I still have to pinch myself because I’m not quite sure this is 100% real yet, but I just saw it go up on the Annapolis Boat Show Cruiser’s University website, so it must be! Friends, followers, I have been working hard to put this together so I could finally make this exciting announcement: I am so proud to be speaking with Pam Wall at Cruiser’s University during the week of the Annapolis Boat Show in October! (I’m imagining cheers, applause, sharp whistles, maybe some confetti raining down on the stage … I love confetti!). This is such an honor for me, and I am very grateful to my very good friend and long-time cruising inspiration–Pam Wall–for agreeing to join me in a presentation and the Cruiser’s University team for taking a chance on this relative newbie cruiser and ocean-crosser.
Pam and I will be speaking on Tuesday, October 8th from 12:30 to 3:45 p.m. on how to rig an old(er) boat for comfortable coastal and ocean cruising. Our presentation is called “Old Salts, New Systems: Making an Older Boat Comfortable for Cruising.” Here is the Cruiser’s University Schedule so you can check it out!
I originally met Pam when Phillip and I attended our very first boat show, the Miami International Boat Show in February, 2015, and she was a huge inspiration to me from the very moment I saw her hands clapping and her eyes ablaze talking about her beloved Abacos in the Bahamas. Having now experienced those amazing islands myself, I can see exactly where her fire and Bahamian passion come from. In addition, Pam has also helped Phillip and I over the years analyze and update many systems on our boat; she’s helped us navigate some tricky waters and discover wondrous new anchorages to explore; she’s also connected us with many of her own personal friends and acquaintances along the way who–as many fellow-cruisers often do–opened their arms and quickly shared their vast cruising knowledge and stories with us. I am forever thankful I met Pam and am privileged to be taking the stage with her this coming October.
Our presentation (although it continues to grow and evolve) will cover many different systems new boat-owners and cruisers may want to learn about, inspect, look for, or perhaps install on a boat they are considering purchasing to make it more comfortable and capable for cruising. This will range from discussions about rigging, hull, keel, and rudder structure, weight and displacement, power management, navigation and electronics, even the basic quality-of-life items such as the galley, head, stowage, and communication. Pam and I are both excited to offer our unique forty-year spectrum of knowledge covering older tried-and-true systems as well as the newer generations of electronics and gadgets that are coming out. We expect the presentation will be enlightening and very entertaining with as much Q&A as you can dream up. Lay it on us!
For the next 7-10 days Cruiser’s University will be open to registration by Cruisers University Alum, after which it will be open to the general public for sign-up and registration. I will keep you all informed here on the blog and my social media pages as updates become available about registration or other CU and Annapolis Boat Show highlights. Phillip and I are both incredibly excited to be attending. We’ve never been to Annapolis before! How many of you are planning to go to the Annapolis Boat Show this year? If so, we hope you can join Pam and me on Tuesday during Cruiser’s University!
Ahoy followers! As Phillip and I are here working in Pensacola and checking down our winter boat projects list, I’m getting lots of emails and messages from friends who are going to the Miami Boat Show, which is fantastic news! Phillip and I are huge fans of the show.
As many of you may be headed that way now, I thought I would share a little about our first Miami Boat Show experience back in 2015 when Phillip whisked this wanna-be sailor down to south Florida to board tons of fancy boats we would never buy and get starry-eyed from all of the “sailebrity” sightings! Think Pam Wall, Bob Bitchin, John Kretschmer, Nigel Calder, and the like. All those amazing worldwide sailors who were cruising way before we had auto-pilots and B&Gs and AIS.
And, I can with absolute 100% confidence say the reason Phillip and I are now committed cruisers and ocean voyagers is because we went to the Miami Boat Show in 2015. I’m serious. Ask Phillip and he will be the first to tell you, the reason he first started considering doing an Atlantic Circle was because of a talk John Kretschmer gave on it at the 2015 boat show. The reason I got super pumped about sailing our boat to the Bahamas to cruise the Abacos was because Pam Wall emphatically shouted over and over during her seminar: “You must go to the Bahamas! Go, go! You must! Pam says!” They and my other treasured sailebrities had such a positive impact on Phillip and me and our then just-flickering ambitions to cruise and cross oceans. For any of you headed to Miami for the boat show now, I hope these seasoned, experienced sailors have the same impact on you. Attend every free seminar you can! Soak up all their knowledge!
And, in honor of mine and Phillip’s first time at the show, I share now some fun throwback photos below and one of our most memorable moments from the 2015 Strictly Sail Miami show. I hope you all experience a similar “right and proper” Nigel Calder-esque moment like this during your time at the show. Enjoy!
Speaking of free food, after our third day at the show, we found ourselves nearing the evening, wandering the docks yet again and poking around all of thefancy boatswe couldn’t afford. Inadvertently, we stumbled into the velvet rope cordoned-corner for Leopard Catamarans. Champagne glasses were clinking. Everyone had dainty little plates in their hands heaped with dainty little saucy bites and bits. It looked delicious, and we were hungry. We had no interest in buying a boat at the show, much less buying a catamaran, but that’s the beauty of the boat show–it doesn’t matter! All they want is your name and an email so they can eHound you later and you’re in! “I’ve got plenty of junk emails. You’re welcome to all of them!”
It didn’t take much and we were soon behind the velvet rope, standing in line at the hot bar filling our own little dainty plates with steaming empanadas, croquettes, meat pies, you name it! And, there we were, two stacked plates between us, and a glass and a half of champagne, and guess who we saw standing not five feet away? The one. The only. Nigel Calder. I nudged Phillip hard, pointed in Nigel’s direction and hissed at him, “Look, it’s Mr.Seized-it-up-Solid!” He was right there, eating the free food rightalong with us. I wanted to find a suitable bush I could nestle in, pick it up and twinkle-toe over so I could spy on him. Phillip had the better idea to actually walk up to the man and talk to him.
Turns out, he was super approachable and easy to talk to. After a few exchanges, Nigel asked Phillip and I what connection we had to Leopard, to which we replied, “None. We just wanted some free food.”
“Well, that’s very proper of you,” Nigel responded in his thick British accent. “Why d’you think I’m here?” he said with a smile and continued nibbling.
Nigel then told us how he and his family, when they were live-aboard, on-the-hook cruisers, would scope out the big boat shows at the marinas and find out when the roped-off sales tents–like the very one we were standing in–would shut down for the day. The whole brood would then plan to motor up in their dinghy about that time and let the good yachties know they were welcome to donate any food that was going to go to the trash to the Calder clan instead. Nigel said they used to rack up on all sorts of free provisions that way.
The man is a total cruiser to the core. Love that guy.
And, some fun photos from our time at the Miami Boat Show back in 2015. Enjoy!
Or how we rig it on OUR BOAT, I should say. Ahoy followers! You ready for a little virtual sailing lesson? That’s right, float away from your desk for a minute, imagine yourself on the sunny deck of a gently-swaying boat, looking out over green, glistening water. Can you smell the salt in the air? I hope so! But, there’s only one thing that’s bugging you: that occasional luff-crumple-pop of the headsail. The light winds over the stern combined with a kicked-up sea state is causing your easy downwind run to be much more of a strain on your headsail than you would like. Every third wave, she luffs, curls, and then snaps back out with a vicious pop when she fills again. I know you’re cringing right now hearing it. So, what do you do?
Rig a whisker pole!
We’re going to share with you today a detailed step-by-step process, with photos, of our whisker-rigging method as well as some tricks and very important lessons we learned when first working with and learning how to rig the whisker pole on our boat while we were cruising in the Bahamas, namely the following:
Where to attach the outer end of the pole (the Pam Wall Rule).
What else to attach to the pole (the Captain Frazer Rule).
And, where to attach the pole first (the HaveWind Rule).
All lessons are free today. Feel free to learn some at our expense!
No one likes to hear a sail pop and flail. I always feel like it’s a dog yapping and running around in circles because thunder scared him. You just want to hold him close and calm him down. Yes, I would do that with our sails if I could. In a heartbeat. But, unfortunately, I can’t. Trust me, I’ve tried. Our jib just kicked and squirmed and whacked me solid across the face. Thanks Wendy. Don’t try to be a human whisker pole. Be smarter than me.
As I mentioned in the spinnaker trainer video I shared in our spinnaker video last week and in our Bahamas Boat Project Recap, for Phillip and I, getting our whisker pole functioning and learning how to safely and comfortably rig it ourselves underway, was one of our big “sail plan” goals last year while we were preparing for our trip to the Bahamas. Our sail to Cuba in 2016—bashing for days into strong head winds—taught us many things. One was that we needed to expand our sail plan and hone our sail skills to have more options to keep our boat and the crew sailing safely and more comfortably in a variety of wind speeds and directions. Mastering the whisker pole was a key factor in that.
If you recall, in our Bahamas Boat Project Recap, I talked about what we had to do to get our whisker pole ready for cruising. While she came with the boat, and rode with us idly for many years in two handy little stanchion post brackets on the starboard side near the bow, we had not actually used our whisker pole for years because she had a glitch. She had a rather significant dent that prevented us from being able to slide the extension out to make it long enough to actually reach the sheet of the sail. This meant for years we were lazy and just didn’t use her. Bad sailors! You can say the same thing about us with the spinnaker. We didn’t bust ours out on the boat for years just because we thought she would be big and cumbersome and we might rip her during the launch or douse. Again, bad sailors! Why would you skip out on allll this awesomeness over fear of failure!
We’ve since learned you have to just get out there and try stuff. If you’re afraid you might damage a system because you don’t know exactly how it works, then ask a more experienced sailor to come out on a sail with you (offer beer or other booze and snacks, of course) and figure it out. Yeah, you might break something, or find something was on the verge of breaking anyway, but it would be better to break it or find our it was about to in the comfort of your home waters, not while underway across the Gulf or some other blue-water body, am I right? As a good friend of ours often says (Tom, if you’re reading this), when the sailing gets boring, he smacks his hands together and says: “Time to break some shit!” It is a saying Phillip and I have readily adopted on our boat, hand-clap and all.
You can’t be afraid to try something out just because you might break it. And, I can say all of that lofty inspirational stuff now because Phillip and I were pansies for years and did not fly our spinnaker or use our whisker pole simply because we didn’t quite know how and didn’t take the time to figure them out, get them working, and get ourselves used to using them. Shame on us, I know! But, that’s why I can boldly write this post, because we have since done just that and I’m proud to share.
Now, the dent in our whisker pole. That was a fun story. Phillip had the idea for me (and specifically me, specifically in spandex) to take our dented pole to an auto body shop to see if they could work the dent out (much like they do on vehicles) to get the pole’s extension capabilities functioning again. And while I had every intention of paying them for their work, the guys had such a great time ribbing each other and working on this “oddball boat thing” they called it, seeing who could work the ding out the best, while I watched in spandex, that they just did it for free. I tried and offered repeatedly to pay, but the owner, Travis, said it was such a fun show to watch, he was happy to help a local for free. So, many thanks again to the great guys at Coastal Body Works here in Pensacola for getting these sailors up and going again!
Once we had the whisker pole working, we then started to toodle around with it on the boat and found that while a whisker pole can be very useful in light winds where it’s not quite enough to keep the headsail full or not the right angle for you to fly the spinnaker, what we learned during many of our downwind sails during our time in the Bahamas, was that it can also be useful when there is enough wind for your headsail, but a churned-up sea state, and accompanying erratic movement of the boat, keeps causing the sail to cave, crumple, and snap back with a bang. Not cool. This was one of our biggest “aha!” moments with our whisker pole. You can see in this photo the sail is luffing and will soon snap back once the boat tips and it fills with wind.
As we all know, luffing and popping is not good for the sail. And we had some decent wind here in this photo. I believe it was blowing around 8-9 kts, plenty to keep the sail full … in smooth seas, but not enough to keep her taut when the boat is bucking around in churned-up 2-3 footers. What Phillip and I did not know, initially, was that the whisker pole was something we could not only use to get more wind in the sail on a light-wind downwind run, but also something that could prevent luffing and popping in kicked-up seas. Very cool.
And once you rig it in some funky seas, you’ll find the boat rides smoother. The crew is more comfortable not having to listen to that occasional crumple and bang. And, the boat is infinitely grateful for the more comfortable set-up. Having made several mistakes in the beginning (don’t we all?) Phillip and I learned a few helpful tricks that allow us to easily rig the pole in most conditions and to even furl up the headsail quickly without having to un-rig the pole. Pretty cool, huh? Now, I will be the first to admit most of these very cool tricks were learned at the hands of other, more experienced, sailors: friends and mentors who have many (many!) more blue-water miles under their belts than we do, and from whom we love to learn. So, a big thanks in advance to the ever-amazing Pam Wall and our fellow Captain and friend in Marathon, Captain Russell Frazer, and his exceptionally-skilled wife, Lynn, for sharing some of these tips with us.
Our Three Biggest Whisker Pole Lessons
Attach the pole to the sheet, NOT the clew of the sail (The Pam Wall Rule)
Rig preventers fore and aft (The Capt. Frazer Rule)
Attach the pole to the sheet first, THEN the mast (The HaveWind Rule)
The Pam Wall Rule: Attach the pole to the sheet NOT the sail
I actually recall when we were speaking with Pam about this. It was during a work/play trip to Ft. Lauderdale. Sometime in the spring of 2016, I believe. And she and Phillip got to talking about this whisker thing on the boat. I wasn’t really sure what they were talking about, but I always hate to interrupt because of my own confusion (because it’s so frequent) so I did what I often do in a situation like that. Pretend and nod and try to say stuff that won’t expose my ignorance. I remember Pam mentioning some sail training video she had been involved with but when she saw the final product, and the “whisker pole was attached to the clew! The clew?!” (she shouted) she told the production company she did not want her name anywhere near it, because that was not right.
Now, did Pam’s comment make sense to you? Me, I had no clew, pun intended. At the time, that is. I’ll be the first to admit how much more I still have to learn about sailing, but I have come leaps and bounds since my first few years with Phillip and, thankfully, that makes sense to me … now. Phillip, who knew immediately what Pam was talking about then and who fervently agreed, won her salty, sailing heart over right then and there. Pam’s a sucker for a good sailor. Sorry, Pam, the word is out. But, it didn’t come full circle for me until Phillip and I began rigging up our own pole on our boat and I then realized why attaching the pole to the CLEW was just about the worst thing you could do.
Imagine if, for some reason, somehow, someway, that pole got unclipped from the mast. Because that never happens on boats, right? Something that was once fastened becomes unfastened? It could get whacked, cracked, loosened, a number of freak things that happen often underseas on a pitching, yawing boat. Now think what would happen if that pole came unattached at the mast and it was attached not to the genny sheet, but to the clew of your sail. Do you see it? A huge pole being flailed and clanged and beat around on the front of your boat? It’s like the genny is a big ring master and the pole at the end of her sail is like a big metal bullwhip. She’s slashing and snapping just for the fun of it! And, how do you get that pole secure? Without getting knocked unconscious first? The answer is: you may not. Finding your headsail with the leeway to sling and bang that thing around however she would like is not a situation you want to be in. While there may be a bang or two if the pole comes unattached at the mast and is attached only to the sheet, eventually the pole will likely settle to a fairly-secure place on deck or get tossed overboard and remain hanging from the sheet into the water. Which outcome would you prefer to find yourself in? The bullwhip or the dangler?
Now that the “clue” makes sense to you, take a very good lesson from Pam and apply it on your own boat: NEVER ATTACH THE POLE TO THE SAIL, ATTACH IT TO THE SHEET.
Thank you Pam. Moving on.
The Captain Frazer Rule: Rig preventers fore and aft
While Phillip and I had thought about rigging a preventer forward, to the bow, and did that on our own initiative the first few times we used the whisker pole, we did not rig one aft. The preventer we ran to the bow was primarily needed, in our opinion, to prevent the pole from flying back and banging the shrouds. We put waaaaayyy too much work into those shrouds when we re-did the rigging (from rod to wire) in 2016 to have anything slam into them. Protect those shrouds people! But, we had not yet run one aft, until we talked to a good friend of mine, Captain Russell Frazer and his wife, Lynn, who are both very experienced fellow sailors in Marathon, about our travels when we returned from the Bahamas back in March of this year. Russell suggested running preventers both forward and aft so that you can roll the headsail up while still leaving the pole and its rigging in place.
This is another situation where rigging the pole to the sheet not the clew of the sail proves, once again, useful. If the pole is attached only to the sheet, the sheet will then run smoothly through the mouth of the pole, allowing you to furl the sail up while the pole—held fast with the topping lift and two preventers—remains firmly in place for you to deal with at a safer time. Imagine something crazy happened on deck (because that’s always possible), the seas kicked up and some metal piece flew off and put a nice rip in your headsail. You want to get it furled (if you have a furling headsail) as quickly as possible to keep the wind out of it and prevent it from ripping further, or worse, shredding entirely. If you have to go topside and un-rig the pole before you can furl the sail, you’ll have to leave your sail exposed and vulnerable while you do that, and if the seas are kicked up and things are flying around on deck, that’s not a time you want to be going topside and trying to wrestle a whisker pole anyway. Instead, if you can simply furl the sail while leaving the pole securely in place until it is safer to go disassemble the rig, that would be a much better alternative.
So, the Captain Russell Rule: rig a preventer fore and aft. And, thank Russell and his wife, Lynn, for that one!
The HaveWind Rule:
Attach the pole to the sheet first, then the mast
Boy, did it take Phillip and I a while to get this one. Granted, we probably could have done a little more research before we got out there (this was on our way across the Gulf headed down to the Bahamas, our last day on a five-day run, almost to Key West), and we are doing it all so totally wrong. Tssk tssk sailors!
We had decided to just “play around” with the whisker pole then, having not read much or watched detailed videos on the best way to rig it before just getting out there and tangling ourselves up in it. We usually choose that method, though. Part of it is kind of fun to figure it out yourself on your own boat and we would much rather be tinkering around with it hands-on, out in the sun, on the boat, than watching a video at home. So, if it’s safe to learn OTB (on the boat), we like to do that.
But our efforts proved in vain here, as our first time trying to use the whisker pole we found ourselves struggling to keep a hold of our preventers and make everything work by attaching the pole first to the mast, then trying to finagle the swinging end of the pole, six feet away, to make it magically snag the sheet. Silly us. I know. We just hadn’t thought it all the way through yet and were still tinkering.
After some experiments, we found it was much (much!) easier to first attach the pole to the sheet. I usually do this while Phillip is holding the rest of the weight of the pole on the other side of the boat. We have our two preventers, fore and aft, attached to the end of the pole at this time, and I usually have to push the pole out only about 2-3 feet over the side of the boat to get to the sheet. We then use the pull line (I’ll call it that) that runs the length of the whisker pole and allows us to open the mouth of the pole from afar. Once the mouth of the pole is attached to the sheet (not the clew remember!), I then push the pole slowly out while keeping a hand on my preventers. You can either have these lying on the deck in preparation for cleating once the pole is up, or (if you’re really good and have them pre-marked or you’re just a much better guess of distance than I am) you can have them pre-fed under the lifelines and down to their respective cleats before you push the pole out. We haven’t got that cool … yet! Phillip then pushes the pole out its entire length while I keep a hand on the preventers and attaches it at the mast. Then voila! the pole is up and holding our headsail out in a nice open and secure position.
We have found on lumpy downwind runs, this is a great way to get a little extra oomph out of light winds and some better rest for the boat and crew as she sails much more comfortably and quietly without the sail luffing and popping during the entire passage.
So, for a quick re-cap, this is our procedure, start to finish, of how Phillip and I rig the whisker pole on our boat. As always, we welcome feedback, and hope this helps some of you bust out your own pole and start using it too!
How We Rig the Whisker Pole On Our Boat
1. Check the integrity and functionality of the pole and its pull line (the line that runs the length of the pole and is used to open the mouth of the pole from afar). Look to make sure there are no major chafe points in the line, or areas where the line looks like it might break). Make sure the mouth opens and closes easily on each end of the pole. (Fighting that thing, once the pole is out and mobile, in seas is not something you want to do). After years of no use, sitting up under the sun on our deck, we found our pull line had deteriorated and it broke clean in two the first time I pulled it (that’s why ours is wrapped around the pole in the photo here, we haven’t yet fixed it). But a severed pull line is not something you want to happen underway when you cannot easily or safely reach your hands out to the end of the pole to detach it or you are forced to wrestle a pole on deck that is still gripped to your headsail sheet with a bad case of clench jaw.
2. Once you confirmed the pole and its moving parts are working great, take the pole out of its holster and lay it athwartship (or hold it in hand or in your lap, with preferably two crew) while you attach the fore and aft preventers at the opening behind the mouth at the outer end of the pole. You can then run the preventers out and back under the lifelines to their respective cleats if you would like, or let them fall free to the deck. As Phillip and I get better at this, I plan to have two preventers with lengths pre-marked so I know how far off to cleat them in advance. We attach our preventers to this opening (arrows below) behind the mouth of the pole, which is on both ends, where the topping lift also connects at the other end of the pole.
3. With one crew member holding the pole on deck, the other crew member will raise the end of the pole by pulling and cleating the topping lift for the pole. This is just an eyeball method to raise the pole roughly to the height of the clew of the sail. If you are single-handed, I imagine you could attach the pole to the mast and deck cleats to secure it temporarily for this step, then detach them after you’ve lifted the pole so you can then attach it to the sheet.
4. Loosen the sheet of the headsail so you will have enough slack to extend the pole out from the mast. (You can imagine how Phillip and I learned this one the hard way trying to wrestle that pole out. It was just inches from the mast and we were pushing with all of our might, a definite set-up for a slip and fall, before we realized we were fighting the sail itself.)
5. Attach the mouth of the pole to the working sheet of the headsail. Remember the Pam Wall rule: do NOT attach it to the clew of the sail. Attach it to the sheet. I usually have the pole extended about 2-3 feet over the side of the boat (with Phillip holding the other side near the mast), and I attach it to the sheet by setting the teeth (we’ll call them) on the sheet, then pulling the pull line from afar and the mouth then opens and drops down to snap around the sheet. My preventers, fore and aft, are attached at the time to that opening behind the mouth, and I am usually holding both preventers in my hands around the pole while I push it out. You can see in the photo below, the pole is locked around the working sheet of our jib, right behind the bowline knot. Our aft preventer has been computer-graphically inserted (as I mentioned we hadn’t yet learned to run one aft).
6. Then slowly push the pole out (running the preventers through your hand on the pole, if they are not pre-cleated, so they do not go overboard), until the other end of the pole reaches the mast.
7. Attach the other end of the pole to the ring at the mast.
8. Secure or trim your fore and aft preventers making sure the pole cannot hit the shrouds. I like to push my weight against the pole toward the stern making sure it cannot be pushed back and make contact with the shrouds, if so, I will tighten the forward preventer.
9. That’s it! You’re sailing under the whisker pole! Sit back and enjoy the no-luff-and-bang ride!
10. When you’re ready to disassemble, remember, if you would like, you can furl the sail under pole, leaving the pole (secure under its topping lift and two preventers), firmly in place and then disassemble the rig once the sail is secure. Or, you can disassemble the whisker pole rig with the sail remaining out by simply following the previous steps in reverse.
I was so happy when we got this thing rigged up, I did a dance. A pole dance.
Sorry, couldn’t help it. Yes, that is totally me. 100%. Every single rib. All 40 of ‘em. Yep.
“What’s in the Goombay Smash?” I asked the our dark-skinned Bahamian bartender.
“Well, first you start wit da coconut rum … ” she started in. When she finished, Phillip piped up:
“What’s in your Bahama Mama?” he asked.
“Well, first you start with da coconut rum … ” she rattled on again. Every drink it seems, in the Bahamas, “starts with the coconut rum.” And you have to say that with an “Island accent, Mon.” You can also probably guess Phillip and I said it plenty during the entire trip. Every happy hour began with us concurring: “First you start wit da coconut rum.”
Heck yeah! Cheers!
Ahoy followers. In HaveWind time, we have just entered the Bahamas. How cool is that? Last time we took you along on a beautiful, glassy passage across the Gulf Stream. Thankfully, we had a wonderful window open up for us which allowed a smooth two-day passage all the way from Key West to West End with winds of only 5 kts or less (albeit north) in the Stream.
Our decision to explore the northern Abacos first was both weather- and wind-dependent. We knew, right off the cusp of hurricane season, in December and January, that frequent north fronts pop up which are usually brief but intense, but the “Christmas Winds” (often 15-25 kts) definitely blow. Fellow cruisers (shout-out to BaBaLu if you see this Bob! : ) had told us the barrier islands in the northern Abacos offer many good anchorages and marinas, that could provide reliable protection during those frequent fronts. For this reason, rather than choosing to shoot straight across the Great Bahamas Bank first and head first for the more remote, spacious islands of the Berries and Exumas, we decided to ride the Stream as far north as we could (to West End) so we would enter the Bahamas near the Little Bahamas Bank and begin our exploration up north in the protected Abacos.
Here are some of the various routes cruisers often choose to traverse the Bahamas:
We also knew the first thing we would want once the winds started to blow, would be a nice stretch of beach on the Atlantic shore to allow us to tear up some ocean surf on our kites. The fact that we like when the wind blows 20-25 kts was one very big advantage for Phillip and I, because we did experience many, many, (many!) windy days in the Bahamas in December and January. If this was typical of a winter season there (which the locals seemed to say it was, albeit a bit colder and windier), then plan to have your wetsuits for winter water activities because the water was a bit cold (around 68 degrees once we got further north and into the Atlantic). And, as far as the wind goes, either make sure you have enough books and games to occupy you for those days spent on the boat or … just a suggestion … but you can always pick up kitesurfing!!! It’s never too late! Phillip and I had some wicked sessions in the Bahamas, that we cannot wait to share with you!
But, first, we must check in! There are only about two dozen places you can check in (i.e., clear customs) in the Bahamas. We chose West End because it was the furthest north point of entry. We were pleased to find the channel to West End was well-marked and easy to navigate. As you guys already probably know, Phillip and I always try to plan to enter a new port during the daytime, and we came in around 8:00 a.m., well after the sun had risen, so the channel was easy to spot using our Explorer Charts and Steve Dodge’s Guide to the Abacos. Highly recommend those. If you are planning a trip to the Bahamas, they’re the first thing you should buy and start studying.
The deck hands at West End were really nice, too, helping us get docked safe and sound and telling us everything we needed to know about the check-in process. It was really exciting to see our baby girl docked in the exotic (okay, exotic to meee) Bahamas for the first time! Just look at her!
The cruising permit for the Bahamas is $150 and allows the boat to stay in the islands for one year and you (the cruiser) are permitted to come and go for 90 days, then you have to renew if you are planning to stay longer. More info about the customs process and cruising permits if you are interested here. We found the check-in process to be super easy. They opened at 9:00 a.m. and it was just a quick 15-minute run-through, then we were stamped and official!
Our next chore (as it always is when we dock up after an offshore passage), was to wash the boat down. Even at $0.35/gal for the water at the marina, it was well worth it. Our baby was salty. But once clean, she was ready to proudly don her new colors! The brilliant yellow, blue and black of her Bahamian courtesy flag! See you later “Q!”
We really knew nothing about West End and found it to be a fantastic little quaint resort with a tiki bar and restaurants, beach games, poolside cabanas and music, surfboards and paddle boards all lined on the beach for you to play with and use on the stunning Atlantic coast.
What was the most important “toy” on the beach, though? These huge hammocks for napping!
Because boy did we. One goombay smash and a belly full of conch salad and this team was out!
“First you start wit da coconut rum … ”
“Add some tasty conch salad, yum … ”
“Then you’re out for the count, Mon!” ; )
That siesta will probably fall up there in one of my Top Ten favorite naps. Man, I may need to recount those some day, as a few are whirring through my mind right now. That would be a fun blog! Do you think you could recount your Top Ten siestas?
Our next big treat in West End was something we had both been looking forward to, you could literally say, for years. I’ll never forget Pam Wall’s energetic little booming voice when we first saw and heard her speak at the Miami Boat Show in February, 2015. “Go to the Bahamas!” she squealed. Visions of green waters, sea turtles and palm trees instantly filled my head. And Pam chimed back in with “Fill yourself with their fresh Bahamian bread!” Mmmmm … Phillip and I had been talking about that Bahamian bread ever since. Pam probably mentioned it 8-10 times in her speech. They should make it a drinking game. Go to one of her Bahamas seminars and each time she mentions “Bahamian bread,” you each take a shot of rum. I can promise you’d be a happy sailor after that speech. *hiccup*
But, I didn’t know where we were going to get the bread initially. Did they only serve it at restaurants, or perhaps in bakeries? Or only the locals baked it for themselves and you had to know someone who knew someone who could buy a loaf for you? I had no clue, but that’s what makes it an adventure. I had just wrapped my first “spa experience” of the trip (this is what Phillip and I now call a nice hot marina shower, thanks to some friendly cruisers in Pensacola Cay who coined the term for us).
Ahhh … a whole new person! Post-shower selfie to send to the (other) Captain!
And, I was setting up our cockpit table on the boat with a perfectly-chilled bottle of wine that we had been saving for this specific event: the day we made it across the Gulf Stream and had finally docked in the Bahamas. I was waiting for Phillip to finish his “spa treatment” to join me. I don’t know if you know this, but Phillip is a bit of a shower diva. If he is craving a luxurious long, hot shower, he’s going to get it. Trust me! I’m usually back from the showers before him, but I was perfectly content to wait.
Just then I saw a cheerful-looking elderly black woman with what appeared to be her granddaughter happily walking the docks, her granddaughter heaving and pulling a dock cart that was about twice her size behind her. I didn’t know what she was doing, but I watched for a bit as she and the adorable little girl walked the cart down our finger pier and the woman began to look eagerly at each boat, I sensed looking for people aboard. I also sensed she may be trying to sell us something that I figured I wasn’t going to want. I’m not much of a souvenirey-type person and I didn’t know if the locals would try to panhandle a bit or sell you their wares. I had no clue and I was prepared to politely decline and send her along so Phillip and I could enjoy our celebration alone. But, then she said those magic words. Words I could in no way turn down. Words that would have prompted me to invite her right down into our cockpit and pop the bubbly with her myself.
“Would you like to buy some fresh-baked Bahamian bread?” she asked.
A little stunned, I struggled to answer at first. Thinking to myself, ”Oh, so this is how you get it? They just come dockside and sell it? How freaking convenient!”
“Yes!” I practically shouted. “I want two!” And two I got. A fresh white loaf (I figured you have to try the original) and, upon the woman’s expert recommendation, a cinnamon raisin loaf as well. Only $5.00 a piece for those heavenly loaves. Phillip and I then enjoyed a true Bahamian feast. Crisp popped champagne to celebrate all the months and prep work that went into our voyage to the Bahamas with fresh Bahamian bread to boot! Still warm from the oven. Pam, you would have eaten the whole thing! (We almost did!)
Definitely a memorable moment worth celebrating. Cheers! The celebration continued with our first night out on Bahamian soil at a glorious, decadent little restaurant right next to the marina where we indulged on even more Bahamian bread and lobster tail. Mmm-mmm-hmmm!
While West End was a very cute little place, Phillip and I had already made our mind up that we wouldn’t stay long. It was just for us to check-in, clean the boat, fill the tanks and get ready to toss the lines the following morning to make our way into Little Bahamas Bank. Our study of the Explorer Charts in the many months before our departure date told us there were essentially two routes you could take from West End into Little Bahamas Bank. One is known as the “Indian Cut” and–we were told–this route could be, in some places and depending on the tide, a “very skinny six feet.” Leery of this option, particularly as it would be our first trek into the Bahamas, we opted for the longer route up north to Memory Rock, where there is a well-known inlet right next to Memory Rock that, albeit narrow but if followed closely, allows a good 10-12 feet of clearance into Little Bahamas Bank, even at low tide.
“Yeah, that one,” I remember telling Phillip many months ago. “The ten foot one.”
We do not like skinny water. Some more info on those two different routes, Indian Cut and Memory Rock, for you here. While our time in the Bahamas has definitely made us (because you just have to get used to it) more tolerant in shallow depths, we still do not opt to risk depths that are too shallow for our boat if we can avoid it. With many Bahamian cays and harbors now behind us, I can now say we have traveled in depths of 5.8’ and we didn’t touch bottom. While our manufacturing specs on the Niagara claim we have a draft of 5.2′, that’s a testament to the boat when it is dry. Not when it’s loaded down with the many, many bags of wine, booze, canned goods, water, oil, engine parts, sails, etc. All that stuff that is necessary for cruising, but that brings the boat down lower in the water. Well, we can now safely saw we are least not 5.8’. But how close we were to hitting bottom at that point in time, I do not want to know. Thankfully we knew it was soft, so we were clenched and braced for a sandy bump or two. But we’re thrilled it did not happen!
Phillip and I had also decided to leave West End as early as light would allow so we could navigate Memory Rock in the bright, safe light of day as well as make it to our first intended stop, Mangrove Cay, also before the sun went too far down so we would have sufficient light to safely anchor. Our next intended stop thereafter would be Great Sale Cay before we made our way north into the Sea of Abaco. Here is a map of our destinations:
I’ll admit, Phillip and I were both a little nervous about navigating Memory Rock. Much of our work, education and training this past year (particularly my Sea School and Captain’s License courses) were meant to prepare us for encounters just like this–hairy, rocky inlets that would require keen and precise navigation to ensure our prized possession and our ticket to world travel didn’t collide into a reef or rock and cause significant damage. Following the explicit Explorer Charts headings and Pam Wall’s incredibly helpful and adamant advice to “not turn east into Little Bahamas Bank until you are with 1/4 mile of Memory Rock. 1/4 mile!” she screeched to us via the Delorme (which by the way proved very helpful in making navigation and weather routing decisions such as these).
So we didn’t. We watched the depths as they dropped from 20 to 15 to 12 ft and did not turn right into the Bank until our GPS coordinates were within .25 of the coordinates for Memory Rock. Then we turned, watched the depths, which remained between 11 and 13 and carefully traversed our way along the path detailed by the Explorer Charts. Soon we found ourselves back in a safe 17 feet of water breathing big sighs of relief, so happy we had our first “hairy” entrance behind us.
While planning and dreaming about the Bahamas for many months in 2017, navigating the sometimes tricky and dangerous reefs and rocky inlets was not something Phillip and I were looking forward to. But it’s something you have to accept and prepare for if you want to travel to places like this. It’s the “eustress” (I call it) of cruising, the good kind of stress. And, it was well worth enduring this time, because Phillip and I were rewarded with crystal-clear, lush water soon after we made our way into Little Bahamas Bank. Both of us could not stop staring. There were so many shades of jewel-toned greens, crystal blues, pearly whites, all swirling and flowing underneath our boat. The water was breathtaking!
It was the first time we were watching our boat traverse over the crystal waters of the Bahamas, and I swear it’s like you could feel her perking up, raising her bow, looking around and taking it all in. Plaintiff’s Rest was just as excited to be there as we were. We knew when we saw those colorful, can’t-really-describe them waters that we had made it–into the Bahamas! We motored over to Mangrove Cay just in time to drop the hook, with an hour or two of daylight so we could do our first Bahamian anchor check, which can practically be done from the boat, because you can see down, even to 13 feet and almost make out the anchor exactly. You’ll see in the video! But we were ready to get wet!
A quick dip and it was soon time for happy hour, a stunning sunset, and a special Chef Phillippe dinner on the boat. (I believe it was Cuban-style mojo pork tenderloin with black beans and yellow rice that night, but don’t quote me on that. We eat so good on the boat, every night is finer than a five-star gourmet feast!)
Our plan was to get up with the sun again the next day so we could make it well within daylight to our next stop, Great Sale Cay, and spend more time playing and exploring there before nightfall. And while I would have never believed it, the water that day was even more beautiful, easily the most breathtaking of our entire trek through the Abacos. Just. You. Wait. There’s a little preview of it at the end of the video, and some footage we are very excited to share, coming at you next time. Can you say a Silks Session at Sunset??
Yeeeessss. That’s all coming to you next time. For now go with us! Check in at West End, down your first Goombay Smash (followed by a hammock crash) and join us as we make our way into Little Bahamas Bank! Enjoy!
“Never cross with a north wind!” Can you hear it? Pam Wall’s little energetic voice? She repeated this warning many times when we first saw, heard and met her at the Miami Boat Show back in February, 2015. I had no idea that amazing little enthusiastic woman would soon thereafter change my life.
Love that bubbly little lady!
After listening to her inspiring “Cruising the Abacos” seminar (and finding ourselves in dire hunger soon after for some “fresh baked Bahamian bread,” Pam always squeals when she says it) Phillip and I had originally decided back in 2015 that the first place we were going to cruise our boat to outside of the states would be the Bahamas. And that decision held firm for a long time until we heard Cuba had thankfully opened up for American cruisers. Heck yeah!
While the Bahamas were hard to pass up, we knew they would be there waiting for us the next season, and with the tumultuous state of American-Cuban relations, we weren’t sure Cuba would be. That was when we decided to set our sights first on Cuba, and it was a fantastic decision. Mine and Phillip’s cruise to Cuba in December, 2016 was a monumental, memorable voyage for us both. It was our longest offshore passage (five days) just the two of us and it was the first time we had sail our beautiful little boat from the shores of one country to another. What an incredible feeling! I still remember when we watched the sun come up over the horizon on the fifth morning.
“That’s a Havana sunrise right there,” Phillip said and he played “Havana Daydreaming” most of the morning as we made our way towards the inlet to Marina Hemingway, singing heartily along as his late Uncle Johnny would have, who had also wanted to sail to Cuba but he unfortunately was not able to do so before he passed away. I know Johnny was there with Phillip in spirit and I can still hear Phillip’s voice from that morning as he sat on the foredeck and sang. “Oh he’s just scheming … his life away.”
Thankfully, we’re not just scheming. We are going! Our voyage to Cuba was a phenomenal trip and only told Phillip and I that we are ready to travel further and longer, just the two of us, on our boat. So, in 2017 we decided we would set our sights on the Bahamas this season and enjoy the wonderful pristine patch of islands we have so close by. It’s amazing to think that jewel-toned paradise is really only a 12-hour sail from the states. How lucky we are! All we needed was just a sliver more luck to give us a nice “no north wind” window of favorable conditions to allow us to sail from the Keys and across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.
In the months before our departure date from Pensacola, Phillip and I (well, and I will admit Phillip far more than me) spent many hours studying the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas making decisions about where we planned to enter the Bahamas, where we wanted to check in and what islands (called “Cays” in the Bahamas, pronounced “keys”) we wanted to sail to and visit and in what order, although knowing every plan is and will always be weather-dependent. Having just recently completed my first Bahamas article for SAIL Magazine (thank you again, Peter Nielsen, for requesting more articles from me!) which will focus on preparing and packing for a trip to the Bahamas, Phillip and I both agree an intense study of the Explorer Charts and determinations as to where you want to go in the Bahamas and what route you want to take to explore them is a great first place to start when preparing to travel to the Bahamas. Much of what you will need aboard will depend on how you are planning to traverse the Bahamas and what you are planning to do there as supplies are readily available in some places, limited and altogether unavailable in others.
After talking with fellow sailors back home who had cruised the Bahamas many times and taking into consideration what time of year Phillip and I were going (during December-January, when we knew we could expect many sudden and intense north fronts, the “Christmas winds,” and some chilly water and weather), we decided to make our way as far north as possible first and check in at West End.
We would then start dotting our way along the Sea of Abaco seeking protection from the northerly islands as needed when storms and heavy north winds were expected. (And boy did they come. I recorded 36 kts of wind on the boat one afternoon in Green Turtle Cay. Just wait.)
With the plan to enter the Bahamas at West End, Phillip and I knew we wanted to “ride” the Gulf Stream as far as we could north before jumping out to make entry into West End. Initially, we weren’t sure we would get a window large enough to allow us to sail all the way from Key West to West End. If we did not, our plan was to dot along the Florida Keys to Marathon then perhaps Rodriguez Key while waiting for a good window to make the jump. But, when we saw a beautiful two-day window blooming on the horizon, we started to top off the provisions and ready the boat to make way. While we had a ton of fun in Key West (we always do!) meeting the new Geckos and getting to spend some time with them, seeing our old pals Brittany and Jeremiah and getting to watch their beautiful Alberg splash, as well as enjoying the many great restaurants and poolside views, we are always eager and excited to get back underway.
On Wednesday, December 20th, with expected 10-12 kt winds the first day (which would offer us a fun, comfortable sail around the Keys) and light, fluky winds of 5 kts or less the following day (which would allow us to at least motor safely across the Gulf Stream), Phillip and I decided to toss the lines and seize the window! You’ll see in the video, Annie de-docked like a boss (I tell you I’m getting much better at this), and we then had a fantastic cruise all the way from Key West to West End, just shy of a two-day run.
Man, that’s living …
So, is that. With all the work comes all the rewards.
There’s the entry to West End!
Don’t tell Pam this, but we totally broke the rule because you know what kind of winds we had throughout the entire Gulf Stream? That’s right. North! We crossed with a north wind, Pammy. I’m sorry! But, when it’s howling at 3 kts, a north wind isn’t really going to affect the boat that much, particularly when it had been blowing from the south for a short time before. Meaning, the sea state was just starting to turn around and we essentially crossed on a smooth, glassy lake. It was beautiful though. While I always prefer to have wind to sail, there is nothing that can replicate the beauty of a hull sliding through silk at sunrise. It’s just stunning.
I hope you all enjoy the video. I have had such a great time filming just for pleasure and putting these videos together for you all, just for pure fun. Not to make any money from them. Not in hopes they will get a lot of hits so I can get YouTube ad money. Just because our views were amazing, so I clicked the camera on occasionally, and because the videos are such a vivid personal scrapbook for us. I really will be excited to sit down when I’m 70 and watch my Atlantic-crossing movie. Can you imagine that? I wonder if YouTube will still be a “thing” then? Who knows. If any of you have read Dave Eggers’s The Circle (one Phillip and I both read in the Bahamas), apparently we all will soon be be filming and uploading every moment of our existence for all the world to see. Heck, with the immediacy of Instagram and Facebook these days, we’re almost there.
But you know where you can truly unplug and get away? Out there. On the big open blue. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be out there, nothing but satiny water all around you and nothing you have to do but eat, sleep, mend the boat and read. I could sail offshore forever, happily, I do believe. I hope you all love this bit. As always, I try to capture the beauty of the voyage, the work and maintenance it requires, and the reward of having your beautiful, strong boat carry you from the shores of one country to another. Next up, we’ll begin sharing the Bahamas with you, one Cay at a time. Be ready to pick your jaws up off the floor because it’s breathtaking. Stay tuned!
Hello crew! We hate to interrupt your regularly-scheduled Cuba Series, but we wanted to send you all a special invite for an opportunity to meet up with us this February, in Pensacola, Miami and/or Key West and make sure you all are aware of some very cool opportunities we have in store for you. As you likely know, we are commuting cruising for a bit and will be taking a short break while we sail on s/v Libra to the Miami Boat Show. We will be hosting and planning several get-togethers, parties and educational opportunities during that time and wanted to extend a personal invite to each of you. We hope you can make some of these:
Send-Off Party in Pensacola, Feb. 9th:
This was a pic from our send-off party before our voyage to Cuba back in December at a restaurant in downtown Pensacola and we’re planning a similar get-together for our send-off to the Miami Boat Show the evening of February 9, 2017. No set time. ‘Round happy hour’ish. At a little delightful gin joint in Pensacola called O’Riley’s on Palafox. We’ll have some drinks, tell some tales about our recent voyage to Cuba (feel free to ask us anything!) and have a fun night out on the town before the Miami Boat Show crew gets ready to toss the lines the following morning, February 10th, headed out Pensacola Pass to Miami for the boat show. If anyone ends up crashing in Pensacola that evening, feel free to come out to Deluna Plaza that next morning and snap some pics of Libra on her way out into Pensacola Bay to share on Facebook! Then follow along via our Delorme tracker posts on HaveWind’s Facebook page where we will keep you updated as far as our conditions and headway during the passage, much like we did during the Cuba voyage, as we make our way, back once again, across the Gulf. (We must like out there or something. ; )
Sail With Us to Miami on s/v Libra, Feb. 10th – 15th:
Okay, this is a biggie, but that’s a good thing. An offshore sail on Libra is a phenomenal experience that we would love to share with you if you have time available and can join us on the sail. Like our recent trip across the Gulf on Libra, this sail will include a stop at the exquisite Dry Tortugas, weather permitting, or Key West on the way to Miami. Phillip and I here, snorkeling at Ft. Jefferson. Such a cool place!
I have included a fun video below for you all from our recent sail to give you a flavor of what this voyage entails. The dates are Feb. 10th – 15th, $2,750 pp and includes tickets to the Miami Boat Show (all days) and all passage expenses. You can also stay on the boat the evening of Feb. 9th before castoff on the 10th. Just as the boat show is a great experience to help you learn more about boats, meet other cruisers, absorb engaging, educational seminars from some very experienced sailors, a sail on Libra is all of that, but hands-on, on the water. We hope some of you can join us. There are still a few bunks available; enter promo code HWWT for a $500 discount. Book at http://www.saillibra.com/join-a-sail/.
Meet Us at the Miami Boat Show, Feb. 16th – 20th (particularly Feb. 17th!):
Who’s already planning to go to the Miami Boat Show? Sweet! We can’t wait to meet you there!
Phillip and I went to the Miami Boat Show in 2015 for the all the reasons most folks new to (or dreaming about) cruising do: to learn more about boats, products, rigging, sail tactics, navigation, weather routing, you name it! The Boat Show is also where I made some very rewarding and long-lasting connections with many cruisers I now call very good friends, including Pam Wall and Bob Bitchin’! Phillip and I, as well as Captain Ryan, will be on Libra many of the days during the show talking with boat show attendees and sharing stories from our recent offshore voyages, including both of our recent trips to Cuba, as Libra plans to make that run again in April 2017 in the second annual Pensacola a la Habana race. In particular, we will be hosting a fun meet-and-greet style get-together on Libra, Pier 2 at Miamarina at the Miami Boat Show February 17, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. where we will serve drinks, snacks, have music and my fiery friend, Hanna, and I will do some aerial silks performances. Please come!
Hanna was one of my first silks instructors, the first person I ever saw doing silks on a sailboat (which totally inspired me) and the person who made it possible for me to go race in the Abacos Regatta back in 2015. I’m serious! Story here. She’s a huge part of my sailing/silking career and I can’t wait for you all to meet her. Thanks again, Hanna, for agreeing to come “hang out” with us : ) during the show!
Attend My Seminar at the Show, Feb. 20th:
It’s official! I’m speaking at the Miami Boat Show, and I am so honored to be listed right there among my many idols–Nigel Calder, Pam Wall, Chris Parker–whose seminars I attended wide-eyed and eager just a few short years ago. I will be speaking about my “First Time Across the Atlantic,” sharing our reflections on a first time ocean-crossing and lessons learned that are applicable to all passages.
I hope all of you who will be at the show still on Monday can attend. In addition, please help me make my presentation the absolute best it can be by commenting below with your own input as to what topics you think I should cover. If you were considering an Atlantic-crossing and had the ability to ask a fellow sailor about his or her recent first-time crossing, what would you want to know? What, specifically, would you ask? Thank you followers!
All-Women’s Offshore Sail, Feb. 21st – 22nd:
Ladies, come sail with me!
I put this sail together specifically to offer women who want offshore experience (but who perhaps may be reluctant, a little scared or just unable because of work and time commitments to jump off on an extensive five-day overnight sail) a quick, more cost-efficient opportunity to get some overnight experience underway. You can stay on Libra the evening of Feb. 21st at Miamarina, downtown Miami and we will cast-off the morning of Feb. 22nd headed for Key West on a quick, 24-hour run. There will also be a fun congratulatory get-together in Key West afterward where you can all cheers your awesome all-women’s voyage on Libra. I will serve as your instructor providing detailed sailing instructions and will share anything with you that I know about navigation, electronics, weather routing, sail tactics, etc. (along with Captain Ryan who knows way more!). I am no expert, but I’ve made a ton of mistakes and I’m happy to share all 138.4 of them with you! This is where you can ask all the stupid questions (because there are none) and learn in an environment that is comfortable for you. The cost is only $500 pp. If you are planning to come to the Miami Boat Show Feb. 20th, let us know and we will get you tickets to the show if you want to come see my presentation on the last day. Book at www.saillibra.com/join-a-sail/. Also, follow along on HaveWind’s Facebook page for updates from the ladies while we are underway. I hope some of you salty gals join me!
Key West Get-Together, Feb. 22nd:
Heck, let’s do it again. We love to get-together (obviously). Which means we love a good party. If you’ll be in Key West on Feb. 22nd, join us for our all-women’s post-sail celebration. To be honest, I have no clue yet when we’ll dock, but we will likely be at one of the downtown marinas and will probably start rounds at Schooner’s Wharf Bar or somewherest (that’s an Annie term) close by. I’ll probably be wearing that very dress, as it’s one of my three ship-to-shore numbers. Look for the gal in stripes or stay tuned on HaveWind’s Facebook page for updates and come hang out with the salty, sultry ladies in Key West who just went offshore on Libra. Oooooh.
Okay, whew! After all of that, Phillip and I are going to have to crawl in a cave for a while. And by cave, we mean head out on Plaintiff’s Rest for some quiet days on the hook alone! We love those too. But, we also love to meet our followers, share our stories, hear theirs and enjoy spending time with like-minded people like all of you. We hope some of you can join us at some of these get-togethers or on passage, and we are grateful for all the support you have shown us on our journey. It’s all about sharing the passion Phillip and I have for this lifestyle and inspiring others to it. Get inspired and what … ??
If docking has ever been a sore spot for you and your significant other or if the inability to dock your boat alone has hindered your cruising, Phillip and I hope this video demonstration can help. Being able to bring a boat in safely single-handed is a crucial skill for any sailor both for ease of docking and in case of an emergency where the Captain or a crew member is somehow unable to assist with docking. Thank Pam Wall at PamWall.com, as well, for this easy single-handed docking trick. Give it a try and let us know if this handy trick works for you in a comment below.
She is NOT a passenger, she is crew! There’s no magic secret to getting your wife (husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other) on board with cruising. She just needs to know the realities and infinite rewards of the lifestyle and want those. Share those basic philosophies with her first and cruising will become merely the means to your mutual end. Once she’s on board in principle, get her (comfortably and confidently) on board in practice with sailing lessons and continued training and teaching together. “Put her behind the helm!” says Linus Wilson. “Make her retrieve a cushion,” says Pam Wall. “Get over your fear of crossing an ocean!” says Lazy Gecko Brittany. And, most importantly: “Remember it is not about the boat or the destination, it is about your shared desires and the more fulfilling life you both want to live together,” says Nick O’Kelly, author of Get Her on Board.
I have worked hard to pull together lots of viewpoints, perspectives and advice from fellow cruisers and trusted sources for you all. If you are struggling to get your significant other on board with cruising, I hope you find this video as well as the resources and interview below helpful. Please let me know in a comment or email!
I also spoke with several women who are wives of some of my most long-time, die-hard male followers and I talked to them about their fears, excitement, hang-ups and worries about going cruising with their mate. Thank you Elizabeth, Hallie, Kathaleen and Shelly for sharing your thoughts with us:
Elizabeth (and Rob)
“Let’s start with what makes me nervous. My fear is that I don’t know a lot right now and something is going to happen to Rob and I will just shut down and not know what to do. I’m not afraid of the water at all. I actually enjoy sailing, even when it is a little bit of an uncomfortable ride. My biggest impediment is just feeling nervous leaving the dock. Once I am out there, I think I am fine. I sometimes just want to make sure I hold the lines when we leave the dock, and enter a new dock. I can throw the lines once we reach the marina, usually there are many people willing to help, but if no one is around, I need to feel confident, grabbing the line and getting onto the dock and I do not yet.
Rob handles the boat while we are sailing but I need to feel confident in setting the sail, looking at the wind direction, and knowing how those forces are working. I also want to feel secure that I am not going to fall off the boat if I have to remove a line that is tangled. I recently had to use the radio when entering the marina in order to learn our dock reservation location and whether the dock was starboard or port side. I felt very confident doing that and it was empowering. I think just “going” is what is going to get me over the hump.”
Hallie (and Joe)
“I think I fall into the rare group of women who were completely on board with and encourage their significant others to become full time live-aboard sailors. Once I saw Pam Wall’s presentation and understood that circumnavigation was a thing people did I was on board! I also feel Joe and I fall into another rare category of couples who truly get along and don’t fight … like ever! We have complete mutual respect for each other and I think that is why I am not hesitant in the least about sailing around the world with him. It is all the other stuff that worries me, i. e. weather, boat condition, my abilities, etc.
Joe and I have been sailing as a team in small races and regattas and I think that is key, that experience working together to successfully maneuver the boat in tight spaces or difficult situations. We are mostly a well oiled machine. I know what he is going to do and he knows what I am going to do. We know our roles and know how to do them well. We also really communicate with each other well and that I believe is key. We didn’t start out big on a big boat. We started sailing together on our small 16ft Hobie and on some other smaller sailing dinghy boats through Hoofer’s Sailing Club. Talking before hand and discussing what were possible scenarios and what we should do if those occur before we get out on the water is also something we do regularly. Having both of us on the same page for expectations is really important, especially on the Hobie.
My biggest impediment to cruising is definitely my own confidence in my ability to manage the boat if something were to happen to Joe while we are out there. This one keeps me up at night. Will I be able to manage the boat and situation if something happens to Joe? What if he falls off the boat, what if he is sick, what if he dies suddenly??? I have been focusing on these since I fell off our Hobie two years ago and watched Joe struggle in 25knot winds to get back to me. It felt like 20 minutes but in reality it was only 4. I then thought, “Oh crap, what if Joe fell off the boat?” We would have both died and the boat would have sunk. I had never been at the helm of the boat before because I was always too scared to “drive” the boat. This summer is when I have been taking the helm and learning about how to steer the boat. I think for all women who are new to sailing, this is by far the biggest impediment.
The best way, in my opinion, to get over the hump is to take sailing lessons and get out on keel boats as often as possible to get comfortable. These were the most important steps I can think of that have helped me this summer. I am still nervous about sailing our Hobie with me at the helm so I have not taken that step yet, but maybe in time. (It is a really fast sailboat!!)
I know The Voyager’s Handbook goes over some of how to get your mate(wife) on board. I hope these answers help you. Sailing for me is this freeing/flying experience. I love being out on the water and not hearing a motor (hopefully). It is peaceful and exhilarating all at the same time and I have only been out on small inland lakes where we have to tack all the time! I cannot wait until we can get out on larger water and set the auto-helm and go on the same tack for a day, heck even a few hours would be awesome!”
Kathaleen (and Joe)
“I think my biggest impediment to cruising with Joe is that I have no sailing knowledge or experience, just a passion to try. I am not worried about what it will take to learn (I’m actually excited to learn!), and I’m confident in our ability to find a way to afford to do it. The part that worries me is leaving my family (children and grand children) ashore while we travel to faraway places. What if something happens and I cannot return quickly? How will I get home? I also worry about leaving my business to another’s hands. I’ve scraped this into existence and it’s just barely taking off, what if it fails to thrive?”
Shelly (and Lance)
“Stepping out into the unknown makes me very nervous. Letting go of my comfort zone and trying something new makes me very hesitant. Land I am sure of, I know where I am going there are signs everywhere that tell me when to turn where to go. Ahhh…. but water is wide open you can sail for miles even days with no land in site. That makes me nervous.
My biggest impediment is that I have no sense of direction what so ever. Lance is very good with direction and he is a very logical thinker. I tend to be very emotional and unsure of myself. But I believe in myself enough to step out there and work together to make this happen. My biggest fear is getting sea sick to the point that I am unable to do this. Confidence in myself is going to be key to getting over the hump and making myself get out there and thrive while cruising. Believing that I can step of the land and let the sea carry me wherever it will.”
Our goal is to help more people realize their dream of cruising. Paramount to that is the ability to share that dream with your best friend and soul mate which is why Phillip and I worked hard to produce this video and help those of you out there who may be struggling to get your significant other “on board” with cruising. If you have found these tips and resources helpful, please help us help more people like you by supporting our efforts to share the cruising lifestyle on Patreon.
“Hi, Bob … pardon me. I’m sorry to interrupt, but, hi. Bob. It’s Annie. I’m Annie. I’m a huge, huge fan … ”
I’m pretty sure it sounded about that timid and giddy. I mean it was Bob Bitchin, THE Bob Bitchin–right there in the very darn coffee shop where Phillip and I were having our first caffeinated sip before the big boat show! I had it all planned in my mind that I was going to meet him at the big Cruising Outpostparty on Saturday and this early, unplanned coffee shop encounter was totally throwing me. But, Phillip, as he often does because he knows it’s best for me, threw me to the wolves, and I’m so glad he did. I was thrilled to find Bob actually remembered me from our meager email exchanges about my first article that he published and my desire to self-publish a sailing book. I extended a shaky hand with my Salt of a Sailor book in it and tripped on words like “honored, privileged and inspired” trying somehow to convey the message that I hoped Bob would read it, enjoy it and let me know what he thought. For all I know, though, I could have been speaking German. I can’t remember a single English sentiment that I conveyed before I thanked him, giggled again and started tripping my way back to Phillip in a total sweaty mess. But, I had done it! Met Bob Bitchin, gave him the book and said something that (I believe) resembled praise. There. Done.
Just as my blood pressure finally started to subside and I could once again taste my coffee, Bob came back over. Oh boy … He was super generous, though, telling me he had flipped through my book and that he liked the interior formatting and the photos. He gave me some advice on some additional publishing mumbo jumbo that I should include at the beginning next time and gave me some recommendations on ordering author copies for resale. He was so generous with his time and insight. I sat starry-eyed and spoke some more German. It wasn’t until we were actually at the boat show and I had gathered my wits about me that I finally saw fit to ask him for a photo so I could share it on the blog. There you have it. The giddy German gal and the man himself – Bob Bitchin!
“I hope you enjoy the book, Bob!”
This was my first and certainly most memorable “sail-ebrity” sighting during our Strictly Sail trip but there were many more. I thought, before we get into all the boats, booze, sailing and “edutainment” seminars, I could help set the stage for you by introducing you to Have Wind Will Travel’s version of the Strictly Sail Miami’s cast and crew:
THE CAST (Sailebrities) — These are the big dogs of sailing, the cruisers that you read and read about, the ones that have crossed oceans, circumnavigated, been sailing for decades and talking about and presenting on it even longer. The great thing about the Strictly Sail show is that they’re no longer icons in print, they’re right there, standing not five feet from you. They’re approachable, friendly and seemingly just as eager to meet you as you are them (or at least they pretend really well). Phillip and I were super impressed with the intimacy of the seminars at the show and the opportunities it allowed us to meet and chat with some of our favorite sailebrities:
Bob Bitchin — I’m sure I’ve said enough about him already. Hell, he’s probably cringing and ducking his head by now as many times as I’ve “gone giddy” over him on the blog. But, just to add a little background, I picked up one of his books, Starboard Attitude, the first day at the show (and made him sign it for me – of course!), started flipping through it and was astounded to read the man’s bio. He spent 28 years ripping across the U.S. on a motorcycle (certainly explains the Harley shirts and tats) and even served as a bodyguard and roustabout for Evil Knievel back in the 70’s. I don’t even know what a “roustabout” is, but I want to be one! Before he even thought about cruising, he produced one of the largest cycle shows on the West Coast, CycleExpo, as well as published multiple biking and tattoo magazines. He then … oh hell, I’ll just let you read it. If you can dream it up, Bob’s done it:
John Kretschmer — This man, the sailor who has crossed the Atlantic ocean more than 20 times, the one who stopped counting his nautical miles when he reached 300,000, was the most humble, self-deprecating, genuine person I might venture to say I have ever met. He performs professional yacht deliveries around the world and takes eager crew members and captains out on training passage across some pretty harrowing waterways. You can sign up to crew a passage with John via his website, although I believe he’s booked well into 2016. (The man is popular). His seminars were also engaging and authentic. To be honest, for me, crossing an ocean was a bit further down the list (well after spending a year in the Bahamas, cruising the Carribean and what not), but after hearing John speak about it, I started to see it in an entirely new light. John was an inspiring and entertaining speaker and, we heard from several independent sources at the show, an exceptional writer. Phillip and I bought his Sailing a Serious Oceanbook at the seminar (and made him sign it – of course!) and we can’t wait to give it a read. At the Mercy of the Sea will be next on our list. When I got all giddy and told John about my own book, he laughed and said he “loved reading stuff like that” and “couldn’t wait to check it out.” Even if it was just a line, I ate it right up. John was such a pleasure to meet.
2. Pam Wall — Pam served as West Marine’s Cruising Consultant for over twenty years. She has sailed more nautical miles in the Bahamas than loaves of bread have been baked in the U.S. in 2015 (check that fact), and she has helped thousands of cruisers out there every step of the way. Her passion for cruising and the adventure and cultural education it offers is clear from the minute she starts speaking about it. Her bit on the black squalls that cruisers often face when crossing over to the Bahamas really stuck with me. “Respect the weather, watch the skies, but don’t curse a valuable asset,” Pam said. “Prepare for the passing storm, let the boat and crew enjoy a refreshing ‘Mother Nature shower’ and fill the water tanks. Squalls can be a good thing.” Pam writes an insightful and informative blog on her website — www.pamwall.com — and will tell any cruiser who is passing through Ft. Lauderdale to make contact and “take her out to lunch!”
3. Nigel Calder — I have to say Mr. Calder was the biggest surprise for me. He is like “THE” expert on diesel engine maintenance and boat electronics. I remember trying (sorry, Nigel, it’s not you, it’s me) to read his Mechanical and Electrical Manual well before Phillip and I even found our boat and while it was incredibly informative and detailed, it was also super technical. Nigel is an obvious engine and electronics guru. So, I figured he would, obviously, be a stuffy professor type, sporting an accent and a monocle. Well … let’s say I was right about the accent, but wrong about everything else. Nigel’s presentation “Lessons Learned Along the Way,” which I will cover later (that, and the chance encounter with him in the Leopard Tent, many a-Nigel story to come) was Phillip and I’s agreed favorite of the whole show. Nigel was a riot.
4. Lee Chesneau — The Weather Man. When it comes to pressure systems, wind patterns, and hurricane prediction, Lee is your guy. Lee is a senior marine meteorologist who boasts a distinguished and extensive career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA’s) National Weather Service (NWS). Lee gives weather presentations all over the nation and hosts educational weather forecasting seminars for commercial vessel captains on a global scale. He’s also a hoot, with these awesome lopsided glasses he sports during his seminars. Very high fashion. Lee has a real talent for “dumbing down the weather” in a way that enables everyday cruisers to watch weather patterns and make safe predictions for passage. I’ll lay out his helpful 1-2-3 rule for tropical storm and hurricane monitoring in our upcoming “Edutainment” portion (I know you’re excited), which we found very helpful. Lee maintains an extensive and informative website on marine weather forecasting where you can also contact him to request weather predictions.
Woody Henderson — This man-boy has seemingly done it all, solo-circumnavigated, wrote for Latitudes & Attitudes (you may recall “Woody’s World”) for thirteen years, and helped form Adventure Voyaging, where he and Tonia Aebia, the youngest sailor ever to circumnavigate, now plan and lead multi-boat sailing adventures to exotic locations all over the world — Tonga to Croatia, The Grenadines, Thailand, you name it. He has cruised and taught cruisers for decades but, by the looks of it, my guess is he started doing all of that at the ripe age of ten. I think he was also on the cover of BOP and Tiger Beat when I was still cutting those up and hanging them on my bedroom walls.
His boyish good looks aside, Woody was an incredibly warm and endearing speaker with a wealth of information to offer. He is a sharp captain, experienced cruiser and capable voyage leader.
THE CREW — While the sailebrities were very exciting, I have to say, the real entertainment were the folks we encountered walking around the boat show. While there is a whole cast of them, here are some honorable mentions:
The Yacht Models — These men are pretty. They like to walk around the boat show in pristine, pressed sweaters, either pulled tightly around their chiseled frames or draped delicately over their shoulders and in a neat tied knot.
“Yes, Eduardo, I’ll take my brandy out here on the lido deck, please.”
The Drink Service Gals — A real classy bunch, and apparently hearty too. They wear these skimpy crotch shorts and wedge heels in any kind of weather!
“Another round, sir?”
The Money Suits — It seemed if you wanted to really catch a boat broker’s eye, you walked up to the yacht covered head-to-toe in a white linen suit, with a vivacious broad on your arm (the majority of which typically sported a wildly unnatural hair color and some form of pleather, snakeskin apparel). A toy dog in an shoulder bag was optional but also common. Show up looking like this and they knew you were serious about signing papers today.
However, there was another kind of “power suit” in play–certainly not linen and I think he was more in the business of selling, as opposed to buying.
The Wanna-Bes — Watch out for these guys. They’ll act like they’re interested in your big, fancy, production-line boat as they kick off their shoes and step aboard, but they really want to look at the Clorox-build quality and snicker because they know their older, well-crafted 80’s model could run circles around her.
“Uhhh, yes, thanks for letting us have a look. She’s beautiful. We’ll be in touch.” (NOT!)
Although, I will say I think we were a bit more “kind of are” as opposed to “wanna be” that night because Phillip’s shoulder-sweater-swagger got us escorted into a super swanky exclusive affair. We headed to the Design District for dinner that evening and while we were walking the streets, checking out all of the construction and renovation that’s going on down there, we passed by this sea of snarly socialites.
The woman were all perched on six-inch stilettos, at least, clad in super-tight cocktail numbers with their hair slicked back in high fashion pony tails. The men were donning very high-end blazers and trendy horn-rimmed glasses, and they were servers milling around in tuxedos offering sparkling trays of drinks and little fru-fru hors d’oeuvres. There was a live band with a buttery-voiced female lead crooning in the corner, sculpted art rising up out of the ground and a cacophony of clinging champagne flutes and high falsetto laughter. Ha ha ha. It was quite the haughty affair. Being the curious, roustabout cruisers we are, Phillip and I were just poking around, taking it all in, when a snippy woman confronted us with a clipboard, a visible stance blocking our entry and a prompt, “Name please, sir?”
Phillip and I looked at each casually, shrugged our shoulders as if the whole thing didn’t matter and Phillip said, “We were just going to have a look around.”
The woman dropped her head down, squinted at Phillip over the rims of her naughty librarian glasses for a long minute and finally said, “Welcome then,” as she swept the clipboard behind her back and stepped aside, extending one arm to invite us in. I think she might have mistaken Phillip for this man.
With his convenient look-alike status, Phillip and I stepped into this elegant, high societal gathering and pretended like we were the most important people there.
An Italian-accented lad in a tuxedo came up with a dazzling tray of drinks and offered me a brandy cocktail and Phillip a sparkling flute of prosecco. We cheersed each other, laughing at the irony of it all, “If only they knew,” and infiltrated the crowd.
Having finished our first sparkling round rather quickly, I was about to summon the nice Italian boy over for another when Phillip stopped me. He was looking at a flyer that was sitting on one of the tables. Turns out the “haughty affair” was a fundraiser, with “suggested” donation amounts starting at one thousand and escalating to TEN. My eyes just about popped out of my head. “$10,000?!” We’re cruisers. The only thing in our world worthy of a $10,000 donation is our boat, parts for our boat, or work that needs to be done our boat.
“We need to go,” Phillip said easing me back behind the pillars. We left our empty flutes by the empty donation placard on the table and slipped out the back before they could trap us. That was about to be the most expensive drink we’d ever had. It was fun to flirt with well-to-dos, though, if only for a bit. Our first day at the boat show certainly introduced us to an interesting array of characters that we would meet, gawk at and interact with over the course of the next few days. Now that you have a good flavor of the cast and crew, it’s high time we raised the curtain on this Strictly Sail Miami show. Next time these “wannabes” will take you along as they set foot on many a boat they cannot afford — Cruising World’s Boat of the Year, the GunBoat 55, an exquisite Amel 55 (think s/v Delos), an Oyster, Hylas, Knysna and more. Stay tuned!