Six months ago we stood on a rainy dock in Anacortes and, surrounded by family and friends, we took knives to our docklines and cut ourselves loose. It’s been six months of some amazing highs and lows, and without too much introspection and analysis, I will say that we’re glad we’re out here doing this. It has not been without difficulty, and there have been plenty of moments when we have questioned what we’re doing. Kids don’t instantly become well-behaved when they have more time with parents, and years of work stress don’t dissolve upon the first breath of salt air. But yesterday Dylan ordered his meal in Spanish without prompting. I get to write. Tom gets to sail the world. And Andy…well, Andy said his favorite things are the big waves, so I guess we get to see a sailor in the making. I polled everybody with a few basic questions about the first six months, so here is a quick and dirty summary of where we are and what we’ve experienced:
Basic Stats for the First 6 Months
Miles traveled: roughly 3,300
Countries visited: 3
Nights at sea: 11
Nights at anchor: 56
Nights at mooring buoys: 6
Nights at docks: 107
Why so many nights at docks? Aren’t you supposed to be living on the hook? In the US and Canada, we would grab super-cheap state park or government docks when they were available (no water or electricity, but easier to get kids ashore), including one abandoned marina where we awoke to guys tearing it apart. We also spent 3 weeks back at a dock in Anacortes working on the boat. When we hit southern California, there were very few places to anchor, so there was no choice but to get docks in a few places, and we were happy that a few yacht clubs hosted us for free or low prices. Lastly, there was no anchoring allowed in Ensenada, but we could get a great price if we stayed for more than 10 days, so we stayed for a month with the city at our doorstep, and it was awesome. We’ve been at docks more than we expected and more than we would like, but the truth is that it’s more comfortable for us and for the kids, and we also needed to plug in to recharge batteries periodically. Now that our solar panels are working and our watermaker is up and running, the need for docks will be less urgent. However, we do find that being at at dock in a very urban area is far preferable than being at anchor due to easier access to shore.
Sandi: Bunsby Islands (West Coast of VanIsle) & Ensenada, MX
Tom: Winter Harbour (West Coast of VanIsle)
Sara: Turtle Bay, MX (see photo on right)
Dylan: “You can’t ask me that because I have over 40 favorite places.”
Andy: no comment
The West Coast of Vancouver Island must have been amazing. Why, yes, it was. And someday we will be going back to spend more time. We loved the trees, the remoteness, the (few) people there, the hikes and beaches, and the stunning beauty.
Least Favorite Place
Sandi: Santa Barbara, and the ocean between Turtle Bay & Cabo San Lazaro
Tom: Dana Point
Sara: Dana Point
Dylan: “I have less least favorite places.”
Andy: no comment
What? I’ve heard Dana Point is awesome? Yes, Dana Point was a great place to have our boat while we went to Disneyland and did some big boat projects, and we met some other great people there. But there’s not much that is walkable, it’s expensive, it was hot, the crowded anchorage was busy and loud, and the harbor police were omnipresent and annoying (we were approached and questioned by them three times, because, you know, we look pretty questionable).
Sandi: Poke from fresh caught tuna, and habanero mango shrimp ceviche
Tom: Taco condiments (salsas, pickled things, hot things, etc) and the above-mentioned ceviche
Sara: Tacos at the Hangman in San Jose del Cabo
Dylan: Carne asada tacos, quesadillas, and cervecerias
Andy: Fish tacos and eggs
Your 6-year old’s favorite food is cervecerias? Well, no. And before you ask, he did not drink beer. But he loved the ambiance and space to play at the breweries we went to. And, though he didn’t say it, the chance to hang out with another boat kid at some of those cervecerias probably added to his good memories, along with the fact that his parents were relaxed and enjoying the views, the beer, and the atmosphere.
Best Thing about Cruising
Sandi: Exploring new places, food, and language
Tom: Getting out of the sailor’s armchair and actually doing it
Sara: Freedom to go wherever you want
Dylan: “Traveling to all sorts of new places.”
Andy: “The big waves, and doing coloring and painting.”
We thought you’d say all the time you get to spend together with your family. Mmm, no, not really. In fact, that’s one of the hardest things. But we’re awfully glad that we’re out here exploring and adventuring together!
Hardest or Worst Thing about Cruising
Sandi: Child management, and not having time alone
Tom: Worried about everyone else’s comfort and morale
Sara: Many people in a small space, and getting used to young children
Dylan: “The long travels, like when we’re underway for days.”
Andy: “The long travels and not seeing grandparents.”
I thought this was one giant vacation. What do you mean there are hard things? We may not be working for money 5 days a week anymore, but it’s not a vacation. There is school to be planned and done, chores to be done (cleaning, tidying, sorting, re-sorting, laundry, trash, repeat…), groceries to be found and hauled back (without a car, remember), meals to be cooked, mail to be checked, routes to be planned, weather to be checked, paperwork to figure out, boat maintenance to be done, various research to be done, birthdays and holiday celebrations to be planned, and two spirited, energetic children to be exercised.
Thing I Miss Most
Tom: Trees and rain
Sara: Family and friends
You miss swimming? Aren’t you surrounded by water? Yes, but that doesn’t mean the water is safe to swim in. Up north I swam a few times, but the water is freezing. Down the coast, the water is warmer, but you have surf and undertow to contend with, as well as anchorages full of large sea lions with big teeth. And of course, you can’t swim in marinas. So, I miss swimming. And while hot, dry climates may be what most people come here for, Tom and I both miss trees and cooling rain. We fantasize about a cabin in the woods someday, with a metal roof so we can hear the Pacific Northwest pattering above us.
Best boat project: Fixing the A/C and fridge!
Worst boat project: Tearing apart the forward head and replacing key parts after it exploded poop everywhere. And after 3 weeks of functioning again, it is now spurting poop again. Time to say bye-bye to the forward head.
Budget: Don’t ask. We’re over it every month right now. But the beginning of a trip is inevitably more expensive due to shakedown stuff. We’ve had to fix the fridge, A/C, two heads, a broken alternator, and rigging issues, plus stock up on important spares. And we’ve been in some expensive places, like southern California and Cabo. Additionally, while we don’t want to break the bank, we’re also not willing to forgo some of the unique fun stuff along way that add to the enjoyment, like Disneyland, Sea World, breweries, good local food, and so on. Food, in fact, is a big part of the travel experience, and therefore some eating out has to be a part of it. In Ensenada, where $1 tacos were everywhere, this was not a big deal, but in places like San Diego and Cabo (where we are surrounded by megayachts and a lot of bling) it is a different story. We figure it will even out in the long run as we get away from docks and big urban centers and settle into a slower, more rural routine.
So, there’s our first six months. It doesn’t actually feel like we’ve been out that long because we felt like we started the trip from scratch when the kids came back aboard two and a half months ago in Dana Point. We had to go through the whole “settling in” period all over again, and the cool, remote, cedar-shaded beaches of British Colombia seemed like a lifetime before that.