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where it all began

I began this journey in 2011 when I first moved to San Francisco. Because it comes up often, I thought I’d compile a brief timeline of the story to make sense to how I got to where I am now. When I moved to San Fran from Arizona, I couldn’t find anywhere to live. As a recent college graduate, I struck out left and right and was not able to make ends meet on my $40k salary.

I sold everything (and I mean everything, I have no storage unit or anything stored at anyones house) and moved onto a boat I knew nothing about. I’d never even stepped aboard a sailboat before! It was a Columbia 26′, and I learned so much my two and a half years aboard. It was an invaluable learning experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

After I’d gotten the boat sailing and paid off all my debts and saved up some money, I was ready to move up to a larger boat. Almost immediately, Coconut came to me and I had someone begging to buy my little Columbia. It was a seamless transition, although I had a whole lot to learn about stainless steel water tanks, an inboard engine, fixing leaks, etc. I bought Coconut in May of 2014 and have been working and living aboard ever since.

I tried to switch careers in 2015 but was severely injured and ended up going back to school. My PTSD from military service (along with chronic back pain from heavy lifting and eyesight issues caused by a surgery while in service) has left me unable to work. I always try to make the best of situations, while depression and anxiety take a hold of me most days, I would love to be able to find a way to help other Veterans suffering in silence like I often have.

If you are curious about the work and adventures I had on my little Columbia, search for the category “Columbia” and all the posts will come up. There are a lot of shenanigans to sift through, but I really enjoyed the simplicity of the tiny boat. I absolutely adore the space and comfort I have aboard Coconut, however, and am so happy to call her my home.

As for how this all has worked for me, I’ve gotten pretty lucky. I’ve always been pretty resilient and independent. I started traveling in middle school / high school and knew I wanted to see more of the world as I got older. I couldn’t figure out how to have a stable office job while also having time to explore remote areas in other countries (hint: you can’t!). Being that I’ve got my doggies, when I learned people sailed around on their boats with their pets (and kids), I was instantly fascinated.

On some level I knew there were people out there doing cool things like this, however I did not ever think I could be one of them. The stars aligned, I worked my butt off, and here I am. My goal is to not return to the US by boat at least for many years to come. I may be a little slow at the beginning, but I want to make sure all my ducks are in a row and that I have taken care of as much as I possibly can before leaving for good.

Wish me luck and thank you for following along on my journey!

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how to be less trashy ;)

By now if you’re not aware, the weather is changing rapidly and it’s pretty alarming the amount of damage being done on an annual basis from nothing other than bad habits. This is a proven fact and if you don’t believe it, I am not sure what to tell you. I’m not a scientist, I’m not telling anyone what to do, but I do feel very strongly about the impact our capitalist culture has on the world around us and how we are capable of changing our habits for the overall health of our oceans and air we breathe. Literally doing anything is better than nothing. Because I follow so many environmentally friendly sailing people, it seems like common knowledge. However, in the event that it is not, it couldn’t hurt to repeat a few key aspects of climate change and what we can do to combat it.

It never even occurred to me the “Recycle” in the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is last… as in we should be Reducing our waste first, Reusing what we can second, and Recycling at what we can not reuse. This had a pretty strong impact upon realizing I thought I was doing the best I could by recycling everything. In Mexico, recycling centers are difficult to find. You have to take your items there, and honestly, who is going to do that? I don’t have a vehicle, so I certainly don’t as I already have enough on my plate as a solo sailor.

I’ve decided I need to use less overall. There are “Zero Waste” lifestyles which I am completely perplexed by (and in awe of!) as well as “Plastic Free” lifestlyes. After walking the docks on the weekends with a telescoping fishing net collecting all the trash I possibly could before the tide whisked it away, I was very saddened to see just how much of it was plastic. Bottles, food containers, soo many different sizes of plastic bags, shampoo bottles, tooth brushes, fishing gear, buckets, etc.

There are a few key things I think are important to know.

  • Single Use Plastics: as in you open a package, and toss it in the garbage once you are done using it. These items, such as plastic water bottles, create so much unecessary garbage. If you can purchase a metallic water bottle and refill at home, school, work, etc. you would already be saving literally tons of plastic pollution a year.

 

  • Microplastics: You know those little beads in hand soap and body wash? Those are being mistaken for food and fish are eating them, which of course leads to their illness and death. Many brands are no longer using them, but if you have any soaps with this please refrain from using it or purchasing it again. I did not know this until writing this post, but they are contaminating the air as well.

 

  • Not everything that is thrown in the recycling is actually recycled. This was sad to learn, which further solidifes why I am trying to reduce my use all together.

 

  • Cigarette Butts: The unthought of pollutant! A company in San Francisco (and others have popped up) with solutions to recycle these and keep the billions a year out of landfills.

 

  • Composting: Put your food scraps in with the landscaping bin if your city does not do composting or if you have no desire or space to compost. The city of San Francisco has mandated composting and with other strict measures, has reduced what ends up in the landfill by 80%! Food scraps will naturally deteriorate, on the boat I just throw them overboard and let the fish eat them.

 

  • Collection Programs: I know that IKEA allows you to drop off batteries, CFL light bulbs, and other hazardous materials, but there are other collection programs out there. I came across this website with all kinds of collections for items I wouldn’t have thought belong anywhere other than the trash.

 

It’s taken me years to understand a lot of this, and living in San Francisco greatly helped me understand just how dangerous this “trashy” lifestyle is, and how it absolutely is possible to make a few small changes to our daily habits for a greater impact. While most of the pollution is coming from manufacturers, it is so important to be smart about our purchases and habits.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the websites mentioned or feel free to ask me any questions! I’m learning about this along with you, we can learn together and hopefully reverse the damage being done.

 

 

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steps to becoming a cruiser

I’ve met several awesome folks on my travels who dream of sailing around on their own boat one day. I can be somewhat of a dream crusher when discussing these plans, as starry eyed dreamers don’t realize what some channels put out there on YouTube isn’t telling the entire story. I’d like to give some realistic advice to following this dream, if it is what you want for your future.

Step 1: Buy a Small Boat
This may seem counterintuitive, however if you plan on being a boat owner one day I recommend to start off with something simple. Get familiar with how marinas function, the types of crowds at marinas, if you have the energy to maintain a boat, and if you have any desire to actually leave the slip. It could be a 10′ dinghy, a Cal 20′, a Columbia 26′. Anything small and simple to get your feet wet, literally and figuratively. I would not recomend a first time boat owner and non sailor to purchase a 30′-45′ boat. I’m not saying it can’t work, but it will be much more of a struggle to understand the bigger picture. If you end up not liking it, you’ll waste a lot of money for nothing.

It’s okay to not know everything. Everyone starts somewhere, and nobody was born knowing everything. It will feel like you’re learning a new language, because you are. Chandlery? What’s that. Cabin sole? Say what now? Brightwork? What needs to be made brighter?

Step 2: Do Necessary Repairs 
Whatever boat you’ve got, just make it work! Running rigging all tattered and frayed? Get new lines. Standing rigging no good? Replace it. Need a small fiberglass repair done? Go ahead and scope out some of the ever so helpful DIY channels and give it a go. My favorite aspect of small boats is they’re a breeze to maintain and fairly inexpensive to repair. $5,000 should get a neglected boat back out onto the water and safe for sailing.

The most important factor in this is that you are becoming familiar with the vessel. Should something go wrong, you’ll know where to look or how to troubleshoot. You should absolutely get familiar with materials, processes, etc. Otherwise, someone may suggest a costly repair when it is not necessary. Be wise to this and you will be a more knowledgeable boat owner. I’ve seen many people blindly agree to unecessary repairs simply because someone said it needed to be done. I guess if you have deep pockets, what does it matter? If three people who don’t know eachother all suggest the same repair / method / product, then maybe they’re right. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to seek out second, third, and fourth opinions.

Step 3: Go Sailing!
Yes, get away from that dock! By now you’ve probably made friends with your dock neighbors and can buddy boat around the bay, lake, or whatever waterway you fancy. If the repairs to your boat are keeping you at the dock or out of the water, go sailing with anyone and everyone who invites you. I’ve learned so much just from seeing how different boats are set up. Everyone has their own creative solutions to problems, some you may be able to implement on your own, others maybe not but at least give you food for thought on how to problem solve.

The more you get out on the water, the more you become exposed to different situations. No two days are the same, the more you learn the better Captain you will become! There is always something to learn, and learning first hand is a better way to learn than by reading about it. You will make mistakes, everyone does. You learn from them and become smarter and hopefully can laugh about it later!

Step 4: Start Thinking of Your Next Boat
By now you’ve hopefully spent at least 6 months to a year with your dinghy / boat and have been on many other people’s boats in the process. This will give you the best idea for what you may want in your future forever boat. You will be more confident in what kind of maintenance you can handle and what features you want. Know that if you talk to weekly racers at the yacht club, they will probably prefer a racing boat. Something lightweight, not meant to have a lot of supplies on board. If you don’t plan on racing across the ocean, do you really need a racing boat then? Many cruisers prefer heavier boats that can withstand a storm. No matter what you do, you will get stuck in a storm and for me personally, I’d rather be comfortable. Take everyone elses opinions with a grain of salt. You hopefully know what is best for your situation, so go with that!

Also know that there is no perfect boat. There are things about my boat that I can’t stand, but the benefits outweigh the downsides. For instance, Coconut’s cockpit is ridiculously small. However, this is a godsend in rough seas. It’s not like I entertain aboard often anyways, so in the end it doesn’t really matter. Write a list of wants and stalk Yacht World for all your boat porn needs. I like this site because it includes a lot of interior photos, you get to see different setups and can get a better idea of what boats look like on the insides. For instance, I really love center cockpits because the layouts down below are incredibly spacious. The tradeoff is that the cockpit is tiny.

Important Details to Understand
Newer boats doesn’t equal less maintenance! I met the owner of a 2014 Beneteau Oceanis whose prop looked as bad as Coconut’s previous 40 year old prop! The builder installed it incorrectly and the salt water corroded giant chunks out of the blades. This shouldn’t happen and is a fairly expensive repair. If I’d paid six figures for a boat, I would expect it to not have problems like this, but it is unfortunately common.

I am completely biased and prefer 70’s era boats because the hulls are so thick. It can survive a reef hit much better than the thinner newer fancier boats can by a long shot. The woodwork on my boat is so well constructed I feel safe. This to me is very important.

Multiple cruisers have done a cost breakdown, it seems to be $750 is the lowest end for one person actively cruising and anchoring out with absolutely *no frills*. I’ve only met one gentleman who claimed he was cruising for $500/month. He was emaciated, only had 15 watts of solar power, and didn’t have enough water to last him and his 2 crewmembers for more than a couple of days. We all have our limits to what we can deal with, but putting yourself and your crew in danger for the sake of sailing is not worth it to me.

Here’s where I crush your dreams. Know all those YouTube channels with these young couples who just seem to be frolicking around fancy islands on nice boats who are always clean wearing pristine clothing and conveniently never have a break in their videos because they’ve not had to stop and work? Those are most likely trust fund babies. They make big deals about $3 repairs and $2 beers, yet fail to mention the new $3k navigation system and $15k engine they’re installing.

There are several channels I can’t watch anymore because they’re not being honest about the money they’ve put into their lifestyle. It makes me feel inadequate, when in fact they are the ones who aren’t being truthful. I don’t like sugar coating things, and what a shock many must face when they realize they were following someones footsteps who started higher up on the mountaintop rather than at the bottom where everyone else started. Ignore these people on social media and YouTube all together, they’re on a different playing field and don’t understand the struggles most of us face in terms of reaching our own personal goals.