Madrone at 21 months

Welcome Madrone to Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally published on their blog. -----------------------------------------------
I (Matt) live aboard and travel with my wife Kristin on a thirty foot Rawson ketch named Madrone. The boat has been kind to us and we love her. It says Portland Oregon on her sides but she most recently called Olympia Washington her home. I don't know if she is so much cruising the Salish Sea as being driven like cattle across the plains, left to graze where the kelp is greenest. Right now I am taking her to a marina in Blaine, Washington.

In 2011, we spent six months heading north from Portland around the inside and then the outside of Vancouver Island and finally south down the west coast to San Francisco.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or want to chat.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?  

The following three things may be obvious as the day is long, but they were not obvious to me.

Nothing, not even scary things, are all that scary in the moment. You will worry and fret about small things when its not clear what to do. But when things are scary you know exactly what to do. When I first started anchoring I spent an amazing amount of energy and some sleepless nights in conditions so mild my chain alone without the anchor would have kept us in place. But then I didn't worry one bit sailing with a broken engine from the open ocean between reefs back into Effingham Bay because I was too damn busy steering. While still keeping safety in mind, try to never ever worry. Worrying hasn't helped me.

There are things you can't learn in books. If you don't have experienced boating friends find some somehow. Take classes, crew, invite people aboard your boat. A friend helped me anchor my boat for the first time in the Willamette river for the fourth of July. It was a little tricky because it was a bow and stern anchor so the boat would face the wake from passing motorboats. I knew that part, and how to deploy them in a reasonable order, but I had no idea what proper scope looked like. I knew what proper scope was of course, but not how to visualize it in the real world. Also, my friend showed me how calm you can be if you know what you are doing. See the first point about worrying. In a moment, I learned things missed over a hundred hours of reading. Of course I could have done it myself and maybe learned even more, but I would have suffered more as well.

Lots of cruising destinations can be reached by car or plane. Plan on sailing to Baja? New Zealand? The Mediterranean? A vacation of several weeks will still be a small fraction of the cost of outfitting a boat and sailing there. It will never be a waste of money. If you love it there then it was a good vacation, and you will know more of what to expect when you sail there. If you hate it then the vacation was even more successful, having saved a costly and perhaps dangerous voyage. Of course you can't reproduce the feeling of accomplishment at having sailed your home there, or of comfortably baking bread in an isolated anchorage. But to get some idea, go to the port town and walk down to the marina. Try to time your visit with the cruising season of the area. You can see the people you'd meet if you had sailed there, and maybe help them buy some groceries. I got a better sense of the long term cruising lifestyle from a few hours with the characters in the La Paz marina than I got from a lot of literature.


Don't worry, and get as much real world experience with the skills you need and locations you are going as you can.

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

Our trip around Vancouver Island was an unending cascade of wonders. I loved the way each new day brought something amazing, sometimes a new bay, sometimes an exciting catch, sometimes a new friend, sometimes a new problem. It was a relaxed but also frenetic adventure, like a child's Christmas morning when they are old enough to know how to pace themselves and enjoy the experience but young enough to want to open every present at once. Each day was a new present and at night we'd shake the box to guess what might come next.

Now that we are not underway, the knowledge that my home is mobile, that I am fundamentally not stuck in one place is an ever present comfort. I like that I don't know where I am going, but that because of my choices I am headed there.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

As we looked forward to our trip down the west coast from Vancouver Island we decided to get a sea anchor shipped to us in Uclulet. That was a silly idea as it cost extra and we relied on the kindness of strangers to get the job done. They were Canadian strangers so there was no trouble, they are a wonderful people. Still, if you are on the fence about some safety gear, get it before you go. We never used our sea anchor and I doubt we ever will, but it gave us peace of mind for the trip down the coast.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?

As I looked forward to long ocean voyages I knew I wanted a wind vane. I'd read Moitessier and Pardey and loved the idea of a simple passive device steering by the wind and taking its power from the water that flows by the boat. I still do but I bought a cranky old Aries vane that I have never made work right. Meanwhile my much maligned auto helm 3000 that came with the boat has been steering thanklessly now for over 1000 miles. A boat I was crew on for an ocean passage used a powered steering system, and it worked flawlessly the whole time. We often abused its compliant nature, making it steer the boat despite an unbalanced sail plan. I may still fix that Aries, but don't ignore powered steering for romantic reasons.

What gear do you love the most?

The surprise hit in Canada was the Kindle, an e-ink model with cell data capabilities. It used almost no power and allowed us to check email if we were patient with its limited web browser. We even used it to buy that sea anchor. Because they want you to be able to buy books anywhere, Amazon has deals with most cell providers. This means free access in other countries, where normal cell policies punish roaming.

Our wood stove had a fire in it most nights, as the normally chilly Canadian summer was almost a no show the year we rounded Vancouver Island. A wood stove is many things: a romance generator, a trash incinerator, a free source of heat, and reason to row to shore (to collect more twigs). We had a Newport solid fuel stove but it's firebox was cracked by a previous owner so we had poor control over the draft. I just installed the "Tiny Tot" by Fatsco, and I love it. Much smaller than the Newport, it still has roughly the same size fire box. It is also really cute. I am moored off Patos island, the northernmost in Washington State, and it is 30F degrees outside. This wonderful stove is keeping me toasty. They are less than 300$ with shipping. Even dog houses should have them.

After sailing to San Francisco and preparing for a trip across the Pacific, you had your boat trucked to Bellingham, WA. What were you thinking?

Several things, as you might imagine. One thought I had, having seen the path I was on while I was crew on a Pacific crossing, was that I didn't think the risks, costs, and discomfort were offset by the numerous rewards. I didn't like that it was a one-way ticket to Australia or New Zealand. I prefer open ended futures. But I have been learning, and thanks to good examples set by others, I realize that the options are much more complex than I had imagined.

Also, I was looking ahead to a trip down the warmer half of the California coast and Baja and wishing I could return to the Salish Sea. Not because I hate warm water and tuna, quite the opposite, but because I knew I was leaving behind the most wonderful place I had ever been, and leaving it for good. Then Kristin got a job in Portland, and if she took it we wouldn't live on the boat there, so we decided to bring the boat back to the top of the waterslide and reset the clock. Now I can cruise as many seasons up here as I want before heading down the west coast again. Maybe then I will like the cost/benefit picture of a Pacific crossing better.

I'm going on a road trip to Baja now, trading in the v-berth for a Coleman 4 person tent and two sleeping bags that zip together. My boat gets 9 miles to the gallon and tops out at 7 miles per hour. My car, which admittedly lacks a head, gets 28 miles to the gallon and goes so fast I don't really even know how fast it can go and for how long. Indefinitely at 70 miles per hour though. I can be in Baja in about the time it takes a boat to go from Portland to the ocean. And then come back that fast as well.
 
But everything has costs. Its really easy to hop in a car and drive down there, so there isn't the same selective process that applies in sailing. The bunch you meet at the end of an ocean crossing are a rarefied lot, full of vim and vigor. And I am bound to gaze out at the the warm blue bays down there and wish my boat was anchored just offshore. And I bet we'll spend more money on things like food,  lodging and entertainment than we would if we had a kitchen and bookshelf with us. 

But its cold and rainy here right now, what would you do?

Luckness at 12 months

Welcome Craig to Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally published on his blog. -----------------------------------------------
Hi.  I'm Craig McPheeters.  I'm an early 50's single man who was raised on the prairies far away from the ocean. I moved to Seattle from Toronto in 1996 and started enjoying the ocean in various ways.  After Sea Kayaking for a number of years, I started sailing in 2006 and still remember approaching a sailboat for the first time and being a little overwhelmed by all the lines, wires and apparent complexity that there was to figure out.  I figured it out, going through the Windworks sailing program pretty quickly.  I bought my Pacific Seacraft 37, Luckness, in 2009.  Luckness arrived without a lot of equipment and I started outfitting her for coastal cruising in the PNW.  In 2010 I started outfitting her for offshore cruising.  In early 2011 I retired from my job as a software developer which I had held for 20 years, sold my house and moved onboard.  On September 1st 2011 I left to go cruising, single handed.  I had a one year plan which I thought of as an initial trial.  I had a lot to test out in this year.  My plan was to sail a triangle: Seattle down the coast to Mexico, Mexico to Hawaii and finally Hawaii back to Seattle.  I thought that if all that went well, I would continue the cruising lifestyle with an open ended trip.  That brings my story up to date with where I am now, in Seattle, working on the odd boat project, waiting for summer to arrive so I can leave and head south again.

You can follow my adventure on my blog.  Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.
Luckness in Neah Bay after returning from Hawaii
Why did you decide to cruise?
I had reached a point in my life where I was asking myself the question: are you working to live or living to work?  I needed a change and this change seemed to be about as dramatic as I could imagine.  Cruising also seemed to be a sustainable new lifestyle, something that if I enjoyed it I could spent years and years doing.  I was attracted to the possibilities, the freedom each day could bring, the variety, the people I would meet along the way and the adventure of traveling around by sailboat.

Is there a place you visited you wish you could have stayed longer?
I was only out for 12 months, split pretty evenly between the west coast of the USA, Mexico and Hawaii.  If I could rearrange those 12 months I would spent more time in Mexico.  From my experience so far, Mexico is a cruisers paradise.  You are welcomed where you go, the country I saw (the Southern Baja Peninsula) was absolutely beautiful, its warm, sunny.  Hawaii was not nearly as cruiser friendly in comparison, although I met great people there and had some good times.

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat

There are so many things to like about this boat.  She sails well, moving in light air as well as gracefully handling heavy weather and larger seas.  She is very well built, does not creak or groan while moving   through larger seas and tracks well.  She's also a pretty boat, Crealock really nailed this design - she's pleasing to the eye.  I have no regrets about my choice.

Tell me your least favorite thing about your boat 

Having a canoe stern, I lose a lot of interior volume compared to wider stern boats, so storage can be a challenge.  (I feel a little conflicted saying that as I have friends on a Dana 24 who are getting by with much less storage, extremely well, so space may be something you can make do with what you have but you always wish for more.)  Also backing up in close quarters can be nerve wracking - I love going forward in this boat. Backwards, not so much.
 
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?

I have a few favorites. AIS is fantastic. I have a VesperMarine AIS receiver which also has an anchor watch mode that I use while I'm at rest. Its the best anchor watch I've seen and having a very low power consumption dedicated AIS receiver has been fantastic. I'll be upgrading this before I leave this summer to a VespeMarine AIS transceiver as I want to transmit as well.  I have a small Katadyn water maker which was an easy install, does not occupy too much of my limited storage space and has been reliable.  I would run it every day to make water as it only creates 1.5 gallons/hour - but water makers are happiest being run frequently.  I have enough solar power to power the boat if the days are sunny, indefinitely (2x135watts.)  My chart plotter is a couple of generations old (Simrad NX45) but is very low power, drawing only 0.75amps with the backlight on full, meaning I can leave it on full time while moving.  My sails are fantastic, made by Carol Hasse and her merry crew.  I have an Iverson's dodger which is super strong with lots of very firm hand holds making moving into and out of the cockpit in heavy weather much safer than what I used to have.  I have a Rocna 20 anchor which I've been really happy with - it sets quickly, holds well and seems to reset quickly when necessary as well.  My Watch Commander timer is an essential piece of gear to enforce my sleep patterns on passages.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?

I experienced two gales, one off the Oregon coastline, which seems pretty standard when leaving the PNW heading south. The winds reached 38 knots with the seas maybe 15+ feet. I hove to for almost a day as the conditions south of where I was appeared to be worse from the weather information I was receiving. That wasn't pleasant, but the boat felt fine and I didn't worry - there were far worse gales that season other boats were caught in off that coast.  The second gale was as a Norther raced down the Sea of Cortez while I was trying to head up to La Paz from Cabo San Lucas. Sockdolager, Clover and I ended up anchored off of Muertes for around a week, through Christmas 2011. That was fine too - the anchor held without budging and if I had dragged anchor I would have been blown to sea (not onto a shore or another boat, which would have been nerve wracking.)  Aside from those two times, all the rest of my sailing had winds of less than 30 knots, I had some really nice sailing over those 12 months.  There were some strong winds in Hawaii between the islands or several times while at anchor, but not into the gale category while I was there.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?

This depends on where I am and how long the trip is. As I am single handing, I was always on watch...however, I wasn't always awake. I was normally never close to shore (less than 30 miles) for more than a day. That is, on my hops down the coast to Mexico, if I was going any distance I would arrange to be farther offshore so I could sleep more easily at night.  My sleep schedule is to never sleep more than 20 minutes, and I have an alarm (a Watch Commander) which enforces this.  I kept to this sleep schedule for all of my passages, the longest of which was 21 days from Hawaii to Neah Bay.  I was able to put up with this schedule, although I was always very happy to arrive at anchor and be able to sleep soundly through a night.  If the trip I'm on is not too long (no more than roughly 30 hours) or close to potential traffic, I'll won't sleep at all - but obviously this only works for shorter trips.  If the trip was long enough, I would plan it in a way that I could sleep in 20 minute intervals somewhere along the way.

Finish this sentence. "Generally when I am provisioning..."

...I buy too much. So far all my trips have started from a port which had lots of provisions available to me, and I would find myself loading up on goods to ridiculous amounts.  I would be going through 'what if...' scenarios constantly and find myself walking by a grocery store and stop in and load up, again and again.

What is your biggest lesson learned?

That a prairie boy can do this! You don't need to have been born on the water into a family which has sailing in its blood back for generations. That might help, but if you dedicate yourself to learning everything that is required, you too can go cruising. Buy lots of books, take lots of classes, listen to smart experienced people every chance you get, get out and gain your own experience. Its working for me, which is still a little surprising sometimes.

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

I just love the life of possibilities you have when cruising. You are constantly presented with choices which can alter your future in meaningful ways. The people I met during the year I was out were fantastic and one of the best things about my experience.  I also found cruising very satisfying - every now and then I would be out in some remote anchorage or on passage reflecting on where I was, how I had gotten there, being astounded at how beautiful the area was and how centered and present I felt.
Its not all "beautiful sunsets and cocktails in the cockpit" - this life can be a lot of work at times, from what I've seen of it so far.  But the rewards so far outweigh the other loses and costs.
I'm looking forward to starting my cruising adventure again this summer as I leave Seattle heading toward New Zealand via Mexico.