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Sailing into the Sunset
by Jennifer Cordero
Life Lessons | Pictures
You wake one morning to find your entire living space is not much larger than the average jail cell. Your only water source is a pump sink attached to a 14-gallon tank that needs frequent refilling. Your food sources are limited; cooking is confined to a two-burner alcohol wicking stove. Your news from the outside world comes solely from a VHF radio and your limited space and resources are shared with another person. Sound like getting trapped in a fallout shelter? Or snowed in during a blizzard?

It sounded like heaven to Susan Monajati who decided, along with then boyfriend David Reno, to sell all her belongings to buy a 27’ boat to sail from the Long Island Sound to the Bahamas and back.

After enrolling in diving lessons and reading every possible book on the subject of sailing, Sue and David set off to Northport, New York to meet their new boat, The Albin Vega. This single sail sloop was a beauty, but had weathered more then a few storms and was in need of repair before their journey could begin. Rolling up their sleeves, the pair worked with instruction manuals in one hand and tools in the other to render the ship sea ready. After nearly three months of hard work, their work was done and it was time to hit the high seas.

The pair soon encountered an entire counter-culture of people who live their whole lives on boats. “This was one of my favorite elements, everyone had an interesting story. One of the most interesting was Paul Johnson, a yacht designer. He was at least 60 and had been living and travelling on sailboats his entire life. Crossed oceans several times, lost at least one boat on account of a vicious coral reef. We met him on a dock in Florida and he invited us to visit his boat that evening for more conversation.” This pattern of camaraderie was repeated countless times along the way.

Other trip highlights included an encounter with flying fish. “Crossing the Gulf Stream was almost a surreal experience, the waters are so deep and so clear, that the water actually looks indigo/purple. Plus, there are flying fish everywhere. At first you think they're small birds, but the closest stretch of land is over 20 miles away. Then you see these little fish leave the water and fly-- literally fly-- for what seemed to be about 20 to 40 feet. They look almost like hummingbirds. It was incredible.”

Nine months from setting sail the trip had come to its end, but the life lessons lived on. “One of the most important things I learned was about living self-sufficiently. A good part of each day was spent taking care of basic needs. You focus on the simple but required things you need to survive each day.”

This shift in how one looks at life lead to another change in Sue’s life; she decided to turn her passion for photography into a full time career. After settling in Mountain View, CA, she soon started her own business as well as teaching other adults about photography at the Palo Alto Adult School.

So what’s next on the agenda for this adventurous soul? “Well, right now we’re saving for a house. Then right after that another boat!”

View Sue’s photography work online at www.susandaricereno.com

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Have you been busy making a Habitat of your own? Do you know someone who's living life outside the box? Tell us about it and you might just find yourself or your friend in the Show Off spotlight! Let the cohabitation begin.