It is so hard to believe that Ticket to Ride was unloaded from the container ship on January 14, 2019. Three years have already passed aboard this floating home of ours, and these years have held some significant surprises!
Thankfully, the surprises have come externally and not from within the performance or quality of this HH55 catamaran. Can you say Worldwide Pandemic?
We continue to be thrilled with the design and construction of TTR and are extremely happy we were able to customize her to fit our needs. We could not have achieved these changes without the design help of marine architects Morrelli and Melvin or the willingness of HH to implement the adjustments. It has also been gratifying to see some of those changes carried forward on the HH cats that have launched since ours.
After three years on the water, Ticket to Ride has 20,000+ nautical miles under her keels. Our travels have not taken us where we expected, but we have been blessed with incredible experiences regardless of the changes in plans.
When we decided to move to a performance cat, we knew we would have to “step up” our sailing game and we wanted to push ourselves to a higher level rather than remain with the usual production boat standards. Learning to sail TTR was not difficult, thought it did take me a bit of time to become comfortable with the increased power she generates.
Most people want to know how fast TTR sails, which is a difficult question to answer since the conditions clearly dictate the answer. We can say that Ticket to Ride has recorded speeds in the upper 20 knot range when we had professional help on board and we were putting the boat through her paces. On our own, we have recorded speeds of a little over 23k when surfing down waves, and we often sail in the mid-teens; so clearly this boat can go even without the pros on board.
Owning this performance catamaran is similar to owning a performance car in the city; we don’t push TTR to her abilities, but it’s nice to be able to “step on it” when necessary.
Frank loves passages making, but I prefer sailing in the daylight, so one thing I really like about TTR is that passages which would have been overnights or anchor up in the dark on our first sailboat are often day sails for Ticket to Ride.
When making plans for a passage on TTR, we anticipate average speeds of 8.5k or about 200 nm days, but we often arrive more quickly than we anticipate. In fact, early days in Mexico, we had a couple of trips where we arrived during the night because we had sailed much faster than expected. We have had to learn to adjust our thinking and anticipate a faster than predicted arrival to insure we arrive in anchorages during daylight.
I asked Frank to name three things he really likes about TTR and they are:
- Performance/confidence: this is an obvious one. Simply put, Ticket to Ride is very solidly built and the components/gear are excellent. This leads to greater confidence in the boat which is a huge benefit.
- Upwind sailing performance: in reasonable wind, TTR is capable of sailing at about a 40 degree true wind angle which equates to about 27 degrees apparent. The dagger boards allow us to point well and we do not side slip. This means sailing upwind is both possible and usually pretty quick.
- Interior Lighting: this surprised me, but one thing Frank really likes is the lighting in our boat. HH was very generous with canned lighting and rope lighting inside the boat. Plus the lights can be dimmed/brightened depending on what look we want to achieve. Essential? No. But the lighting is a nice perk.
If we have to think of things we miss about our Helia 44, Let It Be, Frank came up with two things:
- Indestructibility of mini-keels: although we would absolutely not trade our dagger boards for mini-keels, knowing we could easily allow Let It Be to come to rest on a sandy bottom to allow us to clean the hulls without damaging the mini-keels was a big convenience. And mimi-keels allowed us to anchor in very shallow water. That was a nice convenience, though not worth the sailing performance trade off.
- Ease of sail changes with one person: it is certainly possible to make sail changes with only one person on TTR, but it was easier to do so on Let It Be. While one person can make sail changes on Ticket to Ride, it is faster and easier to have two people involved on TTR, especially if the wind is piping up. Sailing TTR requires more attention than was required on our Fountaine Pajot.
This is an abbreviated list of things we like about Ticket to Ride. There is a longer comparison post here.
So where has TTR traveled these last three years? We have sailed from California to Mexico three times with only one return trip from Mexico to California. Our second departure from Mexico, we sailed to the Hawaiian Islands because Covid-19 shut down our transit to French Polynesia. For 15 months we sailed in Hawaii and had the opportunity to explore the coast of nearly every island. We spent only about 3 months in marinas while we were in Hawaii, the rest of the time we moved from island to island or anchorage to anchorage. Because of the coronavirus, Hawaii was in lockdown for most of our time there and as a result, we saw Hawaii with fewer people than it has had in decades. We were able to explore trails and tie to mooring balls in places we would not have seen in times open to tourism.
After waiting over a year to see if French Polynesian boarders would open, we acknowledged that we needed to make other plans. Thus we pointed our bows northeast and sailed to Alaska.
Ticket to Ride nosed into Sitka, Alaska on June 26th and we explored our way around the Inside Passage for more than two months before entering Canadian waters.
Fortunately Canada opened her boarders and we were able to make a few stops as we moved south toward Washington State. We only had a little over three weeks in Canada and we agree that returning to explore Canada and Alaska further would be a delightful addition to our itinerary someday.
While in Washington, we were a little pressed by weather to move south, away from the northerly weather systems, but we did manage to meet with a few cruising friends; Lynda Jo and Greg who we met on Union Island, St. Vincent/ Grenadines and Pam and Howard, whom we met in the Sea of Cortez.
While in Washington, we had only a few days to visit the San Juan Islands, which is a shame because they are a fun cruising area. But again, that leaves us with more places we could enjoy visiting again.
From Washington State, we skipped straight down to San Francisco, then Long Beach and San Diego.
Our itinerary has been incredibly fortunate considering that the whole world has been dramatically altered since Covid-19 raised its ugly head. We were lucky to have an outdoor home that allowed us to explore when openings occurred but also kept us relatively untouched by the virus.
As for Ticket to Ride, covid or no covid, she has been great. When we first discussed replacing our Fountaine Pajot, Let It Be, we were looking for a larger, faster and more comfortable catamaran. We thought we would have to choose either speed or comfort, but this M&M designed HH catamaran has provided us with both.
Thank you for stopping by to read our blog. Please leave questions or comments you have in the comments and we will do our best to answer them. If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our Facebook or Instagram pages.
Like most everyone in the world, we are very happy to have had the opportunity to see family and friends after a (temporary) calming of the covid-19 virus. Having been vaccinated, we felt comfortable traveling and visiting elderly and infant family members. This post covers some of those events which began in San Francisco.
Our arrival in SF was pretty monumental as we sailed under the Golden Gate bridge just after sunrise!
Next up was the arrival of Hunter who would stay on TTR while he worked in the Bay area for a couple of weeks! How awesome that he could time his SF work with our being in town.
Another fun aspect to our San Francisco visit was that the Navy, Marine and Coast Guard “Fleet Week” celebrations were beginning days after our arrival.
Our accidental timing made for fun days sharing the water with hundreds of other boats, watching flying demonstrations in the skies above our heads!
Imagine our surprise when friends we met in Tracy Arm, Alaska drove up to TTR while she was moored to the dock in Sausalito! Steve, Barbara and Matt from m/v Koda and m/v Sudden Inspiration, arrived in their dinghy ~ they had seen us enter Sausalito and came over to visit. I love how wakes cross unexpectedly in the cruising life!
As if all of this wasn’t enough, our son, Clayton, was also traveling through San Francisco during the same time frame and he arrived a couple of weeks into our SF visit. My heart was overflowing with gratitude that all of us could be together on Ticket to Ride!
In additional to lovely surprises, mother nature offered up her own event. While Hunter, Clayton, friend Biz, and puppy Gidget were visiting in SF, we experienced a “bomb cyclone” combined with an “atmospheric river.” This was the first time I had heard the either of these terms!
The term bomb cyclone was first used in the 1940’s by meteorologists at the Bergen School of Meteorology. They coined the term to describe storms over the sea that grew very quickly. A bomb cyclone is defined as a storm that rapidly intensifies and includes a pressure drop of at least 24 millibars over 24 hours.
Atmospheric rivers are sort of like ribbons in the atmosphere that carry water vapor. According to NOAA, these rivers are about 250 to 375 miles wide and can be more than 1,000 miles long. Apparently atmospheric rivers are fairly common in the Western US and just a few of these events a year cause up to half the annual precipitation on the West Coast.
We experienced the combination of the bomb cyclone and atmospheric river in October while sitting in San Francisco Marina. Rain flooded the nearby streets and we saw consistent winds of 25+ knots and recorded a gust up to nearly 50 knots. Scripps researchers recorded waves up to 60 feet high along the coast between California and Washington during this event. We experienced these winds and rain while tied up in a very protected marina. We were extremely thankful for a good location and a dry boat!
We took the opportunity to leave Ticket to Ride in Hunter’s capable hands and Frank and I flew to Annapolis for the Sailboat Show. We love to attend this show to see new boats and connect with friends. We had an absolute blast meeting up with fellow HH owners and seeing friends from former boat rallies or travels on the Atlantic side while living on Let It Be. We even met up with Tommy, our Hawaii friend and crew member and Pearl, also a Hawaiian friend! We were able to see David and Amy of s/v Starry Horizons who had completed a world circumnavigations since our last meeting.
Once again, Kevin and Susan of s/v Radiance welcomed us into their home and allowed us to freeload with them while we were in Annapolis. I cannot think of two more welcoming or fun people!
Back in San Francisco, we prepared to sail to Long Beach where we returned to the dock in Alamitos Bay where TTR was first delivered in January of 2019. More reunions were had and a few future HH boat owners came to check out TTR. It was really great to see our Morrelli and Melvin friends once again! They were very complimentary of how well Ticket to Ride looks and performs after adding 20,000nm to her keels.
Our stop in Alamitos was quick because we wanted to jump to San Diego where we would once again meet up with Clayton, Biz and Gidget. Plus we were leaving from San Diego to go to a family reunion for Frank’s family.
The family reunion was great! We shared laughter, memories, love and plenty of food! Special thanks to Emily who planned and purchased all of the food!
We enjoyed an excellent weekend with Frank’s family!
While traveling, I also had a quick (like 24 hour) visit with my brother, Jeff, and I was able to meet my grandniece for the first time!
Back in San Diego, we spent a lot of time on projects. TTR had spent months in cold, humid climates with little TLC, so we took the opportunity to “de-Alaska” the boat. This meant specific things, like hand scrubbing all of the window blinds to remove any mold created by condensation, cleaning outdoor cushions where they could actually dry, cleaning and lubricating the mainsail track cars and routine maintenance like oil changes, cleaning/lubing winches and clutches, etc.
We also did some unusual things….. TTR’s boom had developed a squeak at the gooseneck and Frank and Clayton went to town removing the pin, then cleaning and greasing the connections. AND, that squeaky nuisance is gone! No more noise from the gooseneck as the boom pivots.
Thanksgiving was low key but delicious. Typical boaters, we had to improvise with the turkey – I forgot to get string to tie to turkey legs, so Clayton trussed it up with seizing wire! Between a former orthodontist and a mechanical engineer, we know wires!
San Diego was a very busy time as we completed jobs, tried to purchase spares in advance of our departure to Mexico and met up with cruising friends we had met in Mexico and even one of my former tennis partners from Dallas. (Thank you, Cat, for making time to visit!) I continue to be amazed at how busy we remain even though we are retired. Definitely no time for boredom!
Our time with Clayton, Biz and Gidget was limited by our focus on accomplishing what needed to be done, but we are truly thankful for the time we had with them.
Pictures of cute little Gidget – because you KNOW I’m going to include puppy pictures if I can!
If you have read this far, you know way more about our daily lives than you probably wish to know, but we appreciate your sticking with us. I will revert to publishing our Alaska journals as that state truly stands out as a wonder among the many places we have traveled.
Wishing all of you a joyous, healthy and blessed 2022. We look forward to sharing our travels in Mexico and hopefully on to French Polynesia. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Facebook or Instagram. All the best in 2022!
If you read our last Alaskan journal that covered only a week, you know that we saw stunning sights daily, which makes covering all of our activities difficult. Once again, this blog contains many photographs in an attempt to share the beauty of Alaska.
Amelia and Erik were on board with us until July 20th, when our friends Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance were scheduled to join us in Juneau. Once Shellie and Randy arrived, we would begin moving south toward Petersburg where Moondance would catch flights out of Alaska.
We wanted to make our way to Glacier Bay and see the park before returning to Juneau to pick up Randy and Shellie. So after sending Hunter on his way, we re-provisioned, refueled and topped up the propane tanks (our fuel for cooking on board TTR) so we were ready to leave early the next morning.
We left Auke Bay early to make the 73 nm trip to Pleasant Island, across from Gustavia Peer, which is close to the Glacier Bay office. The first morning at Pleasant Island, Frank taxied to the Glacier Bay office and secured a park permit for us for July 15-21st. This meant we had a couple of days before entering the Bay.
Park passes are difficult to obtain because they are taken quickly and anyone visiting Glacier Bay must have a park pass before entering. While waiting for the office to open, Frank chatted up some residents and learned that many of the passes are taken by locals who visit the office directly. For this reason, it is difficult to get a pass on-line and we were fortunate to be able to obtain a pass in person at the office.
Of course we explored elsewhere while waiting for our Glacier Bay pass dates. We had heard a lot about Elfin Cove and wanted to see this tiny fishing town.
According to the 2010 US Census, Elfin Cove covers about 10 miles. The largest population in Elfin Cove was 65 people in the 1950’s but as of 2010 there were only 20 residents of Elfin Cove.
Although small, Elfin Cove made a lasting impression. The homes line a waterway and are connected by raised sidewalks.
In addition to the wooden sidewalk, some areas of Elfin have rock and dirt paths that are right up against the wooded area. Someone in Elfin has a penchant for gnomes and placed them all along the paths. The gnomes were undertaking all sorts of activities and some were easily seen while others were tucked into hidden nooks.
We met a delightful woman named Deborah, who showed us around her family home and even shared some fresh greens straight from her vegetable garden.
These days there are several lodges in Elfin Cove and people visit to fish and explore nearby parks, like Glacier Bay. We only spent an afternoon in Elfin Cove, but it was definitely fun to explore and take in the unique charm of this community.
Anchoring outside Elfin Cove wasn’t ideal, so we motored over to Dundas Bay where we dropped anchor for the night. This was one of our first “private” anchorages and it was stunning. We stayed two nights in Dundas and relished the very calm water and serenity of the area. There were many otters so we didn’t bother putting out the crab pots.
Frank, Amelia and Erik took a long dingy ride up the local river which is accessible only at high tide. They picked this pretty bouquet of wild flowers and brought it back to TTR.
Long before we reached Alaska, we looked forward to exploring Glacier Bay to see the beauty we had heard so much about. It was definitely one of the places that drew us to Alaska, so it was fun to finally see TTR cross the charted entry to the bay.
Weeks after going our separate ways in Alaska, we met up with Katie and Kevin on board s/v Kālewa in Reid Inlet where we both anchored at the base of the glacier.
The water looks grayish here because there is so much silt in the water from the glacier runoff. But murky or not, we STILL polar plunged. We enjoyed a group polar plunge followed by a yummy dinner of halibut, salad and homemade blueberry pie.
The next day Kevin and Katie joined us on TTR to visit the Lamplugh Glacier. Both Lamplugh and Reid Glacier originate from the Brady Icefield. Reid glacier is “fully grounded” and measures approximately 3/4 mile wide, 150 feet high, and over 10 miles long. The area in front of Reid is extremely shallow from the sediment leaching from the glacier melt on both sides of the glacier.
By contrast, Lamplugh is 0.9 miles wide, 165 feet high at the face, and over 19 miles long. Like other areas, Lanplugh is suffering from climate change and estimates are that the glacier is receding 50 to 100 feet per year through calving.
Visiting Lamplugh was another unique day in our Alaskan exploration. The size of Lamplugh is hard to grasp until you are standing in front of it. There is a pool of water in front of Lamplugh that is separated from the main bay of water by a mudflat that has been created by the sediment flowing out of the glacier itself.
I stayed on TTR while Kevin, Katie, Amelia, Erik and Frank took the dinghy to shore to see the glacier. Frank flew the drone and captured some great photos which help show the immensity of Lamplugh. While visiting the glacier, we saw the glacier calf some big pieces of ice.
Later, Frank traded places with me so I could see Lamplugh up close. The pieces of ice that were resting on the silty shore were huge! Frank wished we all had paint guns as we could have had an epic game dodging and shooting between ice blocks.
We were so entranced by the glacier that Frank had to hail us on the VHF to remind us that the tide was rising and our dinghy would soon float off of the sand. We hightailed back to Day Tripper where Kevin had to wade into the water to bring her back to shallow water so we could board the dinghy and head back to Ticket to Ride.
After a day of exploring and watching the calving, Amelia and Frank still had not had enough of the Alaskan water, so they braved our coldest polar plunge to date….. Frank and Amelia jumped into 38.4 degree water while Erik, Kevin, Katie and I cheered them on…. And enjoyed staying dry!
The next morning we waved “aloha” to Kevin and Katie as they left Glacier Bay and we headed toward Marjerie Glacier, which is within Glacier Bay Park.
We had heard that Marjerie was actively calving so we thought we would stay on board Ticket to Ride to watch. But we quickly decided to find a small spot due south of the glacier to anchor TTR and launch Day Tripper for an up close experience.
Marjerie was very active and I managed to get some good calving footage on my camera, but the sound was not working and the calving is not nearly as impressive without sound. 😦 There is truly something mesmerizing about watching glaciers calf; hearing the sound echo outward from the ice and watch the wave created by the ice that slams into the water.
Marjerie is approximately 21 miles long and is defined as a tidewater glacier which means it interacts with ocean saltwater. This glacier does not move into the fjord because it rests on an underwater ledge, according to the National Park Service.
As I mentioned, watching the glaciers calf is mesmerizing and we spent several hours watching from the dinghy and later from an outcropping of land where beached the dinghy and found nice rocks to lean against while we watched the show.
That evening we dropped the hook in beautiful Shag Cove where we bumped into our friends on m/v Koda and m/v Sudden Inspiration. Seeing them was a very fun surprise. We shared evening cocktails and enjoyed Steve’s house specialty – Manhattans. We had no prior experience with Manhattans, but we will volunteer to drink Steve’s version any time he offers! We spent a lovely evening comparing our Alaskan experiences.
Shag Cove was so beautiful that we decided to stay and extra night. We enjoyed jigging for halibut, paddling on the stand up paddle boards and staying in one place.
You may notice that there are patches of snow on the hillsides. The four of us took the opportunity to climb up to the snow and I made my first snow angel in very many years! There may have been a snowball fight involved too.
After two nights at Shag Cove, we moved to Swanson Harbor for the night so we would have a quick trip into Auke Bay where we would pick up Randy and Shellie and Erik and Amelia would leave TTR. It is a testament to Amelia and Erik that, although we had lived together for six weeks, we were sad to see them leave! We are very grateful for the time we spent together and appreciate the myriad of contributions they made on our passage and throughout Alaska!
Shellie and Randy arrived, and as experienced cruisers, they packed lightly and were quickly settled into their room on TTR. Of course we kicked off their visit with a dock party! s/v Kālewa was on the dock, so Katie and Kevin, Amelia and Erik, Randy and Shellie and Frank and I shared a spur of the moment combo lobster boil and burger bash. The eight of us had a great time reconnecting; sharing food and libations as we discussed our itineraries.
Then we fell into bed as Ticket to Ride would be off again the next day, this time with Shellie and Randy sharing our adventures.
Polar Plunge Report:
Pleasant Island 56°
Dundas Bay 52° and 53°
Reid Inlet 43° and 38.4°
Shag Cove 51° and 53°
Swanson Harbor 63°
Phew, this was another long blog. Hopefully the photos and tidbits of information are enough to make it interesting. For us, it is fun to have a journal of our trek through Alaska. As always, we appreciate you stopping to read our blog. If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit us on Facebook or Instagram.
The crew on TTR put the anchor down in 42 different anchorages in Alaska alone. As the drone pilot and photographer, I realize that I missed some and maybe some of the very best. All of us know how hard or maybe impossible it is to capture the full beauty of a landscape or nature in general; however, I hope you will enjoy this collection of TTR’s anchorages that I did manage to capture with our Mavic Mini.
On TTR we log our daily travels in an Excel File. We are happy to share our Alaska log file with any reader who wants a more complete list and description of TTR’s Alaska anchorages. Maybe you are planning your own adventure to Alaska.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. If you think one of these anchorages is your favorite, we would like to know which one! Or perhaps you have been to some of these anchorages? Let us know in the comments. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Instagram or Facebook.
This blog is photo intensive because we saw so many amazing things during this week. Perhaps the most amazing week of our Alaskan tour! Also, if you remember Amelia’s blog about Alaska’s Timeless Waterways, these pictures may give you insight into where she found her inspiration.
Just two days after Tommy flew out from Sitka, our eldest son, Hunter, flew in for a visit. Once again we wanted to cover a lot of territory so Hunter could see a bit of Alaska quickly. We had an incredible time and were able to discover a variety of Alaskan landscapes. Rather than bore you with details of our time, I will attempt to share many pictures and try to give you small descriptions of our days.
We left Sitka early to conquer a long 78 nm passage to Killinoo Harbor, but the day was filled with pretty scenery and plenty of time to catch up with Hunter as we motored. We had two surprises as we covered ground. The first was an opportunity to actually SAIL for a bit as we crossed the Chatham Strait. Although we only raised our head sail, it felt great to see TTR under wind power again for a little bit.
The second bit of luck was seeing whales feeding!! While in Hawaii, the whales do not eat so we never saw those epic scenes of whales surfacing with their mouths wide open. But the very first day Hunter was with us, the whales decided to show us how it was done. SO COOL:
We went to Killinoo Harbor to meet some people Erik knew from Hawaii. This family spends time in Hawaii and in Alaska and they were kind enough to show us the very functional and comfortable cabin they built on a remote part of a remote Alaskan island.
Following a magical tramp through the woods to reach their cabin, we took dinghies to a spit nearby and had a beach BBQ dinner of fresh halibut, salmon and crab! Welcome to Alaska, Hunter, where the sea provides an amazing bounty!
Just a small tidbit of information about Dungeness crabs; in Alaska we can only harvest male crabs that are 6.5” or larger. I had no idea how to tell the difference and maybe you don’t either, so below are photos of the underside of a male and female crab. Once you know what to look for, it is very easy to tell the difference between them.
The next day was pretty much a sunrise start with plenty on the agenda beginning with seeking out waterfalls along our path. Here is a picture of the most casual waterfall I have ever encountered. 🙂
Our first stop of the day was Warm Bath Springs. Natural warm springs creating pools of clear hot water in a climate much colder than we are accustomed to are not to be missed! Hunter, Amelia, Erik, Frank and I spent hours soaking in the hot springs. There was a raging river cascading just outside of the hot pools, so we would alternate between soaking in the hot water until our skin tingled with quick, breathtaking dips into the icy river pools formed in the rocky sides.
After turning into hot springs prunes, we hiked to a nearby lake and waded into the perfectly clear water…. guess Polar Plunges are sneaking into our daytime adventures too!
Red Bluff Bay, our anchorage that night after the hot springs, was the only place we stayed for two nights during Hunter’s visit. Initially we shared this popular spot with four boats but when we left there were 10 power boats sharing the anchorage. That is the most boats we have seen in any anchorages in Alaska.
The crowd must not disturb the crab population because we caught four Dungeness crabs in Red Bluff. Since we had already eaten a good bit of crab, we decided to give them to a neighboring boat. I think we might have been their favorite boat after that.
Gambier Bay was riddled with crab pots, so Erik and Frank thought they would score at least one crab, but we were skunked. Not a single crab to show for their efforts. We did find plenty of wild blueberries which Erik transformed into a delicious pie.
FUN ALASKAN FACTS: Throughout the Tongass National Forest, the Forest Service has built cabins available for use on a first come, first serve basis. The cabins are sturdy and basic, but provide excellent refuge for travelers. There are more than 160 Forest Service Cabins in the Tongass National Forest! That is a great use of our national parks dollars!
However, for perspective, the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the US. Originally named the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve, this public land was created in 1902 under Theodore Roosevelt. In 1907, by presidential proclamation, Roosevelt renamed the area the Tongass National Forest and in 1908 two forests were combined to enlarge the Tongass. Finally in 1925 under Calvin Coolidge, the Tongass was expanded again to create the Tongass National Forest we have today. All together the Tongass National Forest encompasses 17 million acres!
In Gamier Bay we walked to one of the forest service cabins in the early evening. We built a campfire (why do most men love to build fires?), enjoyed toddies and ate s’mores as we exchanged stories and sang old songs. Frank and I won the oldest songs awards when we pulled out, “Little Rabbit FooFoo.” Who remembers that camp song??
Perhaps the most epic day of Hunter’s visit was our trip up Tracy Arm to the South Sawyer Glacier. Navigating up the passage, dodging floating ice while distracted by the amazing sights was a challenge. And well worth the effort!
We set up a schedule where we alternated helmsmen and bow watchers every 10 minutes because it was very cold and pretty demanding. The weather alternated between fog, mist, rain and clear skies, which only added to the drama of the scenery.
Of all the places we have visited so far, this area stands out as the most unique in its beauty and grandeur.
We were so enamored of our first glacier that after motoring back to Entrance Cove and anchoring TTR, we went out in the dinghy and lassoed one floating chunk of iceberg and tried to take it back to Ticket to Ride with us. However, sanity returned and we dropped “our iceberg” for fear it would float around the anchorage and damage a boat or two.
We did corral a few reasonable sized pieces of glacier which became our beverage cubes of choice.
That evening we anchored in Entrance Cove and met the folks on m/v Koda and m/v Sudden Inspiration. A guest on Sudden Inspiration shared several drone photos and this video he took of TTR while we were near the glacier. How awesome is that?!
We took over a bottle of wine and a few other items as thanks for the awesome video of Ticket to Ride. We also invited all on board Koda and Sudden Inspiration to join us in our daily Polar Plunge. Most thought we were nuts, but Barb and Liz changed into swim suits and joined us for a very chilly, but laughter filled PP.
Early the next morning we were up again and headed to Taku Harbor which is the site of an old cannery. We spent another excellent day exploring on shore and chatting with the folks who bought the old cannery workers housing lodge. The history of the lodge was interesting and the new owners were super nice.
Parts of Taku Harbor were easy to walk but at other times we were bushwhacking through undergrowth to find a trail. Taku was a fun mix of old ruins, old forest and new friends.
After Taku Harbor we dashed to Auke Bay in Juneau because Hunter had a flight out the next day. WOW, it was an amazing week with stellar sights and so many laughs. We had so many silly adventures, including assembling a Crystal Garden…. which is one of those stories that probably is only funny to the people involved. But I will show you two pictures:
Looking back at the pictures from the seven days Hunter was on board TTR, there are so many amazing photos I could share with you, but alas, this is already so long, I will refrain. I hope you have a tiny glimpse of just how remarkably pretty this part of Alaska is!
Polar Plunge Report: the daily plunge tradition continues!
Killinoo Harbor 54°F
Red Bluff 51°
Red BLuff 54°
Tracy Arm 54°
Thank you so much for stopping by to read our blog. This was a really long post because we packed a lot into one week. We hope to have more routine WIFI as we work our way back into the U.S. and hopefully we can share posts more routinely. If you want to hear from us more often, please follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
After tying up to the dock in Sitka we grabbed the Prosecco for a celebratory cork popping that was a bit anti-climatic as you can see in the video.
Although the Prosecco was less than effervescent, we were all in high spirits and immediately took a stroll through Sitka. We were anxious to stretch our legs, see the town, and find a spot to eat, drink and celebrate. French fries seemed to be tops on the list for several of us.
One interesting thing about being on passage is the lack of news. Sailing along in Ticket to Ride, we have virtually no news, unless a friend or family member contacts us. Of course we receive and study the weather, but that is the only real time information we seek. As a result, when we arrived in Sitka, we had had no news for almost two weeks.
As is usually the case, there were few news bites that had changed and we had missed very little without hearing the 24 hour news cycles. As we strolled the streets of Sitka, we did encounter one sign that we never saw in Hawaii.
The main street of Sitka was clean and inviting with plenty of windows to browse and bars or restaurants to try. We saw some rather unique apparel including this gem in the window of a fur company!
We were surprised by the warm weather and clear skies that welcomed us to Alaska. Exploring the town we shed our jackets and adopted a leisurely pace as we took in the influence of early Russians who settled Sitka during the heyday of fur trading. Sitka was the capital of Alaska until 1906.
The lushness of this country was unexpected and magical. Everywhere we saw flowers both wild and in hanging baskets or window boxes. Especially after days on end of blue water, the foliage was vibrant and captivating.
Erik, Tommy, Amelia, Frank and I enjoyed a protracted dinner overlooking the local library and a marina. We relished sitting still and having someone else do the cooking and the dishes. Even on a great passage, one is always looking and listening for changes in wind or sounds and this was the first time in many days we could simply sit and not be monitoring the elements around us, except in an appreciative way.
The following day, our first full one in Alaska, Erik chose to hang out with Katie and Kevin of s/v Kālewa to further explore Sitka and determine which establishments were the most fun and had the best beverages. Tommy decided he needed to catch up with family and friends after being without cell and internet during the passage. Frank, Amelia and I were in search of a hike to see the fauna up close.
The hike we chose was seven miles from town so we stuck out our thumbs and hitch-hiked our way. Within one minute we were picked up by a park ranger who gave us information about the hike we had chosen which turned out to be one of the most amazing hikes I have ever experienced!
The Herring Cove Trail is so well made it is almost beyond belief. Sometimes the surface is one stepping stone to another, or it meanders through moss covered greenery, or across bridges made from one huge tree trunk with planks on top.
It’s impossible to describe the muffled silence of the ground covered in hundreds of years of layered decomposition, broken only by birdsong, water cascading over rocks and our comments of delight and reverence.
The Herring Cove hike would not be complete without a visit to Beaver Lake and our efforts to get there were well rewarded. Walking the edge of the lake was like being in one of those ad campaigns that show the pristine waters for Coors beer or the mountain streams and lakes used for perfect drinking water.
On this, our first full day in Alaska, Frank, Amelia and I decided we had to jump into the icy lake and really commit ourselves to all Alaska has to offer. Three jumps and several shrieks later, we had all completed our first Polar Plunge! Afterwards, we sat like seals soaking up the heat from the sun warmed rocks and decided that a new TTR tradition had been born: The TTR Polar Plunge.
We only stayed in Sitka for two nights as we wanted Tommy to see a bit of Alaska before he left for his next adventure. With only a few nights to explore, we decided to stay one night in each anchorage to maximize the area Tommy was able to see.
Our first stop was Magoun Bay, a quick 28nm from Sitka. As soon as we were anchored, Erik, Tommy and Amelia made quick work of lowering the dinghy and finding a perfect spot to place the crab trap we had purchased in Sitka. We heard that catching crab is pretty easy in Alaska and we wanted to get our first taste of Dungeness crab! Sadly, no crabs climbed into our trap this time.
Our next stop was Deep Bay, a long glacier formed bay off of the Peril Strait. We anchored way in the back of the bay and spotted our first brown bear! Once again the crab trap was placed and our hopes were high.
We were up early the next morning for a 44 nm jump to Krestof Sound, but first the crab trap was picked up and we were rewarded with our first keepable Dungeness crab! Deep Bay gave us our first bear sighting and our first crab.
Krestof Sound can only accommodate one anchored boat and we were happy to capture that one spot. At Krestof, we walked through the moss covered forest and sat upon smooth boulders along the water edge enjoying the warmth captured from the sun despite the overcast skies.
We explored the shore and found clams numerous and large enough to eat, but thankfully Frank remembered that the clams have paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and were unsuitable for consumption! Dinner was a (small) feast of boiled crab with garlic butter for dipping. We felt like “real” Alaskans eating the dinner we had plucked from the sea!
Our final stop before returning to Sitka was DeGroff Bay. Although the weather this day was the most overcast we had experienced, DeGroff itself was very pretty. The Bay had tall wooded sides that showed several areas where landslides had occurred as shown in the drone photo.
The water itself was extremely calm and perfect for paddleboarding, which we now do sporting rubber boots! We are truly fashionistas!
The next morning we left DeGroff to return to Sitka but we found that DeGroff had gifted us two additional crabs in our trap. Since Tommy was scheduled to fly out of Sitka that afternoon, we cooked the crab and ate our fill for lunch as soon as we anchored in Sitka.
Tommy’s flight time quickly arrived and it was time to say Aloha. We created a ton of great memories with Tommy while in Hawaii, on the passage and in Alaska. We are sure we will see him again in the not too distant future. For now, Tommy is off to enjoy an east coast summer until he begins school in the fall. Best of luck, Tommy. We know you will excel in your schooling!
POLAR PLUNGE REPORT:
Magoun Bay: 57° F
Deep Bay: 49.1° F
DeGroff: 56° F
Thanks for stopping in to read our blog. It is impossible to capture the beauty of Alaska, but hopefully you can get a flavor of how pretty it is here. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Instagram or Facebook.
**At the end of this blog is a bit of information concerning sailing specifics.
More than a year ago we passaged west from Mexico to Hawaii, never expecting to experience Hawaii by sailboat. Recently we left the tropical warmth, turned northeast and once again crossed the Pacific Ocean to seek the less traveled shores of Alaska. Another destination that was not part of our original itinerary.
In addition to Frank and me, this voyage included Erik, Tommy and Amelia; our trustworthy crew/friends of Hawaiian residents whom we met during our year in the islands. Along side of Ticket to Ride were our friends Katie and Kevin on sv Kālewa. We met Katie and Kevin in 2019 on the Baja HaHa Rally which travels from San Diego, CA to Cabo San Lucas, MX.
This trip began from Hanalei Bay, Kauai on June 14th with a stunning sunrise and dolphins escorting us away from Hawaii. Amelia’s friends gifted her Ti leaves (pronounced like tea) to ward off evil and give us safe voyage. The Ti plant was brought to Hawaii by Polynesians who believed the plant had divine powers. Hawaiian tradition says that the God of Fertility, Lono, and the Goddess of Hulu, Laka, considered the Ti leaves sacred. Today Hawaiians say using these leaves wards off evil and brings good luck. Thus these leaves are used when making leis, in a grass skirt, or as a cheering noise maker to bring good luck to a favorite sports team. In our case, the Ti leaves were placed on TTR’s bow and each side of the transom to bring us safety and luck on our journey. We shared some of the Ti leaves with s/v Kālewa to insure their safe passage as well.
We experienced a beautiful goodbye after a magical year.
If I were to summarize the passage to Alaska, I think the overarching theme for me would be ease. We had an excellent, capable crew who chipped in with everything; sail changes, watches, weather routing, cooking, cleaning, etc. The five of us managed to work together well and because the wind and waves were predominantly aft, we were able to have individual watches and a unique night time watch schedule.
This trip we chose to have three hour evening shifts with one person on each shift. Since we had five people and four shifts, every night one crew member had the night completely off. This luxury of a full night of sleep made for a very well rested and happy crew!
Another unique aspect of this crossing was that the daylight hours were increasing as we traveled toward Alaska, so each evening the hours of actual darkness decreased. The additional light made “night watches” easier but there is mystical quality to the starry nights on passage that I missed. Sometimes on passage watch, when no other light is visible, the stars are so brilliant that they provide candescence to our path and we are actually guided by the starlight.
Earlier I alluded to the fact that this trip was an easy one and part of the reason is that I had SO much help with meals. Actually, I think I cooked very few of the meals on board with Erik doing the majority of the cooking and Amelia creating delicious salads and homemade dressings. Tommy stepped up to prepare some panko-crusted Hebi. The food we ate was amazing and it was interesting to see how different the meals were using the same ingredients I usually buy. We only repeated one meal in our 12 days of passaging!
None of us could decide which meal was best, so in the comments, let us know which one you think sounds most delicious.
I am limiting the list to our dinners:
Day 1: Beef and noodle soup that was so thick it was more of a stew
Day 2: Homemade chicken noodle soup with a salad of cucumber, tomato, onion, feta and homemade dressing.
Day 3: Pork tenderloin in a brown apricot/butter sauce with rice and grilled asperagus, topped off with a lovely latticed blueberry pie baked from scratch (anniversary dinner for Mary Grace and Frank)
Day 4: Split pea soup from scratch with homemade corn bread.
Day 5: Fresh caught Ahi sashimi appetizer, followed by panko-crusted Hebi (spearfish) with rice and a spinach, walnut, goat cheese, dried cherry salad, with another homemade dressing.
Day 6: General Tso’a tofu (tofu, broccoli, quinoa, ginger, peppers, etc) with asian-style salad
Day 7: Homemade pizza (1. pepperoni and cheese 2. pesto, artichokes, goat cheese, capers, zucchini and 3. sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, onion, cheese)
Day 8: Ahi steaks, sautéed green beans & mushrooms, and baked panko parmesan crusted snap peas
Day 9: Fifteen bean ham soup with homemade bread
Day 10: Swedish Pasties (hand-crafted stuffed dumplings) with spinach, bell pepper, cheddar cheese salad
Day 11: Homemade chicken tortilla soup with cucumber, tomato, onion, feta salad
Day 12: Ahi steak with stir fried veggies and rice
I continue to be surprised by how busy we stay during passages, even with crew on board. This passage, weather took more planning than on most trips, so that consumed a lot of time. We also spent some time playing Cribbage, had some music/dance hours (ok, the guys weren’t into this), we soaked up the sun while the warm days lasted, fished and cleaned our catches, listened to pod casts, napped, cooked, cleaned, read and even watched Blue Planet once or twice.
We did encounter one incident when the Doyle reacher leach began showing unsettling wear half way into the passage. Quick to diagnose the issue, Frank and Erik removed the reacher and glued and sewed a repair strip to the leach. They made quick work of the repair and very soon had the reacher repaired and redeployed.
We left Hanalei with a very good weather window. The Pacific High appeared to be firming up and the forecast for the first several days looked positive for sailing. Once again we hired Bruce Buckley to read the weather and advise us along the trip. We ended up sailing between a low system to our west and a high system to our east. We were able to use these systems to our favor most of the time. Thankfully, we avoided any nasty storms and experienced only two minor squalls. Plus we had wind for most of the trip.
This passage was the first time we encountered deep fog which was a really different experience. I would estimate our visibility was 125 yards for 5 days of our trip. It was a little unnerving to sail along at 10 knots of boat speed while unable to clarify the path ahead. We relied heavily on radar and AIS to identify objects we were unable to see in the opaque gray wall and we were thankful each time it dissipated.
At the very end of the passage, a wind shift to the north was predicted so when the wind died, we fired up the engines to insure our arrival in Alaska before the wind was directly on our nose. The last 24 hours or so under motor were used to take care of end of passage clean up. Salt and dew always accumulate on a passage and wiping down the inside of the boat and cleaning the decks is a necessity.
Motoring at the end of a passage is a great time to address damage or breakage and begin repairs, but thankfully our only incident was the sail that Frank and Erik repaired while underway. We didn’t have any damage or breakage to address at the end of the passage. Go TTR!
Originally we planned to sail directly to Glacier Bay, but we allowed the wind to direct our path and that resulted in landing at Sitka, AK. We managed to snag the last open marina spot in Thomsen Marina and as soon as we tied up our freshly cleaned boat, we popped the cork on a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate a successful, safe, comfortable and fast passage.
Sitka felt like we had landed in the quintessential Alaskan movie set! Fishing boats with scores of hard working people on board, pine tree covered mountains wearing snow hats, skies of deep blue with wisps of white clouds and bald eagles soaring in the sky. Our landing in Alaska was a distinct contrast to our departure from Hawaii but it was equally beautiful in a completely different way.
Our buddy boat, Kālewa arrived just a few hours after we did. We really enjoyed keeping in touch with Kevin and Katie and discussing weather options during the passage using satellite communications. Though we weren’t within sight of Kālewa the whole trip, we were in contact and it was comforting to know we were within 80 miles of a friend.
Prior to departing for Alaska, I had heard some sailors say this was their best passage ever. I had also heard stories of pretty difficult trips including one monohull that was finishing a circumnavigation and had to abandon their sailboat 250nm from Seattle.
As always, I was slightly nervous prior to our departure from Hawaii, but thankfully this turned out to be one of our best passages to date.
****** Sailing Speak: ******
Our passage goal was to have a quick, safe, fun and comfortable trip: we weren’t trying to break any speed records.
We left Hawaii with one reef in the main sail and the genoa deployed. We completed the whole passage with R1 (one reef) in the main sail.
The first 2 days of our trip, we were close hauled with an average true wind angle of 55 degrees. Our average true wind speed was 15.67 knots with an average boat speed of 8.96 knots.
By the afternoon of our third day at sea, we recorded our first TWA over 100 degrees and for the remainder of the trip all of our true wind angles were above 100 degrees. We flew a variety of sail configurations including: main-R1 with genoa, main-R1 with reacher, reacher and genoa flying wing on wing, gennaker with genoa flying wing on wind, gennaker with spinnaker staysail, genoa only and reacher only.
This passage was our first long term experience of flying wing on wing head sails and it was an interesting and positive experience for us. We flew our reacher to leeward and our genoa to windward at wind angles deeper than 160. This configuration was comfortable and we could “reef” by rolling in the windward sail. We used this sail combination for 5 or 6 days and felt TTR was quick and comfortable.
Everyone on board enjoyed experimenting with a variety of sail plans while continuing to make good speed over ground.
Passage mileage: 2473 nm
Average speed: 8.6 knots
Max speed: 21.6 knots
Max daily miles: 234.5 nm
Travel time: 12 days – almost to the hour.
Seasickness Note: Tommy brought scopolamine patches and I tried the patch for the first time on this passage. The scopolamine worked very well for me and this is one of the few passages I can remember not being apprehensive about becoming seasick. Thank you, Tommy.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. We would love to hear which meal sounds most delicious to you, so let us know in the comments. We are thankful to the Petersburg Alaska Library for the use of their internet. We hope to update you more often, but have to see what internet we find. Look for quick updates on Facebook or Instagram. Be safe and stay well.
P.S. Our next post is written by Amelia and offers her perspective for part of the passage to Alaska. Amelia is a beautiful writer capable of creating copy for companies or poetic descriptions of her experiences. I’m sure you will enjoy her contribution.
After spending an unexpected but excellent year cruising the Hawaiian Islands, it is time to seek new cruising grounds. Although our original intent when we left Mexico in March 2020 was to sail to French Polynesia, the decision to turn toward Hawaii proved one of our best. During the difficult times of a world pandemic, we were fairly isolated from risk because of our location, the precautions taken by Hawaii, and by our own actions which were guided by safety.
Cruising Hawaii during Covid 19, while restricted, also allowed us a glimpse into what Hawaii must have been like 30 or 40 years ago when tourism was not the mainstay of the economy and fewer people were exploring the trails and beaches. Certainly many attractions and restaurants were closed due to Covid, but the ability to walk trails that were almost devoid of people and have the natural beauty of places to ourselves was a unique gift that we will always treasure.
As lovely as Hawaii and its people have been, our original plan of traveling to French Polynesia is still our goal. We prefer to arrive in FP with a long stay visa in hand, which would allow us to stay for a year rather than three months. Long stay visas are not available at this time, so we have decided to point our bows in a northeast direction and “reset” our itinerary.
The plan is to leave Hawaii, sail north and east to Alaska and spend several weeks exploring the northern most state of the U.S. By the time weather forces us to seek a more southern location, we hope the Canadian borders will be open so we are allowed to stop in Canadian ports throughout the Inside Passage. From Canada we will sail to Seattle, then make a long jump to San Francisco, followed by stops in Long Beach and San Diego. Of course, all of these plans are “written in sand, at low tide” because we will be directed by the weather and border restrictions.
Unlike our east to west trip across the Pacific which was driven by the trade winds, this passage in the opposite direction will be influenced by the Pacific High weather system. We await its formation because once that high is in place, the low pressure systems are less numerous and our travel weather should be more stable and predictable.
But there is no guarantee that we will be able to avoid low pressure systems completely because the trip is expected to take 11-18 days and weather forecast predictions are not accurate that far in advance.
We have hired Bruce “The Weather Man,” a weather router located in Perth, Australia who studies the Pacific and will send us daily updates and course recommendations based on the information he has available. In addition to Bruce, we use the PredictWind weather application which gives us weather updates a few times each day.
Hopefully between Bruce and PredictWind, we will be able to find a comfortable and reasonably fast weather window. If you would like to follow our trip, here is a link which shows our location and speed.
Those who have sailed Alaska tell us the beauty of the area is amazing and that one season is simply not enough to adequately explore all Alaska has to offer. We are certain this statement will prove true and we will decide later if we want to extend our exploration beyond one short season.
We have also heard a wide range of reports about the weather in Alaska and I am certain those reports vary greatly depending on what weather each summer unleashes. Obviously the temperatures will be much different from the warmth of Hawaii. But we also anticipate encountering fog, ice, big winds, no wind, fishing boats, fish traps and perhaps a few cruise ships. To say the least, we expect our experience in Alaska will be about a 180 degree change from Hawaii.
We will trade the lush landscape and warm waters of Hawaii for the unknown and cold temperatures of Alaska.
We have mentioned often that the “aloha” we have received in Hawaii is amazing. If our saying so wasn’t enough proof of that, perhaps the fact that we have three crew members, all of whom we met in Hawaii, on board for this passage will cement our statement.
Our three crew are: Erik who we met in Maui in May 2020, Tommy who we met in Kaneohe Bay in June 2020, and Amelia who we met in Kauai in July 2020. Needless to say, we would not have asked these people to join us on a long passage unless we enjoy their company and they are capable hands on board Ticket to Ride. Inviting three Hawaiian residents to crew for us certainly proves that we have been well blessed to meet many excellent people while also enjoying the beauty of Hawaii.
So, when you see this post, know that we are somewhere along our course toward Juneau, Alaska. Hopefully the weather window we chose is a good one and we are enjoying a smooth, comfortable, safe and uneventful trip across 2700 nautical miles of Pacific Ocean.
Thanks for reading our blog. Take a peak at the link above to check our progress and perhaps add a little prayer for our safety. We have no idea how much internet/cell service we will have while in Alaska, but we will update our Facebook and Instagram pages more quickly than this blog page. See you soon from the chilly north!
No, we’re not talking about blondes; we are talking about that small vessel that most cruisers carry on their boat primarily to get them to and from shore. However, our dinghy, Day Tripper, serves many more functions than simply moving us to and from land.
For most cruisers who live on anchor and enjoy the water, the dinghy is a means for adventure, transportation, exploration, gatherings, rescue, towing, and the list goes on. In fact, the often neglected dinghy really is a “boat system” that needs research before the purchase as well as care and maintenance after the purchase. The dinghy is so important in my opinion, that its function and onboard management should be considered an integral system when purchasing one’s blue-water cruising boat.
Mary Grace and I have a limited perspective when it comes to blue-water cruising boats and their dinghies; we have had 2 catamarans and 2 inflatable rigid bottom dinghies. Therefore, much of the content of this blog will reflect our viewpoint and experiences; we hope you will share your thoughts in the comment section at the end of this writing.
Factors to consider: Certainly, the choice of dinghy will come down to some mix of the following:
- Intended purpose – this list is almost endless and driven by individual plans.
- Who and how many people will use the dinghy – A family of 6 obviously needs a larger dinghy and more powerful engine than a cruising couple.
- How will the dinghy be stored or carried aboard the big boat – If possible, please consider adopting a “never tow” attitude toward your dinghy. Many dinghies have been damaged or lost while being towed and dinghy lines often become entangled in propellers when helmsmen forget to shorten lines before reversing the main boat. Davits on the transom are an excellent investment that keeps your dinghy safe while underway and discourages theft.
- Budget – Reliability, especially in your dinghy engine, is absolutely critical. Dinghy and engine are probably not the place to go cheap. Find somewhere else in the cruising kitty to save dollars.
In the early days after buying our FP Helia 44, as I stepped out of our 11’6” dinghy with its 15 hp outboard, I had a giant case of “dinghy envy.” Tied up to the very well maintained dinghy dock and right next to my skiff was a beautiful, center console RIB with a brand new 60 hp Yamaha engine and a ski tow bar! In our limited experience, we thought the BVI dock maintenance was what we would experience in most of our travel, and that exotic RIB looked enviable.
After leaving the BVI for other islands in the Leeward and Windward Caribbean Chain, I quickly realized the wisdom and functionality of our very simple, small and practical dinghy! In most Caribbean cruising anchorages, IF there is something called a dinghy dock it is poorly maintained with boards missing, nails or rebar protruding, no cleats or mooring mechanism, and often shallow or surge prone water. All of these features are waiting to destroy any dinghy much less those expensive dinghies seen in the BVIs.
In addition, when out adventuring in the dinghy, we found ourselves pulling our dinghy up on the beach or over a rocky bottom onto the shore. That lovely center console dinghy would be too heavy for us to pull up on the beach and we would have to anchor it a bit off the shore out of the waves.
When the time came for us to buy a dinghy for Ticket to Ride, we already had 5 years of cruising experience to help us decide which dinghy would work best for our needs.
TTR Dingy and Engine:
- Boat: We purchased a new Hypalon Highfield 380 CL from Trade Wind Inflatables in Southern California. TTR’s tender is 12’ 6” short shaft transom weighing 183 lbs. and rated for up to a 30 HP engine. We liked the painted aluminum hull, factory installed hard rubber keel guard, forward locker for a 6 gallon gas can, flat double bottom floor, and oars with oarlocks. This Highfield 380 is the largest length dinghy we thought we could reasonably carry on Ticket to Ride.
- Engine: We purchased a new Yamaha Enduro 2 stroke 15 HP in Caracao and its first use was on TTR’s Highfield RIB. This is the same engine we had on Let It Be’s dinghy and we were incredibly pleased with the reliability and simplicity of this motor. Fuel economy and the amount of noise are not as good as a 4 stroke engine. Our second choice would have been a 20 HP 4 stroke Honda.
There are not many accessories or options available for a small, simple dinghy with tiller steering and pull start; however, there are a few additions we find important:
- Fuel filter: We installed an inline fuel filter which is bolted to the transom and designed for gasoline engines. Fuel problems are the primary reason for small engine problems; I do highly recommend a robust filter.
- Dinghy wheels: Our dependance on dinghy wheels in the Caribbean prompted us to insure TTR’s dinghy would allow installation of the same. We love our DaNard Marine Dinghy wheels for many, many reasons. Whether going up a boat ramp, beach or in shallow unknown water, our DaNard wheels have been invaluable. When deployed, they project 4 inches below the engine skeg tip; therefore, no need to tilt the motor when approaching the beach. The customer service from DaNard has been second to none.
- Anchor and anchor rode: Without getting into the never ending anchor discussions, the anchor we chose is a Box Anchor made by Slide Anchor. Folds easily, minimal or no need for chain, and holds our dinghy in almost any bottom surface. Would not be my choice for the big boat; excellent for the dinghy. We have 40 feet of 5/16 three strand nylon for anchor rode.
- Painter (line): The absolutely terrible condition of some cruiser’s painters is amazing to me. Knots in the middle, too short, totally frayed bitter end, and poorly secured to the dinghy itself. We would suggest a painter line such as 3 strand nylon, spliced to the bow eye (bowline knots come untied when not under pressure), long enough for towing if necessary, and easily tied to a dock, a cleat or your neighbor’s boat.
- Spare 1 gallon fuel tank: We have not YET (Not yet!) run out of fuel in the primary 6 gallon can but this spare is our ace in the hole.
- Cable and lock: Last but certainly not least, a cable and padlock are essential. I would suggest a cable that is at least 10 feet long and thick enough to be secure but not so thick to prevent it from passing through the base of a dock cleat or between two dock boards. The PVC covered lifeline SS cable with crimped looped ends makes up our dinghy cable. The lock: combination or key? We have gone from key to combination and now back to key.
Now that we have discussed the dinghy, the engine and some simple add-ons, let’s talk dinghy best practices. I do not profess to be a US Sailing teacher or know everything on this topic; however, our experience will help in starting this list.
Basic Dinghy Best Practices/Courtesy:
- Boarding and de-boarding: Huge topic here with many variables due to the variety of boat configurations and dinghies. This is one of the many places I will tip my hat to the inflatable dinghies. The stability afforded by the inflatable tubes of a RIB provide an excellent step for boarding. Most experienced cruisers know how to get in and out of their dinghy; however, we have all had guests aboard who are far less comfortable. In general, a well positioned hand hold at or above waist level is incredibly helpful for balancing during boarding. Secondly, an uncluttered dinghy floor reduces the chance of twisting an ankle or falling. Lastly, this is no time to be modest; sometimes the best method is crawling between the dinghy and big boat.
- Be prepared: If Mary Grace and I are going anywhere other than a short trip to shore in daylight both ways, the items taken along are quite different. VHF Radio: anytime we go adventuring or into “open” water. Life jackets: anytime we go away from flat calm water. Lights: going to or from shore in dark we always have a light. We have the official Red/Green/White light attached magnetically to our engine cover; however, a bright dive light held over the side and panned back and forth is more effective. PLB: snatched from our ditch bag when we are really going adventuring. Fuel: check frequently
- Kill switch lanyard: stating the obvious – always wear the kill switch lanyard in case you are thrown from the boat.
- Be courteous: Speeding on a plane through a crowded anchorage is dangerous and lacks courtesy. Slow down and say hello to your neighbors. Don’t be “that guy.”
- Lift it or lose it: Lift your dinghy EVERY night. If you leave your dinghy in the water at night; assume that it will one day go adrift or be stolen.
- Mooring to a dock: Docks used for mooring a dinghy come in all shapes, sizes, and states of repair. Let’s assume a purpose built dinghy dock that is wood, low to the water, and possessing some mooring attachment. Accepted practice is to tie your dinghy painter long and leave the engine in the down position. Lock the dinghy without locking someone else’s to the dock and take your kill switch key. Purpose built well maintained dinghy docks are not the norm; so, a few tips. Absolutely do not take any chances on allowing your dinghy to get below a dock and become pinned – and take tidal changes into consideration. Use a stern anchor in this situation or if the water surges or the dock presents damage possibilities of any sort.
- Landing on a beach: My word of caution: landing a dinghy on a beach and getting off a beach can be VERY dangerous for people and property if there is ANY surf break. Mary Grace and I have done it, don’t like to do it, and half the time it does not go well. Patience, preparedness, and acceptance that you are going to get wet are my best words of wisdom. Using the kill lanyard is critical. With multiple people or less than agile people we skip beach landings.
- Getting in and out from the water: Mary Grace and I don’t teach or test all of our guest about getting back into our dinghy; however, we both are capable of reboarding from the water even when tired. Having a dinghy boarding ladder available for guests is helpful and we often add it to the dinghy when we have guests. We both know the backflip technique for reboarding, which is helpful when tired or without fins.
- Know the limits: Again, last but not least, know your personal limits and the limits of your dinghy. Stay on the main boat when boarding is hazardous, the open ocean is not a place for most dinghies, be very careful at night and when around surf. Use common sense and err on the side of caution.
Buying/replacing a dinghy in most typical cruising grounds such as the Bahamas, Windward Caribbean or the South Pacific is very close to impossible. The answer is to buy a good product up front and maintain it carefully. Let’s talk care and maintenance in particular for an inflatable RIB:
Long Live the Dinghy:
- Rid the sand: Sand is one of the primary killers of inflatables. Keep sand out of your dinghy! Wash feet, flip flops, and gear before loading into your dink. Don’t leave your dinghy half up the beach with waves and sand washing over the transom; another good reason for good wheels which raise the transom above water level. Finally wash your dinghy out often even if washing with salt water. Periodically, pull the boat out of the water, partially deflate the tubes, and thoroughly wash out the area between the tubes and the rigid bottom. Sand gets into this area and grinds away on both surfaces.
- Clean and protect: UV is the other big killers of inflatables. Some cruisers love their “chaps”; we have chosen against chaps for cost and simplicity. We clean our dinghy regularly with a degreasing solution and then treat the Hypalon tubes liberally with 303 Aerospace Protectant.
- Handy repair kit: Patching holes in a Hypalon tube in the field is challenging and often leads to a poor result; however, it will probably be a necessity for most people at some time. A complete dinghy repair kit is essential; we have found Inflatableboatparts.com to be very knowledgable and helpful, plus they carry great products.
- Engine maintenance: Do it like your life depends on that motor; some day it actually might. Sea water impellers, oil changes, lower unit lube, spark plugs, fuel filters, clean and inspect. Always keep a spare prop on board.
Your dinghy is the lifeline between your wonderful life on the big boat and the opportunities and necessities of shore. Purchase the correct product, don’t tow the dink long distances, take good care of the dinghy and this little boat will take good care of you.
We sincerely hope that our readers will contribute their tips and tricks to this post. Sharing information is what the cruising community is all about. Thank you for your read.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. If you are new to dinghies, we hope this gives you some good tips. Those with a lot of dinghy experience, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Facebook or Instagram.
In December, we were contacted by the editor of Latitude 38 Magazine and asked to write a quick article about cruising in Hawaii.
If you are interested in reading it, please follow this link to read our write up on page 86. I hope you enjoy it.
Although the magazine heading mentions Long Beach, we are actually nomads without a land home.
Right now we are spending time anchored off Maui. The weather is keeping us on our toes as we have to move around for incoming weather systems. But we are enjoying the water, whales and friends in between storms.