Five Things One is Sure to Experience While Sailing Down the Pacific Northwest Coast

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We, the SV Westy crew, recently sailed down the PNW Coast from Seattle to San Francisco, and here are a few things you can count on experiencing on this trip.

1)  Seas That Are As Confused As Fart In a Fan Factory  

The two night/three day passage from Neah Bay to New Port, Oregon is known to have seas that are very confused.  On our second day of these dancing seas, Jason says "I told you that they nickname this the Washing Machine right?"  Me "Uhmm, no."  We experienced two different swells that did not want to agree and wind waves that were not helping things.  The wind was pretty high for us and we ended up having to hand steer the whole time.  Welcome to coastal sailing!  I found that these circumstances helped me understand our boat much better and feel very confident on how it works with the ocean as it sails.  I also became much more confident in my sailing.

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2)  WHALE! 

Seeing sealife is a definite.  You can expect to see at least a few of these: whales, porpoises, seals, sharks, sunfish, and salmon.  We had a pretty epic first 12 hours.  Leaving Neah Bay we had to motor into the fog that was like split pea soup.  We rounded the corner buoy marking the entry into the Pacific Ocean (only seen on the chart plotter due to fog) and gave a toast to the sea and naming Westy.  The fog started to let up after a bit and we were able to view some whales spouting and porpoises enjoying the currents.  Then, as I was steering I heard a poof right in front of the boat and then was stunned to see a whale coming up to breath 10' feet in front of us.  "Whale!" I shouted and I turned the boat 90 degrees to avoid hitting it. Jason was coming up the cabin steps in time to turn and see it.  With our hearts pounding we went away from the whale for a good distance.  My first thought as my first night shift was coming was hoping we don't encounter another sleeping whale again in the dark.  Once the fog was cleared and the wind picked up, we started sailing.  Within five minutes of sailing Aksel's fishline connected with a salmon.  Fish was on for dinner and Aksel was super proud of his first ever fish catch within hours of our trip starting.  Talk about epic! 

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3)  Are Those Fishing Boats Stalking Me?

There are fishing boats everywhere in the northwest.  At night it started to feel like they were stalking me as I noticed on our AIS that they were never leaving and seemed to be moving in the same direction or zig-zagging in an unpredictable pattern.  After a while, I decided I would look at it as my own private fishing boat escort down the coastline.  I started calling their blue boats on my chart plotter by name and wonder what kind of fish they were finding.  We hardly ever really saw them besides on AIS and maybe faint lights in the distance, but one time there was a big fishing boat with crazy bright lights; it was my paparazzi.  I have to say, it was nice to come into Californian waters and have the fishing boat extravaganza considerably less but the empty silent waters were only to be replaced with military missile range areas to be aware of.

4)  Please Stop The Rattling!

Once a ship comes out into the deep blue ocean, it moves a lot more and in more ways then one might expect.  I felt pretty lucky that we didn't really have much noise and rattling on our ship.  The previous owners had used cut up non-slip rug mats and placed them between all the dishes and made cup holders out of foam swimming noodles to help keep everything in place and quiet.  Also, we had our storage pretty packed so things couldn't move much!  But we heard stories from other sailors who's bottles and glasses were rattling endlessly and noises of items that had shifted loose and rolled around with the rolling of the waves.  Then, it can take hours sometimes to figure out what exactly was making that annoying noise, while you're trying to get a few hours of sleep before your night shift starts.

5)  First Offshore Salty Sailor Badge

Once this feat of braving the open ocean, confused seas, and overnight passage making finds you finally at a safe harbor there is a strong personal sense of accomplishment.  Of personal growth and inner strength that wasn't there before.  We didn't sink, nothing broke beyond repair and we are still mentally sane!  In New Port, OR. we pulled in and met a few boats we already knew from the CoHo Ho Ho sailing seminar classes and we met a few new boats that (we didn't know it at the time) would become great boat friends as we all sail down the coast towards Mexico. At the docks, there was a strong sense of celebration for everyone's achievement and comradery that we all made it through this first phase and now it is time to share our stories, rest and prepare for the next phase of earning our Offshore Salty Sailor badges.

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Transitions....

There are a lot of transitions when settling into a new lifestyle.  Moving from a home to a boat seems to have countless transitions.  One of the main transitions is living in a smaller space which leads to having less stuff.  We have always liked living in smaller spaces.  Our two-story house in Seattle is about 775 sf., but we cut our living space down to about 230 sf in our 35' sailboat; I just measured it.

Living in our House  ---    Living in our Boat

  • 775 sf house             ---    230 sf living space sailboat
  • 10 cuft frig/freezer   ---    6 cuft frig
  • Endless sewer           ---    10 gal holding tank
  • Endless water           ---   70 gal water tank – enough for our needs.
  • 40 gal Hot Water     ---    6 gal & only when motoring or at shore power
  • Endless Power          ---    303 amp hrs w/ solar panels – super great!
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I love all of these transitions and adaptations because we have to now be aware of how much we are using and how much we need to conserve.  This is also something that is kept in mind when someone is buying and outfitting a boat.  The buyer needs to make sure all the needs are met and realistic for themselves.  Some people don't even have a frig on their boat and some people have a full frig and freezer with an ice maker.  So, we made sure that all our limitations were something we could be comfortable with adjusting to for our new lifestyle. 

Aksel sold 80% of his toys and stuff to buy a Nintendo switch. Win - Win for purging!

Aksel sold 80% of his toys and stuff to buy a Nintendo switch. Win - Win for purging!

Our white board of goals and 'to-do' lists for our trip preparation in our house.

Our white board of goals and 'to-do' lists for our trip preparation in our house.


Along with the transition of space and things we use on a daily basis, there is also the emotional and metal portion.  As we prepped and researched for this trip, we knew a big piece of it was to help our son, Aksel, adapt to this new home and lifestyle.  Starting in college, Jason and I have adapted to new homes almost yearly and normally on the smaller side.  So, the change is not as big to us and we have dealt with change a lot in our lives.  But this is Aksel's first move, first new home and to put on top of it a new way of living.  We read the book Voyaging with Kids by Behan Gifford, Sara Dawn Johnson & Michael Robertson that was great to help us prepare, plus we read articles and chatted with sailing families in person, and online, for suggestions and experiences.  

Some things we did to help with the emotional and mental transition for our son, and us, was that we involved him with the planning and preparing.  Talking about the trip as being a part of our next step in life and what it might be like, what is exciting and is different.  We had a map up on a wall to select places we want to visit and understand the distance better.  We met up with other kid boats that were doing the same trip.  We moving onto and lived on the boat, months before leaving to adjust to it while we were at the dock.  This also made it so he could share his new space with friends and family before we left. We did all of these things but it is still hard for Aksel to leave his family, friends, and first home behind; he is homesick.  We have lots of pictures of home and friends to look at, and we are keeping in touch with people.  But being homesick is another transition that is hard, especially the first time.  It really just takes lots of time, heartbreak, and patience.

Aksel and his cousins on a exploration of the sandpit.

Aksel and his cousins on a exploration of the sandpit.

Boat kids enjoying their own world in a cool sandpit; Newport, OR.

Boat kids enjoying their own world in a cool sandpit; Newport, OR.

The things that have helped us start to overcome this has been meeting other kid boats, finding a place to explore and play, and good food & sleep.  Sleep is so important for all of us and it is easy to forget how tiring everything ‘new' can be; an emotional and mental strain.   We got lucky meeting our first three kid boats in Newport after the first week of our shakedown cruise in the San Juans & Gulf Islands.  It has been a great clan to travel with down the coast. 

Solar esclipse watching on SV Westy!

Solar esclipse watching on SV Westy!

Aksel & Jack (SV Tuwamish) 

Aksel & Jack (SV Tuwamish) 

For lots of transitions, time is really the only thing that moves us through the process until we become comfortable and it feels like it is part of our everyday life.  It seems that people say about 2-3 months to get really settled into a new lifestyle; find the new routines and adjustments.  I think that sounds about right for us right half the time, and the other half seems like it might not ever happen; that is where patience comes in!  Some things are starting to feel like we have always done it this way like our slow mornings and some things are still taking time to get used to, like school on the boat.  I am excited to see how we feel in another month.  Fingers crossed we will have fully settled into our new cruiser lifestyle.

Cork launching with vinegar and baking soda; beach time is always fun!

Cork launching with vinegar and baking soda; beach time is always fun!

Our plan is to not have a plan.

After spending nearly 20 years clocking in and clocking out of a 9-5 job, our goal for the near future is to make fewer commitments of our time.  Now that our lives on a sailboat will largely be dictated by the weather, making plans would not be of much help anyway.

As many of you know, April and I have a small addiction of starting businesses. Having run a food truck, an online retail shop and multiple real estate businesses, we have made the commitment to one another that we will NOT start another business for at least 1 YEAR. (Let’s see if we can hold to that.)  Other than that we have no major plans.

So where will we go?

Without a formal plan, we hope to travel at our own pace to whatever locations peaks our curiosity.  But like I had said above, life will be dictated by the weather. With any luck, we won’t see “Winter” until sometime in 2020.

If we end up with a full circumnavigation of the world, we will need to follow weather windows. This allows us to safely travel across each of the oceans at the ideal time of the year.  This is the primary factor for leaving Seattle in August.  By doing this, we can expect reasonable wind and sea conditions on our way out of the North Pacific. This is harder to find during the winter months.  It is this strategy that we will continue to keep in the forefront of our minds as we travel west for the next 3-5 years.  

Below is a rough map of the direction we MIGHT sail. But as the old saying goes, “All plans are written in sand at low tide.”

How much does it cost to sail around the world?

Money is a funny thing. We all think we need a lot of it, but no one can agree on how much.

If you asked any sailor, “why don’t you quit your job and sail around the world”, I guarantee that nearly all of them will answer, “Money!”

When April and I started thinking about the idea of sailing around the world, the first question that came to mind was, “Can we afford it?”  When we started asking the question, “How much does it cost to sail around the world?” We kept getting the same response, “As much as you have”. For me, this was really frustrating. Not enough people were willing to share their actual experiences when it comes to the cost of cruising.

Some costs were easy to figure out. Understanding the costs of purchasing and outfitting a boat were fairly simple to determine. With a few hours online at Yacht World and West Marine it was easy to understand the hard costs of buying and outfitting a boat. But understanding the soft cost of living this lifestyle proved much more difficult.

Admittedly the answer to this question is not simple. Each individual has a different location, a different boat and a different lifestyle than the next guy. Therefore we realized if we wanted a detailed answer, we needed to ask a more detailed question.  So the next question we askd was, “How much does it cost to maintain a middle class lifestyle, on a small boat, while sailing around the world”. This is where things started to come into focus. After getting information from at least a dozen sailing families, we averaged out the answers and came up with $17.

No really, $17.

$17 per person, per day. This number was far less that what we had expected. We had found that some families would spend 5 times this amount and some spent a small fraction of this number, but overall this was the number their costs averaged out to.

We were being told that for approximately $1500 per month, our little family of 3 could cover the cost of food, insurance, basic boat maintenance and other misc. costs associated with cruising.  

The catch?

Nearly all of the sailing families we had contacted pointed out three key items that would be required in order to keep our costs down;

Maintaining your own boat

Anchoring out

Cooking your own food  

Buy from our perspective, these three seemed reasonable.

Once we had this critical piece of information we realized that our dream of sailing around the word was not only financially possible, but was within our reach. From here the budgeting for our trip became straightforward. We simply multiplied our monthly cost, by the amount of time we wanted to travel Then added in the cost of our boat and the refit. Just like that, we had our saving target. Next we set up a weekly transfer from our checking account to our savings. This not only made the process easier to track but also reduced the urge to over spend each week, knowing that at the end of the week we had to pay ourselves and the money was going to be transferred whether we liked it or not. Fast forward several years and we now have our trip savings topped up and ready to go, (with a little extra to account for inflation).

So did we get it right? I don’t know, but we will soon find out. In addition to sharing our experiences along the journey, we hope to use this website to share the actual costs of sailing around the world. It is our goal to share our overall monthly expenses, as well as what we are actually spending the money on.  With this, we hope to show others the true cost of cruising, and with any luck help them start on their own adventure.