Wimahl at 4 months

Welcome Wimhal to Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally published on their blog.

Ariel, Mahonri and Lenin (the boat dog!) on a Cape Dory 28 (our short list boat!) that we got for a very nice price the start of this year. We named it Wimahl but still haven’t painted it yet, so it says Bantam on it. We lived aboard while doing repairs until we felt good about heading out to sea. Our goal was to head north to the San Juans and Canada. For those curious, little baby Lenin (of leninthedog.tumblr.com) LOVES to sail, and loves to kayak, he just hates to get wet. He wears a lifejacket and stays harnessed in for safety as do we all :)

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?

Ariel: Honestly, we didn’t even finish packing before we left. We got all amped up and just left with some of our stuff that we wanted to bring with still in storage in Portland. But of the things we don’t actually own, we’ve considered sculling oar, a wind vane, a wind generator, a pedal electrical system and a pedal propulsion system, as well as a drifter and a storm sail, all of which we don’t have (or don’t have yet) for various reasons. Maybe a hammock for passages.

Mahonri: should have gotten rid of the engine, which is the opposite of that. pedal engine, sculling oar! light air sail, as in a drifter or something.

Is there a place you visited wish you could have stayed longer?   

Ariel: a part of me was happy to stay off Sauvies for a while. Beer, nude beach and summer time.

Mahonri: not really yet. I feel like we’ve stayed too long in a few places.

When you are offshore, what keeps you awake at night (that is, what worries you most)?   

Ariel: the Pacific is loud and big. It sounds like it is smashing the boat to bits, even though I know in my mind it isn’t. It feels like it is lifting the boat up and dropping it. Also, sometimes, puking.

Mahonri: collision at sea.

Favorite thing about about the boat?

Ariel: solar panels and composting toilet. Green living!

Mahonri: I’m bad at these types of questions.

Tell me your least favorite thing about your boat?

Ariel: the galley is kind of weirdly shaped and the cabneits are spaced weird, but thats it.

Mahonri: could be bigger?

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?  

Ariel: We came down the Columbia, to the Pacific, up to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Is there any other kind of weather? JK, it was summer, there was some good weather. For real though, the Columbia gets rough!

Mahonri: The worst we hit was up in the [Columbia] Gorge.

What is your most common sail combination on passage?  

Ariel: we usually fussed around between the jib and the genoa, but we were trying this awesome downwind set up that I called butterfly sails and he called twin sails, and then our mainsail tore in half (again) so we had to get a new one because it was super old and just couldn’t be repaired again :(

Mahonri: clubfooted working jib and main

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?  

Ariel: seems to me that its always the damn sail, but its probably something else. We also frequently loose everything out of the kayak by not taking stuff out of it at night.

Mahonri: the mainsail (getting a new one!).

As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?

Ariel- there is alot of transition. Taking a kayak to just go for a walk, being in a new town, state, country every week. sometimes we don’t even have phone. things get broken from other boaters wake. It’s like living in a permanent earthquake.

Mahonri- having the lady and the goddamn dog around 24/7.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn’t find to be true?

Ariel: we heard this almost mythos surrounding the crossing of the Columbia River Bar, and the idea of crossing it, and sailing NORTH? impossible! but we read and did our own research and realized people are just scared to sail windward and are scared to even go out and try things, and we aren’t like that, so we stopped listening to fearful gossip and tried to tune in to more reliable sources. Up in Puget Sound, and the Straits, it’s the same way. But now we know.

Mahonri: that going north from Astoria to Puget Sound is IMPOSSIBLE!
Posted on Friday, October 04, 2013 by  and tagged   |  

Serenity at 12 months

Welcome Serenity to Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally published on their blog.
SV Serenity on the Columbia River near Rainier, OR. 
The blurb:

In August 2012, Jeff and Harmony laid down their land-based responsibilities, sold most of their possessions, moved onto their 30 foot sailboat in Portland, OR and shoved off on an adventure. After a month of serious (and unbudgeted) boat repairs at the mouth of the Columbia River, they set sail for anywhere further south. Over the past year they have cruised along the Pacific coast of the US and Mexico and are currently based out of Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. Their beloved boat, SV Serenity, is a Nightingale cold-molded cedar-strip planked sloop, which originally hails from Seattle, WA.

You can follow along via our blog: www.taketothesea.us, or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/taketothesea

The dirt:

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
J: I wish we had known more about the "seasons" of cruising and their associated weather patterns and ocean currents. I thought I knew the gist before we left, but it was a surprise to me to discover how much they can narrow your travel options and your feeling of freedom. When we set out we had zero itinerary beyond getting to La Paz, but once we got there we were all of a sudden beset with all the natural rules: If you want to go south, you have to leave by X time if you want wind at your back and get there by Y month if you want to avoid hurricane season. If you are interested in a crossing, there is a relatively small window of time in which to set off a chain of events or else wait for next year. If you go up into the Sea, don’t stay too long or you’re committed to staying there through the brutal summer. Oh, and heading back up north is going to suck pretty much no matter what time of year you do it.

We went from feeling like the world was flat all around us to feeling like we were threading a needle of time, weather, and money. Of course I've never read the Cornell World Cruising Routes book either, so it's definitely my fault and I'm also now helplessly gullible regarding all the old sea wisdom that has come our way.

H: Three things. 1) It takes a LONG TIME to get anywhere, especially if you’re determined to sail. Slow down. Enjoy yourself. Goals can be great, but don’t get hung up on them. 2) Wind and water will expose and exploit any vulnerability you have, be it physical, mental, emotional or otherwise. In other words, prepare to have some pretty intense self-talks, invest in some fist pumping, booty shaking music and don’t be afraid to strike a Super(Wo)Man pose every now and again just to feel like you have your s^&% together. 3) A sense of humor is the most important thing you can bring along with you on your trip…second only to mechanical ability and perhaps guts…oh and actual sailing knowledge/experience.

As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Jeff and our cat, Tack, after a long passage.
Jeff and our cat, Tack, after a long passage.

J: For me it was the shock of just how exhausting it would be to sustain continuous travel. When we started we were only focused on getting south, reaching a destination. We allowed ourselves some opportunities to rest or explore a place in passing, but the majority of our time was devoted to preparing for the next leg of the trip. This also caused us to motor more than we planned just to get through areas that we'd heard would be difficult to traverse. By the time we reached La Paz, we were physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

Since leaving the Sea of Cortez, Harmony and I have adopted a "comfort first" sailing policy. Serenity has the multitudinous blocks, poles, and hard points of a racing boat, which we use to pursue comfort like methodical scientists. We will sacrifice a knot of speed if it means that the overall trip is gentler through the wind and waves, and we avoid using the diesel engine as much as possible because it shatters the calm.  Tack (our cat) is our canary in the coal mine and chief metric for judging when a sail configuration has gone from manageably comfortable to 'something must be done'. This codependency likely has the effect of making Harmony and me less extreme than seafarers of yore, but we are no less action-focused and a whole lot happier.

H: That’s a great question. I’d have to say the whole cooking thing. We have a very rudimentary kitchen. Our diesel stove is great for the North Pacific coast where you can just keep it lit all hours of the day, but it is decidedly less awesome when the air and water are 94 degrees (stifling!). Fortunately I’ve become very adept at cooking pretty much everything on our magma grill in the cockpit and Jeff recently built a gimbaled stove, which is great for simple one pot meals while we’re on passage (or when the mosquitos form a dense cloud around our boat and I don’t feel like subjecting myself to their insatiable appetites). Most people probably won’t  struggle with this same challenge. Every visit to another boat results in maddening galley envy.

What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?
J: Not enough netting! On our first passage we had stuff flying out of cubbies, rolling across the floor, and flopping out of cupboards that didn't have good latches. Additionally, there were all kinds of little preparation steps that we had to learn to do before we set sail (e.g., boil some water for later, make sure all the knives are put in drawers, have all potential clothing needs ready), because we learned that it's better to assume that the ride will not be as smooth as you hoped.

H: Oh goodness, too many to recount. We have learned quite a few things the hard way; it’s hard to pick one. I think one of the earliest lessons I learned (while we still had our training wheels on in the Puget Sound) was the importance of tidying up your docklines. A simple but important lesson. One of our docklines went overboard and fouled our prop. Since it was my fault I insisted on jumping in to rectify the situation (also, Jeff is allergic to cold water). Even though it was a calm, beautiful day, the experience was utterly terrifying. Let me just say that jumping into 52 degree water stops your heart and, in doing so, shatters any disbelief you may harbor regarding your own mortality. It took me a long time to not be paralyzed by my fear of cold water. Being in 94 degree water helps with this quite a lot…but now my fear has just transferred to getting eaten by a shark. Also, don’t start a thread on Cruiser’s Forum about bureaucracy in Southern California and forget to babysit it…word to the wise.

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
J: I love being on the water at nighttime, whether we're anchored or underway. There's just a lot of magic to the experience that only pales in the telling of it. There is so much beauty around us in general that the quotient of "wow" moments is far higher than I'd imagined.

A picture of Harmony taking a picture of the most beautiful sunset EVER.
A picture of Harmony taking a picture of the most beautiful sunset EVER.

H: I really love long passages, as long as the weather isn’t too crazy. While I wouldn’t necessarily characterize most of our passages as “exciting” (we spend the majority of our time doing wild and crazy things like sleeping, bathing, cooking, reading, petting our cat and playing card games), it’s one of the realizations that surprised me. I was expecting to simply endure passages rather than cherish them. “Unplugging” is really difficult for me, so the self-imposed exile can be quite welcome and revitalizing. I’ve also found that I really enjoy living off of the grid (for the most part). Again, not “exciting” per se, but definitely rewarding. In that vein, it’s interesting to see the spectrum of human experiences in the places we’ve visited. It shows us that we can choose how we live; we can choose to live simply and still lead a full life. Oh, also, my husband is MacGyver resurrected and it’s fun to see his latent tinkering abilities emerge.
What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

J: There's an experience that I think is maybe specific to younger people cruising (although maybe not), in which some of the other cruisers, out of helpfulness and experience, assume that we don't know what we're doing. We've had people telling us how to dock, how we should anchor, how we should break loose an anchor, or how some piece of our boating system is inadequate - all unbidden and usually right in the middle of us completing said action or maintaining said boat system (which we have found entirely adequate). When people try to grab our dock lines or push on our stanchions or plan our next moves for us, it's so hard not to say, "This has been our boat for five years! We just came 2,000 miles! We've got a system!"

H: It depends on which day you ask me. Right now we’re home (in the Pacific Northwest) for a visit, so I’m ridiculously nostalgic and positive. If you asked me after a gnarly passage I’d probably tell you that I dislike everything about cruising, but today I’m having a hard time coming up with something concrete.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
Leaving Newport, OR on a cool, fall morning.
Leaving Newport, OR on a cool, fall morning.

J: There are some really incredible experiences to be had out here, that's for sure, but it's also true that we have traded the difficulties of one life for those of another. It is no more or less meaningful than life on land, nor will the simple fact of it confer upon you transcendence. You will find no end of white sand beaches, but we have found no easy paradise. Cruising is an escape, but in all the ways that don't matter. That's what I found anyway, but at least the water is warm now and man is it pretty!

H: Jeff did most of the reading and preparing. I was busy finishing up my Master’s thesis and didn’t have as much time to think and dream about our big adventure or to establish many expectations. I will say that I did expect a different community dynamic. We’ve made some great friends but we have spent a disproportionate amount of time alone on passages and in anchorages. It turns out that we were generally behind the pack or had a different route/itinerary than most people we met, making it difficult to be at the epicenter of social happenings. It can also be difficult to infiltrate well established social scenes in certain places – some people are more welcoming than others and we tend to be a bit shy. Sometimes it feel taxing to cultivate new relationships everywhere we go, and sometimes it comes naturally. I’m excited to report that when we reached Chiapas we met several awesome cruisers that we hope to “buddy boat” with in the future.
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?

J: We'd heard from a couple sources that it takes about six months to settle into the cruising lifestyle, and that proved more or less true. The first six months were all about getting south. We were frantic, we were uncomfortable, and we didn't have all the little systems of living figured out. After the six month mark we paused for breath and decided to slow down and focus on doing what we wanted to do instead of what we thought we should be doing. Being out here in a lifestyle with fewer time queues has been a good exercise on discovering what our natural pace is and living within it. After six months, too, we got more used to the feeling of not having the structure of a job and a stationary location.

H: I love having books onboard that provide a lens through which to process this whole experience, give us tips and tricks for improving our systems and help us learn new skills. There’s a lot of great information out there. I really appreciated the Sensible Cruising: The Thoreau Approach, which advocates for smaller boats (“pocket cruisers”) and simpler systems. It also provides meaningful insight into how to approach cruising from a more philosophical perspective. We’re usually the smallest/funkiest boat in an anchorage and it’s nice to know that we’re not alone in that respect.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?
Poor man's wet suit.
Poor man's wet suit.

J: I'm regretting that we never built a proper dodger and bimini. I sewed our own out of sunbrella and clear plastic (sans a frame), but it requires a lot of babysitting to be useful for keeping out the sun while underway. We've only had rain a couple times so far, so I don’t yet know how well it’ll protect us when we get to Central America. Also, I wouldn't mind a watermaker, though it's outside our budget. Our tanks let us go about three weeks between top-ups, which turns out to be our limiting resource most of the time.

H: I think a windvane would be pretty awesome, especially if we ever decide to do some trade wind sailing. I wish we had invested in wetsuits for snorkeling adventures in the Sea of Cortez (water temperature was in the 60’s!). We just donned polypropylene long underwear and wool socks and tried to fill our heads with images of Mexico…wait a second…

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
J: With a boat as small as ours, we've really had to keep our gear down to the essentials. I can't think of anything that we haven't found indispensable at one time or another. Though I will say, the folding bikes, while amazing to have the three times that we bothered to pull them out of the quarterberth, are a bit of a pain. There aren't a whole lot of roads where they're appropriate, and if you're out at anchor they would be a nightmare to load in and out of our little porta-bote.

H: I feel like we did a pretty good job leaving things behind that we didn’t need. When we left home we realized that we would probably need to purchase things along the way (lots of Amazon purchases right before we crossed the border). We kind of let the trip dictate what we needed, which worked pretty well. Jeff would likely tell you that we have too much kitchen stuff, which is partially true. He has to steer me away from the kitchen section of pretty much every store we enter. Although we’re “gear light” we still have a lot of clutter, but that’s just par for the course on a 30 foot boat.

What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why.
J: We're still working our way south into Central America, but we've had to start thinking about how we're going to get ourselves home eventually. We always planned a general timeline of two years because we know we still have careers and babies in our future, and we haven’t found a way to make this life pay for itself. We're not too interested in bashing north, but do we have the guts (and the boat) to cross to Hawaii and back to the PNW from there? What about the South Pacific? If we don't go now, will the islands still be above water when/if we can afford to do this trip again someday? Should we just ship the boat home? Should we sail to Australia and sell it? Is there any reason to go through the Canal to the east side? All these questions keep us entertained in conversation at the dinner table.

H: Cruise for another year or until our money is gone or until we throw our hands up in the air and say “whose bright idea was this anyway?”  Who knows. We change our minds pretty much every day. Some days it’s more about the lifestyle, some days it’s more about the sailing adventure, some days it’s more about travel and culture, some days it’s just about maintaining the momentum.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
Meet the co-captains.
Meet the co-captains.

J: How do you make decisions underway? We adhere to the “alternating captains” approach when we’re on passage. The person on watch gets to make all decisions regarding navigation, sail trim, sail selection, distance from shore, angle to the wind and waves, necessary chores, and so forth. The other person is on hand when necessary to assist or offer a second opinion, but ultimately one person is in charge at a time. We like this system because we both tend to be a) stubborn and b) indecisive. It’s nice to routinely be able to completely disengage from operational concerns (as much as possible, with an ear always open for changes in sound), but if you end up disagreeing with the other captain’s choices, you can feel free to change them on your shift. Sometimes this leads to us sailing in a zig zag when we have different preferences for how far offshore to be, but overall we’ve found that it increases the peace to have these periods of enforced patience for each other’s strategies, comfort tolerances (read: laziness), and experimental sailing theories.  

H: A good album for rough seas? We really, thoroughly enjoy Of Monsters and Men’s latest album My Head is An Animal. They hail from Iceland and have an intimate relationship with the sea, which is apparent in a lot of their music. It’s also an awesome album to sing along to if you’re caught hand-steering through some sloppy seas. Music can make uncomfortable or scary situations more manageable, boring situations more interesting and interesting experiences downright magical.

El Mezteno in the Sea of Cortez.
El Mezteno in the Sea of Cortez.
Posted on Thursday, September 05, 2013 by  and tagged   |  

Mother Jones at 11 months

Welcome Mother Jones to Newly Salted. Read this interview as originally published on their blog. Editors note: Due to my own negligence, this interview was published on their blog months ago but is going up on this site just now. My apologies!
So, there’s this really, really cool couple of blogs managed by Livia of S/V Estrellita. The blogs, Interview with a Cruiser Project and Newly Salted, both feature interviews of those who have been cruising for some time and those of us who just started out. I found them to be tremendously helpful when we were still sitting at our desks dreaming and scheming of a way to become  . . . Cruisers.

Because these interviews were so helpful to me, and because we’re no longer sitting at our desks – (drumroll, please)
we’ve becomewe’re everday becoming Cruisers, I thought we’d add our thoughts to the project.

Liva asks participants to self-publish our interviews and then re-formats and links back – how easy, peasy! 

About Us

S/V Mother Jones hails from Austin, Texas and is Captained by Damon and Laurie Jones, with minimal support by our Chief Security Officer Kemah (our dog). We moved aboard in December of 2011 in Punta Gorda, Florida and sailed to Panama stopping in The Bahamas, Jamaica and Providencia. We have blogged about our travels overland and aboard at www.SoManyBeaches.com. We love hearing from other cruisers; so don’t be shy, drop us a line!

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising
D: I wish we had told ourselves to take a couple of navigation/sailing courses. Although I know now that, no matter what anyone teaches you, you (well, I) don’t really learn how to sail until you actually do it on YOUR boat. BUT, a “basics” of anv knowledge and sail trim physics would’ve been helpful…

L: We did a TON of research before we left, scouring blogs of other cruisers and basically soliciting any advice from anyone willing to share it. So, I’m not sure there were too many surprises. But, one piece of advice we got over and over and I’ll restate here was: GO NOW! We heard from a lot of old salts who said they or someone they were close to waited and waited to go and then they couldn’t due to health, financial or other reasons. They told us to go now and we’ll figure it out (financially) and so far that’s been true. 

As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?

L: In terms of being a cruising couple, learning how to sail together was challenging at first: we learned we deal with stress differently (he springs into action trying to figure out what can be done and I prefer to quietly think on it before acting and his action makes me more stressed), and we had different ideas of what makes a good sail, anchorage and social life. Navigating those new waters together takes time but we found slowing down, asking “why do you think that?”, “where do you want to anchor?” or “how do you want the day to go?” and then really listening to the answer has made a big difference towards being in sync.

L: Personally, I had a hard time transitioning with the distance from friends, family and making new friends – when everyone is a proverbial ship passing in the night. I love being a part of a community and D prefers his solitude. So, that means he’ll begrudgingly join me in meeting new cruisers, attending pot-lucks, etc and/or I’ll just go by myself while he hangs back. And, it means that as we look at going back out for the Season (and leaving our community in Bocas del Toro), I’ll be facing this challenge again.

D: Sleeping. On land, it’s easy to sleep through the night; you don’t wake up every few hours wondering if your house has wandered down the street or if someone else’s house is going to knock into ours if the wind changes. On the boat, I find myself waking up every couple of hours to close the hatch if it starts to rain, check our position and otherwise mind the boat. 

What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?

Ha! We’ve made a few for sure! We’ve run aground a couple of times (luckily, we’ve been able to just get out and push our shallow-draft boat off a shoal). We sailed wing-on-wing in 10 foot seas (and then ripped our head sail). We’ve drug anchor because we anchored on a slope and then the winds changed. We were too optimistic about sailing and almost ran out of gas a couple of times. Yep, we’ve made a few. 

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

We love having the opportunity to spend so much time together. We love the challenge of learning new things (“what’s leech line, a weep hole, a Obida?”). We love being self-sufficient and spending so much time outdoors. We also love being part of an international community with so many different backgrounds and perspectives represented. And, of course, there’s all the exploring: from travelling a well-worn cruising path like Boo-Boo Hill in the Bahamas to finding the secret fish market or just a boat part, it’s always like a treasure hunt! Finally, there’s the striking physical landscapes of all the new places. My good friend who’s spent 16 years cruising says it best: “I love standing in my galley with my same old pots and pans and looking out on a whole new country!”. 

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

I’m amazed at how some can be so narrow-minded when commenting on other cultures and living amongst other cultures as expats. I understand how things can wear on you, but if you wanted it “they way it is in X”, stay there or go back! 

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn’t find to be true?

While I had read a lot about other people’s budgets for cruising, I mistakenly thought we could out-cheap other cruisers.  I thought we could stay under or around $1,000 per month, because, you know, wind is FREE! But, of course, the wind isn’t always with you, parts are expensive and depending on where you go, provisioning and Zarpes can also add up. 

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?

We have definitely found it to be true that there are always boat projects; it’s like painting the Golden Gate Bridge: once you’re down to the bottom of the list, start again at the top!  I’ve also found the cruising community to be amazing. Regardless of who you are, how much money you make, your politics, race or religion, if you are in a jam, another cruiser WILL help you out.  A couple of quick things, too: The Bahamas is expensive, everybody has an opinion and don’t worry about food so much – they’ll have it there. 

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

We wish we had an SSB for sure. We had an incident hundreds of miles from shore and only had a SPOT and VHF. Luckily, we were able to get someone on the VHF three hours into our ordeal that could relay to the Coast Guard. But, we’d love to have the added safety of the SSB for emergencies and for weather forecasting.

Also, given that Damon is a working electronic musician and I a writer, we’ve found our battery bank to be limiting to powering our equipment. We run the genny from time to time, wait for sunny days or go ashore to use computers.

Another cruising couple also told us they heard from others cruising the Tropics that they couldn’t have enough fans. We’ve added a couple here and there over the last year and would definitely second this recommendation.

Finally, a wish list item that hasn’t proved a deal-breaker yet is a windlass. We *are* the windlass on S/V Mother Jones. Luckily, because of the grounds we’re cruising and because we have a shallow draft boat, we rarely have a problem pulling up anchor. But, at 4lbs a foot (280lbs) anchoring in more than 20 feet can get difficult to pull up, especially if there is any wind. 

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Clothes, books and leather; we brought too much of all of it and in the Tropics, everything leather has molded. 

What are your plans now?

If they do not include cruising, tell us why. This Season we’re headed to the San Blas, then up the Western Caribbean Coast (Providencia, the Bay Islands of Honduras, the Rio Dulce, Belize and Mexico). And, we’re excited! 

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I’ve asked you and how would you answer it?

Having a dog aboard presents both pluses and minuses: we never worry about security, but have limited independence from the boat and in places we can cruise. Several folks have wondered about the strange looking PVC lined mat we have at the bottom of our swim step: it’s Kemah’s swim step allowing him to easily enter and exit the boat without our assistance. More info about our homemade, $40, swim step can be found here.
Posted on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 by  and tagged   |  

Madrone at 21 months

Welcome Madrone to Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally published on their blog. -----------------------------------------------
I (Matt) live aboard and travel with my wife Kristin on a thirty foot Rawson ketch named Madrone. The boat has been kind to us and we love her. It says Portland Oregon on her sides but she most recently called Olympia Washington her home. I don't know if she is so much cruising the Salish Sea as being driven like cattle across the plains, left to graze where the kelp is greenest. Right now I am taking her to a marina in Blaine, Washington.

In 2011, we spent six months heading north from Portland around the inside and then the outside of Vancouver Island and finally south down the west coast to San Francisco.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or want to chat.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?  

The following three things may be obvious as the day is long, but they were not obvious to me.

Nothing, not even scary things, are all that scary in the moment. You will worry and fret about small things when its not clear what to do. But when things are scary you know exactly what to do. When I first started anchoring I spent an amazing amount of energy and some sleepless nights in conditions so mild my chain alone without the anchor would have kept us in place. But then I didn't worry one bit sailing with a broken engine from the open ocean between reefs back into Effingham Bay because I was too damn busy steering. While still keeping safety in mind, try to never ever worry. Worrying hasn't helped me.

There are things you can't learn in books. If you don't have experienced boating friends find some somehow. Take classes, crew, invite people aboard your boat. A friend helped me anchor my boat for the first time in the Willamette river for the fourth of July. It was a little tricky because it was a bow and stern anchor so the boat would face the wake from passing motorboats. I knew that part, and how to deploy them in a reasonable order, but I had no idea what proper scope looked like. I knew what proper scope was of course, but not how to visualize it in the real world. Also, my friend showed me how calm you can be if you know what you are doing. See the first point about worrying. In a moment, I learned things missed over a hundred hours of reading. Of course I could have done it myself and maybe learned even more, but I would have suffered more as well.

Lots of cruising destinations can be reached by car or plane. Plan on sailing to Baja? New Zealand? The Mediterranean? A vacation of several weeks will still be a small fraction of the cost of outfitting a boat and sailing there. It will never be a waste of money. If you love it there then it was a good vacation, and you will know more of what to expect when you sail there. If you hate it then the vacation was even more successful, having saved a costly and perhaps dangerous voyage. Of course you can't reproduce the feeling of accomplishment at having sailed your home there, or of comfortably baking bread in an isolated anchorage. But to get some idea, go to the port town and walk down to the marina. Try to time your visit with the cruising season of the area. You can see the people you'd meet if you had sailed there, and maybe help them buy some groceries. I got a better sense of the long term cruising lifestyle from a few hours with the characters in the La Paz marina than I got from a lot of literature.

Don't worry, and get as much real world experience with the skills you need and locations you are going as you can.

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

Our trip around Vancouver Island was an unending cascade of wonders. I loved the way each new day brought something amazing, sometimes a new bay, sometimes an exciting catch, sometimes a new friend, sometimes a new problem. It was a relaxed but also frenetic adventure, like a child's Christmas morning when they are old enough to know how to pace themselves and enjoy the experience but young enough to want to open every present at once. Each day was a new present and at night we'd shake the box to guess what might come next.

Now that we are not underway, the knowledge that my home is mobile, that I am fundamentally not stuck in one place is an ever present comfort. I like that I don't know where I am going, but that because of my choices I am headed there.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

As we looked forward to our trip down the west coast from Vancouver Island we decided to get a sea anchor shipped to us in Uclulet. That was a silly idea as it cost extra and we relied on the kindness of strangers to get the job done. They were Canadian strangers so there was no trouble, they are a wonderful people. Still, if you are on the fence about some safety gear, get it before you go. We never used our sea anchor and I doubt we ever will, but it gave us peace of mind for the trip down the coast.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?

As I looked forward to long ocean voyages I knew I wanted a wind vane. I'd read Moitessier and Pardey and loved the idea of a simple passive device steering by the wind and taking its power from the water that flows by the boat. I still do but I bought a cranky old Aries vane that I have never made work right. Meanwhile my much maligned auto helm 3000 that came with the boat has been steering thanklessly now for over 1000 miles. A boat I was crew on for an ocean passage used a powered steering system, and it worked flawlessly the whole time. We often abused its compliant nature, making it steer the boat despite an unbalanced sail plan. I may still fix that Aries, but don't ignore powered steering for romantic reasons.

What gear do you love the most?

The surprise hit in Canada was the Kindle, an e-ink model with cell data capabilities. It used almost no power and allowed us to check email if we were patient with its limited web browser. We even used it to buy that sea anchor. Because they want you to be able to buy books anywhere, Amazon has deals with most cell providers. This means free access in other countries, where normal cell policies punish roaming.

Our wood stove had a fire in it most nights, as the normally chilly Canadian summer was almost a no show the year we rounded Vancouver Island. A wood stove is many things: a romance generator, a trash incinerator, a free source of heat, and reason to row to shore (to collect more twigs). We had a Newport solid fuel stove but it's firebox was cracked by a previous owner so we had poor control over the draft. I just installed the "Tiny Tot" by Fatsco, and I love it. Much smaller than the Newport, it still has roughly the same size fire box. It is also really cute. I am moored off Patos island, the northernmost in Washington State, and it is 30F degrees outside. This wonderful stove is keeping me toasty. They are less than 300$ with shipping. Even dog houses should have them.

After sailing to San Francisco and preparing for a trip across the Pacific, you had your boat trucked to Bellingham, WA. What were you thinking?

Several things, as you might imagine. One thought I had, having seen the path I was on while I was crew on a Pacific crossing, was that I didn't think the risks, costs, and discomfort were offset by the numerous rewards. I didn't like that it was a one-way ticket to Australia or New Zealand. I prefer open ended futures. But I have been learning, and thanks to good examples set by others, I realize that the options are much more complex than I had imagined.

Also, I was looking ahead to a trip down the warmer half of the California coast and Baja and wishing I could return to the Salish Sea. Not because I hate warm water and tuna, quite the opposite, but because I knew I was leaving behind the most wonderful place I had ever been, and leaving it for good. Then Kristin got a job in Portland, and if she took it we wouldn't live on the boat there, so we decided to bring the boat back to the top of the waterslide and reset the clock. Now I can cruise as many seasons up here as I want before heading down the west coast again. Maybe then I will like the cost/benefit picture of a Pacific crossing better.

I'm going on a road trip to Baja now, trading in the v-berth for a Coleman 4 person tent and two sleeping bags that zip together. My boat gets 9 miles to the gallon and tops out at 7 miles per hour. My car, which admittedly lacks a head, gets 28 miles to the gallon and goes so fast I don't really even know how fast it can go and for how long. Indefinitely at 70 miles per hour though. I can be in Baja in about the time it takes a boat to go from Portland to the ocean. And then come back that fast as well.
But everything has costs. Its really easy to hop in a car and drive down there, so there isn't the same selective process that applies in sailing. The bunch you meet at the end of an ocean crossing are a rarefied lot, full of vim and vigor. And I am bound to gaze out at the the warm blue bays down there and wish my boat was anchored just offshore. And I bet we'll spend more money on things like food,  lodging and entertainment than we would if we had a kitchen and bookshelf with us. 

But its cold and rainy here right now, what would you do?
Posted on Friday, January 18, 2013 by  and tagged   |  

Luckness at 12 months

Welcome Craig to Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally published on his blog. -----------------------------------------------
Hi.  I'm Craig McPheeters.  I'm an early 50's single man who was raised on the prairies far away from the ocean. I moved to Seattle from Toronto in 1996 and started enjoying the ocean in various ways.  After Sea Kayaking for a number of years, I started sailing in 2006 and still remember approaching a sailboat for the first time and being a little overwhelmed by all the lines, wires and apparent complexity that there was to figure out.  I figured it out, going through the Windworks sailing program pretty quickly.  I bought my Pacific Seacraft 37, Luckness, in 2009.  Luckness arrived without a lot of equipment and I started outfitting her for coastal cruising in the PNW.  In 2010 I started outfitting her for offshore cruising.  In early 2011 I retired from my job as a software developer which I had held for 20 years, sold my house and moved onboard.  On September 1st 2011 I left to go cruising, single handed.  I had a one year plan which I thought of as an initial trial.  I had a lot to test out in this year.  My plan was to sail a triangle: Seattle down the coast to Mexico, Mexico to Hawaii and finally Hawaii back to Seattle.  I thought that if all that went well, I would continue the cruising lifestyle with an open ended trip.  That brings my story up to date with where I am now, in Seattle, working on the odd boat project, waiting for summer to arrive so I can leave and head south again.

You can follow my adventure on my blog.  Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.
Luckness in Neah Bay after returning from Hawaii
Why did you decide to cruise?
I had reached a point in my life where I was asking myself the question: are you working to live or living to work?  I needed a change and this change seemed to be about as dramatic as I could imagine.  Cruising also seemed to be a sustainable new lifestyle, something that if I enjoyed it I could spent years and years doing.  I was attracted to the possibilities, the freedom each day could bring, the variety, the people I would meet along the way and the adventure of traveling around by sailboat.

Is there a place you visited you wish you could have stayed longer?
I was only out for 12 months, split pretty evenly between the west coast of the USA, Mexico and Hawaii.  If I could rearrange those 12 months I would spent more time in Mexico.  From my experience so far, Mexico is a cruisers paradise.  You are welcomed where you go, the country I saw (the Southern Baja Peninsula) was absolutely beautiful, its warm, sunny.  Hawaii was not nearly as cruiser friendly in comparison, although I met great people there and had some good times.

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat

There are so many things to like about this boat.  She sails well, moving in light air as well as gracefully handling heavy weather and larger seas.  She is very well built, does not creak or groan while moving   through larger seas and tracks well.  She's also a pretty boat, Crealock really nailed this design - she's pleasing to the eye.  I have no regrets about my choice.

Tell me your least favorite thing about your boat 

Having a canoe stern, I lose a lot of interior volume compared to wider stern boats, so storage can be a challenge.  (I feel a little conflicted saying that as I have friends on a Dana 24 who are getting by with much less storage, extremely well, so space may be something you can make do with what you have but you always wish for more.)  Also backing up in close quarters can be nerve wracking - I love going forward in this boat. Backwards, not so much.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?

I have a few favorites. AIS is fantastic. I have a VesperMarine AIS receiver which also has an anchor watch mode that I use while I'm at rest. Its the best anchor watch I've seen and having a very low power consumption dedicated AIS receiver has been fantastic. I'll be upgrading this before I leave this summer to a VespeMarine AIS transceiver as I want to transmit as well.  I have a small Katadyn water maker which was an easy install, does not occupy too much of my limited storage space and has been reliable.  I would run it every day to make water as it only creates 1.5 gallons/hour - but water makers are happiest being run frequently.  I have enough solar power to power the boat if the days are sunny, indefinitely (2x135watts.)  My chart plotter is a couple of generations old (Simrad NX45) but is very low power, drawing only 0.75amps with the backlight on full, meaning I can leave it on full time while moving.  My sails are fantastic, made by Carol Hasse and her merry crew.  I have an Iverson's dodger which is super strong with lots of very firm hand holds making moving into and out of the cockpit in heavy weather much safer than what I used to have.  I have a Rocna 20 anchor which I've been really happy with - it sets quickly, holds well and seems to reset quickly when necessary as well.  My Watch Commander timer is an essential piece of gear to enforce my sleep patterns on passages.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?

I experienced two gales, one off the Oregon coastline, which seems pretty standard when leaving the PNW heading south. The winds reached 38 knots with the seas maybe 15+ feet. I hove to for almost a day as the conditions south of where I was appeared to be worse from the weather information I was receiving. That wasn't pleasant, but the boat felt fine and I didn't worry - there were far worse gales that season other boats were caught in off that coast.  The second gale was as a Norther raced down the Sea of Cortez while I was trying to head up to La Paz from Cabo San Lucas. Sockdolager, Clover and I ended up anchored off of Muertes for around a week, through Christmas 2011. That was fine too - the anchor held without budging and if I had dragged anchor I would have been blown to sea (not onto a shore or another boat, which would have been nerve wracking.)  Aside from those two times, all the rest of my sailing had winds of less than 30 knots, I had some really nice sailing over those 12 months.  There were some strong winds in Hawaii between the islands or several times while at anchor, but not into the gale category while I was there.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?

This depends on where I am and how long the trip is. As I am single handing, I was always on watch...however, I wasn't always awake. I was normally never close to shore (less than 30 miles) for more than a day. That is, on my hops down the coast to Mexico, if I was going any distance I would arrange to be farther offshore so I could sleep more easily at night.  My sleep schedule is to never sleep more than 20 minutes, and I have an alarm (a Watch Commander) which enforces this.  I kept to this sleep schedule for all of my passages, the longest of which was 21 days from Hawaii to Neah Bay.  I was able to put up with this schedule, although I was always very happy to arrive at anchor and be able to sleep soundly through a night.  If the trip I'm on is not too long (no more than roughly 30 hours) or close to potential traffic, I'll won't sleep at all - but obviously this only works for shorter trips.  If the trip was long enough, I would plan it in a way that I could sleep in 20 minute intervals somewhere along the way.

Finish this sentence. "Generally when I am provisioning..."

...I buy too much. So far all my trips have started from a port which had lots of provisions available to me, and I would find myself loading up on goods to ridiculous amounts.  I would be going through 'what if...' scenarios constantly and find myself walking by a grocery store and stop in and load up, again and again.

What is your biggest lesson learned?

That a prairie boy can do this! You don't need to have been born on the water into a family which has sailing in its blood back for generations. That might help, but if you dedicate yourself to learning everything that is required, you too can go cruising. Buy lots of books, take lots of classes, listen to smart experienced people every chance you get, get out and gain your own experience. Its working for me, which is still a little surprising sometimes.

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

I just love the life of possibilities you have when cruising. You are constantly presented with choices which can alter your future in meaningful ways. The people I met during the year I was out were fantastic and one of the best things about my experience.  I also found cruising very satisfying - every now and then I would be out in some remote anchorage or on passage reflecting on where I was, how I had gotten there, being astounded at how beautiful the area was and how centered and present I felt.
Its not all "beautiful sunsets and cocktails in the cockpit" - this life can be a lot of work at times, from what I've seen of it so far.  But the rewards so far outweigh the other loses and costs.
I'm looking forward to starting my cruising adventure again this summer as I leave Seattle heading toward New Zealand via Mexico.
Posted on Tuesday, January 08, 2013 by  and tagged   |