First Cruise/First passage, STORIES

The Shakedown Cruise

So here it is… finally – our shakedown cruise!

After 22 months of upgrades, projects, renovations, busted knuckles, bloodied toes, cursing, drinking, more cursing and drinking, we are as ready as we’re going to be. We are going somewhere, people!!

Our cast of characters includes my husband, Captain Ken, the First Mate (me), Ken’s teenage son (Ken Jr.) and our cat, Spinnaker aboard Makana, our Morgan 384, and a similar crew (minus a cat) aboard Eagles Wings, our friends’ Morgan Out Island.

Two weeks, from Gulfport, Mississippi to Port St. Joe, Florida and back (with some stops along the way).

The night before we set sail we stay aboard in the harbor so we can get an early start. My brain won’t shut off and sleep just doesn’t seem to be working out, so I very ungracefully stumble over the Captain out of the V-berth before dawn, and see the cat perched perfectly still on the galley counter. She is staring at the sleeping teen in the quarter berth – I suspect she is plotting to steal his breath, and I make a mental note to monitor her creepiness.

Captain Ken says your crew can make you look really good or really bad. The relative inexperience of this First Mate tends to lean more towards “mediocre”. Sometimes our docking is smooth and impressive. Sometimes it’s a clown show.

Aware that our dock friends will be seeing us off, I’m fully expecting the circus music to be blaring… Read more

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BOOKS, Cruising with Kids

Books to take your family cruising

There is no topic that we have covered as often and as thoroughly as going sailing with children aboard.

Why? The answer lies in the children that we have met living aboard boats with their families.

The cruising kids that we have known have been active and knowledgeable, curious about the sea, other people, and the great big world they sail. They tend to have loving, respectful relationships with their parents, and are at ease with adults as well as children of different ages and backgrounds. We have seen them grow up to be creative, engaged, caring adults.

Society is all too ready to discourage families that want to go cruising. So, we want to counteract that by giving families as much information (and inspiration) as we can to help them decide whether to go sailing, and if so, how to do it.

Read more

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Sharing Our Stories

Our decision to leave

Hello ! My name is Valérie, I’m 55, and I sail with my husband François, 67, on our sailing yacht, Cybèle 17, an OVNI 445, in Scandinavian. We live year round on her, on water.

Many thanks to Women & Cruising for inviting me to contribute to your blog. I’m French and English is a second language for me: thank you, Gwen Hamlin, for correcting mistakes I may have made writing this in English.

As a first topic on this cruising blog, I thought it could be useful to share how we went about leaving.

  • How we decided to go cruising;
  • How we decided – eventually – to sell our house, and not buy a new one;
  • How we decided to dare – as I often say – to live our own life, and not the life the others would like us to live.

Because the most difficult part is to DECIDE. Read more

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Struggling to get cruising? Make three lists!

Several summers ago, I went to visit my brother and his wife who were hard at work aboard their catamaran in Morehead City, North Carolina, trying to get the boat ready to begin their first cruising that fall.

Like most boats that were in the thick of projects, the boat was in disarray with lockers open and the crew was feeling stressed.

The project list was long and Margaret was very worried that they might not even make it out cruising this year.

Margaret wanted to just GO, and she wasn’t very happy that her new home looked like the storage closet in a West Marine.

Ken wanted everything to be right and shipshape and properly installed. Major stress.

 “Where is your project list?” I asked. They did have one, although there were many important jobs that hadn’t made it to the list.

And what are your cruising plans?” Read more

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Provisioning-Cooking Q&A, Sailing Green, TIPS & IDEAS

Slow Cooking (with a Solar Oven) on a Slow Boat

Heather McCarthy has been sailing with her husband, Dan, and their three daughters, the “McMermaids” since 2011. They are currently cruising the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, and the Bahamas onboard s/v Jullanar.

Here, Heather answers a few questions about how solar cooking has opened up a whole new suite of cruising food options for her family.

The McMermaids (Calypsa, Jelena, and Marina) are preparing to solar-cook white rice and chocolate-chip blondies. Summerland Key, Florida.
Photo taken by Heather McCarthy.

What kinds of foods do you cook in your solar oven?

I love to prepare dishes in the solar oven that I wouldn’t dare cook on my galley’s 2-burner propane stove – foods that require long cooking times like rice, dried beans, roasted meats and vegetables, potatoes, stews, chili, etc. 

I feel great about saving propane and sparing everyone from the “dinnertime sweat” by keeping the boat cool in the late afternoon. 

Our sailboat does not have a propane oven, so I use the Solavore Sport solar oven to do ALL baking – bread, cakes, scones, muffins, cookies, pizza, pies, etc.  I have tried stovetop ovens with little success – some part of the dish usually burns.  However, the baked goods coming out my solar oven never burn and are always crowd-pleasers! Read more

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Cruising with Kids, Life after cruising

Sailing Home Again

This article was first published on

Leaving land life behind to go cruising can seem like a big step, but coming home afterwards can be just as challenging.

We’ve completed two extended “seabatticals,” and the emotional process of transitioning back was very different each time. The physical process, on the other hand, was similar: in each case, we came back to the same town in the same part of the world (Bavaria) and in my case, to the same job.

With those experiences in mind, I’ll look at how each of us transitioned back and what factors helped ease that process. Read more

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First Cruise/First passage

First-timer account of offshore sailing

This article was first published on Sailing Phoenix, Marie Raney’s blog.

What’s it really like to go offshore?

A delight of dolphins!

I have been a sailor all my life, but only started cruising in 2001. I grew up racing in small open boats, windsurfing, and day sailing. Years later when my husband proposed the cruising lifestyle and maybe a circumnavigation, I started reading to find out what this was all about.

You’ve probably read from much the same list I have and we’re lucky to have so many talented writers among our experienced cruising community. But because they’re experienced they didn’t really address one question I had… what’s it really like when you first go offshore sailing?

They told me hints and tricks and lots of wonderful ideas, but never what it was like first time out.

Many of the books I read indicated that most people who actually go offshore sailing do it for less than two years – many leave it after six months, some after their first ocean crossing. If this is something we were going to gear up to do for years, it seemed like I should know whether I’d like it or not. But no one gave me a feeling of what that experience might be.

I’m now three weeks into my first ocean crossing so I’ll try to share what it has been like. Read more

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Sailing Green, TIPS & IDEAS

Cruiser Anne Patterson makes solar ovens ... And shares a recipe

Anne Patterson and her solar oven, in her ‘other galley’ (the SEA LADY foredeck)

Three years ago on the Women and Cruising blog, Anne Patterson of sv Sea Lady wrote about cooking aboard with a solar oven.

Her experience with the solar oven was so favorable, that when the company producing her oven went out of business, Anne decided to step in to keep the solar oven in production.

As quite a few cruisers have begun cooking with these ovens, we recently asked Anne to answer some questions about cooking with a solar oven, about her decision to produce the oven, and of course … for some recipes.

Here is the first of a series on solar cooking aboard.

How did you become interested in solar cooking?

I was introduced to solar cooking by a fellow cruiser in Puerto Rico. John baked the most mouthwatering, wholesome, healthy wholegrain bread complete with dried fruit, nuts, and pumpkin seeds. Moist, yet perfectly dense. And without even turning on the oven.

As a frustrated cruising baker (hot galley, temperamental oven, extravagant use of propane), I was hooked at the first bite.

How long have you been using your solar oven aboard?

Anne’s carrot cake, baked in her solar oven.

I have been using my solar oven aboard Sea Lady for seven years now, and I have a solar oven at our summer cottage in Connecticut.

On average I solar cook 3-4 days a week.

Sometimes it’s yummy and exotic, like my 2-layer carrot cake (I’m guaranteed an invitation to every birthday party in the anchorage), Read more

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Book Review – SeaWise Safety Checklist / Emergency Action Guide for Sailing Yachts

Book Review – SeaWise Emergency Action Guide and Safety Checklists for Sailing Yachtsby Zvi Richard Dor-ner and Zvi Frank. Cornell Maritime Press, a division of Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.
Safety Checklist for Sailing Yachts

An ‘action guide book’ for mariners,
inspired by the aviation world’s discipline of thorough checklists for everything.

What if….?

“What ifs?” are dark questions that lurk in the minds of many sailors, and not just those new to sailing, but those new to a particular boat, signing on as crew for an ocean passage, perhaps, or just relaxing as a guest for a weekend. Read more

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Lessons Learned

What we learned from our first cruising boat

This article was also published in 48° North (July 2015) – a great, free sailing magazine for the Pacific Northwest, and on Pacific Sailors, Verena Kellner’s blog.

It’s been nearly a year since we sold Camille and we’re starting to think about our next boat. We’ve had a nice break but the sea is calling.

CAMILLE, 2001 Hunter 380.

When we were boat shopping before we bought Camille, we had some ideas on what we wanted out of a boat but did not have a specific make or model in mind. We looked at everything from 30 year old blue-water boats to brand new fin keels.

This time around we know exactly the make and model we want to purchase. We’re just waiting to for the right boat (i.e., previous owner) to come along.

Camille ended up being sort of a practice boat to determine what we really wanted out of a cruising boat. Turns out there are a few things we will not compromise on in the future. We’ve had some time to reflect and made a list of what we learned. Read more

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Fears and Worries, Finances Q&A, The Big Decision Q&A

Cruising kitty: Will I have enough money?

Pam Wall (Kandarik), Nadine Slavinski (Namani), Diane Selkirk (Ceilydh) and Aimee Nance (Terrapin) answer Tom’s question:


My biggest fear and concern about dropping everything and taking my wife (who is more enthusiastic than I am) and three kids cruising is $.

  • Will I have enough?
  • How much is enough?
  • Will I be able to earn anything underway with dive gear and being a licensed captain with systems experience?

This is always my main stumbling block.

– Tom

Read more

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Cruisers give back

Birding Aboard “SeaBC” has sailors reporting unusual birds

In the Women and Cruising blog series “Take Your Passion Cruising” I wrote about my passion: birds.

When you’re cruising, you’re immersed in nature, and many of us enjoy watching the birds while underway or at anchor. But as a boater you’re also in a unique position to contribute to citizen science simply by taking photos of the birds you see on passage and in remote anchorages.

Tropicbirds are commonly reported to the Birding Aboard project, perhaps because they are so elegant and have a habit of circling the mast.
Photo ©Ellen Massey Leonard.

Because there is so little coverage of these areas, the odds are high for a “birder aboard” to contribute notable sightings that help scientists and conservations map bird distribution and abundance.

Here are a few examples of how cruisers can be “the eyes on the water” for birds: Read more

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