Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When "Conservative" isn't Such a Bad Word

September is the time of year when I bridle at being on the dock.

As my own summer cruising season begins to slow down, the days gradually shorten and the crisp autumn mornings dissuade me from coffee above decks.  This is the time of year when I envy the cruisers who are rushing back and forth down our docks with carts full of provisions; preparing to cast off their lines and head south for the winter.

I've never been one that likes to stay in one place too long, I am definitely a wanderer at heart. Heck, I couldn't remain in my old college town because I hated seeing the graduates move away after commencement!

We obtained Kwaietek for the purpose of roaming the inside passage during NW summers and then eventually,  hopping aboard our 36' ketch for south Pacific cruising. Although we've since committed ourselves to four years of shore-based education for Juliet and by gosh, we're going to see it through. That doesn't make it any easier however, when the ol' wanderlust hits hard. Fall always sees me chomping at the bit to head out there into the big blue and get on with it.

On the other hand, I recognize that I haven't yet fully prepared myself for the reality of sailing off-shore. The difference between sailing in the protected waters of the San Juan archipelago and Gulf islands is totally different than blue-water cruising when one is miles from shore. I've seen enough heavy weather in the straits to confirm my belief that I'll need way more practice with big swells and rough seas in Sugaree before I'm ready to commit to a voyage off-soundings. Especially if I am taking my family along with me.

Over the past decade I've clocked about 600+ sea-days in and around the Salish sea in all kinds of conditions. The next step is to spend a good season or more outside of Neah Bay, maybe cruise the west side of Vancouver island; where it's possible to duck into the protection of a bay or inlet should things get a little hairier than I'd care to attempt. The basic goal though, is to push my limits and gain valuable experience that will help me as a world cruiser.

There is this fantastic story that I'd recommend to anyone who is considering the very same lifestyle that we're aiming toward. Written by a professional Coast Guard rescue swimmer who spent years helping boaters out of situations that they probably could have avoided with a bit more preparation and practice; Mario Vittone's article in Yachting magazine pretty much says it all. 

Preparation and experience are vital components of any sailor's pre-voyage check list. Certainly any sailor intending to take their ship out to sea for an extended time.

Yep, I  continuously fight the urge to throw those dock lines away and join the fleet somewhere--anywhere else but in the marina. But in this one instance, I believe I'll work against my nature and adhere to some practical, conservative wisdom.

Getting all my ducks in a row before I go.

~ Chris

NOTE: If you are interested in hearing more safety and boating information from Mario Vittone, check out his presentation in Seattle on September 24th, 6-8 PM at the Center for Wooden Boats [1010 Valley St, south Lake Union] the talk is free and open to all. Please register at if you wish to attend].

More from Mario on "Preparing Before You Go" here: