Monday, October 1, 2012

Numbers on my first year cruising

[Added an update toward the end: Oct 13/2012]

I've been trying to think how I can summarize my first year away sailing here and there and have been having a hard time.  "It was awesome!"  "It was a good time!"  "It was engaging and interesting!"  The year was a mixture of all of those but they don't really capture the essence of the year.  So rather than wait for inspiration to hit, as it hasn't so far, I thought I would post a bunch of numbers on the year and call that good so I can move along to blog posts about projects.  If you really want to know what a year of cruising is like...I encourage you to get out there and try it!

My first year:

It started on Sept 1st, 2011 and finished on August 14th, 2012 when I pulled into my current slip in Shilshole Marina, Seattle.  That was 349 days out.  Not quite a year.

I spent every single night on the boat during that time.

The important sailing dates are:
  • Sept 1st, 2011, left Seattle
  • Sept 5th, 2011, left Neah Bay heading south
  • Sept 15th, 2011, arrived in Drakes Bay (just north of San Francisco)
  • December 4th, 2011, entered Mexico
  • March 13th, 2012, left Mexico for Hawaii
  • April 1st, 2012, arrived in Hilo, Hawaii
  • July 14th, 2012, left Hawaii for Neah Bay
  • August 4th, 2012, arrived in Neah Bay
  • August 14th, 2012, arrived back in Seattle

During that time, I stopped 55 different times.  For 43 of those stops I was anchoring, for 8 I was entering a marina and for the remaining 4 I was on a mooring.

I spent 153 days at anchor, 83 days in a marina and 41 days on a mooring.  My longest stay at anchor was 20 days, in Hanalei Bay, Kaua'i, Hawaii.  My second longest stay at anchor was 16 days in Kane'ohe, O'ahu, Hawaii.  Of my 8 marina visits, my longest was 25 days in San Diego.  The next longest marina stay was 18 days in Costa Baja just outside La Paz, Mexico.  As for moorings, I spent 21 days on a mooring at Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii and 13 days on a mooring in Avalon in the Channel Islands.

One of the books I read before leaving talked about how cruisers spend up to 90% of their time at anchor (or in a marina, or moored - 90% not moving.)  When I read that I thought I would beat it by far, that I would be moving around all the time.  It turns out I was stopped for 277 days of my 349 which means I was stopped 80% of the time.  I could probably reduce that a little next time, but maybe not.  The point of the article was that when outfitting your boat not to forget comfort as you'll be spending a lot of time not sailing, just hanging out in your floating home.

Of all my days at anchor, at the time, I think I dragged anchor three times.  Now that I've been diving on my anchor and have learned more about how the rode swings as well as understanding my anchor alarm better (and its GPS antenna placement) I think one or maybe two of those times was a false call.

I moved where I was anchored due to another boat entering the anchorage after I had arrived and getting too close to me three times.  Its true that you can ask the other boat to move in this situation but: once was a single hander who fell asleep almost immediately after arriving; once was a boat I saw when I returned from a trip ashore and when I got back I felt immediately uncomfortable and I moved right away as that was faster (I came within 40' of the other boat as I raised anchor and moved); and the last time I forget the details but its often just easier to move myself.

I spent 60 days on passages, sailing.  11 after leaving Neah bay, 9 after leaving Ensenada, 19 after leaving Mexico and 21 after leaving Hawaii.  I sailed at night 63 nights.  The night sailing was the passage nights as well as 7 other single nights when moving along the various coasts.

I spent 1.5 days hove to in a gale.

The highest winds I experienced while away was roughly 37 knots (off the Oregon coast.)

I had the spinnaker up only three times.  There were days with light wind when I felt the sea state was too active for my to put the spinnaker up (such as when the wind falls off quickly after having been blowing strongly for a while, the waves take a while to fall off.)  I spent a lot of time with a single reef in my main, but have no numbers on this as I didn't log sail reefing all the time.  (I have since adopted a notation I use in my logbook to record the sail plan.)

I refilled my propane tank three times (San Diego, La Paz and Kane'ohe Hawaii.)  My main 20lb propane tank never ran out of propane on the trip, so for the entire year I have had my 10lb tank in reserve.

I ran the engine once during the year to charge my batteries, and that time only for one hour but bringing the charge from -152Ah to -96Ah.  This was off the coast of Mexico heading to Cabo San Lucas where it was cloudy for days on end with light wind.  It was also cloudy off the Washington and Oregon coasts, but it was windy enough that my wind generator contributed enough to keep the batteries charge high enough to not worry about.

I bought 135 gallons of diesel during the year.

I traveled something like 8000 nautical miles over the last year.

I kept rough track of the money I spent, without spending too much time on categories or detailing every purchase.  I don't know how much I spent on food for example as I would withdraw a wad of cash from an ATM every now and then and spend it on equipment, food, moorings, and whatnot until it ran out when I would go for a refill.  I spent $35,000 over the year.  My most expensive month was almost $7,000 dollars last November when I was in San Diego where I was in a marina for almost a month and I bought a bunch of equipment (such as a sextant, some machined parts, etc.)  The following month I spent around $900, as I had lockers bulging with food that I could live off for a while.  I kept my iPhone all year which I probably won't do next time.  I have private health insurance, storage lockers here in Seattle, an EarthClass mail account - my fixed monthly costs are around $700 (medical, iPhone, EarthClass, storage.)

I think I could live cheaper the next time I go out cruising.  However I may not want to.  I didn't rent any cars last year and therefore missed many sights on land that I couldn't get to easily.  I will probably spend less money on boat equipment the next time as I will probably leave Seattle next year with pretty much everything I could want on this boat.  As equipment ages I'll have to start worrying about maintenance.

A bit about the blog.  I've had almost 28,000 page views on the blog.  The most popular posts on my blog are:

  1. The post about the portlight replacement with 650 views
  2. The post detailing my first real list of outfitting on the boat with 125 views
  3. A post where I talk about sailing to and from Port Ludlow
  4. My first post where I talk about how I got here

If anybody can think of some number about the year I didn't mention, let me know what is missing and I'll see if I can find it and add it to the list above.

Anyway, like I was saying.  My first cruising year was awesome.  Really really fun.  You should try it.

Update Oct 13, 2012.

I had a request for some more data.  The first request was for the average speeds.  I calculated this data for my two offshore passages, the one from Mexico to Hawaii and then from Hawaii to Neah Bay.  I've used my daily runs for this calculation, which is simply the distance traveled over 24  hours from one point to another.  This is the distance in a straight line between two points which is not at all how I sailed.  This means all of these numbers are biased toward being conservative, the actual numbers would be greater by some unknown factor.

So from the table, my fastest day heading to Hawaii was 6.7 knots, average 5.5.  Fastest day heading to Neah Bay was 7.1, average 5.7.  The hull speed of a PSC 37 is 7.2 knots, so having an average of 7.1 is pretty speedy, that was a fast day!  I was very happy with the way Luckness performed on all of the passages and while coastal cruising.  She moves well in light air and handles stronger winds and swell gracefully.  Some of my favorite sailing times were while I was marveling at how I was moving along slowly in very light wind.

I was also asked about my most useful and least useful pieces of equipment.  This is a harder question to answer, although I have been asked it several times now.  My least useful piece of equipment may be the Interphase forward looking sonar I had installed, but that might start being useful when I get to the South Pacific so I'm not taking it out now.  I have many pieces of equipment which I consider most useful.  An offshore cruising boat is a large system, in order for the boat to work well offshore all of the related pieces of equipment need to work well together.  I love my new dodger (made by Iversons) but I wouldn't say that was more useful than my new Hasse sails.  My watermaker was very useful during  my trip, but its hard to compare its usefulness to my SSB, solar panels, wind generator or AIS.  I'm going to largely punt on this question for now...

Under the category of frequent repairs I would put general upkeep such as varnishing, waxing and polishing.  I renewed the varnish on my boat twice while away and once more when I got back to Seattle.  Its just something you need to do every now and then, hopefully before the existing varnish fails so that adding a new coat is easy.  I waxed the boat in California but not again until I got back and it showed.  When it came to wax the hull again I had to compound to remove some oxidization which was unfortunate (as its more work and hard on the gel coat.)  I was surprised how often I had to remove the rust from the stainless steel.  As the boat was in Seattle for a few year, the stainless needed very little attention.  However once you get away from a dock (where you can wash the salt water off the boat after having been out) and away from the rain all of the stainless steel just starts to rust slowly.  I bought a bottle of Bright Boy metal polish and would occasionally go around and remove the rust and polish the metal.  This was also a good opportunity to inspect all the metal for fatigue or anything unusual (which was a tip Dave M. of Swan passed along.)

The other frequent repair I had was to my head.  Before I left I rebuilt my Grocko K head and replaced all of the hose.  I didn't rebuilt the Grocko properly and ended up doing it two more times during my trip before I got it right.  This was good practice in a way...  When I first rebuilt the head in Seattle I modified a panel slightly to make maintenance easier in the future.  This proved very useful as I could then work on the head easily while at anchor.  I like the Grocko K and think after my last rebuild it should be good for a while.  Unfortunately while I was in Hawaii before leaving on my passage, while I was moving the Y-valve in the head to send the black water offshore rather than into my holding tank I broke the Y-valve handle off.  So I need to replace that valve (with something stronger) and will probably end up replacing all the hose attached to it as getting the host off the fittings will involve cutting it off rather than pulling it off.  Oh well.


  1. Craig,
    I would be interested in knowing: average boat speed, most/least useful equipment, frequent repairs, favorite anchorages, interesting encounters at sea, memorable moments, interesting people, lessons learned, etc.
    Jay Bowden
    Little Lara
    Dana 306

  2. Hi Jay. I've updated the blog to add some more data, but haven't found the time yet to add things like favorite anchorage, people, places, etc. I may never get to that! I met many people along the way - it was one of the great things about the year. It was something I had read about before 'heading out' and it turned out to be true - the people you meet is one of the great things about the cruising lifestyle. Besides...this is mostly a 'numbers' post. If you have any more numbers you can think of, let me know!

    I hope to see you 'out there'.

  3. Craig,
    Thanks for the reply. I have enjoyed your blog and recognize it as mostly a numbers post, yet I have found all your comments to be most interesting. I really appreciate you allowing me to tag along as a "stowaway" on your voyage. My wife and I did the Baja Ha Ha in 2009, visiting many of the same places you visited during your trip. I have the same boat as Sockdolager (Pacific Seacraft Dana 24) and periodically communicate with Karen and Jim. I met them when they came through San Francisco. Perhaps during your next voyage you will consider stopping for a few days in the bay area. When do you plan on leaving? Is the South Pacific in your agenda?
    Jay Bowden
    Little Lara
    Dana 306

  4. Hi Jay. I like Dana 24's! Having spent some time on Sockdolager it was always surprising how much goodness Jim and Karen have packed into that boat. They spent a lot of time before leaving getting her ready of course, but the boat is dialed in. Its fun stowing away on their blog watching them on their travels - now that I can no longer do it in person, unless I find a way to catch up with them over the next few years... I do plan on leaving next summer to repeat the first part of my last voyage (California, Mexico) and then head to the South Pacific and New Zealand. I have no public plans beyond that, its really too far out to be planning, I've learned to allow for changes along the way. I do hope to stop into the Bay area this trip, it would be good to meet over a brew! Oh also - I have an email address on the front of my blog that works: