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Clay on Sundown. Compliments of our friend April.

Happy New Year! The past several weeks have flown by and now we find ourselves on the light side of the Solstice, anticipating spring and another sailing season. (more…)

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On Matia Island with Mt. Baker in the background

What a weekend! On Friday, we sailed almost the whole way from Anacortes, Wash., to Matia Island on the northeast side of the San Juan Islands. Today we retuned back under sail most of the way. Friday’s sail dealt us a little excitement when the wind did a 180-degree shift when we hit a little squall, but we managed (or I should say Clay did, as I was below decks indisposed…I managed to keep my balance!). Today’s return “home” was perfect. The sun was out. The wind was blowing on our nose steadily between 13 and 17 knots, Sundown’s sweet spot for sure.

While moored in Rolf Cove, we enjoyed the antics of a seal, some river otters and many birds. Hiking around the island proved to be a fungus fanatic’s mecca. We couldn’t identify the mushrooms we found as fast as we saw them. Therefore, we didn’t eat any of the shrooms, either. Better safe than off on some wild trip of the psychedelic kind.

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But the best part about the weekend was it gave us time away from the dock. Last year this time, we were exclusively sailing or motoring, and anchoring in hidey holes protected from the forecasted winds. We were constantly on the move, unsettled. It felt…well, unsettled and scary and perhaps a little too disconnected. This year, we have a home base in Anacortes Marina. We’re really liking this community and becoming known in small ways, but I think we also need to leave as often as the weather permits, to enjoy the serenity of island time and nature, as well as to keep up our skills. So we’re hitting a balance now I felt we lacked till now. Either way, we’re living aboard and feel blessed.

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Sundown at the end of a rainbow, Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, Wash.

Which day do we choose as an anniversary date? The day we left Fort Collins (Sept. 10)? The day Sundown arrived in Bellingham (Sept. 13)? The day we sailed away from Seaview North’s dock (Oct. 14)?

It really doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, we’ve been living aboard and doing life different for a year. Wow! The last 12 months went fast. I remember thinking often, “A year from now, I’ll feel so much better and will have so much more experience.” And actually, both are true.

My take aways

So what’s different than a year ago? For me, a lot! For example, I don’t break down in a nervous fit of tears every time we start the engine, put up the sails or when I struggle to tie fenders on with a clove hitch knot. (Really, that did happen.) I now regard the sails as my friends; they stabilize the boat and provide a quiet, peace-filled ride when there’s sufficient wind to only use the sails for propulsion. When there’s not enough wind (see below), the engine and Grateful Dead provide a steady drone I try to block out.

I appreciate wind more than I used to. It’s always been the one element I dislike the most (So how funny is it I now live on a sailboat? Someone has a sense of humor!). Rather than being afraid of forecasted wind speeds above five knots, I now think “good sailing” wind is 15-25 knots. We don’t even hoist the sails unless we have at least eight knots of wind, because Sundown is a big girl! Her 15 tons of solid beauty requires more than a breeze to move her at any reasonable pace.

And finally, Sundown feels like “home” and living in a tiny house that floats suits me. We have everything we need and then some. Life is good.

Clay’s contemplations

One year living on Sundown. It is hard to believe! I remember the day we launched, as I walked over to the water with the boat hanging in the slings and felt so satisfied that all our hard work was going to pay off. I also felt a little nervous when I realized I’d never actually piloted the boat before. But when I took the helm to motor her around to the dock, she operated as expected.

When we left Seaview North’s dock last year on this day (Oct. 14), we motored due to lack of wind to Sucia Island where we’d been before. It was a 21-mile ride, which felt like a long day. We’ve sailed 2,574 miles since then, and some days average 50 miles or more.

It’s been a year of many firsts and a lot of growth. We visited many new places and made a bunch of new friends. And I feel like my relationship with Kim has grown in many ways. It has been amazing to see her become so comfortable with all the aspects of sailing.* We have had great adventures roaming through the islands both on land and at sea.

So as the sun sets on 365 days of living afloat, we’re looking forward to the promise of more adventures to come.

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*Editor’s Note: I only could have made it this far with Clay’s help. His calm demeanor when things get exciting and his saintly patience with my ineptitude as I stumble along on the steep learning curve I’ve been climbing has been remarkable. He is so knowledgeable about this whole boat thing and I’m immensely proud of him. Thanks, Honey!

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We’ve been at this cruising life for about two months and have already met some very interesting and really nice people, which is so much of what makes this lifestyle wonderful. (more…)

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As we settle into Sundown, she’s becoming quite comfy. Sure, there are daily projects in the mission-critical, boat building category that must happen for her to be safe and sea worthy. That’s what Clay very good at; I help as much as possible and am learning a lot as we go along. What I contribute, however, is a keen sense of ship-shape organization (to those who know me, I hear you laughing!) and homey touches. (more…)

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It has been a busy week! It started with water system leaks, a motor that was not completely bolted down, no tender, no outboard, no lifelines and no dodger.

Today we have a 99 percent complete water system. (more…)

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Sundown was built in 1982, but never equipped with more than an ice box to keep perishable food cold. It wasn’t a bad ice box at 8.5 cubic feet with good insulation, a molded interior and nice teak shelf. Given Sundown will become our year-round residence soon, however, it’s time for refrigeration.

When it is time to upgrade, replace or install a new refrigeration system there are basic questions to be answered. (more…)

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