Category: The sailing life begins

Rivers2Seas                                                             Florida

Swimming from the slide aboard Rivers2Seas

Our time at Gateway Terrace retirement home is coming to a close.  The place has been great, but talking

SUPing around the neighborhood

solely with octogenarians and above is getting rather slow.  We have been here since mid-September; so just about 2 months getting Rivers2Seas in working order, provisioning, living life aboard and waiting for hurricane season to end.  We had planned to do all this in 4 months time, but that didn’t work out so we have been working long days and nights.

We arrived with our red minivan stocked to the gills with our treasures from home that would make Rivers2Seas our home.   Moored

"My room is so BIG!"

to a dock in the canals of Fort Lauderdale with swimming pool 20 yards away is a play palace for the kids.  They first exclaimed upon seeing their rooms, “this room is huge!”   Our preparations for life aboard had meant even smaller rooms in their minds than their slightly bigger than a full-size-bed room with 40 inches to the ceiling.  When we first arrived I set up some HeroCams in some of the rooms to record the kids’ reactions to the boat.  Apparently, Chase disappeared for 20 seconds down below without our knowledge.  He made it to Ella’s room, took a right into the bathroom and straight for the toilet.  At 3 years old, his little butt cheeks twinkle as he stands and pees, flushes the toilet, and joins the festivities without us knowing of his little venture.  The cameras had us howling.  Our little seaman has arrived.  Chase is 100% in his element on Rivers2Seas.  A child’s intuition can be astounding.  They each know so much about boat life without us teaching them.

Ella working on her writing skills

Lindsey has been homeschooling Ella and a bit with Chase.  The process is a learning experience for all involved.  It is amazing how thorough 1st grade education is these days.  On our road trip we passed through a museum in Tennessee that had samples of the first grade education from the 1800’s.  The 10-page single textbook is a bit different than the 22 100+-page textbooks Ella received as part of her curriculum.  Chase listens attentively to everything that I am telling Ella and wants to participate.  Homeschooling is tough.  Sometimes I find myself expecting college work from Ella and I am not satisfied until she delivers and then I remember that she is only in 1stgrade…..The stress of messing her up for life is sometimes overwhelming and then I back off a bit and let her run her course, and I am blown

away at what she picks up naturally.  The kid is smart.  It is amazing the ambient education she is getting.  Two days ago, she called for one of the biggest bridges in Fort Lauderdale to open.  She was beaming when the bridge engineer called back

Music class in the salon

and immediately opened the bridge (as he always does at the top and bottom of the hour, we just happened to hit it

perfectly), although to a six-year-old, she without a doubt just moved a mountain.  One of her lessons the other day was to talk about animals in their ocean environment, instead of reading the science textbook and cutting out pictures of fish and dolphins, we donned a mask and snorkel, walked off the back of our boat and stuck our heads in the water and looked for manatees, fish and anything else we could see.  Instead of sitting in a classroom and reading a glossy paged book, she is feeling, touching, breathing, and drinking her education.

Measuring rainbows

Brad has been working on the boat.  A new navigation station with Air speed, direction, barometer, water speed, speed over land, bring the boat up to date with her electronics.  Hours of work on the heads has resulted in many new parts and some horrendous “groover” stories.  Almost every piece of trim on the boat has been removed to get behind at the bowels of our ship.  Here the maze of wires truly astounds as so many systems entangle themselves.  It’s like having all the wiring of a car and house together.  A new boom attaches to the

Ready for the pool yet, dad?

mast now after a frustrating series of errors by the manufacturer.  An old guy lumbers over to tell me one day, “mind if I give you some friendly advice?”  At this point I have realized that an insult is coming from one of the old men who watches my entire day as I work all over the boat.  He tells me to hire an experienced rigger to put the boom on.  Using a pyramid of self-equalizing harnesses around the sail and boom, I can easily pull it up with the mainsail winch.  I see it as a work of art to save a lot of money.  Glad it worked because with the manufacturing issues I needed to remove it three times.

Frustration over the marine industry continues, from a guy who condemned two AC units and a Freezer to be replaced for only $7000.  A few days later a different contractor had it all completely fixed for $417.  We saved another $10,000 when I was able to install all the electronic instrumentation from masthead to thruholes in the hull.  Most of the people who work aboard Rivers2Seas are happy to teach us how to fix future similar problems.  They have been great teachers for each of us.  They patiently explain all the working parts and the difficult areas.  We go to sleep exhausted from the constant physical and mental strain.

Bedtime stories

A West Marine store, largest of the boating suppliers, was moving to another larger location and had some great clearance bargains.  75% off the clearance price and I was getting all sorts of spare parts, fishing gear and new flexible diesel tanks.  These tanks are normally priced at $1250; I was able to get them for $225.  That was cheaper than buying the jerry can equivalent.   We have bought a ridiculous amount there preparing for all sorts of calamities.

Ella and Chase run all over the boat catching pirates and princesses.  Their imagination is wonderful.  One of the major downsides of a trip like this is the lack of interaction with other kids.  They play so well together that it makes it easier on us all.  The boat is now home.  At the store one day with Chase after being in Florida for two weeks I said “let’s go home.”  Chase lost it and screamed that he didn’t want to go home, “I want to go to my boat!”

Friends have visited from Colorado which has been wonderful.  It’s hard to get the construction area put away and then ready to sail, but certainly worth it.  We had a slow sail with Elysia and Rob Clemens and their kids Harper and Conner.  At 8 months, Harper didn’t do much moving around.  Conner more than made up for his sister by pushing and twisting everything he could touch.  We visited the Sawgrass

Petting some of the local wildlife

National Park via airboat with them, which was a fun and loud way to travel.  Kay Reynolds, lindsey’s mom, visited for a week.   We had a great sail to Miami and then a bouncing rollicking one back the next day.  Chase was puking, Grandma matched nicely with her yellow lifejacket and a nice shade of green.  Ella loved the bouncing.  I practiced at singlehanding a boat.  I loved running from one side to the other as we tacked up the coastline.  Pete Wells came aboard with his parents and four other friends.  A great daysail out into the Gulf Stream had Rivers2Seas moving fast.  The trip back was a little hectic with all the puke flowing about but we managed to get her docked again.  Pete has been able to teach us a fair amount and terrify us with his sailing stories (he has a bunch).  The Fetters, Toni, Dave, Madelena, and Patrick arrived for some serious rain.  The heavens opened up and released a torrent of rain for 5 days.  In that time 12-15 inches of rain fell.  Storm sewers were running amuck and whole neighborhoods were underwater.  We ventured up to DisneyWorld for two days of play inside Walt Disney’s head.   The man had a great imagination and business mind.  It’s fun to see it from both sides since my dad has been such an admirer and given me business books on Walt.  Ella loved Space Mountain careening around the roller coaster in the dark.  Her hands raised high she screamed with glee.  Chase liked the Astro Blaster where he could spin us around high in the air.

Driving the boat up the Intercoastal Waterway took us through 21 bridges on our way to the boatyard where Rivers2Seas would be hauled out

Morning fishing from our home

of the water.  It was a packed week as we accomplished many tasks onboard like replacing the shaft seals on our saildrives (which then turned into replacing one shaft and one propeller), bottom antifouling paint done, sewage thruhull replaced, buffed, speed transducer put in the hull and a ton of minor fixes.

During that week I had to fly to Colorado to kick out the renters to our house.  Their rent checks were bouncing, bills had not been paid and I was worried.  It turns out they had over a dozen adult dogs and many puppies in their puppy mill inside our home.  They are gone and we now have a new management company to take these hassles away from us.  In one four day period I was able to get nine hours of sleep.  Nothing like trying to accomplish something with many different deadlines.

We sold the minivan to two guys from Patagonia who work with surfing racks.  She is in good hands and we are now keyless adventurers ready to set sail.

We leave today for Miami and then off to the Bahamas tomorrow!

Chase has fully embraced the freedom of our new sailing life


Lagoon 410 made in France, 41 feet long with a 24-foot beam fractional sloop catamaran

Our home has treated us well and we have added some new safety features to make our lives easier and reduce a little stress.  The boat was in great shape when we bought her, but we needed to make it better.  And to make it home.


For navigation we have two Garmin 10” GPS units both inside at the navigation table and outside at the helm.  With the newest maps we can see Google earth and aerial shots of anchorages and other important landmarks as we enter.  These maps have been extremely accurate even with the base map model that we used this spring in the Bahamas at night and in a rainstorm navigating through a tight channel in the reefs for miles.  We have 2 backup handheld GPS devices as well.  The Garmin can be left on and will alarm if we drag anchor.  A hundred pounds of paper charts fill one of her shelves.  A few compasses onboard should never fail.  If all goes bad we have a few other backups like the beach ball globe from Ella’s schooling (a century ago this would have been gold).

For water we have two tanks with 100 gallons of water storage.  I am in the process of building a rainwater catchment system to supplement during passages.  We have a watermaker onboard that can convert seawater into drinkable water at about 5gallons an hour.

Electricity is generated by a Westerbeke generator, our engines, solar panels and a wind generator.  We can survive several days on using the solar panes and wind alone.  I have converted most our lights to LED’s, which run at 25% the amperage of conventional lighting.

Propulsion is achieved primarily via our 960 ft2 mainsail, 560 ft2 Jib and 600 ft2 Genakker.  We have a 100ft2 storm sail too (and a spare mainsail).  Two 30 horsepower diesel engines propel us at 6.5 knots.  We have 70 gallons of permanent diesel tanks and another 120 of temporary flexible diesel tanks.

For collision avoidance our first line of defense is ourselves.   During a passage we will always have a lookout whose job is to scan the horizon at least every 12 minutes.  That’s the time a tanker would take to come into view and crush us; not a pleasant thought.  They will also be looking for weather changes and sea life, of course.  The second line of defense is our AIS (automated information system) which is required equipment on every large tanker over 300 tons.  On our navigation screen we can see which direction, speed, name and cargo of these vessels.  A preset alarm will sound if they come within a distance we deem to close.   Our system also broadcasts Rivers2Seas, heading, speed etc.  I have read that the tankers often turn off this info on their navigation sets because it causes too much clutter.  There are rules of the sea as to who has right of way and a vessel under sail almost always has the right of way.  But when a ship can run you over and not even know about it, their size gives them the actual right of way and they know it.

To keep us on the boat we have jacklines that run fore and aft in which we can clip our harness into which should prevent us from being pitched overboard.  A two-foot lifeline around the boat helps too.  We have added netting to the lifelines giving us the appearance of a giant playpen.  The kids must always wear PFD’s if outside the salon.  We will wear ours at night and during any weather that seems appropriate.  Attached to our PFD’s are a knife, strobe light, whistle and MOB tags (man overboard tags).  These MOB tags will set off an alarm if any of them get more than 30 feet from the boat or are submerged.

For communication we have a Tracphone 25 satellite phone covering most of the earth.  Cell phones will be purchased when we plan to stay in a county for awhile.  The IPad has become a marvelous tool as well.  We have two nav station VHF units and a handheld one as well.

Lindsey and I have both been in the medical field at different times and have EMT training.  Our Medical Advisor, Dr. Art Sands has been incredible at getting us proper training, equipment and drugs.  We have seen some crazy stuff before and will see it again.  Once again, we have the knowledge and the tools to make these medical emergencies more manageable.  My biggest worry is getting another kidney stone during a passage and not being able to work.

Seeing at night is always difficult.  Kent and I had a hard time telling what bridge was what or if it was a barge or other canoeists (just kidding) when we night canoed through Kansas City.  We have FLIR night vision goggles that are super cool.  Using thermal variances in teperature up to a tenth of a degree a cameral screen gives us a glowing picture of the night.  Helpful in nighttime anchorages or looking for someone who has gone overboard (or canoeists).  To see during the day, I had lasik done on my eyes so that I can see more clearly.  We have 3 sets of binoculars and the kids have some spy scopes to look for land (or the dinghy should Wilson set her free again.)

Chase on his way to becoming "The Fixer"

Cats are reported to be unsinkable.  Nothing is unsinkable and fires are more of an emergency at sea than in our landlock homes.  If we need

to abandon ship we have a Givens top of the line liferaft rated for 6 people.  They have some pretty impressive videos from the US Coast Guard showing how superior their product is than the competition.  We hope to never be able to weigh in on the discussion though.  An abandon ship panic bag (with DON’T PANIC stenciled on top) has food rations, GPS, maps, flares, fishing gear, knives, signaling devices and compass.  We have a Katydyn PowerSurvivor 35 watermaker that can manually filter seawater at a rate of 1 gallon an hour.  An ACR epirb can be manually activated to alert authorities of our exact GPS coordinates.  This Epirb will go off if the boat is upside-down or the unit gets submerged.  A spot messenger is what we use to show our progress on the blog with great pictures of Google Earth.  We can manually send out a SOS to preprogrammed emails saying that we are in trouble, need help immediately and with our GPS coordinates.

Setting out on this journey we have heard about every comment from foolish, Why?,  and that many people have accomplished all this before, to with so much backup that it really isn’t an adventure at all.  We have taken many safeguards to ensure that our travels are safe.  If something horrible happens like hitting a submerged container (semi trailer floating 6” above the waterline) we have ways to get help – to not have that ability in this technological era would be foolish.  Saying that an adventure is only so if we use 18th century tools is simply a couch potato who knows less than the TV they are watching.  Many people are doing this now, many many voyagers have gone before this.

We added a plane to Rivers2Seas!

We want to see for ourselves.  The world is beautiful.  The seas are still intimidating, the whales still gargantuan, the sharks still prowling, storms still growing, then add to that the increase in shipping traffic and the cargo they have dropped, anyone who thinks otherwise needs to head to the woods.

One of my favorite quotes:

Far better it is to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered with failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that know not victory or defeat.

 Theodore Roosevelt

Washed Out to SEA

Washed Out to Sea

I have been a river runner most of my life.  This is where I find passion for life, my monetary livelihood and the place I just can’t pull myself away from.  I own a whitewater rafting business, Mountain Whitewater Descents, on the officially labeled “unnavigable waterway” of the Cache La Poudre River in Colorado.  Years ago, I even paddled from the Cache La Poudre down to the navigable waterways of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  I didn’t learn much about navigation except that it is difficult for a canoe to avoid an ocean-going freighter.   Once to the sea my voyages stopped.  Rivers have been my life as I amassed over 18,000 river miles (about 1600 days in sailing jargon).

the Colorado flag waves across the Gulf Stream

Last week I finally figured out where all those river droplets were cruising off to – the allure of the sea.  Oh sure, I had been sailing a few time

before and even sailed through cool spots.  My first ever sailing was crossing from the Pacific to the Caribbean through the Panama Canal, which I did five times before ever hoisting a sail.  So back to last week, a friend and I enrolled in Blue Water Sailing School to learn the basics of sailing out of Marsh Harbor, Bahamas.  There are schools all over the States to learn sailing, but why go to a community college when you can go to Harvard?  Sailing in the Bahamas was like getting my SCUBA certification in Utila, Honduras with the second largest reef in the world, compared to a swimming pool session.  Having fun in a beautiful area while going to school.  I want the full adventure right off the

Lindsey about to swim back to the boat in the BVI's

The first thing we couldn’t help but notice was the luxuriousness of the 43-foot Fountaine Pajot Belize catamaran.  Bryce and I started backpacking together over 15 years ago.  Once we became rafters, we laughed at how difficult things were when we could only hike into an area with our house on our backs.  With a raft, we could carry tons of belongings, float into remote wildernesses and do day hikes from there.  Life was easy.  I haven’t done a remote backpacking trip in years.  Rafting has taken over.

Sailing raises that comfort level exponentially once again from rafting.  The kitchen and tables and tents and toilets and chairs and food and games don’t need to be packed up and stored each day.  Everything is bolted into the boat and ready to go.  Large tables are surrounded by comfy couches that can store more stuff than you can haul.  Actual refrigerators and freezers; are you kidding me?  We even had a coffee maker and microwave.  Hot showers, of course.  Close a few hatches that brought in a nice breeze, pull the anchor and get ready to hoist the mainsail.  That’s a piece of cake compared to rafting.

Once those sails are raised, the wind flows through your hair and there is no feeling like it.  Harnessing nature in such a primitive and unharmful way is empowering.  Why can’t everything be like this?  But it’s not and your bones feel life’s worries melt away.   Why can’t I live like this all the time?  Why isn’t this home?  Why not?  Hmmmm?


My Great-Grandfather Thibodeau had a poem that he would quote often:


One ship goes east,

Another goes west,

By the self same winds that blow;

T’is the set of the sail

And not the gale

That determines the way they go.

I can now feel what that means.  I want to reset my own sails for the distant coasts and the nearby coasts.  I want to see it all.  I want to bring my wife Lindsey, 2 ½ -year-old and six-week-old, they deserve it.  Lindsey really deserves it.  She was the one who gave me this school for a Christmas present.  I was overwhelmed.  Especially when I realized what I had done.  She had told me the cost, about $2500.00 and was adamant that it was for both of us.  She even made me promise not to spend more than a hundred dollars.  Because of some previous efforts, I was certain that a pop-up camper would be in the driveway, so I bought her something that she truly wanted, would be totally unexpected and I didn’t think we needed.  I thought it was overpriced plastic– a Dyson vacuum.  Yep, she got me a trip to the Bahamas learning how to sail, without kids and with my best friend Bryce.  And I got her a vacuum.  I was drinking rum and cokes while she was knee deep in diapers.   The vacuum does kick ass but most women wanted to kick mine at that point.

I can honestly say that it is better to receive than to give sometimes.  I had the time of my life sailing in turquoise green waters from harbor to harbor.   Learning all the new vocabulary like luff and rake and clew and plunker can be a bit overwhelming.  We studied hard by day, snorkeled and played hearts at night.  The world is there to enjoy – so we did.

Raising the mainsail and then our Genoa we started learning.  Tacking and jibing either against or with the wind became familiar.  We could take our boat, Cataway almost anywhere.  At low tide and me as helmsman, I steered the boat into Hope Town Harbor and went directly aground.  We steered quickly off and then learned another lesson from our Captain.  There are sailors that have gone aground and sailors about to and liars.  At some point everyone will go aground, even America’s Cup racer Dennis Conner.  That mishap out of the way, I am ready to learn more.

We took the American Sailing Association tests, both written and practical.  We passed.  Now as licensed skippers we can rent a monohull or catamaran throughout the world.

My wife took a big hit being at home alone with the kids and I was in a deep hole with the vacuum.  Practical isn’t always better than romantic even at 10 times the price.  Lindsey knew what she was doing; a skipper certification can provide a lifetimes worth of romance as we sail to deserted isles and beautiful coastlines.  We can’t wait to bring our family on sailing trips to Croatia, San Francisco, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Tahiti, Virgin Islands, Thailand and every port in between.  I have a rare wife that all sailors want: she wants me to sail and she wants to sail with me.  We won’t ever stop running rivers, but now when we get to the rivers’ mouth, we’ll keep on going.

We’ll leave the vacuum at home.