Ready, set, sail: Countdown to cruising

Today is Friday, August 1st. It is 8:29 pm and the sun is slowly ducking behind the Olympic Mountains. Miss Sassy Strings, our trusty dinghy, is happily bobbing between the dock and our hull, leaving the bow of The Red Thread open and welcoming; a perfect seat. The Grand Banks trawler in our neighbor slip to the north is abuzz with laughter and cheerful conversation as dusk settles in for the evening. Across the canal, two sailors are sharing conversation from their respective cockpits, sundowners in hand. A large speedboat is creeping slowly past the breakwater toward her slip. I hear the squeaky wheels of a well-used dock cart, full of provisions for a boat surely itching for her weekend to really begin. The echo of a jet lingers in the air, and seagulls soar effortlessly through the sky. A fingernail moon is suspended over a bed of low-hanging puffy clouds of violet, peach, and pink. I’m still wearing shorts and my arms are bare, but I can feel the chill of a Seattle summer night about to envelope me. I feel such great affection for this city, and each moment feels increasingly precious as our time to depart grows near. My spot on the bow is the perfect place to relish moments like these.IMG_0108_Seattle in summer

We’ve alluded many times that we have a plan to set sail from Seattle, and it feels like the right time to share more details about the dream Neil and I are chasing. On October 1st, two months from today (and hopefully a day or two earlier, gulp), we will cut the dock lines for the very first time. Setting out on an adventure of this scale is truly a first for the two of us, but we have the blessing of a boat who is no stranger to large oceans and epic sails. Before she became ours, she sailed over 40,000 miles around the Pacific Ocean with the Maddox family. We now have the honor of taking her back to places she visited in years gone by and to introducing her to new destinations. We have the responsibility of continuing to write the story of the The Red Thread. We feel certain that the juxtaposition of past and present will be one of the treasures of our journey.

For those among you whose general mode of traveling is not by boat, I preface the description of the voyage we’re laughingly calling our South Pacific Stitch with a quote that is often tossed around in stories among cruisers. Okay, so I’m not really joking about South Pacific Stitch…I made t-shirts. Back to the quote: “Cruisers’ plans are written in the sand at low tide.” The take-home message is that plans can change, sometimes quickly. We’re realistic enough to know that we may indeed need to modify our route for the sake of safety (e.g., weather windows) or other factors (e.g., money, time), but shoot-for-the-stars-idealistic enough that we will work our tails off to try and follow the path we’ve outlined.

South Pacific Stitch: Our ideal route from Seattle to Oz

We plan to depart Seattle, with our first major port being San Francisco. We’re well aware that we are leaving late in the season. We’ve met sailors who left in the middle of December and had an excellent passage and others who set forth in August, the recommended time, and experienced miserable weather all the way to California. We’ll watch for a solid weather window from the safety of Neah Bay, the westernmost safe harbor in Washington, before making the big blue jump.

South Pacific Stitch Logo_FINALWe plan to spend a week or two in San Francisco and then will continue our bounce down the west coast of the US. We plan to stop in Santa Barbara, before visiting the Channel Islands and Catalina Island en route to San Diego, our final port in the US.

After clearing customs in Ensenada, Mexico, our floating home will continue down Baja California and through Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, before we traverse the Sea of Cortez, likely to Mazatlan, and continue our southbound trek through Mexico and the colorful countries of Central America. We’ll sail as far south as Panama and then will begin our journey west, with our last stop in the Americas being Ecuador and, hopefully (fingers crossed), the Galapagos Islands.

Although most sailors heading toward the South Pacific complete the major crossing (i.e., “the puddle jump”) to the Marquesas from Banderas Bay, Mexico, we want to take the road less traveled. We have our eyes set on Easter Island, the most remote inhabited island in the world and one of The Red Thread’s prior ports of call. Selecting this route means that we will miss the Marquesas altogether, but journeys of this nature are about making tradeoffs. Our big crossing will likely take place in March 2015. From Easter Island, we will sail to Pitcairn and then to French Polynesia and a number of the other countries in the South Pacific, including, Fiji, Niue, and Tonga. We’re especially excited to visit Vanuatu!

Our aim is to make landfall in Australia just before the 2015 cyclone season, likely near Brisbane. Only time will tell what the land down under holds in store for us…

This is really happening.

There are certain moments that have really solidified for me that we are indeed doing this…like the meeting when I nervously told my mentor that our “plan” was to sail to the other side of the world after my contract ended, rather than going on the job market; or the moment we opened a box of courtesy flags for Central America, a wedding gift from the Maddox family; or the days when shipments of medical supplies arrived from after I completed a medical first aid at sea course. Neil felt similarly during his bachelor party in Cabo San Lucas last year when he stared at the ocean in anticipation, knowing that we would introduce The Red Thread to those waters; and when we sailed the west coast of Vancouver Island on our honeymoon, our first taste of blue water sailing. The act of writing this post is yet another symbol that the adventure we’ve been dreaming and scheming about is really coming to life; we are going to make it happen. I feel proud that we are working so diligently to chase this dream.

As is to be expected, the dwindling days are going by faster and faster with each passing wake-up. We work on improving our skills and crossing things off our to-do list, and I find myself suspended between a dream state wherein this doesn’t feel quite real and wide awake overcome with emotions that we are making this dream a reality. Two months. Only two months until our South Pacific Stitch kicks off!

IMG_2481_Mt Rainier

18 thoughts on “Ready, set, sail: Countdown to cruising

  1. Oh my goodness I am so excited for you and this makes me just itch to get going! We still have responsibilities that keep us tied to the dock for a couple more years, unless life changes that. You are so smart to do this now. You are taking the route we want to take, although our plan is to sail offshore down to Mexico rather than doing the coastal hops. Who knows? that could change, too. But, as is evident from the name of our boat, S/V Galapagos, that and Easter island are my complete ‘bucket list’ at this point. I look forward to following your journey and wish you fair winds!


    • We have loved watching as you readied s/v Galapagos for her journey from OR to WA and can’t wait to see what is ahead for YOU! If our voyage helps to kindle someone else’s fire, even a little bit, to chase their dreams, that would be an unanticipated (and wonderful) gift of sharing our tales. On that note, we’d love to meet you before you go. Any plans of sailing near Seattle or the San Juans? ~Jessie


      • Yes! We are planning to do a two week cruise at the end of the summer or in September. Perhaps we could meet up at an anchorage during our cruise. That would be lovely.


      • That would be awesome! Blakely Harbor and Eagle Harbor (both on Bainbridge Island) are great anchorages and only about an hour from us. We could even swing an evening there on a weekday, if that was convenient for you two. ~Jessie


  2. After reading this latest entry two main emotions come across from your writing as the D-Day of your epic adventure & journey you are about to undertake approaches….extreme excitedness tempered with nervousness. All great writers transfer those emotions to their readers so that they feel the same and are in essence along for the ride…you’ve done this successfully as I now find myself both very excited and nervous for you both too. Whenever I’ve felt both of those emotions at the same time for anything I’ve been about to do in my life, it has proven time and again in retrospect to be an emotional compass validating I indeed was making the right choice which would result in having a life changing experience and/or experiencing the most personal growth. Two things you are undoubtedly destined to gain from your sail around the world.

    I’m looking forward to traveling along with you both and experiencing a range of emotions from your writings over the course of your journey, so please continue to write all you experience and share your thoughts…good and bad, so we cheer on our main characters in this story…Neil & Jessica and can commiserate the trials & celebrate the tribulations with you both! 🙂


    • Fest, thank you so much for your kind words about our plan and my writing. I really appreciate both. Your statement, “…an emotional compass validating I indeed was making the right choice…” resonates with me. It’s times like this that I feel thankful I learned fairly early in my life to trust my gut, my emotional compass.The type of anxiety we are experiencing right now is the kind that mobilizes us to action to prepare ourselves for this epic adventure, rather than paralyzes us in fear. We’re REALLY doing this! I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to chase the sun with my love and am grateful that we have friends like you along with us. ~Jess


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    • Thanks, Ellen! Time is whizzing by in a way that is both exciting and frightening…so many i’s to dot and t’s to cross before we leave! I’m excited to follow you as you find your forever boat (wherever it may be…) and set out to some of the locations on the list you shared recently. ~Jessie


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