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Yearlong sailing trip was natural high
Yearlong sailing trip was natural high
By SUE HOFFMAN
For the family of Brian and Sheryl Sandridge, of Solon, sailing through 36 locks of the Erie Canal, dropping anchor in the Potomac and jumping off rocks into deep waters at Thunderball Cave in the Bahamas were just part of their adventure.
Planning shorter trips this summer from Sandusky, where their boat is docked, the Sandridges reflected on their one-year adventure that took them from Canada to the Bahamas and back. The trip included some sights not often experienced by tourists, a wealth of educational lessons and opportunities to meet people from near and far.
"We made ties that will last forever," Mr. Sandridge said about the many friendships cultivated during the yearlong trip and past sailing trips.
Get-togethers with friends on docks and boats are among the scenes in colorful photographs which line the walls in their entrance hall. Other photos from the trip capture islands populated with iguanas and pigs as well as historic and nautical sights.
Mr. and Mrs. Sandridge and their daughters Erin, 14, and Geneva, 13, set sail in June 2008. They sailed on their 39-foot Westerly, which Mr. and Mrs. Sandridge purchased in 1998. They previously had purchased a 32-foot Westerly sailboat in 1985 after they were married. Prior to having children, they had taken their first boat on a two-year trip through the Caribbean.
"We met several families we had met 20 years ago on this trip, Mr. Sandridge said about their latest adventure.
"Long-range cruisers are a small community," Mrs. Sandridge said, and it's not uncommon to meet the same people at various ports.
Mr. Sandridge said he's been sailing his entire life. Once they were married, he said, "Sheryl got right to it," and their daughters acquired their sea legs as babies.
Named "Gotta Life," the sailboat "is like a small city," Mr. Sandridge said. It includes a desalinator, which makes potable water from sea water, solar panels for power, and laptop computers, refrigerator and freezer. The boat has two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
"It took five years of planning to do the trip," Mr. Sandridge said. "We saved money up for many years."
Mrs. Sandridge is retired from her job at AT&T, and Mr. Sandridge, a computer programmer, left his job at Siemens to take the trip and rejoined the company after returning in June 2009.
Taking a year off also meant home-schooling for Erin and Geneva, who now are in eighth and seventh grades, respectively, at Solon Middle School.
While they followed a home-schooling program, the girls had to catch up when they re-enrolled in the Solon School District this year, Mrs. Sandridge said. "In Solon, the teachers are passionate about their subjects. As a parent, it's hard to be passionate about all seven subjects."
Still, it was worth it, Erin said. "We met a diversity of people and we saw places tourists don't get to go to."
Describing the trip, Mr. Sandridge said, "We started in Sandusky and sailed up along the coast of Michigan to the North Channel," the northern arm of Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. The family spent the summer in the island-rich North Channel before returning to Sandusky.
After restocking their provisions, the family sailed Lake Erie to Buffalo and the Erie Canal. The canal links small towns and many of New York state's major cities. "It basically follows I-90," Mr. Sandridge said. "Every night you could tie up and get something to eat at one of the towns." Since his sailboat's pace was "like a fast walk," Erin and Geneva were able to skateboard on the towpath alongside them, he said.
The family sailed down the Hudson River and docked in Hoboken, N.J., near New York City on Labor Day weekend.
"We went to the U.S. Open for tennis," Mr. Sandridge, a tennis buff, said.
"We went offshore along the New Jersey coast to Chesapeake Bay," Mrs. Sandridge said. "We went up the Potomac River to Washington, D.C., where we spent three weeks. We were anchored in sight of the Washington Monument."
The Sandridges sailed the Intercoastal Waterway to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., traveling about 50 to 60 miles a day. Along the way, they joined Mr. Sandridge's parents, who followed them in their 36-foot sailboat.
"We stopped at all the cities along the way," Mrs. Sandridge said.
The family sailed to Chub Cay in the Bahamas, where they went through customs. For three months, they remained at Georgetown and Exuma Park, an all-natural land and sea park, before returning home last spring.
Geneva said she remembers all the fish she saw in the Exuma aquarium and in Thunderball Cave, made famous in one of the James Bond movies.
Taking their time minimized any weather challenges, the family said. Because of windy conditions, the family waited in Ft. Lauderdale for two weeks for the right weather.
"We had to find a good hiding spot," if weather conditions worsened, said Erin, who listened daily to the radio for news of storms.
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