The Background Story....
I was lucky to be able to retire early to take to the high seas in Nereida - an excellent, if small, ocean cruiser. She proved to be both sturdy and safe in difficult conditions whilst being an excellent sailing boat - ideal for serious blue water cruising. Never having sailed before June 1990, when I first tried out both dinghy-sailing and windsurfing, I eventually took up yachting in 1994 with a Competent Crew course on the Solent - and never looked back! After my husband & I took delivery of Nereida in Sweden in July 1997, we sailed her via Norway, Denmark & the Netherlands to England. In June 1998, we set sail from the Hamble for Spain, Portugal & Gibraltar and eventually left the Canaries in November 1999 to cross to the Caribbean.
During 2000, we explored the Windward and Leeward Island chains before heading north, eventually making landfall in the USA in New York from Bermuda, continuing on to Baddeck, on Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia) before heading south for the winter. 2001 saw us heading down the ICW to Miami and on to Grenada via the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico & the Virgin Islands. In September, George was diagnosed with cancer - it was not until May 2002 that he got back on board and we headed for Tobago & Trinidad, finally setting sail for Venezuela in late Aug, enjoying the uncrowded island anchorages and spending time in Puerto La Cruz & Merida. By late December, we had reached Bonaire, via the beautiful Los Roques and Las Aves. We had hoped to return in the New Year but that was not to be - George's body gave up the fight in March 2003.
On Alone 2003-2006
2003 - 2004
I continued on alone - but it was quite a daunting task, getting to know the various systems on board Nereida and dealing with a variety of problems - fortunately boat friends (then, as nowadays) would come to my rescue with helpful advice, useful tools, perhaps some muscle, often expertise I lacked... and lots of moral support! But it soon became clear to me that, if I wanted to persevere with sailing and living on board Nereida, practical problem-solving was something I had to expect to have to learn to cope with. The actual sailing was a mere detail!! (After taking many courses and exams, I had finally gained my RYA Ocean Yachtmaster qualification after the Atlantic crossing sextant sights and calculations - but there is always something new to learn...)
Late in 2003 I had decided I would sail Nereida to Fort Lauderdale to have her shipped over to Vancouver ready to take part in the Ocean Cruising Club's B.C. Rally in September 2004 - I knew several friends were expecting to be there and it seemed a simple way of getting Nereida into what I'd heard was a good cruising area AND into the Pacific. I was still very concerned about the safety aspects of single-handing overnight - especially on extended passages and was, at this point, trying to persuade various friends and acquaintances to join me on the long passages, having decided to head first for Cartagena and then the San Blas Islands of Panama before sailing north to the Florida Keys via Guatemala's Rio Dulce and Belize. Why miss seeing what were reputedly some beautiful places on my way?
By early February 2004, I was ready to leave Bonaire - with or without crew! As I sailed over to Curacao, I heard via the VHF that a reliable young Dutchman was ready to join me - Daan, who was a good sailor, joined Nereida and stayed until we reached Colon (where I was fortunate to be able to line-handle a boat through the Panama Canal). Having Daan on board enabled me to get back into sailing mode and improve my rusty skills a little. From Colon, I was by myself - for several extended passages - and several major learning curves! But Nereida stood up pluckily to all my mis-management and I gradually gained in confidence as we headed up towards Providencia, the Honduras Bay Islands, Rio Dulce, Belize, the Yucatan, past Cuba and in to Key West... what a happy landfall!
Over to the 'Pacific NW' (British Columbia & Alaska), California and Mexico
The cruising area of B.C. and Alaska has proved to be every bit as lovely as I'd heard - I thoroughly enjoyed my cruising around the Gulf Islands & Desolation Sound. From the Vancouver area, I sailed south to San Francisco in October 2004 and then slowly on to Mexico by February: the Baja to Zihuatanejo ('Guitar Fest' in April) and back up to La Paz where I shipped Nereida up to Ketchikan to cruise spectacular SE Alaska over June/July 2005. Major repairs and a refit were needed when I got down to Vancouver, resulting in a delayed departure south - & eventually too many problems resulting from my refit. (see Problems after Vancouver Refit) forced me in to Port Townsend (Washington state) to deal with them over the winter months - but what a lovely place to be 'stuck' in!
I 'escaped' in May 2006 and headed down well offshore to San Francisco - with major problems of all descriptions on the way (see Challenges...), ending up with no steerage and unable to make way (crabpots!), having to be towed in from Point Reyes by the Golden Gate CG - some impressive boathandling in big seas! I then had a lot of repairing to do to get ready for my next intended passage - to Hawaii and thence north to Alaska around the 'N. Pacific High'. I'd found Alaska so beautiful and wild that I wanted to re-visit it (despite the cold!) - but I was determined to sail there this time - no more 'chickening out' by shipping Nereida up north!! As I was busy with my repairs, I began to hear of a 'Single-handed TransPac' Race about to take place from the Bay area - to Hawaii.... the rest is history....!! (See Challenges..., my Daily SHTP Race Reports', and the Single-handed Sailing Society - a group of friendly, welcoming people who bent over backwards to clear the way and help me so I could join in the Race as a late entry - thank you!)
From Kauai, I headed up towards Sitka, beating in to big seas and quite strong winds, until finally reaching the calm of the Pacific High when I went to use my motor - nada! Another major learning curve, as I struggled with the result of seawater in my diesel fuel - not a happy engine! Triumphantly, I got the engine going again, after 5 days of struggling, changing one injector (who me?.... that was only supposed to be in my spares for a mechanic to deal with...!!) and checking the others, ... but it failed as I came in to dock at Sitka - where my 3-week 'mechanics course' started in full earnest - thanks to Alan Horoschak!! (See Challenges...).
Eventually, as I was getting worried about being 'trapped' in rainy Sitka over the winter, with the weather already deteriorating after the worst summer they could remember for a long time, my engine was sounding sweet, I was full of new-found knowledge & expertise & I was able to head hurriedly south - to the West coast of Vancouver Island and the most amazing 'Indian summer' weather.... There I was, ambling from one lovely deserted anchorage to another in bright sunshine around the beginning of October - it was out of this world! The downside was that my radio was no longer transmitting (see Challenges...) and had been down for quite a time - so no Winlink emails or weather info were possible - fortunately, not a major concern at this time.
The rest of 2006 was spent sailing down to San Diego from Port Townsend (See Challenges...)- amazingly, the only problem with the offshore passage down to SF from Cape Flattery in October was the 35-40 knot winds (and resulting big seas - See Challenges...) off Cape Mendocino - no mechanical or electrical problems for a change!! And a great sail was had to and past Pt Conception, the motor being used minimally most of the way from SF to San Miguel Island. (The opposite was true from Santa Barbara to Marina del Rey to San Diego - motoring most of the way!)
In San Diego, from December 2006 on, I prepared "Nereida" for a planned one-year, 'stop-everywhere', 'cruising-style' circumnavigation, to be started from Zihuatanejo (Mexico) after their Annual Guitar Festival in March 2007.