Tag Archives: Pacific Northwest

700 miles downwind to Alaska

Pardon my lack of posts lately. We did a bit of sailing this week.

It started last Thursday (4/20) when we caught an extremely favorable southerly wind for a 160-mile overnight passage from the northwest corner of Vancouver Island to the bottom of Haida Gwaii. Continuing north with the breeze, we went up through incredible Gwaii Haanas National Park before sailing across Hecate Strait to the northern BC coast. Then on Tuesday afternoon we made the hop over the border under a shining sun and our bright blue spinnaker to Ketchikan, Alaska.

Pulling into Bar Harbor Marina here in Ketchikan and checking into the USA was a wonderful feeling. Greeted with the last sun rays of the day, snowcapped mountains and friendly locals, it was exactly a month to the day since we departed Victoria with a simple plan to head north under sail. In that time we’ve put over 700 miles behind Yahtzee’s stern and only 90 of those — 90! — have been upwind.

But it was never really about the miles. It was all about the sailing. From day one until crossing the border, our goal in reaching Alaska was about sailing as family. Not pushing it, but waiting for it and living it — and we’ve done that.

Sailing downwind to Alaska. Yep, it was epic. Here’s how we made it happen. Continue reading 700 miles downwind to Alaska

5 Favorites: Cruising Towns

This is the sixth 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, the joys of winter cruising, fun things to do, 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. 

Fuel, water, provisions, a trip to the chandlery, showers and laundry, and the proposition of a hot meal cooked by someone else are some of the many things that boaters look for when stopping during a cruise. Most experienced Pacific Northwest mariners have their favorite marinas and ports of call along the way, and whether they’re utilitarian, charming or both, one of the great things that makes cruising the Salish Sea so special is the immense amount of quality stops we can make. Just like all my 5 Favorites articles, my top five cruising towns were difficult to narrow down. But here goes…

FRIDAY HARBOR 

In a way, San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor has turned into a home base for us while cruising the San Juans over the past three winters. For cruisers who are paying a quicker visit, though, there is U.S. Customs & Immigration, ferry and floatplane service to drop and pickup guests, ample room to anchor, a welcoming marina operated by the port, two grocery stores for provisions, boating services, a fuel dock, a small chandlery, a hardware store and more. Friday Harbor also houses several great restaurants and bars on or near Spring Street, a welcoming library, numerous specialty shops and is home to The Whale Museum, which promotes “stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem through education & research.”

Beyond all of that, we’ve found the town to be particularly welcoming to our family and have met residents during the offseason that befriended us like we are one of their own. For the boys, the Family Resource Center, library story times, A Place to Play and the pool at San Juan Island Fitness are all great entertainment, especially during the wetter and darker days of winter. And joining in the town’s Halloween festivities and Turkey Trot for Thanksgiving have been highlights of our time there.

Our Pumpkins ready for trick-or-treating in Friday Harbor.

Yahtzee’s restaurant of choice: Haley’s Sports Bar & Grill Continue reading 5 Favorites: Cruising Towns

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

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

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…

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.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-11-52-30-am
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

5 Favorites | Cruise-in Breweries

This is the third in an ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics such as memorable anchorages, marina showers, fun things to do, ports, beautiful places, days of sailing, 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. 

One of our favorite parts of cruising Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, among many other things, is stopping in port for a pint beer at one of the many local breweries and taking a full growler home with us.

Our trusty growler adorned in stickers from many breweries.
Our trusty growler adorned in stickers from many breweries.

But because our region is so rich in delicious breweries to visit, this list was quite difficult to put together. How could I choose just five? Do I include breweries in Astoria and other stops during our voyage up the Columbia River? What about Seattle?

Well, I intentionally left out Seattle because from any marina in the city you can walk to five different favorite breweries or more. And I decided to just stick with the greater Puget Sound/Salish Sea basin instead of delving into the Columbia River … yet.

In no particular order, here are five of our favorite walkable breweries from a marina or anchorage.

Tofino Brewing Company — Tofino, British Columbia: Tofino itself is a paradise of sorts. Gateway to beautiful and wild Clayoquot Sound, its beaches are stunning and the backdrop of green mountains is awe-inspiring. We loved our stop there last summer, and between the surfing and ice cream tasting, we didn’t want to leave. But Tofino Brewing also ticked a notch in our belt as a great place to stop for a pint and to fill our growler. Continue reading 5 Favorites | Cruise-in Breweries

What’s up with Yahtzee?

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for Yahtzee and crew. After finishing our circumnavigation of Vancouver Island and spending time in the San Juan Islands, we made way for Seattle. From there we flew to Michigan to be with family for Labor Day and had an absolute blast. It couldn’t have been a better time and it was wonderful for the boys to play and hang out with their cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles — which they’re still doing.

Seven of ten cousins on the dock where it all began.
Eight of ten cousins on the dock where all the sailing began.
The boys and their cousin George riding big wheels.
The boys and their cousin George riding big wheels.

I ventured back to the boat solo and cruised up to the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, and in between have been working on boat and work projects, and seeing friends. After spending so much time underway over the past two years, we’ve had some upgrades to make and, with the crew off the boat, I’ve been tackling those one by one. Continue reading What’s up with Yahtzee?

5 Favorites: Memorable anchorages

This is the first in an ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics such as anchorages, breweries, fun things to do, ports, beautiful places, pubs, days of sailing, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests”, but rather of things we’ve enjoyed while cruising in the Pacific Northwest.  

Robbers Passage: With so many anchorages visited, choosing five was difficult.
Robbers Passage: With so many anchorages visited, choosing five was difficult.

In this first installment, and in no particular order, I’ll take you to my five favorite anchorages that we visited aboard Yahtzee while rounding Vancouver Island from mid-May to mid-August. During our circumnavigation of the island we spent 62 nights at anchor, which provides me with many potential spots to choose from. Picking just five was extremely difficult and while we enjoyed all the places we visited for one reason or another, these stuck out as favorites.

memorable-anchorages Continue reading 5 Favorites: Memorable anchorages

The inspiration for cruising

Sunrise in Watmough Bay.
Sunrise in Watmough Bay.

Sitting on the rocky beach of Watmough Bay on Lopez Island, I stared out on the water in quiet contemplation. Yahtzee bobbed on a mooring and Rosario Strait was calm yet sparkling in the summer sun. I reached down, picked up a small stone and threw it with no care as to where it landed. My mind was far away, searching for an answer to a question posed to me by a fellow cruiser I’d met just moments prior.

“What’s your inspiration for cruising as a family?” she’d asked.

It was a good question, but a heavy one. Of all the queries I get regarding our lifestyle, I’ve never been asked that particular one and in the moment, I couldn’t process it and give it the clear attention it deserved. I’ve thought about it a lot since, talked about it with friends and, sitting in the very spot where my love of sailing stems from, I’ve come to grasp the answer. Continue reading The inspiration for cruising

Why we’re out here: 7 inspiring days of sailing

Broad reaching towards Ladysmith after the squall
Broad reaching towards Ladysmith after the squall

When we rounded the northern corner of Salt Spring Island the squall overtook us. Big drops of rain coupled with strong headwinds brought visibility to almost nothing, and I hoped we wouldn’t hit a log or snag a crab trap. I knew it was just a passing shower, but I wanted it to end.

With one reef already in the main, we beat slowly towards the southern end of Tent Island and, as expected, it soon passed. Blue sky followed and the sun filled in brilliantly, causing my black Musto jacket to steam and gleam in the warm light. I took it off, tossed it aside and rolled the jib out on a broad reach to sail the remaining miles to Ladysmith. Such has been life aboard for the past seven days — sailing all the way, and loving it. Continue reading Why we’re out here: 7 inspiring days of sailing

Thankful for cruising in the Pacific Northwest

There is truly nothing like cruising in the Pacific Northwest, and we recognize that every day.

Here is some of what we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving:

We’re thankful for each other, and to be cruising as a family.

Jill and the boys
Jill and the boys
Magnus playing in the kayak
Magnus playing in the kayak

Continue reading Thankful for cruising in the Pacific Northwest

Reflecting on a year of full-time cruising in the Pacific Northwest

Our home base for two years, Shilshole Bay Marina in Ballard
Our home base for two years, Shilshole Bay Marina in Ballard

On August 30, 2014 we casted off our dock lines at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle for the last time as permanent residents and pointed the bow north. Our plan was simple: live and cruise aboard in the Pacific Northwest full-time.

The decision to embark on a full-time cruising lifestyle in the PNW grew from the realization that we didn’t have to sail thousands of miles down coasts or across oceans to “go cruising.” Many may think you do, but you don’t.

When we first bought Yahtzee, we thought we did. Getting swept up in the excitement of owning an offshore quality boat that was well outfitted for long distance sailing got the better of us. We thought we’d leave in two years, turn left and head south. How wrong we were … thankfully.

During our two years living at Shilshole, we took every opportunity we could to get out cruising and racing. Our rule was that Yahtzee had to be kept ready to sail in 15-minutes or less at all times. Whether it was a simple overnight, a long weekend, or a 10-day trip, we’d go, rain or shine. But it wasn’t enough. The more we were out exploring the Pacific Northwest, the more we wanted to be out and the farther we wanted to go. So that’s what we did.

What we learned during that time was though we dream of sailing far and wide someday, we want to sail the Inside Passage just as much. Ultimately, we figured that with one of the world’s most amazing cruising destinations right in our own backyard — one that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of — why leave? Why not get out and discover everything it has to offer before going farther?

At the time of our departure from Seattle our philosophy was, lets get out and try year-round cruising in the PNW and see how it goes. If we love it we’ll keep doing it, if we don’t, we’ll reassess and move forward. Fortunately, we’ve absolutely loved our year of full-time cruising in the Salish Sea and are excited to keep going. Here’s a look at how we make it work and a glance forward towards the horizon. Continue reading Reflecting on a year of full-time cruising in the Pacific Northwest