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Ocean Safety 2023 - New Identity - LEADERBOARD

10 more things learned while sailing to Mexico

by Greg and Lori Bernard 14 Jan 00:39 UTC
Sailing to Mexico © Greg and Lori Bernard

One of the great things about sailing is that the learning never stops. Even at home in familiar waters, we'd learn new things every year. Now that we're voyaging, the lessons are coming much faster.

Here are a few more tips to add to what we wrote previously for Currents:

  1. You won't be lonely unless you want to be. Join the relevant Facebook groups - Southbound PNW Cruisers has been the best for us - and engage in the conversations. Fly your BCA burgee. Say hi, offer compliments and be helpful on the dock. We've spent almost every night in the last five months hanging out with other cruisers, and the effort has been minimal. The rewards have been huge. Monterey was special because we made fast friends with two locals on the dock. By the way, I'm an introvert.

  2. Many of the anchorages are marginal. I was going to say "suck", but I'm trying to stay positive. You will miss the 360 degree bombproof comfort of so many of B.C.'s anchorages; except for a few select towns with large breakwaters, that degree of comfort doesn't exist south of Cape Flattery. We haven't put out a stern anchor to keep the bow into the swell yet, but we've thought about it. We have talked to folks using flopper stoppers and are in the market. Try spending a night anchored off the beach at Shed 4 south of Brooks Peninsula to get a feel for the anchorages you'll experience farther south. Either side of Savary Island would also serve in a pinch if Brooks is too far to go. Be sure to tie the boom down before you go to bed so that it can't move. It's easier than doing it in the middle of the night!

  3. Lose any national pride jingoism that you might have - it will make you happier. I've cruised B.C. for years, and a day of listening to the VHF in B.C. waters will provide plenty of evidence that it exists in Canada. Every cruiser we've met so far is amazing.

  4. Learn as much as you can about the weather, and then try not to stress about it. There is good information available without being a meteorologist. The NOAA forecasts have been the best, with Windy coming in number 2. The GRIBs from the Predictwind Offshore app have 100km resolution. They are very coarse and don't do a great job close to the shore, usually indicating less wind close along the coast than farther out. This is sometimes true.

  5. Make sure your sails are up to the task. A new main and foresail are good investments, as is a third reef point if you already have a newer main. We've used our third reef twice since we left in May. Make sure you have a way to set a smaller foresail(s) without pulling down your roller furled genny. We have a removable solent stay and hank on blade and storm jibs. We haven't used either sail but are glad to have the system if and when we need it. Do all of this before leaving - you won't save any money doing boat work in the USA.

  6. Learn to slow down. This goes for day to day routine, and for the pace of your voyage in general. In port, our daily routine is to relax until lunch and then go ashore to explore or get a job done. This is a pretty slow pace that takes some getting used to, especially if you transition directly from working to cruising. Have some patience with yourself - most people get used to being less productive than they were in their previous life with practice. As for the pace of your travel, storms in B.C. and hurricane season will bookend your trip. If you're heading to Mexico, that means leaving home at the end of summer and arriving in northern Mexico at the beginning of November. The reality of the west coast is that there just aren't that many places to stop, so we stay in each place longer; three nights is now a quick stop. We spent three weeks San Francisco.

  7. Ask yacht clubs for privileges. Some yacht clubs will extend hospitality to out of town visitors belonging to sailing clubs, even in the absence of reciprocal privileges. Sailors like stories, and most never leave their home waters. Just making it to a port on the California coast is a story that yacht clubs on the coast want to celebrate by inviting you into their facilities. have to ask. The worst that can happen is you'll get a no. You might end up with a night or two of free moorage.

  8. Get wheels for your dinghy that will allow you to land the dinghy without lifting the motor. Not having to worry about the motor when making a surf landing takes the stress out of a stressful situation. It makes launching a little easier too.

  9. Expect to be disappointed with cell service on the American coast. It might be hard to believe, but we're spoiled by the quality of service on the B.C. coast, particularly in Georgia Strait. I've had better service in Johnstone Strait than in some of the urban harbours we've stayed in. To add insult(s) to injury, some American plans do not include hotspotting, paying your bill online might require a zip code, and, after factoring in the exchange rate, there are no deals. Port Angeles is a tough place to get a SIM card; it might be worth driving down to Bellingham and doing some plan shopping before setting sail.

  10. Don't expect everyday to be fun. You aren't on a vacation and you can't be in tourist mode forever. I'm not completely sure how to articulate this point, but it's important. It's more fundamental than the clichés we've all heard: "the cruising life isn't all margaritas and beaches" or "cruising is fixing your boat in exotic locations". These truisms don't really get to the essence of this lifestyle. Cruising is living. You just happen to be on a boat - which breaks - and there are beaches, some of which have margaritas, but it is still living with all the usual stuff that life entails. In fact, the day to day stuff - laundry, grocery shopping, paying the bills - is part of what makes this an adventure because all of it is harder than it was at home.

  11. Bonus point. Some days will be amazing. Like, really amazing! Try to recognize them for what they are and enjoy them.
This article has been provided by the courtesy of Bluewater Cruising Association.

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