Winter Cruising to Eagle Harbor and Blake Island

On every sail, either things go wrong or they don’t. When they do go wrong, usually at least 2 or 3 things go wrong. Winter sailing is prime time for things going wrong because generally conditions are tougher. My Friday sail was one of those where a few things go wrong. Fortunately they were minor enough to be worth laughing over, and we had 3 days following where everything went right.

Friday: Shilshole -> Eagle Harbor

I had Monday off for MLK Day, so I took a vacation day Friday to make it a 4-day weekend. Natalie didn’t have Monday or Friday off though (she has less vacation accumulated than I do), so on Friday I singlehanded down to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge. Eagle Harbor is our staging point when I want to sail somewhere and pick Natalie up – she can take the ferry over from downtown and I row over to the park to pick her up.

Friday had a small craft advisory with 20 knot winds from the south – against me of course. So I was a bit nervous heading out because that’s probably the most I’ve singlehanded in upwind. Downwind would be easy-peasy, but upwind is harder. It was wind against current, making for some choppy waves (wave spray hitting the dodger), and I had two close crossings – one with a tug in the shipping lanes who I was on a collision course with (he didn’t respond on VHF 16, but I bore off to take his stern).

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Costs and Impressions of Traveling in Thailand for 2 Weeks

I’m never sure whether readers of our blog are interested in hearing about travels we do off the sailboat – like Mexico last year. But since Thailand is a pretty major cruiser destination, I figure it might be of interest.

We flew to Thailand the day after Christmas for a two week vacation, visiting Bangkok for 5 days, Patong Beach in Phuket for 3 days, Phi Phi island for 3 days, and Naiyang Beach, Phuket for the final day. 2 full days were consumed by the plane travel from Seattle (22-24 hours travel time).

Of course, I viewed much of Thailand thru the perspective of sailing and other cruisers’ experiences there. Delos has been to the Phi Phi islands that we visited on our trip (Delos in Southern Thailand and Phi Phi Islands).  The prior-prior owner of our boat actually bought it to sail to Thailand, and after a year of prep work decided it’d be easier to fly there and charter. I’m inclined to agree.

We rewatched the Delos episode. It was really interesting seeing our different perspective on it this time. It still looked awesome and fun, but we could see all the things they had omitted. They avoided the most touristy bay, briefly mentioned the party beach’s loud music keeping them up at night while at anchor (a 5-second clip that would be easy to miss), and snuck into a park that charges a high tourism fee (I think they said 300 baht, but it’s 400 baht now).

I don’t blame them – they’re catering to their audience, most of whom are not going to sail to Thailand, or necessarily anywhere else. Those people only want to see the fun times, and discussing practicalities won’t get you a quarter million followers on YouTube.

Phi Phi Leh

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Photography from 3 Summers of Cruising

In the midst of Seattle winter, I find myself often turning to photography from past cruises as a brief consolation. It’s tough to get out much in the winter (it gets dark at 4pm!), and some of the winter blues are relieved by reminiscing over photos from sunnier times in the San Juans, Desolation Sound, Barkley Sound, and other places our travels have taken us.

Photography is a long-time hobby of mine, and I feel photos really do tell a thousand words as they say. So I’ll keep this short and sweet and highlight some of my favorites from the past three years:

Sunset from Heelboom Bay, Clayoquot Sound

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How to Survive Your First 6 Months as a Liveaboard

We’re now 6 months into living aboard, and it’s going great. Basically all the things we expected to be great, are, and the cons are manageable. We feel more connected with nature, have fantastic views and sunsets on a regular basis, and enjoy a simpler life with less stuff.

What’s more is we discovered a wonderful community at Shilshole which gives it a neighborly feel we never had living in the city. Living in apartments and condos over the last 10+ years, the most interaction we usually had with our neighbors was a “good morning” as they tore their eyes away from their phones in the elevator.

In apartments, though you’re close to many people, you really aren’t close with any of them.

At Shilshole we’ve done STYC’s Race Your House, hosted neighbors and trick-or-treaters on Halloween, and we know the names of most of the dozen or so people on our dock.

We’ve had a few logistical challenges which we didn’t expect. Much of the preparatory advice we heard focused on the obvious things (like the weather) rather than the practicalities (how to change your address, where to put stuff, etc).

The classic problems have been easily addressed for the most part. Rainforest-like condensation? Easily fixed. The cold, dark winter weather? Nothing you can really do about that but have a good attitude. But our heater has helped (more on that later).

Here are the top 5 unexpected challenges we’ve had from our point of view:

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What to Buy a Sailor for Christmas

Buying gifts for a sailor for the holidays is easier than you might think, because they’re always in need of gadgets to make life onboard a little easier or more comfortable. Recently I’ve discovered several low-priced products that have made our life as liveaboards easier. Now it’s hard to imagine we went so long without these things!

Yet, as aspiring minimalists we don’t want to acquire too much stuff – storage is always an issue on a boat. So we try to ensure anything we get has a useful purpose.

Here are a few ideas of items we’ve found useful:

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Oops, We Bought a Project Boat!

It’s winter, and for us that means it’s project season. Nearing 3 years of too many projects to count (but also a lot of sailing), I’ve been asking myself – did we actually end up with a project boat? While shopping for a boat, the one thing I was sure of was we didn’t want a project boat!

I had heard of people buying project boats and spending years working on them without sailing. I have a lot of admiration for people who do that, but for us sailing and cruising was always the number 1 goal. If a project boat meant we couldn’t cruise, we’d be better off continuing to charter and sail in clubs.

I’ve written before that eventually I realized all boats are project boats (“What Exactly is a Project Boat Anyway?“). And even though living aboard has made it easier to work on projects, the project list hasn’t gotten any shorter. For every project finished, we discover one or two new ones.

[Note: I’ve added a Projects page to the site, listing most of the major and minor projects completed]

Haul-out in June 2015

Another reason I didn’t want a project boat was I understood that boats are expensive but not in the initial purchase cost – an old boat is only as much as two new cars, which many middle-class families have (and if you told them two cars are a luxury rather than a necessity, they would probably disagree). The real budget killer is in the carrying costs – yearly moorage and maintenance.

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Managing Moisture as a Liveaboard

Removing moisture from the boat is one of the first challenges for a liveaboard boat in the PNW. Every day, breathing, cooking, and rain drenched clothing add moisture vapor to the air, and that’s on top of a base level of high humidity the outside air is at during our rainy weeks. And let’s hope your boat doesn’t have any leaks, because that’ll just add more moisture to the boat as we get week after week of continuous rain.

We’re now 5 months into living aboard, and it’s going great! The moisture really started turning on about 3 weeks ago, when the night time temperatures became quite chilly. When the outside temp drops to 40 F but your cabin temp is 62 F, that warmer moist air hits a cold surface (hull walls, deck underside, metal deck fills and hatch frames) and quickly condensates.

We really want to prevent mold from forming (when we bought our boat we had a lot of mold to clean off the interior hull and hidden storage spaces: Tackling the Mold Monster (May 2015)) – and keeping the humidity reasonable is the key.

Controls on the EDV-4000

A PNW winter looks like this – day after day of rain

A Good Dehumidifier

The #1 tool for a liveaboard is a good hard-working dehumidifier. We had heard recommendations for the Eva-Dry EDV-4000 from 48 North and other cruisers, so that’s what we tried. And it’s working great! It pulls volumes more water out of the air than our small Eva-Dry EDV-1100 did.

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