Things not to forget on a sailing trip

IMG_4576In June, Paul and I decided to island-hop by sailing around the Puget Sound, celebrating our two-year anniversary. Both excited to get out on the water, we made sure to have a radio for the coast guard, called the marinas at Blake Island and Vashon Island to check on available slips, and mapped out our trip from Thursday to Sunday.

I just finished my sailing lessons and Paul had read all there is to know about the open water, so we felt confident enough to venture out. With the sun shining and a strong wind, it looked like the perfect weekend for sailing.

For the majority of the trip, it was a perfect weekend. We saw porpoises, seals, dodged huge cargo ship waves, met a deer, and didn’t throw each other overboard. Since Paul and I were both very inexperienced sailors though, there were a few mishaps along the way. Below are a few things we learned NOT to forget on a sailing trip:

  1. Power cord

At my marina, I have a power cord that hooks up to my boat from the dock. This cord allows me to use my internet, keep my new, amazing, mini-fridge chilled, and re-charges the batteries for the boat.

Every time I take the boat out, I have to un-plug the cord from my marina slip and leave the power cord coiled up on the ground.

However, marina’s don’t have power cords available for use, something we didn’t think of before leaving on our voyage. Luckily, the people you meet at marinas are incredibly nice. A fellow sailor lent us his power cord for the night so we could keep all the refrigerated food from spoiling.

Unfortunately, at the next marina, we couldn’t find a spare power cord and had to eat a lot of potatoes, chips and veggie straws on our last day sailing back to Shilshole marina (home sweet home).

2. Non-perishable food

As previously stated, you need a power cord to keep a mini-refrigerator chilled on a sailing trip. Since we forgot that important item, most of the food we bought spoiled. This included raw chicken, bacon and eggs.

Bring food that will last in case of emergency.

3. Dock-master’s phone number

You will always be late when sailing. No matter how well the wind is blowing and how close an island looks to you from your starting point, there will always be an obstacle and a lull in the wind that will delay your arrival.

Make sure to have the “dock-master’s” phone number ready so you can communicate with the marina and can adjust your arrival time to reserve your slip.

Most marinas are not strict on arrival times, but if you are speaking with the dock master, it is friendly to communicate a time so they know your ship didn’t sink.

4. Shampoo/conditioner/body wash

Although traveling by sailboat is a unique experience where you don’t have to pack to travel, not having a shower means you might forget to pack the essential shower items.

Dock bathrooms are common in every marina but unlike my eucalyptus-smelling gym that provides shampoo and conditioner, dock bathrooms have nothing.

Even though you can be fooled by the home-travel experience, this still means you have to pack for the occasion.

5. Full tank of gas

I thought a half tank of diesel would be enough for our sailing trip since I only used a quarter tank of diesel over the last seven months of owning Oswin. Paul and I did try to fill it completely, but the dock gas station was closed before we left for our first stop, Blake Island.

What we didn’t account for was the wind dying while heading into certain marinas. Not to mention, we had to dodge many ferry and cargo lanes where ships 100 times the size of Oswin own the water traffic. I used the engine multiple times to ensure we were out of those shipping lanes.

On our final stretch back to Shilshole, we ended the entire sailing trip with an incredible view of downtown Seattle. We sailed parallel to the city with the soundtrack of Little Miss Sunshine playing in the background and the sun setting behind us. It was perfection. Until we rounded a small peninsula called Discovery Park and the wind died.

“Let’s turn on the engine and just motor back into the marina, ” I said.

As I turned the key, the engine made the most depressing, “i’m trying so hard” noise that told Paul and I that we were not going to motor back into the marina.

Luckily, we had our friends Rory and Sylvia to call upon and tow us back into the marina, with their small gray dingy.

We learned our “many” lessons.

Come sail away

DSC04641It’s true, I bought a sailboat without actually knowing how to sail.

When my sailing 101 class of nine students went around giving introductions, my instructor paused after learning I owned a boat.

“Wait a minute, so you bought the boat, but don’t know how to sail? Well, we all know who we are becoming friends with during this course!” said instructor Jordy.

Ten months after buying Oswin, I signed up for a sailing course that lasted two days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I learned the rules of the water, how to control a sailboat’s speed and course, and how to safely come about going upwind.

I walked away from that course knowing new terms like, “coming about” and “beam reach” but more importantly, I earned a sense of confidence.

Before the class, I was intimidated by Oswin. I had absolutely no prior knowledge of sailing and this boat contained all of my life possessions. If it sank, my whole lifestyle would, too.

I had many nightmares where Oswin would sink in the marina slip. I would have to yank the boat by the bow, up to the surface, to save everything inside. Obviously this was not possible outside of the dream-world, but I woke up terrified.

I actually let down Oswin’s sails once before the class with Paul, Rory and Kelsey on the Puget. Right after I put the Oswin decal on the stern of the boat, I knew I needed to let down her sails to signify the start of a new adventure.

Although fun, I still didn’t quite understand what I was doing.

Letting her sails down after my 101 course was an awakening experience. Sailing knowledge came pouring out of me and I realized how independent and powerful I had become.

I was in control of a 28 ft. vessel, steering with a teak wood tiller (looks like a wooden pole) and used the wind to push us along. The best part about turning off the engine and using the wind: Silence.

Hearing nothing but the waves brushing Oswin, I felt connected to my surroundings. We happily broke that silence by turning on The Black Keys Pandora station and sailed back and forth on the Puget Sound, watching the sunset behind the Olympic mountains.

I was officially Captain Ernie.

Mini fridge, it is!

My galley (kitchen) is fully equipped with an alcohol stove, sink, icebox and drawers. The icebox is hidden underneath my counter space with a tiny latch that I can open and close to keep my food cool.

At first, I thought the icebox would benefit my diet since I’m not able to keep food refrigerated for long. This means I need to buy fresh ingredients when I want to cook and I can’t keep leftovers.

I started going to the market in Pike Place and bought fresh veggies, bread, and sometimes seafood. Along with these groceries, I also bought a bag of ice on my way home at the 7-eleven located along the main road to the marina.

At the time, I didn’t have a moped and buying ice and groceries meant a heavy walk home. I would occasionally stop by Trader Joe’s instead of the market since they had delicious frozen meals I could make for the night, instead of buying many ingredients.

I bought a moped in December 2016 and felt relief when I could store groceries in the seat. Grocery shopping wasn’t such a chore anymore and I could fit the ice inside as well.

My ice would last about two to three days when the Puget water surrounding Oswin was cold enough. Even though the Puget never froze in the winter, it was cool enough to keep my ice frozen a little longer than normal.

But I knew the Sound would eventually warm-up and around April, I debated getting a mini-fridge.

Buying ice was a hassle already, especially at $1.99 a bag, everyday. Ice would soon become a huge pain in my routine to keep my food from spoiling.

I also considered converting my ice box into a refrigerator. Although possible, the refrigeration conversion kits started at about $679.99. It might add value to Oswin overall, but I decided against the kit because of the cost.

IMG_4395A mini fridge was my best option. I bought the mini fridge for $90 and stored it in my aft berth (bed area) near the galley. My electric bill maybe increased by a couple dollars but this small addition was life changing.

Milk, eggs, cheese, and meat are now easily accessible for any kind of breakfast, lunch or dinner. I can also store leftovers, like a delicious peanut butter burger from 8 oz. Burger, and not have to worry about food spoiling. I even have the tiniest freezer in the top left corner of the fridge that I can keep tiny pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

The little things truly make you comfortable at home.