Category Archives: Cruising

Planning a Trip*

*Full disclosure here: we didn’t actually plan our first trip, it was planned for us & we jumped on it:

Ten months after purchasing our boat and putting in a little over 100 hours of cruising time (mostly winter & spring) in and around Seattle, we embarked on a two week cruise to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington and up into the Gulf Islands of BC off of Vancouver Island.

This trip was what we had hoped to do when we got the boat. Even though the surveyors told us the day of the sea trial that she was ready to go to Alaska, we certainly were not. The San Juans were much closer and therefore a more realistic (although still felt slightly lofty to us newbies) goal. Anyhow -in late spring we joined a yacht club and discovered that the (nearly) exact trip we had been wanting to do that first summer was on their cruising schedule. Bingo.

Even though the itinerary was all laid out, there was still much for us to do in preparation (which was all part of the learning experience that we were hoping for). After pouring over charts and cruising guides and debating about whether we’d go other places and just join the group here and there, and also making sure someone was home to take care of our 3 dogs (which we very easily decided were not coming with us due to the fact that we’d be at anchor for half of the trip), we finally decided to just do the whole damn trip, exactly as it was planned.

I totally studied the anchorages and marinas in our cruising guides, and bookmarked them with post its for easy and quick access when we were pulling in somewhere, (and it was a good thing we had several guides because they all weren’t in the same one – more on cruising guides in another post).  I reviewed procedures for crossing into Canada (several times – we are not Nexus Pass holders, so procedure is different from those who are), Steven did some last minute repairs and prep to boat, he bought a Samsung tablet for the sole purpose of having Navionics on it, and so we had something to bring up to the flybridge with us if we wanted, and he entered each of our legs into the program. We calculated the engine time and distance planned so we could figure out how much fuel we needed to get – a good rule of thumb is: 1/3 to get you there, a third to get you home and a third if it all goes to shit. We calculated that we needed 125 gallons. We actually already had approximately 400 gallons on board (most in the belly tank), so we just put 50 in each tank (port and starboard) and called it good. Fortitude cruises at 7 knots and burns 3.5 gallons an hour. We provisioned (harder than you’d think), packed and were finally ready to go. Everything at home was taken care of, all we had to do was call an UBER (didn’t want to leave our car in a city lot for two weeks!) to take us to our marina. You’d have thought we were moving onto our boat with all the stuff we piled into the trunk of our drivers’ car – including a full length mirror and a lamp I really wanted to put on the boat.

Pulling out of our slip that day was at the same time super exciting and a little scary. Which, I guess pretty much sums a boating in a way — probably wouldn’t be prudent to approach new adventures without a healthy dose of apprehension to keep you sharp and on your toes.




In Praise of the Yacht Club

We got our boat in late fall 2017 with the goal of taking her to the San Juans in the summer of 2018. At the time, it was a fairly random (and lofty) goal as we were new to trawlers and totally new to boating in the Pacific Northwest. We just figured – the islands are out there, we should go. We had no plan other than first cruising around Lake Union and Lake Washington for a while, coupled with some trips out to Bainbridge, to get a feel for the boat and figure out what the heck we were doing; but the San Juans (and beyond) were a big reason why we bought a boat over a weekend cabin, and we were looking forward to getting out there even if we didn’t quite know the first step.

On one of our first trips out to Bainbridge, we saw a completely empty dock and headed in to tie up – we had some friends on board and were looking forward to lunch and a little walk around Winslow Way. As we approached the dock, a man came out, frantically waving us off – and yelling in no uncertain terms that that particular dock was only for members of one of Seattle’s many Yacht Clubs, and we were certainly not one of them. We backed off and went to grab a mooring ball in the harbor.

And so, after we got waived off that gorgeously empty dock, I started to wonder if joining a yacht club was something we should maybe look into, even though we didn’t feel that we were yacht club people.  But we realized it might be a good idea to join a group of folks around here who had been there, done that and could guide us into the world of boating in the PNW.  Next up came the Google searches,  emails to clubs, and open houses to meet folks. There is no shortage of yacht clubs in Seattle – some offering cheap moorage, many offering none, some with great clubhouses, some not so much.  Short version here is that one day while heading from our slip out to Lake Washington, I noticed a neat little clubhouse tucked back along the shore just before a bridge and made a mental note to check them out – we went to an open house and found our people. Laid back, fun, diverse -not at all the marble-mouthed vision I had in my head, and next thing I knew we had joined a yacht club, and I still feel super weird about saying that – sometimes instead, calling it “our boat club”.

Anyhow – at one of the very first meetings at our new boat/yacht club, the cruising calendar was announced; and there it was, at the end of August: a two week cruise north to the San Juan Islands and Canada.  Sign us up. We are in.

This was perfection – we could go on this cruise and learn from others how this whole boating, cruising thing is done. That was the expectation. The unexpected part was making what I feel will be lifelong friends. I’ll post about our 2 week cruise on the blog,  but  for right now, cannot state enough how awesome it was to embark on such a trip with about 7 other boats. More stories of the trip to come. And I hope, many more over the years!

So, as someone who was more than a little anti-Yacht Club to begin with, here are my tips for finding your perfect Yacht Club:

  1. Feel like I’m really stating the obvious here, but research what’s available in your area.
  2. Know what you’re looking for. Moorage? Reciprocity? Social Scene? Cruising? This will help narrow your search down.
  3. Only in it for the reciprocity? Check to make sure the places you want to go are the places with which the club has reciprocity.
  4. If you’re looking for a club that cruises/sails a lot, make sure they have lots of trips scheduled, and that members actually participate.
  5. Read everything about the club when visiting the website – we were able to easily decide that some just weren’t for us based on website info alone, narrowing down the search, and saving a visit to an open house.
  6. When you find some that look good – do go their open house or event for prospective members, its the best way to see if there’s a fit. Are they your people? You’ll know it pretty quickly.

As reluctant as I was to join a yacht club, I definitely drove the bus on the whole endeavor. Steven’s got big plans for our future in boating – and sure, we could muddle through stuff and figure it out, but thought it would be more beneficial (and more fun), to make some new friends and learn from others along the way.



The Delivery Run

We bought our boat in Olympia, Washington and needed to bring it up to Lake Union in Seattle. A 24 nm trip that took about 8 hours.  We brought along our broker who served as Captain and general hand-holder for the trip. He took us out of the boathouse in Olympia and through the Ballard Locks and into our home slip, but for everything in between, the boat was in our hands.

We had a quarter mile visibility for the first 4 hours of the trip. They say ignorance is bliss and that certainly applied to this situation. We probably should have waited for the fog to clear, but we were so excited – and our Captain assured us we’d be fine, so off we went. We were indeed fine as we had working radar and a working horn (which we used a couple of times signal oncoming boats that we saw on the radar). We’ve since learned that you are supposed to signal every two minutes in that type of fog. We’ve also since learned that we learn something new on every.single.trip.


The fog made the first half of the trip ethereal and otherworldly. It was so quiet except for the drone of the engine and an occasional horn. You couldn’t tell the difference between water or sky. It was wild to see the blip of a boat on the radar off in the distance and then watch the shadow pass by – only seeing the details of the boat as you passed each other. The first 4 hours passed by slowly at 4 knots. The fog lifted by the time we got to the Tacoma Narrows to reveal a gorgeous, bluebird day.

We pinched ourselves throughout the whole trip – seeing Mt. Rainier and then our beautiful city in the distance. Entering the Ballard Locks was completely surreal as going to the locks with visiting friends is a terrific and fascinating tourist activity here in Seattle; and now here we were – on the water in our boat, being watched over by tourists and good friends who came to see us come home.

We’ve now been through the locks a total of 19 times. Every single time we learn something new. This first time was at the same time exhilarating and supremely nerve wracking – especially for Steven for whom it took several tries to get his line around a bollard with a captive audience watching! They’d collectively sigh in defeat every time he missed, but gave him a nice rousing cheer once he finally got the line on.

First time through the locks! Once tied up the the small lock, you can relax a bit.
First time seeing the city from the vantage point of our boat

Once through the locks and the shipping canal, we turned south into Lake Union and I caught a glimpse of the very top of Rainier past the city, then the skyline and finally, the Space Needle — I was out on the bow jumping up and down at this point. Nevermind the fact that I still to this day (and certainly that day), pinch myself that we get to live in Seattle, but now I was pulling into Lake Union on.our.boat. It was unreal.