We have created a new web site of our own and are moving the content on these pages to Cruising Lealea The move will streamline and clean up the this site and give us more space and more freedom and allow us a more interactive presence on the web. We hope you will stop by for a visit and follow our new interactive blog, videos and articles.
Aloha no ka'kou
Chuck and Laura
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Refitting in Port Townsend
The watch below
Sunset at sea
Not as bad as it looks
Eye on the compass
Lealea in Port Angeles
At Port Angeles
Chuck, April 18, 2007
In the Beginning….
Of course it all started many, many years ago for me. I can’t really remember exactly when I got the bug but it probably dates to the early 1960’s. The credit (Or blame, as it were) has to go to Gardner McKay and his television show, “Adventures in Paradise”. If you never saw the show you missed a real treat. Gardner played Captain Adam Troy of the 82 foot schooner “Tiki”. The plot was, basically, just him sailing around the South Pacific in search of cargo, passengers and adventure. Many years later, in about 1990, I had the good fortune to meet Gardner McKay in Hawaii. It seems that we have a common interest, sea kayaking, and, I discovered, a few mutual friends. Gardner is a fascinating man and I have a couple of great stories involving him. Buy me a couple of beers the next time we’re in port and I’ll tell you all about it.
Cruising the Pacific in my own boat remained just a dream while I finished growing up and stayed on the back burner through my fifteen-year career in the US Army. Then, while recovering from knee surgery at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, I noticed the boats out on the ocean and I remembered the dream. I had time on my hands and access to a library so I started reading. I devoured Hiscock, the Pardeys, Tristan Jones, Joshua Slocum and anything else about cruising I could get my hands on. I resolved to own a forty foot ketch someday and to go cruising just like Captain Adam Troy.
Life went on, as it tends to do when you’re not paying attention. Fast forward to 1990. Now out of the Army for ten years and with a good job in Honolulu, I started looking for a boat. I had a small inheritance but not enough for a forty foot ketch in seaworthy condition. A friend of my boss got tired of listening to me talk about my dream of sailing and said to me one day “Why don’t you buy my boat?”. “What kind of boat is it.” I asked. “An Albin Vega 27” was the answer and the price was just right for my budget. “But it’s too small.” I complained. “Nonsense!” he replied. He was right. I moved aboard on April 1st 1990 and found the hoard of VODCA Newsletters stashed in the locker under the forward bunk. I dashed off a check to Sid Rosen.
Now that I had the boat, the dream became a goal. I began developing a plan to achieve it. The plan has changed over the years but, surprisingly, not much:
Prepare the boat while securing enough capital investments to yield sufficient income to support the cruising life. (See Annie Hill’s “Voyaging on a small income”)
I initially decided that I needed $100,000 but increased that when Laura joined the crew. I figured that about $10,000 a year would be enough with no recurring bills to pay. Although my job provided a very good profit sharing plan, I learned all I could about investing and put away every penny I could scrape together.
Meanwhile, I made a list of everything that needed to be done to the boat and all the gear I would need. While toiling at my job earning the money I needed, I worked on crossing off items on the list.
First Question: How do we finance this? edit. This was written in early 2007 and the economic situation has changed. The basic principles, however, remain sound.
After talking at length with lots of cruisers over the years and asking pointed questions about costs and financial arrangements, we have determined that almost everyone cruising full-time today, at least those passing through Hawaii, is doing it on about US$6000 per year and virtually everyone we spoke to about this was cruising in much larger (More expensive in every way) boats than the Vega. This of course presupposes that we will be most often anchoring out rather than staying at marinas. We will not be flying home for visits or frequenting bars, restaurants, hotels or shopping malls.
Many people I know could simply sell their house, invest the proceeds and live off the income generated by their investments. We didn’t have a house to sell but I did have a profit sharing retirement plan at work that promised to provide a sufficient nest egg. Younger cruisers have told us that there is no shortage of temporary work to be found that can be used to top off the cruising kitty when needed and virtually everyone told us not to worry about the money.
Of course it makes a big difference whether you intend to make cruising a permanent lifestyle change or you intend to cruise for a couple of years then return to your shore based life. You will have to evaluate your situation and your personal goals and decide for yourself. If you view cruising as an extended vacation rather than a lifestyle change it will probably cost more.
First, decide how much capital you will need. My bank currently offers 5.5% on CDs. That means that $100,000 deposited will yield $5,500 per year; enough for the frugal cruiser. Talk to a financial advisor or educate yourself, as I did, and start investing. Mama always said "Put away ten cents of every dollar you get your hands on." If I had listened to her, I would have been able to go cruising twenty five years ago! If you haven't already, start NOW and put a monthly savings amount in your budget. That's all the financial advice you get from me.
Getting the Boat Ready
If you already have the boat, you can easily make a list of what needs to be done and what equipment needs to be purchased to get her ready for cruising; don't go overboard on the gear. Read on for my recommendations. Take your list out once a week and cross off items as you go. Try to make a little progress every week. A good place to start is by reading Nick and Jenny Coghlan's advice on preparing for offshore in the Jun/July 1990 issue of the VODCA Newsletter which can be found in the VORM and in Tony Skidmore's excellent account of his circumnavigation on the Voyages page.
The first step is to haul out at Ala Wai Marine to have the bottom cleaned and fresh anti-fouling paint applied. We will be installing some new equipment, changing through-hull fittings and sea cocks and getting Lealea surveyed.
After provisioning we will sail for Puget Sound and the annual Pacific Northwest VEGAtarian Rendezvous at Fisherman’s Bay, Lopez Island, WA the last weekend of June. The voyage will take approximately four weeks. We plan to spend time with friends and family in Victoria, Vancouver, Gig Harbor and Seattle and cruising the San Juan islands before heading South, down the coast, stopping occasionally along the way, to San Diego where we will join the Baja Ha-Ha cruising rally and race to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in October. From Cabo we intend to make for French Polynesia to explore the Marquesas, Tahiti, Moorea etc. By then we will have extended, modified or abandoned our original plan. Eventually, we will make our way to New England and our farm in Vermont. At this point, we expect that to take two or three years.
We'll post any changes to The Plan here.
We've decided against allowing reader comments here because we will not be able to moderate or post timely answers. We will check our email whenever possible so feel free to email us if you like. Just please understand that we may be at sea for several weeks at a time without being able to respond.
Everything went fine, according to plan that is, until we reached the outer channel marker buoy departing from Ala Wai Boat Harbor. I expected to get seasick; I always do, but I never imagined that I would remain so for twenty one days (A new personal record). Nor did I anticipate that it would ultimately take us fifty five days to reach Cape Flattery.
We missed the Rendezvous by three weeks and arrived with a damaged boat that will likely require two or three weeks (In fact, we spent five months in Port Townsend refitting the boat) to repair burning up much of the remaining cruising season. All this means that the original plan to head South before Winter after cruising the San Juans for two months is completely blown. Either we must leave the Pacific Northwest without exploring the area or we must stay until next Summer.
We have elected to stay so we can take our time cruising this beautiful area and give it the attention it deserves. After all, we are not in a hurry. That's why they call it "Cruising".
As of January 1st, 2009 we are in Friday Harbor. Laura is working at West Marine and we will be moving to Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle in a few days where Laura will take over management of the West Marine store. Our boatyard bills and my illness have put us a little behind the curve but we expect to resume our journey South next year while we enjoy all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Until The Plan requires further revision in response to events and changing circumstances.