Sitting idle in our little rowing dinghy, I watched Porter gracefully navigate the kayak atop a clear pane of saltwater. A smile spread across his face when he dipped the paddle over each side and I didn’t need to say a word to him to know that he was in the moment.
He wasn’t the only one.
Spreading our wings on Yahtzee just before the new year has been incredibly rewarding. We’ve sailed with favorable breezes, met up with great friends and have spent time doing what we love — cruising and enjoying life. And as we say goodbye to 2016 and sail into 2017, here’s a look at the present, past and future of life aboard our nomadic home.
Getting in the groove
When we got back aboard Yahtzee in mid-December, we had grand plans of rushing north to the San Juan and Gulf islands to get into our typical winter cruising routine. But the big problem with that was the rushing part. That’s something we try not to do and since time and weather were on our side, we didn’t need to. Instead, we stuck around central Puget Sound for a bit, enjoying beautiful days of sailing and quiet harbors while getting Yahtzee ship shape after her long spa vacation in the boatyard.
After Christmas in the mountains, we waited for a weather window to open and sailed quickly north on a brisk southerly to spend a few days at Mystery Bay on Marrowstone Island with our friends Ryan and Autumn aboard Velella. We’d paid Mystery Bay a visit a couple years ago but did little exploring, so this time we decided to hang for a couple days before continuing north toward the San Juan Islands.
While we all walked the long, pebble rich beach on the east side of Marrowstone Island, I chatted with Ryan about being out cruising and how much it seemed that our life was quickly getting back to normal. Being out on the sea again and away from the noise of life ashore, seeing the boys in their element and living each day in unison brought a comfort that was rewarding and, in a sense, peaceful. It didn’t take long.
We’ve swiftly moved into our typical cruising mode and routine, and a bright spot amongst it all has been the movement of time — or lack thereof. Lingering for days in one spot is always a treat of this lifestyle and we’re doing that now in the San Juan Islands, as we did in the central sound and then on Marrowstone. With no pressure of schedules — save for the wind and the tide — and no shackles of land life tying us to anywhere specific, we’re free to roam for the time being and are relishing the opportunity.
That freedom to wander had us meeting up with friends Mark and Leigh from Cambria for New Years in the San Juans, and as happens with sailors, we celebrated the end of one year and the beginning of the next by swapping sea stories and ruminating on what the upcoming year’s cruising plans will be. All of it was done, of course, with laughter in the air, several grains of salt added to the tales and a twinkle of wanderlust in our eyes.
A look astern
Since getting under sail again, exploring and living as we’re accustomed to, we’ve also had a chance to peer into the rearview mirror of an incredible yet challenging 2016. One thing that is said over and over again about life under sail is that the highs are really high and the lows can be really low. That is true, to a point, but for us, the highs always outweigh the lows. Also, the lows can largely be an attitude that we don’t subscribe to.
The year started with us circling through the Gulf and San Juan islands, finding a rhythm that was true winter cruising at its finest. From there we set our sights farther south and made way for the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River.
When we reached the mouth of the mighty Columbia, it seemed that winter came to an abrupt halt and April roared in with hot, sunny days and a new sense of place as we cruised up the winding torrent of water pouring from the melting Cascades. As is typical, friends came and went and so too did a bit of boat trouble. After a stint on the hard in Portland, we bounded down river with vigor and excitement for the start of the Oregon Offshore Race. The race itself was an incredibly fun experience for our family, and to have friends and family aboard with us for the voyage made it all the more special.
From the finish line in Victoria, we pointed Yahtzee’s bow north again with the goal of circumnavigating Vancouver Island. Jill’s mom joined us for the first few legs and from then on we always seemed to stay ahead of the masses as we hopped from the stunning scenery of Princess Louisa Inlet to the solitude of Desolation Sound, then on to the beautiful Broughtons and around the top of the island.
Once on the outside, the magic of the west coast took our breath away while bouncing south through the five sounds at a leisurely pace. In the last of the sounds, Barkley, we met up with Velella and spent two weeks gunkholing and finishing up one of the most awe-inspiring cruises a sailor can embark on in this part of the world.
With the circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in our wake, it was time to do a little work to the boat and to travel to see family and friends. The work turned into a painstaking process that saw us on the move for almost two months while Yahtzee was on the hard. Along the way we got to connect with many friends and family members and couldn’t imagine not having some of the moments we shared with them all. And for old Yahtzee, well, she’s better off now than she has been since we’ve owned her.
Always moving forward
The short answer when we field the “What’s next?” question is that we’ll cruise Puget Sound and the San Juan and Gulf islands until the first vestiges of spring appear in late February or early March. From there, we’ve got our sights set on Alaska.
But like many cruisers, we have mental lists of places that we’d like to go this year and dream destinations to explore someday. In reality, we don’t dwell too far in the future for fear of not being able to live in the moment. We take it one step at a time, one season at a time and are willing to change plans on a moments notice if need be. By focusing on the next small steps rather than the large ones, we know the overarching goal will be there, but only with hard work and the ability to take each day is it comes.
I read a quote recently that sums up my thoughts on how we operate on a day-to-day basis while cruising on Yahtzee and when planning for the future. I’m paraphrasing here, but it went something like this: “Each day is yet another chance to be positive. Stop complaining and make a positive change. Nothing will happen unless you make it happen.” We’re all about making it happen.
This seems like appropriate advice moving into a new year. But it also meshes with my long held belief that no matter what it is, there’s more sense in working to make something happen than complaining about what didn’t or seemingly wont. Cruising on a sailboat brings this out even more, because if we dwell on the weather, boat problems or outcomes that we can’t control, we’ll arrive at nothing but misery and disappointment instead of where we want to be.
Instead, we choose to live life in the little moments, have fun, stay positive and move forward. To be cruising on a sailboat anywhere in the world, let alone somewhere magical like the Pacific Northwest, is an incredible experience to us. Which is why we cherish the rain and short days just as much as we do the sunshine and following breezes. It’s all good.
Happy New Year everyone. Make it the best you can.