested in all that water anymore.

Since Scott couldn’t find a crew he decided to sail back to Bremerton. So he contacted another friend who flew down to help on the return sail to Bremerton.

Regarding the sail north, “I hear no one ever does that, it was a lot of tacking against the wind, which is fun but not for days.

“We would sail through the day and night, just stopping to get fuel and some fresh food. When the wind is blowing in your face the whole time it makes for a cold and harder sail.”

Bremerton to San Francisco is about a 12-day sail, around the same on the return trip.

At this point Scott decided it was time to return sailing to the back burner. He talked to his sister, Mary Jo, who was retiring and offered to let her live on his sailboat. She decided she liked living on the sailboat so much she wanted to buy it.

“She wanted to buy the sailboat only if I would sail it to La Paz, Mexico with her, where she wanted to retire. We left on Sept. 7, 2016 and we got into San Diego the first week of October. The rule is you don’t go south of San Diego until after Nov. 1 due to Hurricane season.”

A rainbow in Port Townsend: Sailing is a lot of common sense, trusting your gear and using your eyes — and enjoying the visual show that is going on around you.

“We hung out there for a while and picked up a couple more crew members — my son-in-law, Mike who sailed with me on the first trip, and his friend Mark, who works with Mike. I was amazed by how much Mike had remembered from the first voyage.

“By the time we arrived in Cabo San Lucus, Mexico, I was confident in their sailing abilities, I’d trust them with the boat. I could actually sleep with either of them at the helm and on watch.”

Some of the crewmembers realized they didn’t like night sailing, which surprised Scott. “I personally find it amazing, you see all the shooting stars and could celestial navigate if needed, although with today’s marine equipment, not necessary.

“When the boat motor is running with the phosphorus in the water it looks pretty amazing — there is a trail of glowing beads that swirl around and around, that would keep me going on the night watch. You also would hear random splashes and you just don’t really know what it is. Night is when I may enjoy sailing most.”

 Sailing is a lot of common sense, trusting your gear and using your eyes, said Scott. “The coast is strewn with sailors who have miscalculated and their boats end up on the rocks. You will do fine if you always know where you are and have your depth charts. Yet, there can be uncharted islands in the ocean and the earth is always changing. There are hazards out there.”

Fog is another hazard.

“It’s the most eerie because you have to listen for the signals from other boats. The boats send out a blast of the horn. The sounds are different for the size of the vessel. Sometimes with the fog you don’t know what is in front of you. If it’s foggy, you really have to be on your best watch.

“The sea is full of life — a lot of whales, dolphins, seals, birds and flying fish. Once we saw a whole string of dolphins of about 300, they will swim around the boat and play and then get bored and go off to join the rest of the pod.

“Once a whale was just 10 feet away from the boat, we actually had to turn to avoid hitting it. Those times can be crazy exhilarating and scary all at once.”

I asked Scott if he had any regrets. He said he wished they would have left on the world voyage when he and Mona were laid off work in 1983.

“If I could have done it over I would have just made it happen,” he said.

Wenatchee writer Jessica Draggoo has never been sailing but hopes to one day as she doesn’t get motion sickness and loves the ocean.

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