Highs and Lows of Sailing a Pocket Cruiser with my Family

Posted on July 16, 2013 by

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This is the second part of the story.  Start with the first part to get the whole story.

Last month I accepted a job offer in the San Francisco Bay area and it forced us to make a number of big decisions.  One of the most difficult ones was whether we should keep the boat and transport it all the way to San Francisco.

We hadn’t been out on the boat since our trip to Maine and to say that trip left a bitter taste in my mouth is an understatement.  But over the long winter the memory had softened a bit and with perfect sailing weather approaching my wife and I started thinking about getting the boat ready for another trip.

One project my wife really wanted to address was the ugly, uncomfortable and aged upholstery of the interior boat cushions.  She spent a lot of time inside the cabin with the kids and replacing the cushion covers was important to her.  The cost to have a professional do the job was exorbitant which was why we were so happy when Kent, the family “there’s no project I can’t tackle” guy, offered to do it himself.  He came to stay with us and over four full days was able to complete the cushions and do an amazing job.

I mention this because we were literally debating whether or not to accept the job (and whether we would take the boat with us) while Kent was painstakingly sewing each cushion.  This made it even more difficult to consider selling the boat but I knew I couldn’t let those feelings affect my decision.

As I went back and forth in my mind I was forced to identify why we got the boat in the first place and to figure out whether owning the boat was still aligned with my overall life goals.

I love adventure and I love my family

The main reason I wanted this boat was that it offered the opportunity to go on adventures with my family.  I have had a fair share of adventures in my life.  I climbed Mt. Washington in the winter.  I kitesurfed off Jones Beach during a hurricane.  I skied out of bounds at Jackson Hole.

I am drawn to sports like mountaineering, kitesurfing, and skiing because they allow me to experience the outdoors and because there is an element of risk and challenge that rewards preparation and knowledge.  When I got married and had children my lust to experience the outdoors, risk and challenges in the form of adventures did not disappear.  Sure, I could take off on my own, but I am not really interested in doing that.  I’m not looking for a hobby that forces me leave my family behind.  I would prefer to find a way to fill that need while spending time with my family.

This little pocket cruiser offers me the opportunity to do just that.  With this boat we can travel to any body of water within driving distance, put the boat in, and go explore lakes, rivers, and oceans.  I am describing a sport called Gunkholing.  This is where you take your boat exploring and find small coves and inlets that are so shallow or distant that the crowds can’t access them.  Then we can set an anchor and slip over the rail for a swim or go ashore and do some exploring before making our way back to the boat for lunch.  We might even stay on the boat overnight or camp out on the beach.

Just the act of packing all the gear, preparing the boat, and getting the boat into the water provides a significant challenge.  Then once we are on the water every trip so far has been a little different, offering opportunities to deal with difficulties.  Of course part of the challenge is making sure my wife and children are enjoying themselves.  So far I have done my best to make sure that they are well taken care of.  That they are comfortable, protected from the elements, and entertained.  I also have to constantly evaluate the conditions, the boat, and the crew to make sure that everyone and everything is safe.

If this sounds stressful, well it is.  But I crave that type of stress and love rising to the challenge.

I love learning skills and I love making things

While the boat offers the opportunity for adventure with my family it comes at a cost.  Everyone knows that most boat owners spend more time working on their boat than enjoying them on the water.  The salt water, sun, and wind take their toll on all the various systems of a sailboat and they require constant vigilance and maintenance.  Plus there are so many different ways that you can modify and upgrade a boat to meet your personal needs or tastes.

When my wife and I bought our first home I spent a couple years gutting and renovating it.  Over time I learned all types of new skills and took pride in the work I completed.  When we sold it I never thought I would want to do that type of work again but as time has passed I have started to miss acquiring new skills, working with my hands, and completing projects.

This sailboat provides the opportunity to do just that.  Within a week of owning her I already had a project list with 100 items on it and it continues to grow.  Slowly I can chip away at these projects in my free time.  Each of them will require me to research and learn a little more about fiberglass repair, electrical systems, or rigging for example.  It is almost like I am signing myself up for Boat-Building 101.

I love our pocket cruiser

When I considered our new life in San Francisco I imagined taking my family gunkholing all around the Bay area and continuing to challenge myself learning new skills and tackling projects.  Both of these activities make me happy and are aligned with my overall life goals.  The more I thought about it the more I realized that I wanted to keep the boat.  Sure, we could have sold her and bought a new boat in San Francisco (I hear they do a little sailing out there), but the truth is that we have become attached to her.  We have those new boat cushions, have already had some great adventures with her, and as my wife likes to joke, “she has been in our family for generations.”

Once the decision was made to keep her, the only thing left to figure out was how to transport her.  We considered having her shipped on a flatbed truck, but after receiving multiple quotes that were more expensive than the entire boat, we realized that the only viable option was to pull the trailer 3,000 miles across the country.  Since I now knew how little I knew about trailers I started researching online what the risks were in driving that far and how I could mitigate them through maintenance and preparation.

Right now I am in the middle of rebuilding the entire trailer: tires, springs, and bearings.  I am also building a kit of spare parts and tools which will allow me to service the most common failure modes.  When I leave for this trip in a couple weeks the trailer will be in much better condition and I will be much better prepared if something goes wrong than when we drove to Maine.

While I won’t be bringing my family with me for most of the trip (can you imagine driving 3,000 miles with a toddler and a baby?!) I will be meeting them in Las Vegas and driving the last leg of the trip with the entire family.  Between learning about and rebuilding the trailer and the upcoming adventure of towing it across the country our little pocket cruiser is already delivering on its promise.


If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Damn It Feels Good to be a Daddy
Kelly and Jake: Our Dating Story
My Baby’s Momma is a Badass


Posted in: Personal