PAUL & SUSAN MITCHELL S
when his boss offered to sell him a 21-ft sloop back in the late '50s. But being young and eager, he naturally said yes. "I sailed it up and down the coast and out to Catalina with Royce's Sailing Illustrated in one hand and the tiller in the other," Paul recalls with a laugh. Later, while living in Seattle, he bought a 31-footer, fixed her up and honed his skills in the waters of Puget Sound. Then, in 1970 he singlehanded her to Mexico and points south. No doubt his urge to set off in LANCE EKHART
ome sailors get so carried away preparing to go cruising that they never actually leave the dock. Others, like Paul and Susan Mitchell, become so thoroughly enmeshed in the cruising lifestyle that they never get around to coming back home. This salty couple is
They sold the business, and with a war chest of about $10,000, set off on an open-ended cruise. San Diego (now Ullman Sails) and asked Paul for a job. "To make a long story short," she says, "I got the job — and still have it!" Although neither had grown up around sailing, once introduced to the sport, they both took to it with a passion. Paul had never even set foot on a sailboat Page 144 •
• July, 2007
Above: 'White Cloud' in her glory days. Right: Hauled out at Golfito's United Fruit Company pier before heading west.
search of adventure was partly fueled by the volatility of the times, when having a restless spirit was as common as wearing tiedye and bell bottoms. That same year, Susan also made a radical about-face by divorcing her husband and moving to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. During the '60s, she'd been a school teacher, but, as she puts it, had become "fundamentally disillusioned with my life and what was going on nationally, especially the Vietnam war." A week after arriving in the islands, she met a guy with a Tahiti ketch who took her on a tour of the BVI — then a
still out there today, having spent a quarter century exploring the world under sail together. Last year they finally crossed their outbound track at Costa Rica, completing one of the most protracted circumnavigations we've ever heard of. "When we set sail from San Diego in '82, we didn't have a lot of money," recalls Paul, "but we did have a sewing machine, a lot of sailcloth and the ability to support ourselves." It would be hard to imagine a set of skills more useful to cruisers than those involved in sailmaking and sail repair. In fact, Paul and Susan's onboard sewing machine has financed all of their travels. They met one day back in January of 1978 when Susan walked through the door of Paul Mitchell's Sail Services in
Aboard 'White Cloud', Paul's onboard 'sail loft' was set up in the fo'c'sle with his trusty Pfaff at the ready.
very sleepy place where wooden sloops and schooners ruled the roost. From that point on, she was hooked on the sailing life. After working and "bouncing around" the Caribbean for five years, Susan spent a couple of years in Hawaii before her fateful encounter with Paul. Five years earlier, he'd reluctantly returned from the good life in Central America when he ran out of money, and opened his loft, specializing in cruising sails. Not long after hanging up his shingle, Paul bought White Cloud, a 58-ft Alden stays'l schooner (70 LOA) which had been tragically neglected. He, and later, Susan, spent countless hours refurbishing the wooden classic until the fall of 1982, when she was finally ready to take them cruising in style. They sold the business, and, with a war chest of about $10,000, set off on an openended cruise. "At that time we didn't have much of a plan," recalls Paul. "We knew we were going down to Mexico, and after that we were hoping to go to the South Pacific. But
The July 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.