BAADS Wrap Up from Feb. Wave Length

I heard that two BAADS sailors Alex and Kristi Grotting Hruzewicz had sailed around the Sea of Cortez for several months. And then I saw they had a month old baby with them on the dinghy dock. So here the parents are in Wave Length’s next introduction to another couple of fearless BAADS sailors.

WL: How and when did you hear about BAADS?

Kristi: I heard about BAADS from friends about ten years ago, but I worked most weekends managing a cycling program for people with disabilities, so there was little time to become involved until about four years ago when I went back to school.  
Alex: I had heard about BAADS from Latitude 38, but didn’t get involved until I broke my back. I hesitated, thinking that it would involve a bunch of able-bodied people “helping” the disabled sailors, and was pleasantly surprised to find the complimentary abilities model. The commodore (Ed Gallagher at the time) was blind and he knew the keelboats inside and out — being able to recite which line was run without having to think about it. And the guy who ran the dinghy dock (Greg Williams) was a salty ex- construction worker who used a wheelchair. He knew his stuff. I was really impressed.

WL: Had you any previous sailing experience and what was your first day sailing with BAADS like?

Kristi: I spent a week sailing in Tonga, and was pretty sure an extended sail was in my future. Actually learning how to sail seemed like a reasonable first step, so I found my way to the dinghy dock to learn the basics.

Alex: My dad was an instructor for a youth sailing program where I grew up in Poland. So I had been around boats since I was 2. Before I got hurt, I raced regularly on the Bay, had done deliveries across the Atlantic and had my own J24. After I broke my back, I was afraid to sail by myself – – not knowing if I could depend on my body. I remember the first day I went out on a keelboat with Ed Gallagher and he told me about “Christ before Orange Juice” — which was the order in which the lines are run on the Raven (cunningham, boom vang, outhaul, jib furling sheets). Being blind, he wasn’t able to see where they ran, but he was actually able to tell which line was which faster than a sighted person who would look first. I was really impressed with how adaptive sailing can be.

WL: What is your disability? Which boats do you sail and how does that work for you?

Kristi: I’ve been paralyzed from the chest down since being thrown from the back of a motorcycle when I was twenty. I occasionally join BAADS on their keelboats, but I most like sailing dinghies. Racing isn’t my cup of tea, but I enjoy the camaraderie when everyone is out on the course and doing well together.

Alex: I have a titanium vertebra in my lumbar spine. With all the other hardware in there, on an X-ray it looks like I swallowed a wrench. Sometimes I have real trouble walking. Sometimes you can’t even tell. 
I love racing both dinghies and keelboats because I believe competing is the best way to improve your skill level. After a race, those who do well are usually very happy to share their knowledge — especially after you buy them a beer. But I also love cruising — on the Bay, in the Delta, in the tropics. My experience taught me that all those close quarter maneuvers you learned on the racecourse come in handy when you least expect it. You’ll also know when you can push your boat and when you can’t in heavy weather. Trying to round Point Conception from the South can be much like beating to the windward mark

WL: Can you talk a little about your Mexico sailing trip?

Kristi: In 2010, we sailed out of Berkeley on a seven-
month honeymoon down the coast to explore the sea
of Cortez. We owned Fjordmus, a Contessa 26, for a
year before leaving and spent the bulk of that time
sailing and getting to know the boat. The list of things we wanted to do before we left was long, and had we completed it, we’d still be here checking the list off and paying for everything. We finished what we felt were the basics and set off just before a nasty series of storms.

They made the next few months wet and exciting. After a couple of gales, leaks in the fuel line and the head and a fire in the galley, we found ourselves in Mexico just as a tsunami warning was issued. Without yet having stepped ashore, Alex pulled up the anchor and out into the deep blue we went until what ended up being an inconsequential wave has passed.
Alex had done a few Atlantic and Pacific crossings, but the longest I’d been on a boat was a week. But, I’m not sure any amount of sailing can prepare you for small boat sailing with your sweetie. In our six by eight foot space, I often felt like we were pieces in those small games that require shifting little tiles back and forth until they line up to make a picture. But just outside was a huge swimming pool and we had the foresight to bring two kayaks.

Alex: I second that. Take a relationship class or something in addition to a sailing class before you go. I bet a lot of couples that have sailed together would say the same thing. Conflict resolution skills come in real handy when you’re both stuck in a small space.
Still, Mexico was awesome: whales, jumping manta rays, small fishing villages, being able to catch dinner from a kayak in the morning and so much more that I could go on and on. And yes, you’re never quite done getting ready. It’s best to have a “shove-off” date and stick to it (which we did by a week or so). I ended hooking up our water-maker in San Diego even though I’d installed it 2 months before. I was stoked it ran. However, you’ll have time to tinker when you get out there. Whether you want to or not.

Kristi: My favorite part of the trip was the months spent between La Paz and Santa Rosalia on the island side of the Baja peninsula. The water was warm and the small communities along the way were a welcome change of scenery.

Alex: Now back on land, we run a small web design company, out of our home.

WL: What would you suggest to BAADS or SBYC to improve sailing or any of our operations?

Kristi: We like that BAADS and SBYC are becoming more integrated. Alex: I’m excited about the talks of BAADS expanding to other locations on the Bay. With America’s Cup, the timing couldn’t be better. I’d also love to see more racing. More cruises. I love how the Club evolved since I started. I think it’s heading in the right direction.

WL: Thank you Kristi and Alex for sharing your story. ~~~_/)~~~