I noticed the white electrical tape was coming off the standing rigging, so I figured it was time for it to come off and polish everything up and make sure the cotter pins were still in place, that the turnbuckles moved, etc. The mast went up in March of 2017, so two years is probably too long to have waited to do this. I had tried cleaning the turnbuckles up a few times and wasn’t able to get those green spots off. I see the most rust at the end of the wire section leading to the turnbuckle. I always clean those up to try to keep them from breaking, as that’s often where standing rigging fails. To those who don’t know, the turnbuckles need to be greased annually. (whoopsies)
Upon doing some research, I realized the green spots were patina coming through from the bronze underneath as the turnbuckles are apparently chrome plated bronze. I don’t know if there’s something I should have done to prevent those spots from showing up, but according to this article cleaning up the threads of the turnbuckle with mineral spirits is all you need to do, and lubricate using a dry lube (Team McLube’s Sailkote seems highly recommended on the inter webs).
This video was a nice and simple explanation of how to clean the turnbuckles, although for mine it was the top one that was usually seized not the bottom. The most difficult part of this was getting the cotter pins out and putting new ones back in. I got better at bending them so they would be more flat rather than curved and poking out. The wire brush in the photo below has come in handy aboard Coconut! A toothbrush was too big to fit in the smaller shrouds, this brush worked perfectly.
I used Nevr-Dull metal polish to clean up the wire and turnbuckles themselves, and after wiping that off with a clean rag I’d put car wax on another rag and rub it in until it was nice and shiny. Surprisingly, this has made a big difference in Coconut’s radiance! And come to think of it, I never have tuned the rig. But that’s a separate post all together because I am certainly no rigger!
I was going to leave tuning the rig to another time, however, this video popped up on my YouTube recommendations and although long it was very informative.
When I had the mast polished a few months ago the man I hired checked everything up there, so it should be okay. Famous last words, right?! I am terrified of heights, so climbing the mast isn’t something I’ve done yet. I know I will need to learn, as it’s just an essential part of being a boat owner along with a solo sailor. Working up the guts for that first. I need to rig up a self climber, if anyone has any tips feel free to share!
I get a lot of questions regarding living on a boat with my pups, so I figured I’d write out how I manage. I’ve already written a post about sailing and traveling with them, you can read about it here.
When I first moved aboard my little Columbia 26′, it was the dog hair that drove me absolutely insane. It was everywhere. All of my energy went to showing up for my office job looking like a normal person! Keep in mind there are a lot of weird things I have to do just to combat their hair, and to keep Zita from permanently scarring any random people on the docks.
Initially, brushing the dogs every day didn’t seem to help. It was such a small space inside my first boat, and there was no closed off storage. Everything I needed on a daily basis was out in the open. I cut up a shower curtain I’d gotten on sale, added velcro and draped it alongside the port and starboard areas to keep hair off my dishes and whatnot. I used to wash their bedding once a week thinking that was helping control the situation. Looking back, that is absolutely ridiculous as I only wash it once a month now.
Seven years later I realize the first mistake I made was using a “furminator” brush. I know the brush is specifically for dogs with long hair that sheds, but it seemed to create more hair because I could brush them for an hour every day and still get hair everywhere. I only brush with a wire brush now. This has drastically cut back on the amount of time I spend brushing them, which means it isn’t a chore I actively avoid anymore. Dogs with short hair could benefit from daily brushing as well, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s doing anything. I hear plenty of complaints from short-haired dog owners. For me, when Thing 1 and Thing 2 are shaved (aka when it’s hot enough), I feel like I am on vacation from dog hair duty.
In the mornings, I brush the pupperinos outside after we return from our morning walk. It only takes a few minutes and leaves them super smiley! Then I go inside and remove any item they sleep on along with the floor rug. I shake them out up on the deck over the side, in whichever way the wind will blow the hairs away from the boat. Before putting these items back inside, I sweep down below. Then I put everything back in place and voila, I have a clean boat for the rest of the day. There are other things I do that non dog owners don’t quite understand:
Switching out fabric cushions for vinyl can raise your quality of life. They are much easier to wipe down once a week, and dog hair can’t weave itself into vinyl
Any time you’re trying to get dog hair off your clothes, go up to the deck to do it and let the wind blow it away. Otherwise it will just swirl around down below and won’t help the situation
Cleaning up a mess of lines (sheets, halyards) and getting them off the deck is now habit! Getting them out of the way lessens the chance for dog hair to settle on them
When it is hot enough, I do shave them with this awesome trimmer. When I started shaving them years ago while living in Arizona, I had a huge honking thing that overheated quite a bit and was heavy, meaning it took a while to finish one haircut. This new trimmer is cordless, quiet, smaller, lighter, and came with a ton of attachments. I can even charge it via USB! The battery lasts long enough to where I don’t have to charge it mid-shave either. The attachments mean I can leave some hair so they don’t get sunburnt, or trim around their cute little faces to even the fade out.
Leaving Them on the Boat
People are for some reason so shocked I leave the dogs on the boat when I go places. Like to work when I had an office job, or to an appointment I can’t bring the dogs to. When I had an apartment, I left them at home like many millions of pet owners do every day. Why would it be any different on the boat? Their beds are there, their water is there, they eat / sleep / get pets there, I am not sure what is so surprising about this.
Things I do before I leave: I always make sure Little Miss Piggy and Kermit the Dog get a walk to go potty before I leave if I am going to be gone for a couple of hours or more. I make sure they have water. I leave a pee pad for Zita if I may be gone longer. She’s usually okay, but I just want to give her an option other than the rug or floor. She is terrified of noisy flies when they get inside the boat, and for some reason this makes her piddle .
I also ignore them for 10 minutes or more, however long it takes for them to ignore every movement I make. Many dogs have separation anxiety, and if I make a big deal about leaving / coming home, this further proves to them they simply can not live without me and makes my absence harder for them to deal with. My little one, Zita, is overall a very anxious dog so I mainly do this for her. She still barks in protest when I leave, but after 20 minutes (as reported by many neighbors over the years) they quiet down. Bear usually joins her barking by singing / howling and it is very funny to hear if I’ve forgotten something shortly after leaving!
Speaking of anxious dogs, I had a really tough time dealing with Zita after moving aboard. She was used to being crated in our past apartments. The crate was her safe space, she liked it and knew she needed it. I couldn’t crate her on the first boat, there was simply NO ROOM for one. Initially, I left her to her devices when gone and ho-ly sh$*, it was a bad idea. She’d pee, poop, vomit, knock stuff into said bodily fluids and knock over anything else she could get to. It took me a while to realize she was trying to see out the windows, along with having a full blown panic attack. She’d hear a noise, and want to see who it was outside. She also has no idea what to do with her freedom or how to handle stress. I love her, but she is nuts.
The only thing I could think to do, other than give her up for adoption, was to leave her on a leash while I was away. Honestly, it worked beautifully. I just had to be careful what was within her “radius” of what she could get to and usually I’d come back to the boat the same way I left it. The leash was wrapped around and secured to somewhere she already liked to hide (see below for her favorite hiding spot aboard our first boat). Meanwhile, Bear just curls up and waits for his mommy to come home.
I don’t know when I stopped leashing Captain Z, but it was definitely last year at some point. I started testing her, leaving for short periods to take the trash out or go to the bathroom, and I guess in her old age she is finally being a good girl! I do close the door to any cabin not containing a bed, currently the shop and aft cabin. Less space for her to pace / freak out is better.
When I am working on projects, there are a few things I do to “prep the dogs” if you will. First off, Bear is very cuddly and needs a lot of attention. Quite frankly, he gets annoying when I am trying to focus. Before I get into any project that will take several hours, I sit down with both of them and give them solid quality individual attention (about 20 minutes each). They are surprisingly polite about it, patiently waiting for their turn. After doing this, the fluff monsters will likely fall asleep and let me be.
If I am working down below with a toxic chemical or creating a lot of dust, I put Mama and Papa Ganoush up in the cockpit and move their beds and water dish out there. This can get annoying if I am at the docks, because Zita looooves to bark at everyone walking by. If I am working outside, I will bring them up with me as they love inspecting what I do while sunbathing, napping, and letting the wind flow through their hair.
Other Helpful Tips
I got new name tags made for Papa Smurf and his Smurfette. When I was stationary at the same marina, I added my slip number to their tag. Now that I’m overseas and bouncing around, I’ve replaced that with my email address and boat name. They shouldn’t get lost because I keep them on a tight leash, but we also house sit quite a bit and Zita has escaped from a backyard before.
I used to let them get off the boat first and then I’d wrangle them onto their leashes, but Zita is a jerk and can’t be trusted. She likes to run up to people minding their own business and bark at them. Sometimes, people legitimately get scared of her and start flailing their limbs thus egging her on. It creates a lot of chaos and is embarrassing. So I now get off the boat first. Then I get Bear off, and put him on the leash. Then I get Zita, and put her on the leash. I do the same in reverse when getting them back onto the boat. I say to Zita, “Bad Girls First” as I put her onboard. This ensures the least amount of apologizing on Zita’s behalf. I also ditched the dock stairs, as the dogs always seemed too nervous to jump and some are slippery thus waiting for me to just grab them anyways. They’re light, so I can do this easily.
Also, keep track of how long a bag of food lasts. I buy the smaller bags of dog food, so it has no chance of going stale after being opened and it’s easier to store. Knowing how much they eat helps when provisioning, or leaving them with a dog sitter to know they’ll have enough food for the trip.
As Mr. & Mrs. Smith age, these chews were recommended by a vet to help their joints. You do need to start with Step 2 before moving up to Step 3. The pups are now 13 years old and I started giving them the chews when I noticed Bear becoming a little stiff, around age 9-10. I ran out / forgot to resupply for several months and noticed a huge difference when we started up again.
I don’t leave any electrical systems “on” when leaving them on the boat, other than the bilge pump and fridge. After cooking, the propane solenoid is turned off and the propane empties out of the lines. I move the nob of the burner back to “off” and I then close the valve for the propane tank I’m currently using. I drilled another hole in the propane box to be able to turn off the valve easily. These steps give me peace of mind they will be safe while I am gone. While at anchor, especially if I have just dropped the hook, I absolutely take them with me ashore. First, they probably need to go to the bathroom. Second, if the boat drifts away I want them with me.
I hadn’t realized how many things I do differently, but honestly it’s 2nd nature and I don’t even think about it (other than the hair, it’s hard to forget about that!). If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask below. If you have a dog and want to move on board with them, I hope this has been helpful. You know your animal better than anyone, for the most part dogs are very adaptable and just want to be close to you. Best of luck to other future and current boaters with dogs!
I usually post every other Friday, but I recently received an email from Hydrovane outlining Golden Globe Race participants’ along with their respective winvanes detailing any issues they’ve had during the race. They proudly highlighted the participants who had Hydrovanes, and surprisingly every single one of them had no issues with their wind vanes! Two of the top three finishers have a Hydrovane. I found it pretty interesting, and it made me feel more confident in the investment in adding one to Coconut! The third participant just finished early this morning and it’s pretty exciting to follow.
I will be honest and say I have not yet figured out how to use the windvane, they’re apparently better for ocean passages rather than coastal cruising. Wind vanes have a slight variation in direction as they go off the wind, and an autopilot keeps a tighter and more reliable course. I had mostly light winds hopping down the coast and you need at least 10 knots I’m guessing to have enough wind to keep it steering.
I’ve also not yet found a way to keep my wheel in place (step #1 to using the hydrovane) but even when I had a friend on board messing with the vane while I kept the wheel straight, the boat kept rounding up. I’ve talked to some people in passing who say the trick is to balance the sails, which I could really see being key. Another confession, I do not know how to balance the sails properly! After searching online, it seems there are several books on how to trim sails. If anyone has any recommendations feel free to enlighten me!
On my sail south, I stopped at the Channel Islands because it was a “must see” according to everyone. I’d heard enough about the Santa Ana winds that I was pretty terrified of going, but what is an adventure if you’re not going to at least try to anchor out at an island you may wash ashore on? I hadn’t anchored since a month before my hand injury (so… three years). My anchoring skills were rusty to say the least.
I ended up getting caught in the Santa Ana’s my last day there and yeoup, it was pretty terrifying! As soon as I got to the nearest dock 32 miles away, I kept saying “this stupid windlass doesn’t work!” As people asked why or how, I realized I didn’t know how to use the dang thing. Previously, I just pulled the chain up by hand, but in 50+ knot winds that is simply impossible.
The windlass is a beautiful chunk of bronze that had two coats of different paint over it. I cleaned it up, probably made it worse as I spray painted the rusty innards, and put it back together again with some new grease. I thought it would be along the same lines of painting an engine, but that’s a different type of metal that is better off painted. Apparently, painting stainless that is rusty will make it rust from the inside since it can’t breathe. Oops.
Pretty much all the steel parts had corrosion pits in them, so at some point in the future I will have to find a shop to remake these parts anyways. At first, I was using a wire wheel to remove the coats of paint off the bronze. Someone told me to try paint remover. I did a combination of both, it was very time consuming to get it all off and probably took the most amount of time. I’d switch between getting rust off the inner bits and pieces, and then fighting with the bronze piece, and so on.
I learned this baby has two gears, and how to operate the break (very importante!!!). A nice man on the docks, Peter, was curious how it worked and he helped me get it back together. I also met an Instagram follower and he lent me his sons car to run errands and get stuff from the hardware store! It was a great stop and I am glad events lead me to that marina.
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 🙂
It may not be too much different from the 2 months of cruising post, but I’ve squared away some new habbits that have worked well for me and I thought I’d share. And I have learned A LOT! First off, HOLY CRAP I’VE BEEN A CRUISER FOR A YEAR!!!! I am still pinching myself I somehow pulled this off!
1. Probably the most important to my sanity: I no longer talk to people about boat problems / what I am working on / future plans. Unless I know the person well, it’s iffy knowing if they will be reasonable and supportive. For every person who only wants to interrogate me about my sailing experience and the contents of my boat, there are many more who know, understand, and appreciate what I’m doing and quickly tell me so. It feels so nice to be heard, seen, and understood. Thank you, to everyone who supports me and has checked in on me the past year!
2. How do I solve mechanical issues then? I email the manufacturer whenever something doesn’t seem right or breaks. All of the companies I’ve contacted have been super helpful and have responded in a timely manner. I have also stocked up on lots of great essential books for when I don’t have access to the interwebs. ProTip: exchanging books, movies, and music is the cruisers currency! My first exchange resulted in 1,200 ebooks!!!
3. Things that are only a year old can and will break. Why? No clue. This happened to my propane regulator. Unbenownst to me, all of the propane leaked out of my tank while I was cooking one day and thoroughly freaked out the marina I was in. I had another full tank, but it’s useless without a working regulator! Spares, spares, spares. Get spares of anything you need to survive. I have two spare regulators now, amongst doubles of many other critical items.
4. Saying “I have a boyfriend” only means I don’t want to marry the guy, which means they’d like to see if maybe I want to marry them instead. So I’m married now, y’all. He works, I perfect my sailing skills on this solo trip, and “in the next couple of months” we will meet up and sail together. So far it works.
5. Most people don’t get it, and that’s ok. I hear a lot of comments along the lines of “You don’t want to stay? Don’t you like it here?” and “Well, when you come back this way…” Uh….
6. I’ve lived out of a backpack before, moving every few days and whatnot while traveling overseas. As exciting as that is, I have to say it is also pretty nice having a place to call home. As a cruiser, my surroundings change often and won’t see a familiar face for months. My boat is there for the comfort and familiarity I think a lot of us humans crave. That is pretty remarkable, and I hadn’t considered it until the last year!
7. Not a whole lot changed in my daily life. I can still walk to get groceries like I have for a couple of years now, I still procrastinate working out as much as I did before, search for Wi-Fi spots, have a vet nearby for the dogs, and so on. I was in several different marinas my last three years in the Bay so I am glad I got accustomed to having to get to know a new neighborhood every few months. Even abroad, I have been able to maintain the same kind of life I had in San Francisco. At a much slower and peaceful pace, of course.
8. This isn’t really sailing related but certainly has helped me in social situations with other cruisers and locals alike. Everyone gets really excited to hear about my journey, and it turn I get excited too! I really do want to show others if they work hard enough they can achieve whatever dreams they have for themselves. I soon find myself being overwhelmed with literally everyone I come into contact with wanting to always know how I was doing and when they are going to see me next. Although incredibly flattering, after a few months it was too overwhelming. I went on a “yes fast” where I didn’t say “yes” to anything for a month. My productivity skyrocketed!! As an introvert, I don’t really crave a whole lot of social interaction. I welcome it when it happens, but that’s about it. I found I kept trying to make time for everyone, and soon lost myself and my focus. I’m all about quality rather than quantity when it comes to friends, and the same should go for my social interactions as well. Less really is more.
9. Speaking of quality people, I’ve met so many rockstars in this past year! I got to meet Mads from Sail Life at his meetup in LA, Liz Clark at her book signing for Swell in San Diego, Sailor James who saved my behind that I’ve already written about, another single hander Matt from Life on Gudgeon on the docks in Mexico, Skip Novak on a sailing trip in Chile, I ran into Dustin from The Single Handed Sailor in Antarctica of all places, and I even got to do a podcast called I, Survivor while stocking up on boat stuff (the only podcast I have become addicted to). I also got to meet a handfull of Instagram followers who are all on their own awesome sailing journeys. The list goes on! I know I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing because this stuff just keeps happening, and it is unreal! I love it. I love it so much.
10. I am not a day sailer. I’ve gone for one day sail and it wasn’t worth it to me to want to do every weekend. I would maybe do it to test out new equipment, but I kinda need somewhere to GO.
That’ll do it for me on this post. I hope everyone has a happy holidays and a wonderful New Year!
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!
There are a lot of factors to consider when taking your pooch sailing. I thought long and hard about any possible scenario, from how they would go to the bathroom at sea to getting them into another country.
I had stalked noonsite.com for info on what I needed to do to get the dogs into Mexico. True to my nature, I didn’t do any of what they said pet owners should do. Logistically, it was too difficult to work out in San Diego while anchored out. I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. As it turns out, absolutely nothing was needed! No special shots, no vet health certificate less than 72 hrs old, none of it. Don’t waste your time!
For everything else I worried about, like veterinary care, I have not had any issues. The pups have gotten their shots updated and I was given a pamphlet for each pup to have a written record of when their shots are due. I can’t keep track of paperwork to save my life, so this is a welcome addition to know when the shots are due without relying on a vet to send me postcard reminders.
The pups are 12 years old now and getting fatty tumors. Any time sedation is required in the US its automatically at least a $500 procedure. Not in Mexico! It was ~$50 to remove a lump on Zita’s chest. Testing the mass is almost as much as the surgery, although it is still much cheaper! Speaking of old pups, they used to get acupuncture in San Fran (go ahead, laugh away) but there are places here to get veterinary acupuncture care as well! Soo stoked about this, I feel better about taking them hiking with me.
I thought I’d need to stock up on flea and tick medicines, however, I think its best to work with what the region has to offer. The fleas and ticks in the US can be different than what is found in Central America, therefore the agents probably won’t work as effectively. Trust that they have the correct products to care for your pet.
Most dogs here aren’t neutered or spayed. That means they incessantly flirt with Zita, or Bear, and if its a boy Bear will get super agro. Most of them are younger too, and boy does Bear like to parent actual puppies!
I walk with the pups pretty much everywhere. There are some stores I can’t go in because there is either nowhere to tie the dogs up or it is way too crowded of an area. I was used to tying them up to bike racks or parking signs, but I’m lucky if I can find a railing for shopping carts and somewhere people aren’t walking by (Zita hates people and she’s very vocal about it). Early morning walkies to the grocery store in less crowded areas is how we do it.
Another thing I hadn’t anticipated was that there are no water bowls left out for dogs on their walkies. Not many people walk their dogs here, so its not a common practice to leave water dishes out. I bring a water bottle with us and a collapsible water bowl to keep them hydrated.
Speaking of locals not walking dogs, most dogs here are guard dogs. They live in the front or back yard and likely never leave. They aren’t socialized and have probably never met another dog before. We have had some pretty funny reactions from local pups! It also makes it a little difficult finding a pet sitter, because I have different standards. People are confused as to why I walk the dogs so often, and haven’t ever heard of dogs being allowed to stay in the house. I’m absolutely not okay leaving them in the front or back yard for 24 hours unattended, but I am happy to report that there ARE people out there who welcome dogs inside and walk them (but it takes some time to meet the right people).
That being said, these two fluffy butts are very popular in their new home! Bear loves all the attention, Zita could do without it. There are several people who ask “where are your dogs???!” if I happen to leave them back on the boat. It’s really cute. I also have to tell people that they bite. Lots of kids will come running up and ask if they bite or if they can pet them, and I have to say “they bite, sorry” because when it’s busy on the walkway I simply would not get anywhere if I stopped for every person who asked.
As far as actually sailing with the pups, they have done really well. They prefer to nap in the middle of the cockpit, closest to me of course. I don’t feed them before a passage, incase the swells are a little rolly I don’t want to upset their bellies. I have them in their life jackets all the time, and so far I have only had to secure them once because it was sooo rough getting out the Golden Gate Bridge. They panted for a couple of hours and eventually relaxed once they realized they weren’t going to die.
The grass pad up at the bow is now a permanent fixture on Coconut. I put some brass grommets in it and tied some dynema to the cletes so it can’t fly away. Zita has always had a harder time holding it than Bear, and pooping is her favorite activity second to eating. Now that she knows the grass pad is where she can relieve herself, she happily does it! I sometimes find little turds up there even when at the dock when they are getting regular walkies. One time while right in front of me she just waltzed up there and pee’d on the pad! I praised her like crazy. I know a lot of people prefer to put a long line on the grass pad to dip into the ocean, but because there’s already pee all over the deck I prefer to just fill up my canvas bucket and wash it off that way. I can’t imagine washing off a grass pad in the ocean and just leaving the urine all over the deck. Gross.
Bear is going to take a little more coaxing, as it took a couple of days for him to drop a deuce on our first long passage. He also needs something to pee on (like an actual object). I could see his brain trying to work out “How am I supposed to poop or lift my leg when the boat is bouncing around?!” We haven’t quite worked that out yet, but he has gone #1 and #2 once enough time passed. If we are anchored out and he can see land, he doesn’t understand why he needs to do the yucky stuff on the boat. I hope to continue praising him to where he understands if he needs to go, he can and should go. Of course, while sailing I leash them one by one and take them up to the bow to do their business. I haven’t installed netting yet and absolutely don’t want them going up there unattended when we are underway.