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Last minute details - me lashing the 45# and 35# CQRs - Note the sculling oar lashed to the whisker stay.

If you want to find out exactly who you are, head offshore alone.  That's the key word:  Alone.  Do not take anyone with you.  It doesn't matter where you go, either - just go straight out for 7 days, then straight back.  You will not be the same.  Chances are you have never been completely out of touch with other human beings for even one moment during your entire life.  There is always a phone, a television, or other people within reach.  Alone, at sea, in an incredibly hostile environment, you strip away all the layers and are forced to face someone you've never seen before:  you.  I don't think there is any other way to experience this today.

I mentioned that the sea is a hostile environment.  Forget about the romance of the sea.  Sure, there are magnificent sunsets, starry nights, and fascinating marine life.  There is also an unforgiving environment unlike anything you have ever experienced.  No second chances, no "I'm Sorry".  It is a place where you can be truly afraid.  Not just scared, but actual terror.  Imagine lightening striking all around your boat, imagine waking to a crunching sound hundreds of miles offshore and knowing, and I mean knowing, that you are dead.  It is an environment of extremes.  Part of me worries about many modern voyagers.  

"I buy anything"  -  My name is Todd Chocholaty and I'm currently an auctioneer and  bankruptcy liquidator based in Dallas, Texas. My day job is IT Director for a fairly large company.  I have  a degree in Chemistry from the State University of New York at Binghamton - Harpur College, but never worked as a practicing chemist.  

 


Alone - my little boat has the whole island cove.

I've started and owned several businesses ranging from environmental services to furniture, and, in 1993, I sold my environmental  business and moved aboard a Lyle Hess 28' cutter Solita of San Francisco.  After cruising the west coast and Mexico for 2 years, I returned to Northern California and became the principal engineer for USCG certification of the s/v Kaiulani.  I even had the opportunity to live aboard the schooner with my future wife and two step children.

Once Kaiulani was certified to carry 49 passengers and began her charter boat career, I moved to Dallas, Texas (you have to go somewhere!) and sold the Hess cutter.

 

Always interested in boat design, and armed with some experience in vessel construction, function, and needs, I began a search for a simple cruiser that could be hauled back to the Sea of Cortez.  The Hess 28 was without question a most seaworthy and attractive boat.  She was fast, she survived a nasty collision at sea, and she kept me safe.  I learned to sail her without an engine (not recommended), and I rebuilt everything myself - including the addition of an inboard diesel engine.  She was, however, complex and a bit of a maintenance burden with all of the brightwork.  Additionally, they are very expensive and difficult to construct.  I am not a fine craftsman - but, I can handle engineering and building a functional machine.

When I was looking for my first boat, I read everything, ordered piles of study plans, and did everything everybody else does when they have the dream.  It's different today - I have no interest in reading sailing adventures or pouring over study plans - they just seem a bit hollow after actually voyaging.  I remember running across the Aleutka in a few sailing books, but I never seriously considered the design.  I was madly in love with the lines of Lyle Hess' designs, and nothing could pry me away.  

 


Race Week - Caleta Partida, 1996


Sunset at anchor, south of Agua Verde

The Aleutka 25 is an attractive, functional ship.  After you voyage for a while, you acquire a focus on your goals and what type of vessel can help you reach those goals.  I won't be crossing oceans - it's just not my thing, and the world is a far different and more hostile place for American singlehanders today.
My family also has less than no interest in floatation of any kind, so I'm on my own. A small, simple work boat that I can tow where I need to go narrows the choices a bit.  The work boat standards narrows the field again, and eliminates many capable small cruisers.  The boat may need to be left in drydock for months, it may be battered by hostile elements or vandals.


Ship sighting

 

I am also fascinated by reverse engineering a boat.  Take a shape and a memory and turn it into a functioning machine.  The original Aleutka hull was laid up in one month in a backyard, with no lofting - the entire boat was built in under 18 months.  Nostalgia is a dangerous thing.  We want to keep the best of the past, without the mistakes.  Almost nobody builds a boat for voyaging anymore.  There's just no time in our lives.  For me, it has always been about the journey, not the destination.  This project may never see completion, but it doesn't really matter.  The point, of course, is to enjoy the process and keep learning.

 


Sunset 300 miles offshore - a conflicted time for any singlehander - a beautiful harbinger of a long night.

 

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