San Francisco, CA to Newport, RI

launching Ganymede

Not the most glorious, splashing into duckweed, allowing much room to improve our sailing waters.

In August of 2009, Ganymede was launched in the Stockton River, three years and one month after arriving in our yard as a bare hull. I refrain from any commentary regarding the boat hauler who trucked it to the marina other than to say he gave me many wonderful opportunities to exercise a forgiving spirit. The launching was mercifully uneventful, and in the weeks before November second we got her rigged, had a sea trial or two, and moved hundreds of pounds of EVERYTHING on board.

November second was the date we’d set for sailing—any later and it would be too cold to comfortably sail south from San Francisco, and we didn’t relish a whole winter of only weekend visits and marina rent. Damaris was still too young, at eight months, for a long offshore passage, so I took on a crew for the thirteen-day run to Cabo San Lucas, and for two weeks of working North into the Sea of Cortez.

San Blas, Panama

Ben and Emily beach combing in Panama.

Danielle and the children had driven down in the crew’s car to meet us, so our family cruise began in Conception Bay, about halfway up the Sea of Cortez. After sailing south to La Paz, we sailed to the mainland with a stopover at the spectacular Isabella Island. For the next year we continued along the coast of Central America, calling at El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and after transiting the Canal into the Caribbean, Colombia. In that one spectacular year of cruising seven countries and two oceans, our yearly expenses added up to a whopping $11,000, or just under $1,000 a month. True, we lived very simply, with an often-plain diet, but no one suffered malnourishment, and there was no lack of entertaining and interesting things to see and do.

Honduras Bay Islands

A scenic drive around the island with a different perspective of the sea.

In April of 2011 we sailed from Cartagena, Colombia to Isla Providencia, then Northwest to the Vivorillos, West to Guanaja and Roatan, then North to Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It was hard to leave Isla Mujeres, knowing that back in Key West the tyranny of checking in and out, of visas, permits and import fees would be replaced by the much more burdensome tribulation of anchoring restrictions, ‘No Discharge’ zones, expensive dinghy docks, and idiotic lifejacket regulations. Still, cruising in home waters does have certain advantages: the charts are mostly good, navigational aids are well maintained, and the spare parts our outboard engine so badly needed were relatively easy to find.  All during Hurricane season we worked out way north, sometimes in, sometimes out of the Intracoastal Waterway, and always keeping a dubious eye on the weather. It was while in Hampton, Va., at the south end of the Chesapeake Bay, that a storm caught up to us. Hurricane Irene hit Hampton directly, and only the kindness of of a local who had followed our story in Cruising World magazine saved Ganymede from destruction. Ben Cuker fenangled us a cozy slip in a very sheltered creek where Ganymede rode out the blow without taking on a single drop of water. It seemed a sign, so we put into the nearest marina that allowed liveaboards, and settled in for the winter.Of course the boat needed some serious TLC after 7,000 hard tropical miles, so we dropped the mast, replaced all the rusty galvanized turnbuckles with proper deadeyes and lanyards, had the rusty iron fittings re-made in non-ferrous metals by a local welder, and replaced some outside wood that had begun to rot. It was a good winter in that we got much necessary re-fitting done, but less good in that the only job to be found was waiting tables part-time at an Italian restaurant. Spring arrived to find us more broke than when we’d stopped to work, but with a promise of better things in Newport, RI., where schooner sailing season was about to begin. So off we sailed.

On the way to Newport.

The kids are just crawling up the companionway during the long trip north.

The summer of 2012 was as good a summer as one could ask of one where no cruising got done. We lived in the Newport Harbor anchorage, and while I sailed five trips a day on the tourist schooner Aquidneck, Danielle and the girls delighted in the walking-distance library, grocery store, and play parks.

When winter shut down the schooner sailing, we moved Ganymede into the local liveaboard marina, built a plastic shrink-wrap canopy over her, and got a job on the Coronet project—a full restoration of an 1885 wooden schooner yacht 130 feet long. It was a long and cold winter, but one where our spirits were sustained by the cruising plan that slowly came together, one piece at a time: the quest to sail across the Atlantic Ocean, from Newfoundland to Ireland.  The blog in this website is now about that quest we’re undertaking: the preparations, the equipment upgrades, provisioning, sailing, piloting, navigating, caring for the children while at sea—everything.  We hope you’ll follow along as in coming weeks we put our preparations into high gear and get earnest about being ready for our Memorial Day departure deadline.