Tuesday, December 28, 2010

San Diego to Cabo San Lucas (2010)

We left San Diego at 4 pm on December 12th and sailed through the night, arriving about 60 miles across the border in Ensenada at 8 am the next morning.  As we pulled into the harbor, we were surprised to see what appeared to be a Washington state ferry.  Upon closer inspection, it was indeed the Nisqually ferry, which operated in the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands.  Apparently, it was one of four ferries that were decommissioned in 2009 and sent down to Mexico to be recycled. 
 After we checked in at the marina, we headed over to the offices of the Port Captain and immigration offices.  We were anticipating that they would search the boat, but the check-in process only involved paperwork.  The check-in process was a little unusual.  There were four different offices within a single building:  a bank, office of the port captain, immigration office, and small office that makes copies.  We went from place to place filling out forms and getting signatures and stamps as directed.   We started at the immigration office, followed by the bank, and then back to immigration and then to the port captain.  After that we were sent to make copies then back to the port captain, another stop at immigration, another to the bank, again to the port captain, and then finally we finished at the immigration office.  After an hour and a half we had cleared customs and received our 6 month tourist visas.  We bought our temporary import permit and fishing licenses in the US so it went faster for us than some of the others in the office.
After we finished, we went out for lunch and walked around town a little bit, and then went to the grocery store to provision for our trip down to Cabo San Lucas.  We stayed the night in Ensenada and left the next morning after checking the weather. 
The trip from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas was one of our longest and most enjoyable passages so far.  We had light to moderate winds from the northwest and the seas were rarely over 5 feet.  This was also the warmest and driest passage we’ve made so far, and most of the evenings we had clear skies and the moon provided almost enough light to read out in the cockpit.  The longer passage also provided more time to get accustomed to night watches and being out at sea.  On the last day, we finally caught a fish.  It was a small mackerel, but it was enough for a couple rounds of fish tacos.

The winds were consistent enough that we used the windvane for a significant amount of time.  The windvane is a mechanism that steers the boat on a certain course relative to the wind direction.  The way it works is you set the sails and balance the boat on a certain course and lock down the wheel.  Then you point the windvane in the direction of the wind.  When the boat veers off, the vane turns a rudder and immediately puts her back on the same path, relative to the wind.  This means that as long as there aren’t any significant changes in the wind conditions, we can set the windvane and not have to worry about steering the boat.  On this passage there were several times we had it going for 15-20 hours at a time.  This gave us a lot more time to do whatever we wanted during the day, and the night passages went by much faster since we could just read and stick our head out to look for other boats every ten minutes or so. 

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas at 8 am on December 20th.  The landscape of the bay is quite striking, with the long stretch of beach on one side and the monoliths and rocky coastline on the other.  It was a bit of a shock to pull into the harbor at Cabo after being out at sea for six days.  The place is a bustling tourist town with people and boats everywhere.  We pulled up to the fuel dock to get some diesel, and then checked in at the marina.  As we had been warned, guest moorage in Cabo was indeed expensive.  We paid four times as much as we did in San Francisco, but it was nice to stretch our legs and have a full night of uninterrupted sleep.  We spent the rest of the day walking around town and then left late the next morning.

Cabo San Lucas with Isla Cerro Blanco and Isla Cerro La Bufadora near harbor entrance
Our next stop is La Paz, which is about a day and a half away.  We plan on staying there through the holidays and then spending a few weeks exploring the anchorages north of La Paz.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

San Diego (2010)

After we arrived in San Diego, we spent a few days relaxing, and getting the boat cleaned up.  San Diego is the largest city we have sailed into and it took us a few days to get our bearings and figure out where we could provision and how to get around town.  Fortunately, people in San Diego are very friendly and would go out of their way to help us find things. 
We had quite a few boat projects to do and wanted to get as many of them done in San Diego as we could since we weren’t sure how easy it would be to find supplies in Mexico.  The first project was to haul Saviah out of the water, so we found a boat yard on nearby Shelter Island.  We spent five days in the boat yard.  The first order of business was to apply Saviah’s name and hailing port stickers on the hull.  We also had to enlarge our engine intake through hull to provide enough sea water flow to power the engine and the desalinator.
Then we started the sanding.  Much of the exterior teak that had remained uncovered was starting to show the effects of four years in the elements.  Since the peeling and pitting was too far gone to repair, we needed to sand it down to bare wood.  While she was out of the water, we also needed to clean the bottom, put another coat of paint on, and replace the zincs.  After five very long days, she was ready to be back in the water.

Early the next day, we hopped on a plane and headed to Houston to visit Andrew’s family.  It was good to see everyone.  We celebrated Andrew’s dad’s 60th birthday early since the whole family was together.  When we got back we decided to save some money and move to the mooring balls near downtown.  They are only $7/day to stay and it was in a good location near downtown.   They have dinghy docks there, so we rowed to shore a few days a week.

During our stay on the mooring balls we spent about half our time working on the boat and researching Mexico and the other half doing sightseeing and walking around town getting supplies.  We bought a one week pass for Balboa Park, which got us into the zoo and about a dozen museums.  We spent a day at the zoo and a couple days walking through the museums and the rest of the park.  We also went to the usual tourist attractions, including Old Town San Diego, the Gas Lamp district and Little Italy.

Thanksgiving Day in San Diego was a gorgeous day, with 65 degree weather and sunshine.  We spent the morning walking around the waterfront, and had a non-traditional steak dinner.  A turkey would definitely not fit in our little oven.

We discovered that renting a car for the weekend cost about the same as a bus pass, so we decided to rent a car for three days and do more provisioning.  It was very nice to be able to put groceries in the trunk instead of in our backpacks.  While we had the car we visited Coronado Island and walked around the Hotel Del Coronado, which is a beautiful hotel built in 1888.  They had an ice skating rink set up.  It was interesting to see people ice skating 100 feet from the beach wearing shorts and t-shirts while Christmas music was playing. 
After two months in San Diego, we are ready to head to Mexico and to some warmer weather.  We put in a lot of hours on boat work over the last two months, and we are ready to do some relaxing for a while.  We think we have most of the systems where we want them.  Hopefully we will just have routine maintenance to deal with going forward. 
After we head across the border, we plan to stop in Ensenada first to clear customs.  This is about 60 miles from San Diego.  Then we’ll head to Cabo San Lucas and up into the Sea of Cortez.  It is about 900 miles to La Paz, and we are hoping to be there by Christmas. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

San Francisco to San Diego (2010)

We left San Francisco early in the morning on October 6th. We were concerned about the strong winds and high seas that develop regularly along Point Conception, over 200 miles south of San Francisco. We listened to the weather daily on the VHF before leaving and found a couple days with light winds and calm seas and headed down the coast. We started out with five to seven foot seas, but over the course of the day the seas become calmer and by the evening were almost completely flat. It felt like we were in the Puget Sound, not in the Pacific Ocean. We bagged the sails and motored all night. For the last few hours before the sun went down, we encountered all sorts of marine life ten miles west of Santa Cruz near Monterey Bay. We saw over twenty gray whales, a few humpbacks and had dolphins swimming with us on several occasions. Here is a link to a You Tube video clip showing some of the whales and dolphins we saw that night. It is a little rocky, so hopefully it doesn’t make it you seasick to watch it.

We like to motor as little as possible to save fuel and because the noise from the motor makes it difficult for us to hear each other when one of us is down below and the other in the cockpit. Despite this, we opted to motor most of the first two days, as the winds were very light and we wanted to cover the 200 miles to get beyond Point Conception before the weather changed. We spent quite a bit of time on those first two days just reading in the cockpit as the calm seas allowed us to do so without getting seasick.

On the second evening we went by several offshore oil/gas platforms. They look like small island cities at night. The next morning we passed by one within about a half mile to get a closer look.

We reached Point Conception a little before dawn and passed the point with relatively calm seas. Early in the afternoon on the third day, the winds started building and we had some good sailing for the next day. It was nice to finally turn the engine off. We decided to stop at Santa Catalina Island, about 25 miles southwest of Los Angeles. We pulled into Avalon Harbor on the southeast side of the island at about 9:00 am on October 9th. It was Saturday morning and the harbor was packed. We were lucky to get one of the few remaining mooring balls.

Santa Catalina is a popular destination for southern California boaters as well as those coming from the mainland by ferry. There are tons of restaurants, hotels and tourist shops. In the short period of time we were onshore, we saw four weddings on the beach. We spent most of the weekend walking around and exploring the harbor. It was nice to stretch our legs again. By Sunday afternoon most of the weekend crowd had left and we contemplated staying for a few more days, but decided we better head to San Diego so we could get started on our last big boat projects before heading to Mexico.

Avalon Bay, Catalina Island

San Diego is about 70 miles from Catalina so we knew we were going to have a long day ahead of us. We untied from the mooring buoy and left about 7:00 am. We had four foot swells from the west and 2-4 foot wind waves from the southeast. The wind was blowing directly from the direction of San Diego. It was going to be a bumpy ride. The NOAA weather forecast mentioned that the winds would be backing to the south in the afternoon, which would be better. We headed as close to the wind as we could sail, which was due east. The winds did back more to the south later in the afternoon and we were able to sail more in the direction of San Diego, but the indirect route added quite a few miles to the trip and we arrived at the south end of the approach to San Diego at 9:00 that evening.

About a mile before we were about to turn north and head into the channel we noticed that a ship that we had been keeping an eye on for the last half hour was heading for us and it did not appear to be turning in the direction of the ship channel like we thought it would. We both realized very quickly that the ship approaching from the south would have a very difficult time seeing our lights as they would be blending in the with city lights from San Diego to the north. We quickly turned on our spreader lights for a couple seconds. These are spotlights mounted on the spreaders, about 20 feet above the deck and they are the brightest lights we have. They light up the whole deck as well as the bottom half of the sails. Within seconds this large ship made a hard turn and headed east. It was surprising to see a ship that size turn so abruptly. That was a little too close.

We dropped the sails and motored through the channel. Navigating the approach to large cities at night is very stressful as it is hard to pick out the navigation lights from the city lights in the background and there are all kinds of hazards if you get off track. Di stood on the bow and directed us while I steered. We pulled into the marina at 10:00 pm. After 14 hours of sailing into the wind, we were exhausted. We went below to make a quick dinner and noticed a crackling sound coming from all over the boat. It sounded like we were floating in a large bowl of Rice Krispies. Several ideas involving fiberglass delaminating and electrical shorts went through my head for several minutes, but after ruling those out we were stumped. We were too tired to think and decided it was a project for tomorrow.

When we checked in at the marina office the next morning, we asked if they had any idea what it could be. Maybe it was the concrete docks. The woman at the office informed us that many of the San Diego marinas have brine shrimp in the water and they are responsible for the noise. It is hard to believe that these tiny shrimp can make so much noise, but this meant that we didn’t need to make a new repair and we were relieved.

We are going to be in San Diego for four to five weeks to finish up a few projects before heading across the border. The next day we started by washing Saviah. We’ve traveled over 1,200 miles since we left Seattle, and she is salty.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

San Francisco (2010)

Around 6 am on September 24th, we pulled into San Francisco Bay. After the marinas opened at 9 am we got a hold of the Pier 39 marina and found out that they had guest moorage available. When we pulled in we could see tons of people and it was obvious that we were in the midst of a very popular tourist destination. We later learned that it is the most visited tourist spot in San Francisco. We spent four nights at the marina. We caught up on sleep and laundry the first couple days and then walked around exploring the city. It was quite hot the first few days and we felt like we were thawing out.

sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge

In the marina there are 12 floating docks designated for sea lion use and there were probably a hundred of them while we were there. They are entertaining to watch, but can also be a bit of a menace to boaters. Besides the 12 floating docks, there are a couple of boat slips that they also liked to visit at night. They would jump up on the docks and bark really loud. The marina supplied a few plywood shields near those slips and boat owners would have to charge the sea lions with the shields to get them off the dock. Some of these sea lions weighed half a ton. Ten minutes later they would jump back up again and start barking. The process went on for a couple hours. We were glad we didn’t dock at one of these slips.

marina at Pier 39
After four days we were ready to leave the marina and anchor out in the bay for a while. Although it was in a good location near Fisherman’s Wharf and other tourist attractions, there is a lot of current in the marina and it gets quite a bit of the wake from the ferries and other large sightseeing boats. At times the boat was rocking back and forth so much it seemed like we were going to rip the cleats out of the dock.

Chinatown and Lombard Street

We headed out to Treasure Island, which is a 45 minute boat ride from San Francisco to anchor for most of the next week. Treasure Island has great protection from the winds and wake in San Francisco Bay. We hung out there and relaxed for most of the next week and spent our time reading, doing a couple of boat maintenance projects and working on the blog.

We’ve had a great time in San Francisco, but after 12 days it is time to start heading south again. It looks like the offshore weather will be ok for the next couple days. We plan on heading out Wednesday morning (Oct. 6th) so that we can get south of Point Conception before the winds start to build again. This point can get really nasty, but after that the winds and waves should be more benign. We haven’t decided when or where we are going to stop between here and San Diego. We are just going to play it by ear.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Seattle to San Francisco (2010)

We left Elliott Bay Marina on September 9th after two weeks of scrambling to finish last minute boat repairs, buying provisions and getting everything stored on the boat and saying goodbye to friends. We stayed the last night with our good friends, the Arthur’s, and in the morning Eric dropped us off at the marina and helped us shove off. Everything we had planned and worked toward over the last four years was finally coming to fruition, and with that came many mixed emotions. It felt surreal and exciting, and at the same time sad. We were now unemployed, sold many of our belongings, had rented our home, were leaving behind family and friends, and embarking upon the trip of a lifetime.

leaving Seattle and sailing up the Puget Sound
We stopped in Port Townsend and Port Angeles before we made it to Neah Bay where we did some final provisioning and waited for a weather window. Neah Bay is on the Makah Indian reservation near the northwest point of Washington State and geographically a good spot to stop before heading down the coast. The marina is almost exclusively used by commercial fisherman and fishing guide boats and occasionally as a last stop for recreational boats before heading offshore. Although the marina was well protected from the weather and we were able to do our last minute provisioning, this isn’t a place we would want to spend much time. Fortunately, we were only there for two days before we got a decent weather window.
Neah Bay, WA
Originally, we had planned to take an offshore route and head out 100+ miles and go all the way to San Diego in one leg. When we left, the wind and waves were high offshore and calm inshore for the next several days so we decided at the last minute to take an inshore route and make as much progress south before the weather changed. When we left we had calm seas and winds, but it was a weak high pressure system, so we knew that it would most likely change in a couple days.

And change it did. We had covered a good distance the first two days and were now about 140 miles from the California/Oregon border. Unfortunately, on the third day the winds from the south had built to 25-30 knots and seas were up to 10 feet. When we would come down one wave, the bowsprit would get buried in the next wave and the spray blown back into the cockpit. We were soaked and cold and starting to get a little crabby. We were also making very slow progress into these headwinds. We checked the weather and the same conditions were expected for the next four days. We decided to heave-to that night and get some rest. The next day we would head toward the Umpqua River, about 30 miles away, and look for a protected area to wait for the wind to calm down and change back to a prevailing northwesterly.

We had limited navigational information for the Umpqua River, but we knew there would be a place to moor about eight miles up the River. We were pleasantly surprised to find Winchester Bay, just inside the mouth of the river, which had plenty of moorage and all kinds of services for a fraction of the price we were used to paying for in Puget Sound.  We stayed in Winchester Bay four days and got the diesel heater going so we could dry out the boat and warm up. It rained every day, so we spent most of the time inside reading.

After four days in the marina, the forecast showed another good weather window and so we headed south again. We had following seas and winds the whole way to San Francisco and got some good sailing in. It only took us four days to get there. The last evening before pulling into San Francisco Bay we had a full moon and a starry night. This was the first night we could see stars since leaving Seattle over two weeks ago. 

Entering a large city like San Francisco at night can be quite a challenge. There is a lot of commercial traffic going in and out of the city and it is difficult to judge distances at night so we were constantly plotting our position on a chart and double checking it. At one point we decided to head a little south to get around what appeared to be a tanker off our starboard bow. Eventually, we realized that it was the lights from San Francisco 40 miles away.
We decided we would both stay awake that night and help each other navigate since we could pull into a marina in the morning and catch up on sleep. We took the sails down and motored under the Golden Gate Bridge at 6 am and headed into San Francisco. We called around, but none of marinas were open, so we pulled into the closest one and tied up at the fuel dock to get some sleep for a few hours before they opened. We checked the weather on the VHF before we laid down and found out that it was going to be the first day of a three day heat wave. We were so excited to be here!

Vancouver Island trip (2010)

In early August, after moving out of our house, we headed out for a three week circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.  This was our “shakedown cruise”, and we did this trip for several reasons.  Transiting the west coast of the island would give us some much-needed offshore sailing experience and as we rounded the corner and starting sailing south we would get to see some of the Inside Passage, a beautiful area with an abundance of wildlife, remote anchorages and unspoiled wilderness.

We also wanted to spend a few weeks living aboard before heading down the west coast of the US.  Most cruisers move onto their boats well before leaving in order to get used to the live-aboard life.  We didn’t have much time to do that.  We had to scramble to get out of our house and onto the boat by August 1st, and now we had another deadline: getting down the coast of Washington and Oregon before October, when winter weather begins to take over and more storms hit the coast.

So, on August 2nd, Saviah sailed north out of Seattle, stopping in Port Townsend for the night and then crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca the next day.  We cleared in with Canadian customs in Victoria, BC and headed out again first thing the next morning.  Once out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, our course was 10-20 miles offshore, slowly motor-sailing against the prevailing northwest winds and swell.  Our goal was to make it around Cape Scott, on the north end of Vancouver Island, and down to Port Hardy in as few stops as possible.  This would be around 320 miles.

This was our first time to sail through the night, which was quite an experience.  Even though we had read that three hour night shifts are optimal, we decided to start off with one hour shifts.  This didn’t last long, as it was cold and wet, and we had many layers on under our foul weather gear.  With all of the rocking of the boat, it took ten minutes to take off the foul weather gear and ten minutes to put it back on.  Needless to say, we spent a significant amount of time the first night just getting in and out of our foul weather gear when we should have been resting.

On our third night, we had no wind and very dense fog with about ten feet of visibility. We couldn’t even see the mast from the cockpit.  It was a very long night, and since we don’t have radar, we were constantly on the lookout for lights from other boats.  We could hear whales around us, but couldn’t see anything.  When the sun came up and the fog cleared, we could see two large gray whales about 100 feet away.
We hadn’t anticipated motoring so much or the low fuel efficiency we were getting going into the wind and wave, and we left Victoria without topping off our fuel tanks, a mistake we won’t make again.  By the third night, our diesel was running low, so we spent that long foggy night bobbing around, listening to our poorly stowed provisions and gear shifting and crashing about in the cubbies as we rolled in the small swell.  At this point, we were 180 miles from Victoria and 140 from Port Hardy, and it was clear that we should find a port to get more fuel.  We went about ten miles up an inlet to Zeballos, a small fishing community.  After topping off our tank, we got a good night’s sleep and headed out again the next morning.
During this passage, there was a big storm northwest of Vancouver Island and a fishing boat with four people on board went missing.  The passengers were never found, and we heard the boat was eventually located off the Oregon coast.  There were search helicopters overhead, and it was a reminder that the waters here can be some of the nastiest in the world.  We weren’t in the worst of it, but we had some stronger winds in the 20 – 30 knot range.  We decided this would be a good opportunity to rig our storm trysail.  Although the winds were nowhere near what you would normally use a trysail for, it was good practice to run the sheets, and get it hoisted.  We learned that our lazy jacks get in the way when we hoist it and made a note to do something about that later. 

We made it around Cape Scott on the north end of Vancouver Island just as the sun was coming up, six days after leaving Victoria.  Later that afternoon, we arrived in Port Hardy and slept for fifteen hours straight.  We stayed there two nights and spent some time checking out the town and doing a bit of grocery shopping.  Now that we had the difficult passage out of the way, we could take it a bit slower in the protected waters of the inside passage.

On August 10th, we crossed the Queen Charlotte Straits and headed over to Sullivan Bay to pick up our friend Eric.  He took a seaplane up from Seattle so he could spend the next week with us cruising down to Desolation Sound.  It was cold and foggy crossing the straits, the same weather we had consistently since leaving Victoria.

In the morning, and then again in the afternoon, we came across a pod of dolphins.  There were around fifty of them, and they were breaching all around us and very close to the boat.  They would swim right under the bow of the boat and stayed with us for several miles.

We stayed at a marina in Greenway Sound  for a night and then anchored in Health Bay the following day.  We had strong winds that night and the anchorage was a bit rough, so we got an early start the next day and covered about 50 miles.  We finally had some favorable winds in Johnstone Strait and sailed along dead downwind at 7 knots under full main and genoa.

During this trip, we transited the Chatham Narrows, Whirlpool Rapids and Green Point Rapids.  In the Pacific Northwest, we have semi-diurnal tide cycles, which means that there are two different tide cycles per day that rise and fall as much as 15+ feet per cycle.  Where islands come together and form a narrow passage, the current can flow over 10 knots during the maximum ebb and flood with significant rip tides as well.  Since our top motoring speed is 6 knots, we made sure to time all of the passages for slack tide, which took  quite a bit more planning.

Di at the helm and marina at Blind Channel
We spent a night at the marina in Blind Channel on West Thurlow Island and then anchored in nearby Bickley Bay the next day.  We desperately wanted to catch some fish and tried just about every day.  We tried jigging for bottom fish and trolling for salmon.  The locals recommended some good fishing spots, but we never had any luck.

We spent another day putting some miles under the keel.  We covered 32 miles before arriving at Cortes Island.  After some cooler weather on the north half of the Vancouver Island, we were excited to make it to Desolation Sound where it was sunny and warm.  We anchored in Squirrel Cove for a night and then moved to the Malaspina Inlet on the mainland the next day.  A small sailboat was beached there some years ago reminding us to make sure our anchor was holding well.

fishing in Bickley Bay and anchored in Malaspina Inlet
Prideaux Haven in Desolation Sound was our next stop and the highlight of the trip.  We spent two days in this beautiful, but crowded anchorage.  Because there are so many boats in the anchorage, a stern tie is necessary to prevent swinging back and forth.  We dropped the anchor when the bow was facing away from the shore and then backed in and tied a line from the stern to a tree on shore.  

Prideaux Haven
We spent the next few days exploring the anchorage by dinghy, hiking, swimming and fishing.  The water in parts of Desolation Sound is warm enough to swim.  It was 75 degrees in this anchorage, while not too far from there it dropped into the 50’s and 60’s.

The next day was Eric’s scheduled departure from Mink Island, but his flight had to be pushed back a day because President Obama was in Seattle airspace that afternoon, and they weren’t allowing in flights in.  We spent the evening in Refuge Cove, and he flew out from there the next day.

After Eric left, we made our way back to Nanaimo and Montague Harbor, one of our favorite spots in the gulf Islands.  Montague Harbor is on Galliano Island and there is a Provincial Park there with mooring balls in the bay and camp sites on-shore.  During the summer, an old school bus comes to the park every hour in the evening to pick up campers and boaters and bring them to the Hummingbird Pub about ten miles away.  We took the bus in and had dinner before we left for the San Juan Islands the next morning.  We cleared customs in Friday Harbor and then made our way back to Seattle.

That left us about three weeks to get Saviah ready, get our affairs in order and say goodbye to friends before heading south down the coast.   Our shakedown cruise had highlighted several things we wanted to improve.  For example, we didn’t have a compass light and found that when we shined the flashlight on it during our night watches, it killed our night vision.  A small red LED light would solve that problem.

There were other things we wouldn’t have time for, but they would remain on the project list for when we had time down the coast.  For example, we bought a watermaker, but still hadn’t installed it.  We also wanted to make sunshades for the tropics and buy and install some sort of high frequency radio.  There will always be a running list of things to do on the boat, but we had finished the most important items and overall felt good about heading down the coast.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Preparation for Leaving Seattle

In 2005, we decided we wanted to take some time off from our careers, move onto a sailboat and head off to see the world.  At this point, we didn’t know anything about sailing, so the first step was to learn how.  We started by taking classes on Lake Washington in small dinghies in order to learn the basics.  After that, we went through the US Sailing classes required to get a Bareboat Certification and get some cruising experience.  While we were taking these classes, we bought a 30 foot Islander sailboat and spent our weekends that summer cruising the Puget Sound.  After that first season, we sold the Islander and bought a 34 foot Hans Christian, Saviah.  She is a full keel heavy displacement boat made for blue water sailing.
Unfortunately, she was in bad shape when we found her, and it took several years of hard work to prepare her for some strenuous offshore sailing and to make her a comfortable home for our travels.  For a while, it seemed like we would never finish the work.  Boat repairs always take much longer than expected, working in a cramped space, and of course, everything on a boat is a custom job.

After several years of postponing, it seems that she is finally going to be ready for an extended cruise this summer (2010).  At the end of last summer, we were even able to take her for a couple of short trips out into the Puget Sound.  This was the first time we sailed Saviah, since she was out of commission for the last few years while our refit work was underway.  Although there was still much to be done, it was nice to be able to go out on a few excursions and see the rewards of our hard work.  All those years of fixing the boat did nothing for our sailing skills, and we found we were a little rusty and needed to be out on the water more often.  Despite that, Saviah handled well, her solid construction and design giving us confidence to get out there and practice, knowing she could handle the mistakes we would make as we continued to learn.

sailing in the Puget Sound

Since we were feeling optimistic about departing this summer, we began to focus on getting our affairs in order.  The biggest question was what to do with our house.  Originally, we had planned on selling it before leaving, giving us one less thing to worry about while we were away, and of course the extra money would be nice to have during our trip.  Each year we postponed, the economy seemed to get worse, and home prices kept falling.  By the time Saviah was ready to go, it didn’t make sense to sell anymore.  Instead we decided to rent it out and hire a property management company to take care of leasing and maintaining it while we were away.

Our house is old with an odd layout, and it needed some work.  We wanted to make some upgrades to improve the appearance and hopefully keep it occupied while we were away.  So we started a big remodel about six months before moving onto the boat.  Andrew’s brother, Adam, was kind enough to come up from Austin in February and help out.  The first project was to build a fence along the side of the house.

installing a new fence

The next project involved adding a master bathroom.  There were two bathrooms in the house, but both were downstairs, and we had a large bedroom upstairs with plenty of extra space to section it off and add a master bath.  We took up the carpet and removed the subfloor to allow us to run plumbing upstairs, and then we framed up a wall.

Running the plumbing upstairs was definitely the most time consuming part of the job.  After the plumbing and electrical were done, we finished framing the main wall and another inside for a closet.  Then the drywall was up and paint on the walls.  We laid tile on the floor and installed all the fixtures.   After three months of working on it, it was finally finished, and we’re ready to move onto the kitchen! 

In the kitchen, we replaced the countertops, put some new shelves in the pantry, painted the cabinets, added new appliances and installed new flooring. 

kitchen remodel

Working on a house remodel is so much easier than refitting a boat, but it was still thoroughly exhausting, especially when we still had full time jobs.  Most of the remodel work was done at night and during weekends, and it seemed like we rarely went to bed before midnight.  Despite the hard work, we were excited and motivated to get it all done and start our new cruising life.
In addition to the house and the boat, we had to get our other affairs in order.  Andrew’s dad was nice enough to handle our mail while we were gone, so we changed our address over to his.  We were concerned that if there was an unforeseen issue with the house or something else while we were out of communication, there should be someone on the ground to take care of that, and so we had documents drawn up giving Andrew’s dad power of attorney.  Hopefully we won’t need that.  In terms of finances, we have been handling those online for years and plan to continue that by using local wi-fi wherever we are.  We have some cash stowed on the boat for emergencies, but from what we have heard, it is not an issue to use credit cards throughout the world, and you can easily get local currency just about everywhere by using a local ATM machine.  

It was a bit of a scramble towards the end, and Andrew quit his job in early July to focus on getting everything ready during our last month in the house.  During that last month, we finished up the remodel and packed up all of our belongings.   Our target date to be out of the house and onto the boat was August 1st, and Di was working full-time at her job right through the end of July. 

last minute plumbing issues
Fortunately, Adam came back out to Seattle again for another week and helped us get everything packed.  We wouldn’t have been able to leave by our targeted date if it wasn’t for him.  We built a storage unit in the basement, packed all of our belongings into this space, and then cleaned up the house.
Unfortunately, three days before we moved out, the sewer backed up.  For a not so small fee, the plumbers were able to dig an eight foot hole in the driveway and replace the broken section of pipe.  They were able to fix it within a few days, but we began to worry about what else might go wrong after we left the country.

We just barely met our goal and had everything out of the house by July 31st.  It would be several more days before we were able to find a place for all of our stuff aboard Saviah.  Adam was stuck sleeping on a berth that was a few inches too short and narrow and surrounded by stacks of boxes during his last night.

out of the house, but not quite into the boat

After we took Adam to the airport, we spent two more days stowing things.  Then we headed north to do a two to three week circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.  This would be our “shakedown” cruise where we figure out what else needs to be done before we leave our home port.  When we get back, we’ll have a few weeks in Seattle to sort that all out before heading down the coast.