“Trust your boat. She is strong, and she already knows this path.”
This has been some of the best advice I have received about offshore sailing. It helps me keep my sanity. At night, when I am most terrified of what could happen so far offshore I tell myself I must trust Sonrisa. Sonrisa is a good and strong boat, and she really does know the path we are on; she has been here before.
Sonrisa was commissioned to be built at the Uniflite Factory in Bellingham, Washington in 1981. As Hull No. 249, she was the last Valiant 40 built in Washington. She was finished in 1982, and was first owned by a Central Florida sugar cane grower. I found a brochure in her records offering her as a charter boat in the Caribbean in the winter and New England in the summer.
Next, she was purchased by Gerald and Debby Schillian. I found a letter from a Mr. Schillian to the Valiant factory in Sonrisa's records. I googled the name, and what do you know, I found an attorney practicing in Florida. On the off chance that the Florida Gerald Schillian and Sonrisa's prior owner were one and the same, I emailed him. Indeed! They were one and the same. He sent us a really nice email detailing the Schillian adventures.
At the time, they were living in New York City, but they decided to keep the boat in Fort Lauderdale. In 1987 they took their shakedown cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada. In February 1989 they left New York for San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles. During the Summer 1989, they holed up in Cumana, Venezuala for the hurricane season. Next they traveled to Bonaire, Curacao, through the Panama Canal, to the Galapagos, then across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, including Marquesas, Tuamotu, Papeete Tahiti, and Society Island Groups. The trip to the Galapagos to the Marquesas was done via celestial navigation only. Sonrisa then traveled to Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand, where they waited out the 1990/91 Hurricane Season. They traveled through Australia, New Caledonia, Federated States of Micronesia, and Japan. In 1993, they sailed 42 days from Japan under the Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco.
Thereafter, the Schillians sold her to John and Sylvia Parr. John and Sylvia sailed her to Mexico several times until they were ready to set sail westward again toward the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, and Australia. Sonrisa was shipped home from Australia. She ended up on the East Coast and sailed down the Intercoastal Waterway. From there, she was trucked from Texas back to San Diego and put up for sale in 2009. She remained for sale in San Diego from 2009 - November of 2012 when we bought her.
Over the last three years, I have often marveled at how easily we found Sonrisa. Sometimes I think we did not choose Sonrisa; she chose us. How many boats sit in their slips for their entire life, dreaming of sailing far off places, but never actually going? Thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands. Somehow, Sonrisa has convinced three of her last three owners to set off into the wild blue yonder. She waited in her sales berth for three years, and on our first meeting, we knew she was our boat. When I doubt myself, I think that Sonrisa wouldn't be wrong about me. I have to trust my boat.
And now, a grand tour. Excuse the clutter, this how she looks packed up for cruising.
Cockpit a.k.a. Patio
Companion Way a.k.a. Front Door
Stair case and Engine Room
Galley a.k.a. Kitchen
Navigation Station a.k.a. Mission Command
Salon a.k.a. Living Room
Sea Berths (Where we sleep when it's rocking and rolling.)
Head a.k.a. Restroom with separate shower!
More Storage Lockers
V-Berth a.k.a. Guest Room