Two years already?!
We recently passed our 2-year mark of leaving Anacortes for Alaska and starting our dream of cruising the world on our sailboat. Much has changed since then and we’re constantly revising our plans but it continues to be a fantastic experience. Here are some of our thoughts and insights on some common questions we’ve heard along the way.
What was different than expected?
Wags: There were a lot more people most places we visited. I guess it makes sense that anywhere there is a beautiful bay there will likely be tourism, but there weren’t a lot of isolated anchorages throughout Mexico. It wasn’t until Costa Rica and Panama that we started enjoying the postcard anchorages with palm trees, clear water, and us as the only boat. Also, I expected to be able to surf more often. It’s a natural contradiction that good places for surf aren’t usually good for anchoring your boat, but I still had high hopes. As it stands, I think I have only surfed two or three times in the last six months of travel.
Paula: First, I thought we would actually sail more than we have. Sure, there have been days when we sailed but most of our time has been spent motoring between anchorages when the wind is either non-existent or straight on our nose. I’m sure this will change on our next leg as we enter an area of more consistent trade winds. Second, we’ve spent more time in marinas than I expected, especially in Mexico. We still anchored out quite a bit but the convenience factor of a marina when one is at hand is pretty high for us. Being able to step off the boat and walk into town to provision, eat, do laundry, explore, etc. is very nice. And, of course, we can hook up to power, which means… air conditioning!
What motivates you/gives you pleasure?
Wags: I think I secretly thrive on the challenge of it all. Even though I bitch and moan every time something difficult happens or something breaks, there is quite a sense of accomplishment in overcoming adversity or repairing stuff.
Paula: I’m glad Wags thrives on the challenging stuff because my answer is more on the fluffy side. Sharing experiences with friends, interacting with wildlife, seeing new places and learning about other cultures is what gives me pleasure. Some of the best moments so far have been when friends are aboard and get to experience all of this wonder with us.
How do you live in such close quarters 24 hours a day?
Wags: I once spent 111 days without a port call on an aircraft carrier with guys I barely liked…this is easy. Seriously though, it can be challenging but communication is the key. We get snippy at times, but we call each other out if we are being snarky or passive aggressive. Honest communication.
Paula: We communicate with each other and realize we need “me” time, which can be as simple as alone time reading in the cockpit or sitting at the bow looking for whales.
Do you get seasick?
Wags: Sort of? I often feel green but I have never progressed to actual mal de mar. It usually happens to me because we get underway from somewhere sheltered and enter rough seas while I am running around above and below decks getting sails set, stuff stowed – too much movement on too many axis.
Paula: Yes, sometimes, especially at the beginning of passages or in very rough seas. A friend gave me some Stugeron (cinnarizine), which works wonders for preventing seasickness and that has helped immensely. After a couple of days at sea, my body adjusts and I can stop taking the medicine.
(Photographic proof has been banned by one particular seasick crew member.)
Wags: Surfing a tidal surge at Ford’s Terror, Alaska. It was a perfect day of great friends, incredible scenery, and a once in a lifetime experience.
Paula: For me, it’s still the one amazing day in Glacier Bay, AK filled with wildlife encounters.
Paula: Nearly colliding with another boat while under sail at night off the coast of Mexico during the early stages of the 2016 Baja Ha-Ha rally. We were close enough to see the crew of the other boat emerge from below into the cockpit when we blew our air horn to alert them of the situation. Why someone wasn’t there on watch already remains a mystery.
Wags: Ditto, Paula nails the single scariest moment. Overall there aren’t a lot of memorable scary moments, thankfully. Don’t get me wrong, there have been adrenaline shots brought on by botched dockings, ropes caught in the prop, bar crossings, etc. but more often than not it’s a low grade continuous gnawing pit in your stomach, like when you are in bad weather and the sea is unrelenting and won’t stop. You want it to end, but the ocean gets the final say.
Best aspects of the boat?
Wags: There are a lot. She is very solidly built, beautiful joinery, etc., but I think the single aspect we come back to again and again is how much we love the cutter rig. This sail plan gives us a variety of options. At night we sacrifice knots and just use a reefed main and the staysail. That way the person on watch can handle all lines from the cockpit and we are prepared for squalls. During the day when the wind gets forward of the beam we put out the Yankee and staysail together. The slot effect accelerates the wind and it is like having another gear.
Paula: She is way tougher than me and I trust her oceangoing capabilities to give us safe passage. She is very comfortable. It never feels like we’re camping; she’s simply our home on the water.
Worst aspects of the boat?
Wags: A definite lack of storage on deck (only one deep lazarette) and a wet bilge. Several items drain into the bilge such as air conditioning condensate and the anchor locker. I know, I know…I can remedy these things…and I will, but I wish Tayana had done it first.
Paula: There are several areas that are difficult to access for maintenance and/or repairs. Also, I wish there were a few more large storage spaces.
Does it cost more or less than expected?
Wags: I’ll have to defer to my actuary. It ‘feels’ like we spend more, but I am a notorious tightwad. I think it stems from the costs coming in big hits. We will often have weeks where we don’t spend a cent, but when we hit a populated port we have to reprovision, repair, take on fuel…
Paula: The real skinny… so far, it’s about the same as expected. Some months we’ve spent more than anticipated, as Wags said, but overall our estimated costs have been fairly accurate.
Do you miss flying/working?
Wags: I get asked this a lot…anytime anyone finds out that I was a Naval Aviator. The answer is easy, OF COURSE I miss flying! It was the most amazing job a guy or gal could have, but we all move on. It was an incredible chapter in my life, but so is this one.
Paula: Work itself, no. I miss the social interaction and the intellectual stimulation that work provided, though. It’s always a treat when we spend time with friends with whom we can have intelligent, diverse conversations.
What about pirates?
Wags: It is a concern. We don’t go (anchor) where we shouldn’t be. (You wouldn’t walk down back alleys in Baltimore, would you?) We institute measures against petty theft, and we trust our instincts.
Paula: High piracy-prone areas are well documented and we will plan our route to stay clear of them. There’s always the risk of petty crime, of course. We take appropriate precautions, such as lifting our dinghy out of the water at night, locking our outboard motor, and securing the boat when we go ashore.
Do you carry guns on board?
The previous question always leads to this corollary. The short answer is “No.” If you have a gun on board you need to declare it in every country. Officials will typically confiscate it and (in theory) return it to you when you depart, which means you won’t have it available to you while sitting in the anchorages. If you fail to declare a weapon and they find it on board (dogs have very good noses), then you could be looking at prison time and/or forfeiture of your vessel – we’ve watched enough TV to know we don’t want to see the inside of a foreign prison. So, as defensive measures, we carry
everything that is legal to be carried. There is a machete by the bed along with a can of wasp spray (shoots up to 20 ft), and just like in all the movies, we have a flare gun.
Favorite place so far?
Wags: Alaska, no doubt. We worry that we saw the best first and for the rest of our travels we will be trying to find somewhere that can compare to Alaska. So far that is true.
Paula: By far, Alaska. We can’t wait to return.
Best aspects of cruising?
Wags: The wildlife. The stuff we get to see on a daily basis is amazing. I mean, this is what people take high priced vacations for and pay tour operators to show them. This was what I hoped cruising would be like.
Paula: The marine life (our almost daily visits from dolphins are always a treat) and wildlife in different places – sea lions, whales and bears in the Pacific NW, whale sharks in Mexico, monkeys in Central America, and tons of really cool birds (the blue-footed boobies are still one of my faves). Aside from nature, building new friendships is always special. We’ve made many close friends over the past two years, some fellow cruisers and some landlubbers in places we’ve visited, friendships that will last a lifetime.
Worst aspects of cruising?
Wags: Rough passages and thunderstorms with lightning. As mentioned before, Neptune can be unrelenting. It’s tough to describe how uncomfortable it can be, but the good news is, everything ends sooner or later.
Paula: What he said, plus I get the added bonus of seasickness. Luckily, none of these occur very frequently.
(The pics never seem to do these things justice so we’ve stopped trying to capture it.)
What are your favorite pieces of gear on board, and why?
Wags: I use a lot of stuff regularly, but here are three that I have found to be necessities: 1) My Myerchin knife. It is super sharp and has a bosun’s fid that has a multitude of uses. I use it every day. 2) A bench vice. You don’t need it very often but it is irreplaceable. When something metal gets bent you can put it in the vice to re-straighten it, hold things while sawing, and the hard metal anvil part is good when you need something to bang against. There aren’t many places that you can hammer on a sailboat. 3) My little grabber tool. This has rescued SO many dropped items from hard to reach places (i.e. the bilge).
Paula: Honestly, I’m a big fan of some of our luxury items: the electric head that requires only the push of a button to flush; the toaster built into the microwave; and, of course, the air conditioner, which has saved me mentally many times in the stifling heat and humidity of Mexico and Central America. What can I say? I’m a Pacific Northwest girl! My absolute favorite, although not really a piece of gear, is the bowsprit seat Wags made. It’s the best seat in the house for watching the dolphins ride the bow wake only a few feet below!
Paula: We’re leaving Panama next week on a ~7 day crossing to the Galápagos Islands. We’ll spend a few weeks there following in Darwin’s footsteps then…
Wags: A downwind run to Pape’ete.
We’d love to hear your comments and if you have additional questions, we’re happy to answer them. Thanks so much for following along and being a part of this adventure!