Three@Sea Voyage Blog
Three@Sea is the name of our 43-foot Nordhavn trawler, and it refers to the three of us, Kathryn, David, and Ayla (16-years old), who live and voyage aboard her. We are in the midst of a multi-year journey to discover the world. Visit the Three@Sea web site to learn more about our voyage.
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April 10th
8:54 PM GMT-5

Home Again

Author:  David
Location:  Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington
Coordinates:  48° 32.383’ N   123° 00.941’ W



After a very enjoyable five months in the mountains and snow of Colorado, we returned to Three@Sea last weekend, and it’s GREAT to be back! She was moored in Sydney, British Columbia (on Vancouver Island) over the Winter, where we had some maintenance work done during our absence. I flew to Sydney after a business trip last week, and then cruised over to Friday Harbor, Washington (on San Juan Island). Meanwhile, Kathryn and Ayla closed up the house in Boulder, and then drove to Anacortes, Washington to take the ferry to Friday Harbor. Early Saturday evening, we were all reunited as three at sea!

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Ayla had not been aboard since departing for the Senate Page Program in September. She walked in, took a look around, and burst into tears of joy at being back on board (at least she told us they were tears of joy). It was really fun to see her happy to be back where she (and we) have spent the last five years together.

We plan to cruise around this area until mid-May, and then head north to Alaska. We’re currently in Friday Harbor; we will cruise to Victoria, British Columbia for a week this weekend; then we’ll visit Port Townsend, Washington for a couple weeks; and finally we’ll go over to Anacortes to provision and prepare for our departure to Alaska.

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For those of you interested in such things, here is the list of maintenance work we had done over the Winter:

  • Bottom cleaned and painted. It had been three years, so we were definitely due!
  • Stabilizer seals replaced. They were still working fine, but it is recommended to service them after six years.
  • Main engine torsional dampener replaced. This is also a recommended service item.
  • Diagnose and fix generator high temperature. After checking a variety of things, it ended up being a faulty thermostat.
  • Repair a few gelcoat chips here and there. Casualties of using the boat constantly.
  • Hull and topsides cleaned and waxed. This was completed just before we returned, which was extremely satisfying!

Raven Marine did an excellent job on all the work. Thanks to everybody at Raven who took good care of our floating home!

Now that we’re back aboard, I also have my own list of projects to complete before we leave for Alaska. But we’re confident that she’ll be in ship shape when we point the bow north in about five weeks.

One of the most exciting additions to Three@Sea is an upgraded anchor. Kathryn has been wanting a “new generation” anchor for a few years because they set more quickly, and reset more reliably when the wind changes. Nobody likes dragging in the middle of the night—it’s always the middle of the night—least of all, Kathryn. After doing quite a bit of research we settled on an Ultra Anchor, a Turkish anchor that is distributed in the U.S. by Quickline. We wheeled it down the dock today, and it’s now installed snugly on the bow roller. It fits great, and we’re looking forward to trying it out soon!

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So that’s the update from Three@Sea. We hope you all had an enjoyable Winter. We’ll keep you posted on our movements and adventures as they unfold this Summer. Happy Spring!

COMMENTS
January 12th
5:35 PM GMT-5

A Cruising Life Evolves

Author:  David
Location:  Boulder, Colorado



Happy New Year everybody!

Today we took down and put away our Christmas decorations. But this year was very different:  for the first time in six years we did not celebrate the holidays aboard Three@Sea. Instead, we spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in our hometown of Boulder, Colorado, and it was wonderful! Don’t get me wrong—we have very much enjoyed five holiday seasons aboard Three@Sea (each links to the associated blog entry):

But for us it’s never been the same as spending the holidays in Colorado: cold weather, snow on the pine trees, fires in the fireplace, snowshoeing in the woods, and sharing it with family and friends. After last Christmas in Matthew Town, on our way to The Panama Canal, we decided we would try to spend this Christmas in Boulder this year. Since we had sold our house five years ago to go cruising, we weren’t sure how we were going to pull it off, but where there’s a will…

Later in the Spring, as we made our way up the Pacific Coast of Central America, our dear friend Bobby-O, who lives in Boulder, came to visit us in Costa Rica. We got to talking about our idea to come to Boulder for the holidays, and he generously invited us to come stay with him between Thanksgiving and New Years—it must have been the rum doing its work! We have all lived with each other at various times throughout out lives (lots of good stories), so we jumped at the opportunity. A plan was coming together. And this would have been how it played out, but then something else happened.

Just before Thanksgiving we decided to buy a house in Boulder. What!?! Yep, after 5-1/2 years with Three@Sea being our only home, we are homeowners again. We took possession just after Thanksgiving, and we’ve spent the last month moving in, rediscovering what it’s like to own a home, enjoying the snow and mountains, celebrating Christmas and New Years with family and friends, and making a plan to split our time between our new house and our floating home.

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Three@Sea is currently having work done on her in Sydney, British Columbia (on Vancouver Island), getting in shape for this year’s adventures. We had planned to return to her in January after Ayla completes the Senate Page program, but now we’ll probably return in March to give us some time to get the house settled. Between now and then we are reading up on British Columbia and Alaska, preparing for an adventurous Spring/Summer transiting the Inside Passage to Ketchikan, Juneau, and Glacier Bay. We will cruise to and from Alaska in the Spring and early Summer; we’ll explore the San Juan Islands in the late Summer and Fall; and then we’ll come back to Boulder again next Thanksgiving to spend the holidays in our home.

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Three@Sea gets hauled out to have her bottom painted.

After that, who knows. As Ayla prepares to go off to college, Kathryn’s and my cruising plans are wide open. Should we cross the Pacific? If Ayla goes to college in London, should we take Three@Sea to Europe? Maybe we’ll just go back to The Bahamas and enjoy the beautiful water in the Exumas. As we’ve said before, and it has never been more true, our plans are etched in the sand at low tide.

We wish all of you a 2014 filled with wisdom, love, and joy!

COMMENTS
November 9th
9:54 PM GMT-5

Heating the Boat

Author:  David
Location:  Sidney, British Columbia, Canada
Coordinates:  48° 40.170’ N   0123° 24.449’ W



I posted a recent blog on Friday Harbor in which I briefly described the challenges of heating the boat in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. I referred to a project I did to isolate our electric heaters onto their own circuit. I received several requests for more information about the arrangement, so this post describes what I did. If you’re not interested in HVAC or electrical circuits, you can stop reading now.  :)

First some relevant history: My dad is a heating, ventilating, and cooling (HVAC) engineer, so I grew up being more aware of heating and cooling than the average kid. He worked on HVAC projects from automobile factories, to regional hospitals, to professional stadiums. A few years ago we attended the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four at the new Ford Field in Detroit, and we spent quite a bit of time discussing the heating and cooling of the cavernous building. When I was in high school we took our Starcraft tent-trailer camping in northern Michigan in the dead of winter to go snow skiing, but not before spending several weekends engineering the insulation and heating system. You get the picture: I’m a bit of a ventilation geek. Thanks for everything you taught me, dad!

As we began moving up the west coast toward the Pacific Northwest, where we planned to spend the winter, I was pretty sure our reverse-cycle air-conditioners would not provide sufficient heating. I theorized that two well-placed electric heaters should be able to heat the whole boat: one in the master stateroom, as far from the door as possible; and one in the salon, as far astern as possible. The heat from both heaters would flow upward, and eventually it would all end up in the pilothouse, so there would be no need to heat the pilothouse. This arrangement has worked out pretty well. Ayla’s forward stateroom doesn’t get quite enough heat because the heat goes up the stairs when it exits the master stateroom. This isn’t an issue while she’s away this semester—we just keep her door closed—but when she gets back in January we’ll use a small supplemental heater in her stateroom. We’ve tested this, and the small supplement is enough to keep her room at a nice temperature.

I don’t like fans—I find the noise annoying—so I wanted to use heaters that would produce and radiate the heat naturally. The first set of heaters we bought were Honeywell baseboard-type heaters, and although they heated quite well, there were two problems. First, they are like toasters, using heated electrical wires inside a metal cage to produce the heat. Once we started using them they felt like a fire hazard. They also smelled terrible whenever dust particles would drop through the metal grating onto the heating elements—yuck! And the final blow came when one of them simply stopped working with no warning. (My dad worked for Honeywell’s main competitor, Johnson Controls, for many years, so I’m sure he’s not surprised at this premature failure.)

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So when we got to Friday Harbor I went to the local hardware store, and spent quite a bit of time talking with one of the clerks about their vast collection of electric heaters (obviously people use supplemental heat on San Juan Island). I decided to try one of the Pelonis oil-filled radiator heaters, which we have now grown to LOVE! It’s a bit old-fashion looking—Kathryn says it reminds her of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s apartment—but it produces efficient and even heat. After using it for a few days I went back and bought a second one, and they’ve been excellent. The Honeywell heaters are being returned.

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Another problem has been power management. Our boat has two 30-amp outlets that can be connected to shore power. The main circuit provides power to most of the boat’s electrical equipment, including the inverter/battery-charger, water heater, convection microwave oven, washer/dryer, and all the lights and plugs. The second circuit provides power to the three air-conditioners. Since we began using the electric heaters they have been plugged into normal outlets, which means they’re running on the primary 30-amp circuit (and through the inverter). We’ve had to constantly juggle heaters, water heater, oven, etc. to make sure we stayed under 30 amps. And I was always worried that when the two heaters were drawing maximum power (about 12.5 amps each), the hot-water heater would spontaneously turn on and blow the circuit breaker, leaving the heaters to quickly drain our house battery bank. This was not a sustainable situation.

Then I got the bright idea to isolate the heaters on our second 30-amp circuit; the one dedicated to the air-conditioners, which we weren’t going to be using at all this winter. Although many of the docks here in the PNW provide only a single 30-amp circuit for each slip, this time of year we often have an empty slip adjacent to us. Whenever a second circuit is available we can use it, and when we’re limited to a single circuit we can go back to juggling with a single circuit. All I had to do was install a couple of plugs that would draw their power from the air-conditioner circuits. I put the salon plug on the salon air-conditioner circuit, and the master stateroom plug on the stateroom air-conditioner circuit.

At first I thought I would do a “home run”, fishing a new 3x12-gauge wire from the each circuit breaker in the pilothouse to where I wanted each plug, but that was going to be quite difficult. Then I realized that the air-conditioners already had 3x12-gauge wires providing power to them. Why not just take the power from there to the plug? I installed two 6-terminal wiring blocks (terminal blocks) next to each air conditioner to split the wire into two wires: one went back to the air-conditioner, and the other wire went to the new plug.

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There was already a plug in the salon near the heater location, in the same chamber as the air-conditioner, so this was an easy one. I wired the top plug to the new circuit, and I left the bottom plug wired to the original circuit.

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There was not a suitably located plug in the master stateroom, so I installed a new one at the base of our berth. The wire run from the air-conditioner chamber in Ayla’s stateroom to this location was very easy: all the holes already existed, and I just had to string the new wire (it always makes Kathryn a little nervous whenever I drill or cut holes in our boat, so this was a double win). I installed a new box and plug, and I was done.

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There are a couple things I really like about the solution. First, the heaters are no longer running through the inverter, so if the power goes off, the heaters go off. Second, when we have a second 30-amp circuit available to us we can completely isolate the heaters from the rest of our power consumption, allowing us to live more normally than when they’re all sharing. And with the flip of a switch we can tie the second 30-amp circuit to the primary 30-amp circuit, so they share a single source of power (which is how we’ll run it when we’re using the generator). It’s all good!

One funny tidbit: Dilly now likes to sleep on the aft edge of our bed, which is where all the heat flows up and over. It’s amazing how cats quickly find the warmest place in the house!

•  •  •

We cruised from Friday Harbor to Sidney, British Columbia today, and we’re moored at Van Isle Marina. We’ll meet with Raven Marine this week to finish arranging the work to be done on Three@Sea. It’s fun to be in Canada again; last time we were in Canada on Three@Sea was in Nova Scotia, which is a long way from here!

COMMENTS
November 8th
12:47 AM GMT-5

Friday Harbor

Author:  David
Location:  Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington
Coordinates:  48° 32.375’ N   123° 00.944’ W



We’ve spent the last ten days in the heart of the San Juan Islands, and we could not have enjoyed it more. We cruised here from Coupeville two Sunday’s ago, transiting through Deception Pass (at slack tide) on a beautiful Fall day. We had sloppy seas crossing the Rosario Strait from Whidbey Island, past Lopez Island, and into the San Juan Channel, but once we were between the islands the weather was spectacular.

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During the Summer cruising season Friday Harbor is the center of activity in the San Juans. One of our cruising guides writes, “Everything seems to happen all at once in Friday Harbor,” and we can imagine that’s true. With ferries coming and going, fishing boats selling their catch at the end of the day, cruisers provisioning and partying, float-planes flying tourists in and out, and residents just trying to get from Memorial Day to Labor Day, it must be insane!

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But in November, Friday Harbor is a quiet port town of exceptional charm and quiet confidence. The marina is well-protected and provides all the amenities you could want. It’s a short walk to the main street in town, which includes good restaurant choices, a nice grocery store, an Ace hardware, and a West Marine. The people who live and work here are friendly and helpful, and you can tell it’s a tight knit community. It’s not hard to see why people come here before heading off to the remote and solitary anchorages offered by the rest of the San Juan Islands. But there’s something altogether different (and appealing) about a tourist town when all the tourists have gone home—it may be lonely on the dock, but it’s anything but lonely in this warm town.

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Friday Harbor is on San Juan Island, the largest of the islands in the group. At the northwest end of San Juan Island is another favorite destination of cruisers, Roche Harbor. We rented a car one day to drive around the island, and we visited Roche Harbor to scope it out for cruising next year. We’ve asked several people what their favorite place is in the San Juans, and the answer is usually Roche Harbor. This “resort town” grew up around the old lime company that operated here before and after the turn of the 20th century, and it has an old-world charm that is reminiscent of the heydays of the early 20th century. This time of year it doesn’t have as much to offer as Friday Harbor, but we can definitely see the appeal in the Summer, and we’ll be cruising there at some point next Spring/Summer to enjoy the festivities.

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This is our first Winter cruising aboard Three@Sea in a cold climate. The first four Winters aboard found us in Florida, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Panama, none of which required us to heat the boat. The daily temperatures here in Washington are in the mid-50s, and the nightly temperatures are in the mid-40s (the low so far being 39); and it’s going to get colder in December and January. Although we can use our reverse-cycle air-conditioners to produce heat, they’re not very efficient at doing so when the water is cold. I started working on an alternative electric heating solution when we arrived in Half Moon Bay, California a few months ago, and we’ve been perfecting it as we moved northward. We’re on our second set of electric heaters, and we’re quite happy with the current solution (two oil-filled radiator heaters). This last weekend I installed two new plugs so the heaters can run on their own 30-amp shore power, which allows us to run the rest of the systems on the primary shore power. The electric heaters are now running through the same circuits that power the air-conditioners in the summer, and it’s working quite well. (That’s me under Ayla’s mattress, installing a wiring block in the air-conditioner chamber.)

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This weekend we will cruise from here to Sydney, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. We will put Three@Sea in the competent care of Raven Marine to have some maintenance work done (e.g., bottom paint) during December and January. We will go to Boulder for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then we’ll return to Three@Sea in January to continue exploring this spectacular region.

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COMMENTS
October 26th
10:57 PM GMT-5

This Evening

Author:  Kathryn
Location:  Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington
Coordinates:  48° 13.363’ N   122° 41.236’ W


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After 10 hours of light winds and a sweet sea state, Three@Sea arrived in a new port: Coupeville, on Whidbey Island. The day had been mostly cloudy until five minutes after we docked, when the sun came out to highlight the colors and people of this charming, old-fashion, small town. As luck would have it, we arrived just minutes into the all-town Halloween parade—from princesses and pirates, to wizards and witches, there was plenty of candy and fun for all. The event wasn’t fancy, but it was real, and in its simplicity and warmth it perfectly captured why we cruise. What a great day!

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COMMENTS
3:08 PM GMT-5

This Morning

Author:  Kathryn
Location:  Gig Harbor, Washington
Coordinates:  47° 19.994’ N   122° 34.888’ W



Beep beep. Beep beep. The alarm is efficiently doing its job to rouse me from a sweet sleep, but this morning I’m already awake. Of course, you wouldn’t know it to look at me: I’m curled up in the fetal position with the covers over my head, and my eyes tightly closed, but my mind is already engaged in a lively debate. Today we have planned a full day of cruising from Gig Harbor to Coupeville (~11 hours). That should be fun, right? Especially in these beautifully protected Puget Sound waters which offer a delightful reprieve from seasickness.

I hear Dave’s feet hit the floor before the second “Beep, beep” is finished. The joy of a child on Christmas morning pales in comparison to Dave’s excitement on cruising days. Jeans are zipped, the click of his belt buckle in place, and the engine room door opens, all within in one minute of the alarm completing its task.

I, on the other hand, lay motionless in bed, being enticed to remain there throughout the day in our new fleece sheets that envelop me in warmth and softness. [If you haven’t tried fleece sheets yet, stop reading this blog now, and go get some. They’re awesome!] Why am I experiencing a lack of enthusiasm for today’s cruise? The weather forecast says it all in just one simple word: fog!

I consider myself a pretty upbeat person, always trying to embrace the many facets of cruising from a positive perspective. But fog and I have have an uneasy relationship. Of course, the reality is the fog doesn’t care one bit—this uneasiness is all on me. In five years of cruising we’ve seen plenty of it in the Canadian Maritimes, New England, and now here in the Pacific Northwest. I know Three@Sea has excellent systems, with AIS and radar at the top of the list. But the ethereal beauty of fog that I relish while on the dock, dissolves into an exaggerated fear when out on the water.

It’s been foggy these past few days, and more was expected today. However, it is time to move Three@Sea a bit further north, and the rest of the weather forecast is great, with winds around 10kts, seas a foot or less; and, it’s Saturday, which makes for a relaxed day of cruising for David. Fog doesn’t stress Dave out. He embraces it whole-heartedly as just another aspect of cruising, like running at night. He is always a vigilant captain, paying close attention to ferry routes, shipping lanes, and favored fishing spots, and he trusts his systems.

Engine room checks are now done, and Dave passes through our state room on his way up to the pilothouse. He gives my toes a gentle squeeze through the comforter as he moves by—it’s his loving way to say, “I know you are awake under those covers, and it’s all going to be okay.” He knows all too well how I feel about fog. I think to myself, “Come on Kath, get out of bed and embrace this adventure,” but those darn fleece sheets and my fog uneasiness keep me firmly in place.

Moments later I hear Dave exclaim, “It’s all clear—no fog this morning.” The covers flip down from my head. Did I hear him right? He peeks around the corner, “That’s right, no fog.” I’m out of bed and in the pilothouse moments later. Dave laughs at my instant transformation. Although it is still 45 minutes from first light, we decide to go ahead and cast off to get this cruising day started.

The lights of Gig Harbor reflect in the perfect stillness of this morning. With lInes wrapped and fenders stowed, I join Dave on the flybridge with a cup of coffee in hand, as we slip through Gig Harbor’s narrow entrance. The sea offers it sweet scent on a gentle breeze as we turn north. Looks like it’s going to be a great day of cruising.

P.S. A few of my favorite pictures from Gig Harbor.

COMMENTS
October 23rd
1:33 AM GMT-5

Puget Sound, So Far…

Author:  David
Location:  Gig Harbor, Washington
Coordinates:  47° 19.994’ N   122° 34.888’ W



We’ve been in Puget Sound for several weeks, and I can tell we’ve barely scratched the surface of the amazing cruising ground. The people are friendly, the scenery is spectacular, and the boating facilities and destinations are endless. I think we’re going to enjoy this.

We spent the first few weeks in Port Townsend, which is at the northwest end of the Sound, where it intersects with the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is a GREAT small town, and we’re so glad we stumbled into it. When we made our run to Puget Sound we weren’t really sure where we were going to land. We knew we would cruise the San Juan Islands at some point; we plan to spend part of the winter on Vancouver Island; and we hope to cruise the Inside Passage to Alaska next summer. But we needed an easy place to pull into while we made a plan, and Port Townsend was the spot. As they say, “life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.”

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imagePort Townsend has two marinas, and the smaller one, Point Hudson Harbor, is right next to downtown. Port Townsend has one main street along the water, where two- and three-story victorian buildings host shops and restaurants. It reminds us of what Boulder, Colorado (our home town) might have been like forty years ago. There’s another business district a few blocks above the water, with more restaurants, shops, and a grocery store. Everything is within walking distance, which is perfect as a cruising destination.

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Shortly after we arrived we learned that the Port Townsend Film Festival was happening that weekend, which was a good excuse for us to explore the town, meet some locals, and see some quirky films. The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Foundation is also here. Having grown up boating on a beautiful mahogany Chris-Craft, I’m a sucker for wooden boats. The day we visited the Foundation a class was finishing building wooden kayaks—sweet!

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After several weeks enjoying Port Townsend we decided to cruise south to another boating town called Gig Harbor. I had several business trips to take, and Gig Harbor is much closer to the SeaTac Airport. We had a beautiful Fall day for cruising, and we enjoyed the spectacular scenery of Puget Sound on our way. We passed Seattle, and we were greeted with clear (but hazy) views of Mount Rainier—quite a sight. We transited the narrow entrance to Gig Harbor just before sunset, and we snuggled into a slip at Arabella’s Landing.

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Gig Harbor is very different than Port Townsend, but also beautiful in its own way. The harbor is completely surrounded by boating facilities and houses with docks and boats in front of them. There’s a bit of a micro-climate here in Gig Harbor, so the weather is very calm most of the time, and we’ve seen more sunshine than we did further north. There isn’t really a downtown per se, but there are restaurants, coffee shops, and business along the road the surrounds the harbor. It looks like a very nice place to live, especially if you can find yourself on the water.

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While stationed here in Gig Harbor we also ventured across the sound to Tacoma to visit Breakwater Marina. Our generator fuel injection pump had developed a leak, and the guys at Breakwater are qualified Northern Lights mechanics. The problem ended up being more serious than initially diagnosed, so we had to go back a forth a couple times. Kevin and Alan were AWESOME, and we highly recommend their services to anybody in need. Our generator is all fixed up now, ready to support any off-the-grid cruising that we plan to do.

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With my scheduled business trips behind me, we’re planning to cruise north to the San Juan Islands this weekend. It will be our first taste of this legendary archipelago, and we’re really looking forward to it. Dilly was happy to help me review the charts.

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• • •

For those of you wondering about the “3rd at sea,” she’s thriving in Washington, DC, serving as a U.S. Senate Page this semester. We miss having her on board, and she misses home, but it has certainly been an interesting time for her to be working on the Senate floor. If anybody wants to see her in action, you can turn on C-SPAN2 whenever the Senate is in session, and she’ll be on the floor every other hour (the photo below will help you recognize her in her spiffy uniform). Also, here’s a link to a photo of her that was published on Politico.com her second day on the job when she was working the Democratic Caucus Luncheon: Ayla and POTUS. What an experience for her!

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COMMENTS
September 16th
11:51 PM GMT-5

Fast, Fluid, and Flexible

Author:  Kathryn
Location:  Port Townsend, Washington, USA
Coordinates:  48° 07.012’ N   0122° 45.041’ W



4:00am Sunday morning, with the moon shrouded in the clouds of a steady drizzle, I’m standing on a narrow, warped, wooden dock, lines in hand, ready to cast off. The only sound on this muted night is the low hum of Three@Sea’s engine signaling she’s ready for this unexpected voyage. To the uninitiated, the whole scene might seem a bit suspicious, slipping out of this small fishing harbor in Astoria in the wee hours of the morning, days earlier than planned. But for us it’s just another adventure.

Just a few hours earlier we had been sitting around the dinner table with my parents in Portland, enjoying a glass of Oregon wine while sharing the days events. Dave had flown into San Francisco (from a business trip to Boston) the night before, picked up our migrating car, and drove 12 hours to Portland. I’d spent the day exploring Portland with my folks, as I’d flown in a few days earlier, after having dropped Ayla off in Washington D.C. for her Senate Page program. The plan was to spend Saturday night in Portland, and then head back to Three@Sea on Sunday via Canon Beach, where we would have lunch with a friend. We’d spend the week in Astoria, and then head to Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula, the next weekend.

This short hop from the Columbia River, around Cape Flattery, and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, was the last piece of our ocean-going adventure that began last November from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We are looking forward to exploring these spectacular cruising grounds that afford unparalleled scenery, a wide-variety of cities and villages celebrating both PNW urban life and native cultures, all in relatively protected waters. For a while at least, no more overnight passages, tropical storms, and climbing the ladder (reference to heading up the West Coast of North America against prevailing currents and winds). Ahhhh…

My Aunt Joanie, would be visiting my folks in a couple of weeks, and mom offered to bring our car from Portland to Port Townsend for us, enjoying the scenic drive with her sister. I gave the usual cruising caveat that I couldn’t guarantee we’d be there by then, as our cruising would be weather dependent. As we cleared the dishes and prepared to bring the evening to a close about 11:30pm, I decided take a peak at  the early weather report for the next weekend of cruising. The answer was bad—very bad indeed! There would definitely be no cruising next weekend in that stretch of the Pacific. This would mean another week in Astoria, and of course, no guarantees that the weather would cooperate the following weekend. This time of year, as the Pacific high starts to break down, the weather patterns change, and there are plenty of nasty storms that fire off the Pacific coast in the late Fall and Winter months.

Dave strolled by, and peaked over my shoulder. As I clicked through the GRIB files on passageweather.com, we laughed at just how bad the weather was going to be the next weekend, and how nice it was going to be for the next couple of days—too bad we weren’t cruising now. Oh well, such is a cruising life when you have the logistics of a full-time job to work around. Then, almost simultaneously, the glint arrived in our eyes:

Could we cruise now? (…a hopeful tone in our question)
Pause
Nah. We’d been away from the boat for 10 days. (lots of head shaking)
Pause
So what. We have enough provisions. The boat is filled with water, has fuel, and is good to go.
Pause, as we pondered. Then…

Okay, but…
How long would the cruise actually take?
What about crossing the Columbia River bar?
What meetings did Dave have on Monday?
Is there cell coverage in the Strait of Juan de Fuca?
Pause

Our fingers sprung into action on the computer keyboard, and after about 15 minutes of investigation we realized if we left Portland immediately, we might be able to make the journey now, taking advantage of the “bird in the hand” analogy as it relates to weather:

  • Astoria to Port Townsend is 245nm. At an average speed of 6.25 kts it should take about 39 hours. Perfect, as we would arrive around 7pm on Monday, just before dark, which is always nice when visiting a new port.
  • Ideal time to cross the Columbia Rive bar is at slack tide, which would be at 6:00am. We need to leave Astoria by 4:00am to make it to the bar at 6am.
  • Dave’s Monday meetings began at 10:30 am. Yes, there is cell coverage in the Strait of Juan de Fuca after about Pillar Point, which we should reach at 10:00 am if all goes as planned.

Armed with this information, we mobilized: With the help of my parents we packed the car, and got on the road by 12:30am. We were back in Astoria by 2:30am. We had everything loaded back on the boat by 3:00am (in the drizzle). I stowed luggage, took Bonine (seasickness medicine), and secured the boat for transit; while Dave completed the pre-departure checklist.

And so there I was, at 4:00am, swaying gently on the old dock, marveling at the stillness of the night, droplets of water gathering on my nose, and pondering the odd marriage of apprehension and exhilaration one feels at the start of a new journey.

The first two hours were intense as we navigated the river in rain and fog. Everyone knows the timing for “crossing the bar”, so the river buzzed with local fishing vessels as anxious to get to sea as we were. Dawn came as we crossed the bar uneventfully, and we headed north for 37 more hours of sweet, calm seas. (One side note here: I couldn’t help but ponder while on watch who was in charge of naming locations around here. The nautical chart we used for much of this cruise was labeled Cape Disappointment to Cape Destruction. Really?) Fortunately for us, they both could have been called Cape Lucky.

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On Monday morning, we reached cell phone coverage a mere 10 minutes before Dave’s meetings began—a little too close for his comfort. He spent the day on calls, including WebEx meetings, while we cruised the gray, foggy coast of the Olympic Peninsula—she was not yet ready to reveal her majesty to us. We arrived safely at Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend at 6:30pm with a deep sense of gratitude for how fortunate we are to be on this voyage.

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We now look forward to a deep breath, taking a moment to celebrate the accomplishment of piloting Three@Sea safely from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Port Townsend, Washington: 6,424 nm. We hope to take a peek at the San Juan Islands in the waning days of Fall, before we have Three@Sea hauled for some mechanical love and attention while we go to Boulder for the holidays.

The logistics of life on our boat are, at times, similar to a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle: You have no idea how it will all come together, but you find the corners, frame in the boundaries, and start working the journey piece-by-piece, eventually revealing an amazing picture. An important tool in this process is not holding on too tight to a plan, but being fast, fluid, and flexible.

Thanks to all of you who continue to enjoy this journey with us!

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COMMENTS
September 7th
11:05 PM GMT-5

Shore Leave

Author:  Ayla
Location:  Astoria, Oregon
Coordinates:  46° 11.424’ N   0123° 51.269’ W



My last blog, Boat Sweet Boat, found me having returned to Three@Sea after a Spring away, and looking forward to an exciting Summer. Well, it has indeed been a fabulous Summer, and as the school year commences, I write now with some reflection, and some big news for the future. 

Before the news, allow me to quickly recap what’s happened since I last wrote. I left the boat in San Diego to attend my school’s prom and graduation. I then flew to London where I toured several universities, and spent a magnificent week getting lost in the streets of my favorite city on Earth. I saw some friends in L.A., flew to Washington, D.C., saw my first performance at the Kennedy Center, watched the vote on Immigration Reform from the Senate Gallery, spent a few days on The Hill, and then headed off to a three week Sea Camp on Catalina Island, back on the left coast. There, I received my Rescue Diver certification, sailed every moment I could, and made lifelong friends.

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After Sea Camp, it was off to Michigan for a few days to visit Grandma and Grandpa, then back to California, where my best friend Costanza visited the boat, and we hosted a school meet-up with 60+ people (in a 43-foot space, no less!).

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Next was my school’s Summer Session, where I made spectacular memories, reunited with old friends, found many new ones, and celebrated the wonderful community I am fortunate enough to be a part of. To wrap up the summer, we watched some America’s Cup sailing on San Francisco Bay before cruising out under the Golden Gate bridge, and up to Astoria, Oregon. It was on the passage to Astoria that things got interesting. 

But before I get to that news, a little bit of background: For the past several months I have been in the process of applying to the United States Senate Page Program. If you are not familiar with the program, it is a semester-long opportunity for high school juniors to live and study in Washington, D.C. while working on the floor of the U.S. Senate as pages/messengers. It is a tremendously exciting program, allowing just 30 students per semester to be immersed in the workings of our government first hand, from idealogical debates on the Senate floor, to hallway politics. The program is highly competitive, and candidates must be sponsored by a standing U.S. Senator. Selected Pages leave home for five months, live in a dormitory, attend a rigorous school in the early morning hours, and spend their days (and often their nights) working on the Senate Floor. This program has been a dream of mine for many years, and starting in April I began a long application and interview process. 

Being a boat girl creates some complications, such as not really having a specific state or Senator under which to apply. After the last five years of traveling along the coasts of our country, I decided to apply to several Senators as an out-of-state candidate. I flew to D.C. for a few interviews, and was really hoping to be appointed in the Fall semester. I received word in early August, however, that none of those opportunities had panned out. While disappointed, I remained undaunted, and decided that I would apply again in the Spring.

Until, that is, the early morning hours last Friday (as in only a week ago), when we were about fifteen miles offshore (where cell service is normally nonexistent), a call somehow managed to come through. It was from the Senate Majority Leader’s office, informing me that a slot for a Page had opened up for the Fall semester, and the appointment was mine if I was still interested. Honored and humbled, my answer was, “Absolutely!” Our cell service lasted only long enough for me to confirm my interest before we faded off the grid for the next four days. The timing, truly, was miraculous—had we not been able to answer the phone that Friday, it’s likely the slot would have been given away by the time we were back in range. But during that short call we learned that I would need to be in Washington, D.C. to begin the program by Sunday, September 8th (only a little over week from then), and there was much to do. 

The problem is, there’s really very little one can do when the only way to communicate is via satellite phone, and you are twenty miles offshore, confined to a relatively small space. Now, I love Three@Sea, and I love cruising, but despite gorgeous weather, dolphins surfing our bow, and some spectacular bioluminescence on my late watch, our boat has never felt so small, nor our days out at sea so long. I had been working for this program for months, and when it finally all worked out, there was no one to tell! After sitting on this massive piece of news for four days, the second we hit anything resembling cell service on Monday I was on the phone, first to tell my friends the good news, and then to figure out the logistics: managing school, moving to Washington, D.C., uprooting plans for the Fall semester, filling out forms, going to doctor’s appointments, etc. All, of course, very exciting things to be working on. 

It’s one week later, and I’m sitting on an airplane somewhere over South Dakota, writing this blog. It’s been a crazy week: one of nerves and anticipation; upheaval and changes of plan; excitement and chaos; saying goodbye to friends and school; leaving behind life as a cruiser kid for life as a working girl in the political world. Even though this is all temporary, it has still felt like a big move. However, I am beyond excited and truly honored to be able to participate in this program. It is genuinely a dream come true, and will be an experience that defines much of my future in choosing whether or not politics is something I want to pursue. As I stepped off Three@Sea for the next six months, I took one last breath of that perfect, salty ocean smell, and walked up the dock, ready to take on a new adventure. 

As a consequence of the program, however, I will not be around much at all for the next six months. I will have extremely limited access to the internet (virtually nonexistent), no access to cellular phones, personal emails, or social media; and a busy schedule that begins early and ends late. My few vacations will be to Boulder, Colorado (instead of the boat) to see family and friends. Thus, this is me signing off for quite some time. I can’t wait to return to Three@Sea come Springtime, when we’ll begin heading up towards Alaska, and a Summer of cruising in new, beautiful territory. Until such time, I’ll be away, and I’m wishing you all truly spectacular Fall and Winter, a happy holidays, and all the love, joy, and laughter you could hope for. 

This is Ayla, over and out.

COMMENTS
September 5th
9:37 PM GMT-5

Four Days to Astoria

Author:  David
Location:  Astoria, Oregon
Coordinates:  46° 11.424’ N   0123° 51.269’ W



We successfully cruised from San Francisco, California to Astoria, Oregon last weekend. It took four full days, and except for some snotty weather the first 30 hours, it was an uneventful cruise. We were delighted to have a decent weather window aligned with the 3-day Labor Day weekend, and we took an extra day on Friday to give us enough time.

We left San Francisco Bay as the sun was setting on Thursday evening, and we soon found ourselves in 3-4’ head seas as we turned north. This was expected, but that doesn’t make it welcome. These conditions stayed with us until the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, so it wasn’t easy to eat or sleep. As usual, we were very thankful to be on a Nordhavn whenever we buried the bow in the occasional 8-footer, or dropped off the back side of one with a SLAM!

The main concern during this period was our slow speed: the head seas and current were keeping us down around 5 to 5.5 knots, which was slower than our planned speed of 6.25 knots. Waiting for us at the other end of our voyage was the crossing of the Columbia River Bar, which needed to be timed with the tidal current. Hmmmm…

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Eventually we cruised out of that weather pattern (as expected), and the seas on Saturday were spectacular! It was so calm it looked glassy, and we could clearly see the Pacific White Sided Dolphins Dall’s porpoises surfing our bow 4-6 feet below the surface. Beautiful! We got some sleep, made good meals, and thanked Neptune for such beautiful conditions. Our speed was also up, but only to about 6.25 knots, so we weren’t making up any of the time we lost.

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About halfway through Sunday we started to feel a south wind, caused by a low pressure system spinning counter clockwise off the coast (we were on the east side of the system). Again, this was expected, and we rode this all the way to Astoria. By Sunday night the south wind had increased to about 20 knots, and we had a 2-4’ following sea for the rest of the voyage. Our speed stayed between 6.25-6.5 most of the time, which wasn’t fast enough…

We had hoped to get to the Columbia River Bar (the entrance to the Columbia River) between 12-1pm on Monday. But because of our less-than-stellar speed during the first 30 hours, we weren’t going to make it until about 3:30pm. Unfortunately the tide was ebbing between 1pm and 6:30pm, and you just don’t want to cross the bar on much of an outgoing current. A fews hour out, we decided we needed to slow down to wait for the current to ease a little. We aimed for 5:30pm, which would allow us to cross in about 1 knot of current (theoretically), and then still get to Astoria with dwindling daylight.

At 5:15pm we were just off the sea buoy, and we got a favorable bar report from the Coast Guard at Cape Disappointment (great name!), so we headed in. The incoming swell was about 1-3’, which amplified to only about 2-4’ on the bar. We crossed without much difficulty, and we found ourselves cruising up the “Great River of the West”, as the Columbia River was known in the early days of European exploration. It took us a couple hours to get to Astoria, and we tied up as the sun went down. Whew!

This is a beautiful area, with very different foliage and climate than most of our cruising since we left the Canadian Maritimes at the end of the Summer of 2009; We’re all looking forward to enjoying the cool moist weather. We’ll be here for a few weeks, and then we’ll continue north to Puget Sound.

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COMMENTS