Sailing to Recovery #BisbeeCreator, Sandra Smith Tells Her Story

How long have you lived in Bisbee?

My medievalist/opera-loving husband and I bought a house in Old Bisbee three years ago and moved here from the Victorian artist colony of Eureka Springs, Arkansas located in the Ozark Mountains. I had created a bed and breakfast inn there and operated it for 26 years. When I told the first guests I ever had in all those years from Arizona that I was thinking to retire and sell the inn but didn't know where to live "when I was grown up", they said, "Check out's a lot like Eureka Springs." My hubby and I hopped in our car with our chihuahua that Sunday when all our guests had checked out and we headed west. It took us 2-1/2 days to get here and we only had 1 day to explore Bisbee as we had to be back Friday for new inn arrivals.

We turned everything over to the Universe and found a realtor sitting at a desk in the big building downtown which houses The Table, Bisbee Books & Music, and a coffee shop. We told her we wanted a house in Old Bisbee and she showed us several really small former miner's houses. We told her we needed a big house that could accommodate our two antique pianos and with high ceilings for my huge art collection. By sheer luck, she said she had just put her own house up for sale that morning and it was on Quality Hill, built in 1916. We only had 10 minutes to look at it as we had to head right back to Arkansas. It was purrrrfect, and we told her we'd take it and would send all our financial details by email. When we got back home, the phone was ringing and out of nowhere, it was a guy saying he wanted to buy my inn. It took several months to pack up all my art that was hung in the 4 historic houses I had restored as part of the inn, get movers to crate the antique furnishings I had inherited that were in the Victorian replica I had designed and built as the Inn's main building, and then have the movers go to Missouri where I owned a getaway home to pick up all the art and antiques there.

Four months later, off we roared to Bisbee. We hadn't taken any pictures of the new house and couldn't remember what it even looked like except that it had two big fireplaces in the Great Room. When we tried to find it, GPS took us all over the place and I had to jump out and peep in windows until, after driving around for two hours, we finally found a house with the two fireplaces! We've been happy here ever since and every piece of art fit!

What do you create?

I've had a zillion careers, my favorite being as a newspaper editor and photo-journalist in Philadelphia. I left that career to get into recovery from a long-abiding propensity for French wines and exotic brandies. After working faithfully on a 12-step recovery program, with 8 years of sobriety tucked into my life jacket, I bought a 35-foot sailboat and taught myself how to sail up and down the California coast. (I had to toss everything on the boat that was blue overboard and replace it all with hot pink to stop men from telling me what to do on my own boat!).

I then took off without any electronics or radar, sailing mostly alone and sometimes with my rebellious teenaged daughter, on a seven-year spiritual odyssey, from San Francisco south to the Polynesian Triangle, somewhere off Easter Island. I sold the boat in Puerto Vallarta when I was on my way back north and ended up starting the B&B inn in Eureka Springs where I wrote my first book, "A Cook's Tour of Epicuria...One Woman's Adventures". It's a cookbook-memoir and includes lots of my adventure stories and over 200 of my own recipes mostly which I had created on an 18th-century wood-burning stove when I lived in France while getting my master's from a French university. I used many of these recipes regularly when I was an executive chef in a seafood restaurant while living on my boat in Santa Cruz, CA before heading out to sea.

I've just had published my second book, written here in Bisbee. "Out of the Fog! A Story of Survival, Faith and Courage" is a memoir about my recovery from alcoholism and lots of sailing stories, some fun, some terrifying. I am now working on my third book, a sequel to "Out of the Fog!" with the working title, "Thy Sea Is So Great...And My Boat So Small" which continues the sailing adventures as well as describes much time I spent ashore in Central America helping local women who had problems with alcohol.

What's your favorite thing about Bisbee?

I love our Mule Mountains which peek at me from every window of our house and seem to be reaching out to hug me. I also love the incredible star-lit nights we have here in Bisbee, and sitting in our garden in the High Desert cool evenings, I can almost catch one on my outstretched finger. Old Bisbee is especially fun with its amazing diversity of creative individuals and their fascinating art including murals they have created on the walls and exteriors of their homes, and the fabulous music they play at night, either in little clubs or on street corners. I also love the many owner-operated restaurants with their amazing culinary offerings, and the wide variety of shops and galleries with something to please every taste and for every occasion. I especially love the smiles and laughter of our visitors that I can hear echoing in our village's small nooks and crannies, and their curious and explorative natures as they collect memories to take back home with them, leaving some behind for us locals to enjoy as well.

What is a piece of advice you would give to a visitor or someone thinking of living here?

My husband and I host many visitors in the little guesthouse in our garden we call Bisbee Casita Chiquita. Before guests are due to check in, we always send them suggestions and advice about Bisbee. I describe our village as a time-warp and tell them they can wander or waltz around town in dungarees or dressed to the nines in ermine and pearls. I alert them that nothing in Bisbee is written in stone and it is best, especially while that devil Covid is lurking around, that they call shops, galleries and eateries ahead to find out exact hours they are open. I also explain that to get from one place to another in Old Bisbee, they might have to take a long set of stairs but that is this not only good for the calves, it also gives a perfect excuse to simply stop halfway down, take a seat and watch the delightful "show" going on below of others enjoying our town.

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