12 Jan

Things I’ve learned: 2015 edition

At the end of last year’s season I had posted this list of Things I’ve Learned on my personal blog but I’ve decided it’s time for an update.


Now, with two seasons of cruising 5 weeks or more under our belts, we have “learned” a lot of things, some of which we already knew—sort of, and some we just thought we did. And of course some that never even occurred to us. So here’s my new list of things we’ve learned, in no particular order:

  • Reefing a roller furling main is more complicated than you think it should be
  • You never practice reefing your roller furling main when the winds are calm. But you should…
  • What is it they say about schedules being the most dangerous thing in boating? Yup.
  • Boats leak from the damnest places
  • Trying to find where boats leak from generally leads to profanity
  • Propane is either hard to find or right in front of your face: there is no middle ground
  • A wheeled grocery cart is a godsend
  • Check the dates on propane tanks and save yourself the walk
  • Wind against current is… interesting
  • Idiot lights are idiotic
  • Voltmeters are the devil’s tool
  • Sailing from start to finish is a great, great day
  • Ocean swell. Huh, who knew…
  • A little leak in the canvas is way more annoying than just taking it down and getting wet
  • Walk-through transoms are awesome. And you almost never get to use them
  • Finally having a dinghy that can get up on plane is more fun than strictly necessary
  • Things fall overboard
  • A 29 knot gust with too much sail out is scary-scarier-scariest
  • You can sail “quite fine” at 30° heel. But later you can’t really figure out why you did
  • Water slapping on your transom when you are tied up stern to the waves is really, really annoying…all night
  • Dolphins are the best. Two hours with the same two dolphins is transformative
  • My son has orca-fu. Four sightings in the one week he was aboard…
  • Things they don’t tell you about stern tying: stern tying more often than not includes: wet feet, losing track of the tender’s painter (and often the tender itself), ophidiophobia, leaks in the dinghy, bizarre knots in 240′ of line, coiling a wet, stinky bundle of 240′ of line, searching for rings below the water, climbing cliffs above the water, trying comically to pull on 100′ of line while floating in a dinghy, being exactly 2′ short when you get back to the boat, and interesting “discussions” between skipper and crew when the skipper is the one ashore
  • Stern tying is hilarious when other people are doing it
  • You can do 2 knots in 4 knots of wind, but you can’t do 5 knots in 10 knots of wind, you wouldn’t want to do 10 knots in 20 knots of wind and you don’t care how fast you are going in 30 knots of wind
  • The remote for the auto-pilot is addictive. You are left feeling very hollow when it stops working
  • Having extra fenders is great; stowing extra fenders is a pain
  • There are things you never seem to learn: leaving the hatch almost all the way open is not the same thing as leaving it all the way open. Yup, still hurts.
  • Seriously, where the hell am I supposed to stow the damn spare gasoline!
  • Pillows magically attract mildew
  • Other people’s diesel heaters can be annoying; yours is just comfortable
  • Just because the nice lady on the radio said back in on a starboard side tie, doesn’t mean you should stubbornly try, and fail, a half dozen times when the wind is against you
  • Other cruisers are suddenly very helpful with lines after you fail a half dozen times on a windy day on a crowded dock
  • 4 different crews working together trying to tie your boat up on a windy day on a crowded dock are actually much less effective than a single crew and a less stubborn skipper. Comedically less effective even…
  • Any completed docking without damage can be deemed a successful docking (or so I keep telling myself)
  • Battery monitors are mysterious and addictive, but not the devil’s tool
  • After September, you can never have enough blankets
  • Fleece sheets—fleece, not flannel—are the best thing ever in a cold, damp boat
  • The split ring from your keychain is not a good substitute when you break/lose a stainless steel one
  • In the narrow channels of the Broughtons, it often seems your mast is poking up into the low lying cloud
  • In the narrow channels of the Broughtons, sea planes quite often fly under the low lying cloud
  • In the narrow channels of the Broughtons, low lying cloud can be scarier than fog
  • Docks have gravity. Once you are tied up for a while, it gets harder and harder to untie in less-than-perfect conditions
  • A 14″ laptop screen is just fine. Black Books is just as funny
  • Nothing beats the evening light at Big Bay on Stuart Island. Seriously…every time…
  • Don’t trust that the work they said they were going to do at the top of your mast is the work they did at the top of your mast
  • Getting to the top of your mast is hard
  • The bottom of your dinghy is disgusting after a season trailing behind your boat
  • If you have 105′ of chain, then 105′ of chain is almost always the perfect amount of chain to put out
  • The difference between Roche Harbor and Garrison Bay is night and day. Together they make for a great couple of days.
  • Getting anchorage advice from fellow cruisers is great
  • Taking anchorage advice from fellow cruisers can be … dangerous

And here’s a few from the previous list that are so worth repeating:

  • Fridges in a sailboat are…quirky
  • BBQs make a real mess on the transom
  • Gauges that measure liquids (water, diesel, holding tanks) never seem to work
  • Powerboaters really are, well, oblivious

Tides. Huh. 

Stuart Island Community Association Dock

And this was fun…why?

One thought on “Things I’ve learned: 2015 edition

  1. Love the list! The first time I saw ocean swell was round the bottom of Vancouver Island on the way to Sooke, and basically filled my pants – despite it being a calm day and only 5 foot swells! It’s just so different if you are not used to it.

    PS: I have a board bolted to stanchions on the side of my boat – I carry jerry cans of diesel and the gasoline jerry can for the dingy there. Ugly, but works.

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