Monthly Archives: January 2011

February Photo of the Month Winners

This month’s photo contest on Facebook was one of the most closely contested we’ve ever had. With 30 entries for the theme “Cold, Foul Weather, or Winter Sailing,” we had everything from folks breaking ice and sailing on Northern lakes to people sunning themselves in the Florida Keys. We even had a pair of wooden “gutter racers” and a shot of somebody’s hot tub (where they’ll be safely ensconced until spring). Click here to view the entire album. A huge thanks to everyone who contributed, and without further ado, we present the winners:


Even though this photograph, simultaneously dramatic and peaceful, garnered a staggering number of votes, it was barely enough. Congratulations to Sum Chan for besting a strong field and earning publication here and in ASA’s “Sailing with Style” E-Newsletter. Here is the photographer’s description: “Chasing the Sun on Santa Monica Bay – it may not be an easy decision on a cold (relatively speaking in SoCal) cloudy day whether to chase the wind or the sun. Models: Anya Essiounina and Hunter 310.”
winning photo


This shot was not far behind. Our good friends at SailTime once again stuffed the ballot box showed their enthusiasm for the sailing lifestyle with this cheerful, but chilly, entry submitted by Laura Chapin: “San Francisco to Half Moon Bay on a SailTime boat…oh what fun!” Thanks Laura, and congrats on getting so close to 1st place!
runner up


This month I want to recognize the two entries that came the furthest to join us. First, this majestic double-rainbow is courtesy of Dick and Karen, crew of the catamaran Butterfly, currently cruising the Caribbean. Not only did they take time out of their busy cruising schedule to send these, but WOW! IT’S A DOUBLE RAINBOW! ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE SKY! You can follow Dick and Karen’s adventures, complete with some great photography, on their blog.

We also have this terrific “driving the boat” shot submitted by Esra Arikan all the way from Turkey. The photo is of winter sailing in the Marmara Sea! Click the photos to enlarge.

marmara sea

Voyaging with Velella: The Cost of Cruising

velella at anchorIn this special edition of Voyaging with Velella, ASA writer-at-large Meghan Cleary answers a popular question from readers: What is the necessary budget for living aboard and cruising in a sailboat? Meghan and her fiance Prescott are currently on a 9-month cruise in the tropics aboard S/V Velella.

A number of people have asked me lately what it costs to go cruising. The answer to that question is as widely variable as what it costs people to live on land, because there is a wide range of different lifestyles even within the cruising circuit. But if you have tons of cash, you probably aren’t as keen to understand the breakdown of costs as someone attempting to do this on a shoestring. So the important question is, what is the minimum budget required to cruise? If you have more than that to work with, great! More cervezas for you.

Perhaps it is because we are young cruisers ourselves, the exception to the norm in this community, that I’m always interested to know how the other young cruisers make ends meet. If you’re cruising for retirement, it’s understood that you’ve spent your life saving up for exactly this, and while you want to be frugal to stretch it as far as it can go, you’re drawing from a relatively deep well. Young cruisers on the other hand, most often have a much more limited budget, and therefore a limited timeframe in which to cruise. We always ask young people, “So, are you working from the boat? Where’s the cashflow coming from for you?” Invariably the answer is either that they’ve found a way to make some money while cruising (like Prescott, who continues to freelance as a motion graphics artist); or they’re just sailing for the season and planning to head home to work in 6 months or so.

If your dream is to buy a boat and sail away forever to distant shores on no timeline whatsoever, of course you’re going to need to save up for a loooong time. But if you can be flexible about your cruising, it’s possible to get underway on a much smaller annual budget.
Carrying A House on Your Back

The first critical stage in financial planning for a cruise is obviously to acquire the boat itself, along with all the gear needed to outfit it. Depending on the boat you buy and what it comes with, you could spend as little as a few thousand dollars or double the cost of the boat to outfit it properly. Outfitting costs cover an enormous range, and are largely impacted by the gear choices you make. With Velella, we placed a lot of importance on making her as safe as possible. That included purchasing an offshore life raft, an EPIRB, hydrostatic PFDs, good jack lines and tethers, an SSB radio to be able to receive up-to-date weather information underway, and even a Monitor self-steering vane to alleviate the exhausting prospect of hand steering 24/7. We’ve got our trusty whisker pole from Forespar (pictured at right). We carry a full complement of engine and rigging spares onboard, as well as all necessary tools to ensure we’re as self-sufficient as possible should any sort of problem strike. However, if you plan to live aboard, even the cost of buying and outfitting a very nice boat can be far less expensive than owning a house on land!

Excluding the cost of the boat itself (our home mortgage), we spent roughly 2/3 of our total cruising budget on outfitting. We left Los Angeles this year with a plan to sail for 6-9 months and $7,000 in our pockets. That money was divvyed up into the following categories on a monthly budget:

Moorage: $100 per month
Fuel and Other Transportation: $120 per month
Boat Maintenance Expenses: $100 per month
Food $300 per month
Discretionary/Entertainment $50 each per month
Customs and Fees: $50 month average
swimming with dolphin
Other expenses we had also planned for were the ongoing boat mortgage, student loans (!), boat insurance, and international medical insurance. Your boat mortgage and insurance will vary widely; international medical insurance is cheap to come by at $600 for the year covering both of us. We added up these “unseen” expenses and make sure we had enough in addition to the $7,000 we were taking with us to cover these things while we were gone.

A $700/month spending budget is remarkably tight; I would place that at the bottom end of the cost range. It’s also worthwhile to note that Central America has become a lot more expensive in recent years; moorage in most ports in Mexico, for example, costs almost double US prices.

Jumping In

If you’re serious about saving up to go cruising, there are a number of excellent, in-depth resources you should consult, first and foremost being “The Voyager’s Handbook” by Beth Leonard. Meanwhile, here are a few planning pointers you can take away from our experience preparing ourselves and Velella to go cruising:

1. PLUG IN TO THE SAILING COMMUNITY EARLY. Cruising sailors are all on a budget, and the community is constantly swapping gear when they’re through using it. You’d be shocked at how much money we saved on gear just by checking first if anyone knew of someone getting rid of an outboard, a drogue, a spinnaker sail, whatever!
2. BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR NEEDS. Use other people’s budgets as models, but weight your own needs in there too. You can learn to live without many things, and you will, but certain things you just won’t be able to give up; know yourself and be realistic about what those are when putting together your budget.
3. SET YOURSELF A TIME LIMIT FOR SAVING. THEN GO, GO WITHOUT, AND THEN GO HOME. We would have liked to set out with more money on this trip; our budget is extremely tight. Spending only $50 a month for fun is HARD—try it sometime! Last month my sole purchase was a cruising guide to the Sea of Cortez. . . which I read and reread and reread for a month. And this week we’re having culinary adventures trying to stretch our last $20 to cover a week’s worth of food. But don’t let a lack of extra spending money stop you from sailing away—it’s absolutely amazing and gratifying to live so simply, and plus, there are incredible tropical reefs and hikes and other natural diversions to keep you plenty occupied for free while cruising. When the money runs out, then be willing to go home and work some more to top off the cruising kitty.
4. BE PREPARED TO PUT MONEY TOWARDS IMPROVING YOUR OWN SEAMANSHIP SKILLS. The best piece of gear we have onboard is our know-how. One of the most valuable preparations we did before leaving Seattle was to hire an ASA instructor for a week-long Advanced Offshore Cruising certification course on our own boat (from the wonderful San Juan Sailing School in Bellingham, WA). All of the skills you can develop in advance will make you more confident sailing through heavy seas or pressing on overnight, anchoring in tight spaces instead of paying to moor, and fixing problems you’d otherwise have to pay someone else to help you with.

Don’t listen to people who say you have to take 5 or 10 years to get underway. Just be practical about your plans and commit to them! If you have a burning wanderlust in you, you can devise a way to follow this dream. And give me a holler when you’re ready to meet up in an anchorage somewhere warm!

Here’s where the crew of Velella is living the good life on a shoestring budget right now:

View Voyaging with Velella in a larger map

The Flavor of Coastal Mexico

Something a little different from our friends Meghan and Prescott aboard S/V Velella this week. This photo blog gives a slice of the amazing places they’ve encountered as they explore the tiny pueblos of Mexico’s west coast, away from the burgeoning tourist hubs. These are places best (and sometimes only) seen by sailboat. See more on ASA’s Flickr stream!

mural in barra de navidad
(Translation: OUR HISTORY. The town was known by various names, such as the Port of Xalisco, the Port of Juan Gallego, Purification Port, the Port of the Holy Spirit, and the Port of Cihuatlan, until the year 1541 when the Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico), Don Antonio de Mendoza, arrived on the 25th of December. It was given the name Barra de Natividad or Barra de Navidad (Port Christmas) to commemorate the arrival of the Viceroy.)

Streets of Chacala
Wall art
Wall art in the best taco shop in San Blas
nessie and rockfish
Nessie is very interested in a rockfish
prescott waterfall
Prescott at the foot of one of the Yelapa waterfalls
Swimming in Ensenada de Carrizal

Now doesn’t that look like fun? ASA has a number of adventurous flotillas coming up in 2011, not to mention all of our fabulous sailing schools around the world, to help you get out there and live the dream too.

2010 Outstanding Instructors

ASA’s Outstanding Instructors are selected each year solely as a result of student surveys.  Based on the volume of student feedback received throughout the year, instructors are placed into one of three groups.

The award then goes to the top ten highest average scores in each group.  Considering that there are over two thousand active ASA instructors, this places the Outstanding Instructors in the top 1½% of their peers for quality education as judged by their own customers.

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Voyaging with Velella: Cows in Low Latitudes

Continuing the “Voyaging with Velella” series by ASA writer-at-large Meghan Cleary. Meghan, Prescott and their kitten Nessie are on a planned 9-month cruise in the tropics.

Have a sailing or cruising question you’d like to ask Meghan? Send them here or leave a comment.

Spectacular Baja Sky
Santiago Bay is heavy with moisture, and today we crossed our fingers for rain. A downpour of freshwater would mean a bath for the boat as well as ourselves; our plan was to suds up and stand there, letting the rain rinse off all salt and sweat and soap. With the sun still fresh on our faces, it’s easy to believe in the restorative balm of thundery gloom. Prescott starts writing and I start getting crafty with fabric and ribbon. But the heavy shroud of air nuzzles the purple mountains, and a flock of pelicans flurrying in the dusky waterline, and no drops fall. The swell rolls slowly under a glass surface, broken only by a nearby sunken ship, half submerged, and the occasional jumping smelt. We’re just rocking here and reading about fishes and birds of Mexico, dueling each other in cribbage, fighting over games of Scrabble.

When we flip on the SSB radio and listen to the weather nets at night, our faithful forecaster Don Anderson says in his slight British accent that we’ve got a bit of a Pineapple Express on the Mexican Riviera, a system bringing warm, wet clouds from Hawaii. With the solar panels rendered useless by the persistent clouds, we no longer have the battery power to support our fridge, so we flipped it off and went to bed.
mexican boxed milk
A lot of cruisers go without refrigeration–not to mention all the people around the world who live without it. But for a gallon-of-milk-a-week girl from the diary heartland, it’s taken quite a shift to force my provisioning habits to conform to room temperature. We’re lucky that so far, all the way from Seattle to Mexico, we’ve managed to keep cold milk onboard–a perfect bowl of cereal, a splash in coffee, a creamy pancake ingredient, an essential side to a garlicky pizza. As our last quart started to turn with a sharp rancid tinge, I realized I have no idea what people do who live with no refrigeration.

I went to the market with a weak plan, hoping that brilliance would strike. Powdered milk is gross no matter how you deal with it. Coffeemate tastes fake. I was almost ready to give in to black coffee forever when we stumbled on boxed milk. The picture is repulsive, showing a dopey looking cartoon cow smelling daises in a huge green field. But it’s sold on the shelves unrefrigerated, and I’ve seen it used in restaurants down here too. Lo and behold, it’s not a milk-like non-dairy product, it’s real cow’s milk, and it tastes like real cow’s milk! (It’s pasteurized in such a way that it doesn’t require refrigeration. Do we have this in the states? I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had reason to go looking in the dairy substitute aisle…) Of course, cold milk is nice. But room temp milk that’s not gone bad is completely fine!

After our week in Santiago impressed upon us how much we depend on our solar panels, we decided to head around the corner to a quiet, wild anchorage reputed to have great snorkeling. Plus, turning on the engine to motor out of the bay would mean we could also turn on the refrigerator again. But the morning we were scheduled to leave, I awoke to a buttery finger of sunlight stretching down through the open hatch to our white pillows. I laid there thinking about how the solar panels would already be drinking it in, and how we have fresh produce swinging in the bulging galley hammock, and how the sun and the fruit at my fingertips made me feel incredibly rich. The more we learn to go without, the more I realize how comfortable our lives really are.

Here’s where the crew of Velella are drinking milk right now:

View Voyaging with Velella in a larger map

Sailing Alone Around the World

sailing onIn sailing, as in other sporting arenas, we love to marvel at the abilities of the true greats, even as we recognize that you don’t have to be on their level to have a great time. The ASA membership is composed of people at all different stages, from pure beginners to the saltiest of veteran sailors.

Many consider a solo circumnavigation to be the ultimate cruising feat. This is something most of us would never dream of attempting, for any number of reasons: Money, Time, Skill, or Sanity! However, this doesn’t stop us from admiring those who can and do accomplish the Holy Grail of sailing. I look with awe at seafarers such as Reid Stowe, who spent over 1,000 continuous days at sea without stopping to repair or re-provision, and the original cruiser, Joshua Slocum, author of the book from which this post takes it title.

At ASA we even have such legends in our midst – including Yoh Aoki, who owns an ASA affiliate in Osaka, Japan, and who at age 22 built a plywood ketch in his backyard and sailed it around the world. This boat, Ahodori 2, holds the Guinness World Record for smallest boat ever to sail around the world, and is currently on display at a museum in Japan. There is also the Sunderland family of Marina del Rey, who need no introduction.

There are THREE intrepid sailors currently attempting solo circumnavigations (that I know of), and they could not be more different from one another:
laura dekker
Laura Dekker, 15, aboard Guppy

Dutch teenager Dekker set out on her voyage on August 4, 2010, at the ripe old age of 14. She’s taking it easy, stopping in Spain, Portugal, the Canaries, and the Cape Verde Islands, visiting with friends and family. Most recently she did her first big ocean crossing to St. Maarten in the Caribbean. At the time of writing, she has turned 15 and is enjoying a 10-day spot as a guest deckhand aboard the tall ship Stad Amsterdam, giving her boat a brief rest.

Jeanne Socrates, 67, aboard Nereida
jeanne socrates

This grandma doesn’t mess around. It is evident from her weblog that she has the grit and the know-how sail around the world, and that she doesn’t plan to dally. In fact, she’s already done it once, from March 2007 – June 2008. A few days ago she sustained damage to her boom and windscreen rounding Cape Horn, but from the upbeat tone of her journal it seems she remains optimistic about completing the voyage. She is currently in the Beagle Channel making repairs.

Minoru Saito, 77, aboard Shuten-dohji III
Captain Saito is clearly the dean of this group, having circumnavigated 7 times already and holding the record for oldest-ever solo circumnavigator. He is on his 8th trip, this time the “wrong way around,” west-to-east. He has nearly completed the voyage, which began in 2008 and has included numerous close-calls around stormy Cape Horn and the perilous coast of Chile. He’s wintering in Hawaii and only needs the final leg to Yokohama to finish.


I find these stories of great sailors equally intimidating and inspiring. Obviously, it’s unlikely that most of us will ever achieve what these people have on the water, but that’s okay. If we can attain our own goals, whether those goals are just daysailing in the local lake, bareboat chartering, or undertaking a massive ocean crossing, we will have done a great thing. Feel free to share your thoughts, and remember that we’re here to help you achieve your sailing dreams, whatever they may be.

Come Visit Us at Upcoming Boat Shows!

asa burgee flying high
ASA regularly makes the rounds of the nation’s premier boat shows. Recently you may have encountered us in Annapolis or St. Petersburg, where we’ve had booths staffed with folks from ASA headquarters, volunteer instructors enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge of the sailing lifestyle, and a wealth of materials available about our schools and sailing opportunities.

Boat shows are places where sailors gather to geek out over the latest boat designs and cool gadgets, yes, but also a good spot for prospective boat owners or those just learning to sail to go for more information. So if you’ve been pondering taking the plunge into the world of sailing, which can be overwhelming for a newcomer, a boat show is a great place to catch up with us. ASA’s mission is to make this lifestyle available and accessible to everyone and to make sure sailors trained by an ASA school have confidence and knowledge out on the water.

With that in mind, here are some upcoming shows where you can find us:

Click here to get discounted tickets with promo code: ASA
January 27-30, 2011, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL

  • ASA will be in booth #403 and will also be running the activities at the Discover Sailing booth!
  • For discounted tickets, CLICK HERE and enter promo code: ASA
  • A number of ASA sailing schools will be exhibiting – stop by our both and we can point you in the right direction!

February 17-21, 2011, Miamarine at Bayside, Miami, FL

  • ASA will be in booth #827 – Bayside.  We’ll also be running the Discover Sailing booth again, with some amazing new activities you won’t want to miss!
  • A great place to escape winter weather!

Hope to see you at one of these shows, and we’ll keep you posted on the Spring schedule!

Voyaging with Velella: The Work of Living

meghan rowing
Continuing the “Voyaging with Velella” series by ASA writer-at-large Meghan Cleary. Meghan, Prescott and their kitten Nessie are on a planned 9-month cruise in the tropics.

Have a sailing or cruising question you’d like to ask Meghan? Send them here or leave a comment.

It’s no secret that cruising may be fun, but it’s not all play. The tropics have an easy time ravaging all your hard work: peeling varnishes, blackening oils, and fading canvases; not to mention keeping your metals coated in a fine film of salt and sprouting a five-o’clock algae shadow almost overnight on the hull. Basic tasks like laundry are a day-long event, beginning with gathering all possible fabrics into a body-bag-sized sack, hefting it over the lifelines and down into the rocking dinghy, rowing into the choppy wind, surfing to shore, and taking turns carrying the beast through the hot streets to the nearest Lavanderia, which is usually not too near at all.

Grocery shopping involves trips to multiple stores, a heavy dinghy-row back through the surf, and a ritual of washing every bit of the new food while still in the dinghy, using chlorinated water (a bleach and saltwater mixture), and then patting it all dry, before reorganizing the fridge in order to find space for it all. We spend at least 70% of our time engaged in these daily “chores” that maintain our lives.
flowers and condos
Does it sound like I’m complaining? Because I’m not really. Before we left, I imagined cruising as a Utopian state where things were always clean and food sort of appeared with cold beers on the side. (I know that sounds ridiculous, but how often do your daydreams really involve the grittier stuff?) But reality is relentless, and an excellent teacher; after two months of cruising in the tropics, I have grasped that life IS—on a boat or elsewhere—simply the work of living. Choosing to live on a boat is just choosing a different line of work, in a way. Whereas on shore, my life’s work was spent in an office, maintaining the car, and on a never-ending to-do list, on the boat, our life is much the same, just with different things on the list. Such as “catch fish for dinner.”

After spending over a week lounging in the Barra de Navidad lagoon for the holidays, Velella had a significant amount of green-black growth on the underside of the hull. With my trusty Marina del Rey dive service being several hundred miles away now, we decided it was time for us to dive and clean the hull ourselves. So here we are, moored alongside the stunning Moorish-inspired architecture of the Las Hadas resort in Manzanillo, jet skis surrounding us—and we are probably the only ones here swimming with sponges in hand.
hillside pueblo
We swam along either side of the waterline, gently wiping away the algae to reveal the bright blue bottom paint, flicking off the tiny beginnings of barnacles, and sponging clear the dried salt splotches from the white gelcoat. It felt intimate somehow to run my hands over every inch of my boat’s hull—it reminded me of the feeling of brushing a horse: meticulously restoring her prideful sheen with a loving hand. Dare I say, the boat work has become FUN. When we were done washing Velella, we washed our own hair and did a couple somersaults in the water before rinsing off with hot fresh water on deck.

Any boater has heard the expression, “Cruising is doing boat work in exotic locations.” It’s often said ruefully, knowingly, and with a bit of warning to would-be cruisers. And that’s absolutely right—that is essentially what we’re doing in these exotic locations—a constant regiment of light boat work. But I have to admit, it’s a great place to work, and the benefits package is pretty awesome.

Here’s where the intrepid crew of Velella is right now – probably doing their chores.

View Voyaging with Velella in a larger map

2010 Outstanding Schools

  • Affordable Sailing School, BVI
  • Barnegat Bay Sailing School, NJ
  • Black Rock Sailing School, MA
  • Cape Fear Sailing Academy, NC
  • East Carolina Sailing School, NC
  • II Dolphins Sailing, NC
  • Kadena Marina, Japan
  • Learn to Sail San Diego, CA
  • Lighthouse Landing Sailing School, KY
  • Modern Sailing School & Club, CA
  • Nelson Sailing Center, NJ
  • Newport Beach Sailing School, CA
  • R & R Charters and Sail School, MD
  • Rob Swain Sailing School, BVI
  • Sail Solomons, MD
  • SailTime San Francisco Bay, CA
  • St. Augustine Sailing, FL
  • Stockton State Park Marina, MO
  • Sunshine Coast Adventures, FL
  • YMCA-Lifelines, MO