Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Posts tagged ‘sailing to Mexico’

Looking Forward, Looking Back

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.

Henry David Thoreau

Because for so many years the summer traditionally came to an end with Labor Day, the end of a teacher’s summer freedom, pressure is internally mounting to get on the river and sea, and out of town. Unfortunately for our plans to leave by September 1, we still are not away from our moorage. The holdups are brackets, brackets, wires and cables. Dreaming of our journey keeps us going through all the stutters in the outfitting progress. Last week saw a lot of forward progress. The surveyor came and gave the boat a thorough inspection needed for us to get insurance. The re-machined propeller came back from Seattle and the boat was hauled out to install the propeller, then it ran so smoothly we could hardly hear it. A dinghy was purchased to go with the eBay motor, and Jan purchased a beauty of a little accordion to entertain us and keep my musical mind busy. I’ve played piano since I was about 5, but the accordion’s key size is much smaller, and I’m busy memorizing the locations of all the different major, minor, D7 and Dim stops for the left hand. Then there’s the bellows….already I’ve found that it’s too easy to run out of air just when you think you’re coming to a rousing close to a song and it piddles out with a tiny whimper of sound.





Craig Shaw up the mast attaching the LED anchor and running lights

Nikk has been doing many small and large projects, including installing a row of 6V golf cart batteries under the floor in the cabin where our sodas, beer and wine used to reside.
These batteries will store energy from the two solar panels that have yet to be installed, and that energy will do important things like power the refrigeration and electronics. Of course, power needs cables and wires, which are being installed with a lot of contortions in very small spaces.
Then there are the missing brackets, the ones that were sent to attach the radar pole are the wrong size, and would result in the pole listing to about a 30-degree angle, not so good for reception (and appearance). So we’re waiting and waiting for a man to machine and send a different bracket. If all goes well we will do the final provisioning this week and be on our way next Saturday the 8th.

I have done sewing projects, calling up some very rusty sewing skills. Back when I was 12, my friend’s mother, Mrs. Robinson (yes that really was her name and she was not the type to seduce young men), started a 4-H group to teach us sewing and knitting. With infinite patience and a lot of skill she gave me the start to many years of sewing and knitting garments, with help from my mother too. I still knit on a regular basis, but haven’t sewed for about 20 years! Luckily my daughter loves to sew, has a beautiful Pfaff, and was willing to help me wind a bobbin, thread the needle, and get to sewing. The first project was sewing fitted sheets for the v-berth, the bed in the bow, which starts out at 74 inches wide at the head and torso, then tapers to a measly 18 inches at the feet. Taking two sheets, one a queen, one a king, I somehow managed to measure, pin and sew them into the desired shape. Another related strange project was going to Ikea to get a 3 7/8 inch thick foam mattress, then cutting it to fit the v-berth with a hacksaw. After wrestling the mattress into the v-berth, I put on the fitted mattress protector, and it fit like spandex on Darcelle!
Then came ripping out the two zippers on the wheel cover, getting new zippers, and sewing them back on with very heavy thread. I think that’s the end of sewing projects.

The last few weeks have been filled with good times with friends and family. Dinners, lunches, concerts, a pool party, walks, talks, and lots of playing with the grandchildren, with the realization that I am making memories that I’ll be able to return to when far away. Leaving all the people that I love and am connected to in so many ways is the difficult counterpoint to the excitement of adventure. I’ve been riding my bike around Portland, taking pictures of places, too. Here are a few that I’ll enjoy looking at when I’m baking in Baja. If you’re reading this and there are no pictures, come back, because I have to leave the iPad and go to Nikk’s computer to be able to add pictures to the blog. Portland is such a beautiful city, with so many ways to ride the bike. Tomahawk Island Drive, next to the marina, has a tree-lined median strip like Ainsworth, and after that my rides almost always take me alongside I-5 across the channel, then sometimes into North Portland, down Willamette, and back past Kelly Point Park and along Marine Drive. I call it the River to River and Back Again route.



Portland from Willamette Boulevard bluff


Peninsula Park Rose Garden fountain


We have survived all these projects with minimal damage to our persons, only some scraped knucles and shins, and are looking forward to the sailing adventure to come.  The next blog I’ll write about a topic that comes up all the time when people ask me about our journey, FEAR.



Countdown Part 2

In this blog reside technical details of the preparations, installations, and just general work that needed to be done in order to safely and efficiently (we hope) sail for months and months. If details of work leave you cold, skip those parts (or this blog altogether). However, I will include details about our Baba 30, Balance, her history and configuration, and why she’s lusted after by so many sailors. The boat was designed by Bob Perry, legendary boat designer, built in Taiwan in 1980, and shipped to Seattle.
The name “baba”, which means “father”, was affectionately given to Bob Berg, by the Taiwanese workers at the boatyard and later became the name of these sailboats. Berg was the owner of Flying Dutchman, a boat-building company, and the overseer of all the many tasks needed to build these sailboats. Our boat is one of about 170 that were built in the 70’s and 80’s. The Baba 30 is known as a serious bluewater passage boat, and “a big boat trapped in a small body” (John Kretschmer). She is a cutter, with 504 square feet of sail, a furling headsail, lots of teak and mahogany , and a very roomy area down below. If you’re interested in many more details, check out this link.

Balance sailing on the Columbia River

The amount of preparations necessary to get us actually leaving on this voyage are mind-boggling. We both needed to move out of our homes, and anyone who’s ever moved knows what a chore that is. Worldly goods were sold, recycled to Goodwill and Value Village, stored in our big Public Storage unit, or moved to Nikk’s cabin near Mt St Helens, except for the few necessities that would fit on the boat. Finding a home for my two dogs was heart-wrenching, but at the last moment my daughter volunteered, and now the dogs have a happy home with a big fenced yard.

Outfitting the boat started in February with a trip to the Seattle Boat Show. The Boat Show had two floors of boats and equipment, and we spent two days perusing an incredible amount of possibilities, finally settling on purchasing a pedestal and guard to attach drink holders and a little table for “fine dining” in the cockpit, a Cool Blue refrigeration set-up to turn the icebox into a refrigerator and freezer (for freezing fish caught and maybe ice cream?), and an old unused Ray Marine C80 chart plotter so we can tell where we are, what’s around us, under us, and how far away things are. A hiatus of installation then happened so we could take care of moving, but June 1 found us living aboard amidst tools, boxes, and electronic equipment, and the work began.

Nikk installed the Monitor Wind Vane, which will hopefully steer us when we want to take a break, and the installation practically broke Nikk’s back from the contortions he needed to do wedged under the lazarette, drilling holes and attaching large stainless steel brackets to the stern. (The lazarette is the compartment under the port cockpit seat.)

We are calling the wind vane “Moo” for now, since it “steers”

Here’s “Moo”

Nikk put in the pedestal in the cockpit and attached the drink holders and little table, now we’re watching sunsets and having dinner. Another blog post will detail the cooking and dining experience while aboard.

What was Jan doing? Channeling Martha Stewart and becoming an organizational diva. Throwing out food that had been in the cupboards since about 1997, when Nikk purchased Balance. Finding homes for all the canned and dried food, and the equipment to cook it and serve it. There are an amazing number of drawers, cupboards, and storage areas in the galley, under the floor, behind the settee cushions, and under the v-berth (bed). Of course some of the storage areas have survival gear, anchors and chains, water and fuel lines. Since the propane stove and oven are very small, off I went to Ikea to purchase small cookware. I especially like the little baking tray for cookies, brownies, and roasted veggies.

Clever Nikk installed the refrigerator unit in the cooler which sits under a galley counter (two panels lift up with little brass loops to let us access the cooler/refrigerator). More tinkering created an aluminum foil-covered foam partition with holes, to make separate freezer and refrigerator compartments. It works! Frozen food is still frozen, and the refrigerator temperature is 38 degrees. Nikk’s ingenuity is amazing, it’s one reason that I don’t worry about something breaking down and needing repair, I’ve never seen Nikk stumped by a mechanical problem (for more than 24 hours, anyway, sometimes he has to sleep on it).

Two big jobs got done in one week, the standing rigging (steel cables that attach the top of the mast to the deck) got replaced by Craig Shaw, and then the boat got hauled out by Danish Marine to scrub and paint the bottom. Unfortunately, after the boat was hauled out we discovered the prop was worn and had to be sent to Seattle to be remachined. That will take about two weeks, but luckily we still have many projects to do and a friend’s father had a spare propeller to loan us. So we are no longer at McCuddy’s Marina at 33rd and Marine Drive, but are now anchored at the Tomahawk Island McCuddy’s Marina. We’re island people!

Today Annika from North Canvas came by to install the framework for the bimini (a cover for the cockpit to protect the helmsperson from the hot sun). She measured and measured, and now is off to sew the cover. Nikk is installing the cables for the sensors for the depth sounder and knot log. The next big tasks are installing the radar on a pole in the stern, and installing the solar panels, so we have juice for all those electronics. If you think all this costs a bunch of money, you’re right. When we’re out cruising, we will be spending very little, unless something major needs replacing or repairing, but the expenditure for getting ready is a huge drain on the bank accounts.

It isn’t all work, though, we do go out paddling in our kayaks, take walks down to the Jantzen Beach Safeway, meet friends to listen to music and dance, eat at the little Island Cafe at the marina, and watch the sun go down while having dinner out in the cockpit, enjoying our floating home. There is even wildlife to be seen here, Great Blue Herons fishing, mama raccoon and babies, swallows chasing a Cooper’s Hawk, mutant mallards, and Osprey fishing or just hanging out precariously perched on the top of a mast and calling with their “sharp, annoyed whistles” (Peterson Field Guide). All in all, a day working on the boat beats a day working at the office or mowing the lawn by a long, long ways.


This sailing trip to Mexico has been in the planning stages for so long that the counting down has been going on for years. Audacious, foolish, adventurous, inspirational, selfish…..the adjectives applied by friends, family and complete strangers about our planned journey go on and on. Now that we are only perhaps three weeks away from pulling away from the moorage and heading down the Columbia River to the ocean, I’m venturing onto the blogiverse to fulfill my promise to post the tales of our adventure.
Understanding Nikk’s desire to sail to Mexico is a lot easier than understanding mine. Nikk has been on the water in boats since he was born. His family had a cabin near Spirit Lake while he was growing up, and he sailed and paddled from an early age. Racing hobie cats up and down the West Coast, and then purchasing a sailboat led to taking off on the sailboat for Mexico and cruising (that’s what sailors call venturing on a boat) for two years while in his early 30’s. After that it was back to Portland to work as a service manager for a swimming pool company, which left limited time for sailing adventures. However, Nikk did sail year-round on the Columbia River, and on Swift Reservoir in the summer, as well as sailing in Mexico for two or three weeks of vacation in the winter, all the while dreaming of retirement and finally sailing to Mexico and points beyond.
My route to this sailing adventure was not so straightforward. I didn’t grow up sailing, but I did love to take the rowboat out all by myself when at camp for a week each summer, and at about age seven or eight loved to play pirate with my friends (I had to agree to play their games first, and then we would play pirate). Starting with a high school boyfriend who had a sailboat on the Columbia, on through friends with boats while I lived in Australia, and sailing trips with other friends, I gained a little experience, and knew that I really enjoyed sailing, but spent my recreation dollars in other ways. Five years ago Nikk and I met at a high school reunion, after going our separate ways for 40 years, and I began to hear of his plans for sailing away when retired. We went sailing on the Columbia, we fell in love, and I began to share the desire to sail away too, and not just in order to spend lots of time with the man I loved. Even though I grew up in Portland, I never acclimated to the rainy, gloomy climate that persists most of the year. In my teens I used to put on a bathing suit and lay out in the back yard the first sunny day in March, and it was usually not warm! Now I know that I am one of those people with SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and need an inordinate amount of sunshine to feel good. Living in Australia and New Mexico were perfect for me, but didn’t last long enough, and I wound up pulled back to gray, soggy Oregon. Sailing in Mexico sounded about as fabulous an idea as anyone with SAD could imagine. And as many of you know, my adventurous spirit craves new scenery, new cultures, new ideas, connection with nature, and unique experiences, all of which go right along with sailing the ocean blue and anchoring in new ports. Now the big question….how will I do when the going gets rough, the seas stormy, and Nikk and I are together for days on end in a small space? Stay tuned to this blog to find out!


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