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.

But like the freak snow, winter number five has been unlike any other, both weather-wise and in how we find ourselves cruising. After unexpectedly being off the boat for so long in October and November to get a new rudder and to have the skeg fixed, and then again in January to get some fiberglass work done, this hasn’t been our ideal season of cruising. Actually, it hasn’t been what we anticipated at all, which is how life aboard goes.

Our typically rosy disposition and positive outlook towards the challenges of cruising this winter has been tested over and over again. We know that boat things break and cost money, that the weather is fully out of our control and that raising a two-year-old and three-and-a-half-year-old on a 40-foot boat is challenging. That’s all part of it.

Some days it’s awesome. Some days it’s just fine. And other days it’s taxing to a degree that makes us question our nomadic lifestyle. Luckily, the latter happens in very small doses, but when it does, it pushes us to take a 360-degree look at the situation, the reasons we’re doing what we doing and all the things that make it fun, memorable, rewarding and sometimes difficult.

In looking at all angles of our situation this winter, we’ve come to realize that our discontent hasn’t been with the weather — because we can deal with that — it has been with all the time we’ve had off of Yahtzee, which forced us out of our normal family cruising routines. Fortunately, we’ve made the best of it — here’s how.

Spending time with family

Due to the passing of Jill’s aunt in Redmond in January, we spent a week off the boat with family, which included cousins, her other aunt, mom, brother and uncle. The time together, though bittersweet, was enjoyable and included a lot of stories and laughter, as it should in a time like that.

The boys with their uncle Jon, who came down from Alaska.

Just a few weeks later and my parents were in Seattle to visit us and to take in the Seattle Boat Show. We were off the boat again, but it didn’t matter. Spending quality time together taking in the sites of downtown, climbing on boats at the afloat show on Lake Union and eating at many of our favorite places in the city was a real treat.

The crew of Yahtzee with my dad after a ride on Seattle’s Great Wheel.
My mom with a sleeping Magnus and happy Porter.

Catching up with friends

While Yahtzee had another frustrating round of fiberglass work completed — this time to repair shoddy work done by a previous owner — we again got to stay at our friends Darren and Erin’s house in Ballard. Similar to when the boat was on the hard in October, we shared meals, brewskis and tons of laughs, had fires in the backyard and solved all the world’s problems. That’s what great friends are for.

Darren taught Porter how to use a saw when we burned their Christmas tree.

Experiencing another Seattle Boat Show

Every winter of full-time cruising that we’ve done over the years has included a pilgrimage to the Seattle Boat Show. I needed to be there for work, of course, but the energy of the event is also what brings us back. It’s fun to be around so many like-minded boaters, to present seminars, to catch up with friends in the industry, and to meet lots of new people involved with our vibrant local boating community. Also, the boys love the kids’ events.

Family fun at the Seattle Boat Show.

Finding new entertainment

Being that this winter has been colder than the last two and that we haven’t been located in the San Juan and Gulf islands, we’ve had to make entertainment for the boys in places other than marine parks and desolate anchorages. Instead, we’ve found libraries, playgrounds, swimming pools and children’s museums to be suitable alternatives to beaches and hiking trails. Again, it wasn’t what we’d planned on, but that’s okay.

Porter’s a pro on the climbing wall.

After motoring for three hours into that snow squall, the following breeze we’d hoped for never materialized and the pretty snow turned to an unrelenting rain. But when we arrived, so too did blue sky and sunshine, serving as a reminder that, like our winter of cruising, good things do come.

Though chilly, the clouds had parted and the sun had mostly melted the snow by the end of the day. Magnus is all smiles.

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4 thoughts on “Surviving the winter cruising blues

    1. So true, Chris. Every winter has been different, it’s all in how you handle it. Fortunately, we’ve got all the things to overcome and are making the best of it. Looking forward to heading north and seeing you sooner than later!

  1. I can so relate to how bad weather can be tricky to handle with small energetic bodies – we spent 48+ hours at anchor in Greenland unable to go outside or ashore due to evil weather and I’m pretty sure that was why we decided we weren’t too bothered by not attempting the NWP (some people have spent weeks confined to their boats waiting for good weather and/or ice clearance) as the 3 kids were climbing the walls, almost killing each other and driving us to drink!
    We have just been discussing whether winter cruising in your neck of the woods is a smart choice – thanks for a reminder of the realities! I love how changeable things can be though, when we were cruising the north of Scotland the locals always said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 mins and it’ll change!” and it did.

    1. Yes, it’s definitely “wait 5 minutes and it’ll change” in these parts! Most of our frustration with this winter has been less about the weather and more about all the boat work we’ve had to do, which meant we’ve been off the boat shuffling around instead of being in our cruising groove. But, as you you know, boat work is all part of the game. Like Chris said above, if you’ve got a good anchor, heater and crew, you’re all set around here in the winter.

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