How I (Len) found my way to the cruising life.....






            Len and Teri



 As a boy growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Point Richmond in particular, I was constantly exposed to boats, yachts and ships of all sorts.


Point Richmond was a blue-collar town made up of railroad men, Standard Oil refinery workers and seamen of all types.

Not far from my home (a bicycle ride) was an old harbor where many tall ships, river boats and fishing boats had found their final resting place in the mud flats of Point San Pablo.

My buddies and I would ride our bikes over and play all day on these abandoned (scuttled) boats and dream of the romance of the sea.

In these years the sardine industry had come to an end which left all the old cannery building abandoned and collapsing into the bay. There still remained an active whaling station next to the cannery buildings. Of course they now used power vessels to capture the whales and sometimes we would ride past the station on our way to the point and they would be cutting up a whale dockside. The water was red with blood from this marvelous sea creature.

But that was accepted in those days and for us kids it was amazing to just see such a monster.

Our days at Point San Pablo were wonderful if not a bit dangerous. No one bothered us. So we pretended to be sea captains and deck hands and pirates as we climbed some of the still standing masts of square rigged ships.

It was Huck Fin with a nautical twist.

As I got older and my English class required book reports, (which I hated at first) I chose books about the sea.

I had neighbors that spun all sorts of tales about the sea and now I was finding an interest in sea stories. It began with Moby Dick, Pitcairn Island, some of the history of sail around San Francisco and eventually the era of the Great Extreme Clipper ships.

In my search for stories from that era I came across the history of "Flying Cloud". Built in 1851, she broke all records for speed on her maiden voyage. Sailing non-stop from New York to San Francisco in 89 days. That record still stands to this day. Take a look at the "Clipper Ships" link for more info. The fact that she broke so many records combined with the connection to San Francisco held my interest for years.

From that day on I was focused on maritime history and there was plenty of it in San Francisco Bay.


Years later and many yacht deliveries later I built a Bristol Channel Cutter named "Solita". I cruised in this boat many miles without an engine or electrical system. It was pure sail (ala Lin and Larry Pardey). That was when I really learned to sail and even more about blue water cruising.


In 2006 Teri and I set out to find a boat to go cruising. I remembered seeing the Freeport 41 many years earlier and loved her lines. So we decided that we would find one that maybe needed just a little upgrading and with our boat skills it would be a breeze to set her up the way we wanted.

So the search took us all over the country and eventually to Mazatlan, Mexico. The boat in Mexico was actually the last available Freeport 41 at that time. We flew to Mazatlan and the next day the broker picked us up at our hotel and took us to see the boat. Her name was "Flying Cloud" and she spoke to me immediately. She needed a lot more work than I was willing to take on. But as I checked her past history and found she had only two previous owners and had been named "Flying Cloud" from her beginning. The original log books were still onboard dating back to 1977 when she was first commissioned. The original owner cruised her extensively.


With the name "Flying Cloud," I just couldn't walk away from her. We bought her on the spot.


Photos of Solita. I built her from a bare hull in 8 1/2 months. But that is another story...........


  Click for larger view



                  Len Barton   July 2018




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