by Hilary Kaiser, OLLI member
Although Kimball Livingston grew up doing everything on the water except sailing, it was when he was a teenager that he started noticing sailboats--“the same way young men finally start noticing young women, who were always there before.” So, as an undergraduate student at Tulane University in New Orleans, he joined the sailing club and learned sailing, which, he says, “ has been my life” ever since.
Kimball moved to San Francisco from Tulane in 1970 “about five minutes after graduation,” with a double degree in English and psychology. He has been a San Franciscan ever since, except for a year and a half at San Diego State, where he earned an M.A. in Child Developmental Psychology. Choosing not to practice psychology, he combined his passion for sailing and boats with his interest and skill in writing. As a freelance journalist, his articles were well-received, but he was not making a living. So he started painting houses to make ends meet. In 1979, he was hired as a sailing writer by the San Francisco Chronicle, where he worked for the next 14 years.
This OLLI Summer faculty member has sailed the oceans of the world and made it a mission to sail milestone editions of America's three classic distance races: the Centennial Transpacific, the Centennial Newport-Bermuda and the 100th running of Chicago-Mackinac, scoring in two out of three. Asked if there were any writers who had inspired him, he immediately mentioned Bernard Moitessier, the French solo yachtsman and author who, standing a good chance of winning, abandoned the first solo, non-stop, round-the-world yacht race, 1968-1969, “because I am happy at sea, and perhaps to save my soul." Kimball met Moitessier when he moved to San Francisco (much later), and he admired Moitessier’s “conscious effort to live as a saint,” his environmental activism, and his books about his voyages, particularly The Long Way.
Enamored of the San Francisco Bay, Kimball wrote the first and second editions of Sailing the Bay for Chronicle Books. He blogs at BluePlanetTimes.com and is an Editor-at-Large for the wide-selling SAIL magazine. Writing assignments have taken him to the South Pacific, Asia, Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Gulf Coast. He has scripted documentaries and was one of the writers for the Francis Ford Coppola-produced film WIND. He has been a speaker at the prestigious Boston Public Library Lectures and has run the speaker series at San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club for seven years.
Kimball is a longtime follower of the America’s Cup and is frequently called upon to write and to comment about this prestigious event. He hopes OLLI members who take this summer’s course on the 2013 America’s Cup will gain an understanding of the historical and social context of the race and its impact on the local economy and environment, as well as some basic concepts of sailing. Most importantly, he wants to go beyond garbled media-speak and make clear what is REALLY going on.