Part one of a series detailing Stanford students and the awesome things we do outside of class
7:15AM on Sunday morning and my alarm sounds, piercing my post-Saturday night partying foggy consciousness. Detesting the idea of waking up at this godforsaken hour, I hit that glorious invention the snooze button and roll back into blissful nothingness. 5 minutes later my phone screams at me again, and an image flashes through my mind: I’m floating atop the water, the sun warming my face and the wind whipping through my hair. I’m drinking beer and laughing with friends. From the depths of my slumber, a slightly accented voice booms at me “Pull in the jib sheet Jesse, we’re tacking!” In a rush of excitement, I fly out of bed and begin searching for warm clothes, finally remembering why I got up this early on the day most college students never see the a.m. hours: it’s sailing time!
If you think I’m nuts for giving up my one guaranteed morning of sloth to schlep all the way to Santa Cruz to battle the wind or lack there of, wait until you meet Stanford senior Dominik Pasalic, Croatian born and raised, and an ocean lover since day one. Despite his passion for the sea and fascination with all things maritime, it wasn’t until his mid teens that Dom took his first one week sailing class in his home country. “Learn how to sail an old Croatian sailboat,” he tells us, “and you’ll be able to sail any boat in the world!” he emphasizes as he points to the electronic controls on the modern 46 ft Beneteau sailboat that we’ve chartered (sail speak for rented) for the day from Pacific Yachting in Santa Cruz.
As we glide effortlessly over the gentle waves, Dom shares the story of how he became such an expert sailor. It all started a year ago when Dominik was invited to go on a 2 day sailing roundtrip between Santa Cruz and Monterey with a group of Stanford friends, only one of whom had any real sailing experience. After a smooth and relaxing cruise over from the marina in Santa Cruz, the group paid $30 to dock the boat at a pier in Monterey, had a night out on the town (as much as can be had “on the town” in Monterey), and slept on the boat (yeah, it can sleep 10 people pretty comfortably in the cabin).
The return leg, on the other hand was brutal. Gale force winds, 40 ft high waves breaking over the bow of the boat, and the sails barely extended at all for fear of them ripping or the boat capsizing, the regular 4 hour return trip took the group over 7 hours to complete. “I swore to myself that I’d never feel that helpless again,” Pasalic explained, recounting the inexperience of most of the crew. Luckily the group made it back to Stanford in one piece with the good times far outweighing the stress of the poor conditions. However, Dom couldn’t shake the slight irritation at being caught so off guard.
Just one week later Dominik signed up for an intense 8 day sailing course in Santa Cruz, determined to master the seas. “It’s actually a great investment,” Pasalic explained when asked about the price of getting licensed to sail. “For about $1,000 dollars you can get all the certifications done in a week (sleeping in the cabin of the boat to save money on hotels) and then you’re checked out to go and rent any boat in the fleet.” With internationally recognized licensure, Pasalic can go to other marinas and rent boats as well. “It’s such a great time, I’ve gotten out sailing over 7 times just this spring quarter.” Dominik invites his close friends to tag along and everyone splits the price, making it pretty economical for a whole day of fun. The massive boat we rented cost $480 for the day, but split 8 ways, with plenty of room for more, the price came out to about $60 per person (choice beverages not included, naturally).
For our excursion, the morning had pretty low winds and we putted around for about an hour before things started to pick up. Once things got interesting, however, we got up to a 5 knot cruise (sail speak for about 6 mph-which actually feels pretty fast on a boat). By the afternoon the wind had picked up even more, and we maxed out around 10 knots. Dominik generously gave all his guests some time at the helm and taught a few of us the basics of raising, lowering, and shifting the sails.
After hours of windswept relaxation and engaging conversation, we stopped at an awesome burger joint in Santa Cruz to refuel before battling a bit of traffic back to the Bubble. Early rising aside, I think Dominik’s got the ideal Sunday down to perfection. “My dream,” states Pasalic, “is to have the sailing skill to be able to go back to Croatia and take my family on a sailing vacation.” Pasalic starts full-time with Morgan Stanley just two days after graduating next month, so, fortunately, he’ll have the expenses part covered. As for the skill part, anyone who’s sailed with him can assure you he’s more than ready take on the seas!
More pictures of the adventure: