Tag Archives: PNW

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.




Communication on a Boat

Leaving and pulling into our slip is always a high stress situation. We are a 40′ boat – technically more if you count the swim platform and dingy hanging off the back, so lets say 42′ (which is the overall length – or LOA that I give to marinas when reserving a slip). We are also 13 feet wide, in a 15 foot wide slip. You read that right. We’ve got about a foot on either side of the boat. Basically – enough room for fenders.  (And don’t get me started on the A frame structure of our slip that takes everything to a whole new level). So, try to picture a 42 foot boat backing out, or heading into a 50 foot waterway and needing to make two 90 degree turn to get into or out of Lake Union.

It’s high stress.

The first time we ever came into our slip was the day we brought our boat up from Olympia.  Our broker had secured us temporary covered moorage (covered was key as our deck needed some work) on Lake Union. I don’t think our broker even knew how difficult it would be to get into our slip, because it was also the first time he had ever seen it.  I recall how dicey it was getting in and remember him uttering the words: “there’s nothing I can do about it” (referring to the winds and currents as we came in that were really blowing us off coming in cleanly). Which at the time, I couldn’t grasp how there was nothing you could do about it, but after a year of going into and out of this slip, I get it now. Sometimes there really is nothing you can do about it. You’re at the mercy of so many things: wind, current, small space and slow speed. Once in our slip, I thought – “Terrific. We own a boat and have a spot on the very coveted Lake Union, but will never be able to get it out of this slip again”. I seriously thought we’d have to hire our broker to get us out again whenever we wanted to go for a cruise.

The short version is that we did indeed learn to get into and out of our own slip, but there was a lot of yelling in between.

Our first few times in and out were comical (in hindsight, naturally).  Once the engines were started up, we’d need to close the salon door so all the fumes wouldn’t go inside the boat and trigger the smoke alarms. So, I’d be in the cockpit (on the stern) and then open the door and yell at the top of my lungs to Steven up in the helm anything from:

“looking good, babe!”

“turn, NOW!”

“you’re super close to the boat in back”

or any variation of: “holy shit!”, “oh my god!”, “stop!”, “go!”, “turn!”.

Always with our boat hook at the ready to fend off from whatever may be in our way or vice versa.

We had no idea what we were doing or how to communicate with each other, but it involved a lot of yelling over the engine noise when I was on the stern and hand signals when I was on the bow. We had some hand signals figured out while pulling up anchor, and heading into Lake Union, but mostly it was frantic estimation and yelling (on my part!).

We finally purchased a headset, which has been a life (marriage) saver. So now – whenever we are docking, undocking, anchoring, pulling up – basically, anytime we are working on the boat, we’ve got the headsets synced.  There’s no more yelling, we can just talk to each other with normal voices. As someone who talks to themselves way more than she’d like to admit, I love having the headset on -there’s always someone there to answer questions and chat with while I organize the stern lines and pull up (or put out) the fenders, or talk about the folks in the very little boat that are trying to get into the locks before the big boats.

Once we had the headsets and we weren’t just yelling nonsensical shit at each other, I understood that Steven wanted very specific distances from things – the dock, another boat, etc. My assurances of: “you’re good babe”, or “you’re kinda close” weren’t cutting it. He wanted to know exactly how far away we were from something.

This was actually super difficult for me. I couldn’t estimate distances. Seriously, could not give him an estimate.  Even with the headsets on, docking and undocking was still stressful – I couldn’t think fast enough when he’d say “how many feet away am I?”

And so while backing in to a stern tie one day in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, I’m on the stern so I can throw someone our line, and he says, as I knew he’d say –  “how far am I from the dock”?

And I’m looking, and don’t exactly know – but as someone who really, really loves rearranging furniture at home, I knew exactly what would fit in the spot between the boat and the dock and said,

“You’re a couch away”.

This made perfect sense to him, and a new unit of measurement for Fortitude was born. We sometimes joke now about what kind of couch – A loveseat? A large sectional? A club chair? Figure if I ever say a barstool, we’re probably too close.