I haven’t written anything terribly boaty for a while, so I thought this would be fun to share. A neighbor knocked on my boat one afternoon and asked if I’d “seen the boat”? Figuring there was a really beautiful wooden boat all shiny with new varnish, I was surprised to see this gigantic container ship like vessel full of other boats.
I knew people shipped their boats to and fro, I’ve never seen it in person until this day. Many non-boaters don’t understand why this is done, and the answer is simple. Sailing is really hard on boats, especially if you are going against the wind (upwind). You’re fighting every wave, and it deteriorates the value of the boat the more you do this on long passages.
If someone is selling their boat in an area far from the US (or any popular area where sailing is more common) shipping may be a part of the deal to getting the vessel closer to the new owner. You can see by the monstrous cranes this vessel is equipped to handle all kinds of boats!
This vessel was parked where the cruise ships normally are. It didn’t stay more than a day, I don’t think it unloaded all of the vessels either. It appeared as if they got an average of 3 boats splashed ever hour! Pretty wild! It was fun to watch this unfold from the docks. I tried to get video footage, but it’s terribly rolly at the end of the docks and the footage is no good.
You can see the first boat splashed was a power boat. The owners (or delivery crew) were taken to their vessel via dinghy, and within twenty minutes the top layer of wrapping had been cut off and thrown to the side so they could take off. You can see in the last photo another boat is already being hoisted! So cool! Hope everyone enjoys this as much as I did. Obligatory #nerdalert
On my way down to the vessel taking me to Antarctica, I wanted to explore a little bit and see Chile. I had a teacher from Chile in 3rd grade. I’d heard about the Andes mountains and how beautiful the country is. Other than knowing I like Chilean wines, I didn’t know anything else! I decided to break up the 5 plane extravaganza by taking a ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. This is basically a 300 passenger ferry that weaves through Patagonia for three blissful days.
By the time I got to Puerto Montt, I got a sense that Chile wasn’t like other Latin American countries I’d been to. It was my first time in South America, but not at all what I had imagined. It was SO CLEAN. There were recycling bins everywhere, and no trash thrown about. There were also big fluffy dogs everywhere that looked well cared for and happy.
The climate was a little chilly, even though it was their summer. I then understood how the country got it’s name 😉 I was hoping I had enough layers to stay warm, which I did thankfully. In comparison to Mexico, it was more “conservative” in a sense that there wasn’t loud music blasting out of every store, and the food was pretty direct. You order sausage and fries? Ok, you get sausage cut up over fries. Shrimp salad? Ok, you get seasoned shrimp over bare lettuce. In Mexico there would be a million seasonings all over everything, so it was just quite a contrast to what I had grown accustomed to. It wasn’t bad, it was just different. I appreciate both sides of the spectrum! The peace and quiet was definitely nice for a chance, although I do like the chaos of hearing three different bands playing at once. Don’t ask me why!
I learned Chile has free healthcare! I had to go to the Doctor for some long standing stomach issues, and all they need is a passport/ID. I kept asking “yes, but who do I pay?” And they said “no, there is no payment!” I was seen quickly and given medicine all for free! Wow. This prompted me to do some googling, and I learned that Chile is Latin America’s most stable economy and political climate. It made sense with what I was seeing.
While on the Navimag ferry we got to learn more about Chilean history, which was really interesting as I haven’t heard so much about their native people and the political turmoil. There was also yoga, tai chi, flora and fauna lectures, etc. Plenty of learning opportunities, as well as relaxing and photo taking opportunities!
The ferry through Patagonia was lovely, I met a lot of really nice people and had a great time relaxing, sitting outside my room and taking photos, chatting, reading, etc. By the time I got down to Puerto Williams, where the boat was leaving out of, I only had a day to prep for the trip. The town was tiny, but I thought it was really charming. People kept griping about how sad and depressing it was, but I didn’t get that gist at all.
There is a big military presence, but again it doesn’t really seem overly structured or anything. The stores weren’t open very often, and there are few restaurants, but I don’t know, I thought it was cute. You’d often see 5-10 horses just pass on by, too. I stayed at Errante Ecolodge and it was reallllly beautiful there! It is all sustainable and off the grid. There are chefs who will make you delicious meals daily, as you eat and lookout at the beautiful view of the Beagle Channel. While I am not a fan of being cold, I may just want to retire in Chile one day!
Through out this I’d figured out early on how to make Chileans giggle. I was curious to see if I could hear the difference between Mexican and Chilean Spanish, which I was somewhat. I have apparently picked up several “Mexican” words, which when speaking and coming from a gringa like me, makes them giggle! It was cute. I did see plenty of evidence of there being gingers down south, which probably has some sort of European influence. The main square in Puerto Williams was called “O’Higgins”, so I am curious about how and when the Irish got down to these parts.
There was a local museum which had some great nautical history and artifacts. There were charts and maps from the 1700s labelling the Straight of Magellan, which is just wild! I’d learned about this in school, and to be in the area where these curious explorers wanted to see if they could cut through the land to get to the other side of the mountains. Cape Horn was already notorious for shipwrecks, and to think what those men set out for and achieved is pretty awesome to think about!
I recently came back from a sailing trip from Chile to Antarctica. First of all, ¡¡¡!!!!. Second of all, not my boat. I was not the skipper, either. I paid for this awesome, once in a lifetime opportunity.
I know you’re going to ask “how can you afford this?” and the honest answer is I can’t. If you have $20k to spare, go for it. I saved up for two years while I was still working, and only had 1/3 of the cost. This didn’t include the costs of a dental exam to fix any issues (I’d been avoiding a couple expensive ones), rescue insurance (might as well get that anyways), several flights to get to and from Chile, hotel stays when not on the boat, all the required gear to not freeze to death (some of which can be used on the boat at some point), a medical exam, a GoPro (because how can I do this and not have a GoPro?) the list goes on. To conclude, I will be spending this year (and perhaps the next 5) at anchor, and working on some Salty merchanside to sell.
Also to answer the why, and why now? Well, South America and Antarctica were the last continents I needed to hit before I got all 7. I kind of wanted to finish the land journey before I got too far away in my little floating home. I also saw it as a major learning opportunity, where I could get some world class, hands on, heavy weather sailing experience from the best experts around.
I am admittedly not the best planner, and while most people who do trips like this have a travel agent, guess what? I can’t afford one of those. I generally like to give myself some time to recouperate after several flights, so after 5 I gave myself a day and a half overlap before the next boarding. I spent several days mulling each detail over, making sure I had gotten the right dates and cities connecting. Oddly enough, I ended up missing all four connecting flights getting me to Chile because the Mexico City airport completely shut down for 5 hrs due to fog. The ferry I had taken through Patagonia also arrived 10 hours late, so I am very glad I did not immediately book a bus and connecting flight out of there, because I would have missed those too.
In addition to the mentions below, here is a list of gear I used to pack my bag.
Spare batteries: you’ll need them! The cold discharges them faster. Keep them in your inner coat pocket.
Spare memory cards: bring them all! There’s no room for a laptop with all the gear, nor would I want to risk damaging it in the many plane transfers and hours of heavy sailing.
Hand and foot warmers: get one for each day!
And last but not least, if you are looking for a sailing trip and shopping around, the more details the better. Pictures of the boat, prior expeditions, and crew are good to see. Lists of their upcoming trips on which boats, how long they will be gone and what islands they are going to are all completely necessary to see. If you are shelling out a large chunk of change, you need details and complete transparency. Do not go with a company who does not regularly do these trips. Who knows if their boat or skipper is even qualified to handle such a passage? Your safety matters, the price should not compromise that.
I sailed to Antarctica on a 21 day adventure!
Not on Coconut, but on Skip Novak’s boat, Pelagic Australis.
We sailed past C a p e H o r n! And through Drake’s Passage! So much cool stuff up ahead, everyone.
As a disclaimer, all photos are mine. I put my favorites into a 2019 Calendar if you would like to see (some of) these images every day while helping keep me afloat! Thank you to everyone who has already purchased one 🙂
The boat left from Puerto Williams, Chile, which is just across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia, Argentina. Both cities claim to be “The End of the World” but Puerto Williams is further south. The Beagle Channel is a very windy area in the afternoons/evenings because it is surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains on both sides.
Leaving at 3 pm, we had a good 40 knots of wind with 50 knot gusts for the first few miles. This is going to be disappointing, but that was the roughest part of the entire three day passage. We had a beautiful day of sailing without the motor, the sun was out and the swells were minimal. We saw minke whales, albatross galore, and it was damn near perfect. We were sailing at 9 knots steady, so we did the usual 5 day passage in 3 days which was pretty astounding.
Just like that, we saw our first iceberg! And then some Antarctic Islands! We went into Deception Island and anchored, went ashore and saw our first penguins (Chinstrap and Gentoo), and a couple of Weddell seals to boot. A few of us did a short little hike up to Neptune’s Window and passed whale bones laid out as if it were in a museum. Perfectly in place, probably as it had died who knows how many years ago. I am so used to seeing trash on the beach, at first I thought a random vertebrae was a piece of styrofoam. We picked up anchor and headed further south, and from there I will just post the highlights because it is just too much to recount what happened every day. Just a side note, the trip back was… much more what I expected. Sea sickness, giant swells, 40 knots of relentless wind, etc.
We saw minke as I said, humpback, and… ORCAS! Several moments literally took my breath away, the orcas was definitely one of them. I’ve always wanted to see them, and we saw a TON of them over the course of two days! We saw so many whales, I could eventually tell when we were going to get some tail. I missed plenty of shots and still got several. I even got such good shots of them I could see their nostrils… They have nostrils that look like upside down noses, and for some reason that really weirds me out.
I was aware of albatross, but only the brown type that is in the Pacific. Our crew informed us of every type of bird flying around the boat, and it was pretty wild. I never would have thought of myself as a bird watcher (I mean, I am an old soul but not THAT old) but they are pretty interesting to watch! While kayaking we saw a bird-on-bird murder (perhaps protecting their nest but gee, could have just stopped at a few pecks of the neck), plenty of skua’s doing what skua’s do (being jerks), gulls stealing eggs, sheathbills trying to steal penguin eggs, of course PENGUINS being cute AF, petrels galore, antarctic terns, etc. They are hard to snap a photo of especially with a zoom lens, but I managed to get a few good shots.
Oh there is so much to say about the giant masses of ice floating around down south. They are so magnificent! Each one has a story to tell, of storms weathered and days gone by where their only visitor was a penguin or skua if they were so lucky. Antarctica is a really uninhabitable place, not many living beings can survive in the harsh environment. I am really curious about how the icebergs came to be shaped the way they are, as it is fascinating. Some looked like dinosaurs, some looked like cauliflower, or a fishes lips, or drips of candle wax, or a fire pit full of ice chunks that would probably burn you just the same. Others looked like abstract works of art, while some, shining in the sun, looked like 3D rendered/printed objects. We saw icebergs pretty much everywhere, we moved anchorages every night. The ice doesn’t just sit in one spot, it keeps moving wherever the currents bring it. Every morning there would be a completely new scene to enjoy.
My favorite bits were the anchorages. We could go kayak through icebergs (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone!), dinghy to shore to see penguins, see all kinds of wildlife, etc. I was more interested in seeing how we anchored, though. There are so many techniques I could learn online from any Jimbozo, but I wanted to learn from the pro’s. I didn’t realize that Antarctica is really poorly charted. We had several times been “on land” according to OpenCPN, but we obviously weren’t. The holding is crap, and there is no good way to get an anchor to set on top of volcanic rocks which have been smoothed out by glaciers for thousands of years. Dragging is just a part of the game. Unless, there’s a boulder or two or four that you can tie strops around. You’ll need a lot of line, and basically lifeline sized wire (covered in a plastic tube if possible) with two eyes on the ends to be able to tie a shackle to the line attached to the boat. It was by far the safest way to anchor, and yes, even when we had four lines out we still set the anchor first. It was pretty time-consuming, and not something I would try to do on my own (although I am sure it is possible if you have the patience!). It’s also pretty wild to sit still and watch the ice move all around you. It is constantly ebbing and flowing! It went like this: you hear a slight crackle in the distance, maybe you’d even see a cloud of snow, and suddenly a bunch of ice chonks would float on by until it would be clear a few hours later for the process to repeat.
I was worried about being the youngest person on board, which as far as the paying passengers, I was. I didn’t take into consideration the crew. I had a decade on them and I thought that was AWESOME! I love seeing young sailors, and the fact that they are in charge of a professional charter vessel in Antarctica simply amazed me. Well, the boat goes from South Africa to Antarctica and back, with several trips in between, so yeah, they get their miles in! First off, whatever breaks they have to fix and manage to keep the boat going for several more trips. On our maybe 5th day the mainsail ripped. They repaired it for several hours in the freezing cold, of course without gloves because that made it more difficult to use the needle and repair tape. Pretty much every day they were repairing something, whether it be chafed lines or the fussy dinghy outboard. It was great to see, they were more than competent and I loved how resourceful they were. It was also SUCH a relief knowing that we could sit back and relax, take pictures, video, etc. while they maneuvered us through the thick patches of ice at 2 knots for several hours. I wouldn’t want to be down there on my own boat, that is a fact. I wasn’t sure how it would be being on board with 10 strangers, and honestly, it wasn’t my favorite. I was worried since the trip was so pricy that some people would be unfazed by what we saw, and I was right. Although the oldest men on board were also the kindest, and most in awe of everything despite having seen practically everything out there in all their travels. That was refreshing! I was also the only American on board, so I learned a lot of Aussie / British / South African terms and started a dictionary to translate. I am not a fan of small talk, constant banter, or people who push your boundaries to see just how uncomfortable they can make you. The oldest passengers, the crew, and my bunk were my refuge. And podcasts, and meditation, and staying up on the bow for as long as I could handle. I’m not a group person, so yeah it’s not much of a surprise I prefer sailing solo!
I think what kind of boat you take down to Antarctica can make or break your experience. First off, no fiberglass boats would fare well down there. The ice gourds you will hit can smack/crack your hull and that would be bad. Metal boats can withstand the conditions. Steel is common, and aluminum is even better. Pelagic Australis is a custom-made boat, the second one and specifically built to do this voyage for decades. Its hull is 1′ thick aluminum. Why is aluminum better than steel? Because its softer, so any hard ice you hit will cause a dent if anything and it isn’t prone to rust as steel is. The bottom paint scrapes right off, so its kinda funny seeing it on the ice or snow you push past. Also, because it is so cold down there, bottom growth isn’t really a thing.
So back to the boat. Skip Novak is a well-known adventure sailor, and he did an outstanding job building Pelagic Australis. There are two private cabins for couples, along with 4 two-bunk cabins (bunk beds). There is plenty of room for storage of gear, I personally liked the three separate canvas bags hanging in your bunk. That’s where I kept the essentials: hand and foot warmers, undies, socks, phone/ear buds, etc.
The boat has a lifting keel, so when we were offshore the keel was locked in place and when we got closer to shore it was “unlocked” if you will, essentially allowing the keel to swing back if we collided with anything. Which we did. It wad pretty wild! We definitely found a rock. Because the keel design takes up the entire center of the boat, the port and starboard cabins are somewhat like a catamaran. Three bunks on each side, with a head. Up forward was the v-berth which was the unheated area of the boat and contained loads of items. Spares of everything, food stores, dinghy outboards, etc. There was no watermaker on board, nor was there any refrigeration. Most foods such as milk, cheese, butter, deli meats were stowed under the floor boards in the saloon where it was naturally cooled by the hull. I thought this was brilliant, especially because they go from Cape Town, to the Falkland Islands, to Chile, Antarctica 3x, and then back. There aren’t many places to heavily provision, yet we were urged not to hold back (and we didn’t, we ate realllly good!). The best and most practical hack I took away from this trip? Forget the storm sail, just put a fourth reef in the main. #mindblown
The other invaluable design of the boat is the pilot house. I would not want to be outside on watch on a passage, period. The crew did an amazing job steering us through thick areas of chunky ice, which they had to do outside, but there was always one person outside and one person inside. They could switch to warm up, and there were always another set of eyes looking out inside for whoever was outside. We didn’t have to get snowed on if we didn’t want to, and we could stay (relatively) warm and dry on watch. It was still cold inside, but for someone who doesn’t care for the cold I would have been miserable had there not been a pilot house. There were also board games and plenty of books to read on board, but I can’t read while underway. I am too afraid I’ll zone out and miss something!
Next up, I will write a post on how to plan a trip to Antarctica. I have been asked several questions about doing this. Now that I know a little more about how it works and what gear is good and not so good down south, I will add my two cents! Thanks for reading 🙂
There are many positives to sailing solo. First of all, I am not “used” to having crew so it isn’t really something I “miss”. I’ve had great crew on board who are welcome back anytime should their schedules allow, but I am also happy trotting along on my own course for the time being.
The biggest advantage is I can leave port whenever I want to. Having to wait on someone or schedule a trip around someone elses availability could mean you miss a weather window, or stay somewhere too pricy for much too long. Those are both giant drawbacks to having crew, and I love the freedom of looking at the weather and saying “whelp, let’s go!”
I also have friends who have different interests than me, so when it comes to shore activities we want to do different things and I find myself alone anyways. So…. what’s the point entirely of “having someone to share the experience with” if you’re off experiencing different things? It’s not a bad thing, it just defeats the purpose sometimes.
Surprisingly, socializing is much easier solo. I’ve never really considered myself a social butterfly, but somehow I am always meeting people either through the marina or boat yard, or walking my dogs around town. People who are partnered already have someone to talk to, so they are less likely to seek connections with others. I found out about a sailing club that people in town hadn’t ever heard of in the 6 years they’d been living there. It was at their marina, a completely different one from where I was at. I mean, how…?
Being self-sufficient is addicting, empowering, beautiful, and I hope everyone can feel this way about something in their lives on a regular basis. Every time something goes wrong, after the initial “fuck!” goes away, you just get into gear and hope for the best. There is no better feeling than knowing your knowledge and experience helped you get over a hurdle, no matter how big or small!
People are more willing to help. I always get offered rides for propane / provisioning / errands, chandlery discounts, help with installs, a car to drive, etc. I generally don’t even have to ask, it’s just put out there. I think that is the beauty of the sailing community, but when you are solo there is a lot more emphasis to get you sorted. I appreciate this very much!
I’ve never gotten in a fight with myself or the dogs before. There’s a quote “the roughest storms that happen at sea, happen below the deck.” I had a very long five-day sail with some drunk and combative delivery skippers, and that was pretty frightening. I don’t think I will ever complain it’s too quiet or that I’m bored. I am thankful for those moments.
Because it is so quiet sometimes, I have plenty of time to reflect, write, contemplate, and peice things together. I’ve had a somewhat chaotic life, and there have been so many times where suddenly something finally made sense to me. As to why I reacted a certain way to something that happened several years ago, why something unfolded the way it did, etc. I can’t get that when I’m around other people constantly. I love having those breakthroughs!
I have said this before but will say it again, I am rarely ever alone. I meet people fairly easily, and then it just becomes a matter of whether I want to spend more time with them or not. I have not had any extreme loneliness, nor do I think I will experience that any time soon, because I am not the only inhabitant of a deserted island… although that sounds really nice!
I feel like there are a million ways to loose steering or propulsion. I didn’t feel this way before I set out on my journey, but I feel that way now. I’ve experienced a few of them, and it seems like there are way more systems and little seemingly insignificant pieces to look that than I could have imagined. Coconut has hydraulic steering, so here are some things you should triple check before leaving the dock.
1. Make sure the system has been recently serviced and doesn’t have ANY leaks. Keep at least a gallon of hydraulic fluid on hand incase you need to bleed the system. Also have a bleeding setup you can do yourself if you need to. It’s a two person job, but when you’re alone you’ve got to figure out something.
2. Check the clevis pins and make sure they all have cotter pins. Yes, mine was missing cotter pins and we made it 48 hours offshore before finding out. Overall a stupid problem to have, and would have been much more frightening had we been closer to shore.
3. Inspect the bracket holding on the hydraulic steering. Mine snapped off when I tacked going the fastest so far we’ve gone, around 6 knots steady, all because it was only welded on one side (not both) all over. Have a backup of the bracket just incase and make sure the area it’s bolted on to is structurally sound.
4. Make sure your emergency rudder can work if the main rudder is no longer working. When the bracket snapped, the rudder was flopping around for several hours as I got towed. This not only resulted in damage to the rudder, but because the main rudder was still moving, the emergency rudder couldn’t out perform it.
5. Emergency Tiller: Coconut came with an emergency tiller as well as shaft to put on the rudder post. The only piece missing was the part to secure the tiller post to the rudder post. I now have this piece, although I could have (and should have) used it when I lost steering! Test it out while underway, several times. I will time myself doing everything from removing the mounted tiller and metal post to moving bedding out of the way to having it working. It’s good to know how much time it will take you to set this system up just incase something happens. By the 3rd or 4th time of doing something, you figure out a system that works. Write it down if you need to, with maps of where parts are!
6. Your wheel might have a “key” on it. When I had the hydraulic system serviced, I had a new key made. If this key snaps off, you have no way to steer with the wheel anymore.
7. Check your gear shifter and make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight! Mine rattled loose, thankfully I was already in an anchorage and ready to drop the hook anyways. Timing has never been my specialty, but damn, I couldn’t have asked for it to happen at a better moment! Had it been 10 minutes earlier I’d have been on the rocks of the jetty. My buddy James saved the day on this one, he came out in his boat to diagnose the issue. You can watch the YouTube video here!
8. When trying to diagnose what the issue was with the gear shifter, having a line wrapped around the prop was mentioned. I had of course heard of this happening before, but never knew what the signs were. What happens is the engine runs, but turns off as soon as you put it in gear. Now I know! And if you do accidentally run over a line, put the engine in neutral as soon as you notice, and wait to put it in gear again until you are sure you are past the line. That way the prop won’t suck the line in. The only way to remedy this issue is to jump in the water, so having a wetsuit is pretty important if you aren’t in warm waters.
9. Your rudder is supposed to have a “stopper” on it to prevent it from going too far in either direction while in reverse. I didn’t know this until I had the Autopilot installed, but apparently because I have hydraulic steering it can’t go too far in either direction anyways.
and last but not least…
10. If your wheel is suddenly turning and turning and turning and you’re thinking “dammit, not again!!!” Make sure the autopilot isn’t still on…. 😊
Overall, I’m glad these things happened or that I learned they could happen. A couple of things, like the clevis pin / cotter pin issue, several people had looked at and didn’t notice the pins were missing. Sh*# happens, it’s nobody’s fault in particular, but in the end it is your responsibility as the boat owner and Captain to keep your boat safe. Coconut hasn’t sailed since the late 80’s, I have to cut her a little slack as I shake her down and rattle things loose.
I am also eternally grateful for the mishaps I did have, as I did a lot of things right. I was not only several miles offshore (giving me time to figure out a plan) or in a safe anchorage, but I was fortunate enough to have received help when I made the call. I even got towed by a company who specifically does. not. tow. people. For all my friends reading who are scared for me, please don’t worry. I am one lucky lady, and with everything that goes wrong the boat gets better, and I get wiser.
As I was leaving Mele Kai to get back to Coconut, I ran into a couple I knew. I didn’t realize their boat was at the same marina I’d gotten into just the day before! We made plans do have a get together with some friends of theirs before we headed up North. I just love the sailing community, I always feel like I don’t know anyone, and all I have to do is walk around a marina and sure enough I WILL run into someone I know! I love it.
I don’t remember what day we took off, but I know we aimed to leave around noon and we pretty much did on the dot. We had a great weather window, and a Southerly was supposed to come by day two and help us out a little bit. Nothing over 15 knots of wind, though. We had plenty of charts incase we needed to stop anywhere along the coast. I’d brougt my keys from the Santa Barbara marina incase we needed them, and I had Charlie’s Charts of the Channel Islands.
Again, the gloomy days continued and the visibility seemed to shorten. It was so calm and peaceful (and monochrome) out on the water. Much less bashing, which was much appreciated. There were tons of birds who you could almost hear mutter “ugh…” as they sputtered away from our approaching vessel. Also, dolphins are really hard to photograph. I’m really jealous of people who just seem to be able to snap the perfect shot of them. Or maybe they just take 1,000 and one turns out spectacularly?
It was really magical around Point Sur, maybe day two of the trip? There were little kelp islands of birds, and where the birds were the dolphins were. And where the dolphins were, the whales were! We saw several humbpack whales, only needing to divert course a couple of times so they could pass infront of us. Sean tried fishing, but only caught kelp. I even saw an otter, but wasn’t able to catch a picture of it. They’re so quick! And cute.
The trip was going well, as we were moving steady at around 6 and 7 knots. There was no “bashing” on this stretch. I watched a movie (Grace of Monaco) which was pretty cool! I’ve not yet watched a movie underway. Spoiled, I tell you! I was really appreciating how put together Mele Kai is. It has been Sean’s home for 6 years, so he has everything pretty dialed down. I grow sligtly jealous, and feel like my dear Coconut is a giant blob of tool mess and unfinished projects. It would be nice to have some help on board, but, I’d rather be alone than with the wrong person.
For the biggest lesson I learned on this stretch, it has to do with radar. I’ve got a friend who has told me I need several radar reflectors for Coconut. He worked on container ships for several years, so he knows the other side of what it’s like when you can’t see tiny sailboats. Since I’m hardly familiar with radar, I didn’t fully grasp what the issue was. Until the very last night at sea (dun-dun-duuunnnn).
We were sailing between the shipping channel and the coast. We were beginning to see more and more sailboat traffic, which is to be expected as we approached San Francisco. When I came onto watch at 2 am, I wasn’t feeling so hot. We had just rounded Point Conception and the swells were the wide type that just kind of make you feel like you’re drunk and dizzy. I’ve learned two things about myself for when I feel sick at sea: I either need electrolytes (Gatorade) or meat. Sean is vegetarian, and the last time I’d felt like this I was also sailing with another vegetarian. I grabbed some lunch meat with me for watch to try to settle my stomach, which I was really glad I’d grabbed when we provisioned. This is when I start burping incessantly. It’s an annoying spot to be physically, but I was just taking it easy to try to settle my stomach.
I could see a bright light up ahead, but nothing was showing up on the radar. I made sure to keep an eye on it, and diverted course closer towards land as it looked like we might be on a collision course. The other vessel didn’t appear to be moving, so I guessed it was probably a squid fishing boat because of the super duper bright lights. It was odd that nothing was showing up on radar, though. For a good hour I watched and waited as we approached the boat. I feared they’d set a large net or something, I surely didn’t want to get tangled in it. I went as far away as I felt necessary without getting us too far off course, and we passed without a problem. It weirded me out that perhaps I couldn’t trust the radar, I already didn’t care for it because of the amount of times the alarms went off over objects I could see. I then took short naps for about an hour, waking up every 10 minutes and looking around to make sure we were all clear. There was maybe a mile of visiblity, so I figured naps were better than falling asleep all together.
Well… I must have gotten a little lazy because my stomach had finally felt better and I decided to get up and walk around. I hadn’t been checking the port side as often. I shit you not, as soon as I looked over to the port side, I saw a sailboat, maybe 60′, with both sails up, two yellowish ligts on the mast, appearing to be moving very slowly and parallel to us (headed south)… Directly To Our Port! What the frick!!! Again, NOTHING was showing up on radar.
I was afraid maybe the alarm was turned off, but it was on, just nothing showed up. Not even a speck. The boat was maybe two or three boatlengths away from us, and man oh man my heart was racing. I couldn’t see if there was anyone in the cockpit, but I’m sure they were there and were probably wondering who the hell was aboard our boat as I was under the dodger! I didn’t hear anything on the radio either, so… goodness, that was scary. So my friend is right, fiberglass doesn’t always show up on radar and one radar reflector certainly isn’t enough. (I plan on installing three of them for Coconut. Also I think it’s wise to invest in an AIS transponder, not just receivers, but those require an additional antennae and I’m not interested in taking the mast down again.)
We arrived to San Francisco in the morning and it was bittersweet for both of us to be back. Neither of us expected to be sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge ever again, yet here we were. We made in exactly four days! At least it was temporary. I was looking forward to seeing my friends and a couple of sites I hadn’t seen while I lived there. After a few days, I remembered how expensive and difficult everything is in the city and was ready to leave, as I just can’t afford to eat out 3x a day at San Francisco prices. Anything over $5 these days I’m up in arms at the ridiculousness! San Fran is a beautiful city to visit, and there are a lot of great progressive movements there which I am proud to have gotten to know.
I was able to meet Sean’s wife Kate and their son Leo before I took off, which was great to meet the faces I’d heard so much about on the trip! Sean also gifted me his “World Cruising Guide” which I’d only recently heard about. I’ve got some great reading material to help me get to where I want to go!
This concludes the delivery. I ended up in a different location, on a different boat, with a better idea of what I need to change or work on (boat wise and personally) which is never a bad thing. I’ve had quite a few eye opening discoveries since then when it comes to dealing with toxic people, and even though it was scary and uncomfortable, perhaps that’s what I needed in order to stop making the same mistakes over and over and over. You can’t fix what you don’t know you need to change!
The second and third parts to this delivery were much more pleasant than the beginning. Being stuck with intoxicated and combative crew was pretty unnerving, and I had a lot of reflection to do. In the end, I got what I was looking for after all.
Mele Kai was the only other boat in the anchorage at Turtle Bay (aka Bahia Tortugas). They had just arrived before the J35 did. The main function for the tiny town of Bahia Tortugas when it comes to cruisers is to re-fuel and provision. Since the sleepy town runs on island time, Daniel (crew of Mele Kai) and I had plenty of time to talk as we waited for Enrique to wake up from his siesta and bring the credit card machine so they could pay for the fuel.
I offered help if they needed crew, as it was just two of them on board. I didn’t want to be defeated and have to take the bus home (however that would work, it was a looong ways away!). I joined him in the panga ride back to Mele Kai, where we asked if I could join in the delivery. Captain Sean didn’t even hesitate and said “Sure!” Welcome on board.”
They both had a shower and then offered me a chance to get sparkly clean too (WHAT?!?!). I only had one pair of clean clothes left, aka the ones I was wearing, but it sure felt nice to be clean. It was my first hot shower on a sailboat ever, I felt like a Princess. We ate dinner in the cockpit, got to know each other a little bit, and had a good laugh about the whole situation. Apparently delivery crews are known for being like the ones I had encountered, and now I know. It was soooo nice to have normal conversations again. They let me put on the rudder to the Hydrovane on, as I still don’t really know how to use mine. We were going to fiddle with it if there was enough wind while underway, which was exciting!
We left the anchorage 11 pm that night and had a pretty bashy sail up the coast. I can see why it’s called the Baja Bash, because that’s what you do. Bash, bash, bash. Our watch schedule wasn’t really meticulous, but you knew that if you came out on watch someone would relieve you at some point. I had gotten comfortable with how to use the engine, chart plotter, learned where the sheets were, and was learning how to use the radar (something I’d never used before).
The fog continued, but we were still treated with beautiful sunrises and sunsets. By the second day we could hear thunder in the distance, although we never did see any lightning. We’d gotten hit by a squall, a first for all of us. It wasn’t pouring down rain or anything, but the winds picked up and I decided to take a nap incase it was a long night. While I was tossing and turning, I heard something outside snap and saw through a hatch the main sail had come down. I put on my foulies and went outside to help them, but they had it under control. The halyard was stuck at the top of the mast, the shackle had snapped open. It apparently has always been loose but has never come undone underway.
We sat and waited in anticipation of what would happen next. None of us knew exactly what to expect. Another first, out of nowhere a giant wave had covered the ENTIRE deck of the boat. I can’t remember if we had the jib out or not since we’d lost the main, but I was facing the stern and we all got wet under the dodger and bimini. The AIS got wet as well, which was inside a locker in the cockpit. This led to some creative thinking by the Captain as to how we could continue steering for two more days without an Autopilot. There wasn’t quite enough wind to use the Hydrovane.
Daniel, above, was the Chef on board. He made sure we had three hot meals a day, and was even kind enough to make coffee and tea (and remembered the soy milk and sugar!). I was getting spoiled big time. Watching dolphins as we chowed down was much needed after the long night we had. I woke up around 3 am and there was lighting sprinkling the sky! I had no idea, I could tell the winds picked up but was desperately trying to get some sleep. I didn’t have any ear plugs, so with the noise of the bashing along with the engine it was hard for me to tune out those noises.
Captain Sean had figured out a way to get the Hydrovane to steer us to course, but we had to sit at the wheel and make sure to correct it when it got off course, which was often. It was a hell of a lot easier than hand steering though! I was also freezing when out in the cockpit, so I am glad I kept my gloworm down sleeping bag. People think Mexico is hot, but I can assure you the Pacific Coast is not.
We arrived in San Diego without issues in the morning a couple of days later. There was quite a bit of marine traffic as it was a weekend (I believe it was a Saturday?). We saw a ton of dolphins as we were approaching the channel, and Sean caught a giant bonita in about two minutes after putting out a line! Fastest I’ve seen a catch snag.
Captain Sean had arranged a slip at a marina he’d stayed at last year before doing the Baja-Ha-Ha, and I hopped off the boat and did my laundry as they cleaned up the boat as Daniels’ family was coming into town. We all went to a nice dinner, they were a super fun group and I was very grateful they welcomed me on board having literally just met me. I am forever grateful to have met so many awesome people in the sailing community!
Because Daniel had to leave and Sean still had to get his boat back up to San Francisco where his wife and son were waiting for him, I decided to help him out with the sail north as well. I just needed to go back to my boat and get warmer clothes, which gave Sean time to make the repairs on the main halyard and AIS. In a few days we were ready to head further North!
I was getting excited to see my San Fran framily, I wasn’t anticipating seeing them so soon!
Next up, delivery part three: san diego to san francisco!
This is a three part delivery that spanned two countries and two boats. I started in Cabo San Lucas on a J35.
I’d gotten a call from a friends’ ex-boyfriend asking if I wanted to help with a delivery. I really wanted to expand my knowledge of weather reading for passage planning, as well as coastal navigation. I had 2 days notice to buy a plane ticket to Cabo and to find someone to watch the pups. They were having issues with their power source not charging their phones and tablets, so I brought an inverter I used on road trips. It was a scramble to get everything together, but I made it happen with the help of my local friends.
When the boat arrived in Cabo, we were supposed to leave the next day. However, the Captain didn’t like how the weather window changed and he wanted to wait for the next one, 6 days away. I knew I wasn’t going to like Cabo, and guess what? I don’t. I ran early in the mornings, went to the quietest spots I could find on the beach before it got too crowded, got sunburnt, slept, read, watched YouTube, and cherished my ear plugs which drowned out “I’m a Barbie Girl” playing for the 200th time. The up side? I got to watch the Warriors win the Championship! I also took the bus up to Todos Santos, a cute little artsy town I’ve read so many other sailors have loved. I would have rather spent a little more time there, so I’ll have to return when I’m in the area again.
We provisioned twice and had enough food for two months, even though we were only going 900 miles. My Spanish fluency had come in handy, as I found a much better place to provision at than Wal-Mart. If anyone is provisioning in Cabo or La Paz, City Club is where it’s at. It’s like a local Costco, and they’ll give you a pass for one-time shopping so you don’t have to have a membership. Our weather window arrived and the Captain again thought we should wait for a different weather window because there were two hurricane systems out there. We could either leave and have a 1,000% chance to miss them, or sit and wait to see if the hurricanes came ashore. Much to the Captains dismay (and after a phone call to his parents) we took off north.
I can’t say anything spectacular happened, I was just enjoying being out on the water. The skies were pretty hazy from hurricanes Aletta and Bud, but the wind and swells weren’t affected. It just meant we couldn’t see the stars at night and I couldn’t get many decent pictures of the coast. So. Much. Fog!
It took me a couple of days to realize the crew weren’t talking to me. Like, at all. I didn’t mind it, they were pretty difficult to have a normal conversation with. However, I kept trying to ask questions about things they’d promised to show me, like the weather readings and coastal navigation tactics. I got only “let me look” answers. They’d disappear into the cabin, and I’d never hear what the verdict was on anything. Literally every sailing related question I asked in the two weeks we were on the boat was met with “let me see” or “oh, don’t worry about it” or “I’ll show you out there” only to be followed up with “I’ll show you once we get in.” To top it off, I didn’t know how to use the engine, the autopilot, or anything else on the boat. Of course, he said he’d show me and didn’t.
We were going a very slow 3 or 4 knots, which gave me a lot of time to contemplate why I decided to leave on a boat with a Captain who smelt like alcohol when he arrived at the dock in Cabo. Clearly these guys did not want me on board. Early on I refused to comply with their unspoken expectation that I was going to cook and clean up after them, which really upset them when I verbalized it. I wasn’t getting paid for this, and I wasn’t learning anything either. There was no point in wasting my time. I’d decided to jump ship as soon as we got to Turtle Bay, which took five days for us to reach. It should not take so long, but incompetence is alive and well with this crew.
We arrived (finally) to Bahia Tortugas around 9:30 am. I’d packed my bags and was ready to go as soon as the panga came to get me. I’m not going to lie, it felt pretty good to unplug their devices from my inverter and pack it into my bag! I knew the owners of the boat being delivered and am very grateful nobody was upset about me leaving the delivery early. They were primarily concerned about me safely getting off of the boat, which I did. There’s a reason most sailors’ advice has been “Trust your gut!!!”
Up next is delivery part two: bahia tortugas to san diego (aka: where the good part begins!!).
I can’t tell the story about how Coconut found me without mentioning my friend Joel. I’d met him through friends in the Bay, and he was just getting ready to sail down from SF to LA. I was green with envy and wanted to join, but… work and stuff got in the way.
When I’d planned to visit LA to see an old friend, I stopped by his boat to check it out as I hadn’t seen it yet. It was SO cool! I remember thinking how big it was for a 35’er. We went for a quick sail and that was that.
A few days later I was at my marina’s potluck that I never went to anymore, just to say goodbye to a friend who was leaving. There were a few of us talking about our next boat, I was completely over my little Columbia and needed something bigger. Again, that was that.
The next morning I got a text from an unknown number offering me a 35′ boat for sale. I looked at the Craigslist ad and thought “harumph, beautiful but it’s too big for me.” I posted it to Facebook, as I was posting potential boats every day asking for feedback. This boat got LOTS of interest. People were seriously considering buying it. I went back to look at the ad again. Was I passing up a good deal??
I read the description rather than just looking at the pictures and noticed the boat was a double ender center cockpit, which as far as I’m aware is not really a thing except for Joel’s boat that I had just seen. I forwarded the ad to him and asked if it was his boat. It was, and he said if I didn’t buy it, he would. This boat was half the price he got his for and was in better shape, sort of, and he raved about his boat.
My friend Steve came with me to check out the boat that same day, and several other people (who I’d alerted this boats’ availability to) came as well. (I made sure I had first dibs!)
When I heard the boats name was Coconut that was it for me, my heart melted into the bildge and we became one. That was May of 2014. Side note, people always ask what the name was prior to Coconut, but I’ve looked through the documents and it has always been named Coconut. Further proof this boat has always been awesome, perhaps not always allowed to show her true colors from being neglected for so long.
I left the Bay (as in sailed away!) exactly a month ago and had the opportunity to see Joel and his boat Valkyrie. He doesn’t live on the boat anymore, but he was in town working on it. So many people have helped me with Coconut since we left the dock, so sanding, scrubbing, bondo’ing, and painting Val for a couple of days was my way of paying it forward.
It was really trippy being on another twin boat. There were so many similarities, yet enough differences to let you know it’s not your baby. I learned more about the boat, why things are the way they are, and what important pieces I’m probably missing (because he was too). It was a lot of fun rowing across the harbor to give some love to another Fantasia.
Just a few days prior to this I’d been approached by a gentleman who used to own a Fantasia for 20 years. It turns out he also was a long time friend of a former dock neighbor, it is such a small world. He also had lots of advice and fond memories of the boat. I love talking shop with salty sailors!
Val’s cockpit is pretty similar, except it is fully enclosed and Coconut’s have cutouts on the port and starboard side. There used to be a folding step there apparently, and whoever had my boat just tore them out and whoever had Joel’s boat decided to enclose them. Coconut’s cutout is better for when water enters the cockpit, it at least has somewhere to escape. Val also has mechanical steering and Coco has hydraulic, so our steering columns are different.
I was going to ask how Joel’s kept the portholes from leaking, but his are totally different. I’ve replaced the gaskets on mine and they’re leaking again. Grr.
There was a bunch of water damage in the aft cabin of Coconut and I’ve mentioned to several woodworkers I want it rebuilt eventually. They always ask me how, and now at least I have an image of what it should look like! One day, in Mejico, this will be done.
I remembered Joel telling me his chainplates were put on the exterior of the boat. When I was redoing my rigging, I mentioned this but the yard wasn’t interested in re-doing the design and getting a naval architect involved. The picture of Coconut’s chainplates are the old ones, as you can see they were pretty crusty. They’re new now, so have no fear!
The shelving area where the fridge is on Coconut was torn up. The photo below is from when I first bought the boat, so I immediately tore out all of the old electrical stuff. I eventually filled in the hole in the shelf with epoxy so I could at least use it as a shelf, but being that there’s no railing things fall off fairly easily. Also, on Val a previous owner attempted maybe to replace the insulation on the fridge, something I will need to do at some point. I’m not sure I’d go about it the same way they did…
When it comes to the shop… I’m not sure I can work this but I really like the doors on the cabinetry, along with the upper shelf (white). I currently have to reach my hand around the corner to feel my way to the correct tool I’m looking for. It never works, and I end up removing everything which is annoying. I’ve got a 2nd shelf but it’s kinda sorta falling down and there’s only maybe 2″ of space to store stuff. I like Val’s solution better. I also realized after the fact that Val’s hull number is inside the shop! When I had a survey done, we couldn’t find the hull number anywhere and honestly I’ve never seen it. I now know where it should be. (Anyone know if I can just inscribe it on a piece of wood and slap it in there? Or does it have to be more official?)