Halsey-Lidgard Customer Web Bio

February 2003

Heather and Chris Stockard, and their two Portuguese Water Dogs, Kira and Minnow, took off cruising from Juneau, Alaska in May 2003. They are currently in Mexico enjoying sailing the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez. They sail a 2000 Saga 43 with a full suit of Halsey-Lidgard sails.

We both learned to sail growing up on the East Coast of the US, but gave it up when we went off to college. In 1977 we were living in the small town of Nenana (about 60 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska) when we chanced to buy a copy of Cruising World from the local store. Recollections of earlier times sailing, and the lure of faraway destinations renewed our interest in sailing and led to the purchase of a Hobie 16. Since there is no sailable water near Nenana, that led to trailering the boat long distances. Eventually we started racing with the Anchorage Hobie fleet on the Kenai Peninsula, a 10 hour drive from Nenana. Racing one-designs helped us build skills quickly and after 5 years we won the fleet championship. About that time the Hobie racing wives decided that spending all day in icy waters in a wetsuit, and all night camping on the beach had to stop, so the fleet dissolved as sailors purchased larger boats and began PHRF racing in Seward.

We fed our building interest in cruising by chartering boats each winter in the Virgin Islands, Newport, and the San Juans, and by crewing on PHRF boats in the summer. In 1989 we took the big boat plunge and bought a Freedom 32 in Seattle and sailed it back to Alaska where we kept it in Seward. The delivery up the Inside Passage and the three day offshore trip across the Gulf of Alaska gave us a real taste of the cruising life. The somewhat desolate coast of Southcentral Alaska gave us the opportunity to explore remote anchorages and to build our boat repair skills. Seward is blessed with strong sailing breezes and we enjoyed racing there, but when we moved back across the Gulf to Juneau where the winds are often very light, we knew our racing program needed help. Doug Christie, of Halsey-Lidgard Seattle really showed his creative side in building us a main, spinnaker, overlapping jib, and a windward drifter that kept our Freedom competitive in the light going.

In 1998 we decided it was time to make a commitment to cruising so we embarked on a five year plan to find a larger cruising boat and prepare to take off in 2003. After searching used and new boats, we finally settled on a Saga 43 purchased through Discovery yachts in Seattle. Designed by Bob Perry and built by Saga Yachts of St. Catherine’s, Ontario the 43 gave us room and displacement for our stuff, and a performance-oriented hull form so that we could make fast passages.

Since Doug had done such a great job on sails for our previous boat we went back to Halsey-Lidgard for all our sails. Doug built us a beautiful mylar-composite main, Dacron 100% self tacker and 135% genoa, trysail, storm jib, and an asymmetric spinnaker. After some disappointing results sailing in light air with our cruising weight genoa, Doug also found us a used Pentex genoa for racing. Thanks to these great sails we finally won Juneau’s 200-mile Spirit of Adventure ‘Round Admiralty Island race after 8 years trying!

After retiring from our jobs in early spring and working what seemed like endless hours trying to shorten the projects list, we untied the lines and left Juneau in May of 2003. We took about 3 ½ weeks to make our way to Puget Sound revisiting some favorite anchorages and exploring new grounds such as the outside of Prince of Wales island. Despite it being late May, we had a succession of gales that didn’t let up until we reached Desolation Sound in mid June. We then spent six weeks in Seattle and Sidney in intensive (and expensive) cruising modifications. We added a downwind pole and track to the mast, a Spectra watermaker, a radar arch, Nobeltech radar, solar panels, and other small items too numerous to mention. We finished up our stay in the Northwest with a trip to the Perry Design Rendezvous in Port Ludlow. We surprised Bob by asking him to do something no else ever had…autograph the workshop bulkhead of our boat. He graced our boat with a sketch and his initials.

We were joined by Heather’s brother Russ, an experienced sailor based in Florida, for the passage from Puget Sound to San Francisco. We made stops along the way at Newport, Oregon, and Fort Bragg, California to give us a break from the relentless westerly swell we encountered on the passage. Although the winds were generally moderate or light, the swell was steep and abeam making it necessary to either sit or hold on tight.

From San Francisco south we made day passages through ever present fog, finally breaking out into clear air as we rounded Point Conception. As we made our way south we encountered other boats queuing up near San Diego waiting for the end of the Mexican hurricane season. We took a one month break in Oceanside to work on boat projects and make car and plane trips to visit friends and family, and then headed into San Diego in late October for the start of the Baja Ha-ha.

The Ha-ha is a cruising rally that leaves San Diego around the first of November. The Ha-ha is also a race of sorts (as is any time more than two sailboats are in sight of each other) with boats split into classes of similar performance and with a handicapping system known only to the organizers and never revealed to participants. We were joined by two long time friends for the Ha-ha -- Wade Rogers of Juneau and Anna Walker of Anchorage. The long first leg of the Ha-ha from San Diego to Bahia Tortuga took us about 2 ½ days but involved motoring about half the distance in absolutely calm conditions. Sailing downwind with the spinnaker or light #1, we managed to sail more of the first leg than all but a few boats. The second leg provided a perfect start under spinnaker and offered good fast conditions all the way to Bahia Santa Maria. We were especially thrilled by the photo of us leading the start that appeared in Latitude 38 and Sail magazine. We sat out 24 hours of 30 knot winds in Bahia Santa Maria before venturing ashore for a lobster feed organized by the local fishermen. Then it was on to Cabo and the end of the Ha-ha. Arriving in Cabo with its spring break atmosphere is a shock after the stark beauty of the outside of the Baja. We stayed long enough to enjoy the post race festivities where we were awarded a second place in our division! After seeing our crew off to the airport we finally got ourselves into cruising mode.

We took the next two weeks to work our way up the inside of the Baja to La Paz where we entertained friends from Alaska and waited for our mail to catch up with us. Cruisers need to stay flexible, so we altered our plans to stop in Mazatlan in favor of a direct passage to Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta where we arrived in time for the Christmas and New Year’s festivities. Escaping the velvet prison of the marina we headed south and enjoyed a month hanging out in Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad. We are now headed north back into the Sea of Cortez and San Carlos where we will get hauled out for the summer heat and hurricane season. Over the summer we will travel by car around the US and Canada visiting friends and family until it is time to relaunch in the fall.

Cruising under sail has proved to be a great way of life, one that we hope to continue for several years. Although we have to use the motor more than we’d like, we still find that we sail more than many cruisers, especially to windward. The one thing that we didn’t bring with us that we’ve missed is a good command of Spanish. Our poor language skills isolate us from the many interesting local people that we’d like to get to know better. Next fall we hope to spend some time in a language immersion school before launching for another season in Mexico. Long term we plan to transit the Panama Canal and sample the Caribbean and perhaps carry on across the Atlantic for some cruising in the British Isles and the Med.

We maintain a website with photos, maps, and a weblog that we update every few days at http://www.legacysailing.com.