Sisters Bond During Sail to Mexico

By: Cherie Sogsti

Orange County Register
Photo Courtesy of Beach Access

Rebecca Norris and Paula Grams get their sea legs on a trip south.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore,” said author Andre Gide.

Ditto for women.

Sisters Rebecca Norris and Paula Grams, both Costa Mesa residents, were ready for an adventure, and the opportunity arrived in an unlikely form – a 38-foot catamaran.
The sisters accepted an offer to be crew on Beach Access, a Lagoon 380. Glenn and Monica Twitchell, Newport Beach boaters, decided to take their boat south and invited Paula and Rebecca along for the ride, even though Rebecca had no offshore experience.

“It was my first time sailing and I loved it,” exclaimed Rebecca enthusiastically. “With no schedule, we lost track of dates and times. Pop culture, commercialism and rush-hour traffic were gladly traded for the wind’s caress and the motion of water under foot.”

The three-week journey aboard Beach Access was Paula’s second sailing trip that lasted longer than a day. The first time Paula cast off for the open ocean was a few months ago aboard Astor, an 86-foot schooner owned by Richard and Lani Straman of Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

After a thousand-mile passage to Puerto Vallarta, Paula returned home and couldn’t wait to jump on a boat again and enjoy the freedom of the sea.

Sister bonding

“It definitely was a sister bonding experience,” Rebecca said. “We’ve traveled together before, but not in close quarters for three weeks. You learn a lot about yourself and others under those conditions. It’s insightful, humbling, enriching and a growth catalyst.”

Paula and Rebecca are eight years apart in age, so they didn’t play together much as children. Or as Rebecca puts it: “I was the annoying brat when we were kids.”

“It was fun getting in touch with our ‘inner child,'” Rebecca said. “As bunkmates, we chatted ourselves asleep and awoke to giggle fits in the morning. It was a happy digression into a childhood that we never really shared.”

“Now that age is not a defining element of our relationship, we get along much better,” Rebecca added.

A fellow Beach Access crewmember may not have guessed that the sisters were getting along so well when they found one “steamrolling” across the other while the offender was barely able to control her laughter. Kids these days!

Lessons learned

The three-week trip from Newport Beach to Tenacatita Bay, Mexico wasn’t just fun and silly games.

The sisters learned firsthand that skippers often spend more time hunting for boat parts than actually sailing their boats. How often has a cruiser pulled into a little Mexican port and spent days scouring the local ferreteria, or hardware store, for some randomly sized bolt?

“It seems to be a common theme about boats,” Paula said. “They’re always in a state of repair.”
That’s what happens when your house sits in saltwater.

The voyage south was a learning experience in many ways. One memorable lesson occurred in the catamaran’s dinghy. Lesson One: Don’t let the dinghy get sideways to the wave.

After a provisioning trip ashore, the crew tried to scramble into the skiff and plunge through the surf before the waves had their way. The crew tried to keep the dinghy from turning sideways, but currents and swell had other ideas.

“Our combined weight loaded the dingy down so that instead of going over the next wave, we sank down in front of it,” Paula said. “No one was spared from the shower that cascaded over the front. It was a soggy ride back to the boat. Fortunately, the groceries were prepackaged, and we had a casualty of only one egg.”

Call of the sea

Paula and Rebecca didn’t realize so much marine life existed under that skin of blue we call the Pacific Ocean. During their trip, seals clapped and barked, rays leapt out of the water, sea turtles paddles by, whales huffed and puffed, and dolphins somersaulted in their bow wake.

Now that the sisters have returned to Costa Mesa, Paula and her husband, Byron, are preparing to reunite with the schooner Astor in Acapulco, Mexico.

With open minds and open schedules, the Grams will be sailing towards Costa Rica this spring.
“With sailing, I take the good with the bad,” said Paula, who is prone to seasickness. “Sailing gives me a deeper perspective on life. Sailing’s inconveniences are well worth the trade off.”