Woke up: Santiago, Colima, Mexico
Went to sleep: Santiago, Colima, Mexico
Debra Louis Armijo
“Sailing is not my thing. But, I love Jeff so I go.”
Debbie sat down with me to talk about her life and what has driven her to sail 75,000 miles aboard a 40-foot sailboat over the past 15 years.
Debbie’s mom was half Mexican-American, half Apache Indian. Her father’s family was from Spain. Her father was in the Air Force, stationed in San Antonio, Texas, when she was born. Her brother, Alan, was just a year old.
Her parents divorced when she was two. Debbie and her brother were sent to live with their grandparents. Debbie’s mom was an alcoholic. Her grandmother had already raised 11 children of her own and was too tired, in many ways, to start over with two small children. She did the best she could.
At an early age, Debbie loved to sing and dance and surrounded herself with people. She made costumes and participated in talent contests. Like her mother, she is a beautiful woman; petite, chiseled features, chocolate colored complexion.
While married the first time, she found her way to Al-Anon to learn how to cope with her alcoholic husband.
As a young adult, she carried a lot of anger towards her mom. She believed she, herself, was to blame. She felt she didn’t deserve any better. Through Al-Anon, she learned to let go of the past; to accept the things she cannot change. She learned to set boundaries and to embrace the many values she brings to bear.
She met Jeff on a siege sita, a blind date. They hit it off immediately. Jeff is the calm amidst Debbie’s storm. They married June 15, 1985.
Debbie says the thing that keeps her with Jeff is his unconditional love for her. He doesn’t care if she is singing and dancing and carrying on. He only wants for her to be happy. He never tries to change her or to make her into someone she is not.
Together they built a log cabin. Never afraid of hard work, Debbie hung sheet rock and moved dirt, alongside Jeff. In that home they raised six children. Three from Jeff’s previous marriage and Debbie’s three, Chris, Heather and Rachel.
Debbie was a stay-at-home mom who put herself in the middle of the kids’ activities. She volunteered at their school and coached Little League baseball.
As the children grew older, Jeff reminded Debbie of his lifelong dream of “cruising.” Debbie pictured a large, sleek, elegant cruise liner. Until that time “cruising” had never been on her radar.
Jeff took Debbie sailing for the first time on his friend’s 31-foot sailboat in Puget Sound. It was winter. In addition to freezing temperatures and blistering fog, Debbie was sea sick. She was given saltine crackers and 7-up for 3 hours until they returned to the dock. She knew then she wanted no part of sailing.
Jeff persisted. Debbie found her way to the Tacoma Women’s Sailing Association to learn how to cope with her sailing addicted husband. At the TWSA she learned about herself. She learned she is smart and strong and capable. Soon she was sailboat racing with the Tacoma Women’s Race Club.
Once the children were grown and gone, Jeff started to push a little harder toward his dream of travelling the world by boat. Debbie looked at their 29-foot Cal and said, “This ain’t gonna work!” Jeff proposed a compromise. “We’ll sell this beautiful log home we built, you select the boat you think you would be happy and comfortable on and we’ll go.” Debbie agreed.
They left Tacoma, Washington aboard their 40-foot Baba, Sailor’s Run in 1999. Over the next fifteen years they have been to Mexico, the Marquesas, the Tuomotas, Tahiti, Christmas Island, American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, the Marshall Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Australia, New Caledonia, Palmyra, Hawaii, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, the Caribbean, Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Martinique, Antigua, St. Martin, St. Croix, Dominica, Columbia and Panama, to name a few.
Debbie says, “The best part of sailing, for me, is the people. I have learned in all the different countries, despite the different ways people live, they are just like us. We are all the same. They love their children, as I have. They work to survive, as I have. They care for each other.”
Debbie likes to share her own culture, her love of music and dance, with those she meets. Wherever she goes she brings a radiant energy that inspires others to get up and dance and sing and know they are loved – just as they are.