The Ninth Path & Designing Sailing Clothes

Berkeley Yacht Club photo by Lydia Oxendine

Recently, I met up with a former colleague of mine at the Berkeley Yacht Club, affectionately referred to as BYC. I often meet friends here since it is central to the East Bay where I live, and the city where many other people live.

On this day, and many others, I’m asked how I got into sailing, or more importantly, how I came to make sailing clothing. In both instances it was literally out of necessity.

I am passionate about the outdoors. I don’t just need it, I crave it, and can not live without it. I get a feeling of happiness and freedom when I am sailing that I am addicted to.  I love the heart stopping moment the engine is turned off, and the boat turns into the wind, and it is loud, but silent at the same time.

So, that is why I sail.

I make clothes because it’s bone chillingly cold on the San Francisco Bay.  I am very sensitive to both heat and cold and I am someone who likes to be comfortable. When I started sailing I wore my ski jackets and polar fleece.  This was fine, until I was hit by a wave that went down the back of my ski jacket and through three layers of clothing. I then had to spend the next four hours in the wind soaked to the skin. When I got to shore, my teeth were shattering and I was shaking so badly I couldn’t drive.

After that, I bought my Gill Foulies, but would get my midlayer wet and be shivering for hours.  When Andrew Lacenere told me he was making sailing clothes, I went to the boat he was living on, appropriately named, “Dreamer” where he had a sewing machine and bolts of wool from New Zealand. Now, mind you, I have made better clothes for my Barbies, but the fabric felt like cashmere, and after launching software companies, I thought how hard could it be to make clothes? Well, as it turns out, it’s plenty hard, but that’s another post.

After agreeing to help Andrew, he sent me a link to the famous letter written in 1958 by writer Hunter S. Thompson (see except below).  I still love being a teacher at Cal, a writer, and a painter. And, I remember fondly, my marketing days in the financial district, but none of this compares to making clothes.

I met pattern maker Emma Garrison in LA in early June, and explained, this is my vision, and handed her a drawing and a bolt of orange fabric.  This is where my most charming personal characteristic comes in handy, my naivety, had I known what I was getting into, I might not have done it.  A few weeks later, a box arrived on my doorstep, ironically, I was in the middle of a sailboat race that day, so my beautiful daughter Paris, put on the first prototype for our mid-layer jacket and sent me a photo. With frozen fingers, I opened her text and saw it on my phone, and at that moment, I knew, I had found my ninth path.

I’ve said it before, find what makes your heart pound, and do that.

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On Jeanette reading Paris’ text

The Ninth Path 

by Hunter S. Thompson

“To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

We must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires—including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN—and here is the essence of all I’ve said—you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

For the full letter, click here: The Ninth Path, Letters of Note, Hunter S. Thompson

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