Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Big Trip: FAQs

At the dock at Hot Springs Cove

Many of our friends and family have wondered about our plans for a year-long trip on our sailboat. I've tried to answer many of the frequently asked questions. If I missed yours, leave me a comment!

Weather patterns govern our departure. We have to leave the NW coast before the autumn gales hit toward the end of September but can't cross into Mexico until the hurricane season ends at the beginning of November. So there's no reason to leave until the beginning of September. That said, we will be at the mercy of the weather for the entire trip, so all schedules are flexible. We plan to be back in the summer of 2014, likely July or August.
Again, weather rules. Winds and currents in the North Pacific travel clockwise so we'll be heading south along the west coast. Over the last few years of boat travel, we've learned to be very flexible with our destinations. Strict timelines and destinations encourage stupid decisions. They say, "Schedules kill sailors." We have several sailing-specific guide books and will be making many destination decisions as we travel. So, while we're heading south, and plan to spend time in Mexico and several other Central American countries, we don't have a set itinerary. If you have any recommendations, though, we're happy to hear. Just remember that once we hit land, we'll mostly be traveling on foot!
Heading to town in Port Townsend, WA
If you really want to know why, you'll have to come help us pack the house and let us talk your ear off. The simple answer is that we want to spend a year with each other, exploring our amazing world and experiencing different cultures. Sailing is not the fastest or easiest way to travel, but we find the challenge and simplicity very satisfying. We don't expect this to be a relaxing vacation, though there will be relaxing moments. We do expect to learn a lot along the way—about ourselves and our world.
Bacchante Bay, the end of a fjord on the west coast of Vancouver Island
We've been thinking about and working toward this trip for almost 15 years. We will be leaving our jobs (though Bryan may be able to go back to work at his company when we return), selling my car (the only vehicle worth selling), and renting our house (know anyone who needs a rental?) We have been blessed enough to put a little savings aside and would rather travel very (very) cheaply for a year than more extravagantly for a few weeks. Sailing can be a rich man's sport, but can also be done very simply. We hope to err on the simple side with a few creature comforts.
We often break out games and hot drinks on chilly evenings
Creature Comforts:
Our sailboat, LiLo, is a 1964 32-foot Islander. It is comparable to a 20-foot RV with a cockpit and an aft (the back end) storage locker. It's 10 feet across at the widest part but narrows toward each end (especially the bow—the pointy part) and underfoot. Though small, with less than 200 square feet of indoor living space, our boat has almost all the comforts of home.

We have places to sleep, spots to sit while reading or eating, and lots of nooks and crannies for storage. We also have plenty of outdoor space and exploring a new piece of shoreline every few days keeps us from getting cabin fever. Our 11-foot nesting dinghy, Splitpea, acts as our car for carrying us to shore from our anchorage. We will use it to cart groceries, laundry, water, and fuel for our stove and our auxiliary engine (useful for maneuvering into marinas).
Splitpea nested and tucked away on the cabin top for a long passage

Ed. Note: Meira deserves full credit for landing on the perfect name for the little green, 2-piece dinghy we built together a few years ago. LiLo is the original name for our sailboat and it seemed rude to change it after all these years. We like the Hawaiian meaning, “Generous One."

The galley has a small sink, an icebox, and a 3-burner propane stove with oven (as well as a small grill on the back deck). We have a toilet but no shower (don't freak out; people all over the world get clean without showers). We can do laundry on shore or by hand on the boat.
Look closely for evidence of the mundane in the midst of grandeur.

We will have occasional internet access and are still exploring the available phone options.
Snagging wi-fi from a B.C. coffee shop after hours. We bought plenty of their coffee, don't worry!

We have a solar panel (more to come) to charge the main batteries and provide power for LED lighting, radio/GPS, stereo, laptop, video/photo equipment, and our electric toothbrushes:-) We will take plenty of food with us, but people everywhere have to eat and we are looking forward to trying some new foods along the way.
New friends passed along extra salmon from the day's catch
Driving on a freeway isn't safe. Sitting in a cubicle all day isn't safe. Life isn't safe. That said, we have done our best to consider how to keep ourselves well while we travel. We have (and wear!) lifejackets and harnesses. We have lifelines and safety netting. We have an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), several radios and multiple GPS units as well as celestial navigation equipment. We have multiple spare parts for our equipment and a substantial medical kit.
Guns? Many countries confiscate guns upon entry and don't return them until you leave. Given that we will be leaving from a different port we enter, that would be problematic. Also, in the unlikely event of an attack, we would be much more likely to have our gun used against us than have the skill and presence of mind to use it for defense.
What about pirates? We read the piracy reports. Though random attacks can occur anywhere in the world, including here at home, we don't plan to travel in the areas with pirate activity.

Meira calls herself the "high-maintenance" girl and tackles small repairs up the mast

Bryan takes care of the tedious repairs
On the go:
We've been homeschooling the girls since preschool and feel confident that this year will offer plenty more opportunities for learning. The girls will be 7th and 8th grade during our year away and we think this is a great age for a grand adventure. Hannah and Meira have a knack for finding interesting museums and asking great questions. We hope to learn a lot about the history and culture of the places that we go.
The Intrepid Explorer of Watta Creek
The majority of our time will be spent near shore but while out at sea, we stand watches around the clock. Cooking, navigating, and standing watch take up much of our time. We have 2 options for automatic steering, one electrical and one mechanical, but safety still requires a dedicated watch-person (possibly with an assistant) to pay attention to other traffic, navigation aids, and the radio as well as log our progress on the chart.
Hannah is well prepared for chart work

We all enjoy reading and I am hoping to do quite a bit of writing while we travel. Bryan is hoping to take lots of pictures and edit many hours of video footage into an accessible amount. The girls are infinitely creative and I expect much writing and many craft projects will clutter up the place before we return.

We won't have room for my baby grand piano or Hannah's guitar, but we have a few smaller wind instruments we like to have aboard. I'm hoping to run across a decently-tuned piano or two on the journey and would love to meet musicians in other countries. We look forward to learning more Spanish and attending church in towns along the way. We can't wait to experience the wonders of the wild world in a new way and expect to cherish most of all the unforgettable people we meet along the way.
Safe at anchor in Effingham Bay