Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Living Expenses

Lets get down and dirty and start to talk about the cruising budget. We will get to the boat in a little bit, because that will be a long and drawn out process. These next entries will be about the annual expenses involved with voyaging. I will be using the budget designed in The Voyager's Handbook, and the numbers I come up with are from the book and every other source I have seen that has actually posted a dollar number.

The annual expenses of cruising come down to three categories: living expenses, boat expenses, and discretionary expenses. For each expense I will use a low ball number, this number is from the budget crew The Voyager's Handbook profiles. They represent a cruising couple on a 30 year old, 33 foot cutter with minimal equipment to keep them safely going. Keep in mind these numbers are for a couple, and I will budget that way if anything to be conservative. Their resources are very limited as are mine and they have to make every dollar count. The higher of the budget numbers represent the number I can see myself spending if I had whatever funds available due to working on the way, within reason. Of course, these numbers will change over time as I learn more and get more specific on when and where I am going. These are just rough, but educated estimates.

Living Expenses

Living expenses include all the recurring expenses necessary for day-to-day functioning of boat and crew. The following are the major categories of living expenses and my current estimation:
  1. Provisions - anything purchased to be eaten aboard plus paper goods, cleaning supplies, and toiletries fall into this category. I plan on eating fresh, local produce whenever available and fill my boat up on other items wherever they are the cheapest. I will always seek the best deal, buy in quantity, and eat inexpensive ashore. I plan on fishing as much as possible to supplement it all. One of the skills I want to develop on this journey is to be able to provide food for myself from the sea. This will minimize cost, be fun, and it's skill to last me a lifetime. Budget per year: $3,000-$4,500

  2. Entertainment - Entertainment is the most discretionary expense of the living expenses, so the money allocated to it tends to increase with the size of the budget. This is where most of the money I earn along the way will go. I am going on this trip for the main purpose of surfing, and that will be my ongoing entertainment. Of course, I will want to see and do other things along the way however. But I don't have to waste too much money. I can save money by sight seeing on a rental bicycle, a local bus, or on my own feet and hike and camp inland. I have all of the backpacking gear as is, so outdoor adventures will be cheap and something I am already into. I would need to minimize restaurant and bar expenses by eating on the cheap. Budget per year: $700-2,000

  3. Marina/Mooring - Paying for a slip or a mooring buoy instead of anchoring for free has become increasingly difficult in many parts of the world. Marinas have sprung up in even the most remote corners of the globe that once stood as anchorages. However, you are still likely to find free anchorages in most places if you look for them. It does take a certain amount of planning to avoid areas where security might be a problem, and to take on fuel, water and provisions without spending time in marinas. So there must be some expense planned. Budget per year: $400-$1,000

  4. Communications - This involves all calls, internet use, and stuff like that. It is becoming increasingly cheap to communicate around the world. There are internet cafe's in the least likely of places. I plan on communicating to family and friends through this blog, email, and other internet options for the most part. I will do calls occasionally, but they will probably be cheap too. Budget per year: $400-600

  5. Fuel - anything purchased at a fuel dock - diesel, gasoline, oil, transmission fluid, and water gets included here. I don't plan on using the engine all too much except for getting in and out of anchorages where I can't sail. I don't plan on using it to charge batteries because I will rely on solar panels. If there is no wind on a passage, I can sit and wait. My gasoline expense will be high for the outboard motor, however, because I will be using the dingy to explore and transport to and from surf spots. This can be minimized my rowing though. Budget per year: $700-1,000.

  6. Officials/Fees - This category includes harbor dues, clearance fees, visa fees, and transit fees for the Panama and Suez canals. I'll do everything possible to avoid these fees, but I still plan on running into them especially when clearing in and out and obtaining visas. Budget per year: $200-500

  7. Other - This category includes miscellaneous items such as clothing, laundry, haircuts, batteries, nonprescription medicine, books, magazines, charts, cruising guides, nonboat hardware and household items. Most of the money I will spend here will go towards obtaining adequate charts and guides for the next cruising area. I'll also have to spend some on clothing and batteries. But I can cut costs by doing my own laundry in buckets, trading books with other cruisers, and things like that. Budget per year: $600-1,000
So now I have my living expense budget and it looks like this:

Low High Average
Provisions $3,000 $4,500 $3,750
Entertainment 700 2,000 1,350
Marina/Mooring 400 1,000 700
Communications 400 600 500
Fuel 700 1,000 850
Officals/fees 200 500 350
Other 600 1,000 800
Total Living Expenses $6,000 $10,600 $8,300

Up next I will talk about boat expenses.

Monday, December 22, 2008

How I can make money while voyaging.

"Sure, there's the incredible beauty of it, particularly when you're creaming along before a fresh breeze and beneath a sky full of stars on a perfectly balanced boat, or when a lush, green island looms on the horizon after many miles and days on the blue, blue sea. And, of course, there's the challenge in it, for there's no other activity on the planet quite as testing, unique, or fulfilling as guiding a small vessel across a vast body of water safely and efficiently. Finally, there's the wonderful harmony to it, for there are few things emore enjoyable and, in this day and age, more relevant and important than harnessing the clean, fresh power of the wind and currents to propel our dreams and ambitions." - Herb McCormic, Cruising World

*I will probably be posting quotes like these in posts from now on. Just for a little inspirational flair and so my readers can garner a glimpse of sailing from other authors.

So how much will this thing cost and how am I going to pay for it? Honestly, I don't know 100%. But I have a good idea of how to figure it out and am in the process of narrowing it down. From everything I have learned, I know that it is possible for me to do this. In other words, it isn't so expensive that this entire dream is unrealistic.

The money you need to go cruising falls into two categories: funds to buy and outfit a cruising boat, and the total expenditures necessary to pay for the life aboard. Finding a balance between the two is the trick. The more money I spend on the boat will mean less money in the "cruising kitty". There are people who have done this on a boat that has cost less than $30k and who spend less than $4k a person per year while cruising. Not bad! There is also the other spectrum, people who spend millions on boats and hundreds of thousands a year cruising...I'll think about that when I retire rich! But for now, it is all about the budget. My focus on learning about cruising has been with a budget mind set. I have been seeking out what people have done to successfully cruise on a shoestring and how they keep it going while out there.

So how will this thing be financed? As I mentioned before, I intend to save and hoard every penny from now till this thing gets launched to fund it. But that will probably only go so far my savings will be mostly spent funding the boat and outfitting it for cruising. The money for the cruising kitty may be limited, therefore alternatives to financing this thing are needed. I can go for debt, which I am trying to avoid at all costs, or I can find a way to keep money coming as I go. This whole thing is a planned sabbatical from the drudgery of office work, but I am not opposed to working as I go.

I should note here that my time frame for cruising is not set. I plan to go out without a return date in mind. I would like to take at least two years to do this, but I am not planning on ending it at a strict date because who knows, I may find a way to keep it going forever given the options below.

So what kind of work would I seek while cruising? There are a ton of options and in all likelihood I will use multiple streams of income while out there. I am an entrepreneur at heart with a lot of skills that I can use to make some cash. Here are some ideas:

  1. Working for resorts or making money off of resort guests - Plenty of opportunity here. Running waterfronts in resorts (I have lifeguard experience), teaching sailing or surfing, waiting tables, tending bar, or playing music. Jobs like these are easy to find in any of the resort areas of the world especially in tourist seasons. In particular, teaching people to sail or surf, or playing my guitar in bars would be an ideal and great way to make some cash in the touristy areas.

  2. Day chartering my boat - A lot of people start a little day charter, or booze cruise, by taking people out from resorts. This is a great way to make some easy cash, but I would have to deal with people on the boat, my home. I can take people to a reef for lunch and a snorkel or to isolated locations only reachable by boat. I could also specialize in surf charters. Taking a group of surfers to an isolated break for the day could yield great cash, and I trust a lot of surfers over some spring breakers. I am not considering long-term charters just yet. My boat will be too small for that, but in the future, surf chartering is a business I have dreamed of starting. I'm sure I will post more about that later.

  3. Offer services to other cruisers - Doing this whole thing on budget will mean I will develop a lot of useful skills that I could earn a living off of. I will need the skills beyond the average cruiser, of course, but I am a quick learner and with a lot of time. Options include learning how to repair sails, work on marine diesel engines (my first choice as a trade skill), refrigeration, electronics, and other sailing systems. Other cruisers in isolated locations are always in need of these services. Sometimes even the simplest of skills can earn money, such as baking a lot of bread and selling it to other boats in the morning.

  4. Teaching - Teaching, especially the English language, is always available around the world. My sister did this in Japan and I know plenty of people who do it around the world.

  5. Trading - Buy loads of unique crafts or something like that, sell them elsewhere for profit. Easy, but would need to store the crafts. I see this as supplemental to other jobs, not so much something that could fund everything. But would definitely do this if I saw arbitrage.

  6. Crew for charter companies - Working as a skipper on a crewed charter boat can earn me a real living and may end up a great career. But this would mean getting a bunch of certifications and such. This is down on the list as I would rather work for myself.

  7. Writing and Photography - Maybe this blog will become well read and I can earn ad revenue on it. Or maybe my writing skills develop enough that some sailing magazines will give me a job. Maybe I can write for surfing magazines. A lot of cruisers do this, but it is very competitive.

  8. And lastly and probably the most obvious, continue my career in Finance and business while on my journey. I could acquire a work visa in another country and work on a temporary contract. This is done a lot and there are TONS of opportunities for someone with my background out there. This is what I will be looking at when I start to run out of money and all other sources are drying up. It is a last resort because it would mean the journey would be temporarily halted, but 6 months of work in New Zealand to fund another year of cruising doesn't sound too bad.
I have also thought of ways to give back to the world while I am trolloping through it. Perhaps I could turn this journey into a journey of charity and teach kids in poverty stricken areas to surf and leave some boards with them. Or perhaps something as simple as giving them some soccer balls to keep. I need to brainstorm this more, but I think it would be an amazing opportunity if I could secure sponsors for this whether it is a surfboard shaper who gives me a certain amount of boards per year, or someone donating soccer balls. Maybe I can get enough sponsorship to actually fund this entire thing if I commit to some charitable work. I would love to do something like this if it is possible and it would add an entire new dimension of satisfaction and accomplishment to the trip.

So as you can see, keeping the dream going is possible for someone without a lot of cash up front. After I save the cash to buy the boat and have the initial funds to set off, work is out there. In the next post I will begin to dissect how much voyaging really costs.


It's all about the money - pt. 1

"Every man needs to find a peak, a mountain top or a remote island of his own choosing that he reaches under his own power alone in his own good time." - Alain Gerbault,In Quest of the Sun

It's all about the money.

That is where this whole thing stands right now. Within a few months time, I could attain the remaining skills I need to be able to cruise around the world successfully. I could quit my job right now, look to the sea and have my dream become a reality. But one thing stands in they way: the money to do it. Or more specifically, my lack of said money.

To give you a little background, I am 26 and finished grad school three and a half years ago. My undergrad degree is in Finance and then I got my MBA shortly after. Even though my trade is business and finance, I was not immune to silly mistakes a young person without responsibilities can make. I came out of college with a good chunk of debt that includes student loans and credit cards. The student loans are actually not much of a problem.They are very low considering what I could have paid for grad school, and the interest is locked at a low rate. My monthly payment on the student loan is manageable no matter my income. The credit card debt, however, was definitely bad debt.

Fortunately, I was able to obtain a great job right out of school and I have been there ever since. The salary was good enough for me to pay off all of my credit card debt within a year and a half. But since I focused on paying those cards off, I neglected to save much cash. Not having cash set aside for emergencies became a problem in the past couple of years and I had to put a few more large expenses on the cards. I have a little bit more debt now to pay off, but it is manageable as long as I can remain employed. If I continue at the rate I am paying it off, I should be completely out of bad debt in just a few months.

After that, I will be piling up the cash to save for this adventure. I have some cash savings now and I will be adding all of the money I put into debt each month on top of that. I also have money set aside in a 401(k) which would be able to fund a huge hunk of the adventure (boat included), but I have decided not to touch this and to always have a nest egg for the future. I do, however, have a small amount of physical assets that have resale value. I plan on selling almost everything I own for the trip. After all, I wont need most of it and will be better off without it.

I do not own a house so that concludes my list of assets. Most people use the sale of a home to fund a trip like this, but I don't own one so it is all up to savings. The discipline needed to save the amount I need (both of which I will talk about later) is difficult, but if I keep the dream alive in my head the task becomes easier.

I am going to be writing a series of posts pertaining to the costs of the trip, how I am saving pay for it, and all things I have learned along the way trying to do this. I hope to have a lot of time to write this week due to the Christmas vacation. And I will also get to sail this weekend!

The Books

As mentioned previously, I do not have the opportunity to go sailing often due to the cost. I do not have a boat yet, and do not have any friends with one. But I am dead set on learning everything I can to go cruising and have done so thus far with a few good books.

I started off searching (I use it to buy everything) for sailing books. I had learned all of the basics of sailing through my classes, and have a lot of resources for everything I learned there. But what the classes did not teach is what it takes and how to cruise full time, and it did not cover blue water (open ocean) cruising. Of course, my goal is to sail the entire world, so I just did a search for "How to sail around the world". Lo and behold, a book with a lot of good reviews and buys came up:

How to Sail Around The World
by Hal Roth

This book was my spring board to figuring out what full time cruising and blue water sailing are like. Specifically, it began to answer "what do I need to do this?" While I wont sit here and pick out everything I learned from this book, I will tell you that it gave me a good picture of how to cruise on a budget, something I am very much on. I soon realized that there had to be many opinions and methods to sailing, of which I was correct in assuming. The author was very strict in his ways as well as practical. I will probably use a lot of what he said in the book in the future, but it is more of a book that I will use better once I am cruising and need some resources.

I also noticed another book in my search with a title that spoke to me:

Things I wish I'd Known Before I Started Sailing

by John Vigor and Thomas Payne.

The name said it all, and the cover made me want it. The book was very light hearted and provided a wealth of information. It wasn't the best resource manual for specifics, but it gave good and broad advice for many aspects of sailing. More importantly, it gave a great list of books to read to learn more, and from that I got my next round of books:

There Be No Dragons

How to Cross a Big Ocean in a Small Sailboat

by Reese Palley

This book was a great starting point for anyone who has considered sailing, but has a lot of fears ranging from storms, crashing the boat, pirates, boredom, and other things. It sorts out reality from the myths in a very entertaining way. I suggest you start with this book if you are considering cruising, and would like someone to explain to you what it is like in a quick, entertaining way.

The Voyager's Handbook

by Beth Leonard

THIS is THE book. All of the other books were good primers leading up to this one. This is the book that answered all of the unanswered questions I had. Most of all, this book really put together the big question of "what do I need to cruise based on what I can afford, and how do I get started". The other books were great resources on what to do once you have your boat and are ready to be on your way, but this book spoke to someone like me, who is just trying to figure it all out. The book is more like a text book, but I promise you I have never had so much fun reading a text book. I'll just post this description instead of trying to do it myself:

“Belongs in the bookshelf of every cruising vessel.”—Blue Water Sailing

“If you are serious about that extended voyage, read The Voyager’s Handbook.”—Sailing

“Every now and then a new voice emerges in the world of sailing literature that stands out, a voice that is both clear and of lasting quality. The appearance of such a new voice is something of an event, and that’s what we’d call the publication of The Voyager’s Handbook.”—Blue Water Sailing

This inspirational and comprehensive manual leads you step by step through every aspect of choosing, planning, and following the voyager’s life. Using three example boats representing three cruising lifestyles—Simplicity, Moderation, and Highlife—Beth Leonard helps make your bluewater dreams come true, whether you’re sailing on a shoestring or a CEO’s pension. Starting with the things you can’t do without—an enthusiastic crew, a seaworthy boat, and, of course, money—Leonard offers sage advice on how to select crewmembers who are truly committed to the voyage, how to choose the right boat for you, and how to find just the right approach to financing your voyage and making the most of every dollar spent.

Managing life from a floating home and keeping that home livable, seaworthy, and safe requires you to become, among other things, the ship’s purser, engineer, doctor, cook, and cruise director. You’ll discover how to prepare for these new roles and put necessary equipment and arrangements in place before you untie your docklines. This exquisitely detailed guide also helps you master the skills you’ll need to handle a boat at sea with a small crew, including

  • Weather forecasting
  • Passage planning
  • Watchkeeping
  • Heavy-weather sailing
  • Emergency management
  • Midocean repairs

Complete with dozens of easy-to-use graphs and tables for quick reference, along with the hard-won wisdom of experienced cruisers, The Voyager’s Handbook is the ultimate resource for anyone who is planning, preparing for, or just dreaming about a great adventure on the high seas.

Since completing a three-year, 35,000-mile circumnavigation of the globe with her partner, Evans Starzinger, in 1995, Beth Leonard has lectured widely, written for leading sailing magazines, and outfitted a new 50-foot aluminum cutter aboard which she and Evans once again set sail in 1999. They logged an additional 50,000 miles at sea over the following six years, much of it in the world’s high latitudes, including Labrador, Iceland, Scotland, Cape Horn, and east through the Southern Ocean to Australia.

All of these books are sitting at my house and if any of my friends are curious, feel free to ask to borrow them. I am going to keep reading new books to further my knowledge, but The Voyager's Handbook really pulled it all together and I will be using that as a manual to proceed. The resources and books recommended in The Voyager's Handbook will be the future reads.

From here on out, I will begin to describe what I have learned from my studies and how I plan on moving forward.

And good news! My mom apparently has a friend with a 38 foot sloop near their house in St. Augustine. This weekend (Christmas week, 2008) I will have the chance to sail with them and hopefully learn a good bit. Look for a recap soon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

As sad as I am to admit, that was the last time I had gone sailing. It is December in 2008 now and it has been months since I have been on a boat. Like I had mentioned before, sailing is expensive so finding the funds to rent a boat for a day is difficult. I can to it when I have enough people willing to pitch in, but even then it's about $50 a person. Plus it is difficult to get people together for a weekend to travel to St. Augustine from Orlando.

But that hasn't stopped me from learning. I have spent the past year reading and studying everything I can about sailing. Learning how to do it wasn't all that difficult, but it left me with many more questions along the lines of cost of cruising, how I can pay for it, what kind of boat do I need, what sailing opportunities are out there, etc. etc. Along with learning the specifics, reading these books revealed what long term cruising really is and it allowed me to soul search to decide if this is something I really want to do.

I think for the next leg of posts I will go through each book and give my review of them and what I learned. I would like this blog to be a springboard for others to learn how to sail and join the cruising life. I did not know where to begin when I decided I wanted to learn all of this. If I accomplish all of my goals, this will be a map on how to get there. So reviewing these books will give some people a good place to start in my opinion.

For those who are interested, a surfer named Gregg Drude did the exact thing I want to do and went on a 2-3 year circumnavigation in search of surf. He spent most of his time in the Pacific, and I believe he is still out there. Surfer magazine covered much of his journey and has a lot of the photos and entries on their website. The big difference between what he did and what I plan on doing is funds. The beginning of his story describes how he came into his money, but regardless, he has a better boat than I could hope for, and many more connections in the surf industry to keep his boat going with sponsorhips and of course, the Surfer magazine writing job. Regardless, check it out:

Monday, December 8, 2008

More lessons learned

A few months after the storm sail I was able to get back out on the water with some other friends. In the time between the sails, I stayed busy learning about sailing by reading a ton of good books. I'll get to those and everything I learned in them in another post though, so stay tuned for that.

In April 2008 I took two old friends out with me on one of the same J-24's that we rode before. I had a lot more confidence, had learned a bunch about sailing from reading, and had all of the lessons learned from the previous sail firmly printed in my head. I picked a beautiful Saturday to leave, and made sure the weather was going to cooperate. Luckily enough, the entire day ended up with light but fun winds, and all the sun we could handle.

We left the harbor with little fuss. We had a problem with the outboard, but the marina took care of it without us having to stress. We left at around 11:00 am and the winds were very very light, but they filled the sails nonetheless. We started off going north on the Intercoastal towards the Guana river. This was the same area where we hit the storm in the last sail, and the ride up there was pretty uneventful. I taught the lads all of the basics they needed to be useful on the boat as we sailed up the river. One of the guys was on the tiller soon after we left and I went down below to take care of some things. A few minutes later he yelled to me in the cabin to come up and check something out. He asked if we were heading the right way and I told him yeah, but to stay between the markings so we don't run aground. "woops" he says. My stomach immediately sank.

I came up and noticed we were about a hundred yards west of the west marker. What this means is that we are waaaay off of the channel and are in very shallow waters. I could see a big sand bar to the right and to our left was the shore. He was just cruising along the shore but after a while the markers move towards the middle of the waterway indicating shallow water. It seemed as if the sand bar to our right would end and the deep water would intersect us up ahead. So we hoped that we could sail our way through and find a way to the deep water. Just to be sure, we turned on the motor.

A few tense moments passed and we slowly moved towards the deep water. The channel we were in was getting more and more narrow as the shore and the sandbar to our right started to close in together. I had faith (blind faith) that we could make it. But out of no where "SMACK"! The keel shoved into the ground and we came to a grinding halt. It was a sound of agony and embarrassment. "Great" I thought, "Only a half hour out and we have to call a tow boat". I was embarrassed and mad, but it was my fault for not teaching the crew how to navigate. Lesson learned and I will probably never do that again.

So I tried to remember what to do if we ran aground. Luckily it was just a sand bottom, so damage would be minimal, if any. We tried to turn the boat around on the keel to loosen it up using the motor. We were able to turn the boat, but it seemed that it just drilled the keel deeper into the sand. I checked the tide tables to see if the situation was worse than it was. If the tide was going out, we would be screwed because the water would be getting shallower. If the tide was coming in, we could wait it out and hopefully the water would lift us up. The chart said the tide was coming in, but it was already near high, so not much help was coming. I went back to the tiller to try to wiggle us out again with high power on the motor. Just as I was doing this the wake of a large boat came towards us and lifted us off the ground. WOOHOO!! we all screamed and jumped for joy. I havent felt that much relief in a while.

We turned the boat around and I tracked us out the same way we came in. We were very nervous and were waiting to run aground again, but after a half hour of nervy sailing, we made it out of the shallows and back to the deep water. Crisis averted again, and a lot of lessons were learned.

The rest of the day was spent sailing smoothly with light but fun winds. The guys had a blast, and I had two more friends who were down for sailing. The only other event happened as we were coming into the marina at the end of the day. We were motoring in the marina entrance which is surrounded by tall pylons which mark very shallow water to either side of the entrance. The tide was falling out and there was a lot of current in the entrance. Our motor was pushing us just fine and we didn't think twice about anything going wrong. But sure enough, luck ran away from us. As we were in the middle of the pylons (there were 4 on each side I think), the engine stopped. It hit me immediately that the motor had been burning a lot of gas today due to the grounding and some light airs, we must have run out at the WORST possible moment. It wouldnt have been too bad except for the fact that the current was pulling us directly into the pylons and we would either hit them or run aground in about 20 seconds.

In probably one of the least clumsy, smooth and extraordinary moves I have ever pulled; I whipped the gas cap off, grabbed the gas tank from one of the guys, filled it up a few chugs, closed the cap, cranked her on and cranked her high to get us moving. All of that took under 15 seconds or so, I sh*t you not. My heart was racing and about to explode, but the addrenaline rush made me get the job done. One of the guys was on the bow ready to use his hands and body to cushion the blow against the pylon we were approaching, but the motor got us out of there with about 3 feet to spare.

Needless to say, that was close....waaaaay too close for comfort. But we made it and we made it safe. It was embarrassing for sure, a few deck hands on the big millionaire boats saw us almost eat it on the pylons. Docking and unloading was uneventful, and drinks were had once we got home. The day was a great sail overall except for the two misshaps. But I learned some things and am glad I made those mistakes in relatively safe and familiar waters, on a crappy boat that could take the beating.

Lessons learned:

1. make sure anyone on the tiller knows how to navigate
2. make sure the gas tank is full when you know you need it.

Here are some pictures from the sail:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The First Storm

After taking the ASA classes I was set on pursuing sailing. The courses allowed me to get on a boat and see what it is like, and I was hooked. Unfortunately, sailing is expensive, and this is something that will be brought up a lot in this blog. So while I was not able to get back on the boat very quickly, I immediately purchased a few good books to continue my sailing education. I may not be able to afford the practice of sailing, but I at least could afford to learn the theory.

A few months later in September 2007, I felt it was time to get back on the boat at whatever cost. I offered a day of sailing to my roommates and friends from our street if they were willing to split the cost, and they all were happy to join in. So we took a trip up to St. Augustine for the weekend with plans to sail all day Saturday on one of the small J-24's from the same people I took the class from (St. Augustine Sailing School at Comanche Cove Marina:

I was pretty nervous about the sail because I hadn't been on a boat in a few months, and felt I lost a bit of the simple skills that reading the books couldn't keep fresh. These were little things such as hanking on the sails, running the rigging, using the outboard...all things specific to the small boat we only spent one day on. But after we were shown the boat and I started working with the sails and rigging, things came back to me and we were out of the harbor in no time.

Looking back, I did a few things very wrong from the start. The winds were absolutely dead when we were at the marina in the morning. We predicted that the sea breeze would start to flow sometime around 10 or 11 am, and we would have pleasant winds to sail around in. We did not, however, check any kind of forecast for the day, and the marina never warned us of anything.

So we pull the dock lines and headed off. Here we are in the marina, excited to get the day of sailing going. None of my friends have sailed, let alone stepped on a sailboat before. So with my limited working knowledge, I had to teach them the ropes. Luckily, they were all receptive to the instruction and picked it up quick.

Motoring out of the marina, me on the tiller:

We got out of the marina and hoisted the sails. As mentioned before, the winds were super light, I'd say about 2-3 knots. We were able to get moving and with that I taught everyone how to tack, jib, and work the sheets.

Here we are on the way, enjoying the Intercoastal shortly after setting sail:

We putted around in light winds for about an hour or two. Look at the skies in the previous picture though, they continued to darken. We kept an eye on the clouds and accepted that we will probably get some rain at some point. So we sailed north on the ICW trying to find some wind. At this point I began to keep a close eye on the big dark cloud that seemed to be the meat of the storm. As we ventured further north, the wind finally started to pick up. Every five minutes or so the wind would pick up another few knots until we were moving at a brisk pace. For about 15 minutes or so...we were really sailing. We were moving at a speedy pace, unlike I had sailed in my training. We were able to get the boat on the rail and find a good rush with the speed and trying to handle the boat. Everyone adapted fast and figured out how to handle the sheets and sails so we wouldn't collapse.

We were hooting and hollering with the speed and excitement the new winds provided. Every once and a while we would find ourselves a bit over canvased so we had to spill the sails to slow down. As the winds continued to pick up, I started to notice our surroundings. To the north, the cloud that was menacing before seemed to develop a wall of rain that was approaching us. As the wall got closer and closer, the winds picked up. Something clicked in my mind that things are going to get a little out of hand here soon. All other boats in the water seemed to have disappeared, wisely. It was eery and the weather approaching us all of a sudden looked much more dangerous than fun.

So with what looked like only a minute or two before the wall of water hit, I pulled down all of the sails and sent everyone except James down into the cabin to wait out the rain. At this time the lightning came and the rain picked up to a massive downpour. Only a few seconds later, the wall of water hit us and with it gale force winds (with gusts up to 30 knots). At this point I was about to sh*t my pants as lighting bolts were striking near us, deafening and almost killing everyone aboard. I knew we had to anchor or we were going to run aground on the banks of the waterway, as the wind was pushing us toward it. James took the tiller and motor while I tried to set the anchor. I had not had much practice with anchoring in my training, something I really really wish I had. I threw off the anchor and with the current, wind, and chaos of the weather it seemed to just float in the water and run down current away from us. I cannot begin to describe the panic and chaos that was going on at this moment. James and I were screaming at each other wondering what the hell we could do to save the boat and ourselves. We tried the anchor over and over and eventually I remembered to let out a lot of line to get the anchor to the bottom. What seemed like ages was probably only a couple of minutes, but we got the anchor set. A couple of lightning bolts came within a few dozen yards of us and we were convinced that our mast would catch one and fry us.

After the anchor was set we both joined the others in the cabin to ride out the storm. The big winds seemed to die down once we got in the cabin so the wait wasn't too turbulent. But the rain and lightning continued for about a half hour. We took the time to calm down from the panic and have a survival beer.

Here we are in the cabin escaping the storm:

It was here that I realized how close we came to being in huge trouble. If we had waited ANY longer to take down the sails, we would have been in a position where the boat could have been easily broken or lost altogether. The others, especially the three who spent the crazy moments down in the cabin, had no idea how intense and serious the weather was for us, but the look on my face and the panic James was able to see convinced them that we just survived and successfully pulled ourselves through something big.

After the storm passed, the winds died off once again and the water became glass. We arose from our hole triumphantly surviving the storm (my first on a sailboat!), and were ready for more sailing. After all, we only had winds for a short period before sh*t hit the fan!

Here we are, soaked, enjoying our triumph by motoring around near downtown St. Augustine:

We had endured something big, and the rush we experienced gave us a high that lasted all day. A few hours later after motoring about, we returned to the marina. When we arrived and the marina employees came to greet us, they were shocked and impressed that we came back unscathed. They wondered where we had been and why we had not returned to the marina when the storm was coming. I checked my phone and had 16 missed calls from the marina and my parents! Apparently they were trying to hail us for a while to get us out of there. Lesson learned, keep near the communication devices. We did not even keep track of the VHF radio and had it on silent the whole time. Despite all of that, they were happy to see us in good spirits and safe.

It turns out I did a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong, but the rights outweighed the wrongs. What we experienced was exactly what my sailing books described as a "line squall". On such a small, rickety boat, and with very little experience in the captain and even less in the crew, how we pulled it off was quite admirable. I soon became very proud of my instincts and was happy to gain such experience so quickly. I was also proud of the crew and was confident I could take them out and trust them to learn more.

With the exception of a small break on the companionway boards (unrelated to the storm), the boat was in good shape and we left with our heads held up high. Of course, my parents were freaking out, but we had a story to entertain and lift their spirits. The rest of the weekend was spent celebrating our adventure and looking forward to the next. I was also pretty excited that my friends were down for more sailing, even after experiencing the worst first. The little time we had with wind got them hooked methinks.