Mark Twain said it best. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” In that spirit, I am launching this blog to chronicle my misadventures, trials, tribulations, and triumphs sailing Lake Tahoe on our 1993 Catalina 270, Splendido. Along the way, I hope to assemble an ample amount of local knowledge, lore, history, culture, and the idiosyncracies of wind and weather on what ol’ Sam Clemens called “a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft full three thousand feet higher still!”
I hope you’ll join me for the voyage—and let me know when I’m lubberly in my lore, or when my scribblings put wind in your sails and a transporting vision of cloudless climes and starry skies in your heart.
I’ve loved sailboats since the first time I saw one. I grew up sailing a battered styrofoam Sunfish on a six-acre lake in the Arizona desert, even though the town I call home, Anacortes, Washington, is set dead-center among some of the most beautiful sailing grounds in the world. In high school, I got a ride or two as rail meat on a local physician’s Santa Cruz with new-at-the-time Kevlar sails. At the University of Washington, I sailed Lasers as often as I could on Lake Washington, often spending hours in the boathouse sauna after early spring capsizes, soaked to the bone and wearing nothing more than a button-down, topsiders, and jeans. In 1984, I turned to windsurfing for its thrills, spills, and simply the chance to sail away from the pressures of life. After years of breakneck windsurfing in spots as diverse as Washoe Lake, Maui, and Rio Vista, I rediscovered the simple joy of wind in the sails and wine in the glass with my bride of nearly two decades, Debbie. After poaching rides from friends and spending literally years in bed with the laptop looking at boats, we serendipitously had an opportunity to purchase our 1993 Catalina 270, Splendido, in 2010. Debbie, whose father had a Islander Bahama 30 sailing out of Tahoe Keys in the ’70s and ’80s (and later sailed from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas before moving back to the Reno/Tahoe area with his family) is a hard-driving business owner who, like me, finds the combination of wind and water the only anxiolytic that really works to calm us and sooth us in our whirlwind lives. Splendido means “beautiful” and “brave” in Italian, and she is named after the hotel in Portofino where we spent three blissful days at the end of the season a few years back. It was a during a time in our marriage where nothing seemed to be going badly, but it wasn’t going amazingly great, either. After touring Tuscany with friends and then venturing by ourselves to foggy Lago Maggiore, we realized we craved a last little bit of Tyrrhenian sea and sun before heading back to the states for the winter. As the calendar turned from October to November, Portofino was deserted except for a few bored shopkeepers, so we had the place all to ourselves. On our second day there, an amazingly warm, wet storm lashed the promontory and town, sending torrents of water rushing along the low quays and into shops and restaurants as the shopkeepers fought back to protect their wares. Soaked to the skin, we braved the storm and explored every nook and cranny of Portofino, finally returning late in the day exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and yearning for a hot bath to shake off the chill. Something changed in our relationship that day; it was clear that we could explore, play, and grow together once again, after years of unknowingly drifing apart. We were in it for the long haul. And so it is with Splendido, a simply lovely sailboat, and sailing together on her, the exciting prospect of which, I now realize, is just a metaphor for spending time together to dream, discover, and explore.
Fair winds and smooth sailing! DB
David & Debbie Branby
1993 Catalina 270, Splendido
Home Port: Reno, Nevada and Lake Tahoe, NV/CA