Eagle at 3 months

Tom Brown and Jeanne Walker sail aboard SV Eagle, a 36' Freeport Islander. You can follow their journey on their blog.
We met in 2003 and our third date was on Eagle, Tom's first time on a sailboat. We were married in 2005 and the plan to sail away began to take shape shortly there after. We already had a great boat, a Bob Perry designed Freeport Islander. She is a modified full keel sloop, with a set of three large window down each side of the main salon. She is incredibly comfortable to sail, as well as a roomy live aboard boat. After an intensive complete re-fit of the entire boat, we sailed away from the dock, full time on April 19th, from Des Moines Washington.

What are your plans now?
Our first 90 days were spent doing a tour of the Canadian Gulf islands and Desolation Sound. Now we're back in the San Juan Islands, getting ready to head down the Pacific Coast in September on our way to Mexico.

Is there some place that you wish you could have stayed longer?
The farthest north we got was a place just above the Desolation Sound area called The Octopus Islands. We were able to take a stern tie back in a small cove in the north east corner that was just magical. Most of our travels were so early in the spring, that the weather was pretty miserable, and when we got to Octopus Islands, the sun came out and it was beautiful. There were some nice hikes, we caught fresh prawns and ling cod for dinner. Unfortunately, our water supply was running low, and there was a nasty red algae bloom in the water that prevented us from using our water maker. So we had to leave sooner than we had wanted.

What do you enjoy about cruising that you did not expect?
After a lot of years working in the corporate world, and noise and stress of the city, we have been awed by the pure quiet. Sitting in remote anchorages, the loudest thing being a song sparrow or a loon calling. Even the occasional air plane or other boat motoring by has seemed like a violation of our 'ear' space. In all our dreaming, that part never really occurred to us. Along with the silence, the clarity of the sky and the scenery. We've been so far away from even small towns that there has been relatively no smog, pollution or trash. It's nice to see a beach as it was long, long ago. The sky's are brilliant blue, the trees, deep green, the stars...well, there are stars!

Is there something from your land life that you brought with you that you feel silly about now?
Tom: I spent several years as a PGA Golf pro, and have my entire set of golf club, and two pair of shoes along. I gave up some valuable hanging locker space to have them along, and now am really considering it a bit silly. I guess time will tell on that one huh?

Jeanne : I've always wanted to try my hand at watercolor. I've got a drawer full of supplies. I've also been reading on the techniques and steps involved. I'm not sure that we have the space on board for me to start a project. Perhaps when we're in a warmer climate, I'll pull out the colors!

Is there something from your land life that you brought along that you are especially glad to have along?
Jeanne: My cookbooks, good knives, pans and utensils. After 10 years of living aboard, it was all here anyway, - I've moved many of my cookbooks to a box in an attic!

Tom: Given the amount of photography work we do, the only thing I can think of is our cameras.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette.
Every one talks about other boats anchoring too close, and that has been a problem a couple of times, but my pet peeve right now is the speed which some people run their dinghy’s around the anchorages. Even when there is no posted speed limit or “No Wake” zone, a small amount of common courtesy would go along way when you need to go from point “A” to point “B” and my boat is on that direct line. I feel that if you need to run your dinghy right next to my boat at the highest possible speed, there better be a medical emergency.

How did you (or did you?) gain off shore experience?
Jeanne: I was a participant in the 1994 Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii on the first all women team. I also was part of the delivery crew returning a sailboat from Hawaii after it completed the Vic-Maui race, and a delivery up the Pacific Coast. I've been boating since I was a baby, and sailing since about twelve.

Tom: I had never even been on a sailboat prior to meeting Jeanne, and have yet to really have any offshore experience. I've been off shore in fishing boats, and helped deliver a large power boat to Seattle, but no real off shore sailboat experience. It was a steep learning curve, but some great coaching from Jeanne, and some local racing around the Puget Sound have helped a lot.

What would you recommend to someone preparing to cruise?
One of the things we are truly happy about, is that we had lived aboard for a while prior to starting this adventure. You might be cooped up for several days if the weather turns bad or you have a long crossing. You will be spending a lot of time with the other person on the boat, in a smaller space than usual if you have been living in a house or apartment. We encountered several straight days of rain when we took off to Canada and were glad we had something of a routine down for the close quarters living. Bad weather only intensifies this, so it is best to have gotten used to sharing these cramped quarters at a time when it is not forced upon you. The other thing would be to make sure that you have things to do together, and things that you can do apart. Hobbies or other interests, that can be done apart will make your time together way more enjoyable.

Make sure your communication with each other is good. Be able to say, “ I need some space”, or alone time, and don't take it personally when it's said to you. 

Get into the habit of putting things away after you've used them or removed them from a locker, and back to the place it came from. It's amazing how fast an 'explosion' of clutter can happen!

Your routine 'systems' make everything run smoothly – like how you tie up your lines, and sheets, stow things in a locker, or turn off systems at the end of a passage. If your system works, for you, do them the same way, every time.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
Jeanne: For many years, 30 +, I've dreamed about living on a sailboat and traveling. For many years I lived in small apartments, or rooms, and didn't gather or collect 'stuff'. I read most of the cruisers stories. If there was some 'change' I could make while on land, that they did while cruising, I did it to make the transition to a boat easier.

The reality came in steps. First, I purchased a boat on which I could live and sail locally. That was good. Then, I found the best partner/mate – Tom, and together we revived the 'sailing off' part. Next, plan it: We budgeted what we wanted to leave with in our cruising kitty, how soon we could pay off the boat, the projects we wanted to do to the boat, courses to take, etc.,and how much time it would take us to reach those goals on our current incomes. Once we figured that and set a date we were very particular about any expenses not related to our goal. Being realistic about our incomes, expenses, the projects and a good balance of work and play got us here. The closer we got to our departure date, the more intense the work became, knowing the 'play' would get balanced out once we left.

What else did you do beside sail?
We both enjoy photography, exploring by dinghy, foot and sometimes bicycle when in an anchorage. Tom likes to fish, enjoys messing around with the SSB, and writing stories for our blog. Jeanne likes to cook, do an occasional sewing project, and writes stories about our adventure for our niece and nephews. We're both voracious readers and often flip a coin for time in the hammock.

Class of 2011

Three Sheets NW is doing a series on cruisers casting off the docklines from the Pacific Northwest in 2011. The first two interviews are already published and you can keep track of the series here.