Tropical Waters

I have had several opportunities to consider our love of tropical waters recently. We were asked by a reader if we were interested in coming back to the PNW and although we love this region, I felt a resounding NO bursting from my throat (or rather, my typing fingers) that surprised me. I was surprised by the strength of my reaction because we loved cruising in this area, and it was so beautiful. I realized the reason for my strong reaction while I was editing some video a few days ago.

We are in love with tropical water -- Carol perhaps even more so than I am.

We have become accustomed to jumping off the boat into warm clear beautiful water, snorkeling, kiteboarding and kayaking in the same, and to enjoying views of the water from every angle: from the boat, from on top of a board, from a hike up to a peak, and even enjoying aerial views of the gorgeous lagoon waters via a GoPro zip tied to our kite.

Watch for the sting rays under the water - you can see several:

Now that we've found these tropical waters, cruising long-term in waters that we can't enjoy is not something we're willing to do. Sometimes the water might be dangerous, or polluted, and we may have short periods where we don't swim, but with the exception of short periods of living in cities, I don't see us staying in areas where we can't enjoy the water for long.

Some people reach the tropics and find themselves longing for high latitude sailing. We know a number of boats that have changed plans upon realizing that the heat isn't for them and that the water isn't that much of a draw.

But for us, it is a dream come true.

Wild West

We're running around taking full advantage of our time in this cold grey place Washington.

We've visited both the Scuttlebutt and Skookum breweries (Carol's hat in the left is from Skookum - replacing his two tattered caps on the boat). The Skookum brewery reminds me a lot of Bristol Brewery in Colorado Springs which was a favorite post-climbing spot of ours.

We also went to the hunting and fishing store, Cabellas, to drool over, and drop money on, fishing gear. Of course, while we were there we had to scope out all of the wildlife milling about. Also, we looked at the stuffed animals ;)

We've been checking off items on our list. We revisited one of our top 5 coffee shops in Seattle, Victrola, ate large burritos at Chipotle, watched some films at mega theaters.

One of the best parts about being here I have to say is taking a break from all of the harder parts of cruising.  This is going to be a good thing for us, energizing us to return. Right now we are not doing dishes by hand in a tiny sink, not carrying our laundry and our groceries on our back, and not sweating all day. I don't have to curl myself up into a strange position to reach whatever I dropped on the floor. Things don't break very often and when they do the solution is easier. I am cooking big messy things that are easier with a lot of counter space, and I play on the internet whenever I want without worrying about money or amps. I can call anyone I want and language isn't making my brain hurt. I can clear out our "to buy" list in a series of clicks.

When we go back we'll be over ready to be back and the colors of the water and sky will be more brilliant for having cleansed our palette with grey.

Gear Review: Rust Free Locks

We use about half dozen padlocks on our boat at various times for various reasons. We have locks for our lazarettes, our outboard motor (either on the dinghy or on the stern pulpit), we lock our kayak/dinghy to the boat with a bike cable and padlock if we leave it in the water at night*, and when bringing the dinghy/kayak to shore near civilization.

Our boat came with a set of locks. I have no idea how old they were but they weren't shiny when we bought the boat and we've put another 6 years of use on them. They work line new and haven't rusted. We only had 3 of these board and so we bought other padlocks as our needs grew.  All of the new padlocks rusted - it did not matter if they were called "marine grade" or "corrosion resistant". Once we had to borrow bolt cutters at the docks at Tofino so we could free our outboard motor from a lock that had rusted shut on the stern pulpit.  Each time we regretted not tracking down the brand the boat came with.

So, I went through the effort of tracking down the ones the boat had come with and just bought a handful to bring back with us. If you want to save yourself the time and money of buying and replacing crappy ones, buy yourself some Abus locks to start out with:

They come in various dimensions and aren't even that expensive as high end marine grade stuff goes (about $8) especially if you consider how many locks we bought and threw away.

*In each new anchorage, we use our judgment about whether we want to bring the dinghy and kayak on deck, lock them to the boat in the water, or just leave them tied up (not locked) in the water.

Cruisers are Unintentional Preppers

One fun thing about being back in N America is having a crash pad with mega-recordable-TV. Kind of fun and kind of scary really. I found myself watching "River Monsters" recently -- proof that I have too much free time.

I had never heard of the prepper phenomenon before this trip although as soon as I started seeing images I realized that I had known quite a few preppers in my life. Washington State and Colorado are good places to find natural born preppers.

I am not particularly prone to worrying about stuff like that and although I have a soft spot for a good zombie flick, that is as far as my zombiephilia (or really, zombiephobia) goes.

Still I was imagining a survey intended to determine whether you were a prepper, much like a symptom survey for depression and I started to realize that, without trying to be, I was already prepped.

Cruisers, how many of the following apply to you? Do you have:
  1. More than a few months worth of dry goods?
  2. A way of sustaining yourself without access to public electricity for at least a few months? 
  3. The ability to isolate yourself from mobs and contamination?
  4. The ability to make your own water?
  5. Knowledge about living off the land and/or sea in your local environment?
  6. Long range communication not based on cellular towers or satellites?
  7. An extensive medical kit?

The only way I think most cruisers aren't unintentionally prepared for disaster is in the arms and ammunition department.

On a not-completely-related note, for a preview of a post-apocalyptic Carol, you might recognize the wild haired man in the top photo of this article about mast climbing.

Shark Book

Carol and I do not have an abundance of reference books aboard SV Estrellita. For whatever reason, neither of us is generally that interested in the names of the cool fish and cool coral we see. We love snorkeling and diving and seeing all of the cool critters but we don't feel compelled to identify the species.

There are two exceptions to that rule. First, we like to know what kind of fish we've caught to eat and whether they are good eating. We started out with Sports Fish of the Pacific which was great for the coast of the Americas but is falling short in the South Pacific. Between this book and an old Grant's Guide to Fishes we are usually able to figure out what is on the hook. If anyone has a better suggestion we would love to hear it.

Second, a little out of fear and a little out of awe, we are motivated to know more about sharks. With the help of a birthday gift certificate from my fantastic friend J, I bought a great pocket sized shark book (Sharks - Collins Gem) with drawings and information for all known species of sharks. Plus, the book starts out with an overview of sharks, anatomical drawings, descriptions of how they swim and a lot of other interesting facts. Christmas came early!

Tragedies in the South Pacific


During the 2012 season we kept hearing about other boats' tragedies - each one a convincing reminder to us to be diligent and focused while cruising.

Below are four reports of vessels who went aground on reefs, reporting everything from only cosmetic damage to dismasting. We heard of at least twice as many groundings but won't mention the boat names of anyone who hasn't posted publicly about the grounding themselves.

For a few other newsworthy events this season, check out the following reports:

We don't want to be armchair sailors and judge anyone without knowing all of the details. We want to thank the people who posted about their groundings because they are important reminders and learning points for the rest of us.

On the subject, I recommend that people read Karen's letter about a vessel abandoned on the high seas (Windigo) as an educational thought exercise on our obligation as sailors if we abandon our ship. Scuttling isn't just a fun pirate word...

Bored? Costs.

Boredom is not a problem that Carol or I struggle with but I thought this was a very interesting reflective article. I'm certain that more people feel this way while cruising than admit it.

Bored Aboard: My Guilty Secret

For those of you who aren't familiar with the site, you should put Women & Cruising on your watch list.

The Cost of Cruising. On an unrelated note, I've been keeping our Cost of Cruising list updated and recently added a few more links. It is a list of cruising budgets published online - not dreams, or plans, but records of what people actually spent while cruising. It's become such a popular list, and ongoing, that I linked to it from the main page of this blog so you can check back to see if there are new additions. If you know of a budget I don't have on the list, please do send me the link.

Back in Western Washington

It has become trite to say, but still true, that it is bizarre to spend a day or two of airplane traveling and reverse the miles that it took us over a year to make in our sailboat. This time we went via Hawaii instead of Mexico but we are back in the Seattle/Vancouver region.

If you want to keep track of our movements more closely while we are here, "like" our facebook page for the boat.

We kept our eyes on the ball this first week and other than enjoying family we spent our time getting our application for a long stay visa in French Polynesia finished and submitted to the French Consulate in Vancouver. Done.

Now, we are turning our eyes to the rest of our to do list which involves making plans to see our friends, researching and buying all of the goodies we want to buy while we have access, and fitting in all of the civilization treats that we have been dreaming of.

Speaking of civilization, so far our return has been a bit anti-climactic in two ways. First, the things that we were dreaming of are without a doubt enjoyable, but a bit less exciting in person. Second, we haven't been away long enough for N America to feel particularly weird to us. We've noticed the physical differences of course, and it does seem like everyone is in an awful hurry, but we haven't been remote long enough for much of a shock on our return.

Stay tuned as I begin to process the video that we've taken over the last year and I finally have fast, free internet to upload it.

Back to make myself yet another latte with our new aerolatte.

Petting Valerie the Nurse Shark

Apataki Carenage (the haul out facility) has a pet shark. It is a 6 or so foot long nurse shark that comes around near sunset hoping that Papi will feed her some scraps. When we petted it, about a week ago, it felt like old cracked leather, except wet.

Right now we have arrived in Western Washington and dropped about 50F. Even though I grew up here, and it isn't very cold in Washington, my body is not happy. Still, I do enjoy using cozy things like "blankets" and "socks" again.


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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