old man and the sea

Steve and Marsha Sears
909 Marina Village Parkway, #373   Alameda, CA  94501
510-523-1988      December 2005

As I’m writing this letter, it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we’re spending the weekend aboard Harvey the RV camped at Casini Ranch in Duncans Mills, which is located on the Russian River, about 3 miles downriver towards the ocean from our ¼ acre lot in Monte Rio, CA (the Sonoma property). Looking back at 2005, the highlights all seem to surround the Monte Rio sewer project. We got notification early in the year the project was finally moving forward. Due to a reduction in pork barrel funds, our lot was moved from Phase Two, to Phase One because it was more cost effective to do the entire town all at once. We worked with the General Contractor involved with helping the project move forward to opt our property into the development. We didn’t have to do that. As it stood, the property had a zero dollar assessment. We decided it would be the most cost advantageous to opt it in while they were counting heads, rather than face a more complicated permit process at any other point in time. This means we committed the land to additional property taxes for the next 40 years; it will be eligible for a building permit when the sewer is developed, and at that point there will be monthly sewer bills.

The prospects of moving forward with the project were still dicey; there was a rate hearing in June, where the property owners had the opportunity to vote against the proposed sewer rates. If 50% plus one lot owner voted no, they could kill it. The reason someone would vote no is if they already have a septic system installed and didn’t want to pay more money. The reason some would vote yes are people like us that couldn’t get development permits because of lack of utilities. You need 1-1/2 acres to put in your own leech field, that’s the minimum size property that could get a building permit. There are none of those left around here, so development in the area had pretty much stalled, property values were going down. 44% voted no. At that point, we had been visiting the area, camping in Harvey at Casini Ranch about monthly for the past year, and agreed we both still really liked the area.

Steve had been enduring a one hour commute to work, each way, on Bart, underneath San Francisco, 5 days a week. We were living on Spirit in Oyster Cove Marina in South San Franicsco, in the same weather conditions that caused the San Francisco Giants to move away from Candlestick Park. Though we were dealing with it ok, one day the weather hit Marsha the wrong way at the wrong time – I received an email from her saying, “This weekend let’s go look at marinas in the east bay, Emeryville and Alameda. Maybe we could even go out sailing once in a while”.

Things didn’t seem compelling in Emeryville, but we ended up spending quite a bit of time talking to Alan, the Harbormaster of Marina Village in Alameda. Our fishing in Baja stories won him over, he agreed to permit us to live aboard Spirit there if a slip became available in September, when the annual Baja HaHa commenced and this year’s batch of new cruisers set sail down the Pacific coast bound for the sunny, warm weather in Mexico.

We would have a couple of months to wait, but if we moved, Steve would be 2 miles from work, and we wouldn’t have to cross the Bay or Golden Gate Bridges to get to Sonoma. Plus we would be in a slip sized appropriately for Spirit, so we could actually go sailing, if we want to. In Oyster Cove, we were in a slip 2 feet shorter than Spirit, and the fairways were sized for smaller boats. With the wind the place reliably gets, we could never count on getting back in, if we left the dock. So we didn’t. After living on Spirit for almost 3 years without leaving the dock, we had a bit of work to do to gear back up for moving. The main work was securing the computers and monitors that make up our LAN with straps and bungee cords mounted to the bulkheads. The fire extinguishers and safety flares had to be serviced or replaced. Fortunately, over the past few years, our trend has been to eliminate or store stuff we haven’t used or needed to have around, so most of our stuff onboard could be stowed quickly for travel. We checked all of the sails, still in great shape. We checked the anchoring system, still seems to be functioning. We have been running the engine at least monthly to keep its fluids circulating. With the basics covered and still a month to wait, we installed a LectraSan waste treatment system and a 23” Sony HD LCDTV. Once we got Spirit ready to move, we could just as easily have sailed to San Diego. Well, the life raft and fishing gear are in storage, so not quite…

After a great late September Michigan vacation visiting relatives, touring in the upper peninsula, and attending Steve’s sister Shelley’s wedding, we untied the dock lines on October 15th and sailed Spirit across San Francisco Bay to our new slip, #232 on Gate #11 of Marina Village Harbor on the island of Alameda, which is located on the other side of the Alameda channel from Jack London Square and Oakland, CA.

An update on our move, we're getting settled in and enjoying learning about a new area. The marina is much nicer, with better laundry facilities and showers, bicycle storage in a locker on shore and beautiful scenery. I see the sunrise view of the Estuary; the evening view is the reflection of the sunset on the Oakland cityscape across of the channel. The docks are clean and clear, the fairway is wider, and the weather is much better. Our mail, storage, and basic groceries are very close by. In general it feels like our home moved from a trailer park to a resort. The Estuary always looks like an open invitation to get your kayak out and go paddling around the island. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us doing some of that come about daylight savings time next spring.

Marsha spent the full year working for her bookkeeping clients on the peninsula, which didn’t leave too much time for her jewelry business. Her activities did net us an almost free one week vacation in Maui last February, from her real estate developer client, which was good cause to get new flippers. Her commute is longer now that we’ve moved to the east bay, but hopefully her clients will get rearranged after the holidays.

Steve did spend Tuesday evenings during the summer as a crewmember racing on a Catalina 38 named Dawn Treader, helming most of the upwind legs. We took first place for the season, thank you so much Ed, Joe, and Christine. That was a grand finish in the yacht-racing program we initiated 15 years ago. We are happier where we are living now. After 20 years of spending most of our discretionary time near Brisbane and South San Francisco, aside from our trip to Mexico, we are now once again, on to new adventure.

Regarding the music selections for this year, there was no new theme, rather continuations on existing themes of no duplicates from the past, a splash of good modern country, oldies that came to mind, and new stuff we discovered. As always, best wishes for the holidays and please enjoy.