Free Luff was moored in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the lovely little rock known as St. Thomas. The good folks at CYOA took exceptional care of her (and charged us for every stainless nut, bolt, and band-aid), so we were comfortable leaving her for months at a time between our visits, while sailors from around the world got to play in the azure blue waters of the Caribbean aboard our baby. Yeah, really.
Charter was relatively good to us, despite having invested in our dream just after 9-11 when travel, in general, was a bit depressed. We managed to knock 4 years off the mortgage, which was a definite positive. Plus, having her down in the Islands was a big bonus, as it gave us a great excuse to go play and take really good friends along to play with us — or get married (Joe and Coralie) or whatever.
After 5 years, it was time to pull Free Luff out of charter and move aboard. But first, we had to find the right location, and after some deliberation over east vs. west coast, San Diego won. The big plus here? Jody’s childhood roots and a lot of her family were/are still in the SD area. Definite bonus.
Jody left Lake Tahoe bound for SD in the Fall of 2006; Rand was left behind to wrap up his responsibilities at the Village Ski Loft in Incline Village. Upon his SD arrival in January 2007, he started making preparations for delivering Free Luff to SD from St. Thomas. It started with taking a Coast Guard captain’s licensing course and making a massive list of things needed to make the boat resemble a cruising vessel rather than a charter one. The list was long (included, but was not limited to, a water maker, storm sail, spinnaker, drogue, radar, foam-topper for the berth, an extensive first-aid kit, and tools, spares, and more tools, etc.); the projects were many and challenging; and Rand’s tenacity paid off (as usual). Free Luff was ready.
But we needed crew to help Rand. We put out the call to family — a few, but not enough takers. The plea was forwarded to friends of family, and then friends of friends of family. We had crew. In all, over the 3.5 months it took to do the delivery, we had 23 people aboard, some of whom we’d never met, and it could not have gone more smoothly. The Queen of Free Luff Nation (that would be Jody), managed the crew changes and logistics from SD and stayed in touch with Rand via Iridium satellite phone — he would call once a day with his current position and the next anticipated location with an ETA. When new crew were due to arrive, Rand would identify the meeting time and location, which would be passed along to the new crew by the Queen (location was usually a bar and the time was conveniently scheduled to coincide with happy hour). Amazingly, every single exchange went without a hitch — unheard of in the sailing world.
Captain Randy, the final delivery crew, and Free Luff tied up in the Chula Vista Marina in June 2007. Then started the (long) push to get to cruising.