05/11/2010, Port Townsend
We have departed! So far we are just 35 miles North of Seattle in the beautiful Port Townsend. It has been a hectic last three months with Eric working harder than ever through his official last day at BlackRock on April 9th and then continuing to work... on our boat... sometimes starting as early as 5:30am, for this last month before casting off.
Our transition to living aboard has been messy so far. We don't have everything stowed, we don't have all our rigging installed, kids miss their friends and teachers at school, the weather is bitter cold and rainy, but we did this for a reason and while the kids fight as they try to go to sleep in the small Pullman berth they share, I'll try to recount some of the reasons:
1. Eric and I have been dreaming about this kind of boating adventure since we were married almost 13 years ago.
2. It hit me last year as I sailed from Fiji to New Zealand with Mahina Expeditions that if I took off in a car I could only drive the edges of one continent, but in a boat, I could go almost anywhere.
3. I received so many speeding tickets in the last two years that I had to leave town in order to avoid losing my license.
4. The biggest reason is actually something that Eric likes to say: If we sail to Australia with our kids at ages 10, 6, and 5 they will know at an early age just what is possible.
One of the benefits of planning an extended trip away from home is the inspiration for so many appreciations from friends and neighbors. We've been toasted and celebrated. We've been called brave; we've been called crazy. There were gifts and emails, letters, and CD's filled with music and books on tape. One of our dear Sherpa friends shared some Tibetan prayer flags with us. She draped silk scarves around our necks just like her husband and relatives experience each year as they prepare to ascend Everest. She also gave me some very special seeds that have been blessed by monks. She told me that I can shake a few in the sea if I need a little help and I can throw the whole lot in if the situation warrants; this gives me great comfort. We've lived the last few weeks with an abundance of support, well-wishing and love. You know who you are - thank you so much!
After spending a month or so in the great care of Miller & Miller Boatworks in Seattle, we've now stopped in Port Townsend to visit with our riggers (Port Townsend Rigging) and our sail maker (Port Townsend Sails). They are helping us finish the details on our 1984 refitted Hans Christian 33. She's a lovely, sea-kindly little boat filled with 10 years of family memories sailing in the San Juans and briefly, the Gulf Islands. With expertise and counseling from all three shops, we'll be in the best shape we can be to set off on our extended cruise.
One of the first things we learned about cruising when we began reading the literature is that the most successful cruisers are also the most flexible. We are not the most flexible couple by nature: I like control and Eric likes stability, but we are trying to go with the flow and suspend our expectations in order to let a safe and enjoyable trip unfold. That said, our plans are roughly to set sail shortly for the Port of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. My Dad, a sailor with thirty plus years of experience, will join us for that leg. I call him our "training wheels." We hope arrive in Radio Bay, Hilo Harbor sometime mid-June. We'll stay long enough to visit the volcanoes, re-provision and fix anything (of course something) that needs fixing before casting off again to even warmer weather. We've been saying that our next stop would be Rangiroa, Tuamotus and it still may be, but we've gone back to Jimmy Cornell's book, the bible (these days) of ocean passage planning and may find that a course for the Cook Islands is more pleasant and gives us a bit longer to linger in more remote places like Tonga and Fiji rather than the more tourist-frequented islands of Tahiti and Moorea. Can't say what we'll actually do until we do it, but we expect that sometime by mid-November we'll be pulling into our berth in Bundaberg, Queensland Coast, Australia for a 5-6 month sojourn while we wait for sailing season to start again in April.
Christine and I are actively getting ready: we have home school materials for the kids (9,6 and 4), are planning provisions, and I am spending weekends installing and upgrading gear on the boat.
Our rough plan is to sail from Seattle to Port Townsend in early May, spend a few days with our riggers. We will move on to Port Angeles where we will pick up Dale, Christine's father, who will join us for the leg to Hawaii. From there to Neah Bay to wait for our weather window. We expect arrive in Hawaii in early June. After a short break, we will sail to French Polynesia where we hope to spend a little more time. These first two legs will take around 20 days each. Yes, we will sail at night, and one of us does have to be awake at all times. From there, our plan is to island hop on short (2-4 day passages) through the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Somoa, Fiji, New Caledonia, and land somewhere on the Queensland Coast to wait out the cyclone season. Around April of 2011, we will begin working our way back through the Pacific Islands and home. This is a rough route, riding the trade winds across the Pacific. I am sure that weather patterns will alter our route and that the people we meet and experience may also alter our plans
We did extensive maintenance and upgrades on our 25 year old boat, including new rigging, new bowsprit, several new sails, new electronic instruments (radar, chart plotter, wind instruments, etc.), a desalinater, more efficient refrigeration, HAM radio, new VHF, new liferaft, new dinghy, new batteries, and of course, bottom paint. Not all of these are complete, and we have a lot to do before May.