Montana is not exactly the first place you think of when sailing comes to mind but that’s where we got our start. Sailing and the cruising lifestyle began creeping into our thoughts on a trip to Georgetown on Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas. We were there for a short time during the annual cruising regatta and the sight of hundreds of cruising boats at anchor got us thinking about the possibility of cruising in our retirement. After returning from our trip we started to seriously consider buying a sailboat and learning to sail. Luckily for us, it turns out that there was a great sailing lake in our backyard. Well, not really our backyard, but 90 miles away was Flathead Lake. The lake is about 30 miles long and 6 miles wide and nearly always has wind somewhere. Neither of us had ever sailed before but we bought a Catalina 22, read some books and went sailing.
Every trip out was a learning experience and one of the things that we learned our first year was that we wanted a bigger boat. Even though we were sailing on a lake, it’s a big enough lake that the conditions can get a little dicey on a small boat. That, and the fact that we were a family of five, led to the decision to buy a larger boat for the next season. I have to admit that I had an irrational obsession for Islander 28’s. We even went so far as Florida to look at one but were extremely disappointed to see it in person. The trip wasn’t a complete waste as we had a great time and were able to escape the Montana winter for weekend. After another disappointing trip to see an Islander, we went for a little dock walk and found our second boat. She was a San Juan 28 in great condition. We thoroughly enjoyed sailing her and had countless wonderful evenings at anchor over an 8 year and 4,000nm relationship.
Second Spring – Our San Juan 28
It was probably one of those evenings at anchor when the cruising dream began to take the shape of a plan. Generally speaking, the plan became early retirement and moving aboard a sailboat to see the world for as long as it’s fun. Hours were spent on Yachtworld trying to find the perfect boat, only to be brought back to the reality of living in Montana and the impracticality of owning a cruising boat here. To cut to the chase, in May of 2012 we were fortunate enough to be presented with a deal we couldn’t refuse on Jiibay Na Noodin, a 1989 Cabo Rico 34. She is a very lightly used fresh water boat that we found on Lake Ontario and brought to Flathead Lake. We spent three summers sailing her on Flathead Lake before bringing her home to get her ready to go cruising.