A dreary month goes by before I finally walk into the lobby of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club for Fourth of July festivities with some friends. Dr. Barry Schuyler and his wife, Jean, stand in the entryway looking distinguished.
“Lizzy! Good to see you, my dear!” he says, smiling, then casually proposes something extraordinary: “I’m looking for someone to sail my boat around the world. Would you be interested?”
My stomach drops and everything gets quiet for a moment. I wish to scream, “Yes! Of course!” but my uncertainty holds me back.
“Thank you, Dr. Schuyler, but I’m not sure I’m cut out for it, ” I tell him, the words sticking in my throat.
“Stop by my boat sometime. She’s in Marina 1, slip I-23. A small sloop called Freya. ”
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A few days later I’m back on my brother’s couch, now fixated on the retired professor’s proposition. Was he serious? Give me his boat? There’s got to be a catch. I must find out! I finally drive down to the harbor. Dr. Schuyler is standing on the dock beside his boat when I arrive. It’s the same kind of boat that my childhood heroine, Tania Aebi, had sailed around the world at eighteen years old. I’m instantly intrigued.
“Hello, young lady, ” he says politely. “Didyou reconsider? ”
“Hello, Dr. Schuyler, I did. ”
“Please call me Barry. Come aboard and sit down. Let’s discuss. ”
The tour of Freya doesn’t take long because she’s so tiny. But she’s clean, cozy, and organized. We sit in the cockpit and he lays out his idea. He explains that he and Jean are involved in all sorts of meaningful work with community charities and nationwide NGOs. But now at almost eighty years old, he finds that his longtime dream of voyaging still haunts him. He wants to live vicariously through someone else’s sailing adventure. The next best thing to living the dream himself would be to help someone else do it.
The proposition seems too good to be true; I must give it a shot.
After a discussion with Barry, my father approves, and plans are hatched. Barry writes up a list of my pretrip duties very reasonable things like apprenticing with a sailmaker, a rigger, and a marine mechanic, and studying major ocean currents and wind patterns. I happily agree to write him letters and keep in touch from various ports around the world. He will help financially to get the boat ready for safe ocean travel, but after that I will have to figure out how to fund my voyage.
My depression dissolves almost instantly as my sailing dream comes back to life. Barry and Jean invite me to live with them until I get back on my feet. I soon land a job as a bartender at a restaurant overlooking the harbor, and spend my off-days sailing and tinkering aboard Freya. Barry and I attend a ham radio course together, in hopes of keeping in touch via radio once I sail off. I take Freya up the coast and gain confidence captaining her short distances. She’s fit to my size and strength, and I soon feel more optimistic about my potential as a captain.