It all started for me in 1986 when a bunch of us Hobie Cat sailors from Dallas Fleet 23 decided to form a loose flotilla of bareboat charterers in the Virgin Islands. It was my first taste of tropical salt water sailing and that first taste soon became an addiction. While sitting on the beach at Cane Garden Bay on Tortola I compulsively started plotting various schemes that would allow me to drop out of the rat race and travel the world by yacht. After six months of fantasy/reality-check cycles and wearing out my calculator, I had Plan A which would get me started cruising after five years. Plan A didn't quite work out but Plan B, which took eight years instead of five, did the trick. By the time the clock ticked over from 1993 to 1994 I had resigned from the corporate world, sold all my landlubbery possessions, convinced Trude to do the same, bought a boat and was ready for the dream to become a reality.
Through the years of dreaming and planning I had always envisioned cruising on a catamaran. As the time to go sailing drew near and the search for The Boat rose high on the priority list, I was disappointed to find that the seaworthy cruising catamarans (some would say that's an oxymoron) on the market at that time were all well out of my financial reach. I was loath to postpone the cruise for several more years so we started looking at monohulls.
Trude and I had spent a lot of time at the Cedar Mills Marina complex. We had camped there, did many bareboat charters from there and raced in many Hobie regattas hosted there. Over the years Trude's dog Rosie enjoyed playing with Stan Dabney's dog Taco. Stan was the sales manager for Valiant Yachts, which are built at Cedar Mills Marina. He was kind enough to spend a day with us, telling us about the history of the Valiants, showing us some new and old Valiants and giving us a tour of the Valiant factory. Subsequently, we decided to add the Valiant-40 to our list of acceptable designs.
I couldn't afford a new Valiant-40 and in 1993 we were not having much luck finding a second hand one that didn't require a major refit. One weekend while camping at Cedar Mills I bought the latest issue of Latitude-38 from the ship's store. In the classified section was an add for "Vela Dare", a 1979 Valiant-40. I rang the owner, Wayne Smith, and we chatted about the boat. Everything sounded good except for one detail: Vela Dare was in New Zealand. We added Vela Dare to our short list, and by the time I was ready take the plunge she had worked her way to the top of the list. I flew to New Zealand in August 1993 to survey Vela Dare and do sea trials. Everything was as good or better than expected. We had always wanted to visit New Zealand anyway, so we thought "why not start our cruise from there?". So we did.
On November 7, 1993, I arrived in New Zealand on a one-way ticket. My few remaining material possessions were sitting on two shrink wrapped pallets, due to arrive by freighter just before Christmas. Trude arrived in January 1994 and we spent the southern hemisphere summer getting to know Vela Dare and preparing for our first ocean passage.
The articles linked to below were written over a period of time from late 1993 through early 1997. They provide a chronicle of our cruising adventures during that time. They have been previously published in Hobie Fleet 23 newsletter. I had hoped to embed relevant photos in the articles but I currently do not have access to the photos; that will come later.
November 1993 - The Dream Becomes Real
April 1994 - The Shakedown Cruise
May 1994 - First Ocean Passage
September 1994 - First Tropical Cruise
December 1994 - Full Circle
January 1995 - Reflections On a Dream Accomplished
May 1995 - One Watch At a Time
June 1995 - Whispers In the Wind
February 1996 - Fleet 23 Wins At Musket Cove, Fiji
April 1996 - We'll Never Do That Again
July 1996 - How To Prepare Blackened Fish
August 1996 - Billy's Big Adventure
December 1996 - Season's Greetings From the Good Ship Vela Dare
April 1997 - The Last Cruise