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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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home page progressions

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.

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a newish hanging locker

thumbnail-2It has been a while since I tackled a small project. Engine work, reinsulating the fridge area, haul outs for depth sounder…. I wanted a small project costing me zero dolares por favor. I also genuinely like writing and documenting this stuff, I guess because that’s mostly what I was doing for so long before Coconut could sail! Way back when the hatches were being redone I had some boards made to size so I could at least keep the draft out of my boat. I’ve kept the boards, but really they were just getting in my way and constantly falling over in the shop.

I was in the mood to shred up some wood and cover the contents of my boat in sawdust, so I grabbed the measuring tape, a sharpie, and the jigsaw and cut out a template to create a shelf in the hanging locker. I wasn’t sure how many shelves I would need, so I started with two. (Three was enough.) I am not great at getting a straight cut with the jigsaw, but I was planning on sanding down the edges and painting the shelves and the locker itself anyways. I like this locker because it has runoff access to the bilge, so it’s a legit wet locker.

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One thing I have realized is having the shelves at a slight angle will help the contents stay put and not slide out whenever I open it underway. To keep the shelves in place, I grabbed a few tiny planks that used to be my interior fridge rack. I had dismantled them and will one day get plexiglass, as the wood gets saturated with condensation and is tough to clean if something spills on them. I used some thickened epoxy and painters tape to hold them in place.

It’s amazing how much space I have in here now! I originally tried putting the PFD’s and foulies on hangers, but the life vests are so bulky it didn’t work well. This is what led to me just stuffing everything in there. After the shelves were in, I had my foulies, PFD’s doggie PFD’s/jacklines/tether all organized and easily accessible. I even had space for my shoes at the bottom! Whoop. And yes, those are all the shoes I own.

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boat specific splurges

I’ve upgraded a couple of things on the boat, rather materialistic things and rather inexpensive. I anticipate they are going to make me feel comfortable in a “I’m so spoiled” kind of way. However, I have a rule: if I buy stuff, I also need to get rid of stuff. There’s also no room for clutter aboard this boat!!

The first upgrade is a Dry Lite towel, made for camping I would imagine. I bought the extra large because reviews said the large was too small. It was well worth the $32 because there’s nothing more uncomfortable than trying to dry off with a damp towel. No matter what I did, my “house” towel was always damp. Always. Damp. In the winter, it’s dreadful! I tested the new and improved towel out this morning and it was already dry and ready to be folded up and stowed away by the time I was leaving the bathrooms. Such a good little towel. All this towel talk is reminding me of South Park…

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My second upgrade was a heater. I tossed the old one several months ago because it was huge. I was tired of constantly moving it out of the way. It was an apartment space heater, so anything apartment doesn’t belong on a boat. I was at the fancy boat store to return two tubes of extra caulking from last weekends project (came out to $64!) so I decided along with my coupon I had received in the mail, that my time has come for a heater. I know, several months I’ve gone without a heater. It doesn’t bother me, really. I only shiver a little! Haha, just kidding. I sleep better when it’s cold, and in the winter I bring out the electric blanket (almost more amazing than my down comforter). I haven’t really had a need for it, but, in preparation for winter I guess I’ll start being prepared and stuff.

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With the new purchases, I had to get rid of stuff even though the new items weren’t taking up much space. I kind of like cleaning house. There’s no more sweeping things under the carpet over here. I almost know where everything is at now a days and I feel the best way to really know is to raid a certain area and just throw away everything you haven’t touched in several months. So I got rid of several socks, shoes, bras, and dog grooming things that I haven’t even touched or needed in a very long time. OUT I SAY! It’s hard to think about, especially with stuff I had bought for no apparent reason. That $90 bra to wear with that skanky $160 dress that I wore once? WTF Rachel! There will never be a use for that over here. It’s time to let go of the useless (yet expensive) crap.

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adventures

quick sails with friends

Being that its Saturday, I have a hard time getting moving because all I want to do is be lazy. For just a little bit! I had all these plans and thinking about them made me not want to do anything. So I didn’t. Until 11 am. I forced myself to go running. My neighbor Jimmy invited me out for a short sail, but I wouldn’t have had time to fit my run in otherwise so I declined.

As I was stretching after my run, Jimmy passed me and said he was about to leave in 5-10 min if I was still interested in coming along. I thought they would have left a while ago!! Score, didn’t miss it! You don’t have to ask me twice!!!

Even though I was still sweaty and gross from my run, sailing sounded way more fun than being chained by responsibilities. I put on my foulies, some sunscreen, a visor, and went out for a short sail. Jimmy and Jimbo are boat partners and their friend Linda and Jimbo’s dog Gianni were all aboard. It was a beautiful short sail! I have to say, I’ve gone sailing with a mid sized crew and have been the only other somewhat knowledgeable sailor aboard besides the skipper before. I prefer this route because it lets me use my skills and see other boat set ups. Otherwise, I just sit there and feel like I haven’t been able to assist the captain at all. I like helping 🙂

It was my first time sailing with Jimmy and we had a blast! Afterwards we shared a beer, delicious shrimp, cookies, and fruit. There were other neighbors going for a short sail as well, but unfortunately responsibility called and I had to run my errands.

Oh, and if you look really closely at the last picture, you can see a sea lions head popping out of the water. We saw a ton of them in the marina today! I counted 6 sightings.

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awesome neighbors

Ok, right after I posted my rant about my creepy neighbor, I went out to the deck and saw this:

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I forgot I had seen a friend on another dock the other day and he warned me that he was going to leave me something. I was boasting about my new oven and was excited to make some dairy free treats, and being that he makes deserts at a very nice restaurant, he left me some goodies!

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Can’t wait to hear what the yummy-ness was inside! Thanks Alejandro!!