Reading Time: 5 minutes
Hippos cooling off in the water at Ngorongoro Crater, August 2014

We Hate Hippos

A few months ago, Jan Wooller got in touch with us. She heard through Bill that we were interested in buying RJ Slocum and had many kind things to say about Bill and the boat.

As you can gather we have amassed quite a lot of experience over the years and know boats very well.

 

We can truthfully say that Rachel J Slocum is one of only a very small handful of yachts that we would be happy to go long distance sailing on. She’s incredibly well thought out and strongly built and will get you out of trouble no matter the conditions. We were green with envy over her forward facing sounder. 

 

Her gorgeous dinghy would happily fit in as an exhibit in the Australian Wooden Boat Festival which is held in Tasmania every 2nd February. Boats built from Huon Pine are uncommon and very expensive and are highly sought after here.

Along with her sage advice, she sent along a copy of her book, “We Hate Hippos: Stories of a Sea Gypsy’s Life,” which is sold on The Coastal Passage. Andrew read the book in less than a week. It took me some time as I had other reading commitments, and I sure am glad I did.

What appeals to me most about her accounts is that the narrative is true to life. It hasn’t been skewed by appealing to an unknown audience. It has none of the distasteful choices made to draw eyeballs, to be click-bait, or to instruct. Since most sailing blogs and vlogs market/advertise vigorously to sustain a livelihood, I take their advice with a grain of salt. I prefer a realistic account, much like those also shared in The Coastal Passage, the most widely read cruising magazine in Australia. 

I take the Hippo book (which I have come to refer to it with Andrew) as knowledge dispensed from a friend who is looking out for you. 

Old school

When I read the short passage about preserving food for long passages, I got pretty excited. When one has to live without refrigeration (let alone deep freeze), I found some practical solutions laid out before me. Ironically, this isn’t new… these are techniques used many years ago before there was refrigeration.

So, it’s time to go old school. 

Salt on butter

Allow butter to soften and pack into clean jars. level the top with a knife and sprinkle enough salt to cover completely. Butter can be kept for up to a year that way, even in the tropics.

Cheese in oil

Cut into blocks and place into an open jar. Fill the remaining space with oil. 

Vaseline eggs

Coat each egg with Vaseline to seal the shell and place into plastic racks. Turn the eggs weekly to prevent spoilage. Eggs usable even at the end of five months. 

Chloroform flour and pasta

Before sealing a plastic container of flour or pasta, place a film canister which contains a cotton ball soaked in chloroform. Since the lid of the film canister is punctured with a needle, the chloroform gas can escape slowly. This is the only foolproof method in preventing weevils. 

Pressure cook meat (beef & lamb)

Use a twenty litre pressure cooker which allows you to prepare 16 450 gram jars at a time. Place uncooked cubed meat into the jars with a small amount of water. Place special one-use-only seals on top and cook the bottles according to the instructions with the canner (e.g., 12 lbs of pressure for over 80 minutes). The meat serves as a tasty ingredient in casseroles, curries and bolognaise sauce, and can be stored for years.

I turned to Andrew after reading these anecdotes, and in turn, he recognized that look in my eyes. It’s time for another culinary adventure!

Other lessons learned

We enjoyed various anecdotes about Jan and Nick’s lives over the past 30 years cruising and voyaging the high seas, including:

Replenishing the cruising kitty

While we have put together a reasonable budget, we cannot forecast for the unexpected and be 100% accurate. Even though they had set themselves up as well as they could, there were times where they needed to take a break from sailing and they were able to find jobs in Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and American Samoa. 

Life in Japan

Andrew and I honeymooned in Japan. It was a place that long fascinated Andrew and we realized that our visit there was much too short. We’re hoping to have an extended stay there, just as Jan and Nick had. If the South Pacific islands don’t open up next year for cruisers, we may opt instead to sail to Hawaii and then on to Japan.

Misha, the bilge cat

One of the unknowns still lurking in our minds is whether Oreo and Xiao Long are suited for living on a boat. We were encouraged by how Misha and Tigger were cared for, especially when Jan and Nick were ashore and traveling six to seven weeks in twelve countries. There is a particularly dramatic account of Misha while under the care of Bill and his wife in Ushuaia when Jan and Nick visited Antarctica. 

Exploring/hiking

Much like the authors, we love traveling and exploring, so the thought of being able to spend a month to six weeks backpacking is one of our goals of sailing. Sailing afforded them the opportunity to backpack through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, India and Nepal.

Photo courtesy of Jan and Nick Wooller. Here they are aboard s/v Yawarra II

Learn More

If you are interested in reading more about Jan and Nick Wooller’s adventures over 37 years, some of the information is available online and offline including a diary spanning over 12 years within 95 pages!

Additional Resources

Other cruisers have shared their knowledge through books, courses and coaching. If you’re interested in any of these options, please check out the following links for related resources.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Lifecycle of Ingredients

If you’ve followed our Culinary Adventures, you’ll start to see a theme of no waste in this household. We love cooking and riffing off recipes. Sometimes, this will evolve over the lifecycle of ingredients to create some fun, novel adventures in cooking and help us when we live aboard RJ Slocum.

Turkey 5 ways

It all started when I was a kid and the values instilled in me by my parents when it came to economizing and thrift.

Not only were they homesteaders (before it became en vogue) growing avocado, corn, sugarcane and wheatgrass in our backyard, my parents never wasted food once it was cooked. Bulk dishes became leftovers that extended over days (or sometimes weeks) until depleted.

I’ve taken that principle and elevated it to a new art form … because, you see, I like variety.

The lifecycle of ingredients made up of leftovers became a culinary challenge that I learned at Wellesley College, my alma mater. The dining hall weekly menu would feature something like the following: 

  • Monday – roast turkey
  • Tuesday – turkey soup
  • Wednesday – turkey pot pie
  • Thursday – turkey tetrazzini  
  • Friday – turkey ice cream (just kidding)

Journey vs Destination

This was, of course, all very surprising to Andrew because he has a different approach to cooking. He once told me an anecdote of his culinary experiment to master the art of cooking fried rice.

His process would be to cook a batch of fried rice and if there was something off about it, he would throw it out. All of it. Andrew would then repeat the process over and over again. The garbage would have countless pounds of fried rice ready for the dumpster. In his quest for mastery, he valued learning the skill over the end product.

I can understand that principle… in theory.

Had we known each other back then, however, I would have quietly siphoned off each batch of fried rice into Tupperware containers and place them into the freezer to be repurposed for other dishes, such as

  • a cheesy frittata
  • roll them into balls, cover them in panko breadcrumbs and fry them up
  • place them in a rich flavorful broth with some hand-torn roast chicken 

We would have made a great team back then, as we do now.

Stage 1 Meals

I share this backstory so you get a feel for how we will be approaching our life aboard RJ Slocum.

The kinds of dishes that will be prepared at anchor will primarily be bulk cooking that can be tailored and elevated when we are on passage. Here are some of the ideas that you can take with some basic stage one meals laid out in the following hierarchy:

  • Stage 1
    • Stage 2+

 

  • Braised beef or pork
    • poutine
    • ramen
    • fried rice
  • Grilled salmon
    • salmon cakes
    • chowder
    • pasta salad
  • Steamed rice
    • fried rice
    • congee
    • risotto balls
  • Roasted chicken
    • chicken soup
    • chicken salad/sandwiches
  • Roasted vegetables
    • vegetable soup
    • strata
    • omlette
  • Bread
    • pizza
    • breakfast casserole
    • french toast

The best way to incorporate these ingredients is with eggs, milk, bacon and cheese along with varying up herbs and spices to give them another dimension. Taste the dishes as you prepare them and you’ll be able to adjust along the way so there are no surprises with your final product.

While we’re still observing social distancing and staying at home to prepare our meals, we are using this opportunity to continue to refine our skills for life aboard a sailboat.

We hope you find these ideas useful.

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes

RJ Slocum History

In December 2019, Andrew first came across s/v Rachel J Slocum and we poured through the extensive write-up of her features as well as the history of her design and construction. We took in every pixel of each photo and every detail provided in a recent marine survey. Furthermore, we researched brand names and terms unfamiliar to us. Basically, we binged on everything we possibly could about her and her owner as part of our due diligence. 

Over the ensuing weeks, we came across a lot of information. So for those of you who are fascinated by history as we are, here are the various links we uncovered.  

Photo courtesy of Tanton Yacht Designs

Yves-Marie Tanton

In 1984, Bill commissioned Yves-Marie Tanton to design s/v Rachel J Slocum (formerly Whisperer). When we came across the Tanton Yacht Design blog, we found one of the designs.

We also read a recent article entitled, Sea anchor, heaving-to and drogue aboard Rachel Slocum , which details a riveting letter Bill wrote describing his tribulations of deploying a sea anchor. After reading this account, we understood Bill’s admonition to us in a recent letter when we asked for some specific help in learning storm sailing techniques, in particular the deployment of a Galerider drogue and discussion of Para-Tech sea anchor. 

I have a different type drogue than a Galerider. And please, NEVER, EVER use a Para-Tech sea anchor, or ANY sea anchor, with this boat under any circumstances!!!! Sea anchors should ONLY be used on multihulls that can elevate their rudders.

NO sea anchor, understood!

 

Bill Pinney

Early on, we had a good feeling about Bill based on our emails and phone conversations. All of that solidified when we met him and his wife in person in Florida. He shared with us a book that he authored, Chappaquidick Speaks , in which the writing peppers interesting anecdotes and connections Bill and his family have to Chappaquiddick, Edgartown and incidents that took place in the book regarding Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident of 1969.

While his bio reads impressively…

He attended Columbia University in New York, graduating with a degree in philosophy in 1968. He was Editor/Publisher of The Andean Times, the English-language newspaper of Colombia, South America; Editor/Publisher of This is Ontario magazine in Canada; and a South American investigative reporter for The Sunday Times of London. His consuming interest is medieval history, with several books in the works since 1995.

… the character of the man is evident in his actions, his roots and his lifelong friendships that he has opened up to us. 

The Pinney Family

When we first read the specs on the boat, there was a brief write-up about her owner, which reads as follows:

Rachel J. Slocum took 1 year to design and 3½ years to build with private US and British inspectors, and with the present owner, on site every step of the way. She is ABS certified (ABS Certificate No. KS 6055X).

The owner, who grew up on sailing yachts and whose father owned Concordia Boat Yard and Marshall Marine in Padanaram, Massachusetts, took care to incorporate every good idea learned after nine continuous years cruising around the world in a different yacht.

She has been continuously refit and upgraded since launch, with no consideration to cost. Everything works. 

Without knowing he had done so, Bill had left a trail of breadcrumbs about his past and everything we learned about him and his family engendered a positive feeling about buying this particular boat. It’s especially tricky when you are considering a private sale with a complete stranger, but given his roots are so deeply and widely entrenched in these places, all concerns melted away.  

 

Culture of Character

Granted this brief video about his father’s company may not have a direct correlation on the character of Bill Pinney, but it certainly evokes a feeling of connectedness, tradition and reputation, something that seems lost these days of social media, job-hopping, and transient pre-occupation in this current generation.

For more information on the culture of character, refer to our previous post on Selectively Social

So when you begin to peel back the layers about the Pinney family, there is a rich tradition of ethics that can be lauded, as evidenced by the life of his father. As you may recall, we discovered his father’s participation in the famous longitudinal study on aging by Harvard University and the fascinating findings it revealed. We also discovered the family’s connection to St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean when we were developing our sail plans for this year. 

We will leave the rest of the storytelling to Bill, who is researching his family’s roots, which traces back to the 1200’s.  

Slocum History

Back in March , we had a chance to see RJ Slocum and meet Bill. On the final day of our visit and we were winding down our discussion, one lingering question remained: 

Why did you name the vessel Rachel J. Slocum?

Upon hearing our question, Bill had a twinkle in his eye, and he began to describe the story. We learned that, on his mother’s side of the family, he is descended from the very same Slocum’s as Joshua Slocum, famous for being the first person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed.

On April 24, 1895, at the age of 51, he departed Boston in his tiny sloop Spray and sailed around the world single-handed, a passage of 46,000 miles, returning to Newport, Rhode Island on June 27, 1898. This historic achievement made him the patron saint of small-boat voyagers, navigators and adventurers all over the world.

Captain Slocum chronicled his journey, which was later published in a book: “Sailing Alone Around the World”.

The following video by Bennett Marine provides a brief chronicle of his life.

Lessons in History

One of our guiding principles of this new adventure is to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

We are fairly private people, living for the most part conventional and shall we say prosaic lives. With our decision to cast off our shore life, we are revealing the details of our challenges, decisions, disagreements, and fears as well as being fairly transparent about our lives.

So, this pretty much falls squarely outside of our comfort zone. 

Certainly with the advent of unscripted programming and the continued success of documentary filmmaking, we are proposing to do something that may seem similar, however it is not. What we describe here is not produced or edited to follow a story arc or narrative envisioned by producers. We are not here to capture as many eyeballs with sensationalism or click-bait. 

In as raw a way as possible, we want to convey our story and we think it is worth it to share if it helps a few others who want to take these steps. Life isn’t about following a script and certainly not one written by someone else.

Life is about defining your choices, showing courage, and taking a leap of faith. 

 

 

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Before delving into today’s blog post which originated mid-April, I wanted to draw attention to world events that seem to collide with this topic.

There’s a tremendous amount of rhetoric around black lives matter following the tragedies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Collins Khosa, Adama Traore and Belly Mujinga, and as a result, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in Brussels, London, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, Sydney, and across the U.S. 

In light of recent events, I am drawn to the word “privilege” since it is echoed throughout this blogpost. What does privilege mean among race, gender or gender identity, birth order, education, religion, income level, ethnic background, body type and other groupings including yacht clubs? Thanks to Peggy McIntosh, I am reminded of what it means to have privilege and how you can use the privilege you have to fight for equity.

How privileged are you? We all have a combination of unearned advantages and unearned disadvantages in life. And it changes minute by minute, depending on where we are, who we’re seeing, or what we’re required to do. So it is when we travel the world, we’ll introduce ourselves to different cultures and engage in interactions that allow us to see humanity in all of its variations and forms. 

 

 

Membership has its privileges

A few weeks ago, while Bill helped to validate our on-going boat costs, he suggested becoming a member of a yacht club to reduce our cruising expenses.

I don’t know about you but the image that I conjure up in my mind when someone mentions yacht clubs is the America’s Cup or an elitist, pretentious club or a rich guy sipping champagne while motoring on a mega-yacht. 

So when Bill mentioned this idea, it seemed to contradict our initial thoughts.

 

Aboard Pacific as we head to the start line of our race.

Cal Yacht Club

My first direct exposure to a yacht club came about 10 years ago. I sailed in California Yacht Club ‘s Sunset Series Regattas in the summer with Bluewater Sailing, one of the ASA schools in Marina del Rey and where I first learned to sail. 

Later on I joined CSC, a fractional-ownership club sailing a Catalina 36 called “Mystic” twice each month. In an effort to increase my time on the water and gain more experience on different boats, Jan from CSC put me in touch with some Cal Yacht Club members, and I crewed on “Pacific,” a 43′ Jeanneau. We raced in the cruising class and happened to take first place on July 16, 2014. (Thanks for cataloging my life, FB.)

At the time, I remember looking into becoming a member even though I didn’t own a boat, and I found it to be cost prohibitive. Ironically, I didn’t do any further research, which is unlike me. I probably could have found something that would suit my needs, but life got in the way.   

 

Photo courtesy of RYCT

Sailing Community

Despite our initial bias, when Bill give us the pros and cons of becoming a member of a yacht club, we were sold. Chief among the benefits was reciprocity with yacht clubs all over the world, which includes access and guest privileges to moorings and facilities.

Equally important is becoming a part of a large community of sailors, cruisers and racers. Even in the current age of communication made easy through social media and online communities, nothing can quite beat the connections fostered in-person with like-minded individuals.

Let’s take a poll

As a sanity check, I posed the question to some sailors in a Facebook Group (Women Who Sail) on the benefits of joining a yacht club and whether yacht clubs still had relevance in today’s era. The responses were overwhelmingly positive – 35 in favor and 2 against. I grouped the responses into categories and tallied up the benefits. Here are the results:

  1. Friendship/community/2nd family – 27
  2. Good facilities/mooring – 14
  3. Learning new skills – 11
  4. Boat talk/knowledge transfer – 10
  5. Reciprocal benefits with other yacht clubs – 9
  6. Traveling together/rendezvous – 6
  7. Racing / regattas – 6
  8. No bullshit – 4 

What strikes me about these results is how deeply ingrained these friendships can be. There was a sense that they looked out for each other and each other’s boats. A couple sailors were turned off by their experience, and largely it was due to a poor fit. In the matchmaking game of sailor and yacht club, that seems reasonable not to have a good match on the outset every time … to bat a thousand, so to speak.

Case study

So with that backdrop in mind, we were provided a very personal first hand account of a lifelong friendship that came about from being part of a yacht club. Bill put us in touch with one of his best friends, who shared with us his background in boating. 

Hugh did not come from a boating family. He started at the age of 15, by volunteering to launch 12′ dinghies at the local yacht club every Saturday morning. Sailing dinghies led to small keelboats. Eventually, he built his first ocean racer “Glenshiel” and launching her in 1957. The love of his life was Glenshiel v11, an Adams 40′ fast cruising yacht, upon which he has lived his dream of logging over 100,000 miles around the Pacific including a circumnavigation of Australia. 

Hugh tells us how he first met Bill over 30 years ago. 

I first met Bill one fine Monday night whilst having my regular beers with my crew at the Royal Yacht Club Of Tasmania when a beautiful yacht moored in the marina.

We walked out, beers in hand to greet the new arrival and were amazed to see the name Rachael J Slocum London on the transom. We hadn’t had a visiting Yacht from the U.K. since just after World War 2!

My hail of “Ahoy” brought a face up from down below and of course it was Bill.

In addition to sharing his time with us and answering our questions, he also sponsored our membership to the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. 

 

Photo courtesy of RYCT

RYCT

 

The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, is the largest yacht club in the Australian state of Tasmania. It is best known for its role as the finishing destination for the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. The club sports a range of facilities, from a 120-berth marina to on-site maintenance facilities.

Originally known as the Derwent Sailing Boat Club, for its location on the Derwent River in Hobart, the club was founded in 1880. It was called such for thirty years until, in 1910, King Edward VII granted the organization permission to use the prefix “Royal”.

We’re officially yachties!

Membership Process

Ever since Bill planted the idea in our heads, we have popped onto the RYCT Facebook page to catch up on the weekly updates announced by Commodore Tracy Matthews.

We have also taken to watching footage of the 2019 Sydney to Hobart race, though I do keep falling asleep before they arrive in Hobart. This historic 75th race was particularly slow-going at the end, as the winds dropped to 2 knots, and it took forever before Comanche would cross the finish line. I’m sure it was more agonizing for the sailors!

Meanwhile, the RYCT board met on April 28th and our application was tabled for consideration. In the ensuing month, our application is displayed on the Club’s notice board for member review. Nominations are ratified at the next Board Meeting if there are no objections. That meeting took place May 29th, and we were officially made members!

 

Photo courtesy of RYCT

Future Sailing Plans

The rest of our sailing plans for 2020 will find us in the Caribbean in December and early 2021. Beyond that, we are looking ahead to cross the Panama Canal and head across the Pacific to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia,

As intrigued as we are about the stories told by Bill and his wife when they rounded Cape Horn, we will likely attempt that on the next circumnavigation. In the 2021/22 season, we will have our sights on sailing to Tasmania to pour a whiskey cocktail for Hugh… perhaps The Andrew , a cocktail that was named after Serenade Wind’s captain. 

Photo courtesy of RYCT

Lucky seems to be too small a word to describe how we feel about this path. We are incredibly grateful for this initial glimpse into the future life we are embarking on. It is hard to hold back our excitement, but we remain vigilant in following the protocols set forth by the governments in California, Massachusetts and Florida. 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A couple months ago, we decided to experiment with ways to go green. For us this means, living deliberately and raising our awareness about how we impact the world around us. Here are a few updates on our progress towards ethical sailing.

Happy World Oceans Day

Sailors for the Sea

as of May 9, 2020

As the quest for going green continues. I came across a great resource Sailors for the Sea . They provide a list of commercial products that have been tested for the environment based on the following factors:

  • cleaning
  • performance
  • toxicity
  • biodegradability

The site also provides recipes for making your own cleaning products with lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, and salt. 

Learning about topics like this gets me more excited to move aboard. In the meantime, we may give these DIY solutions a try while we are still on land. Much like our water water everywhere experiment, we’ll test out commercial and DIY solutions in a future post. 

 

Reef-safe Toothpaste

It has been precisely one month since we began using toothpaste powder. All of the ingredients are naturally occurring (sea salt, peppermint oil, etc.) and biodegradable. While the packaging is plastic, we feel confident that this form will last us longer than toothpaste tubes. So far we have seen advantages such as:

  • water conservation – less water is needed, because there is no rinsing!
  • salt – antibiotic, cleansing properties – Andrew noticed he had a canker sore developing in his mouth. In 2 days, it disappeared 
  • plaque reduction – with its mild abrasion, my teeth feel cleaner as if I had used an electric toothbrush 

In addition, we are gathering more ideas about zero waste. Here are other cruisers who have forged a path ahead of us, including

Reef-friendly Shampoo

A couple weeks ago, we ran out of our usual shampoo. We took this as an opportunity to experiment with other ways to clean our hair. Andrew opted to use a bar of soap and said it worked great for him. I shook my head, recalling days from my youth when I tried that on my long mane. There is a tacky residue that stays behind on my hair which makes it difficult to comb or brush. I equate that with pain, so using a bar of soap was a non-starter. Instead, I reached for a body wash that had been hanging around in our shower for much too long. That seemed to do the trick until that also ran out.

I decided to pull the trigger and purchase a zero waste, biodegradable shampoo bar made in New Zealand and give that a shot. 

Verdict? Ethique left a bit of residue, but it wasn’t as tacky as my experience with Oatmeal and Honey soap from Trader Joe’s. I sprayed some leave-in conditioner and had no issue combing out my wet hair.

When I described what I was experiencing, Andrew asked me how I was applying it to my hair. He offered a suggestion which is to lather the soap in my hands to apply rather than smear the soap directly on my hair. 100% improvement! 

Reduce Plastic – Go Bamboo

We are trying out bamboo toothbrushes. The Greenzla bamboo set we picked up from Amazon come with 4 charcoal bamboo toothbrushes, a travel bamboo tube holder and charcoal mint floss. 

Our bamboo toothbrushes, dental floss and bamboo travel holder are all additive, coloring and BPA Free, and are manufactured in an FDA registered facility, so they’re better for you and better for the planet too.

If most dentists, and the American Dental Association (ADA), recommend changing your toothbrush every 3 months, then over our lifetime we would have used and thrown out over 350 toothbrushes or 7 kg of plastic waste (based on an average weight of 20 g per toothbrush). That seems unnecessary going forward. 

Perhaps the only downside is they come with only soft bristles and Andrew prefers medium bristles. 

Photo courtesy of Business Insider

Zero Waste Products

Also starting this month, I decided look at other areas of waste and reduce my use of single use, disposable items such as tampons. When I think about boat life and carrying smelly items aboard, it was a natural conclusion to switch things up. Andrew had no idea I was contemplating this until he sorted through the latest Amazon delivery and exclaimed, “My menstrual cup arrived!”

I chose this particular one based on a recommendation by Pick Up Limes. It’s interesting how marketers have influenced the behavior of millions of women, steering us at a young age toward disposable items. This reminds me of cigarette advertising: get ’em while they’re young and you’ll have a customer for life. 

The benefits of this are:

  • less waste
  • less cost
  • more time

I’m sold! I can use this product for a year and simultaneously reduce waste, especially smelly waste.

As we continue to discover products that align with zero waste, minimalism, self-sustainability or going green, we’ll continue to provide updates on ethical sailing. Please note that we are providing links for convenience, and we are not earning any affiliate revenue. 

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the final part of our tour of s/v Rachel J Slocum’s interior, we conclude the downsizing process that began with 30-weeks to minimalism. When it comes to the rest of the living space aboard s/v Rachel J Slocum, we will bring the “bear minimum” aboard because we need to leave room for spares. And we have no idea where Bill has the spares stored or how much if it is there is!

That will be one of the priority tasks when we visit Ft Lauderdale again. 

Saloon

Starting from the starboard side, this space is comprised of a long settee that can be pulled out into a double berth. Bookshelves line the starboard side of the saloon and as well as the starboard side of the owner’s cabin. As far as books, we will bring along sailing, cooking, writing, philosophy and climbing. Works of fiction will be stored in a Kindle. 

At center, the Lugger engine is concealed under the table, which can slide away allowing 360 degree access. 

On the port side, the saloon features a recessed liquor cabinet and wine storage between the two club chairs,

Throughout, many of the hatches allow easy access to the electrical wiring which Bill designed and installed himself during this vessel’s construction, which occurred over 3 1/2 years in southern Taiwan.

Desk / Main Nav Station

The desk is located forward of the club chairs on the port side. It includes a variety of instrumentation, while the remainder is located at the nav station which is adjacent to the companion way on the starboard side. 

Desk / main nav station

Other cruisers have shared ways to stay in touch, including:

Sea nav station

We will also be bringing computer and electronics to serve a few purposes:

  • back-up navigational tools (iPad with waterproof case)
  • storing sailing log/maintenance records/living expenses
  • generating website content
  • VOIP communication 

There is a tall, vertical nook next to the nav station where all the nautical charts were stored. We might repurpose this living space by creating pull-out, sliding shelves.  

V-berth

The fore cabin doubles as a workshop and sleeping area/stowage. In the brief visit we had opening drawers, I was overwhelmed at how each available space was taken up with spares, spares and more spares. The Voyager’s Handbook suggests leaving 1/4 to 1/3 of stowage for spares. We aren’t taking much because everything else is for the boat, to maintain her operations and keep us safe.

 

Spares, spares and more spares! Even the seat in the aft cabin has spares!

Everyday Tools

We captured some of the advice from youtube channel sail followtheboat, who provided the top 10+ everyday tools needed aboard a sailboat. These include:

  1. Socket set (imperial and metric)
  2. Marlin spike
  3. Screwdrivers (flat and Phillips, differing lengths)
  4. Multimeter
  5. Electrical kit (wire stripping, black & red tape, terminals, crimping gun)
  6. Torches/flashlight – 12V spotlight, work lamp (portable and rechargeable), headlamp (white and red lamp), diver’s torch
  7. Cable ties or zip ties
  8. Adjustable wrench (keep lubricated with WD40)
  9. Multitool
  10. Sailor’s knife with blunt end, serrated, rust proof, bright handled 

Out Chasing Stars offers their perspective on not just which tools but how to store them in their post Tools for Cruisers

I don’t envy Andrew’s task ahead of him, as he needs to evaluate what he brings from his tool box in comparison to what Bill already has stocked aboard RJ Slocum for specific boat use. 

Marine life

As we choose items that we take with us, we have become acutely aware of the impact salt water, sun and humidity could have on each item.

For humidity, we will be investing in Eva Dry Wireless or Probreeze dehumidifers as suggested by Marga while she gave a tour of her boat Dogfish, a Kelly Peterson 44 on the youtube channel s/v Adventurer.

Sunbrella will be the fabric of choice for tenting our boat as well as for fabrics used for the upholstery, cushions, etc. to help minimize damage from the sun and salt water.  

Corrosion is also a big factor, so we can’t be cavalier and buy just anything, we have to check for whether it is stainless steel, etc.

Finally, there is also the issue about creepy, crawlies. Living closer to nature sometimes means living closer to bugs, so we’ll need to address our habits when it provisioning food (bugs can nest in cardboard, so we will need to process/sanitize everything before it is stored on the boat), Mosquitoes love me. Andrew? Not so much. So we’ll need to figure out what sort of netting or screens exist or are required on the boat.

 

Circa 2017. Our climbing gear has doubled in quantity since then! Luckily harnesses, webbing and caribiners can be repurposed for sailing.

Rest of the living space

Because we are using this live-aboard home to sail around the world, we also want to make sure we are able to bring other items that contribute to living life beyond the boat. These include:

  • climbing gear
  • snowboard gear
  • longboards
  • folding bikes 
  • provisioning gear
  • knitting supplies
  • snorkeling
  • fishing
  • electronics – communications (headset), others

The sooner we get back to Ft Lauderdale, the sooner we can sort out the living space and develop a strategy. We’ll provide more updates, so check back here after our sea trial. 

 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

30-weeks to minimalism launched our 5 part series on how to downsize for the rest of your life. We followed this up with how to tackle sentimental items as well as clothes figuring out a way to pack light. In part 3 of this series, we address the boat head or bathroom.

Why is it called a head?

The head aboard a boat is the bathroom. The term comes from the days of sailing ships when the place for the crew to relieve themselves was all the way forward on either side of the bowsprit, the integral part of the hull to which the figurehead was fastened.

We will do no such thing aboard RJ Slocum.

The head aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum

Features

To the uninitiated, this photo would not trigger a second look. However when Andrew and I first looked at this photo in December and read the specs, we were impressed with the following features:

  • Dry shower – It doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re used to it on land, however when transitioning from shore life to boat life, a wet shower signals camping (in my mind). Wet showers are common on a variety of yachts, depending on what space vs. function trade-offs were being made by the designer. For example, some may want two wet heads for redundancy or additional occupants instead of one dry head. Regardless, having a dry head (shower in a separate compartment) is a necessity for our liveaboard lifestyle.
  • Kentigern toilet – The Simpson Lawrence Kentigern toilet is considered the Rolls Royce of marine toilets. If you are considering one for yourself, unfortunately they are no longer being manufactured. However luckily for us, we can still find spares from SL Spares
  • Ventilation – We were pleased to see that there are three hatches in this space. Ventilation is important to dry out the room and to reduce mildew. At the moment, we probably won’t need to modify the ventilation

 

To the right of the instrumentation is a porthole to the shower.
  • Porthole – From inside the shower, there is a porthole facing the salon (pictured above). Perhaps this is to allow in ambient light at night. Perhaps there is another reason (oh the stories this boat could tell…) Luckily, there is a curtain that can be closed for privacy.
  • Stowage – When we saw the boat for ourselves in March, we got to see the stowage available in the medicine cabinet, below the sink, above the toilet, etc. We also discovered there is additional stowage for wine.  

Can you guess where the wine storage is? It appears we are running low…

Secret wine compartment in the shower

Adapting to voyaging life

After the closet, the next priority for the “pampered” woman is the bathroom. The storage inside the head of s/v Rachel J. Slocum provides for a limited amount of toiletries, first aid and other pharmaceutical items. Few shelves exist in the medicine cabinet, so we’ll probably have to figure out our own solution to compartmentalize and store small items.

Downsizing from our current bathroom to this one will be less problematic since we are both low maintenance. 

Last month, I met up with my friend Hasmik to buy her old Nikon camera equipment, and she reminded me just how low maintenance I was. She and I travelled on safari as well as hiked up Machu Picchu together. This was during my single years before meeting Andrew. Using herself as a comparison, where her only requirement is to apply mascara and eyeliner on each morning. she tells me,

“I thought I was low maintenance, but you define low maintenance.” 

A large part of the voyaging lifestyle is becoming acutely aware of the impact we make on the environment. Just as we wrote up in going green, we want to live making deliberate choices about what we use on our body and how washing it off will end up in the ocean. It really makes you think twice about the chemicals used in cleaning products. 

Gone are most of the items in our current medicine cabinet. What will survive are a few basic items along with first aid supplies (or as Bill’s wife charmingly coins it, “the drugs.”) Out Chasing Stars shares with us what is contained in their offshore medical kit

 

On the right page, we list the linens we would take on our voyaging life

Linens

We have a fair number of queen and full size bedding in our house. We have flannels for cooler weather and a variety of bamboo as well as high thread count cotton sheets for the rest of the year.

Cruisers recommend darker colors or sheets with patterns to hide stains. We have mostly lighter shades. The Voyager’s Handbook has a guideline as well for us to reference (e.g., 2 sets of sheets for each actively-used berth and 2 light blankets. For cooler climates, fleece blanket, half a dozen wool blankets and a comforter).

As I am taking inventory of what we have, we have more than enough, but rather than make educated guesses, we decided we would ask Bill. 

Project Slocum Update

In the process of asking Bill about linens, we found out there is another person interested in buying Rachel J. Slocum.

WTF?

The other buyer wanted to move quickly, asking Bill to meet her in Florida during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Cruisers the world over are in lockdown. So it seems, there’s little point in rushing to get on the water. But the new buyer was selling her house and ready to go.

We had always taken a cautious approach, valuing health and safety over a transaction, even if it involved the rest of our lives. So we replied to Bill that it provided peace of mind to him, we can wire the security deposit and move forward with our deal, rather than have him worry needlessly about being pressured to make a sale, even at the cost of his own health.

So a couple weeks ago, we sent the security deposit to Bill who took the boat off the market.

How did we feel about this next step?

When he received the reply from Bill yesterday evening, Andrew smiled, pretty excited about taking this next step. In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and read the email Andrew had forwarded from Bill, and I started to research what information we would need to complete the transaction.

The next morning, when Andrew woke up, I told him I read the email. He asked me, “How did you feel?”

I paused, and said, “Pretty good.”

“Aren’t you excited?”

“Sure, I’m excited,” I replied flatly.

Andrew raised an eyebrow.

Why the difference in reaction?

I speculate that my unchanged mood largely stems from the fact that I had mentally accepted that this was our boat. Wiring the money, finalizing the purchase agreement, and any other steps were just that: mechanical steps in a process and nothing more. In my mind, she is already ours. The steps were a mere formality. 

Andrew’s happiness over this next step, seems to stem from a subconscious belief that there are a series of go/no-go decisions. In his mind, anything could prevent his dream from becoming a reality at each of these decision points. Rather than get his hopes up about the end goal, he is more cautious. Every step becomes a celebration… or a potential devastation.

Glass half full or half empty

We mentioned this before when we first decided to sail around the world. On our whiteboard, we sketched out a plan. Over the course of a year, that whiteboard was a disappointing reminder to Andrew about the lack of progress we made. It wasn’t a disappointment to me. I looked at the whiteboard with optimism about what steps needed to be taken for us to transform our lives.

The past day is a reminder of how Andrew and I differ in our approach to the same goal. He will celebrate each positive step. I will take each step in stride as a natural course of things.

I like the fact that we are getting better at observing ourselves and our interaction. This wards off any potential for disagreement or tension.

Now, on to the next steps… to work on the purchase agreement.

 

Linens ‘n things

Back to the topic at hand, Bill replied that we were welcome to any and all linens that are currently aboard RJ Slocum. That throws another curveball into the equation, since we will now need to bring aboard what we think we will need and marry this up with what he already has and then decide which will stay and which will take a trip to the dumpster.

All in all, we decided we’ll need to revisit this when when we fly out for the marine survey and sea trial in the fall.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Before jumping into our topic today about packing light, we wanted to highlight news about Patrick and Rebecca Childress of s/v Brick House. Their youtube channel has been an inspiration for both of us, and we were quite literally shocked to find out that they were both diagnosed with coronavirus on May 15th.

 

While Rebecca is slowly recovering aboard their boat in South Africa, Patrick was admitted into the ICU and has been on a ventilator and is experiencing kidney failure. Their insurance claim has been denied since it does not cover pandemic, so we have donated to help them out.

 

Money should be the worst and last thing anyone in this situation would need to worry about. Having Patrick come back home as soon as possible to Rebecca… that’s what is important.

 

If you would also like to help, here is the GoFundMe to support them. Thank you.

 

 

30-weeks to minimalism kicked off the first of a 5 part series on getting prepared to live on a sailboat. This begins by downsizing many of our land-based belongings. We made a yeoman’s effort earlier this year, but in this post, we take a critical eye at clothes and consider packing light.

 

This also gives us an opportunity to give you a boat tour of s/v Rachel J. Slocum. 

 

“He who would travel happily must travel light.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Business Globetrotter

In my 30’s, I caught the travel bug after my first business trip to Milan when I was working at Universal Studios. Eventually, this lead to a business development position at Technicolor, where I flew to Asia and Europe with some frequency. During the few hours I could steal way between meetings, I would visit sites profiled in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Back then, packing light was desirable when I would be in a different city each night while circumnavigating the world.

Now, packing light is an imperative as we embark on our sailing adventure. 

Leisure Packing

When Andrew and I began to travel together, it didn’t take long nor did it take much discussion before we began to pack all our belongings into one bag. Yes ladies, one single bag. Shocking, I know.

Andrew usually took the lead, gathering all that would be needed on a trip.

The first of our trips was camping and hiking to a few of the highest peaks in California (San Gorgonio and San Jacinto). Because he was more familiar with the gear, he selected and packed in Tetris-like fashion everything that we needed into our packs. He would take into consideration balancing the weight in addition to the bulk of hard vs soft items. All-in-all, a thoughtful approach. 

When we went on our honeymoon for two weeks traveling throughout Japan and Taiwan, we each carried a backpack, opting to stay in AirBnB’s to do our laundry every couple of days for the few clothes we carried.

As a result, we discovered the pleasure of staying nimble so we can take impromptu excursions and side-trips. For example, just as when we were headed for Kyoto, we took a detour to hike Poet’s Mountain. There’s no way we would have done that with a roller-bag.

So with this background, we turn to packing for the rest of our life in a 50′ sailboat. 

Packing Light

How do you go about packing for the rest of your life?

We started by taking measurements of some of the interior spaces of s/v Rachel J. Slocum during our visit to Ft. Lauderdale in March. 

While Bill was taking Andrew through some of the topside features of the boat, his wife and I went down below while I recorded the measurements of each of the drawers and hanging lockers, paying attention primarily to the areas for personal items. 

Spaces in the bilge, under the settee, pantry storage, v-berth where the workshop is located – I didn’t bother measuring, since I envisioned all the spares, tools and provisions would be allocated to these spaces. 

So with these few bits of information, we could begin to formulate a plan.  

Clothes

One of the most impactful changes will be downsizing clothes for this lifestyle. In our house, our clothes currently occupy 5 closets, 4 dressers, and a linen closet. This is roughly 510 cubic feet of space.

While I easily have 2-3 times more clothes than Andrew, we both have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to preparing for this lifestyle. 

Storage Options

In the owner’s cabin of s/v Rachel J. Slocum, there is a single dresser (8 drawers), 2 hanging lockers, and 2 hatches above the bookshelves next to the bed.

Additionally, there are two other hanging lockers: one located just outside the v-berth and another next to the companion way to stow foul weather gear.

This is about 65 cubic feet of space compared to 510 cubic feet which we have in our home. This requires that we be ruthless to reduce our possessions by 85% or more.

In 30-weeks to minimalism , we talked about purging by knocking out each category one at a time. This helped to get rid of two closets worth of clothes, and I was quite proud of that effort. However when I looked at the storage options available on RJ Slocum, I knew I needed to start from zero and only take what I need and could fit aboard.

Technical Gear

Thanks to several years and thousands of dollars spent on Lululemon, we have more than enough athletic and technical clothes to choose to bring with us aboard. By technical clothes, we mean fast drying, sweat wicking, UPF, waterproof, windproof, and insulating yet breathable clothing.

We also have a variety of clothes from Arc’teryx, Ex Officio, Kit and Ace, The North Face, REI among others, If we want to remain comfortable at sea, gone are the cottons, silks, linens, leather, wool and other fabrics that will not hold up well to this lifestyle. A tropical marine environment spawns mold and mildew if you’re not careful. Additionally, salt water and sun will take their toll on everything. 

Storage Solutions

To store these clothes, we’ll use a variety of techniques that many apartment dwellers use to save on space. These include:

  • stackable hangers
  • folding the Marie Kondo way
  • vacuum bags for seasonal items

As for shoes, marine shoes, flip flops, hiking boots, etc. will be stored in plastic milk crates for ventilation at the base of the hanging lockers. Dirty laundry will also be stored in milk crates.

Foul weather gear will go in the locker closest to the companion way.

 

Notice the measurements labeled in both the hanging space as well as the drawers.

Practicum

To put this into practice, I taped off and measured 20″ of hanging locker space for myself, 12″ of foul weather gear locker space (of which I would take up half), and the precise dimensions of the 4 drawers I would take up on RJS for clothes. When I saw the amount of space I had available to me, it was sobering. For many women, it would be a shock.

Then, I referred to Beth Leonard’s The Voyager’s Handbook which detailed the number and type of items considered the minimum to pack for a tropical and temperate cruising destination (e.g., 10 t-shirts, 4 tank tops, etc.)

In other words, these all went into the “Yes” pile. What I had already pre-selected several weeks ago became the new “Maybe” pile. Any category of clothes that had not yet been screened automatically went into the “No” pile. 

All of a sudden, I was done and packing light became a reality. 

Food for Thought

When this experiment was near complete, I showed Andrew the approach and he was excited equally enthusiastic about the results. He then threw in the potential for taking more items if we were to vacuum seal some of the items from the “maybe” pile so that we wouldn’t wont for more. 

This is one of the many examples of the “battle of the givers.” I found a way to become at peace with less and he gave me a way to take more and not feel quite as much sacrifice. Rather than packing light, I would then be packing medium… at least until we arrive and assess what additional storage could really be found.

How to handle rejection

For the clothes that are in the reject pile, they can be gifted, sold or donated. Going Zero Waste provides some ideas for organizations that will take donations of unusual items such as bras, eyeglasses, cosmetics and shoes. Before tossing anything, we will also be taking advantage of TerraCycle to determine what to do with other waste streams.

 

How we selected clothes and linens for our voyaging life. 

Progress to date

as of May 18, 2020

The table details our approach: on the left is the choices we will make for clothes and on the right is for linens. Beginning with a list of all of the items and working from left to right, each item is assigned some relevance (marked in orange) for sailing in high-latitude, temperate or tropic climates. Each item is also given a minimum number or range required as per The Voyager’s Handbook. Additional clothes were itemized if they weren’t listed in the handbook (e.g., pajamas, climbing gear, vest, etc.) 

I filled out the next 2 columns based on a) items that fit in the allotted hanging locker and drawers and b) optional items I would like to take if there is more room aboard the boat. The next 2 columns were filled out by Andrew.

Andrew had a chance to tackle his closet with the same rigorous editing. Going into it, he thought it would be easy, breezy. About 30 minutes into the process, he realized this was going to be a grind. While I sat on the bed happily knitting, I would field his packing-related questions. By lunchtime, he had gone through his wardrobe and he felt good about the progress he made. While he didn’t take the final step as I did, which was to pack all of the items into a suitcase, he now has everything in order, except for shoes.

Linens was also a topic of conversation over the past week. We will provide more details on that when we discuss the Boat Head

 

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Free Will or Fate

How can one explain how a Romanian (who immigrated to Canada and settled in southern California) meet and marry a Taiwanese-Canadian (who spent most of her time on the East Coast and eventually moved back to the West Coast)? Is it free will or fate? We each exercised quite a bit of free will making choices during our separate lives. However fate must also be at hand to bring these two far-flung individuals together.  

While we continue to observe stay-at-home protocols in California, these past couple of days have presented a few interesting opportunities to test our relationship, and how we both view this new sailing adventure.

As we discussed before in Go with the Flow, I am a “recovering planner” learning to go with the flow. Andrew is a “recovering dreamer” learning to stay grounded. We compliment each other as we move through this transition, and it often manifests in different approaches when new opportunities present themselves. 

Here are three examples over the past few days and how we handled them:

  1. Content strategy
  2. Learning to sail a schooner
  3. Delivery opportunity

Note that our arguments are seldom heated. They are passionate, thoughtful, and always yield an encouraging resolution. 

1 – Content Strategy

Everyone and their mother seems to be jumping on the coronavirus bandwagon. By that we mean, that all the content seems to cater specifically to how they are impacted by the pandemic.

We feel it’s pandering to the audience (i.e., click-bait). As a result, we have seen a noticeable decline in the quality of content that is put out in social media, vlogs and blogs across all content categories that we follow, namely: sailing, climbing, and cooking. (I realize the irony in that sentence.)

To be sure, the audience has grown both in numbers as well as in viewing time.

  • Does serenadewind.com follow suit to try to generate a larger audience?
  • Do we subscribe to a herd mentality and try to capitalize on this trend?
  • Should we shift our strategy and try to compete in this melee?

Initial Goal

At the same time, we had already been tinkering with our content strategy. So it could be argued, why not tinker a little more?

From the start, we had our own cadence for generating content, while the publishing of the content would lag behind so we would not be a slave to the website. We will eventually be abandoning WordPress (and its internet-reliant approach) and moving toward Jekyll (an off-line approach with light connectivity requirement) to update our website.

This will be essential when connecting to the internet is expensive while we are offshore. Working on serenadewind.com v2.0 of course takes time, which is constrained by a full-time job and expertise (which Andrew has in spades).

Our initial content strategy seemed to work out well for us until current events (i.e., purchasing a boat) out-paced the publishing of such content. We thought it silly to publish posts about buying s/v Rachel J. Slocum 6 months after the event, and so we accelerated some and changed the order of other content. 

By doing so, we naturally introduced an element of timeliness to the content and tying in current events such as the coronavirus pandemic. Can that be considered pandering? Perhaps…

React to Market

As we look around at the competition for viewers and audience, we see influencers, youtubers and vloggers putting up sailing content about how they are impacted by coronavirus. The quality of their content has declined, because they have a business model predicated on subscribers and patronage on a per upload basis. It’s understandable because that is how their livelihoods have been built, but it’s also a shame. 

Luckily, we don’t have a business model to support. 

While we acknowledge the impact coronavirus has on the timing of our adventure and perhaps how it might restrict our movements when we finally begin sailing, we can still produce content with integrity.

Where’s the fight?

Andrew raised the topic of having observed all these trends, and I asked the question, “So what do you want to do about it?” He said, “Not all questions need to have an action step.” In my career as a manager of people, I am accustomed to questions and issues being raised and whenever that occurs, I immediately launch into action or asking them to propose an action step. 

That works in business. Can it work in our personal lives too?

Perhaps the broader issue is this: I tend to have an affinity for closure and he tends to be comfortable with ambiguity. Acknowledging this was the first step to settling the emotions of the discussion. 

In the end, we agreed to stay the course we laid out. We are still very much constrained by time, and so we will continue to focus on our strategy. If you have seen the movie Chasing Amy, I liken our strategy to Alyssa’s approach rather than Holden’s approach.

 

Alyssa winds up with another dart.  Holden watches. Her's always hit. His never do.

					ALYSSA
			So your new book seems to be selling 
			like mad.

					HOLDEN
			It goes back to something my 
			grandmother told me when I was a kid. 
			"Holden," she said "The big bucks are 
			in dick and fart jokes."  She was a 
			church-goer.

					ALYSSA
			Uh-oh - the cry from the heart of a 
			real artist trapped in commercial hell 
			- pitying his good fortune.  I'm sure 
			you can dry your eyes on all those fat 
			checks you rake in.

					HOLDEN
			I'm sorry - did I detect a note of 
			bitter envy in there!

					ALYSSA
			Nope.  I'm happy my stuff gets read at 
			all.  There's very little market for 
			hearts and flowers in this spandex-
			clad, big pecs, big tits, big guns 
			field.  If I sell two issues, I feel 
			like John Grisham.

 

Much like identifying a waypoint, you head on a course knowing that winds may shift and the sea states will change, but at least you know where you’re headed. 

2 – Learning to Sail a Schooner

We are pretty excited to be sailing some time later this year. Meanwhile, we keep busy with our own preparations such as:

  • downsizing our personal belongings
  • reading as much as we can about offshore sailing
  • consuming videos about the sailing life
  • talking to cruisers
  • creating and refining a budget
  • making sail plans

Even yesterday, rather than jump into our Tesla and drive to the grocery store to stock up, I strapped on a backpack and walked the couple miles to the nearest store to provision just to test out our gear. We are doing everything short of experiencing sailing or living aboard a sailboat. In many ways, we are putting the cart before the proverbial horse. We are buying a boat on the premise that once we step aboard, we’ll be able to handle her (eventually).

This is a bit counter to some cruisers who suggest you buy a “starter boat” i.e, a smaller one that you can learn the ropes on, bang around a bit, and basically get comfortable with the lifestyle. For more on this, check out Self-sufficient Sailor by Lin and Larry Pardey. Once you do that, then take on a larger more expensive boat and off you go.

Doing it the hard way

Do you remember the post about climbing until you fall ?

That leap of faith is certainly present in Andrew. For me, it’s been a slower process of letting go of mental blocks and gaining confidence. In some respects, I keep thinking I am a drogue in this relationship, holding Andrew back. He is confident, and I am conservative. 

What we realized one morning after a heated debate is something a bit more nuanced than that. While he was picking away at my fears, Andrew unearthed something I hadn’t realized… that his tendency to project positivity and confidence helps him to overcome his own fears. So what I took to be a cavalier approach from him was something entirely different underneath.

Deep down, he is just like me, and we are both quite grounded in wanting to achieve our goal at transitioning to a life as full-time cruisers. It just shows up differently.

 

Learning Together

These moments of friction really clarifies our points of view to each other. How subtle communication can be and how easily things can be misunderstood. We are now in the habit of verifying what we’ve heard as opposed to jumping to conclusions.

When you believe and trust in your partner, what may begin as conflict turns out to be an opportunity for growth and to learn more about each other. For us, this was the whole point of embarking on such an adventure. Even if (a) we never buy a boat, (b) life throws us a curveball, or (c) we end up back in our same types of jobs, we will be happier knowing that we have grown closer throughout this process.

3 – Jeanneau Delivery Opportunity

Yesterday, we came across an opportunity to get some offshore sailing experience. A delivery captain was looking for 1-2 sailors to crew a delivery from the US Virgin Islands to Annapolis, MD. They depart on April 23rd for a 10-14 day passage over 1,400 nm. 

At first blush, both Andrew and I were intrigued by the opportunity. We could learn a lot on a passage like that in a boat with comparable length as s/v Rachel J. Slocum. And since I had already quit my job and flights were fairly inexpensive these days, I could react immediately. Andrew’s situation is a bit more restricted, but he was also happy to take vacation days in order to have this experience.

When we paused and reflected a little further, we realized we still had to figure out a situation with our cats while we were gone for about 2 weeks. I’m still monitoring Oreo’s health day to day, so this wasn’t a task to drop without some consideration.

Meanwhile, both of us were itching to get some more time on the water before we moved aboard full-time, so is this the right opportunity?

Let’s sleep on it

The next morning, I mentally ran through the description of the delivery and decided it wasn’t for me for the following reasons:

  1. Their main agenda is to get a boat delivered in a certain window of time. This means motor-sailing for a significant portion of the time, and I try to avoid those situations, especially when I want to learn to sail.
  2. This boat ain’t the same as RJS. By design and construction, a Jeanneau is a fast coastal cruising, light displacement boat. She prefers lighter seas and certain points of sail. Anything outside of her wheelhouse, so to speak, and she will pound and pitch like a rocking horse, making the sailing experience altogether miserable. It’s no wonder that the delivery captain was giving preference to those who tend not to get seasick.
  3. Finally, I wouldn’t be able to have this experience with Andrew, and so what’s the point if we are not learning how we sail together.  

When I told Andrew my assessment, he agreed. And then he said that if it were him, he would be able to find value and make the most of the situation despite the points I raised. That he would get on the phone with the delivery captain and in the span of 10 minutes be able to assess whether this was worthwhile for us.

I wondered then if this meant we should re-open the discussion to seriously consider this as an opportunity. 

He said no, and that surprised me.

Digging in

He referred again to his history for exemplifying confidence to get over a mental hump. When I told him my assessment, he agreed because the arguments I gave were sound and kept him grounded. This goes back to “recovering dreamer” and his appreciation of the perspective I bring to the relationship.

Just as we decided to stay the course in our content strategy, we are staying the course on our preparations to sail and live aboard a boat.

Free Will or Fate

Which path do we choose? It seems these days we are making such momentous decisions that it is difficult to know which is the right answer. If I had been given a questionnaire one year ago asking me which of the following statements are true: 

  1. My next trip abroad will be Dusseldorf, Germany. 
  2. I will leave my job at Warner Bros.
  3. We will buy a sailboat.
  4. All of the above.
  5. None of the above.

Guaranteed, I would answer #5. No question.

Here we are today and I am answering #4. With such bold changes being made, one has to ask the question. Is this free will or fate?

Andrew reminded me of what happened in the case of our decision to go to Boot in Dusseldorf. Intrinsically, something within Andrew compelled him to say, “Let’s go to Boot.”

Instinctively, I replied, “Whoa, wait a minute…”

However, in time, I came around and opened myself to the possibility and suddenly in January 2020 we find ourselves at Boot, not only to see a lot of sailboats, but also to see an obscure brand called Sirius that was a game changer for us.

Surely the hand of fate is in play, but in these small grounded decisions, we have an opportunity to choose.

Finally, I am also reminded that every decision is not permanent. 

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes

During these times of uncertainty, it is helpful to sketch out a preliminary 2020 sailing plan to feel like you have control over something. Also, it’s a pleasant distraction from the 24/7 coronavirus news.

Upon purchase of s/v Rachel J. Slocum, we will have the pleasure of spending time with Bill (her original owner and designer), so we can familiarize ourself with sailing a 50′ staysail schooner. The initial 2020 sailing plan is to sail 3 legs of a triangle later this year, and spending significant time in the Vineyard living aboard:

  1. Cruise Atlantic Coast from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard
    • Daysails around the Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape Cod and Newport
  2. Offshore Passage from Martha’s Vineyard to Bermuda
  3. Offshore Passage from Bermuda to Nevis, Eastern Caribbean

These we will describe in more detail below.

Ft. Lauderdale to Martha’s Vineyard

Distance: ~1,025 nautical miles (over 5 days at 8 knots)

Best time: May to September

The first leg of this journey will entirely depend on when U.S. lockdown mode is eased, specifically, when marinas open up for cruisers to sail from port to port. Even if this doesn’t happen until August or September, this plan can still hold for this year. 

Our goal is probably to do a relatively fast passage offshore rather than take the ICW, which in places have a 5′ draft (our boat draws 6′). 

While Andrew and I have done some late night sailing, we haven’t done any overnights. So this will be a great shakedown cruise. 

Martha’s Vineyard

Best time: May to September

While the sailing season is short compared to other U.S. locales, the area makes up for it with stunning scenery and iconic culture of sailing. There is also a tremendous amount of variety, from calm, protected waters to treacherous seas for seasoned sailors. Lee Gaines describes the area as follows: 

  • Cape Cod Bay provides a calm and protected sailing environment but northern winds may occasionally churn the usually placid bay into a raging sea.
  • On the southern side of the Cape, Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay are popular sailing spots offering easy access to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Though not as sheltered as the Cape Cod Bay, calm weather makes this area a pleasant and relatively safe boating destination.
  • The Atlantic Ocean, accessed from the eastern ports along Cape Cod’s arm, can be a treacherous boating area and should be reserved for the most competent and experienced sailors.

For me, this will be returning to a region I called home for 10 years. Sailing here in s/v Rachel J. Slocum with Andrew and becoming part of this storied tradition will make this experience surreal, as we call the Vineyard home for a few months.

To be sure, there will be coves, inlets and different marinas to check out from Newport, RI to Boston, MA. Most of all, I think it will be fun to take Andrew to places that have personal history for me: in Wellesley where I went to school, in Cambridge where I hung out with friends, and in Boston where I lived in a 300 sq ft apartment.

Thanks to Mountain Project, we’ll also be sure to check out the local crags in Massachusetts. Lower Walls near Chestnut Hill looks promising. Otherwise, the coastline offers only boulder problems. Easy to get to, but not my cup of tea.

Martha’s Vineyard to Bermuda

Distance: ~650 nautical miles (over 3 days at 8 knots)

Tropical Storms: June to November

At some point in late October/early November, we will look for a reasonable weather window to point our bow southeast and head for Bermuda. With Bill aboard taking us through the paces once again, we’ll have a short passage to Bermuda.

In the most recent outlook, the hurricane season for 2020 is expected to be more active than in years past.  

  • A total of 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes are expected this season.
  • This is above the 30-year average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Despite its latitude and longitude – and its location so far north of the Caribbean, nearly a thousand miles north of it in fact – Bermuda is entirely frost-free, snow-free and ice-free. Why? Because the warm waters of the Gulf Stream pass near Bermuda.

Within less than a week, we will be traveling from crisp, autumnal New England weather to balmy, sub-tropical island weather. Luckily our 30-weeks to Minimalism downsizing project prepared us for these extremes. 

Exploring beautiful places and capturing them on film will be our goals along with rock climbing opportunities. Deep water solo, anyone?

We won’t stay here long, because our ultimate destination is the island of Nevis, Eastern Caribbean. 

Bermuda to Nevis

Distance: 900-1,000 nautical miles (over 5 days at 8 knots)

Best time: November (offshore), late November to May (via Bahamas)

Tropical Storms: June to November

Once we’ve had our fill of deep water solo in Bermuda, we’ll take a look at the weather window and head south toward the Eastern Caribbean. We haven’t decided on whether we’ll sail via Bahamas or not. 

Our goal is to safely deposit Bill back at his home on Nevis.

While we were doing some of this planning, we discovered that Pinney’s Beach is one of the top attractions of the island of Nevis. Pinney also happens to be the same as Bill’s last name.

Coincidence? 

We’ll get to the bottom of that story once we make landfall. 

 

Plan B

Many states are beginning to ease restrictions beginning this week.

We have been monitoring the news on updates with respect to California, Florida and Massachusetts since this will impact our plans in the near term. While hair salons, bowling alleys and certain retail operations are opening up, we feel it is too early to commit to any action, in light of the following:

  • potential rebound spike in number of cases, hospital admissions, and mortality
  • likely second wave in the fall of this year
  • other factors still unknown that can help shape how the “new normal” will work

The telltales we are reading come largely from the cruising community and whether marinas and services open up, and whether there is less restricted movement among ports. Until we see that happening (which will be on the trailing edge or the “leech” of trends), we’ll remain on hold.

If those trends don’t materially change until November, we will move directly forward with sailing s/v Rachel J. Slocum from Florida to the Bahamas or directly to Nevis. This scenario can hold until well into spring 2021. Either scenario would be great opportunities for us to learn the ropes on this new vessel, so we can’t complain.