Setting Sail

My account of the first 2 days of the 2019 Salish 100 event

I wanted freedom, open air, adventure. I found it on the sea.”

Alain Gerbault

It was June 22, 2019, and the official first day of the inaugural Salish 100 event. I was brimming with excitement. Mom and I packed up early that morning and decided to get a coffee before the scheduled skipper’s meeting. But before the coffee run, I needed to teach Mom how to attach and detach Guppy’s empty trailer since she would be traveling independently with my car, while I was out sailing. I demonstrated how it was done, and then she attached it. It looked good to me, and she noted how it was easier to lock than she had expected. I didn’t think much of that notation, and we went on our way. After 2 minutes of slowly driving along, the most awful sound came from the back of the car. The trailer had come off the ball hitch! It was flopping about, making lots of scary noise by hitting the car’s bumper. The safety chain did its job and kept the trailer attached to the car. I pulled over immediately. Both mom and I were startled but despite all the ruckus, it appeared that no major damage had occurred to the car or trailer. Whew, what a relief. We then secured and locked the trailer properly this time and continued with our morning. I was a little shaken up and tried to avoid thinking of this occurrence as a bad omen by focusing on the positive: I now know the safety chain works.

I had a black coffee with a blueberry scone and the sugar/caffeine combination got me feeling better. I was ready for adventure! At the final skipper’s meeting before setting sail, Marty Loken (the brains behind the event) had passed out an itinerary detailing the days to come so that those participating in the event (and mom!) could know what to expect. For this first day, we were to set sail from Olympia, Washington, travel up Budd Inlet, through Dana Passage to our first anchorage in Henderson Inlet. It was a total of 11 nautical miles. The distance wasn’t extreme, but I had tides and currents to consider. Puget Sound is mysterious and magically alive. The tides shift and gain in strength throughout the day and can create rather strong currents. A novice sailor like myself with little knowledge of the area was blessed to be in expert and helpful company. The schedule and itinerary had been organized and set by people who understood the area. The first challenge was to pass the point of Budd Inlet at a certain time before the tide would shift and start working against me.

As I was prepping Guppy to set sail, the Harbor Master came by for a chat. He was very friendly and expressed he thought that my boat was the cutest, and of course I agreed with him. I used my noisy motor to initially get out of the marina, but turned it off as soon as possible. Utilizing the light winds, we slowly sailed out and away from the marina. I waved to Mom who was on the pier seeing us off. Once away from the marina and catching a little more wind, I was in awe. The 100+ small sailboats quietly gliding together painted the pristine landscape with white sails. It was absolutely stunning.

Christine had set sail after me, but it wasn’t long before her 16 foot Sparrow, Christine’s Dream, passed little Guppy and was ahead. The day started relaxed with light winds, not what I had originally anticipated. Noting the other boats making faster progress, I was discouraged with my prudent decision to start with our smaller working jib sail. The winds lightened even more and there was a sense that I needed to make a better pace to get past the point before the tide shifted. I decided to change out my headsail to the bigger Genoa. So I turned the bow into the wind, secured my tiller as best I could, and then climbed up to the bow to switch out the sails by hand. Then, I noticed Christine backtracking and approaching Guppy. I waved at my friend. She had a concerned look on her face, and expressed that me being on the bow, with the cockpit unmanned, was a precarious situation. I wasn’t overly worried, but I did hurry up. As she was leaving, she said when we got to Henderson Inlet she was going to help me by fashioning a jib downhaul so that I could stay off the bow safely in heavy weather. Once I had changed out the sails, I climbed back into the cockpit, the wind picked up ever so slightly and with her bigger head sail up, we started making great speed. There were support boats all around, cheerfully checking on me.

As I passed the point and turned starboard into Henderson Inlet, the winds started picking up. I gained speed and had to tack up the inlet to the designated anchorage. It was a blast. I had little races with nearby boats and even beat a Montgomery 15. Then a Catamaran came zipping by playfully, super speedy passing us easily, splashing and having fun. I approached our anchorage and searched for Christine and her group. The Lewis-Clark Sailing Association from Idaho were a jolly and welcoming group of sailors. They greeted me with Gin and snacks, as I rafted along side Christine. Once safely rafted, Christine climbed aboard Guppy and created the jib downhaul by attaching a block to the tack of the jib sail and ran a line from the head of the sail through the block and back to my cockpit. This would allow me to lower my jib sail safely from the cockpit and not require me to physically get on the bow. I appreciated her help and it came in extremely useful the following day. I decided to set up my cockpit tent as well as inflate my tender, the inflatable paddle board that would aid me in getting to and from shore and around anchorages. It was a beautiful sunset with a great group of people. We drank, ate and shared stories. It was a fine first evening followed by a very restful sleep in Guppy.

Awakening to the quiet, serene beauty of Puget Sound in the morning, while listening to the stirrings from nearby boats on the water was like waking up to a dream realized. I am really here! Coffee and breakfast were top priority. I decided since Guppy was the smallest boat, relatively “slow”, and located at the end of the raft, that I should be the first to set sail from the raft and get started towards our next destination of Penrose Point State Park, 14 nautical miles away. We needed to sail up Drayton Passage and through the narrow Pitt Passage. The morning brought light and variable winds. I was very patient and resisted starting up the motor. I figured I was here to sail, see the area, and was in no rush. I knew that the wind would eventually come back and the current was helpful in the direction that I needed to go. Going through Pitt passage, I noticed a few local, large and beautiful sailboats joining me. They were fun to watch and sail with. The scenery was stunning too. The shoreline was rocky with varying elevations covered by piney trees. The water was a dark pool reflecting the clouds and the sea creatures reminded me often that I was in saltwater. I would see seals and porpoises playing and an occasional large orange jelly fish would drift by.

After being the last boat of the fleet to get through Pitt passage, I turned port in the direction of our next anchorage. Afternoon clouds were rolling in and the winds began to pick up. Before long, Guppy and I were flying! It was exhilarating after a slow morning of drifting. However, as we continued on, there was a little too much excitement with gusts knocking Guppy around and catching my nerves. The boat became more difficult to handle, and I wanted to reduce sail. I had my large genoa headsail up but changing it was not an option in these conditions. I decided to drop my small mainsail to reduce speed and steady the boat. The winds kept building, but I was on a nice beam reach with the headsail so I wasn’t overly concerned…. until that is, I had to go upwind to the anchorage. Everything changed at that point. The strong head wind combined with the only sail I had up, the large genoa, was a recipe for an upwind challenge. I had a very friendly support boat nearby who saw me struggling. “Want a tow?” he called out. “No thanks!” I answered back. I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do this. He suggested that I raise my jib halyard more to reduce the slack and to have more tension in the front to help me point better. He also suggested shorter tacks, to spend no longer than 3 minutes on each heading. I knew he was right about the sail and had been ignoring the issue for a while. I pointed into the wind and moved quickly to raise the jib sail as much as possible. It had been improved but still slipped a little. I had been doing long tacks because every time I tacked I would lose speed and headway, but he was right, and the shorter tacks produced clear upwind progress. I noticed a small dory in the distance who also was having some trouble going upwind, and he was now receiving a tow. It was nice to know that I had support nearby. I was definitely tiring. It had probably been 2 full hours of struggling, but I was finally nearing the anchorage.

I called over the VHF radio for Christine to see about another potential raft up. Skip, the captain of G’Day, a 33 foot Fjord, answered back. He stated that he was moored, Christine was rafted with him, and that Guppy and I were more than welcome to raft up too. I gratefully accepted the offer and asked his location. Now I knew where I had to go, but I was also so tired and just wanted to stop. I called over the radio and asked Skip if it was ok to drop anchor where I already was. This spot appeared close to shore and was located a bit north of the moorages. It baffled me as to why no one else was dropping anchor at this pristine spot. Skip calmly came over the radio and said that I can do what I want, but according to the charts it looks like that spot was over a hundred feet deep and covered in seaweed. A side smile came over my face, what a delicate way to deliver bad news. I knew I had to suck it up, and that I definitely couldn’t drop anchor there! I tacked again and pointed as best I could. It was only about 15 minutes later that I reached G’Day. As I approached the massive sailboat, I fired up my motor and dropped my headsail using my nifty new down haul line. Guppy and I were rafted! And to a boat only slightly bigger, at almost 3 times her length. Once Guppy was secured, Skip and Melissa welcomed me with open arms. They helped me aboard and handed me a beer followed by yummy meat, cheese, and crackers. They are fantastic people and I felt as if I had known them my entire life.

After a lovely evening with great people, food, and a rich hot chocolate, it was bedtime. I climbed back down onto Guppy, set up her cockpit tent and then transformed her cabin for the night. I inflated my air mattress, unrolled my sleeping bag, and changed into my cozy pajamas. I wiggled into the sleeping bag and relaxed, completely wiped out from the very full day. Ahhh, so nice to close my eyes, I thought, as I stretched out. And then I felt a huge wave lift Guppy up and slam her down. My eyes popped open, What the heck was that?!

A quick video of my first time sailing on Puget Sound

Road tripping

The adventure of towing Guppy over 2,000 miles, through 7 different states from Texas to Washington to participate in the Salish 100 2019 event.

Life is a journey, not a destination

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I pulled Guppy out of the garage and hit the road for the ultimate solo road trip early Sunday morning, June 16, 2019. I noticed a few nervous butterflies and slight disbelief that this highly anticipated adventure was about to start. I had packed all of the possible necessities, trying to anticipate potential needs and imagine situations that may arise. I was to be traveling for a total of 3 weeks, 2 of those weeks would be on the road and 1 full week would be on Guppy sailing in Puget Sound. Quiet excitement that was mine alone filled me as I drove away from my house with Guppy in tow. My dream sailing adventure was starting.

My first day was spent driving completely across Texas to New Mexico. I planned to camp at Oasis State Park where there was a little lake to possibly paddle board in. I found the park online and it looked like a nice spot to explore. The drive was uneventful, and I listened to an audio book to pass the time. I started with 438 Days by Jonathon Franklin. It was about a man who survived adrift at sea for 438 days and an incredible true story. This kept my attention and after about 9 hours from departure I made it to my campsite in New Mexico. It was a beautiful spot that had nice shade trees. The heat was different here than my home in Texas. It was dry and deserty. I walked around the little “lake” which was more like a pond. Families were at the water’s edge enjoying fishing; it was father’s day and was being celebrated. I saw an adorable family of ducks with ducklings and noted thunder clouds off in the distance. As evening approached, it cooled nicely and I saw the full moon rise. There were jack rabbits around my campsite, the crickets were softly singing and it was peaceful. I decided to camp in my car that night. One of my friends offered a great idea of attaching fly screen with magnets to the car so that you could sleep with the windows down and not allow any bugs in. This worked like a charm…. until it started raining in the middle of the night. I woke up to the smell of rain and the sound of rumbling thunder, I sleepily rolled the window up. All things considered, I had a decent first night’s sleep stretched out in the back of my SUV.

The morning was beautiful, and I soaked it up while brewing the all-important coffee. I had originally wanted to paddle board, but signs posted around the lake made it clear that people were to stay out of the water, that no wading nor boating was allowed. I then started the drive towards my next state of Colorado. I enjoyed music in the morning and audio books or podcasts in the afternoon. I had packed meals in my cooler, so I could save money, eat healthy and stopping for lunch was always fun. Cortez, Colorado was my second night’s planned stop, and I was very excited for this one because I would be staying in my first tiny home. I have been interested in tiny homes, tiny boats and really in any minimalist way of life. Maybe one day, I will have a tiny home. So after an 8 hour drive day, I made it to Colorado. Guppy had been towing along nicely and I continually stopped to check on her and the trailer throughout the trip. The tiny home was so adorable and sat on acres of beautiful private land. I watched the sunset with the mountains in the distance, did some relaxing bedtime yoga, and had a nice hot shower. The little house smelled warmly of cedar and was so very cozy. I slept like a rock in my loft queen sized bed with a sky light displaying the stars overhead.

The morning was so beautiful, and also surprisingly cold. It was 42 degrees and this Texas girl was in shock. After breakfast, I said goodbye to my lovely tiny home and hit the road again. We set out for a dreamy lake in Utah that I found online to hopefully get a little sailing in. It was called Deer Creek Reservoir, and I had planned for this drive day to be only 6 hours to hopefully spend more of the daytime sailing. I was in awe as I arrived to Deer Creek, which is just outside of Provo, Utah. This clear, dark blue lake looked like a sapphire jewel surrounded by green and snow capped mountains. I thought for a bit that I may be in Switzerland. My campsite had a view of the lake and the winds were a nice 10-15 mph with the occasional gust. I took a rest and a snack and then drove to the boat ramp with Guppy. It was just too beautiful not to take Guppy out. I was lucky to have energy. I took my time setting Guppy up and paid close attention to all details. The wind gusts were catching my attention and raising a few nervous butterflies, but we were not going to miss the opportunity to get out on this gorgeous lake.

As I backed down the 5 lane wide boat ramp, I noticed that there were no other sailboats on this lake, yet lots of wake boarders. As I got her in that crystal clear water and walked her over to the dock, the water’s cold temperatures took my breath away. I set up the sails and started up the motor trying to dodge the wake boarding boats. We cleared out from the dock and Guppy had some admirers (very typical). She sparks the imagination by being so small yet possessing so many big boat qualities; she is a fine little ship. Once I was out on the open lake, I realized why there were no other sailboats out. The steep mountains surrounding the lake seemed to funnel the wind in confusing patterns. Random gusts that were shifty, strong, and inconsistent challenged us. The multiple wake boarders added to the excitement by creating rough and choppy water. It took me a while to calm down and actually get into a groove. I decided to heave-to for a bit, not only for practice, but because I really needed a break. We were on the water for almost 3 hours, I had my heart set on sailing to a little island that appeared to be close, but as soon as the sun started to set I realized I did not have enough warm clothing and needed to head back quick. With teeth chattering, we started back to the dock, the winds lightened and shifted to our bow. I started up my motor and within 30 minutes we were back at the dock, with a sliver of sunlight behind the mountains. I hurried up to the car and backed down the ramp which was full of big trucks getting their fancy wake boarding boats loaded. I waited for the one closest to the dock to open up and then backed my trailer down. I got Guppy secured and then headed back to the lot to pack her up. What fun we had! I scarfed down some cheese and crackers for dinner while packing and securing Guppy using a flashlight. We got back to the campsite and I decided to sleep in the car again. Nestled by the cooler and wiped out from our fun sail, I slept hard.

In the morning I was greeted by chipmunks all around my campsite. These little guys were playful and provided joyful entertainment while I drank my coffee. After packing up, organizing, and then a shower, I hit the road for the next stop in the mountains of Idaho. Lucky Peak Lake was a gorgeous lake that I found online that I was hoping to sail or paddle board on. After a late start and a 6 hour drive, I arrived around 5 pm at Mack’s Creek Park. The lake was stunning, and it was ideal sailing weather, but I was tired and it was late. I opted to inflate my paddle board to explore this green-blue mountain lake. The scenery was beautiful and the water was oh so cold. I paddled around and found a private and secluded beach, I laid out on my board and watched the sun set. I am blessed.

I pulled my board onto the dock, and I shivered a bit. Curious ducks nearby came towards me and my board, quacking. I went back to my campsite and prepared for sleep. I stretched and did some yoga, to reduce the stiffness related to the long drive days. I climbed into my car and noticed how very cold this night was. I had my beanie, woolly gloves, and several layers of clothing on and was bundled in my sleeping bag, yet I just couldn’t shake the chill. The cold seemed to have gotten to my bones, and I kept waking up shivering. It was my first very restless night.

Morning was finally here and I couldn’t stomach the thought of another cold cereal breakfast. I left the beautiful park and started the drive towards Boise for a big hot breakfast and to find proper cold weather clothing. I enjoyed eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes and coffee while checking the internet on my cell phone for outdoor stores nearby. What a delicious breakfast, I ate like I had been starving. When I entered the outdoor store, I was greeted by the store clerk who asked how she could help. I informed her I needed warmer clothing and that I was from Texas and was surprised by how cold it was here. She showed me some pants, and I responded, “These look nice and all, but do you have any snow pants?” She started laughing. I left with a parka, wool socks and thermal leggings. It was expensive, but I knew it would be money well spent. June up here is very different than June in Texas. After food and warm clothes, I was all set for my next stop in Oregon.

My first impression of Oregon was that it was literally freezing, sleeting as we crossed into the state. My expensive winter clothing purchases now seemed even more justified. Another note worthy thing about Oregon is that you cannot pump your own gas there. Interesting. As I made my way up the steep and winding roads in the mountains near Mosier, Oregon, Guppy towed behind effortlessly. My next stay was to be at a yurt in the wild mountains of Oregon. There was no cell service in these mountains, and I got a little lost without the GPS telling me where to go, but eventually I found my way to the yurt. The yurt was adorable and surrounded by wildflowers overlooking the valley below. It had a wood burning stove and an outdoor rock shower (with hot water, yay!). I was able to start up the stove after several failed attempts. The wood logs crackled and popped, while I made a dinner of chicken and dumplings. I ate dinner on the porch enjoying the mountain views, when a black tail deer became interested in me and I in it. We watched each other, almost communicating in a way. I never felt lonely on this trip. I enjoy solitude. The yurt was so cozy and lovely. I slept well with a heavy wool blanket to keep me warm.

I awoke in the cozy yurt after a nice sound sleep to my final drive day. It was only a 3 hour drive to Olympia, Washington, where I was supposed to meet my mother, who graciously offered to be my ground crew on the Salish 100. We were to have dinner, attend a S100 meeting and stay at an Airbnb cottage before the next day when I was scheduled to set sail. This last beautiful stretch of drive was following the magnificent Colombia river. There was lots of wind that day, so I slowed our speed down to 60 mph. Guppy was holding up so well. I drove along and watched the wild windsurfers and thought, why does everyone think that I am crazy with my sailing adventures? Look at those wind surfers!

It was a beautiful drive. I made it to Olympia around 11:00 am. My first order of business was to wash Guppy. Towing her across the United States had made her the dirtiest I had ever seen. I found a car wash where I could drive her in and scrub her down. She was now looking as cute as ever. Then, we drove to the bus stop to pick up Mom, who had flown into Seattle and was taking a bus to Olympia. Guppy drew attention at the bus stop while we waited for mom. She called me as she got off the bus, and when we saw each other, we embraced. It was so good to see my sweet mom. We were both so excited. We went to eat first and then find where I was supposed to launch Guppy. We chose a brewery near our Airbnb to eat. We enjoyed a decadent burger and tried the local beers. I was relaxed and excited all at once. We then found the marina that we were supposed to launch called Swanton Marina. As we drove up, I got to meet Marty Loken, the genius and creator behind the Salish 100. He suggested that I go ahead and get Guppy set up and into the water tonight after the meeting so that she will be set for the next day. We went to the skippers meeting, met fellow sailors, got information and then I set up Guppy with excitement. I got her into the water and into a slip without incident. A seal greeted me as I motored to my slip. I was officially ready for the next chapter, the sailing part, of this adventure.

Day 6

The second to last day of the Salish 100 event, a week long, small boat cruise sailing 100 miles in Puget Sound from Olympia to Port Townsend, WA.

*I have chosen to write about the most outstanding day of Guppy’s and my adventure first. I am doing this not only because it is the most fun to write about but also due to my memory. Still recovering from a 3 week long packed adventure, detailed memories elude me at present moment. I plan to wait and write of the other adventurous days in the future. Now, I will write about the day that terrified me into never forgetting.

A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

We were due to depart from Kingston Marina no later than 8:00 am. I had a short but restful sleep the night before and was up at 6:00 am, as not to be late to set sail. The marina was humming with excitement. Sailors hurrying about, preparing to set out. I made sure to have a substantial breakfast this morning, as I had made the mistake previously on this trip of skipping. Skipping resulted in a day of never feeling quite right. Important lesson learned: never skip coffee or breakfast. I made maple oatmeal and a strong cup of coffee in Guppy’s cockpit beside the dock. People stopped by and chatted during this time. I had noticed how the wind had picked up over night. I thought aloud and to myself, “Should I change out the headsail to my working jib?” The reduced headsail may prove to be too prudent later in the day, and we have had such light winds throughout the trip thus far. Something kept nagging me in my gut. “Stop being lazy. Get up and change the sail.” I listened. This would prove later to be a crucially correct moment to listen to my gut.

I took my time preparing. I left the main sail down and secured it snuggly. I ensured that my working jib was perfectly set. I felt a sense of urgency to have every detail tended to before departing. I passed another sailor on the dock who exclaimed, “It’s going to be fun out there! Yahoo!” “Yahoo!” I answered back. It was exciting, but a little fear was definitely pestering me.

While sailing out of the protected marina, I had my first hello from the heavy winds. Yikes! I struggled to maintain a good heading to clear the rocky jetty. I used my motor and had to tack once again. I tacked back, cleared the jetty, and immediately encountered the next challenge of getting past a large, temporarily docked ferry. This beast loomed over Guppy, with its engines churning a powerful wake astern that I had to sail through. The wake and the point of sail that I was on were not optimal. I fired up my motor that I had recently shut down for extra oomph to pass the monstrous boat. My trusty motor came through, and I was able to pass to the stern of the ferry with time to spare. Once past, I was relieved only for a short bit, when I realized what formidable conditions we were in.

I heard over my handheld VHF radio that one of the sailboats in our fleet had trouble and was grounded on some rocks by the marina. This was going to be one heck of a day, I thought. The advice I received before departure was to stay close to shore to avoid the possible opposing current, but I was sailing in high winds and was avoiding jibing due to fear. I stayed on a tack for too long and was out far from shore encountering heavy winds from the stern with an opposing current pushing on our bow. The current and wind fighting each other created an interesting sea condition. On the radio they were predicting 4-5 foot swells. But it had an unusual rhythm… something that baffled this primarily lake sailor. I would compare it to being in a washing machine. As I was trying to understand the seas, the jib sail violently snapped back filling the other side, I reached for the port jib sheet to release it and pull in the other side, but I was too slow. Then, we were broadsided by a wave. Before I could even realize what was happening, instincts took over, and I was crouched in Guppy’s cockpit footwell gripping the cockpit hand rails. I remember glancing to my starboard side, and seeing the black rub rail in the water; we were at almost a 90 degree angle! And just as quickly as it had happened, Guppy bobbed back up. I seized the moment! There was no time to process or to worry or to anything! I sheeted in the starboard jib sheet and secured it. I was getting the heck back to shore! I was shaking from adrenaline and fear. The realization that we had nearly capsized started to hit. I decided to clip my VHF radio to my life jacket. I always have my radio secured to the boat, but now I see the reason why that might not be the best idea. My whole body was shaking. But I sailed on, because what else is there to do?

I hugged that shore. I stayed very close, as close as I could without fear of grounding. With only a foot and half draft, I could stay in shallow water. The wind was powerful and unrelenting. It required complete and total attention. During this time of sailing downwind in heavy winds, I had flashbacks of the Texas 200. Memories of my rudder issues haunted me. I now had a reinforced thick steel tiller connection so that wasn’t a worry anymore, but I still had the fear that my rudder would come out of the gudgeons again. Without any crew, it would be a bugger to reinsert the rudder it in these conditions. I was very cautious and deliberate with my rudder movements.

Blast! I noticed that the line to assist in lowering the jib sail had went overboard and was dragging along side Guppy. I would need that line. My friend and fine sailor, Christine, had rigged this on the first night of this adventure to help me lower the jib from the cockpit, keeping me off the bow and safe in heavy conditions. In my mind, I thought this is one time in which I so need the line. I stuck my hand in the icy water trying to grasp it while still sailing. This was too dangerous. I could not take my attention off of sailing for more than a second. I would just have to figure it out later. Surely, the wind will have to slow at some point.

I had been shaking and thinking this isn’t fun anymore. I practiced some breath work in hopes to calm and relax me in these opposite than calm conditions. Hey, I have been through the Texas 200, surely I can handle this! Well, I also had crew on the Texas 200, I thought. This internal conversation wasn’t helping my nerves. Listening to the VHF radio and watching the other small boats not too far from me gave me some reassurance. I thought, once I get past Point No Point, I will be in the clear. After a while, Guppy and I finely got into a rhythm.

Point No Point had been a large topic of conversation on this trip. I was warned earlier that around this point can be a strong riptide and to avoid it by staying close to shore. Approaching Point No Point, my whole body was shaking, but I was prepared. Once I reached the tip I felt and actually saw the pull of this strong current. There was a different blue stripe in the water that pulled Guppy fast and hard away from shore. I was prepared for the jibe to change direction, to cut through this current and get back to shore. I released the port jib sheet and sheeted in the starboard as I jibed. I moved so fast that I got a little rope burn, but it was a successful jibe and no near-capsize, so a success in my book. I sailed out of the current and back near shore. We did it! We conquered Point No Point under sail alone.

I was ever hopeful for lighter conditions past the dreaded point. I only encountered more wind. Whew, I could not catch a break. I needed a break. Finally, as I approached Foul Weather Bluff, before the crossing to the final destination of Mats Mats Bay, the wind lightened. I seized the opportunity and got the rogue line that had been dragging in the water.

Then, I noticed a significant decrease in our overall speed. Not only had the winds lightened, but we seemed to have hit an opposing current. To get past Foul Weather Bluff, I started up my motor. Once past the point, I shut it down. I thought there may be more wind past the point, but there wasn’t. And to my disbelief, I began raising the mainsail. After a day of pounding winds, it was a surprise to have both sails up, a pleasant surprise. I smoothly sailed downwind and wing on wing to approach the narrow entrance to Mats Mats Bay, our final anchorage. I noticed it was still before 2:00 pm, the earliest I had reached any anchorage on this trip. Guppy and I had been flying!

I dropped sails at the entrance and motored into the bay. This was such a sweet place, an oasis. It was a completely protected cove, with 100 small boats nestled at anchor. I wanted to anchor near Christine, but my motor had a mind of its own. It died, and I decided that that spot was a fine spot to drop anchor. Then, my friends Bob and Wendi brought their dinghy from their boat Bacchus, with my paddle board in tow (I lost it on day 5, another fun story!). We chatted and Bob helped me inspect the motor. We cleaned up the spark plug again. They are wonderful people.

Completely spent, I crawled into my cabin for a rest. A short and heavy rainfall added to the beauty of my nap. After this fantastic nap and rain, I made a hearty dinner of chicken and rice and ate while watching a full rainbow arch over our anchorage. I was so happy, and I planned to make the most of this last night on the water. I could hear folk music coming from shore. I was going to finally use my paddle board! I squeezed awkwardly into my wetsuit that my dad insisted I wear if I was to paddle board and balanced onto my board. Kirk on his nearby Flicka said hello and offered a tour of his boat that I had been hoping for the whole trip. The Flicka is my dream “big” boat. I climbed aboard his beautiful boat from my paddle board and admired in awe. We had a wonderful talk of many topics. What an impressive sailor he is. There are so many great people on this trip and with so much knowledge! I am lucky to be here.

After the nice visit, I paddle boarded around the anchorage some more and enjoyed the most incredible sunset. What a day, what a place, what a dream come true!

I was unable to capture much of the day’s scary and difficult times for obvious reasons. This short video does not do justice to the experience. However, I was rewarded with the most photogenic and amazing sunset of the trip!

The Shakedown

Sailing/camping test run at Lake Bryan

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.

Willa Cather

A 2 night camping and sailing trip was a top priority for me before my upcoming long voyage in the Puget Sound. I needed to thoroughly test my equipment and discover any potential problems before this monumental adventure. I met my dad out at Lake Bryan, a small lake only 15 minutes from my house. We set up our respective boats and launched. The wind was a light 5-10 mph, and it was a beautiful, warm day. I had my larger Genoa headsail raised, and Guppy, who was freshly waxed, skimmed through the water effortlessly. Going downwind at a leisurely 2 knots, Dad and I chatted across boats plotting where the best spot to anchor for the night would be. We decided to check out the island, directly across the lake and downwind from the dock. As we were looking around, I noticed a very large bird perched high in a tree on the island. I hollered at Dad, who turned to see the impressive creature. As the bird opened his wings and flew off, I noticed he had a white head. It was a bald eagle! Dad and I, both in awe, decided that he was a good sign and that this was a good spot to anchor. I ceremoniously threw out my brand new Mantus anchor in about 10 feet of water north of the island. I felt protected; the wind direction was such that if for some reason my anchor didn’t hold, I would be blown onto the island’s muddy shore or reeds.

Dad waved goodbye and motored back to the dock. I was on my own, and after a quick swim to cool off and a small snack, the first area of business was to test out my tender. Guppy has a keel, and therefore she cannot be beached. I was gifted an inflatable paddle board for my birthday and it occurred to me that this very light and large board might work wonderfully to get me to and from Guppy. Time to test it out. The paddle board can be challenging to inflate, requiring a lot of upper body strength. The board is also 10 feet long, and I was unsure of how I could inflate this in my 4 foot long cockpit. I secured the deflated paddle board to one of the stern cleats and began pumping. As she inflated, I balanced her over the side of my boat and continued to pump while the paddle board floated. It wasn’t too difficult and within 10 minutes, my tender was set and ready! I excitedly climbed on my paddle board from Guppy. I started on my knees and untied from the stern cleat. Sweet freedom! Off I went to explore all around the little island. I saw many birds and disturbed a beautiful gray crane who was fishing among the reeds. It was amazing to approach Guppy from my paddle board. With this tender I felt that there were no limitations. I practiced getting on and off a few times, and was surprised how stable everything was even with the winds picking up.

Quite pleased with my successful tender experience, I rested on top of Guppy’s cabin and watched the sunset… a little relaxation was a treat for me. Sitting there, devising my next move, I saw a kayaker nearby. He was curious about me and we had a nice chat. As he paddled away, I noticed dark clouds approaching, and a shift in wind direction. The winds had picked up and now my stern was pointing straight towards the rocks of the dam. I thought about moving anchorage locations, but decided to stay put. This would be an excellent test for my new anchor. Seeing the approaching clouds, I hurried to set up my “boom” tent. Guppy’s actual boom is very short and would not be effective in covering the cockpit area. So with PVC pipe, my mast crutch, a tarp and some clips, I created a “boom tent” of sorts. Setting the tent up in a windy and now rainy setting was a recipe for chaos. I lost 2 clips to the lake and discovered that I had to completely remove my mainsail and boom for the tent to be secure. In the end, I had created what resembled some sort of tent that did provide a little coverage. This would have to do for now.

I retreated to my cabin. While listening to the rain, I put up some command strips to hang my new LED string lights in the cabin. The lights created a nice cozy feel to the interior. It was already 9:00 pm! Time for bed. I set my anchor alarm, which luckily stayed quiet the whole night. With the rain coming down and the boat rocking, I was in for a restless night. There was a lingering unease about lightning. I don’t understand why I haven’t heard more about lightning among sailors. You are on an open body of flat water and have an aluminum pole high about the waterline, seems like a perfect recipe for a lightening strike to me. But with the increasing winds, I was more concerned with drifting. Somehow with all of my concerns and new noises, I managed to sleep a broken 5 hours.

The morning brought more rain. I watched the weather and was patient. I stayed in my cabin, had a small breakfast of a power bar. Finally, at 10:15, the rain stopped, the wind picked up and the sun peaked through ever so slightly. I started to take down the boom tent and discovered a small lake that had formed on the top of my tarp, I tried to dump it over the side of Guppy resulting in half of it spilling into the cockpit. I started bailing. Then, I tried to start up my stove. The wind was persistent and after about 10 minutes of the stove not starting, I surrendered. No coffee for me this morning. To say I was a little out of it would be an understatement. I had a rocky and rolly night, small amount of sleep and now no coffee. I hoped my brain would work well enough that I wouldn’t make any catastrophic mistakes. As I was tidying up, I heard a large power boat approaching fast. I peaked around the cabin to see The Bryan Fire Department on a large, shiny red boat with 3 uniformed fire fighters aboard. I was suddenly very aware that I was still in my pajamas.

The mustached leader spoke and said that they had a concerned call that I could possibly be stranded. I was surprised and said that all was good and I was fine, just camping on my boat. They seemed surprised as well, but were friendly and asked “Do you need anything?” I paused. In my head I thought, “How rude would it be to ask for a cup of coffee right now?” I opted not to make the request and replied politely “No, thanks. I am all good here!” And they sped back to the dock. I puttered about, tidying up a bit more, when I should have gotten dressed. Within 15 minutes, they were back and with more people that apparently worked for Lake Bryan. I now had 6 people on a big fancy boat all staring at me. One of the ladies informed me that it was not allowed to camp on the water here. I had no idea and I let her know that. She was friendly and said that I could stay on the water all day, just not at night. Sigh. So much for my 2 night shakedown. I told her no problem and that I would leave before dark.

I then decided to make the most of the day. There were nice 10-15 mph easterly winds, let’s go sail! As I prepared the sails, the working jib went on nicely, but I was having trouble with raising the mainsail. I looked out at the lake and spotted a few white caps. I listened to my boat and opted to leave the mainsail lowered. I also planned to test out towing my tender today. I had looked at several different options on tow lines and decided to try the most simple first. I tied the line to one stern cleat, ran the bitter end through the handle on the forward nose of my paddle board, and then secured that end to my other stern cleat. The paddle board laid about 2 feet aft of Guppy’s stern. I then weighed anchor and sailed under jib alone. I noted that the tow line would occasionally graze my motor or the stern ladder as I was tacking but there were no major issues that I could see. Another successful trial!

The sailing was beautiful. We held steady at 2.5 knots, and with the gusts we got up to 3.5 knots (Guppy’s max hull speed is 4). This speed was impressive with only one sail up while towing; I was tickled. With the fresh moist air in my face and my nerves passing, I was filled with peace and gratitude. There is something so lovely and freeing about solo sailing. There will always be a little fear but once that is overcome, what a pure gift it is to be sailing along with your boat. I stretched out and enjoyed a splendid two hour sail.

Coast Trip

With the Aggie Yacht Club, Galveston, Texas, April 6-7, 2019.

“To young men contemplating a voyage I would say go”

Joshua Slocum

Friday morning at 1 a.m. my eyes popped open and my mind started up. “I must check the weather,” I thought. Friday was forecasted to be 72 degrees with winds 10-15 mph for Galveston, Texas. Saturday was predicted to have 50% thunderstorms and winds gusting up to 20 mph. I started stressing, and I wished I could join everyone for the perfect weather day on Friday. My Aggie Yacht Club would be heading to Galveston that Friday afternoon for their annual coast trip, while I would be working.  I had missed last year’s coast trip, so I was super excited to partake in this year’s. I planned to tow Guppy from Bryan, Texas to Jamaica Beach in Galveston early Saturday morning.

After another restless night, I packed up early and hit the road.  I arrived in Galveston 3 hours later around 11:00 a.m., towing Guppy through the traffic infested highways of Houston and foggy, gloomy weather. When I arrived at the pink beach house, the club was there to greet me and the sun was too!  It turns out, the weather forecast is only a prediction and not a reality. We were blessed with sun and a steady 10-15 mph wind.

Jacob and John assisted me with setting Guppy up and launching her at a small private Jamaica Beach boat ramp.  This is Guppy’s first time back in salt water since the wild Texas 200 experience.  Jacob helped me navigate the canals and I tried out the new (to me) electric motor that my dad let me borrow after the noisy little cruise n carry died.  As I started her so simply and quietly, I immediately fell in love. I realize that there is no such thing as a perfect motor, but this one was reliable, powerful enough, and super quiet: a dream come true to me.

We motored a smooth 20 minutes to the beach house where the AYC was and tied Guppy to the dock directly in front of the house. While some of the club members headed to the beach, Jacob, John, and I had an itch to get out sailing on the bay. West Bay is beautiful, not crowded at all (we were the only sailboat out there at the time), and very shallow. I was concerned about reefs and low tide readings, but Jacob and his father reassured me that the tide was 2 feet higher at this time than the charts show. With Guppy’s foot and half keel, we were in no danger of grounding. We sailed out into the bay through the channel markers with the wind at our backs and with Jacob at the tiller. I climbed to the bow and fixed a kink in the jib sail. It was so nice up there, I decided to stay put.  A salty, fresh breeze on my face and Guppy playfully splashing in the bay made me breath a deep sigh of happiness. This was my happy place: no place I’d rather be. Jacob sailed wing on wing and downwind for almost an hour. The winds kept increasing and land was getting farther and farther away. As I climbed back into the cockpit, I had to hold tight onto the handrails and stay low as we had picked up quite a bit of speed.

I then took over for the fun part: beating windward back to the house. The winds had obviously increased and now on this point of sail (close-hauled) made for a thrilling sail. We were in no rush, enjoyed the sail, and tacked back within two hours. As we arrived back at the beach house we were greeted by our club who had just made a beautiful lunch of pulled pork sliders.

Then decisions ensued: should we paddle board, kayak, sail more, or swim? Molly piped up and said she wanted to take out Guppy. I couldn’t resist another spin. This time it would be a girls-only trip, and it was Molly’s official first time sailing on Gup. Rob and Daniel followed us down the canal on their paddle boards. As we passed the neighbors, we had many admirers on how cute Guppy was. She seems to make everyone smile. The winds were kind to us out in the bay, and we enjoyed a leisurely hour sail. Molly seemed pleased that we did not die.

We motored back through the canals as the sun set, tied Guppy up at the dock, and headed in. Jacob stated that a storm was coming pretty early in the morning and that we should get Guppy all packed up before it got too dark. As I got her back on the trailer and we were taking down her mast, I realized that this trip was completely without incident. No drama and just smooth sailing. What a lucky duck I am! We all chatted, ate dinner and then climbed into our tents (or hammocks) for an early bedtime. I laid in my tent, listening to the crickets and the wind, thinking of the day’s fun. It was a great trip.

The Texas 200

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.”

Paulo Coelho

Reading my Small Craft Advisor magazine was my first introduction to The Texas 200. The more I learned about this crazy event, the more I knew that I had to participate in it. It is the ultimate adventure involving sailing and camping for 6 days (and 200 miles) along the remote Texas coastline with other like-minded sailing enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

I hadn’t even had Guppy for a full year, when I drove her down to Port Isabel… I was so naive and full of hopeful expectations. We had every intention to complete the entire 6 days but only made it one day. But oh, what a glorious one day it was!

For my full account:

For more information on the blessed event:

Gupdate: Guppy and I are heading north this June to participate in the first ever Salish 100 event in Washington. I couldn’t resist this dream sailing destination with other small boat enthusiasts.

This event begins June 22 and should take almost 4 days of driving from Texas to get there. I decided that time would not allow me to do both events (Texas 200 and Salish 100) if I wanted to keep my sanity and my job. Therefore, I chose to focus on the Salish 100.

*I’m currently prepping for the Salish 100 2019 and intend to participate in next year’s Texas 200 in 2020.

The Story of Us

“People who do not know that a sailboat is a living creature will never understand anything about boats and the sea.”

Bernard Moitessier

Our Meeting

It all began the summer of 2017.  I had just graduated with my second degree from Texas A&M University, a Bachelor Science in Nursing. It had taken me 3 long years of working full time as a clinic nurse and being a part time student.  I was exhausted, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do now that school was done. Sail.

My generous dad had offered to buy me a boat for my graduation.  I was most interested in small boats, and I had loved our West Wight Potter 15’ growing up.  While talking of my dreams of a sailboat at work one day, a student nurse pipes up, “I saw the cutest sailboat for sale on Facebook.”  At the time I was not on Facebook, so she looked it up and found it for me. It was love at first sight. It was a yellow Guppy 13. I had never seen the Guppy before, but at that moment when my eyes locked onto her, I knew I had to have her. 

The following day, I called the gentleman who was selling her. We set up a meet time on Lake Belton for that following weekend. I was overwhelmed with excitement. Dad and I tried to prepare for the meeting and planned on things to look for and ask.  Then the disappointing phone call came, the man wasn’t going to sell her anymore. Apparently, his grandson wanted the boat.  I was crushed.

I looked at other small boats in hopes that I may have another spark. Alas, I couldn’t get Guppy out of my mind. So the search was on.  I became a detective and scoured the internet.

This antique boat was tricky to find. There were only about 300 made in the 1970’s, so supply was limited to say the least. I found one in rough shape in Pennsylvania.  It was an intimidating project. Then, I couldn’t believe it: I found one in northern Oklahoma (Alva) on Craigslist in beautiful condition! I could barely contain my excitement. He was asking a little less then $3,000.  After reviewing it with Dad and speaking to the seller, it was time to go get my dream boat.

Oklahoma is the northern neighboring state to Texas, however Alva is on the northern border of Oklahoma. The trip would take 8 hours drive to get there. It would be a round trip minimum time of 16 hours.  I recruited my dear mother to join me on the adventure. We borrowed my dads station wagon since neither of us had a ball hitch for towing, and we set out.

I was so excited to meet her. We had a long, boring, and flat drive to Alva. We were planning to meet the seller at the only Walmart in town at 3pm. Mom and I arrived ahead of schedule. When they pulled up with Guppy in tow, I was ready to hand over the money. She was perfect.

The young man who was selling her, originally from Belgium, seemed quite sad to see her leave.  He explained that because they were a young couple who just had a baby, they couldn’t use the boat and needed the money more. He had brought his wife, their newborn, his brother, and his parents from Belgium, who didn’t speak English but were extremely friendly. He and his brother jumped up on the boat and showed me how to step her mast.  He proceeded to show me all the sails and even started up the Game Fisher motor. I did the best inspection that I could.  There would be no negotiating, I was already sold.

One thing I did notice was that she was covered with large tropical stickers. The seller apparently really liked Malibu and had covered her with palm trees, dolphins, and bright red lettering, MALIBU. It was a minor distraction. She was Quality.  I paid the asking price and we got a bill of sell.  She was officially mine. I was positively giddy.

Then mom and I started the trek back to Texas with Guppy now in tow. We took turns driving and made it home by 3:00 am. Whew!  I was deliriously tired but what a dream come true.  Guppy was home.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

“There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.”  –Kenneth Grahame, The Wind In The Willows

Somerville Solo Sail

Friday November 23rd brought 10-15 mph winds with temperature highs in the 70’s.  I have been dreaming of taking my boat on a solo camping trip ever since I got her.  This was my opportunity, as it was Thanksgiving holiday and I was free from the duties of work. I packed up all of my things that I thought I might need and set off to Lake Somerville, a 40 minute drive from my house. It was a big lake for Guppy to explore and stretch out.

I arrived at the lake and was consumed with nerves. This was my first time completely setting her up and getting her into the water alone, without assistance or company.  To add to my nerves the gusts of wind howled through my rigging as I stepped her mast using the mast crutch system that my dad devised.

I successfully backed her down the boat ramp in Welsh Park and secured her to the dock cleats.  I then parked and locked my car for the night. I returned to Guppy and prepared to take off.  I ensured all of my sails were set and had added a reef in the mainsail due to the gusty weather. I untied the stern line, released from the dock, and used the motor to back me out onto the lake. It was a seamless take off, even though I was a mess of nerves. I have learned from previous experiences, when it comes to docking and undocking to always use my motor.

We set off! The awkwardness of land and docking disintegrated, and the elegance of sailing took over. Guppy sliced through the water and we sailed a beautiful 2 hours to a cove for the night.  The reef seemed to be too prudent and the winds had slacked in the evening. I had to use my little motor to nestle into a cove before dropping anchor in time for a beautiful sunset.

I had ducks as neighbors and was peacefully alone in my cove. I stretched out and relaxed some. My little portable one burner stove was started up, and I made a dinner of chicken and rice.  I paired my meal with a cup of wine. I watched a full moon rise over the starboard side of Guppy. It was so peaceful and still; the water was a mirror for the moon.  A feeling of utter gratitude filled me.

For such a small boat, my little 13 foot claimed that a 6’ 8” person could stretch out in her cabin. This may be true, but it was snug fit for me (5” 7”).  I prepped her cabin for sleep. It was chilly and temperatures were to drop into the 40’s. I bundled up, closed the hatch, read a little, and listened to the stillness. I slept decent for my first night alone on Guppy.

The morning brought fog. The stillness and beauty of the lake was magical. I had a lazy morning and made coffee and oatmeal. I watched a few fishermen try their luck around the cove. With big fish jumping around me, I was surprised not to see any of them make a catch.

By 10 am I was itching to go. I had my big Genoa headsail raised and my full mainsail. I waited for wind. I thought maybe the main lake had more wind, so I started up my Cruise n Carry and headed out. I caught a little wind, but was going less then one knot. Then the wind completely died. I sat and waited. I made lunch and kept checking the weather on my phone. My app said it was 8 mph winds at 12:00.  I scoffed, it was almost 12 and there was barely anything!  Not such a smart phone, I thought.  Then, looking out at the main body of Somerville in front of us, I saw the water change and that change was approaching us fast.  Then the waves and wind engulfed us! I had never seen the wind begin like that. It made me wonder where does wind come from?

Then, Guppy and I took off. Her large headsail made us move and for a moment I felt like I forgotten how to sail. My nerves returned full force, but I got a handle of them and Guppy.  We zoomed across the lake.  We sailed a good hour and half, dodging fishing buoys, all the way past Snake Island. We were the only sailboat on the lake, but there were many bass boats passing by. It was a thrilling sail with gusts, white caps, and splashes.

The wind was unrelenting, and I decided to head back. The downwind sail was spectacular and just as exciting.  We were making about 4 knots and surfing with the waves. As I approached the inlet to Welsh Park, I dropped the mainsail. Right after doing this, the gusts had slowed. We had a smooth sail back. A little bee landed on Guppy and after trying to shoo it away without success, I decided he could join me, just so long as he didn’t sting me. He didn’t seem interested in messing with me and he provided a little company. He flew off in time for docking.

Once the dock was in my sight, I turned the bow into the wind and  dropped my Genoa. I then climbed back into the cockpit and started up my little motor. She started up noisily, and we cruised slowly to the dock. I was nervous again and doubted my docking skills completely on my own. The docking went so smoothly that if anyone had been watching, they may have thought I’d been doing that my whole life. What a success!

I ran up to get my car and got her loaded back up in the trailer. I started taking her down and an indescribable feeling came over me. It was a mixture of sadness that it was over and awe that I finally did it and all on my own.  This is hopefully the first of many solo adventures for Guppy and me.

About to launch!