OK, so a little bit about us. We met in 2009. Kate was living in her hometown of Scandia, MN and working in accounting and HR for a telecommunications contractor. Pat had recently moved to Minneapolis, and was working as a software developer for an engineering company. When we first met, we had no inkling that we would one day depart on a 3000 mile sailing journey. But in less than 2 months, we will be doing just that!
Our first years
When we first met, we lived about 70 miles apart, but worked only about 20 miles apart. We would meet after work once or twice a week, and spend time together on weekends. After a couple years of doing this, we decided to buy a home together, and found a nice condo in Eden Prairie, MN. We are still there today. We also became engaged a couple years ago but have not yet set a date.
While we were dating, we talked a little of sailing. Pat had owned a MacGregor 26 for several years, and had sailed a few times on Lake Superior and Puget Sound. Kate had never sailed before, but expressed an interest to try it. So we drove to Bayfield, WI, and went on a 2 hour sailboat ride with Dreamcatcher Sailing. She liked it, so we did another on Lake Pepin with Sail Pepin. After one more sail with Dreamcatcher, and another with Sail Pepin, we knew we were going to buy a boat. But we weren’t quite ready yet…
Before we bought anything, we both thought it prudent to get some additional instruction. After we looked at the options, the choice was clear: ASA certification. The ASA (American Sailing Association), a well-known and respected organization, offers several courses in sailing and cruising. We contacted Northern Breezes Sailing School, a local ASA certified training center in Minneapolis, and registered for three courses: ASA-101, 103, & 104.
ASA-101, Basic Keelboat Sailing, is their introductory course. It covers basic terminology, US Coast Guard rules and regulations, aids to navigation (buoys, lights, beacons, etc…), safety gear and equipment, safety procedures, and tying basic knots. It culminates in two days of hands-on instruction followed by a written exam. Once successfully completed, one should be able to safely sail a boat, in daylight, up to 27′. It required a lot of study, but we both thought the course was relatively easy and passed with no problems. The next two, however, were a different animal altogether.
ASA-103 & 104
ASA 103 & 104, Basic Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Cruising, are quite similar, and are sometimes combined together into a single instructional course. Ours was a combined course. Similar to ASA-101, they have a textbook and a hands-on component. They cover topics like navigation & weather, seamanship, leaving & returning to dock, anchoring, provisioning, and emergency situations. Upon successful completion of these courses, you become certified to operate and charter a sailboat up to 45′, anywhere in the US. Our course was held for 3 full days on Lake Superior, and it was a grueling experience. As per Pat: “it was the most difficult thing I have done in my life, next to basic training”.
Our instructor, Vicki, was incredibly tough and extremely demanding. For 3 days, we were up at dawn, and didn’t finish instruction until well after dark. There were 4 of us in the course, and each of us had to practice each topic until it met with Vicki’s satisfaction. We practiced leaving and returning to the dock, man overboard drills, and navigation skills. We sailed on all points of the wind and practiced heaving-to dozens of times. And we anchored (and pulled up anchor) more times than we can remember. It was a brutal 3 days, but we both passed!
Looking back on our experience, as hard as it was, we feel incredibly lucky that we had Vicki as our instructor. We learned more than we could have imagined, and because of our experience with her, we both felt prepared for our next step: buying a boat.
After our ASA courses, we started shopping for boats. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds (as anyone who has ever shopped for boats can tell you). The choices and compromises seemed endless. After months of contemplation, we finally settled on the primary features: full-keeled, cutter-rigged, diesel engine, and (preferably) canoe-sterned. Our search began. We found Shanti (then named Norma Jean), a 35′ Young Sun cutter in Sister Bay, WI, and moved her to Roys Point, just outside of Bayfield, WI. We spent 5 years sailing The Apostle Islands of Lake Superior. You can read our other posts about our time at Roys Point Marina and cruising The Apostle Islands.
Even before we bought Shanti, we knew we wanted to eventually go on a long cruise. But we didn’t have the financial means, the experience, let alone a boat to do it in. After buying Shanti and a couple of years at Roys Point, our desire grew, but the ‘when’ remained unknown. We just kept saying ‘some day’. This past year (2016), several things fell in place, and we knew that 2017 was the year we could make the dream a reality. So, when 2017 arrived, we began the preparations for our big adventure. This May, we will depart from Washburn, WI on a 3,000 mile journey to Eastport, ME. We will cross 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, travel down the St. Lawrence River and out the St. Lawrence Seaway, sail through the Northumberland Strait and around Nova Scotia, to ultimately land in Maine.
The preparations have begun, and we are full steam ahead. We are finishing a bunch of projects on Shanti, getting her ready to go. Our condo has been rented and we are now hiring contractors for painting, carpet cleaning, etc… We are packing up our belongings and making trips to our newly rented storage unit. And we have both resigned from our jobs: our last day is April 14th. It’s both exciting and scary. The butterflies are flying rampant in our stomachs, but so is the anticipation to begin. After this adventure, we have no idea what will come next. Our future is entirely uncertain, but we know one thing for sure. We are really looking forward to the journey ahead.