Making plans, I’m an architect and that’s what most of us do right? It’s partly what we’re known for – space planning, arranging rooms or use adjacency to provide the best flow and function for a facility and along with such, creating building plans. For many architects that is a large part of the profession but, we’re also organizers, organizers of the project and the team. We make schedules for meetings, milestones, deadlines, materials, window, door, paint, etc… We need to keep track of and plan ahead for everything!
When we started talking about purchasing, living & traveling on a boat we started making plans of course that’s natural, expected even. Where were we going to go? What will define our travels? At the time we started discussing this we hadn’t spent any time on the boat other then when we decided to purchase it. But, that didn’t deter us! We had friends who were planning a bike ride at the end of June 2020 from London to Paris and back. So our first plans were to meet them in London in the boat – yes, cross the Atlantic! After spending time with them we’d cruise around the UK. Then as the weather started getting cooler we’d boat down the European coast, up into the Mediterranean and visit some other friends. We were going to embark on the trans-Atlantic voyage from Stuart, FL, cruise up the East Coast to Newfoundland and then across to Ireland. Luke calculated it would take us a little over 2 weeks at sea at our rate of speed (7 mph), traveling around the clock. We surmised, if we could get someone to crew with us we could make it work. That was until we realized there would still be ice floes around Newfoundland about the time we would need to set out to cross. So we scraped that plan – Plan A!
Undaunted and still really wanting to travel around the UK and Europe we picked another route. This time we’d go from Florida, to Bermuda then from there cross the Atlantic to the Azores and up to Great Britain. The thought was the weather would be much more amiable in the lower part of the hemisphere and we’d be traveling before the tropical storm season. However, we would still have really long stretches out at sea between ports and would still need another crew. At this point in the “planning” we had started living on board albeit through renovations. But during the 2019 winter holidays we took a trip across Florida through the Okeechobee to Tampa and then down the West coast of Florida back up to Stuart. That gave us a taste of what it was like for the two of us with our two dogs to live aboard and we were essentially going port to port. Hmmm… could we really manage with another person on board for a couple of weeks at a time without a port break and stocking up? Then the Coronavirus pandemic hit. As it started spreading across Europe and the UK that shut down those plans completely. Plan B was out the window and along with it the concept of naming plans! Quite frankly, although we both really loved the idea of traveling around the UK, Europe and the Mediterranean the more time we spent traveling on the boat the less appealing was a long transatlantic trip.
In March, tired from all the boat work and being tied up at dock we yearned to get out and do what we had actually purchased the boat to do – travel. We thought maybe we could squeeze in a quick trip to the Bahamas. At the beginning of September 2019 the Islands had been devastated by hurricane Dorian and several of the boats in the marina where we were staying had been bringing over supplies. We thought we could help a bit and stretch “our legs” while we were at it. So we got the dogs’ health certificates and did some provisioning. However, the closer it go to our departure date, the higher the COVID cases climbed and the more everything was shutting down. Luke and I began to have misgivings and a few days before we had planned to leave we decided to pull the plug. Thankfully so, because three days later the Bahamas closed down too. If we had gone we would have been stuck not able to get into their ports or back into the States. Along with everyone else we hunkered down and stayed put in our berth. Luke and I continued to work on the boat whatever we could accomplish by ourselves as there were no work crews for the rest of March and April. In May we were able to finish up a few projects that had been started which was good because we had to get out of Florida for hurricane season – June through November. But where were we going to go? Where could we go with COVID limiting travel? Where would we want to go where we could feel safe?
Both of us are from Cape Cod, so in our discussions it seemed logical to travel up the east coast to New England, stopping briefly along the way as needed for provisioning, pump-outs and some cautious, mask-wearing, social distancing sightseeing. In any case, we decided we would spend the bulk of the summer around Cape Cod, Boston and Maine. Once we had the big picture now – in my mind, we had to figure out the details i.e.: how were we going to get there? Which ports along the way did we want to stop at? I couldn’t just leave willy-nilly without a plan or an agenda! So, I sat down one afternoon with Google maps and blank calendars for the months of June & July open on my monitor. I figured I’d start with planning for the first two months. That would get us going and we’d proceed from there. I worked my way up the east coast states taking guestimates of mileage between ports and creating a schedule on these blank calendar pages. Then on June 3rd in the middle of a thunderstorm, mid-morning we slipped out of our comfortable berth and headed upstream. Not ever having done any of this before I quickly learned what factors I didn’t account for in my typed plans. Delays or “schedule changes” due to: weather / wind, liking a place, not liking a place, taking longer to get to a port due to timed bridge openings, booked marinas, running aground, tides making passages impassable, timing to catch the right current, waiting for packages to arrive, etc. rendered the schedule obsolete rather quickly. However, not daunted and armed with my newfound knowledge I wrote out the next three calendar months in pencil. As we went along, at first, we started erasing and revising the calendars sometimes crossing out and writing over and then eventually giving up all together using them only as suggestions for ports we may want to visit. By the time we were heading from New England back to Florida in October, I had given up all semblance of making plans because I learned at the end of the day it really didn’t matter where you were as long as you were safe and secure. With Luke doing the navigating he took over planning. Instinctively, he knew how far he wanted to travel, where he might want to stop for the evening, etc. So, in the morning on a day of departure, we’d discuss where we were heading, what route we thought we were taking, and how long we thought it would take. Then later in the day we’d update with where and how – dock, anchor or moor, we’d secure for the night.
Once we got back to Florida in mid-November we had some big picture planning we’d have to attend to. We had work that was lined up for the boat and then there were the holidays but what were we going to do for the winter months? By this time, we had talked about doing the DownEast Loop next Spring/Summer/Fall in conjunction with some friends who also own a Kadey Krogen. The DownEast Loop would take us up the east coast again but this time we’d go up the Hudson River, into the Erie Canal and through the locks into the St. Lawrence Seaway. Then we’d forge around Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, along the Maine coast and ultimately back south again. In order to do the trip, we’d have to start heading up the coast around April. So perhaps for the winter months we could try heading to the Bahamas again as it wasn’t too far afield. But COVID numbers were surging everywhere and while the vaccine had just been deployed it is going to take a long time to be distributed and become effective. Neither of us were feeling comfortable with being in a country where the healthcare was subpar. We also didn’t want to spend five months sitting on our boat in Stuart. Thinking realistically about the DownEast Loop, Canada would have to be open to the States in the Spring for us to do the loop and that is probably unlikely.
In October we had purchased property on Bainbridge Island, WA where we had lived previously. Curiously, this property that was destined to be ours, is a walk through the woods from our old home. In December I flew back to the Island for some appointments and to see the property and spend time on it so I could start working on the design for our new house. When reality squelched the DownEast trip Luke and I looked at each other and said, let’s go home! We missed home. Maine, being so similar in many ways, helped us realize how much we really loved the Pacific Northwest. We missed our friends and our community. And this is the perfect time to get started on the house planning while traveling safely (in our opinion) is limited. So, we’ve contracted with a yacht transport shipping company to ship Belle to the west coast and we will drive. Belle will be craned onto the ship in a West Palm Beach port. Due to the Jones Act which prohibits foreign vessels from carrying cargo between American ports, she will be offloaded in Victoria, BC. Then because that is a Canadian port and Canada is closed to Americans, we’ll need to hire a Canadian captain to bring Belle into the States. The closest port is Friday Harbor in San Juan Island about 6 miles from Victoria. Luke will fly there on a sea plane and pick her up then bring her back to Bainbridge. In the meantime, while Belle is making her trip through the Panama Canal and up the west coast, we’ll be driving back across the States pretty much the same route as when we were eastward bound but in reverse – Route 10 west then a right at Los Angeles.
Once settled back in Bainbridge we will continue cruising but, mostly around the PNW. That had been our original plan when we first started thinking about this adventure. We had looked for boats on the west coast because we wanted to cruise up the BC coast and spend time cruising around Alaska. Luke had gotten a taste of Alaska’s vast beauty when he travelled there during his tanker days. Recently reading Tip of the Iceberg by Mark Adams further fueled his wanderlust for that State. Although we tried, we were not able to find a boat on the west coast that suited us, so we expanded our search to the east coast and found Belle – then Tusen Takk II. So, our west coast cruising plans were tabled for a later date.
Now here we are full circle and I’m back to working on the kind of plans I am familiar with making. Along with our travels and experiences which I post about regularly on our Jouni blogs, I will start incorporating our new house process on this website as well. What I’ve come to learn about the boating life is, plans necessarily need to be as fluid as the water you’re floating on and if you wish to keep on an even keel it’s best to stay nimble.
The best laid plans… right???