Weather Helmed

an adventure in renewing the spirit and living the dream…on a sailboat

Weather Helmed

Full Disclosure – Four Months In

June 19th, 2010 · 21 Comments · French Polynesia, Introspection, Life on the Boat, On Faith, Our Route, Passages, Random Thoughts, Tuamotus

After posting all those photos of these amazing places, is it really fair for me to say that I’m still not convinced this cruising life is all

it’s cracked up to be?  🙂

I’m constantly aware that what I post on here, for the most part, really only shows one side of this strange life we are living.  I remember how I felt this time last year, sitting at my desk at work, reading blogs of those who had gone before us – browsing through their pictures with envy, jealous that they were lounging in the tropics while I was stuck in an office, beholden to another world.  HA!!  Now I know the other side – that cruising is NOT all fun and games and sipping pina coladas on white sand beaches.

Anyway, here we are, in June!  Already four months since we pulled out of San Francisco Bay.  I think I have adapted, mostly, to our life on the boat, but it still doesn’t feel like home to me.  I think, what I’ve learned, is that I don’t really like sailing.  If I have to be on a boat, I would much prefer being at anchor!  I think most cruisers – well, women at least – feel this way, especially since we’ve found numerous couples where the woman doesn’t even know how to sail!   Sailing is hard work; it’s not relaxing; it’s not comfortable; it’s not particularly fun. And sailing here in the south pacific is definitely not what we had thought it would be as far as weather and wind is concerned.  I can see now why most cruisers avoid long passages if at all possible, and really make a point of stopping at just about every anchorage along a coastline.  I don’t like constantly trimming sails or taking down and putting up sails because of fluky winds or having to regularly monitor the self-steering devices to make sure they’re keeping us on the right track.  I don’t like the stress of sailing at dark or of trying to time arrivals for daylight, and I really don’t like the stress of anchoring – trying to deal with the various difficulties our windlass presents.  I still don’t like trying to walk around the boat while it is pitching me back and forth and I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to the bombardment of waves against the hull while I’m trying to sleep.

Sailing is frustrating and it’s exhausting. And when you’re ALWAYS sailing or at least living on a sailboat while it’s wandering around, well, let’s just say that this “cruising” lifestyle, just like everything else in life, definitely has its pros and cons.  For example – even though you may be reading this while just in a little house in a not-so-exotic town instead of lying in the sun (or, in my case under gray, rainy overcast skies) on the foredeck of a sailboat, I’ll bet that when your husband has to fix something, he doesn’t dump all 15 bins and boxes of tools (i.e. every tool he owns) on the couches in your living room………….. which is why I’m up here on the foredeck instead of relaxing down below. 🙂

That said, I think I’m finally adjusting (mostly) to this crazy funhouse we live in.  Now that we are visiting beautiful places and spending more time at anchor than underway, life has improved significantly.  However, I am still not a boat person.

“Boat People,” as Matt and I call them, are those who genuinely enjoy living and cruising on a boat.  They understand that things will go wrong and be difficult, but when that happens, they don’t feel like the universe is conspiring against them.  They don’t feel like the universe has decided, “today, this week, we are going to sh*t  on that boat and make them miserable.”  No, Boat People may get upset and annoyed that another something has yet broken again, but they see it as simply coming with the territory, the same way most people feel when their car breaks down or they have to replace the tires, etc.

When I thought about it recently, I realized that a pretty good analogy can be made with driving/roadtripping.  There are people out there (like, in our other life, Matt and me) who absolutely LOVE driving.  We love going on long roadtrips, don’t mind sitting in the car for hours or days on end… even if it gets uncomfortable or tiring or our legs keep falling asleep or we get headaches from watching the scenery fly by.  But, there are others who really hate driving and especially hate long drives.  They hate sitting for so long, maybe they get nauseous or bored, but, they drive because they have to, because driving gets them where they want/need to go.  That’s sort of what sailing is like for me, I’ve found.  It is a means to an end and, as of yet, the end has not quite justified the means. 🙂  Sailing is something I am currently enduring instead of enjoying.  So, no, I’m not a Boat Person, and I probably never will be.

BUT – I am becoming an “anchorage person.”  As shown, the anchorages we’ve recently visited have been incredible and I have really loved being there.  At anchor, too, I am more inclined to be creative and try new recipes (corn and flour tortillas from scratch!), make progress on my “things to learn” list, and try other new things like snorkeling with manta rays 🙂  At anchor I can truly relax and spend time doing some much needed deep thinking and spiritual reflection and simply find happiness and contentment in the moment  (things that are very difficult for me to do now, when we’re underway.  I honestly don’t know how I ever managed those 25 days on the crossing!).  I have read several quotes these last few weeks reminding me that where I am right now is right where I SHOULD be, right where God wants me.  But, sometimes, living on a sailboat is not really where *I* want to be, despite not working at a job and getting to hang out in some beautiful places.

Sometimes, I want a house. I want a window overlooking a neighborhood where people are walking dogs and riding bikes.  I want a back yard with trees and mountains.  I want a real kitchen.  With a dishwasher.  I want a comfy couch and a big bed and a car so I can go where I want to go when I want to go there. I want a bathtub.  And a shower. And a place where I can keep all my stuff without Matt constantly asking me whether or not my things can, instead, go in a bin.  Sometimes, I want a phone.  And a regular reliable internet connection. And a way to watch TV 🙂  And a nearby coffee shop.  And a bookstore.  And a movie theater.  And good indian/chinese/italian/mexican/deli restaurant.  And regular access to all foods green and crunchy.

Some might call this understandable, some might call it evidence of a biological clock ticking loudly in the background, some might call it crazy that I would give up this “adventure” for the drudgeries of a “normal” life.

I am trying to remember all those quotes though – “Bloom where you’re planted,” “God has you exactly where He wants you,” etc., and in the quiet moments, I *KNOW* I still *NEED* this time “alone” to recover and reflect on the events that have taken a toll on my soul over this last decade.  I know that the time I spend out here will make me a better person, a better mother, a better partner, a better worker, a better friend, if for no other reason than I am learning to appreciate all of those comforts and relationships back home and want never again to take them for granted!

So, do I like sailing?  NO
Am I happier now than I was four/three/two months ago?  YES
Am I looking forward to the next six months of cruising?  Um….  passages, NO, anchorages YES  🙂

Can I say I’m thrilled to be out here?  Well, not entirely, but each day I am learning more and more to appreciate this opportunity we have and am trying to enjoy it and find happiness however and wherever I can… which is about all I think any of us can do.

And, finally, a quick word to say THANK YOU to everyone who has been following our journey so far, praying for us and thinking of us and leaving comments on our blogs showing your support and encouragement.  It sounds strange to say that this kind of lifestyle needs encouragement, but you have NO IDEA how much we love checking our blogs and reading that people are enjoying our stories and our pictures and are feeling inspired to follow their own dreams (or perhaps glad that they’ve pursued others…)   🙂  So, thank you thank you for continuing to share in this crazy life of ours and letting us know you are out there and you are keeping tabs on where we are.

We are departing Fakarava soon – and thus the online world – and will be heading into another couple of weeks where we will be incommunicado.  I have posted half a dozen blogs below and Matt has as well, so hopefully those will keep you entertained until we can pick up again when we get to Tahiti.

And, to all the dads out there – HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!  and to my own Father-in-Law, thank you very much for the role you (and Sandy too!) have played in Matt’s life – he makes the very best husband 🙂

Love, Karen

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21 Comments so far ↓

  • Bryan

    Thank you for sharing your honest feelings. I am a 54 year old male who finds that the closer I get to being able to boat across the rivers of America, the less likely it seems that I will do it, though it is a life-long dream. Probably I will for awhile, go home, then do it again. Would smaller doses work for you…. If there was a way to afford it?

  • Ankitha

    That is such a cute picture of both of you .

    I was so excited to see that you posted more blog updates! I was actually thinking about you guys the other day and wondering if you had reached your new destination and posted anything. Some of the things you have seen and done are simply amazing, like taking a bath in a fresh water spring or showers under waterfalls, and swimming with sharks and manta rays! It’s so awesome that your honest about the downsides, but I hope there will be a lot more breathtaking and interesting anchorages ahead to compensate for the sailing part. 🙂

  • Alexis

    I absolutely loved reading this, Karen. Our journies (mine in India and yours at sea) are surprisingly similar. I wish we could talk and commiserate. Please know that you’re in my prayers and that I miss you dearly. Keep your head up, friend. xoxo

  • Bruce (valiant 40-Tatoosh)

    I’ve been following the adventures from the start of the refurbishing. I have to say it is refreshing to read your postings and your frank revelations. Good on you and I hope that the good continues to outweigh the not-so-good.

  • Claire (SV Tallowah)

    I believe that the anchorages and experiences you get while hanging out in other places, and meeting interesting people (while having the luxury of taking your home with you) is the reason we endure the ‘getting there’. Hang in there! Isn’t it true that 90% of cruising is at anchor and 10% is sailing? 😉

  • Philippe

    Thanks for this honest post. It’s good to hear all sides of this adventure you are living, for all of us who hope to follow. Looking forward to read more at your next destinations!

  • edith

    I love reading these posts and knowing you, understand where you are coming from. But also knowing you – you would never give any less than 110% to any endeavor you put your mind to. Cannot wait for the next update – be safe… Hugs and kisses, eydie

  • Neil


    I’m being a little presumptuous here but I don’t care. I’m going to be a daddy in September so thanks for the father’s day wishes!

    Carolina and I are having a baby boy to be named Vicente Topliffe, due date September 24th.

    All the best, the photos look amazing! Enjoy the trip!


  • Audra

    It’s so amazing to here your honest feelings. I’m so jealous of you and then I understand. I’m in an apartment not rocking around back and forth. But then again I’m in an apartment. 🙂 I always look forward to reading your blogs and I thank you for your awesomeness. Both you and Matt. 😉 Take care, I hope you see whales and dolphins and sea turtles and many beautiful flowers. May you stay safe and sheltered from all storms and that love be aplenty. Ameen 🙂

  • Aunt Arlene

    Sometimes it’s necessary to take the *road less traveled* to find out who we really are, and where we really want to be in life and to connect or re-connect ourselves with God. He never leaves us.

  • Holli

    So glad I found your blog and I really appreciated this deep and honest reflection from someone who is out there ‘cruising’.

    Like you, we have ‘the plan’ – Expected departure date to ‘life on a boat’ is June 2011. We bought our 41′ Catamaran 3 years ago and have been working to get our kids’ university fees paid. The youngest leaves home for Uni in June 2011, and we head off – out of the 9 to 5 life as well.

    We’ve been reading these blogs for years – and the Bumfuzzles since they started on their world sail as well! This is the first post I’ve probably ever read that spells out the honest good and honest bad.

    I might be one of those ‘wives’ who starts out knowing nothing about sailing. My husband is a seasoned sailor… I’m sensing a trend here.

    Our plan is to start in and around the Caribbean and eventually do the world circumnav as well – and live aboard as long as we like it (or as long as the ends justify the means!!!)

    Anyway, just wanted to touch base and say you have a new follower – I’ve linked you on my blog too – though, as we are still living and working as expats in Ghana, the blog topic is entirely different!!!

    Holli in Ghana

  • Rick Grepo

    OMG…looks like the trip of a lifetime. Thanks for sharing with all of us

  • Ernie

    good on you. little secret however; most sailors like port better than at sea. Even those of us who have spent our lives on the water.

    no shame in either way; its just the way we each are built.

  • Karen

    Neil! i’m so thrilled for you!!!!! congratulations!!! a very happy father’s day to you!! a baby in the womb definitely makes you a daddy already 🙂 and i love the name! please include me on the list of those to receive baby announcements 🙂 and thanks for following my blog 🙂 please give my regards to our fellow mazzies.

  • Karen

    hi eydie!!! how are you?!?!?! glad to know you’re still following me 🙂 are you still lighting candles for me? i need all the spiritual help i can get 😉

  • Karen

    Lex! hello friend! aaahh, i’m dying to talk to you. as different as our lives are right now, i can’t help but think they are laughingly similar in so many ways. please email me one of these days when/if you can! i miss you!!

  • Karen

    bryan~ thanks for following my blog! and commenting 🙂 i think if i could just fly into the anchorages, that would be best. haha good luck on your dream! i’ve met several people now who tell us the first year is the hardest and then after that, you settle in and it’s pretty blissful. next time we do anything like this, though, it will be on a charter boat where someone else fixes everything that goes wrong… maybe that’s the answer for you?? 🙂

  • Karen

    hi holli~ that’s awesome that you’re planning to cruise. i think a catamaran is definitely the way to go. everytime one comes into the anchorage now, we look at the crew with envy. haha thank you for following my blog and thank you for appreciating my “full disclosures”! sometimes i wish that people would have warned me it wouldn’t be all sunshine and roses, so now i consider my readers truly informed. 🙂 good luck on making your plan come true and good luck with all the repairs, etc to get there!

  • Karen

    aunt arlene~ thanks for your comment. you’ll see in one of my newest blog posts that your words are right on. hope you’re doing well!!

  • Karen

    hi audra! thanks for following our blogs 🙂 and for commenting. i love comments 🙂 how are you doing? are you still in berkeley? if so, please go to zacharys and chow down for us. we are desperately missing good pizza.

  • James

    Karen, I’m so happy that things are going wel so far. I’m sure everything you’re feeling is exactly how it should be. Soul searching is why people take these kinds of trips. You both are an inspiration, and hope that someday I can convince my wife to be as brave as you! Safe trip.

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