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Cruising in Dirty Diapers ... so to speak

A new mother gives it all up — even a Hollywood job — to sail the Caribbean with her husband and infant

Cruising in Dirty Diapers ... so to speak

A new mother gives it all up — even a Hollywood job — to sail the Caribbean with her husband and infant

What happens when a novice sailor chucks her career as Francis Ford Coppola’s producing partner to sail for eight months? No clue. But I’m going to find out. Starting … tomorrow.

The safe harbor

It’s late December, and I sit anchored at Culebra in the Caribbean. There’s the Dinghy Dock cafe, the red and white drawbridge, the Dive Shop lined with tanks. These places, I know. Then I look directly in front of me: the autopilot, the GPS, even the helm seems to stare back menacingly. I balk.

Minutes ago I came out to the boat. It was my virgin solo ride in the dinghy. My plan was to unload a few things, primarily for the baby. Instead, I freeze as reality hits me … hard. What before seemed crazily fabulous now just seems crazy. I can only wonder, What was I thinking?

Give me leeway. I hadn’t really thought about sailing the Caribbean until a year ago. Before then, I was hobnobbing at the Polo Lounge and cruising down the Hollywood Freeway in a convertible. (Granted, the Polo Lounge was thanks to an expense account, the convertible was owned by BMW Financial Services, and the odds of “cruising” down L.A. freeways are slim to none, but I digress). At that time, I was working for the Godfather. After many years going hard to weather, I was finally sailing through Hollywood.

My first job was assisting “B-Movie King” Roger Corman. Apparently my Stanford education trained me to answer phones for less than minimum wage. Three weeks into the position, Roger told me to write a screenplay … in 72 hours. He ordered me to churn out 120 pages but also proffered words of wisdom: “To write a great screenplay, every seven pages you should have sex. Or you should have violence. Better yet, sex and violence.”

“Hellfire,” the first American-Russian co-production, was born. It was nominated for a Hubbie Award in the category of “Best Rhymes-with-Witch Character.” I didn’t win, but as they say, I was just happy to be nominated. I’m sure my parents’ tears were from joy and not from regret that they paid for 12 years of Catholic school.

My experiences with Roger paved the way. Being Francis Coppola’s producing partner was indeed more glamorous. And then I met Angus. Angus Beavers is a bit of a legend, and not just in his own mind. He had owned the super-popular Surf Club and Zulu Lounge in New York. He also had nightclubs in Dallas and Los Angeles. Town and Country magazine named him “One of The Most Interesting People to Invite to a Dinner Party.” He began his days at 9 p.m. schmoozing in a bar. I ended mine at 8:30 p.m. after watching Rachel and Ross. We couldn’t have been more different. So when he informed me early on of his two lifelong commitments — bachelorhood and sailing — I wasn’t concerned.

Sailing is a part of Angus. He had moved from New York to the Caribbean island of Culebra to get away from it all: his private Betty Ford Center. While building a house there, Angus lived on a sailboat. He missed that life after moving to California.

Eventually, I visited him in Culebra. Angus shockingly introduced me as his “girlfriend.” I already had figured that Angus may be relinquishing his bachelorhood throne, but I knew sailing would remain part of the territory. I enrolled in a UCLA Introduction to Sailing class and loved it.

When Angus’ reign was turned in for a ring, we took a bareboat honeymoon cruise through the British Virgin Islands. After that, I wasn’t just hitched, I was hooked. We both agreed: Maybe someday we’d cruise for a period of time. Key words: “maybe” and “someday.”

Changes defined the past few years. An early September morning gave me a brutal wake-up call. Chasing executives suddenly became meaningless. I knew of too many people who rushed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers to start another hectic day in the hopes of a more relaxing life … someday.Then Angus’ 21-year-old nephew was killed in a tragic accident. A professional kayaker who had circumnavigated the world for seven years as a child, his life had been astoundingly full and snatched away too soon.

On a brighter note, I became pregnant in June 2003. Doctors had warned that conception would be difficult, if not impossible. The pregnancy solidified my desire for something more. Having just left Francis, I had opened my own production company “to be on the safe side.” But I knew that Hollywood was not what I wanted for a child. Angus agreed, and the “For Sale” sign was hung.

Sundance to the sun dance

The miner’s town of the Park City Mountain Resort, Utah, had long been a favorite. We visited several times during the Sundance Film Festival. With real estate opportunities galore, it was our new town. We bought houses to renovate and sell or lease. It wasn’t long before all of them, including our current domicile, were rented. We said out loud what we were thinking: Now might be the time to take that “maybe someday” sailing trip. Perhaps try for six to eight months and sail the Eastern Caribbean, visiting 15 to 20 islands. It sounded glorious. But with the pregnancy, things were no longer so simple.

On March 31, 2004, Dashiell made his debut. Only 6 pounds, 8 ounces, he weighed heavy on my decisions. Could I possibly make such a trip with an infant? I often felt like I was the only mother who had ever entertained the thought. People who said, “You’re sailing with Dash? That’s, umm, interesting,” made me feel guilty, to say the least. Perhaps I was wrong, subjecting Dash to something that was ultimately just his parents’ dream. There was only one thing I could do to make an informed decision, and that was research.

I became more confident. I found equipment that would keep Dash safe. A car seat that snugly fit into the companionway would act as his under-way chair. A screw-on highchair for the cockpit table would make his dining area while anchored. A netted cocoon — usually for the beach — would confine him in his berth during naps. And an infant life vest would be worn at all times.

Doctors also put my mind at ease. Dash’s pediatrician offered — on her own volition — that now was the best time to sail with him. He wasn’t even mobile yet. Nurse Betty at the State Travel Clinic in Salt Lake City administered an accelerated series of vaccines for his safety, both the typical baby shots and those needed for Caribbean locales. Sure there were many times when I tightly held Dash and thought, I’m just not doing this trip. But then I realized what a great opportunity it was to spend time as a family, and I plodded on.

It was a snowy October morning when we left Park City last year. I headed to Culebra with Dash and our other crewmember, our 4-pound dog, Ruggles. Angus scoured Trinidad, Antigua and St. Thomas for the perfect boat. But it wasn’t until we both stepped aboard Honey Moon that we knew we were home. Honey Moon was being decommissioned from The Moorings in Tortola. A Beneteau 411, she felt big enough to be comfortable, and yet small enough for us to handle. We legally changed her name to Dirty Diapers and headed back to Culebra, a short jaunt, to prepare for the long haul.

Tomorrow. The “long haul” begins tomorrow. I glance at the GPS, the autopilot, the helm. They don’t look as menacing as they just had. I grab the duffel filled with Dash’s toys. I turn my back on the Dinghy Dock cafe, the red and white drawbridge, and the Dive Shop lined with tanks. Facing the bow, I see the entrance to the harbor. It opens to a world of experiences. Tomorrow, Dirty Diapers will sail through it.

And so the adventure begins.

Tara, Angus and Dash slipped the lines in Culebra Jan. 1 to cruise the Caribbean, and Tara will be filing periodic dispatches from Dirty Diapers.