Cruising by sail in the Pacific NW


Moving On – Selling Palomita


Palomita at sunset on what is probably our last night aboard – Jan 1, 2017.

Its been an eventful and stressful fall; after talking about it for years, we decided to buy a new boat.  And while it seems like 10 months should be lots of time to make this happen, we are currently the proud owners of two boats so as to eliminate any possibility of being boatless next summer.  Ouch.

Buying a boat is a complicated task.  You’d think that experience would make the task easier, but after spending so much time out on the water our list of necessary features in a boat has grown incredibly unwieldy.   This means that just choosing a suitable boat is hard, never mind actually finding one.   It’s all such a royal pain that Lori has always said she’d refuse to participate in a next boat search until I’d done a bunch of weeding through options – not because she doesn’t have any opinions on the matter, but because it was so hard to find something we liked last time.  Countless hours poring over listings on and specs on looking for something that met our expectations didn’t make the process any less daunting.  At any given time, there just aren’t many candidates that feature the look, layout, performance and build quality that we want at a price that we can swing.  Even with a continent wide search, they are few and far between.

Then there is selling Palomita; we love our boat.  She’s been amazing, teaching us and taking care of us every summer since 2004.  Our family has grown up onboard, and many of our social connections have their root in our beautiful boat.  We can’t imagine having done everything we’ve done over the last 13 years on any other boat.

Still, we both agreed that we wanted more space and performance, and the only way to get that was to buy a new boat.  Last spring we found a candidate, and she was local.  We weren’t really seriously looking at the time, but the boat did strike a chord with both of us.   Finding her in BC made her especially intriguing.


Indemnity (don’t worry, the name isn’t staying) is a a 87 Sabre 42CB.  Her layout, performance and reputation fit the bill, but the cored hull and centerboard raised serious concerns about the possibility of a compromised core and insufficient stability.  The lack of alternatives forced me to look deeper. Simply put, there are lots of boats out there, and they are all compromises.  Short of building a custom boat to suit our individual quirks, we’ll all have to pick our boat buying poisons.  After some research, we decided that a centerboard and a cored hull are ours.  After some digging, I’m not even sure they’re compromises.

Palomita draws 5 feet, and this has always been a double edged sword.  We’ve appreciated the freedom of having shallow draft and bemoaned the leeway while beating .  Indemnity also draws 5 feet, except for when she doesn’t.  Put the board down and she draws up to 8’6″.   Yes, its a pain to crank the board up and down, but the deep draft with the board down should make her point fairly high and with a 42% ballast ratio compared to Palomita’s 35%, it is unlikely that stability is an issue.   We’ll see.

To my mind, the cored hull is a little bit more straight forward.  Well done, it allows builders to build stiffer, lighter boats.  For someone interested in performance, these are both desirable attributes.  Sabres have been building cored hulls for a long time and have a long reputation for quality glass work.  On top of that, the survey was great, so we’re pretty confident that she’ll be fine.

But this is all just a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo.  While it’s really important to get right, it turns out that it’s not the hardest part of getting a deal done.  It really shouldn’t be a surprise that the toughest part is the people part.  Buying a boat isn’t the fun it should be considering the cash involved.  Negotiations, schedules, emotions and the unknowns of purchasing something as complex as a 30 year old boat make the process fraught with tension.  Dealing with vastly different ideas of what seaworthy maintenance looks like only adds to the frustration.  On second thought, maybe it’s not fun because of the cash involved.

So here we go.  Selling a big part of the last 13 years of our lives, and starting again on a new boat is a major undertaking full of challenges.  And once the buying and selling is all done, the real work of making the new boat ours will begin.  It’ll start with a new name.




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Books on Board: Our Reference Section

We love reading, and during a typical summer, it is not uncommon for Lori and I to blow through 30 or 40 books.  Finding new fiction to replenish our selection is always a challenge, but we’ve been lucky to work with a wonderful librarian who is constantly keeping an eye out for stuff we might like.  There are, however, a few books that we insist on taking every year: our reference section.  Following is our list of favorite “how to” books.  We have no stake whatsoever in any of these publications, they are included because we like them:


Ports and Passes.  Easy to use tide and current tables that have daylight savings already included in the quoted times.  The government tables are excellent too, but they break the coast of BC into 3 regions and are more expensive if you are cruising more than two regions of them.  In addition, you need to remember to add daylight savings time to the times listed.  Ports and Passes is easier.




Douglass guide_

Any of the cruising guides by Don Douglass and Reanne Hemingway-Douglass.  We carry Exploring the North Coast of British Columbia: Blunden Harbour to Dixon Entrance and Exploring Vancouver Island’s West Coast .  These guides are short on destination detail, but cover most nooks and crannies, no matter how improbable.  Because they are so comprehensive, you’ll need to spend some time with them.

hamiltom coverCruising the Secret Coast: Unexplored Anchorages on British Columbia’s Inside Passage  by  Jennifer and  James Hamilton.  While this book is by no means essential, it does contain a small number of out of the way places like those we are always looking for.  I believe that this book is responsible for much of the increased traffic in formerly remote destinations such as the Goose Group and Spider Group.  The authors are pretty brave, and outline many tight places that we are hesitant to go into.

wagonnerWaggoner Cruising Guide is an excellent companion to the anchorage focus that the Douglass guides have.  The Wagonner Cruising guide covers the waters from southern Puget Sound to SE Alaska, including Haida Gwaii.  It has piloting information, anchorage information (somewhat limited north of Desolation Sound) and a comprehensive listing of facilities and towns.  Best of all, it is a free download.

DreamspeakerThe Dreamspeaker Guide Series by Anne and Laurence Yeadon-Jones. We don’t own any of these books, but we’ve cruised with people that do and really like them.  They cover the same ground as the Douglass guides, but are picky about the anchorages they include.  Because every stop listed is a worthwhile destination, the books are easy to use.  The excellent pictures and drawings make them fun to read.

local knowledgeLocal Knowledge: A Skipper’s Reference : Tacoma To Ketchikan by Kevin Monahan.  A book of transiting notes that is particularly useful for understanding and using the tides and currents in the many passes on our coast.

Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook,  Marine Diesel Engines, and the Mechanical and Electrical Manual.

They all get used occasionally.  The Cruising Handbook is focused on buying and setting up a sailboat for voyaging, and at this point I read it mostly for enjoyment.  It is 15 years old, and you can tell, particularly the electronics section.  That said, the info on cruising sailboat design and layout is worth the cover price alone.  The other two books are very hands-on troubleshooting type books that are applicable to power and sail boats.

voyagers handbookThe Voyager’s Handbook: The Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising by Beth Leonard.  The title speaks for itself.  Although it is written specifically for those intending to go offshore in a sailboat, it has information useful to coastal cruisers as well.  Plus, I’m a bit of a reference book geek.  Beth Leonard has circumnavigated twice, and has rounded all 5 great capes – she knows her stuff.

1st aidSt. John Ambulance First Aid Reference Guide: Preparing for emergencies at work, home and play.  While any up-to-date First Aid book should be mandatory on board, we carry this one because it was the manual used in the course we took a year ago.



weather bookWe carry a weather book that tries to explain how our weather works.  Although it is well written, the one I have is pretty general, and covers concepts that apply globally.  I’ve been looking for one with a local bias, and found Living with Weather Along the British Columbia Coast: The Veil of Chaos by Owen S. Lange.   Based on the description and review on Amazon, I think it is going on my wish list.

Lastly, we have two 3″ binders full of the documentation that came with our gear. All of it. Included in this is a shop manual for both the diesel engine and our outboard.  Unfortunately, this stuff is referenced constantly; fortunately, it’s easy to find.

If I’ve missed a resource you find indispensable or particularly well written, please leave a comment and share the title.  Thanks!

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Why can’t I fix my soggy feet?

A rant about shopping…

Recently I have had trouble spending money on boat gear- not because I can’t afford it or don’t want to spend it. I simply can’t find what I wish to purchase.

Here’s the issue – I am a women wanting an everyday item that is easy to find for a man: boots.  These should not be considered strange, rare or unusual items.  But I’ve looked, and the evidence says that retailers in the Pacific Northwest clearly consider them to be an irrelevant oddity.  Sailing boots….for me. Ladies leather sailing boots.  How hard could it be?

Now I’m not asking for the moon here- I just want to buy the same pair of boots Greg has, in my size. He got Sperry Topsider boots last year to replace his uncomfortable clammy rubber boots. Now he has happy feet. I want happy feet. I deserve happy feet.

We went to our local boating store in the fall. They had a wall of men’s leather sailing boots, and two pairs of ladies- size 10 and 11. The other local boating store does not sell them at all. So Greg ordered me a pair online from back east. He ordered my size (seems logical, doesn’t it?)

Christmas morning I opened my box and barely managed to squeeze my foot into the boot. Apparently, Sperry likes to make a size 7 actually fit like a size 5.5 just for fun. Of course, had I been able to try a pair on, I would have known this. We sold them to a member of our sailing club with tiny feet. Back to the drawing board.

Next came the Seattle Boat Show. I felt confident I would be coming home with a new set of boots. In the entire Boat Show, there was ONE vendor selling leather sailing boots, and their “Boat Show price” was the same price in American dollars that we can order them for in Canadian dollars at home. With the exchange rate as it is currently, that made them much more expensive. I came home bootless.

After phoning around again at home, I found that the only store in Vancouver that sells ladies boots has no stock. We are once again ordering boots online- this time size 8. They’d better fit.

We see a lot of women on sailboats. Why don’t retailers want our money?


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The Great Debate – Reef at the Mast or in the Cockpit?


Everything on a boat – any boat – is a compromise.  Reefing systems are no exception.  When we started sailing, reefing sounded so complicated that I decided that we just wouldn’t go out in conditions that required it.  That plan worked for our first trip – the delivery to our home port.  I learned how to reef on our second outing when we beat into a wall of wind in Indian Arm.  It wasn’t so difficult, except that our leeward rail was well under water and it was hard to find a reasonable place to stand.  The next year, we bought a new main with a much needed second reef point, and I got it in my head that reefing from the cockpit would be fantastic.  I installed single line reefing for both reef points, and set out for our annual cruise.  I was never really satisfied with it though.  There was tons of friction in the system, it was hard to pull the foot of the sail tight, and the massive length of line that ended up in the cockpit was a pain.   Shaking a reef out was no picnic either, with friction again making everything a massive grunt.   I didn’t get a lot of time to perfect the system though as we sold that boat the next fall and moved up into a new boat.

Our mariner had all of the reefing lines and halyards at the mast.  There is a lot of merit to this system.  It’s simple, has minimal friction, and with reefing horns on the boom, only required that I easy the halyard, harden the tack outhaul, and then re-harden the halyard.  If you have to leave the cockpit in weather, the mast is a relatively safe place to work.  Raising and lowering the main is easily accomplished by a single person with very little winching required, and the mess of lines is both smaller, and in an easy. manage location.  These benefits, for years, kept me in the “keep it simple” camp as a strong advocate for the mast reefing.

I have many friends in the other camp.  They have, or have crewed on, boats with all of the applicable lines lead aft.  Their argument is simple – why would you want to leave the security of the cockpit just when the weather is kicking up?  Sure there is friction, but leaving the cockpit is a safety issue.  Whenever the issue has come up (surprisingly often in my circle of friends), I was often the lone defender of the simplicity and ease inherent in having the halyards and reefing lines at the mast.  Now I’m not so sure.


My doubt started on a voyage from Jedidiah Island to Comox one dark and stormy night last summer –  a distance of about 35nm.  The forecast was for following winds of 20 to 25 kts overnight, falling to light the next morning.  Given that we hate motoring and don’t mind a sail in the dark, the choice to leave in the evening was simple.  At first, the sail was quite mellow, with the boat moving easily under full sail.  At about 10 pm, I went up to put in the first reef as the wind picked up to its forecast strength.  It wasn’t completely dark yet, and I accomplished this with a minimum of bother.  By midnight, the seas and wind had built and we were regularly hitting speeds of over 7 kts, surfing down the waves in gusts of 30 kts.   There was no moon, and a spectacular silent lightning storm threatened us in the east.  To add to the drama, hitting floating logs while boating in Georgia Strait is a real concern, and at our speeds, a collision could cause significant damage.  We needed to slow the boat down.

This time, reefing the sail wasn’t so routine.  To preserve Lori’s night vision, I donned a headlamp and went forward tethered to a jackline.  I couldn’t see Lori at the wheel, and she couldn’t see me at the mast.  Even tied to the mast, the work at the mast was unpleasant as the boat rolled in the waves.   Needless to say, I was happy to crawl back into the cockpit with our speeds at a far more manageable 5 to 6 kts.

My experience that night stayed fresh for a while, but still unconverted.  However, our current boat is giving me new data to work with.  Palomita came rigged with two line reefing lead aft for both reefs.  We decided to replace the lines, but keep the system as is to give it a good trial before changing anything. So far, it’s been good.  Put a reef in and and shaking one out is a chore, but the two lines minimize some of the issues we had with single line reefing.  With the bigger sail, having a winch available to grind the sail down is a bonus.   It might keep us in the cockpit, but it isn’t as quick or effortless as our old system meaning we might be inclined to push the boat longer without reefing, or wait longer to take one out.   Is it better than reefing at the mast?  I still don’t know.   I need more time, and at least one more dark and stormy night sail before forming a firm opinion.