The first year of our voyage is in the books!
Start: June 2, 2022: Boston, MA
Summer ’22: Revisiting our favorite New England anchorages from ME to RI
Fall ’22: South via NYC, The Chesapeake Bay, and the ICW to Florida
Winter ’22/’23: Three months of cruising the Bahamas
Spring ’23: A month of boat work in Brunswick, GA then back north to New England
End: June 2, 2023: Portland, ME
A few statistics from the past 12 months:
- Total Mileage: 5,901 NM
- Miles under sail: 1,671 (28% of total miles)
- Miles motoring(or motor-sailing): 4,230 (72% of total miles)
- Diesel fuel purchase: 606.7 gallons. (Similar to what a 25MPG car will burn in a typical 15,000 mile year.)
- Engine hours: 845.9. (Similar hours on a car would produce approximately 42,000 miles)
- Gal/hr. diesel burn rate when motoring: .72
- Total nights spent on anchor: 222
- Total nights spent at the dock or on a mooring: 143
- Days underway: 195 out of 365
- Average mileage on days underway: 30.3 NM
- Longest day’s run: April 10, Deltaville to Annapolis, 93.5 NM
- Countries: 2 (Bahamas & USA)
- US states: 14 (ME, NH, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL)
- Laundromat / marina laundry room visits: 21 (Most expensive: Oak Bluffs, MA. Most fun: Jekyll Island, where the laundry was conveniently located next to the bar.)
- Side trips via rental car: 6 (Portsmouth NH, Solomons MD, Ft. Lauderdale FL, George Town, Exuma, Long Island (Bahamas), Morehead City, NC)
- Plane trips: 0
Cuba (almost) to Canada (almost) at walking speed
The ratio between miles sailed and miles motored might jump out to the non-sailing reader. Why even have a sailboat if you rarely utilize the sails? Good question. The painful truth is that the wind is usually too little, or coming from the wrong direction and when that happens, we resort to motoring. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in the cruising sailboat world, but our motor use over the the past 12 months has been unusually heavy. Our choice to run the ICW twice this year helped rack up the motoring miles. The ICW is particularly conducive for motoring and challenging for sailing. Bill the dog’s toileting habits also kept us on a tight leash. We always had to prioritize getting the dog ashore over a productive multi-day run offshore in favorable winds. Bill has not been trained to go to the bathroom on the foredeck on a piece of astroturf like a lot of sailing dogs do–our fault.
Some will point out that we could have (and others have) accomplished our entire trip by sail, even with a dog. When conditions are good, we can sail the boat significantly faster than we could ever get her going under motor. But other times, sailing is slow. Sometimes exceptionally slow. Sometimes no speed at all for days on end. A sailor’s devotion to purity can be tested.
Our engine is new, quiet, and efficient. This makes motoring more tolerable than it used to be prior to the installation of the new engine. Our energy consumption is still only a tiny fraction of what it was back in our land-based lives. Our solar and hydro-generator work well and we never run the engine just to charge the batteries. But still our high engine hours bother us.
Many sailors take note of their sailing to motoring ratio and switch over to the dark side, trading in their sailboat for a powerboat. We’ll stick with our sailboat for three reasons:
1. When the conditions permit, we love to sail the boat.
2. We prefer the aesthetic of the sailboat.
3. We hope to cross an ocean someday and powerboats don’t cary enough fuel to accomplish that goal. (At least not any in a reasonable size range.)
In the future, we hope to do more sailing and less motoring. Planning a route offshore in trade wind conditions will help accomplish this goal, but that will have to wait ’til 12-year-old Bill the dog goes to the great poodle beyond up in the sky.
For a 32-year-old boat Sundance held up exceptionally well, but we did have a few failures:
- The toilet pump failed. We replaced with spare on hand. (Our custom mahogany and bronze toilet pump handle swapped over to the new pump easily and remains as good as new. I am sure it will outlive us both. And if I’m wrong, we carry a spare for that, too.)
- The fresh water pump failed. We replaced with spare on hand.
- The relatively new radar raydome failed. We replaced with a part shipped to Solomons, MD. In the process we upgraded from the Raymarine Quantum 1 to the newer Quantum 2.
- And just recently our watermaker production dropped by half. We’re working on sorting that right now. Worn annular rings?
Just because we didn’t have much that needed fixing this past year didn’t mean that we were free of boat work. Cleaning, waxing and varnishing never ends. Winches need cleaning and greasing, the engine needs routine service, water filters need changing, and the dinghy needs paint once a year.
We also spent some time and money to add a few pieces of gear that we hope we will find helpful in the years ahead:
- Starlink satellite internet service
- Watt & Sea hydro generator
- Hydrovane self steering
- 2 additional 100 watt solar panels upping our total solar from 500 watts to 700 watts
The boat has been in the water for 12 straight months without a haul out. We swam under to clean the prop and change the zincs four times (Portsmouth, NH, Key Biscayne, FL, Long Island (Bahamas), and Brunswick, GA). A diver also helped with a full bottom clean in Brunswick. We do plan to haul the boat for routine bottom work at some point in the next 12 months.
Chris: When I see a medium-sized fish jump in the ocean, I wonder if there’s a way to tell if she’s being chased by a predator? Or if she is the predator chasing a smaller fish? Or both on a busy day? Of course there’s also the possibility that she’s just out for a bit of morning exercise. And, at the end of the day, does it really matter? This is what I hope to continue to work on in the year ahead, studying the intersection of science and philosophy.
Just kidding. That activity only only takes up a small amount of my time. Mainly, we sail along out here busy with the work of getting from one place to the next and seeing what’s there when we arrive. It’s a simple way to live and we are finding it enjoyable. My biggest takeaway from year one of our new life aboard is that we have no headlines to report. There were no sudden bursts of self-discovery, we don’t yearn for a different boat, and we don’t think it was all a colossal mistake. Quite the opposite in fact, we’ve been content, remarkably relaxed, and eager to continue on. Most importantly, Alex and I are on the same page about this. (Bill’s on the fence.)
Other headlines are missing from our lives too, the ones topping newspapers. We’ve eased back from frantically monitoring the world’s affairs. We may not be solving all of earth’s problems out here, but at least now we’re a smaller part of the problem and that feels good enough. Besides, we have bigger fish to fry, like sorting out who’s chasing whom beneath the sea.
Worst Day: Thursday, October 13, Coinjock, NC. The day was going great until we got to the fuel dock and I accidentally pumped diesel fuel into one of our two fresh water tanks. A painful error of epic proportions. I cover all the brutal detail in a piece for Points East Magazine. Link: “Boat Loads of Shame”
Best Day: December 24th, George Town, Bahamas. George Town exceeded expectations for me. On Christmas Eve, we set up our little 3-piece creche and Alex went off to church while I stayed back with the dog. Bahamian Christmas tunes played onshore at Chat n’ Chill and I was happy to know that family would be arriving to visit the next day. Being on station when their plane landed felt like a pretty good accomplishment.
Alex: As ever, Chris gets this whole writing ball rolling and manages to capture perfectly what the experience is like. He’s a hard act to follow, my Captain.
Someone said to me before we left, after I had described what we hoped to do, “well, if nothing else, you will certainly meet yourself out there, at sea.” I suppose I did, in some sense. Turns out myself is very good at staring into the middle distance. This made me feel bad about me for awhile and then I met another woman in The Bahamas who said the same thing. She’d had a busy career too (in a different field, arguably more meaningful than finance, even), and family on land so then I felt less bad. In fact, as a general matter I feel less bad and more free out here than anytime I can remember in my life.
Like Chris, I haven’t experienced any blinding moments of self-discovery nor do I feel like I’m any closer to touching the eternal truths of human experience, whatever they may be. It’s more like a slow settling into the understanding that at 55 years old, I am finally living the life I never knew I always wanted. Make sense?
Worst Day: Was there one? Yes, actually. Our last day of sailing back to the good old US of A was a tough one. Long hours, fluky winds, big seas, and an unexpected offshore boarding by the Coast Guard. Waiting on the other end: Florida. You get the picture.
Best Day: Everyday! This is pretty darn true. It’s hard to find a bad day when each one brings some fresh experience or sight or encounter. That said, Christmas Day was pretty awesome. Hugging the kids and my sister, and welcoming them to the blue water of The Bahamas. Life doesn’t really get much better than that.
Bill: My legs aren’t that great these days and the boat is slippery and jiggly. I think we should carpet the decks and the cabin sole, that would help. Otherwise things are OK. I like the beaches and the swimming. Getting from one beach to the next is less fun tho. The boat is always better when it’s not going some place. In general, I love the togetherness of it all.
Worst Day: May something, Fairhaven, MA. I enjoyed being off the boat for a bit in April and was kind of pissed off when we returned. I refused to hop aboard for a while and went off to pout on the corner of the dock. I thought maybe the whole boat thing was a phase they were going thru and that they were over it and we could all get back to living like a normal family with carpet to walk on and a couch to sit on. Part of it was that I felt sick and didn’t have much energy or appetite and nothing was very much fun that day. (Feeling better now tho!)
Best Day: Cruisers Beach, Big Major’s Spot, Exumas. The swimming, the beach, a swing, that spot under the tree in the shade… Plus turtles, rays, sharks, and pigs – wow. We should have just stayed there forever.
We’re headed north and east for a summer in Atlantic Canada.