Monday, August 9, 2010

The best crazy Idea I've had...yet

So says Lori Wallerstein about her decision to buy a boat with no boating experience, and ultimately come to live aboard her beloved trawler named Pushy Broad in Alameda.

Pushy Broad may be feisty, but she's also a very pretty girl. As you can see, her Detroit Diesel ( a la motor city) is complemented by velvet upholstery, a very inviting sunny deck and a fantastic view from the main salon- even if you're 4'11.75", like Lori. A boat is one place being undersized comes in handy.

She even has her own dingy, which to the unknowing sounds rather torrid, but in fact its another word for inflatable boat. One thing about the nomenclature of boats, that Lori explained: everything sounds like male anatomy. Seacocks are valves. Head is toilet (where you put your butt). In the dinghy, I got a full tour of her neighborhood. I saw some 60' serious yachts and even a double masted beauty with some exquisite woodgrain. At the end, I felt like I had been on an actual, relaxing vacation.

So Lori, who is an employment and business lawyer, started this voyage as a cab driver to pay for law school. Of course she did - she also lived in a Kibbutz in Israel, survived a bomb in Ireland during the Troubles, and lived in Paris as an au pair for communists and an au pair in Spain for fascists. She will tell you that the communists were much nicer. If you're going to be exploited, definitely go with the communists. She visited 12 countries by the time she was 21 years old. She claims she was only looking for Brooklyn and had no sense of direction. I've seen her drive and there may be something to that. But we'll remain state-side for this story.

Cab days in Sausalito triggered the original dream of owning a lovely houseboat, until the sticker price squashed that brilliant musing. Budget aside, the seed was sown. 20 years later, following a date that was not eventful but at a restaurant marina that was, she wondered, while staring into space at the boats in the marina rather than her date ."do people sell boats on CraigsList?" Hmmm. Yes, they do. Hmmm. "I wonder, do people finance boats?" Yes, they do. Two weeks later, she was given the keys to what is now Pushy Broad. Unfortunately, she had no idea how to turn it on. A small detail. The boat angels were with her however and Lori met a couple, on their honeymoon at the Delta, on their boat who happen to have more experience (not a high bar mind you). Feeling gracious toward the universe in general, they took a liking to Lori (or pity) and suggested they accompany her to coach the new boat-owner on her trip down the Delta to her new slip in Alameda.

The 9 hour trip was full of teachable moments including the lesson that sailboats have right of way, even if there are 50 of them coming at you. Lori was not pleased at this rule at the time and believes, like a car, a "New Boat Driver" sign, should be available.

Because her height, and that of the boat's, was not conducive to say, seeing the water, Lori was forced to stand on top of a coffee table at the lower helm to steer her new 16,000 pound baby ( she's 4'11.75" tall, remember And she emphasizes the .75). With instructions, coaching and emotional support from Alexus and Deb they made it. Safe and sound.

Three years have almost passed and Lori no longer asks whether that one-foot wave is going to make the boat tip over, a question she posed to anyone, including the seals, that would listen.

And now Lori has been a live-aboard for 3 years in Alameda. Cruised throughout the Bay to Benicia and Angel Island, and gives her friends the tour of a lifetime. She runs her employment law practice ( mostly from her office in downtown San Francisco and takes lucky clients out for meeting on the Bay. Seriously, I'd pay handsomely for a consultation in that sunny, waterside conference room. She says living on a boat is a little like being in a foreign country without having to get a dozen shots. There simply is not a better life, she says. She has developed OBD--Obsessional Boat Disorder and refuses to recover.