Later Magazine: Amateurs at Sea

Later Magazine: Amateurs at Sea

Our first sailing related article, "Amateurs at Sea" has been published in Later Mag's most recent issue.

Later is a surf and travel magazine that tops our list of favourites to read cover to cover, so we were excited to be able to contribute to this issue with a story about buying our first boat in Florida and sailing to Mexico.

The magazine is free and available at a list of locations you can find here within Canada, the States and internationally.

Thanks to our friend Eric Greene over at Later for this one! Click read more below to read the entire article.

Sunrise at Sea in the Gulf of Mexico

Katy put some words down about our recent trip from Florida to Mexico. Specifically about this one day that was pretty special out there. Here they are...



This photo was taken on our way to Key West, alone in the Gulf of Mexico with no land or other boats in sight. It's hard to describe how magical that morning was, but I can try.

We awoke for our 4am shift to layers upon layers of stars twinkling in the sky. The moon was nowhere in sight. I don't know if I've ever seen so many stars at once. We were so far away from even the smallest hint of light from land, with countless shooting stars zipping through the sky.

The water was like glass, smoother than any bathtub. It looked like we were in outer space with the reflection of the stars on the water, not knowing where the sky ended and the ocean began. As our boat cut through the water, phosphorescence lit up in its wake. I took a paddle and dragged it through the water for the better part of an hour stirring up more of them, mesmerized by the beauty of it all.

And then came sunrise. We saw a few dolphins playing in the distance as the stars started to disappear and the sky became brighter. Later in the crossing, a pod of about 40 spinner dolphins came to play at the bow of our boat for almost half an hour, jumping straight up out of the water, spinning and splashing back down, showing off.

As the sun rose higher in the sky we noticed we were passing several huge jellyfish as big as your head, floating in the glassy water. We ended up passing through hundreds, maybe thousands of them. We just sat on the side of the boat and watched them pass by as the sky became more colourful and the sun rose higher off the horizon.

We had a baby. It's a boat.

Last month we bought a boat. A wonderful Morgan 321, designed by Ted Brewer. It was a bit longer of a process than how simple and declarative that sentence is, but that was the result. We bought a boat. It was a well thought out period of research, hard work, saving and more of the above, repeated. 

There will be some posts coming up where we outline some specifics for those of you who are considering the same, or have even done so yourselves. We have detailed documents and spreadsheets that will be worth sharing about the costs and time it takes to complete a project like this, because buying a boat is a serious project as much as it may simply be seen as some kind of dream realized.

Our boat, Edward Blair, came almost completely bare bones. We had the functioning parts you want to see in a purchase like the obvious, sails, lines, a successful sea trial and survey, autopilot, depth sounder, compass and all the top list checkpoints. What it didn’t have was anything else. No safety gear, no kitchenware, tools, cleaning supplies, a few dock lines, two old fenders, nothing, forget even mentioning provisioning for food and survival offshore. Empty everywhere. What it was without wasn't a problem. The boat was perfect and in mostly turnkey condition.

A big question in cruiser forums from those looking to buy their first sailboat is, “How much does it cost to get a boat ready for cruising and living aboard?” We have a good answer for a relatively common size range, because we just did it from the ground up. So from what we have, you’d be able to subtract what your potential new boat may have, and what you’d have to buy. We have links to the products we bought, reviews, pictures and more. 

Life is just a bit busy now getting back to reality after two months of hotels and travel to get Edward Blair into offshore condition. When moments become available, so will posts with details.

We took E.B. from Apollo Beach in Florida down to Palmetto where we lived for a month doing some relatively extensive engine work, outfitting and preparations. After our time in Palmetto was complete and it was time to get going, we sailed south over 620 nautical miles along Florida in the Gulf of Mexico through to Key West to refuel and restock, out to Dry Tortugas and south to Cuba’s coast where we headed west across the Yucatan Channel into Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

We’ve been in Isla Mujeres for over a week now, and plan to head north to Isla Contoy before turning back south to Puerto Aventuras where the boat will live as a more permanent fixture, exploring the Mayan Riviera of Mexico before another big adventure next year.

Crossing offshore waters in a 32’ boat might not be so bad if the conditions are right, but crossing them in this Morgan was especially comfortable given its design and ability to work both as a coastal cruiser and relatively sound offshore ship. While it may not be your best bet for a major ocean crossing, a week at sea was nothing but proof of Ted Brewer’s sound design in cutting 10’ swells through the Yucatan Channel and challenges of getting knocked sideways across the Gulf Stream. We did mostly have smooth sailing, but we saw some worthy challenges.

So, last month we bought a boat, and the fear inducing saying, “The two best days in a sailor’s life are the day (s)he buys a boat and the day (s)he sells it,” couldn’t be further from the truth. Each day seems to get better as does our understanding of the scope of work involved and the desire to keep improving the boat and our own skill set, which already feels like the strong beginning of a lifelong commitment to something as special as sailing wherever you can point your bow.

Sailing The Sea of Cortez

Part of a Story

While at sea for days on end, you quickly accept that your schedule is to be arranged by the sun. At first light, you’re alive and on deck watching it rise with a small breakfast before lifting anchor and on through the next passage. After sunset, you can survive a bit with drinks and the moonlight, but with a day of sun, sailing and labour, the reset button becomes your closest friend.

Through the week we sailed north past Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. We anchored in the quiet, protected bays of Ensenada del Candelero, Ensenada Grande and past the sea lions of Los Islotes on a passage to The Hook on Isla San Francisco.

At nights alone, after the sun and food and wine had put the others to bed, we’d lay on the bow, staring up the mast into the full moon. We'd think of a whole world, somewhere out there going on without us. Like playing hooky from school, you know the classes go on, but you don’t care.

Somewhere far away that you couldn’t see or really even imagine, things were happening. Clocks were being punched, taxes were being paid, and we belonged to none of it.

* * *

Read the full version of our On The Road post for Lifetime Collective here.

“It would be good to live in a perpetual state of leave-taking, never to go nor to stay, but to remain suspended in that golden emotion of love and longing; to be loved without satiety.”
— John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

The Certification

It's been a long standing goal of ours to get onto the water in a proper manner. Sure, we love days spent at the beach swimming in and around the Caribbean, but from there you’re simply visiting. You’re not really a part of it.

In certain locations you can volunteer in regattas, you can head out with friends that may have connections. Rent lasers, take courses. Plenty of opportunities in many places. Not as much where we are located in the Mayan Riviera. Limited sailboats along the coast, zero instruction to be seen and a regatta once a year around Cozumel don't exactly lend themselves to accelerating towards your dream.

So began the search for some type of accreditation. Some type of instruction where we didn't have to be away from work, home and our functioning lives for too long. Through Taru and Alex at World Tour Stories, we heard of Nautilus Sailing. A company that does live aboard courses to certify the likes of us through to ASA 101, 103 and 104. Ours was a seven day live and work adventure through the Sea of Cortez that ended in us having ASA certified signatures as captains.

True, it is hard to believe you could become a captain after only seven days at sea. But it is also true that any goal could only stand to become what you make of it. We studied ahead of time for months. Reading the required three textbooks before even stepping aboard, and even covering two or three other text books, among those a several hundred page guide solely dedicated to wind and trim.

We also worked on fundamentals, mostly on Hobie Cats at the beach next to our house. Hobies may seem like a subpar vessel selection to tourists who'd rather jet ski across your bow or be towed behind a panga while parasailing. In reality, they are great in the purest sense of fundamentals. No large boat will have the feel of wind and wave like sitting in a little Hobie 16', one foot above the blue Caribbean Sea. Trial and error on the Hobie, going home reading, going back out, was a solid foundation for us.

The course with Tim from Nautilus was something special. Before, during and even since, Tim has put up with my inquiring nature. I ask a lot of questions and may or may not write long, drawn out emails. Once we sat with Tim at Marina Palmira, meeting for the first time in person, we got along.

After a week at sea with someone, you get to know them about as well as you could. Condensed living quarters, 24 hours a day together. It's a recipe for familiarity. In the time spent with Tim, I know we are now all friends, and along with the certification, that's one of the most important things you can gain during a week like that.

After the written exams were completed, the practical skills were approved and it was time to step off Journey, the 42’ Catalina, both Katy and I actually felt a genuine sense of sadness. Not yet. We’re not ready to stop yet. It turns out that sadness might have just been Mal de Debarquement, land sickness, which stuck with us for four days, maybe five. If you have never had land sickness after being at sea for an extended period of time, basically the world becomes a washing machine for days. We’d wake up in a hotel room, sure we were rocking in high seas, only to open the blinds to a stable horizon. 

Mal de Debarquement is the nauseating brother of better days at sea. When it was finally gone, we could at least temporarily put great adventure behind us and get back to reality.

What’s next? Get back to sea as soon as possible. A few days from now sounds about right.

If these photos look good to you, which is likely for anyone with blood in their veins, and you find that sailing might be the life for you, please put down everything and talk to our new friend Tim at Nautilus. Maybe, not only will you end up with an entirely new skill set, but it just might change your life.

Herschel Supply Co. Well Travelled: A trip to Valladolid, Mexico

A city of freshly painted colonial buildings, sitting next to those that aren’t.

A trip of ours to the Mexican colonial city of Valladolid was recently featured in Herschel Supply Co.'s magazine, The Journal. For the full story and photography, grab a copy of The Journal at your local Herschel retailer or go visit Herschel's blog for the digital version.

Thanks to the team over at Herschel for featuring that lovely little city. If you have the opportunity to head to Valladolid, do what it takes to get there. You won't be disappointed. Unless maybe you hate interesting architecture, history, incredible food, sunshine and beer.

Click the thumbnails below to see a few extra images that weren't featured on the Herschel blog. Left and right keys to navigate.