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two months of cruising: what i’ve learned

It’s actually been 2.5 months, but whatever. It’s tempting to write several posts detailing everything that’s happened since I left. Where I’ve stopped, who I met, and what I did there. However, I want to run a different course. First, I am cherishing every moment of what I have been experiencing. It is perhaps a private moment in time for me, to be able to get to know my boat in every beautiful, terrifying, serene, and boring way possible. I’ve lived on her, I’ve worked on her, but I’ve not sailed her until I left. It’s so special, I don’t really care about recounting every detail at this moment in time. Plus, I’ve driven down the coast plenty, I’ve already been to these cities and that wasn’t really anything new to me. I’ve got the important bits written in my log book and journal, which leads me to my first thing I’ve learned.

-Keep a log book, yo! Seriously. It’s good to know how many miles you’ve gone, what the fuel tank situation is, what the seas and winds were like, and what the trip was like. I’ve really enjoyed filling this out on passages.

– The rudder to my self steering system does not float. Also, divers are awesome.

-Marina’s on the coast are legit. They’re open 24 hours, the staff are actually familiar with boating and safety, and they’re there to help you pull in at 4 am should you need to. Also, be sure to leave before the check out time, or else you’ll be charged a hefty fee!

– All the talk of “never enter an area you don’t know at night” sounds great, but is unrealistic. I’ve done it many times, partly because I am still learning how to plan my arrival, and partly because the timing didn’t work out to wait. C’est la vie. So far I have been fine, albeit with a higher heart rate and tense quads.

-I now know how to use Navionics. I’m embarrassed to admit I did not, and had not, ever used a chart plotter before. I knew how to zoom in and out when I did the ocean crossing in 2014, but it wasn’t until I was left on my own in Santa Barbara that I realized “Shoot. Uh, how do I plot a course?” It took me a few (yes, a few) separate trips to get the hang of it.

-When traveling and doing awesome stuff, you’ll typically invoke two responses. You’ll hear other peoples’ awesome stories of adventures (which is just so fun to hear what others have come up with as a way to just live their lives), or you’ll remind people they could probably do something to, you know, live their lives. Both leave you with a great feeling!

– The other not so typical response you’ll invoke I call the “doomsday docklubber.” Your alternator belt comes loose often? Well, then you won’t be able to charge your batteries and then you wont be able to charge your devices and then YOU’RE GONNA DIE! People who know their stuff do not speak or think like this, so ignore these marine grade a-holes at all costs.

– Which leads me to my next point. I really could do it! I find myself thinking all I need to do is move the boat forward, and not hit anything. And I’ve done it, for hundreds of miles! It is addicting, and a reiteration of all the hard work I did eventually paid off.

-You really will blow your budget! But it’s not a constant, it gets better over time as the boat gets equipped with all the things you didn’t know you’d need. Things are still going to break though!

-My alternator is hooked up to the engine bank for some reason. So to charge the batteries while motoring, I need to switch over to “both” battery banks. This is no bueno, as it defeats the purpose of absolutely not being able to deplete both battery banks.

-There is a “right time” for the “wrong things” to happen. It will probably be OK, but if you’re not entirely sure, it’s OK to poop your pants in the mean time.

-The Santa Ana winds can seriously f*@# sh&! up. I’m afraid just typing this out in fear they’ll hear me/see me/ sense me typing this and find me tonight. Please don’t.

– Things will rattle loose and will prevent you from moving forward. It’s not a bad idea to go around the boat and tighten everything up once in a while. Do this all the time, seriously!

-I really did need an Auto-Pilot. His name is JaLos, named after Jake and Carlos who installed it for me. They were super fun to work with, and JaLos has taken good care of me.

-The pups are phenomenal cruisers. Leaving SF just past the Golden Gate Bridge was by far the worst part of the trip. After that, mostly everything as been smooth sailing. The pups sleep while underway, and perk up as soon as we get into port. Bless their fluffy little bootys.

-Dolphins playing in bioluminescence is the coolest experience I’ve had, and watching the pups watch the dolphins play is the cutest. Moon rises are pretty phenomenal, too.

-Every sailing trip I force myself to do something sailing wise I haven’t yet tried, especially if I’m alone. This could be from trying the self steering system (still haven’t figured it out yet) to setting the (new to me) spinnaker pole.

-As soon as I get settled into an anchorage, I charge all of my devices. In case I need to gtfo quickly, it’s nice knowing my communication and navigation devices are 100% ready to use.

-Cruising in the winter time is actually pretty great. I have had no problems getting a spot anywhere, and was even given 5 free days at Catalina! I would not have been able to afford a week there otherwise.

-Invest in a good anchor as well as a swivel for the chain. You’ll actually be able to sleep at night, and sleep is really nice.

-I absolutely love the rocking sensation at anchor. I feel so free!

– My arms will hopefully look like Michelle Obama’s in another couple of months from all the rowing I’ve done to get back and forth to shore. 2x a day for the dogs, another time most likely for errands I need to run on public transit, etc.

– I bring oil with me because the lock to secure the kayak to the dinghy dock ends up seizing up after a couple of days. I also noticed everyone else did a loop around the dinghy dock lock rack (?) to prevent their locks from falling into the water, which mine had mysteriously done several times. Details.

-You really do meet people along the way, who are headed in the same direction as you, who know where the showers and laundry are, and can get you discounts at the chandlery, and give you rides to provision, or get mail for you. There are some really great people out there and I am so glad to have crossed paths with them!

-Having said that, I have been reminded to steer clear of those who feel entitled to my personal space. Single guys on the prowl are the w.o.r.s.t.

-I can hear when there’s a halibut under my boat. I was glad to know this noise wasn’t a random piece of electrical equipment going haywire.

– 200W flexible solar panels are doing great at keeping the batteries charged. Unless there’s clouds for a couple days, I may turn the fridge off. So far I haven’t needed to run the engine much to keep the batteries alive, yay!

-I should have stocked up on vino in Sonoma, I really wish I had something to share with everyone who has helped me along the way.

So, overall, I’m super pleased with how things have gone. It’s about what I expected. Amazing, beautiful, terrifying, expensive, tiresome, and I do not want to be doing anything else right now! Today I was painting up on the deck. My hair was flying everywhere as the winds picked up, I kept spotting the dog’s white hair in the brown paint and I’d stop to pick it out of the wet paint, subsequently getting paint all over my hands. A tour boat, or a small fishing boat, would cut through the anchorage and give me a wave and I would wonder if I look as awesome as I feel. Everything just feels right, even though I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing 6 months from now 🙂

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