At home among friends in British Columbia

After a quick jaunt through the dense, electric-green forest on Portland Island, we came to a grassy clearing that sloped quickly down to the sea. I laid my backpack on a rock, grabbed a water bottle, two beers and snacks from inside and passed them around, officially kicking off our family’s impromptu celebration in honor of being back in British Columbia’s beautiful Gulf Islands.

The boys were soon off exploring and I stood next to Jill for a moment taking in the sunshine and gorgeous views of Salt Spring Island across Satellite Channel. It was great to be back in that spot and Porter echoed the feeling when he found me to say, “Dad, I’m so happy to be back here.” The sentiment absolutely melted my heart — he was right.  Continue reading At home among friends in British Columbia

TVs? Enclosures? Rain? and other recent FAQs

Due to the unconventional lifestyle that we lead while cruising aboard Yahtzee, we tend to field a lot of questions from sailors and non-sailors, friends, family members, strangers and folks who follow Three Sheets Northwest and Rollin’ With Yahtzee. You can find many of these basic questions on our FAQ page, but we’ve recently had quite a few new ones so I’ll answer some of those below and will then post them to the page later.

If you’ve got any questions of your own, please feel free to leave them in the comments section and I’ll get them answered and posted.

Do you have a TV?

No, we don’t have a television. The reason is that we don’t really like TV and therefore have no need to sit in front of one. It isn’t that we’re anti-TV necessarily, it’s just not something that we want or find useful on a sailboat. I get plenty of “screen time” working on the computer and really the only thing I could think that I’d even like to watch on TV would be football. And for Jill, since housesitting this winter and getting hooked on the show “This Is Us”, she’s now hopeful to find a way to finish the season. Continue reading TVs? Enclosures? Rain? and other recent FAQs

Thriving on the unknowns

“I tell people that you guys are annoyingly content.” Our friend Chris said with a chuckle while sitting at Yahtzee’s nav desk. “It’s a good thing. What I mean is that you’re the most content people I’ve seen handle the unknown. Most people have a hard time dealing with that, and you do it so seamlessly.”

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve had several conversations with friends and family about what we’re up to next aboard Yahtzee. And several of those have led to quesitons about the precarious nature of it all and how we deal with it: Are you nervous about what’s next? Is the uncertainty frightening?

There’s a big world out there to explore.

Our answer to the basic question of where we’re going next is that we’ll head north to British Columbia in March and see what happens from there. How far north and upon what route, we’re not sure, but we’re thinking Alaska.

The lines of questioning then become less about where we’re going and more about our lack of concrete plans and dates. The underlying concern here is how we deal with the “maybes” of it all — the unknowns of not having an exact route and time frame. And how some days we might not even know where we’re going that day.

Plans can always change on a whim.

Continue reading Thriving on the unknowns

That good old San Juan Islands cure

Yahtzee swings on a mooring at Spencer’s Spit.

Jill was at the helm when we coaxed Yahtzee off the dock in Anacortes against a stiff cross-breeze, and while closing the gate and stowing fenders I heard a voice yell, “Hey, Yahtzee! I hope you guys are feeling better!”

The salutation — from a blog reader who noticed the boat — brought a smile to my face and I answered with what else but an uncontrollable hacking cough. That wasn’t the response I was digging for but we all got a good chuckle out of the moment. It’s always fun to meet readers and his well wishes sent us out towards the San Juan Islands on what would end up being a turning point day for all of us and our battle with the flu.

The perfect cure

Sailing westward into the San Juans, it felt like a heavy weight was slowly lifted from my shoulders and left somewhere on the east side of Rosario Strait. The tranquility of the islands beckoned with open arms, welcoming us home to a place we know well and love dearly. We’ve missed not being around here as much this winter, but we don’t need to anymore. Continue reading That good old San Juan Islands cure

A couple of cruising realities rear their ugly heads

The vast majority of the time, living our nomadic life under sail is highly entertaining, rewarding, stimulating and challenging. It’s an amazing way to raise our children and to see the world, especially the great Pacific Northwest, and there’s nothing more we’d rather do.

That said, we’ve recently dealt with a couple realities of this life that are particularly difficult and often get amplified by our situation. Fortunately, they’re typically ones that we can live with and move past in a positive direction.

Small spaces can be tough

While out for a short sail last weekend, I knew something was up. Rather than being on deck sailing like usual, Porter really wanted to take a nap. He never naps.

Not long after I put him in his bunk, he called up to me and mustered the effort to get his gear on and come out. But a short time later he just wanted to be held. While cradling him in my arms in the cockpit it hit me. He was sick. Uh oh.

When Porter went down for the count, Magnus was his usual energetic self.

A while later and after another nap, we took his temperature and found it to be over 100 degrees. Double uh oh. We live in a very small space and my fear soon turned into a reality: The entire crew had come down with a wicked flu. Continue reading A couple of cruising realities rear their ugly heads

Bouncing round the Central Sound

Porter and Magnus lend a hand on some engine maintenance.

Porter held an assortment of wrenches in his hands while I tightened a nut on the engine. He watched me finish intently and when we moved on to the next one, Magnus came behind us with his toy drill to give it one last turn for good measure. It was project number three that day and with each one, the boys tagged along offering any bit of help they could.

We’ve been doing projects both big and small on the boat these days in preparation to head north next week, but we’ve also had time to cruise the Central Sound and get some work done, too.

Central Sound Bound

A couple days prior and we were hanging out on the sunny patio at Valholl Brewing in Poulsbo. The boys zoomed toy cars around and swilled root beer, Jill and I sipped tasty brews and went back-and-forth on a sporting game of cornhole while discussing the various things that we had left to get done on Yahtzee. We hadn’t been to the endearing town known as “Little Norway” in a few years and it was great to be back exploring some of our favorite breweries, shops, parks and, of course, the incredible treats at Sluys Bakery.

Continue reading Bouncing round the Central Sound

The sailing we needed

The breeze was up and an approaching squall had more in store.

With the red buoy off Bainbridge Island’s southeastern tip fine on the port bow, Yahtzee healed hard on port tack. A wet, blustery squall had just passed and in its wake left sunshine and a stiff 25-knot breeze that scuttled clouds quickly across the sky. Glancing down from the mainsail to see our speed, I couldn’t contain my smile when I read 8.4 knots. Yes!

Shortly after, gusts in the mid-30s kept the adrenaline pumping and a rainbow framed the channel markers leading us into Eagle Harbor. We’d sailed 20 miles in under three hours in what turned out to be one of those days on the water that wiped away the fiberglass dust, boatyard grime and dollar signs that inevitably came with all our recent boat work. This was a day of sailing we’d been looking for.

Patience pays

When we’re cruising in our normal winter routine, we typically plan to sit and wait places for days if necessary to catch favorable breezes — sailing to a schedule just doesn’t suit us. Earlier this week we’d headed down to Gig Harbor in the snow, knowing that when a warm front came on Thursday we’d be in for a predictable southerly and smooth sail back north. Boy, did we get it. Continue reading The sailing we needed

Surviving the winter cruising blues

Yahtzee covered with snow during a trip from Blake Island to Gig Harbor.

Motoring south towards Colvos Passage, snowflakes the size of quarters dropped from the sky in a deluge. I could barely see the water in front of the bow and had to pull my hood down nearly over my eyes to keep my jacket from filling with snow. Just then, Jill popped her head out from the warm cabin, looked at me with a wry smile and said, “Should I take a picture and caption it ‘Living the dream'”.

I laughed. She’s always had a way of making me do that.

This is our fifth winter living aboard Yahtzee in the Pacific Northwest and our third of full-time cruising. In all of those winters, we’ve seen snow on deck just a handful of times and have been underway in it just twice. And though unusual, it was actually quite beautiful.

This is a first: The boys building a snowman on the dock.

Continue reading Surviving the winter cruising blues

“There’s a raccoon down below!” and more from Blake Island

From the sheltered fire pit on Blake Island, we shined a light towards Yahtzee, which was the only boat sitting in the marina. A set of eyes glared back at us from the cockpit and we watched while a raccoon scoured the outside of the boat for food.

Having been to Blake Island many times before, we were well aware of the raccoons that pester campers and boaters alike, hanging out waiting for any opportunity to find a meal. The rules are simple, though, don’t leave any food out and don’t leave the boat open, and they’ll usually move on after a quick search of your boat or campsite.

Raccoons are a regular sight around Blake Island.

About a half hour later, we returned to Yahtzee and one of the little critters climbed off the boat just as we arrived. Then, while standing in the cockpit, I felt a bump on my leg and looked down the companionway hatch to see a wily raccoon zipping around inside. Continue reading “There’s a raccoon down below!” and more from Blake Island

Discovering Marrowstone Island’s Mystery Bay

Boats sit idle on their mooring buoys in a calm Mystery Bay.
Boats sit idle on their mooring buoys in a calm Mystery Bay.

With the sun gently rising, I poked my head out of Yahtzee’s companionway to watch orange and purple hues spread over glassy Mystery Bay. Down below, the smell of hot coffee wafted through the cabin and while the boys played and read books, preparations for a hearty breakfast were well underway.

It was the start of a leisurely day at Mystery Bay with our friends Ryan and Autumn aboard Velella, and typical of us, we were going to make it up as we went along.

The morning sun lights up Velella.
The morning sun lights up Velella.

The day prior we’d each enjoyed a fast and fun ride up Puget Sound on a strong southerly and chose the bay to spend a relaxing last few days of 2016. We’d visited Mystery Bay once before, but it was merely a quick anchorage for the night and then we were out. This time we were going to explore what the bay had to offer. Continue reading Discovering Marrowstone Island’s Mystery Bay

Above beautiful Bellingham

Our temporary home in Bellingham's Squalicum Harbor in December 2014.
Our temporary home in Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor in December 2014.

We have a special connection to Bellingham, Washington. Magnus was born there a little over two years ago, and during our stay in town aboard Yahtzee, we fell in love with many of the things that this video depicts and represents. When I saw it, it captivated me to the bitter end, so I had to share.

The Pacific Northwest is truly an amazing place and we’re happy to call it home. Enjoy!

The heat goes on…

My recent posts about being back out for another winter of cruising in the Pacific Northwest, coupled with the cooler temperatures we’ve experienced this season, sparked some questions about what we use to warm the boat.

Proper heat makes winter cruising enjoyable.
Proper heat makes winter cruising enjoyable.

Before embarking on our first winter of full-time cruising in the Salish Sea, we made sure to have numerous heating options in place and what we ended up with is a redundancy that allows us to keep the boat cozy whether we’re at a dock, anchored out or underway. The heaters we employ to achieve this include an oil lamp, diesel fireplace, electric space heater, propane heater, hydronic space heater and dehumidifier.

Here’s how all our heat sources work in concert to keep the crew of Yahtzee warm. Continue reading The heat goes on…

5 Favorites | The joys of winter cruising

This is the fifth in our ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics including memorable anchorages, marina showers, cruise-in breweries, parks of the Gulf Islands, fun things to do, ports, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests” or to rank things, but rather to provide an entertaining and insightful look at what we’ve enjoyed while cruising the Pacific Northwest. And since every boater has their favorites, we invite you to share yours in the comments below. 

With the full onset of winter, we’re back to our winter cruising grounds of the San Juan and Gulf islands and are hopping from harbor to anchorage to marine park enjoying the splendor that comes with the season.

Cruising the PNW in the winter can be cool and wet, but having proper gear is a huge help.
Cruising the PNW in the winter can be cool and wet, but having proper gear is a huge help.

We love cruising this time of year in the Pacific Northwest and the reasons are many. While some may complain about the cold, the wind, the shorter days and the limited amount of services open to boaters, we embrace all of those challenges and more.

This is our third winter of full-time cruising in the Salish Sea and though there are innumerable things that we love about being underway this time of year, here are five of our favorites. Continue reading 5 Favorites | The joys of winter cruising

Cruising into 2017 while looking forward and astern

Sitting idle in our little rowing dinghy, I watched Porter gracefully navigate the kayak atop a clear pane of saltwater. A smile spread across his face when he dipped the paddle over each side and I didn’t need to say a word to him to know that he was in the moment.

Porter out for a paddle in Mystery Bay.

He wasn’t the only one.

Spreading our wings on Yahtzee just before the new year has been incredibly rewarding. We’ve sailed with favorable breezes, met up with great friends and have spent time doing what we love — cruising and enjoying life. And as we say goodbye to 2016 and sail into 2017, here’s a look at the present, past and future of life aboard our nomadic home.

Getting in the groove

When we got back aboard Yahtzee in mid-December, we had grand plans of rushing north to the San Juan and Gulf islands to get into our typical winter cruising routine. But the big problem with that was the rushing part. That’s something we try not to do and since time and weather were on our side, we didn’t need to. Instead, we stuck around central Puget Sound for a bit, enjoying beautiful days of sailing and quiet harbors while getting Yahtzee ship shape after her long spa vacation in the boatyard. Continue reading Cruising into 2017 while looking forward and astern

Backpacks stowed, sails up, the crew of Yahtzee rides again

After clearing the Ballard Locks and the breakwater at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle, we were greeted by a strong, cold 20-knot northerly sweeping down Puget Sound. With the flick of a line off a cleat and the pull of a sheet, Yahtzee’s genoa unfurled in a flash. Drawing us forward in a rush, I shut off the engine and promptly heard an unscripted holler from the boys and then Jill down below. Being the experienced sailors they are, they knew it, we were sailing again — and it was awesome!

Yahtzee underway once again!
Yahtzee sails once again!

As we bounded across the Sound, dodging a container ship and tug and barge along the way, I got thinking about how far we’d come. Not in miles necessarily, but in being off the boat over the past three months. Mind you, it was never our intention to spend that long off of Yahtzee, but with travel plans to see friends and family and then the unexpected issues that arose with our skeg and rudder, there was nothing we could do but keep our chins up and move forward. Fortunately, we’re good at that. The boys are adaptable and resilient and we roll as a family from one place to the next in a fluidity that impresses me over and over again. The thing is, though, we’ve come to realize that we do it better on the boat than on land. Continue reading Backpacks stowed, sails up, the crew of Yahtzee rides again