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June, 2011:

We are off!

At 1820 PST last night we did it: a lovely group of our liveaboard dock friends gathered on our finger pier and tossed our lines aboard and we left.

It was so surreal, we were ecstatic, exhausted, giddy. It was one of the most difficult things we have ever done, but definitely the fourth most amazing day of our lives. After eight years of dreaming, scheming, planning and doing we are finally out here.

It was overcast when we motored away from Swantown for the last time. As we made our way through the channel markers the sun peeked out and Olympia’s skyline was aglow. Once clear of the channel we unfurled the genoa and hoisted our mizzen in the perfect 12-15 knots of wind on our beam. We sailed north, watching the skyline of our former home get smaller and smaller. Wondertime was clearly happy to be on her way too; even weighted down with thousands of extra pounds of stuff we were making 6.5 knots over ground.

Two hours later, we dropped our hook off Hope Island for a final visit to our favorite island. We’ll stay here for a day, unwinding, napping, sorting all the piles of stuff below, folding laundry and taking a last hike around the island. After setting the anchor we looked back towards Budd Inlet one last time. The sun had found a break in the clouds and a rainbow was on the horizon. We went below to eat dinner and crash into bed. Our first sleep, cruising.

P.S. We’ll be updating our position daily via Yotreps — see the link to the right on the sidebar.

Countdown to cruising: 1 day to go

That’s it. Our final full day in town is done. Last items have been put into our 5’x5′ storage unit, trip to Trader Joes complete (I had no idea you could even haul $400 worth of food in one of those tiny carts! Must be all the chocolate I stocked up on). We also picked up a netbook to use for navigation so our main laptop won’t have to carry all the computing duties. Leah and I got haircuts, we visited some treasured friends in our old neighborhood, made one last trip to West Marine, hauled home a 15 lb. bag of cat food (that should last our 8 lb. cat a while at least), ran through the car wash, unloaded the car one last time, delivered our dear old Subaru to her new owner, visited with some dock neighbors, tucked our exhausted girls into bed, and I headed out for one final Mom’s Night Out at our favorite pub.

I came home to this:

I’ll get on it in the morning.

Countdown to cruising: 2 days to go

Today was provisioning day (well, provisioning day #1 since it continues tomorrow too). Completed today were my trips to Fred Meyer and Costco. Tomorrow I hit Trader Joes for all our true favorites. We are expecting food up on Vancouver Island to carry a hefty price tag since it’s 1. an island and 2. the exchange rate is pretty poor right now for us Americans. While I know that we’ll be gathering fresh bits here and there I am trying to fit as much as I can on the boat now since it’s so much cheaper to buy it down here.

I’m not a meal planning type of person, and my strategy is simply to stock up on the things we use normally that are easily stored onboard: diced tomatoes, onions, beans, ground turkey, tofu, oatmeal, soy milk, cornmeal, Cholula hot sauce, white and wheat flour, white and brown sugar, rice, dried fruit, nuts, pasta sauces, ramen noodles, coffee, Good Earth tea, and of course, Annie’s Mac & Cheese. And on and on.

Earlier today, I was on hour three, or maybe four, and pushing a 500 lb. cart past the pasta sauces in Costco when fatigue really started to set in. I thought: I don’t think I’m going to make it to the checkout counter. But then I remembered what I was doing: I wasn’t just grocery shopping. I was provisioning. As in, we are leaving with this food (unlikely put away yet) in two days on the trip we’ve been dreaming about for years and years. The cart felt a lot lighter after that illumination.

Countdown to cruising: 3 days to go

We spent today not doing a lick of work, but rather saying see-you-later to many family and friends who stopped by our dock to say hello and tour our little home. It was a good day for sure.

Countdown to cruising: 4 days to go

A few months ago I came across the blog of another family of four getting ready to go cruising. Like us, they have two daughters less than three years apart in age. Like us, they are planning on cruising their sailboat in Mexico this winter. Not only that, the parents also cruised as a couple in Mexico before their kids were born as we did. Always excited to keep tabs on other soon-to-be-cruising families I bookmarked their blog to keep up on their pre-departure activities. We soon had “met” online and were looking forward to possibly meeting up in Mexico this winter.

However, this family is getting their boat to Mexico a little differently than we are: it’s already there. A really good idea, I’m thinking at this point in time. Not only that, they had lived in Washington D.C. for the past 10 years or so. In order to get to their boat, they sold just about everything they owned, including their house, packed everything up in a small trailer pulled by their Ford Escort wagon and have been traveling for the past month cross country, visiting friends and family on their way westward, and then southward, as they get closer to their new floating home.

When I read that they would be passing through Washington, I got in touch and told them we’d love to have them stop by if it was in the cards. Indeed it was; yesterday they emailed that they would be passing through Olympia today and so we made plans to have them visit us onboard Wondertime.

This is what we love about cruising folks: just minutes after we’d invited this delightful family aboard we were all, adults and kids alike, talking like old friends. Leah gave their girls a tour of our boat as they were a little mystified by what life afloat is like. I think they like it because all four girls were busy playing right away with squeals of joy floating up from below.

After only two hours or so of getting to know each other, Leah and Frances especially (both 5-and-a-HALF) were fast friends. When it was time for the Del Viento crew to hit the road again, they reluctantly hugged each other good-bye.

“See you in Mexico!” the girls called out to each other as our new friends drove away.

Countdown to cruising: 5 days to go

It’s 12:30 am and we are about to drop into bed. But first, a few things we’ve learned today:

  • when you are too exhausted to cook, you can bake a store-bought pizza in a tiny boat oven provided it’s cut in half
  • just because you give Visio drawing of mast tangs you need made to a local metal shop doesn’t mean that they are actually going to make your parts to match said drawings
  • don’t go to Costco on payday Friday
  • when word gets out that you are getting rid of loads of junk as it can’t all possibly fit on your boat, your neighbors will start hanging around chit chatting a lot more (“Hey, you taking that with you?”)
  • but we don’t mind, giving away free stuff is just as fun as ever.

Countdown to cruising: 6 days to go


Where's the baby?

P.S. Our family was featured today in Three Sheets Northwest Cruising Class of 2011 series. Check it out for a great writeup by Deborah Bach of how we got where we are today!


Countdown to cruising: 7 days to go

Yesterday, Leah began cutting strips of paper (orange, “because the Mexican flag has orange in it”). She asked for a hole punch and some ribbon to string them on. I asked her what she was making and she told me:

“Departure flags. No, wait: friendship flags.”

I’ve asked her how she feels about leaving Olympia next week. Is she excited? A little sad? Leah just shrugs. She is unable to put into words how she feels about what is ahead, and what we are leaving behind. So she creates.

I know how she feels. I am excited. And a little sad too. Along with all the busyness of getting ready, it’s an incredibly emotional time. For our children, this is the biggest change they’ve had to face so far. For Michael and I, well, it’s certainly up there with our biggest too. We are all feeling the enormity of it in our own ways. Tension runs high between all of us. The sibling bickering has reached epic levels. Then five minutes later laughing fits erupt. Then someone falls down and the crying starts. And on and on.

After Leah strung up her bright orange friendship flags, we hung them across the cabin. She ended up with so many that they have barely an inch between them. A fitting reminder of how many good friends both in Olympia and all over the Northwest we have made here over the years, not to mention so many treasured family members. We’ve been so excited about our upcoming trip that it hasn’t fully hit until now what we are going to have to give up to make the journey. It’s a lot, really.

Countdown to cruising: 8 days to go

Refrigeration installed.

Last trip to Target complete.

More stuff sold via Craigslist.

Another carload donated to the thrift shop.

Picnic with girls at the park.

First day of Summer.

One more week to go.

Time to celebrate.

Countdown to cruising: 9 days to go

Nearly 150 lbs of old stainless wire...$98 in our pocket.

Every few days we give a little thought to our budget, which has been completely overrun to put it mildly. Thankfully, the few things we have sold here and there, such as the stainless wire we took to Tacoma Metals today in exchange for nearly $100, plus the selling of our car and other miscellaneous items sold via Craigslist will help replenish our pool titled “life savings” aka “boat self-insurance policy”  we promised we weren’t going to touch. It doesn’t matter much at this point: all the major items have been purchased and it just reinforces that we are going to have to pick up a little work here and there to keep Wondertime shipshape and be able to afford things like a new(er) dinghy as our Costco clearance model is on its last legs. Our last major purchase at this point: food. And bags of wine to tuck deep in the bilge for, you know, extra buoyancy.