So one time I moved on to a sailboat, lived on it for a year, learned sailing from friends, and ended up doing a 17-day solo sailing trip from Seattle up to the San Juan Islands and back. There are lots of sailing books, blogs, and videos out there. I never truly enjoyed any of those things until I went on my own sailing trip. Everyone's stories are too long! After going on my own trip now I'm eager to pick through those stories to find out where people went, how they balanced sleeping and sailing, how much they motored or sailed, and I'm especially interested in how they cooked and what they ate! Let me clue you in briefly about where I sailed, how I got around and show off some of what I ate.
Here's the first fun thing about my journey: I'm a total amateur sailor! I have a simple boater's safety card but I haven't taken any fancy classes. It is my general opinion that sailing classes are too expensive and too vocabulary oriented. Perhaps one day I'll seek official American Sailing Association accredidations. I don't see the need to do that yet.
So, back in 2019 I was living in a studio apartment. I liked it there. I had enough space for myself and the spot was in a good location. But then Spring began and I started to see lots of friends move around. People were moving in to some great places! I had lived in my unit for a year and I started to think maybe I should shop around and see what else is out there. Perhaps I'd find something better!
Around the same time I was casually seeking a new apartment a friend was coming in to town. Our plan was to catch up over breakfast.
My friend recently told me Voula's Offshore Cafe is a great place, on the north side of Lake Union, basically right under I-5 on the east side. We decided to eat there, I rode my bike over, we caught up, loved the place, had a great time, parted ways and I ended up taking myself for a bike ride to start to fill up the rest of my Saturday. I went west from Voula's along North Northlake Way on the street north of the lake on the way to Gas Works. Right before Gas Works I rode past a cute marina I'd never noticed before: Gas Works Park Marina. I dipped in with my bike, cruised to the water between two docks and looked at all the cool sailboats and houseboats lined up together making a stunning floating alley way back out to the lake. Little did I know I'd go on to see many other people do the same as I was doing then, stopping as they pass through the area to take in the sight.
I finished my bike ride, got home and hopped on craigslist to check out apartments. Lo and behold there was a blip on the map view listing an apartment on what looked to be floating on the water right by Gas Works. What the heck. I cliked through and was surprised to see it was totally a listing for a sailboat in the marina I had stopped to check out! I emailed a response to the ad and found out there was an opening house the next day.
The opening house was straight forward. It was open from 2-4PM. I showed up on time (for once in my goddamn life) and stayed chit-chatting until the end. You got to to put some face in to win this kind of arrangement. Face, and beer and wine too. Mel had set up wine and cheese for everyone coming to check out the boat. A decent amount of people showed up! I remember two girls, a couple, an older guy, and another guy my age but he was really tall (so not the best fit for a boat this size). It was a midly competitive environment. Mildly and oddly competitive, really. In this sort of situation everyone has to preen their feathers a bit in not-an-asshole-way so show that you are a friendly, cool, responsible, but-also-kind-of-maybe-partying-every-now-and-then-haha-i-dunno, person that the boat owner is going to feel proud giving their boat on to you, and showing that you'll be a good addition to the marina. Anways, my plan was to hang out, drink some beers I brought, drink some wine and eat some cheese Mel provided and let her figure out who was a good fit. Also I brought some cash and a checkbook. Now that's just showbiz baybe.
I got the boat! Woohoo! We made arrangements to meet later at the DMV and transfer everyhing over (a healthy habit I really need to get better at following through with with these junk cars I'm currently piling up).
There's two kinds of ways to store boats in a marina: you either live on the boat full-time, or you do not. Most marinas do not allow owners to live aboard their boats at all. Some marinas allow owners to stay on their boat perhaps up to 14 days at a time. It is rare to find a marina that's designed and allows people to live aboard their boats as their primary residence.
There "live aboard" slips are extremely hard to find in Seattle. Marinas have literally years-long wait lists for anyone trying to move in and live aboard.
Why the stringent "live-on" restriction? I'm not sure. Maybe insurance reasons? Or maybe not all marinas want to provide showers and services for tenants? I'm really not sure. What I am sure about is it is a hard thing to get and when you get it you should hold on to it! In my case I didn't have to wait in a line because I dealt directly with Mel who owned Pepper Ann, and Mel interacted with our "Sea Lord" directly and Mel was able to orchestrate a clean hand off between theirself and me. In our case our Sea Lord owns the slip and just wants to make sure someone good is making use of the slip.
An aside: there's something ongoing in present-day 2021 Seattle I've heard of where similar permits for houseboats has been drastically undercut. The short story is houseboats must meet certain building requirements. This makes sense. But the city isn't doing a good job investigating whether houseboats meet these requirements. Since the city isn't checking these requirements in an efficient way it is causing lots of houseboats to not meet certification and their losing their right to exist as a houseboat. Or something. I just know it is a mess. And come on Seattle. Get it together. Don't take away housing!
Another aside: there's rules about where boats are allowed to anchor in the city too. Basically boats aren't allowed to anchor anywhere. OK, there's one spot, Andrew's Bay, by Seward Park where you can see boats anchored up. This is literally the ony place boats are allowed to set anchor in the city.
I read up about why boats aren't allowed to anchor before. I found a great historical explanation once but I haven't been able to look it up again. Here's what I remember:
So there's your unsophisticated and probably entirely unfactual account of living on the water here in Seattle.
A cool Jeopardy! question is "This number is spelled with the same number of letters as the number itself." But the problem with Jeopardy! as a game concept is it is extremely flawed. If you asked someone, "what is 4?" and they started talking about the number of letters in spelling "four" that's actually a terrible answer to your question. So the whole game is deeply flawed, based on a terrible premise.
Do you know what other number has four letters in it? Zero. I mean, the number "zero." Well that's how much sailing experience I had prior to purchasing and deciding to live on this boat! (zero experience, not four experience, in case I lost you on the Jeopardy! tangent, sorry.)
I kept my plan to move on to the boat a secret so far. It is bad luck to talk a lot about stuff before things are set in stone.
A few days later I met with friends at a bar in Eastlake for a trivia night we had been going to. Josh was there, Michael was there and Owen was there. Josh, Michael and I were kicking it at the bar and Owen showed up later. I started showing Josh and Michael this craigslist ad about the boat and asking, "Wouldn't it be cool to move in and live on this?" They both said basically, "No way man! Way to tiny." And then I conceded, "Well, I actually alreay bought it, so it is defintiely happening." And then, haha, of course they admitted ok yeah it is kind of cool. Owen and I essentially had the same conversation when he arrived, asking him in general what he thought and then revealing I'd already bought it.
Owen is the only person I knew at this time with any sailing experience. He had said before that sailing is easy. He confirmed that again and got stoked to take the boat out and show me what sailing is all about.
He was right! Sailing is easy!
We proceeded to have a great night at trivia. We got first or second place. Our server was kind enough to let us keep out empty beers as we drank and we built this pyramid which we were very proud of.
Cheers to sailing! Cheers to Jeopardy! Cheers to friends! Cheers to never taking a sailing class! Cheers to beer!
Pepper Ann is the first boat I bought. She's a 1970-something KGO Coronado 25. She got me in to the slip. I've recently sold her to another deserving individual who will move in to my slip once I leave soon. I'm especially excited that Pepper Ann gets to move back in her home slip and someone else gets a chance to live live aboard live in this marina.
I lived on Pepper Ann for a while. We had great times living in the slip, sailing around Lake Union, sailing into Lake Washington, going through the locks and visiting Blake Island and all that. I truly love the boat and to this day believe she steers better than Moonraker.
A funny phenomenom happens when friends come out on the boat. First you hear them talk about how much they want to live on a boat. Then you start catching them looking at craigslist. My friend Luke was scrolling craigslist and found an incredible deal on another boat. He clued me in and advised me I ought to really consider upgrading. I wasn't immediately keen. Eventually it made sense and I pulled the trigger.
The second boat is a very cool custom-built 26' yellow boat named "Windsong." I really need to get around to renaming it "Moonraker." (I'm a sucker for anything moon. Lucky my "moonraker" is also a nautical term for the tiny tippy toppy sail at the top of old stlye many-sail ships.) Windsong is generally a better vessel than Pepper Ann because it has electronics, a self-furling front "jib" sail, and a slightly more spacious interior cabin. And it is yellow which is totally fresh-looking. Also, again, it is custom made. I'm the third owner. I've called the (Gary Vancy) that designed it. The boat came with hand-drawn blueprints. How cool is that? I still need to frame those. Furthermore, I've just so happened to have ran in to one of the five-total sister ships from the same custom batch. Someone had their sailboat moored in Elliot Bay Marina when I happened to walk past. We talked and met up another day for beers. The captain of that ship had all sorts of old-school sailing experience including crewing the sister-ship of the ship on the Canadian dime, the Bluenose.
OK, now that I've explained that I switched from a red boat to a yellow boat I can tell you about food on the ship.
Oh goodness I'm hungry just writing this.
Eating on a boat can be great! If you plan right you can eat as well (or as terribly) as you eat at home. Moonraker has some electrical equipment that only works when the boat is docked and plugged in to power coming from the land ("shore power"). I eat simple sandwiches and dry snacks while underway or tied off on a buoy, and I the boat has the capacity to make fancier meals if I'm tied off and plugged in at a dock in a marina.
Here's what Moonraker has:
I didn't always have that fresh water tank hooked up in the boat. The boat maintenance guidelines that came with the boat suggested putting bleach in the bag to clean it out, let it sit, fill it up and rinse it all out before using it and that was enough to have me procrastinate on the chore for too long. Of course the job was way too easy to do once I got around to it. And it was so convenient to have fresh water available at the press of a button. Before I cleaned and filled the fresh water tank I took time to manually keep smaller one gallon water jugs full. What an idiot I was.
Once I got water figured out (and I figured that out before I went underway for a serious long trip!) it would take me some time to realize the next best thing to have sailing: instant coffee mix, and powdered milk! These are things I still keep around my house even off the boat because they're so handy in a pinch. I can keep proper milk fresh for some time in a fridge or a cooler or the insulated cabinets with dry ice, but eventually I'm either going to run out of milk or it will have gone baḋ. That's when it is nice to have powered milk to mix up with water and bingo bango your cheerio breakfast isn't totally ruined. Same with instant coffee. Mix it with water and you're zest up ready to go.
I always ate the best pulling in to town, because I'd go to a bar or restaurant to treat myself, and leaving town because I can bring something disposable aboard and use it immediately.
Here's my favorite things to eat:
And here's just a bunch of pictures of food. Please notice the cute cat pictures of Morty just being an absolute champ and a gem eating at different spots on the boat.
Funny pictures include:
That's all I've got for now. I'll write more about moving around next time!