Joining us for 5 - 15 days of a summer cruise is...the best. This is a true unique Pacific Northwest experience. We go to beautiful places you can only get to by boat. But we can't do it without you! On a long trip we need guest crew to fill in the ends of the itinerary. And even in years where we are only going out for a week or two, there are opportunities to join in.
Where can we go? Anywhere really from Olympia to Desolation Sound, and beyond! The boat does travel slowly though and not all combinations of destinations go well together. For example, we cannot easily just "drop by" Alderbrook at the southernmost end of Hood Canal on our way to Lopez. It takes a long day with the right weather and tide conditions to get to the San Juan Islands. We often do it in two days, spending the night at Port Townsend and crossing the Straits in the early morning when they are generally most calm.
Our ideal summer cruise is a total duration of about a month, and is chopped up into three to five separate crews and segments. It can go something like this:
We do crew car swaps with my Volvo wagon. For example, you might drive my car up to Vancouver. The crew getting off the boat will drive it back. Parking the car at the Anacortes ferry dock and walking on to meet us on Lopez or Friday Harbor (or even Sidney!) are all options, where the departing crew will make the reverse ferry trip and drive the car back to Seattle.
There are many other variations on this for less ambitious trips just to the San Juan and Gulf Islands, south Sound, Hood Canal, etc. The general theme is that the distaff portion of the family has a tolerance for cruising that maxes out at the 10 - 12 day mark, and that just isn't enough! Plus they are weary and numb to the grind of just getting back and forth to the "good stuff" up in BC. Hence the need to recruit additional crew for other segments of the trip. It is also a great way to connect with one another. There is nothing like being trapped on a boat together to facilite long and deep conversations on politics, current events, relationships, parenting, elder care, hobbies, that great book you just read, etc. Too many of our social interactions are superficial and unsatisfying. A boat trip can be the cure.
We generally do a few nights at anchor or tied to a park buoy followed by a night at a marina dock. Fresh water, fuel, groceries, showers, and laundry are our constraints that pull us into the dock periodically. Some places we stop because they are marquee destinations to be relished and enjoyed, and some places are just a place to stop along the way and are relatively unremarkable.
The packing list is similar to weekend trips. Bring a swimsuit -- once we get north of Vancouver, 70+ degree warm water is not uncommon. Don't be afraid to bring a few extra items or changes of clothes. Guests rarely are on board long enough to need laundry, but if you are with me for at least 5 days I will probably do some laundry at a marina and can toss your stuff in with mine to wash and dry it.
If we are crossing the border, bring your passport. Kids can cross without one, but need notes from any parent not accompanying them.
If you are flying in, you will be limited to 25 pounds of luggage. Plan ahead and stash sleeping bags, food, drinks, etc. on the boat before it leaves Seattle.
Here are some mythbusters, actual preconceived notions by new crew which I did not think to dispell in advance:
A typical day involves getting under way first thing, eating breakfast underway and arriving at our destination around lunch time or a little after. I like to do this as it gets us where we are going right about when the late-risers are leaving an open spot for us. And then we have the whole afternoon and evening to enjoy the destination.
We carrry fishing gear, a simple collapsing crab pot, the dinghy and outboard, two inflatable kayaks, an inflatable stand-up paddleboard, a hammock, games, cards, movies, and a small library of reading material for entertainment. In BC the water is often over 70 degrees and makes for excellent swimming. In the US it is more typically in the 50's and makes for a refreshing plunge on a hot day. I rarely end the day without a shower. At anchor it will be a solar sun shower on the swimstep, rain or shine.
There is a lot more to it, which is why it is best to do some daysails and ideally a weekend trip before committing to the summer cruise. At a minimum we should get together before hand to address any questions.
The tide and weather govern all of our actions and have a major impact on how pleasant things are on any given day. Precise schedules pose risky challenges when the weather changes. I always leave a few days of schedule contingency in each segment of the cruise.
Seasickness happens, albeit rarely. We often have to just plow through unsettled waters, which after a few hours can elicit the mal de mar. Most trips involve at least one person hurling at some point. I carry a generic version of the non-drowsy Dramamine II which we find effective, and some of the bracelet thingies of dubious value. Some claim ginger helps. As we always end the day at a dock or sheltered bay, you can be assured that any discomfort will be temporary.
There is a certain give and take of getting along in the confined space of the boat. A dedication to neatness and tidying up is required with everyone sharing the space together. There is a choregraphed ballet required to get through the cabin when everyone is down below, or the cockpit when everyone is above. We try to give each other space to be alone and have quiet time on a regular basis. It can take some getting used to sleeping, eating, and defecating with three to four other adults all within a space governed by a 15 foot radius. Nothing worth doing is easy!