Sailing North: First Leg

Posted by  Brenda March 30th, 2014

Sharon's Bird

What do you get when you take a sailing couple with their classic schooner, the ship’s cat, and a tag-along bird watcher out into the North Pacific Ocean to sail from San Francisco, CA to undefined “points North” in March?

First–lots of advice not to do it. Then…underway…

Wind. Lots of it.
Gales. Three.
Rainbows. At least one a day.
Birds. Whales. Porpoise. Fishing nets. Big waves.

We motored off the Sugar Dock in Richmond, CA Monday morning March 24, put up the sails and motorsailed until we passed Cape Mendocino. Then we shut down the engine and sailed. And sailed. And sailed. Some more. North. 700 miles and 5.3 days later, on Saturday afternoon of March 29th, we pulled into Neah Bay, Washington.

We know, you weren’t supposed to be able to DO that, right? Sail north? as in “use the sails, not the engine” North? really? Well common wisdom isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. You really CAN sail up the coast (at least to the Pacific Northwest) from San Francisco. In March.

While we’re here in Neah Bay for a couple days, I’ll try to post some of “the story.” In the meanwhile, here’s a teaser photo taken by Sharon, our birdwatcher friend who joined us this week. We just bid her farewell and are now feeling a little “empty” aboard the schooner Mahdee.


Ready, Set to Go?

Posted by  Brenda March 19th, 2014

A big cyclonic wind system in the NE Pacific is making for a tiny period of S or SW winds before they turn to westerlies. We may have a few good travel days next week for the beginning of our trip to the North.

So, we’re checking things off the list and making ready to leave. Just in case. Sunday. What does that entail?

Friday, Beryl gets her shots and her health certificate. We dig out her harness and lifevest so she can practice wearing them again.


Brenda goes over the sails and rigging to make sure everything is in good order. Sewing, OK, one of the HiMod fittings has unexpected corrosion pitting upon inspection–not OK.



David installs new equipment–in this case, it’s a new radar mount and a B&G 4G radar on the mainmast.


We also get to install all the stuff that we’ve been procrastinating or that is is just finally showing up here–two custom Garhauer blocks for the running backstays; the amsteel lifelines that I’ve been avoiding the final install of; several misc. electrical bits and pieces–for example we’ll have a 12V light in the stateroom for the first time. Up until now it’s been flashlights, hocky-puck battery lights, or a 120VAC shorepower light.

We buy dozens of things we don’t need but “just in case” we can’t get them. The list? Well, we hit Trader Joe’s today and it was: dark chocolate; granola bars; Basmati rice; curry; goat cheeses (cheddar, brie, Gouda); wine; our favorite coffee; three dozen eggs; blondie mix; our favorite pasta; two six packs of Hansen’s sodas; and a dry salami. The trip to Costco happened last week and the “fresh veggie” trip will happen late the day before we go.

We finish up a variety of projects that really need to be put away before sailing. Today that means putting all the parts back onto the main saloon table that David made and I’ve been varnishing; it also means that FINALLY David will be forced to put away all of his toys ahem, tools that have been covering every horizontal surface of the boat (inside and out) for the last two weeks.

Beryl is helping me layout corbels to support the drop leaf main saloon table

How big of a board is too big?

This place is truly a mess when David is in the middle of a project like the saloon table.

Tomorrow, the highlight of the day will be to cut the latex foam (in half) on two queen size mattress toppers and make them into mattresses for the twin-size pilot berths that sit outboard and above the main saloon seats. Once David’s tools are out of the way, I will be able to get out my sewing machine, put it on that new main saloon table and make a lee cloth for the starboard pilot berth. That’s needed since it looks like we will have a guest aboard for the first portion of our northward trip. It would be bad if she fell out of the berth and sustained an injury due to the lack of a lee cloth.

After the toys tools are stashed away by David, I can begin the “stash and lash” process in earnest.

Other last minute stuff? Find a local gas station of the “Rotten Robbies” chain to buy kerosene for the stove and gasoline for the Honda EU2000; determine if we’re going to jerry-jug another 80 or so gallons of diesel onto the boat from a gas station (usually cheaper than fuel dock prices) or if we can easily and inexpensively fill up at a local fuel dock near here. Let’s see, what else? Empty the compost from the composting head, clean under the engine and replace the diesel “diaper” in the engine tray (so we can see if there are any leaks or spills); check all the navigation lights and engine fluids. Oh, and keep our fingers crossed that the new C-Map chart chips we ordered show up before we leave.


Blinding Dancing Shoes

Posted by  Brenda March 17th, 2014


I just read a FB entry by a friend. It was a photo of a little girl dancing with abandon in the rain with this Vivian Green quote embedded in a artistic script: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, its about learning to dance in the rain.”

This happens to echo several favorite quotes of mine with the theme of “just get on with things!” and don’t wait for the perfect opportunity because that opportunity may never come. I’ve written about this before here in this post. I do believe we must seize the day and every opportunity to progress towards our goals and purpose. No more waiting for the dance party and no more hanging out under a shelter waiting for the sunshine to enjoy–if we want to dance, just like a little girl who always has her dancing shoes on, we should dance NOW rather than sit around and say “someday, I’ll dance.”

Is there fallout from the act of seizing the day? Especially those stormy, messy days when we dance with abandon in the rain? At first it is not so obvious. We live and learn and grow and are rewarded for taking the risks. For David and I, sometimes things are all sunshine and light–and sometimes events are like slogging through the unexpected rains–the process of rebuilding, sailing, and continuing to restore Mahdee bit-by-bit often feels just like that carefree little girl dancing in the rain. Fresh, clean, happy and invigorating. It’s all good, right? Sometimes.

Along the way, I’ve begun to notice the muddy dance in the rain just doesn’t sparkle with the same magic that spinning wildly in the sunshine and collapsing on a clean grassy lawn does. My analog is breaking down, but I am beginning to wonder “what now?” No one told me that dancing in the rain requires so much more forethought than I’ve given it.

Rather than having my fun stomping in the rain in knee-high galoshes and a slicker, I seem to have chosen to wear my patent slippers and satin sheath, ruining them for the dance floor. Returning to Mahdee, the practical matters of getting on with things mean that right now we’re often being creative with the raw materials right at hand for a particular project or doing something with the boat a bit differently than we might otherwise do. Today, this literally means David is making and installing a wood cleat for the gaff vang and wood blocks to mount the running backstay winches on rather than me finding the “just perfect” period-appropriate cleat and just-so-perfect winch-mounts for Mahdee. Yes, wood is always period-appropriate and the proper bronze mounting brackets would have been hard, if not impossible, to come by. Maybe I would have never found just the right things and determined just the right placement for them. You see, I haven’t found them yet–and time is ticking away. Each little choice–from Sunbrella instead of canvas, fleece instead of mohair, or paint instead of varnish–takes us down a path that I wonder “Is this compromising choice OK for classsic schooner Mahdee?” And now choosing to take advantage of an opportunity and sail north in just a few days–taking us into rain, fog, and cold rather than sunny warm tropics, I wonder, “Is this choice OK for me?”

That’s because, unlike the little girl I once was with boundless energy and a lifetime of resources to gather and use, I’m finally beginning to think my world is actually finite. With that, I begin to wonder if I should buy some galoshes to wear and stomp my feet and splash in full acknowledgement of the storm and with a totally different kind of abandon rather than pirouette and pretend to be totally oblivious to the rain.


Folding Sails

Posted by  Brenda March 6th, 2014

1 unfolded


Loads of people put little tips and hints on their blogs about “sailor-like” things including folding sails. That’s not what I’m going to do. No. If you want to know how to fold a sail–google it. My story today is all about lugging around our mainsail one day last week and folding it so it can fit stowed somewhere inside the boat. I hate folding laundry. I also dislike folding sails. With the laundry, it’s a combination of 1. not wanting to fold wrinkles into things by working too quickly, and of 2. being reminded that “my transom is wide” while folding my pants. In terms of sails, we can say the dislikes are similar–I don’t want to fold things wrong and Mahdee, well, she’s a hefty boat so she has some huge sails made of very heavy-weight Dacron.

Our spare mainsail is now bent on and the one we used to use is now the “spare.” It sat on the foredeck smooshed under the dingy and peeking out for a month while it waited to be folded. Finally, as we packed up to depart the marina, David and I decided we could no longer procrastinate folding that big sail. He wanted to fold it on deck and I really couldn’t imagine that happening neatly and I did imagine the voluminous sail would knock me right overboard. Sometimes our days are spent doing mundane but amazingly tiring tasks like…folding the mainsail.

Because the piers and connecting docks are narrow and I didn’t want part of the sail to end up in the salt water, I coaxed David into us taking the sail up to the grass between the sidewalk and parking lot of the marina. Given the biggest dock cart the marina has, we hauled the sail over the side of Mahdee, dragged it a bit, and loaded it onto the cart. This, in and of itself, is no small thing. The finger pier alongside Mahdee is narrow and has a concrete piling right smack in the middle with about 18″ of dock on either side of the pile. Not enough room for the dock cart to pass so we had to pass the big sail down from the boat and then around the piling to get it into the cart. The piling was covered in nasty, sharp marine growth because we timed this whole thing…let’s say “poorly.” Umm…we’ll check the tide tables next time. Of course, procrastinators can’t be choosers and in this case, with ominous rains in the forecast, it was the afternoon of the last sunny day we would see before sailing out of the marina. Getting the sail contained atop the dock cart without a spill into the water was a major victory.

unfolded 2


Then it was up the steep ramp from the slips to the grassy area. Again–reminder to self–next time, look at the tides before doing this. The sail itself weighs about 100 lbs and the 50 or so big bronze slides add a little bit more weight to that. Once in the grass, it was not too hard to fold it quickly and bring it back down to the boat. I’ve put a before and after set of pictures at the beginning of the post so you can see what a difference the folding makes.




About the World Cruising and Sailing Wiki

Posted by  Brenda February 27th, 2014

Beryl says “I need your writing help” to all seafaring pets and in particular she wants the help of their owners with internet access. There is a growing resource for seafaring sailors in the form of an online wiki built by and for cruisers. It is called the World Cruising and Sailing Wiki. Sailors from around the world contribute to the information in this wiki so the body of knowledge available to all seafaring sailors is steadily growing. If you have information about world ports, country customs and immigration details, ocean passages, approaches, marinas, anchorages, equipment, and any number of other topics, there is a place for you to share it for all the cruising community. This is the Wikipedia of the world cruising community.

Mahdee’s own contributions include a bit of information about anchorages; more than a year ago, we also worked to put together the page LINK about traveling with pets. Beryl is hoping other travelers will come along and add content to this important page as well as all the rest of the wiki. In particular, Beryl would like to see more information about ocean passages and approaches to all the pet-friendly locations around the world.

Beryl points out that, upon her prompting of the human crew aboard Mahdee who contributed to the wiki, the Pet’s Aboard page includes a photograph of her namesake Beryl Smeeton holding her ship’s cat Pwe, aboard SV Tzu Hang. Beryl would like to see the wiki include more photos of Beryl the cat herself, but the humans aboard Mahdee have been squashing that idea entirely.


Link to the World Cruising and Sailing Wiki HERE



Eggs, Witches, and Sailors

Posted by  Brenda February 23rd, 2014

Recently, a member of Cruiserlog shared information about how to cook the perfect egg (link) and another member replied that we must all make sure to break the shells lest a witch take a little boat ride in them! On the thread, a third member shared the delightful story From Charles Leland ‘Gypsy Sorcerer’, published in 1891 (link) about a girl who thew out an unbroken egg shell so the witches could have boats too. She was later rescued by such a witch.


In the 1500′s, it was a common superstition that if you didn’t break up the eggshell, a witch would snatch it up, use it as a boat, sail out to sea, and cast spells that would cause storms and sink ships! In the 1840′s the Irish who emigrated to America would break eggshells to keep the Irish Fairies who’d accompanied them to America from going home by eggshell boat.

Eggshells by Elizabeth Fleming (1934)

Oh, never leave your egg-shells unbroken in the cup;
Think of us poor sailor-men and always smash them up,
For witches come and find them and sail away to sea,
And make a lot of misery for mariners like me.

They take them to the sea-shore and set them on the tide -
A broom-stick for a paddle is all they have to guide
And off they go to China or round the ports of Spain,
To try and keep our sailing ships from coming home again.

They call up all the tempests from Davy Jones’s store,
And blow us into waters where we haven’t been before;
And when the masts are falling in splinters on the wrecks,
The witches climb the rigging and dance upon the decks.

So never leave your egg-shells unbroken in the cup;
Think of us poor sailor-men and always smash them up;
For witches come and find them and sail away to sea,
And make a lot of misery for mariners like me.

photo by Mark H. Anbinder under creative commons license

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