Saturday, August 22, 2020

Sailing Around the World without Navigational Instruments

Ken and Pierre piloting their piroa by feel in British Columbia, Canada, fall 2019.
I do not know how to use the technology and have no intention of learning.
Marvin Creamer, circumnavigated the world without any navigational instruments, died at 104, August 2020

When we set sail from Galapagos to the French Marquesas—over 3,000 miles—the single longest stretch of unbroken, open ocean—our first 24 hours we went backward six nautical miles. Six days in, we'd progressed an excruciatingly minuscule 259 nautical miles toward our destination. At that rate, it would take us 70 days—over two months—to reach landfall.

Panicked, I tapped my satellite hotspot to query another cruiser along the same passage with better weather data for navigational advice, asking how far South versus how far West they recommended we go to escape the doldrums. In desperation, I even contacted my best friend—a non-sailor—to ask her husband if he could use his exceptional technical problem-solving-skills to work for us. 

Eventually, the doldrums lifted. The counter-current that wasn't supposed to be there, dissipated. 

Meanwhile, we found out another cruiser who left Panama when we did, a mere two weeks prior, sank their sailboat only twelve nautical miles from us.

Still sailing thirty-one long days without landfall after leaving Galapagos, with torn sails in dying winds and an engine that wouldn't start, we gazed forlornly at the mirage-like peaks of Hiva Oa in the setting sun. We were so close we could smell the welcome earthiness of land, yet not close enough.

Over our VHF radio, we begged some cruisers anchored in Hiva Oa to tow us in those last five miles so we could at last set anchor, and for the first time in over a month, sleep together as husband and wife. They did. We did.

Hiva Oa French Polynesia anchorage our longest ocean navigation
Hiva Oa French Polynesia anchorage. It took us over a month of open ocean
and a five-mile tow to arrive there.

Unlike Marvin Creamer, we always knew where we were. Neither of us sailed off while our spouse waited patiently for the word of our progress. 

I know we did not possess the knowledge, skill, or the faith to carry on as Marvin Creamer did, without our navigational and communication aids—and we sailed only halfway around the world. Rather than foolhardy, I consider Marvin Creamer heroic. 

The ability to rely on personal knowledge and observation is a rapidly disappearing skill. I confess, these days I habitually rely on GoogleMaps or Waze driving directions as much as we use our GPS on the water, and with far more frequency than reading a map or exercising my own instincts.

Last fall in watery wilds of British Columbia, our paths crossed thrice with two fellows on a tiny sailboat, fishing lines streaming, using their oars to paddle along as needed. The third time we encountered each other, we'd all stopped for the night on the same island, and got a chance to chat. These two Canadian Millennials, Ken and Pierre, were sailing Vancouver Island for a month in their hand-built, motorless skiff, styled after an ancient piroa, strictly by feel. 

They give me hope, that preparation, instinct, and willingness to trust in themselves, and others are still as viable today as in Marvin Creamer's time.

At the same time, I feel fortunate today's tools allow us to travel to distant lands without their exceptional courage, fortitude, and talent.

Today or tomorrow, regardless of how you travel—go—whether more delving deeply into your immediate surroundings or into the world farther afield.

Location Location

Neighboring sailboat at St. Helens Oregon city docks at dusk this morning.
Currently, we're docked off of St. Helens Oregon's city docks, N 45 51.820 W 122 47.727, enjoying the last of summer before we prepare our beloved trawler, m/v Serendipity for sale. We're actively shopping for a boat in a location that we can return to the West Indies in, while I continue to work on my memoir about our West Indies adventures, Sailing Naked.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

What Will Our Next Cruising Adventure Be?

flatbed semi-truck on road taking a boat on the road
Photo pilfered from Cross Country Boat Transport's website

When my future is in flux, I often go quiet. We are far from done with our watery adventures. We plan to cruise—the question is: when, where, and on what?

Cruise to Alaska?
northern lights
Alaska photo from Mckayla Crump on

Originally, we planned to take Serendipity up to Alaska, leaving this spring. Pre-COVID, we decided we didn't want to chase winter, which going to Alaska would do. We want to chase summer. We felt an immense sense of relief when we decided to not spend 6 months on that round-trip passage. We also are "homesick" for the tropics and the cultural novelty of living outside the US. With COVID cutting off Canadian entry for US vessels, and even Puget Sound until late spring, not making that trip turned out to be a good call.

Plan B: Stay Put. Then?
Columbia River cruising grounds Mt Hood in the background
Columbia River: our late spring through early fall cruising grounds this year.Mt. Hood in the background.

We chose to spend another summer here in the Pacific Northwest, mostly by default. Don't get us wrong: we love summertime anchored off our favorite beach on the Columbia River. Once a week we head into the quaintly quirky small town of St. Helens, Oregon, where I hop in my car and head over to West Marine, where I work to get my social fix (great manager, colleagues, and customers) and support our boating habit. We are exceptionally fortunate: our life is simple enough we're not that affected by COVID.
Landing page link to my author's website, currently a temporary landing page.

I'm slowly continuing to build my editing and writing-coaching business, Editing for Your Purpose, and am working on the first of a two-book memoir, Sailing Naked, due out August 2021.

One of the other reasons I haven't posted much is because I am not sure what to do with this blog, relative to my author's blog and the efforts to build interest in my forthcoming book, Sailing Naked via If you know a good, affordable strategist for that, please let me know.

Do The Great Loop and Snowbird South?
Map of 6,000 mile Great American Loop boat route
Great American Loop boating route, liberated from America's Great Loop Cruiser Association website,

Only a week ago, we were poised to write a big check to Cross Country Boat Transport to truck our beloved boat, m/v Serendipity, to Minneapolis in mid-September. That would've required Wayne taking a Sawzall to her bridge, carefully slicing it off to lower her height, then securing the bridge to our foredeck. As awful as that sounds, we would hardly be pioneers in this endeavor. 
brown coated monkey on branch
Horrors! Don't sawzall the boat!!! Image from Jamie Houghton on Unsplash.

From there, we would wend our way out to the coast by water, arriving in Florida in December, with a possible cruise to the Bahamas. The following year, we planned to head up the Eastern seaboard, and complete "The Great Loop." If you'd like to learn more about The Loop, check out America's Great Loop: Last Great Adventure from US Harbors and Passagemaker's collection of Great Loop stories and this cheesy but classic Great Loop Guide from Captain John.

Two days before the time came to write the deposit check, we chickened out.
two brown hens
Image from Monica Kubala on Unsplash.


Do-ability was not the issue. 

Rosie the Riveter –
Do-ability was not the issue—though we weren't sure we wanted to.
Photo from

Cross Country Boat Transport's customer service impressed us. Their excellent reputation is well-earned, with over 30 years of service trucking boats cross-country. Wayne even found a local yard here on Portland's Multnomah channel with experience and availability to make it happen if he chose not to take the DIY route for Serendipity's surgery. 

Lack of interest in The Loop was not the issue, and we are itching for a change of venue

We love the Pacific Northwest (especially in summer), but we also love exploring, and the galaxy awaits.
Photo Source: UI

We do want to do The Loop, so that wasn't our reason to back off, either, though ideally, we planned to do The Loop later, and cruise more internationally sooner. Then came COVID. We don't want to spend another gloomy winter living aboard in the Pacific Northwest if we can help it. Last winter we eased that some with housesitting, but because of COVID and reduced travel, there are far fewer opportunities to housesit. 

Cost was definitely a consideration.

fan of 100 U.S. dollar banknotes
Unrecoverable cost for moving our boat, Serendipity, across the country was definitely an issue.
Photo from Alexander Mills Unsplash.

We considered whether or not it made sense to pay what the boat was worth to ship it or to pay less and with "surgery" to bring the cost down, or whether to sell and buy another boat on The Loop.

We figured moving Serendipity would give us some control in an otherwise unpredictable time. 

selective focus photography of deity marionettes
We wanted control in an out-of-control, COVID-crazy world. We know and trust our own boat.
Photo from Sagar Dani of Unsplash.
We know and trust our boat, Serendipity.
  • We'd choose a respected, experienced mover.
  • We'd know where we'd land, and when. 
  • There's plenty of information on the route. 
  • By staying in the US, there would be a lower likelihood our travel would be COVID restricted.
  • Serendipity is perfect a perfect boat for The Loop. 

    Serendipity in 2019 at Princess Louisa Inlet, BC Canada. A more innocent time.

    We trust her. We love her. We've made her comfortable. Wayne's put his heart and soul and a lot of sweat into her, and she shines with his care, as well as the love from our surrogate parents who owned her before us. When we became homeless, Serendipity became home. For more about that, see this story running in 48 North, August 2020, page 26.

    We were concerned we'd get someone else's nightmare. The work we've put into Serendipity is more cosmetic. comfort and maintenance; Serendipity's engine is sound.

    But . . . 

    We didn't anticipate we'd spend more than two years, maximum bouncing between doing The Loop and hanging out in Florida and the Bahamas. Then what?

    Would moving Serendipity be a good move for us financially?

    File:Korean Traffic sign (U-Turn).svg - Wikimedia Commons

    Short-term, there was a big chunk of sunk-cost change we'd swallow: ~$14K to make the move, including prep and post-work yard time on each end.

    Long-term, we believe Serendipity will fetch a better price here in the Pacific Northwest than on the East Coast, either as a cruising boat, a live-aboard, or both. The money saved on not paying to truck Serendipity, plus the income from selling her, could go a long way toward a boat better suited for our longer-term plans.

    No, moving Serendipity would not be the wise move for us financially for our longer-term plans.

    Our longer-term cruising plans

    Wayne's first quote for moving Serendipity without "surgery" came in at ~$24K. At that point, Wayne stumbled over a major fixer—just like s/v Journeythe boat we sailed to Australia—for sale in the Caribbean. With a dead engine, he was willing to offer $5K for Journey's misbegotten twin.  The problem is we didn't know when we'd be able to get to it. Even if we had a trusted friend inspect it, how long would we pay yard fees of $400+/month before we could join it, fix it and move aboard?

    At that price, would it make sense to make that boat our "snowbird" boat, and Serendipity our Pacific Northwest late spring through early fall boat? Chasing winter by cruising spring through fall to Alaska and back on Serendipity was more appealing if we escaped the Pacific Northwest winter. That would still mean storage and maintenance for two boats. We weren't thrilled with that option. 

    tropical overlook Nacula, Fiji Yasawas
    We love cruising the tropics. This was a view from Nacula in Fiji's Yasawas.
    What excited us most about that Caribbean fixer was the ability to cruise the tropics internationally again. Even with COVID, most of the Bahamas are still open to cruisers. Other options include finding a boat in the US Virgin Islands, where we can pay US postage if needed for major or minor boat parts.

    Next: Sell. Then Buy. Unless . . .

    For Sale
    We'll look for someone who can love Serendipity as much as we do, and help us take on our next adventure.
    Photo credit: Nick Youngson Stock Images, found on

    We plan to enjoy the rest of this summer and part of this fall aboard Serendipity. Then we'll seek someone to love her as much as we do and her previous owners did. She's a great live-aboard in inland and near-coast cruiser. There's a few more tasks to pretty her up before we're ready to say goodbye to her.

    We are keeping an eye out. While we do want to sell before we buy, for the right price, for the right boat, in the right place, we are willing to buy, then sell.  We wouldn't even rule out selling our boat, just picking a place out East, finding an apartment for the winter, and taking our time finding a boat.

    As of yesterday, we became the back-up offer for another Pearson 365 sailboat in Florida. When we bought Journey, we were the back-up offer.
    Tonight, we found out the other prospective Pearson buyer got cold feet.

    There's much more we still need to learn before we know if this is the right boat at the right price for us. 
    We figure if it works out, it was meant to be. If it doesn't, we'll find out what does, even if that means hopping in our car or on a plane this fall or winter and haunting boatyards. 

    Someday, we do want to do The Loop.

    Earth - Illustration | The earth cropped from space against … | Flickr
    More to explore on this big blue marble we call home.
    Image from Creative Commons Donkey Hotey

    At that point, it will be our Plan A, not a consolation prize.

    We reserve the right to change our plans . . . on all of this.

    Bahamas Banks from our sailboat
    Wayne and I, pausing on the Bahamas Banks aboard s/v Journey.
    Wish us luck.

    Location Location
    At the moment, we're docked at St. Helens, Oregon's public dock (N 45 51.820 W122 47.732)