Category Archives: sailing

in anticipation of a dream realized

I must have wished all this in another life to wake up with the dream of it in this.  I must have lit a candle with all my intentions and set it afloat on a paper boat to sea so that it may find this other me.

How else can I explain the design unfolding itself with every step?

I hope to find myself some day in Thailand during the Loi Krathong festival of lights so that I may give thanks and cast a wish for the life after this.
“Each one with this krathong,
As we push away we pray,
We can see a better day.”

I hope to find myself some day in Thailand during the Loi Krathong festival of lights so that I may give thanks and cast a wish for the life after this.

Eleven years ago, on a whim I bought sailing lessons as a birthday gift for my husband. B. and I enjoyed four weekends of instruction on the Hudson River and received our basic keel boat certification. Before that, I had only been on a sailboat twice—a couple of sunset sails off the coasts of Maine and Hawaii as any diligent tourist is apt to do. For months after our class, B. scoured the classifieds looking to buy a small boat that we could trailer and take out for day sails. I wasn’t on board and couldn’t see sailing in our life chalking up his interest as another fleeting hobby that would add more clutter and complexity to an already fully loaded life we were struggling to manage. I bought him a canoe for his next birthday as consolation instead.

I didn’t sail again until six years ago and many turns in life later. As an adventure vacation I chartered a sailboat and a captain/instructor in the Virgin Islands with Allison. For a week we spent our days island hopping and enjoying the beautiful scenery, warm weather, and clear waters and our evenings anchored in charming little bays taking the dinghy ashore for dinner or a night cap with locals and cruisers. I returned with more certifications and an imagination, enamored with the bliss of easy living on the water and the grace of full sails in the sunshine.

Back to work and carrying on with the busyness of life, thoughts of sailing would drift in and out only in passing. Even with masts in the marina and sailboats on the bay as my landscape, most days they served as no more than just a beautiful backdrop to my life. Every now and then, I would get a burger and sit for hours watching the boats come and go and in the calm of it all sort out my troubles and thoughts. In all that time, the dream must have been building silently and without much ado because I remember a day four years ago when naturally and without any predetermination I spoke of it aloud—amidst turmoil at work declaring to my boss that at the next career decision point I was likely to leave it all and go sailing. I’m certain he dismissed it as another one of my bursts of hyperbole. For me, it served as a promise made, as an alternative vision to the seemingly endless pursuit of making a living that felt like more of the same no matter how you sliced it.

Last year this time, the fork in the road appeared as did renewed thoughts of a life at sea. I was tired, tapped out, and restless looking for a change of pace. With nothing biting after a few months of putting in a good faith effort (albeit half hearted) to either find a new job or resettle carrying on with things as they were, I figured this may be the time to call my own bluff. Cancelling a trip to New Orleans, I sequestered myself for two weeks drawing out the vision, researching, plotting. Ultimately emerging with a plan for change of lifestyle complete with the requisite goals, lists and spreadsheets, financial plans, phases, milestones, activities,  modeled into scenarios A through D, the dream was articulated, designed and made tangible. I was convinced and committed and the leap of faith simplified to a state of mind.

S/V Onyx, a Tayana 37 and the dream boat I found to take me across the seven seas
S/V Onyx, a Tayana 37 and the dream boat that found me and will take me across the seven seas

Today, I am sitting on my beautiful blue water cruising boat, Onyx, exactly six months after my last day of work and the beginning of this new venture. Having just completed an amazing 900-mile maiden voyage from Seattle to San Francisco, I am flush with confidence, feeling validated, empowered, and blessed. Incredulously, I ponder what I have accomplished, learned, and experienced in this short time and how it unfolded as if part of a fully elaborated design that my grandest imagination or plans could have only made out as a fading outline on the horizon. Mostly, I am amazed and truly humbled by the good fortune of having arrived here without much resistance and how the world having heard of my wishes and intentions has been with me, accommodating and affirming every step along the way.

The maiden voyage home
Onyx’s maiden voyage from Seattle to San Francisco…
see photos and videos of the preparations and the journey home

The next six to nine months will be busy with preparations for getting underway for long term cruising and the full realization of the dream of living a life at sea. Between here and there, it is mostly logistics, more learning, and more doing without much extraordinary intervention needed. Good news is I am committed, have a craving and aptitude for learning, and excel at logistics. Break it down, figure it out, line it up, and get it done.

What may not be as straight forward is keeping the anticipation of the dream and the expectations from surging into anxious energy or spiraling into inertia. I catch myself in the restlessness and waiting between one step and next when my mind wanders. I wonder and sometimes worry. A thousand questions, each a thousand presumed outcomes, distracting my focus and eroding my resolve. I am learning this too—to trust a reality made only of my wishes.

How much simpler it would be instead to count and recount blessings and confluences like sheep before sleeping. So that I may always remember the dream upon waking. So that I may know the world is mine and with me. So that I may be at peace in anticipation of the dreams realized.


      Only the Ocean – Jack Johnson - Jack Johnson

being sailors

“All men will be sailors then Until the sea shall free them…”—Leonard Cohen

Stan, the man Stan, the Captain, the man, the legend“The ocean is the same everywhere beyond sight of land,” I heard from Captain Stan who is also rumored to be Neptune himself trying out this mortal life disguised as a sailor. I haven’t seen enough of her yet to know that or maybe the ocean has a face she keeps reserved only for the gods. Either way, I will believe it and will try to remember it any time I feel unsettled at sea. It must be comforting with a sense of inherent omniscience to find yourself without bearings, to be somewhere, nowhere, and everywhere. More practically comforting, I find knowing even the gods must bear witness to the ocean’s mighty moods without argument and are powerless but to weather their fortunes as sailors every day. Sometimes, you can even catch them cursing the tangled lines under their breath.

Beautiful day for a sail Beautiful day for a sailWe had an amazing voyage to Monterey Bay and back over a course of seven days and over 200 miles. It felt like we averaged 5 to 6 knots though I am sure we sailed for more than 40 hours total. We covered long tracks with marathon sails anywhere between 9 to 20 hours, rotating watch every couple of hours, grazing and recharging as best we could while underway. I had every intention of keeping a detailed log of the passage in my brand new notebook but I became distracted Foggy dawn at Half Moon Bay Foggy dawn at Half Moon Bayand too engrossed. As a novice, I was still finding my way about and not collected enough to assume any habit. So many practices and techniques to discover, discipline to muster, and skills to build. The habits will form in their own time.

Under the ever-watchful eye of Stan and his master instruction, we carried on beating, beaming, reaching, and running but mostly close-hauled, in high winds, low winds, and no winds at all. Always adjusting sails or cleaning up the lines, tacking to stay the course. Always on, trying to keep pace with the wind and moving in the groove.

So dramatic it's comical So dramatic it's comical We practiced navigation skills with regular fixes and learned to use charts and plot courses. We tested our balance and wits cooking fajitas at a 25 degree heel. We learned the science of sails, their trim, and how to find and move the centers of resistance. We tried out our sense for steering in the dark with only the stars and feel for the wind. We challenged our notions of loneliness and perceptions of space caught for hours without a horizon in fog thick as cotton balls. We rode in calm waters, in the chop, into 6′ swells, and finally home under the Golden Gate bridge with the soothing nudge of the following seas.

Somehow, we passed all of the tests.

Every day was a different life time I could have never imagined and every moment a magical affirmation of the course I have chosen.

I feel an addiction coming on.

Things discovered… Things to add to my learning agenda…
  • It’s all doable and a matter of a calculated risk
  • Insomnia comes in handy
  • Reintroduction to land is harder than I took more than a day to shake the daze and emerge from under the spell of the sea
  • Deli meat sandwiches never tasted so good
  • There is no silence at sea, not even at anchor or dock
  • As undesirable as it may be, sometimes you just need to make way with the motor on
  • Rainbows in the spray
  • Passage making is exhausting
  • Smile more
  • Reef early
  • Memorize the chart symbols
  • Always remember your bearings and how to get back to your dock
  • Build upper body strength
  • Use all your senses in the fog
  • Patent biodegradable cigarette filters
  • Make weather your religion
  • Find that practical balance between patience, dexterity, level of effort, precision, inherent margin of error, and educated guesswork when taking fixes and plotting courses

songsSuzanne — Leonard Cohen

watching the weather

The Super Moon escaped me last night behind the fog. I would have been disappointed were it not caused by another rare natural occurrence—the atmospheric river that is headed to the northern California coastline. What a concept to marvel…streams of moisture-rich air simply flowing through the atmosphere and with such timely arrival for my Offshore Heavy Weather class.

Atmospheric River, Northeast Pacific, June 2013
time lapse moisture reading of rare summer occurrence of an atmospheric river crossing the Pacific to Northern California coastline

Weather has always held my fascination. As a kid…it was the sheer power and clamor of storms and the endless dimensions of clouds that inspired awe and the basic science of building a wind vane or making rain with the lid of a pot that fulfilled my curiosity. In college…bored with the absence of dramatic weather in Southern California, it was the confluence of variables, the dynamics, and the apparent patterns that never  repeat exactly becoming mathematical, abstractions of chaos theory and loaded with all the fodder of philosophical connotations. In New Orleans…there were the almost daily summer thunderstorms where you could feel the air collapse under its own weight and turn into water right before your eyes. I stayed for Katrina partly because I believed whatever were to happen would happen and it would be alright but also to experience the scale of a hurricane. I doubt I will ever again breathe air as fresh as I did the morning after she passed through the city. Here in the San Francisco area…I miss the drama of storms but catching the mood of the bay and the rolling fog every day commuting across the Golden Gate Bridge has had its own magic and charm.

Despite all this I have never developed the habit or interest to checkout weather forecasts as part of my daily routines. It surprises me even to realize I have looked up weather forecasts no more than a handful of times so far this year. As a passing observation I generally figure some sort of weather every morning as I get dressed. Is it warmer or colder? Is it raining or not? Does it look like it might rain?  That has been the extent of what I needed to know to get through the day.

Now…I have a reason to nerd out on weather. It’s fundamental to sailing—to know the wind, where is it coming from, how strong, how long, to anticipate the storms building and moving across the oceans, the long range forecasts, the patterns, the anomalies…and add to it the rhythmic variables of the currents and tides. The scale and the systems just became exponential.

MARINE ZONE FORECAST: Waters from Pt. Arena to Pt. Piedras Blancas, CA
June 24, 2013


Mon: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft…becoming 3 to 5 ft in the afternoon. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Rain.
Mon Night: S winds 10 to 20 kt. Wind waves 2 to 4 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Rain.
Tue: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Showers likely in the morning…then chance of showers in the afternoon.
Tue Night: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Chance of showers in the evening…then slight chance of showers after midnight.
Wed: W winds 10 kt. Wind waves 2 ft or less. W swell 5 to 7 ft and S 3 ft.
Thu: NW winds 15 to 25 kt. Wind waves 3 to 5 ft. NW swell 5 to 7 ft and S 3 ft. Patchy fog.
Fri: NW winds 15 to 25 kt. Wind waves 3 to 6 ft. NW swell 5 to 7 ft…increasing to 7 to 8 ft. S swell 3 ft. Patchy fog.


tackling the learning curve

Eleven consecutive days of sailing in May was exactly what I needed to tackle the learning curve and get a glimpse into my personal capabilities and apptitude. With it I also doubled my sea time and by end of June I plan to triple it. This is it…I’m doing exactly what I need and want to do. The immersion learning plan is progressing nicely. It’s building…the confidence, the knowledge, the skills, the appreciation, the change.

captdThe basics of sailing are deceptively simple; you can learn it in a day. Boat handling…in two or three days. Charts, navigation, mechanics, gear, equipment, knots, etc….demystified with each use. There is no hidden secret or trick, just straight up practical knowledge of how things work and operate with a dash of applied common sense.

It’s the intuition for the sail, wind and water that must take a lifetime to master. Beyond the basics, you can only learn by feel.

 The immersion log:

Day 1—Day sail around the Bay with friends aboard Mitch, a Beneteau 423, 15-20 knot winds
Days 2-7—ASA 101/103 course on the Bay aboard Passion, a Pearson 32 and Tule Wind, a Catalina 30, 10-30 knot winds
Days 8-11—ASA 104 weekend overnighter course on the Bay aboard Coho II, a Sparkman & Stephens 44, 5-25 knot winds

  • Completed ASA re-certification for Basic Keel Boat, Basic Coastal Cruising, and Bareboat Chartering…all of which I had completed years ago but nothing quite like learning in the San Francisco Bay and with a new purpose and attention
  • Learned basics of anchoring, docking, navigation, night sailing, boat maintenance and major systems (engine, plumbing, electrical, instruments)
Things discovered… Still on the agenda…
  • I can do this long-distance cruising thing—maybe not tomorrow but in time enough
  • People—they are more interesting than I have been giving them credit for
  • My hair doesn’t look too bad unwashed
  • I can bear the cold better than I assumed—with the right clothing and a little distraction
  • I will likely be a deliberative sailor (in as much as weather would allow) and definitely a tidy boat keeper
  • I like plotting on charts—quite the throwback to middle school algebra and geometry classes
  • I can be social
  • I can get comfortable on a boat
  • My nose burns first and most
  • Not a big fan of wearing hats while sailing
  • Read and intuit the weather, the water, the wind, the clouds, the tides…
  • Accept wearing socks
  • Swim with confidence
  • Repair a diesel engine
  • Tie knots without thinking
  • Balance with more grace
  • Smoke less
  • Develop a perception of distance
  • Spanish
  • Consume less, manage finite supplies and space…battery power, fuel, water,  food
  • CPR
  • Celestial navigation
  • Use a sexton
  • Explore feasibility and reliability of electric engine as an emerging alternative to diesel power—could build a self-sustaining system

 Up next…

  • mesailExtending my ASA certifications and training with  Coastal Navigation (105) and Advanced Coastal Cruising (106) on a 7-day/6-night Heavy Weather Offshore course, likely to cruise to Farallon Islands, Half Moon Bay and Monterey
    Open ocean, swells, heavy weather, wind, new territory…here I come
  • 2x week adult swimming lessons for the next 2 months
  • 1-day class on basics of wiring and electrical systems
  • Continuing the boat search…
  • More time on the water any chance I can get to prepare for a next and major personal milestone of skippering a charter day sail


songs“I took what I learned from rock ‘n roll…” — Al Green

in the first month or so

“The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days…”
For the first time ever I found that I really need to keep a calender, ironically enough now that all of my time is mine. Without the bookends of weekends or the steady lineup of work activities and to-dos to sort, order, and sequence in my brain, I seem to have lost the ability to anticipate and track time. I am digging the new pace and am having a hard time imagining it being any other way.
One or two to-dos a day is just about right. I get to pick them and I say laundry counts as one. Filling the space in between like sand is research, reading, writing, studying, gardening, smoking, driving, sorting the closet, thinking, and planning.
All in all a most productive and relaxing month or however long it’s been. Citizenship, SoCal road trip, boat shopping, sailing, seminars, volunteering…
And for the record, I am not sure why I keep quoting The Jerk. May be time to revisit a classic.

songsOctopus’s Garden —The Beatles

at my own pace


…that’s how freedom feels.



10 to-dos for the first 10 days

  • buy gear for heavy weather class
  • study for civics test
  • catch up with Captain Blaine
  • find a yacht broker
  • purge some shoes
  • set up coaching session
  • plan SoCal trip
  • be presentable at naturalization interview
  • drive the 17-mile drive
  • sign up for emergency/safety training



      Still is Still Moving to Me --Willie Nelson

the blue planet odyssey – what if?

Blue Planet Odyssey - Pacific Routes
Blue Planet Odyssey Routes

What a grand plan…the Blue Planet Odyssey. A 3-year rally to do good by the planet while cruising around the world. With the right planning and some good fortune, I could possibly join the rally somewhere, somehow…could I really? I would need at least a 40′ boat and ~23k registration and taking Jake would be non-negotiable. It would possibly mean changing my current plans which put me in the Mediterranean in March 2014 and with a cruising kitty for maybe one year. Would need to rethink my route, timing, and financials…

  • slow original plans for year, build the kitty, join the west coast start in late ’14
    -will it be worth the wait?
  • keep original plans, wander around Europe for a few months, join the start there in summer ’14
    -can I live at sea for 4 years?
  • get clever with planning and lucky with fortunes…
    -time to model new scenarios

I am excited to attend the seminar at Strictly Sail Pacific next week and get inspired.

Southern route – Pacific start

Vancouver (September-October 2014) – San Francisco – San Diego (November 2014) – Mexico (November 2014 – January 2015) – [Galapagos (February)] – Marquesas – Tahiti (June) – Tonga – [Bora Bora – Suwarrow – Tokelau – Tuvalu] – Fiji – Vanuatu – [Great Barrier Reef] – Torres Strait (October 2015) – Darwin – Indonesia – Singapore (January 2016) – [Thailand] – Andaman Islands – Maldives – India (February) – Dubai – Oman – Red Sea – Suez Canal (April 2016) – Mediterranean – Gibraltar (September) – Canary Islands (October-November) – Eastern Caribbean (December 2016-February 2017) – San Blas Islands – Panama (March 2017)

Southern route – Europe start

London (20 July 2014) – France – Spain – Portugal – Gibraltar – Morocco – Canary Islands (November) – Eastern Caribbean (December 2014-January 2015) – San Blas – Panama (February 2015) – [La Libertad (Ecuador)] – Galapagos (March) – Marquesas (April) – Tahiti (June 2015) – Tonga – [Bora Bora – Suwarrow – Tokelau – Tuvalu] – Fiji – Vanuatu – [Great Barrier Reef] – Torres Strait (October 2015) – Darwin – Indonesia – Singapore (January 2016) – [Thailand] – Andaman Islands – Maldives – India (February) – Dubai – Oman – Red Sea – Suez Canal (April 2016) – Mediterranean – Gibraltar (June 2016) – London (July 2016)

Southern route – Australia start

Sydney (August 2015) – Great Barrier Reef – Torres Strait – Darwin – Indonesia – Singapore (January 2016) – [Thailand] – Andaman Islands – Maldives – India (February) – Dubai – Oman – Red Sea – Suez Canal (April 2016) – Mediterranean – Gibraltar

Southern route – New York start

New York (October 2014) – Annapolis – Norfolk (November 2014) – Eastern Caribbean (December 2014-January 2015) – San Blas Islands – Panama (February 2015) – [La Libertad (Ecuador)] – Galapagos (March) – Marquesas (April) – Tahiti (June) – Tonga – [Bora Bora – Suwarrow – Tokelau – Tuvalu] – Fiji – Vanuatu – [Great Barrier Reef] – Torres Strait (October 2015) – Darwin – Indonesia – Singapore (January 2016) – [Thailand] – Andaman Islands – Maldives – India (February) – Dubai – Oman – Red Sea – Suez Canal (April 2016) – Mediterranean – Gibraltar

Southern route – Miami start

Miami (January 2015) – Havana – Jamaica – San Blas Islands – Panama (February 2015) – [La Libertad (Ecuador)] – Galapagos (March) – Marquesas (April) – Tahiti (June) – Tonga – [Bora Bora – Suwarrow – Tokelau – Tuvalu] – Fiji – Vanuatu – [Great Barrier Reef] – Torres Strait (October 2015) – Darwin – Indonesia – Singapore (January 2016) –[ Thailand ] – Andaman Islands – Maldives – India (February) – Dubai – Oman – Red Sea – Suez Canal (April 2016) – Mediterranean – Gibraltar