I grew up in a boating family in the Northwest, but it was all fishing, skiing and overnighting; no sailing or long distance cruising. After living in the SF Bay Area for a couple years I knew I had to get myself a boat to be able to be on the water anytime I wanted. Things were a bit different down here, at the time salmon season was closed indefinitely and there weren’t nearly the immediate overnighting destinations like you have in The Sound; likely the reason why sailboats outnumber power boats by a wide margin on The Bay. Not having any experience sailing except some adventures on the lake behind our house growing up, my girlfriend, now wife Diana and I decided to figure it out. We initially enrolled in the Cal Sailing Club where you can join for $50 a quarter and with a bit of help around the yard you get access to small boats and work your way up to full keel boats. This process involved too much time, too much planning and required making too many friends. . . So we enrolled in an ASA 101 class at Modern Sailing Academy in Sausalito; after two weekends on the water in an Ericson 32 Diana and I felt ready to be on our own. . . Now to find a boat
The criteria for the first boat were pretty limited as we didn’t have enough experience to really know what we wanted. Something in the range of 28’-32’, diesel inboard, sleeping room for 4 and a functioning head and galley. Initially I thought the Catalina 30 would be a perfect boat as they are a dime a dozen in this part of the world, but it was nearly impossible to find one in our price range that didn’t require significant work. We looked at Ericsons, too expensive; more Catalinas, mostly junk; a few others . . . Hunters, Cals, Newports. Eventually we came along a Pearson 303 that had been neglected for years in the San Rafael Channel. She had good bones; no big gel coat cracks or chips, nothing too nasty in the interior, reliable Yanmar engine and really roomy for a 30’ boat. After a survey that pointed out corrosion at the mast base and other maintenance items (rigging, varnish, etc.) We moved forward, not knowing how much we’d eventually spend on our new little boat.
She went straight to the yard for a mast repair, new standing rigging and a bottom job. Once splashed we christened her “Frog” to honor my late grandfather, he was a Frenchman and took on the nickname of Frog early in his life. That first summer in 2007 Frog got lots of use and maybe some abuse . . . we still had a lot to learn.
For the next 5 years we had a ton of adventures on Frog and learned a lot. We started out berthing her in Richmond, them moved her to Sausalito where she also became our little cabin by the sea. We became indoctrinated into the NorCal boating scene through meeting lots of friends on ‘B’ dock and joining the Sausalito Yacht Club. Frog took us up the Delta for weeks at a time (RIP Lost Isle), all over the San Francisco Bay and as far north as Drakes Bay.
When it was time to move on to bigger adventures I never added up what I spent on Frog, but she was essentially fully refit when she went for sale. As I mentioned we did fix the mast and rigging, but pulled it again for a full tear down and repaint, new running rigging all around plus the addition of a roller furling, new sails, new upholstery, updated electrical and plumbing, added full electronics suite with radar, chartplotter and VHF, major engine service (valves, heat exchanger, mixer elbow), beefed up anchor roller and Mantus anchor, replaced all exterior teak, new stove and tons of other little things.
I sold her to two families that I believe still own her in that same Sausalito slip. To this day, after a number of other boats she still holds the biggest place in my heart. She was simple, forgiving, roomy, rugged and seaworthy everything you’d want in a first real boat. I’ve since run into other Pearson 303 owners sailing their little ‘coastal cruisers’ up the East Coast, down deep into the Caribbean and even back in the bay and they all only have good things to say.