Experiencing summer in the San Juan Islands has been delightful! The past two summer seasons we’ve been up north in British Columbia and I didn’t get out of my fleece and wool clothing till we made trips back to Colorado. I was not a fan. But here in Anacortes, we’ve been enjoying temperate weather—60s to low 80s—which feels just right for the adventures we’ve also been enjoying.

I finished stripping, sanding and oiling the cap rails, bulwarks, bowsprit and eyebrow trim. Clay applied a couple more coats of varnish to the handrails. They all look great! Next up is either stripping/oiling or revarnishing some trim in the cockpit. In the end, Sundown will have a beautiful combination of weathered teak, shiny varnish and enriching oil finishes.

We’re out sailing as often as possible, either in Sundown or in Lil’ John, our new sailing dinghy, Lil’ John. I also inflated my kayak so can often be seen paddling to keep up with Lil’ John and Clay.

We had fun “land camping” east of Anacortes up in the Cascades. One day we hiked up to the glaciers, which were amazing. To protect our camp from torrential rain, Clay constructed the Taj Mahal of tarp structures. The camp host said we won first prize! During construction, we thought fondly of our friend Susan Lamb. While camping as families when our boys were young, she would get such a kick out of Clay’s tarp hanging skills. We’re sure she was smiling down from heaven on his recent creation.

We’ve also been biking, hiking around the woods on Fidalgo Island and even went to the local golf course to hit range balls.


Dancer Pose in rain boots and a skirt on James Island, San Juans.

Oh, and while we’ve been sticking closer to our home base, I took a yoga instructor course and am studying to test for my American Council on Exercise (ACE) Group Fitness Instructor certification. I’m already teaching yoga at the Anacortes Pool & Fitness Center and will be teaching Strength & Conditioning soon. This is all in addition to my regular writing/editing gigs, and so much fun! Definitely bucket list activities.F

So, life aboard doesn’t feel as confining to me this year. I like this summer’s variety of activities versus exclusively sailing from place to place with Sundown’s 33 feet on deck as my primary space for movement. That said, I do miss the freedom and experiences cruising provides, but I’m sure there’s more of that in our future.

By the way, our son, Chad, quickly designed the featured image for this blog post. SO cool! He’ll be helping me update the look of our blog site, too. Wait for it…


I’ve been drawing a lot of attention on the dock in Anacortes, Wash., lately. Who wouldn’t while they’re stripping down to bareness in preparation for a healthy dousing of oil? Whoa! What?

You heard me right. Sundown’s varnish, especially on the cap rails, bulwarks and bowsprit, needs some serious attention to keep her close to bristol. We began sanding those areas readying to add more layers of shiny finish, but have changed our minds. We don’t want to be brightwork slaves, constantly taking time away from sailing and other adventures to keep up with varnishing, nor can we afford to hire anyone to do it for us. So, we’ve decided to strip off all the varnish and go with an oil finish”—Penofin Marine Exterior Oil Wood Finish, to be exact. It will need to be applied often for the first few months and then annually after that, but there’s no sanding between coats and the application process isn’t picky like varnish. Also, if we change our minds again and just can’t live without gleaming teak, we can always reapply layers upon layers of glossy glaze.



Protecting the ocean

However, I must admit, after stripping Sundown bare while in the Colorado prairie dog field, I was lulled into believing that it was a one-and-done job. Never did I imagine I’d be stripping on the dock. But after trying to keep up with varnish for almost three years, an oil finish seems to make sense. We hope this switch pays off in more sailing time in the long run.

Stripping the underside of the rail

Fall 2011 – Stripping Sundown in the prairie dog field

How does all this fit into our summer cruising plans? Well, I’ll be cruising the streets of town on two wheels more than sailing. (By the way, I have a new-to-me Specialized Dolce named Sug—short for Sugar. My Diamond Back Ascent, Alice, was functional, but Sug allows me to travel farther faster and more efficiently.) Clay will be sailing or rowing Lil’ John, the new 9′ nesting punt he built. When we do go out on Sundown for short jaunts, we’ll be sticking to the Puget Sound, San Juan Islands and maybe up to Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia (B.C.). Our scaled-back cruising plans for this summer aren’t all due to Sundown needing attention, however.


When the wind dies, stroke…stroke.

My job duties are changing a bit (expanding) which will require me to travel back and forth to Fort Collins, Colo., once a month. I can’t be deep in the remote B.C. wilderness during this transition phase. And the company Clay works for, Anacortes Marine Group, just landed a huge (really huge, like the biggest!) job all reliant on his expert woodworking skills. He’ll be transforming a 65-foot Nordland to look and feel like a classic wooden yacht. He’s really excited about this project and feels it will be a signature piece of work.

So, while we won’t be traveling thousands of miles this summer, we’ll still be enjoying life afloat.




Life after Tofino…after we bid farewell to our Belgian clowns*…went by fast.

First we continued to the Broken Group where we enjoyed three anchorages in six days. Then we sailed our longest day yet; 75.4 miles in the infamous Juan de Fuca Strait. It took us 14 hours; 13 of those were in dense fog. The last hour before anchoring in Sooke Inlet we finally could see land and everything else only our radar detected beforehand. The next day we finished our final leg of the west coast of Vancouver Island: Sooke to Victoria.

Continue Reading »

by Clay

The west coast of Vancouver Island. I have read about the challenges, remoteness and solitude to be experienced. So far it has been a walk in the park (although we have had excellent weather) and if you like the scenery of logging’s desecration of vast swaths of forest, then the west coast is for you.g


Cape Scott

We rounded Cape Scott and anchored in the northeast section of Winter Harbour, then went around Brooks Peninsula and stopped in Columbia Cove where we found very beautiful sand beaches sprinkled with lots of commercial fishing trash. 


The  forecasted weather called for several days of gales, so we moved to a quaint little anchorage in the Bunsby Islands that we felt would offer better protection. We were welcomed by a wolf family complete with a litter of pups and a bear. We also shared a beach dinner of lingcod and roasted vegetables with our cove neighbors Bob and Dina of s/v Silverado (a scaled down Slocum Spray made famous for the first solo circumnavigation by Joshua Slocum in the late 1800s). Bob is an over achiever who not only learned how to weld so he could build his own aluminum sailboat, but taught himself how to sail as he singlehanded his vessel from Mexico to Hawaii and then Hawaii to Alaska! It was fun spending time with Bob and Dina, and hearing of their adventures.


Quentin, one of our clowns from Belgium, and I fished hard for two days in the wind and sun. We filled the freezer with lingcod. Amandine and Quentin made a video of my fishing exploits. Check it out here.



Next, we went in search of food, fuel and water in Tahsis, BC. Unfortunately, the smoke from mainland wild fires was so thick that it obscured the view of the surrounding mountains.


Smoke in Tasis Inlet

We choose Tahsis due to the high praise given to its Westview Marina by Waggoner’s Cruising guide. We won’t go there again. First, as we approached the fuel dock, the waiting attendant said she’d been trying to hail us on VHF06 to see if we had a reservation and wondered why we didn’t answer. Kim replied that we monitor VHF16, as all mariners are required to do. That seemed like news to the attendant.

Next, after spending nearly $150.00 for fuel and fishing gear, Kim was told by the owner that she couldn’t fill our water tanks at the dock because there was a small power boat waiting (which pulled in behind us and filled up without a problem). Kim replied that she was handed the water hose by his attendant, at which point the owner went inside and chewed out the staff who then came back outside to Kim and said we needed to move to a different dock to complete filling up with water. Apparently our spending $150.00 didn’t qualify us as elite paying customers. So while Waggoner’s touts Westview Marina as being cruiser friendly, I would guess any vessel longer than our 41’ boat better have bow thrusters to maneuver inside of their breakwater. We backed out without an issue, but I would not recommend this marina to anyone but recreational fisherman and small fishing boats. Waggoner’s has let us down in the past with information that supported their advertisers over unbiased accuracy; they failed us this time also.


Next stop: Hot Springs Cove and its popular hot springs which provided a welcome warm bath and our first encounter with real civilization again since leaving Nanaimo back in May. The down side is there are a lot of fast boats and planes coming in and out of the cove during the daylight hours hauling crowds of tourists. So if you want to bathe with at least a couple dozen of your closest friends, you’ll enjoy that spot.

From there, we bumped over to Tofino to celebrate BC Day with the locals. We made some repairs to the autopilot and cleaned house. We also say goodbye to our friends Amandine and Quentin who took to the road again to hitchhike to Cuba. We will miss their company, but will also enjoy our first real time together all summer!DSCN3735

Next up: the south end of Vancouver Island, Juan de Fuca Strait and Victoria!



He says: So…I saw a flyer down by the dock about a couple of clowns from Belgium who are looking for a ride south on a boat.

She says: Yea, I saw the same flyer in the laundry mat. What do you want for dinner? I’m hungry.

He says: I met and talked with them for about 40 seconds. What do you think?

She says: I think a salad would taste good.

He says: No. About giving them a ride.

She says: What? Are you serious? That would be kind of CRAZY! We don’t know these people. They could be drug addicts or worse. And the boat is small. What about everyone’s hygiene habits and needs?

He says: Yea and we couldn’t exactly kick them off the boat if it doesn’t work out; we’ll be in the middle of nowhere for days. 

She says: Well…God knows we have enough food aboard; we won’t run out of that.

He says: And this could be another opportunity to share what God’s blessed us with.

She says: Okay, at the very least, let’s buy these kids dinner and get to know them a bit.

Thus began the latest leg of our adventure with two clowns aboard Sundown. Continue Reading »

So before this season’s adventure began, a friend of mine said, “Why do you want to go cruising? You will get bored.” Ha! I am neither bored nor tired of living on a sailboat and cruising! What a life! We make day-to-day travel decisions based on the weather, which is always exciting. And given we travel on a sailboat, we strive to move with the wind to save on fuel and to reduce our carbon footprint. Continue Reading »


Look at our route through Haida Gwaii.

The rain beating on Sundown’s canvas biminy sounds like a rolling snare drum. As gale and storm force winds blow through Hecate Strait, we’re nestled in Gordon Cove on Moresby Island surrounded by forests and snowcapped peaks. A curious seal pops up to look around at visiting boats—ours, Chris’ (our boating buddy) and a couple others, also here to hide from the weather outside, I’m sure. Continue Reading »

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