A little over 10,000. That’s how many blue water miles I’ve racked up since I started sailing. In preparing my Sea Service forms for my Captain’s License application, I’ve had to mentally trek back through my many offshore passages and day-sails to calculate the necessary “days underway” that I need for my USCG 6-pack, and it’s been a very fun journey. In order to meet the USCG licensing requirements for a 6-pack, I was required to have 360 days on the water, with 90 of those days falling in the last three years and 90 of those days being in ocean or “near coastal” waters. Luckily for me, the majority of my sailing has occurred in only the last three years so the first portion of that requirement was easy for me to meet. (It actually shocks me some days to look back and see how much sailing I’ve done so recently. When you look at the big picture, I really am fairly new to all of this.)
But boy did I take to it! The day we splashed and re-named our Niagara, just three days after my 31st birthday, May 31, 2013. With only 400 nm under my belt at the time. What a ride it’s been!
If any of you are thinking about going for your Captain’s License too, you may be thinking: “What is considered a ‘day underway’ and what does ‘near coastal waters’ mean?” Good questions. According to my research and the folks at Mariner’s, a “day underway” is “at least four hours underway,” and “near coastal” waters means seaward of the boundary line. The boundary line for the western coast of Florida, which is where I’ve done a good bit of my blue water sailing, is 15 nm. Unfortunately, I had not kept up with my sea time from the start. I would have definitely done that if I had it to do over again because a) it’s humbling and rewarding to look back and reflect on prior passages and b) it’s good to keep up with your sea time in case you ever need to apply it for something like acquiring your captain’s license. I would recommend any of you out there who may be thinking of getting some accreditation in the marine industry someday keep up with your sea time and have the captains you sail under sign off for you each time you complete a passage. Here is the Sea Service form the USCG requires for obtaining any license.
You’ll see for each vessel, they ask your “average distance offshore.” I’ll tell you it was a very cool moment when I was filling out the form for Yannick and I had to think … my average distance offshore during those 30 days across the ocean, had to be at least 1,000 nm+. That’s wild but so exciting! I have also since bought a log book so I can do a short, one page write-up on each of the passages I have made, the dates, nautical miles, destination, and one or two memorable moments from the passage. It’s fun to go back through when I’m feeling nostalgic—or just a little too landlocked—and let my memories take me back to blue waters.
Sunrise on our way to Cuba, December 2016.
It’s been an enlightening, educational and humbling process going back through all of my sea time and reflecting back on those passage. In doing so, I thought it would be fun to share with you all, the many lessons I have learned from the many captains I have sailed under, the primary being my person, my partner, my forever adventure buddy: Phillip.
Where to begin … To the man who—when I come barreling out of a slip at 5 kts and almost take out three boats with both my bow and stern—will say: “It was my fault, honey, I should have … ” Phillip has had such patience with me from the beginning. And because we were both so new to the liveaboard cruising lifestyle, it has been so much fun to learn, try, screw up and grow together, both of our hearts 100% invested in each other and our beautiful, frustrating boat. The greatest lesson I have learned from Phillip is that no matter how hard, or trying or scary any aspect of cruising may be—from running aground, to docking debacles, to discovering you have rotten stringers—it will always be easier, less frightening and more fun to tackle when we do it together. To my forever buddy and the many more adventures, mishaps and lessons we have in store. Cheers!
March, 2016: Our first time (and drink – thanks B!) out on the hook after three months, re-building our rotten stringers, re-rigging and conquering about 1,000 other projects at the yard. Ahhhhh …..
Kevin has been on this journey with us from the start, from our first boat-shopping days to the purchase of our 93.46% perfect boat and he taught us so much along the way, particularly on defining our cruising goals and how we really want to spend our time on the boat. The best thing I learned from Kevin? “Just shove it out.” A great de-docking technique that will guarantee no wayward backing or unwanted collisions. Fun video for you here from one of our day sails with Kevin aboard his stunning Pearson 36 cutter, Pan Dragon, where Kevin demonstrates this super simple, never-fail trick. Just shove it out!
“Go slow, hit slow.” The best thing Brandon ever taught me? Only go the speed at which you’re willing to crash into something. That’s a good lesson. We also learned a thousand things from Brandon during our time at the shipyard, one of the most important was: Always label anything you take apart, so you’ll know exactly how it all goes back together. That way you won’t have to, you know, re-step your mast just to flip a stupid little aluminum plate ninety degrees. That was fun. But, one final, very important lesson from B: How to dock under sail. “Because what you are you going to do when your engine goes out?” Brandon asked as he shamed us into finally, for the time, docking under sail (fun video of that adventure for you here). And, notice he said “when” not “if.” Because it’s going to happen. It’s a boat, right? Thanks for everything you’ve done for us B. Cheers!
Mr. While You’re Down There! Lord, did we have a time with him bringing our boat home for the first time from Punta Gorda, FL to … well, as many of you know, we didn’t make it all the way to Pensacola the first time. We only made it to Carabelle, minus a few essential boat parts. (And if you don’t yet know that story, holy crap, go get yourself a copy of Salt of a Sailor stat!) One of the most memorable things I learned from Mitch? Sight sailing. Or, sailing by the stars as I called it. Mitch taught me how to sail at night not by straining your eyes at the compass or the GPS but by getting on your course, then putting some part of the boat (a stanchion post, the spreader tip, the clew of the sail, anything) on a star and using that to hold your course. It was a fantastic revelation and one that made me love sailing at night that much more. Thank you Mitch. Oh and “While you’re down there, could you get me some curly fries.” Mitch. There’s just none such like him. Fun video for you here of his Nonsuch 35, aptly named Tanglefoot.
The ambassador of offshore sailing adventures at SailLibra! What does Captain Ryan say about sailing across the 500+ plus, sometimes gnarly miles of the Gulf? “Easy stuff.” As long as you don’t panic, you think first and act second. After several fun, windy romps across the Gulf on his offshore adventure boat, Libra, I definitely learned from Ryan the art of staying calm. Even when sailing through the narrow, reef-lined inlet to Cuba in 10 foot seas and 25+ knot winds. “Easy stuff.” But, he’ll be the first to warn you: “Oh, if I’m panicking, yeah, you should totally panic.” A good sense of humor. That really helps out there too. Fun video for you here from mine and Phillip’s sail from Key West to Pensacola on Libra.
Jack Stringfellow. I swear that’s the man’s real name and wasn’t he destined to be a captain with that one? I’ve only sailed under Captain Jack one time but, to date (and to be honest I hope it stays that way) it was the most extreme conditions I’ve ever sailed in. From my recent Captain’s exam, I know it ranks a 10 on the Beaufort scale. We sailed two days on a Leopard 48, into brutal headwinds, topping out at 43 true, 48 apparent, but the boat and crew handled it beautifully. What did I learn from Captain Jack? He’ll be the first to tell you, Jack can get a little … wired. He’s a very Type A personality, very task-oriented and very (very!) energetic. It’s one of the things that makes him a great captain, but he also taught me the importance of the need for a “safe word.” Because everyone gets a little wound up at times. His safe word? TRANQUILLO! Fun video here from our very windy delivery of the Leopard, a 400 nm, 60 hour sprint across the Gulf, Pensacola to Naples. Whew!
I can’t wait to get back to the Bahamas! But I’m so glad I went when the opportunity struck. Remember this trip? My spur-of-the-moment jaunt off to the Bahamas to sail with Ben Brown on his 47’ Beneteau, Cheval, in the Abacos Regatta in 2015? What a fantastic adventure that was. And what did Captain Ben teach me along the way? The beauty of Bossa Nova. You see, Ben is a long-time musician. A sax player, and a fantastic one at that. He played for the Cheval crew several times during my trip and it was the first time I was ever serenaded on a boat. I found music and the water go together. Almost like they’re one in the same. Now, even when there’s no music playing, when I look out on the water gracing our hull, I hear music. Thanks to Ben, it’s often Bossa Nova and more often than not it’s the song Ben played for us that morning on Cheval — “When she walks, she’s like a samba, that swings so cool and sways so gentle … ” Can anyone name that tune?
“Don’t tell me I did a good job, if I didn’t do a good job. If I f&*cked up. I need to know.” Love that man. Captain Yannick. Our fiery French captain across the Atlantic freaking ocean. He was so driven, so focused, so phenomenally energetic (working on boat project after boat project, day after day across the ocean) and such a diverse, eclectic personality.
I’ll bet you didn’t know: Yannick was a film student, a fighter jet pilot, a desert race marathon runner, even a published author and a raging Daft Punk fan. His was an incredible and surprising friendship to form out of our 30 days across the ocean and he still texts me often, just to say “WHOO! HOO!” The most important thing I learned from Yannick was confidence. If you have something to contribute, speak up and say it. Don’t use your “recommendation voice.” And, like much of the French do, which I appreciate: Don’t placate. If a crew member fails at something, placating them by telling them they did a “good job” is not going to help them improve. A very bold, hearty sailor he is and Phillip and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity Yannick shared with us in letting us sail with him 4,600 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
To all the captains I have sailed under and learned from: Thanks for the lessons, the laughs and the many-invoked Annie “Whoo Hoos!” But, mostly, to the man who made this entire journey of mine possible. From completely ignorant second mate (more like deckhand) on our very first sail across the Gulf together, to now an ocean-crossing, aspiring captain, the sailor who has inspired me, challenged me and encouraged me every step of the way. I can’t wait to sail the rest of the world with you my love.
April 3, 2013 during the survey/sea-trial of our Niagara. Where it all began.