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About Andy Cross

Andy Cross is partner and managing editor of Three Sheets Northwest. You can find him and his family cruising and racing around the PNW aboard their Grand Soleil 39, Yahtzee.

Backpacks stowed, sails up, the crew of Yahtzee rides again

After clearing the Ballard Locks and the breakwater at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle, we were greeted by a strong, cold 20-knot northerly sweeping down Puget Sound. With the flick of a line off a cleat and the pull of a sheet, Yahtzee’s genoa unfurled in a flash. Drawing us forward in a rush, I shut off the engine and promptly heard an unscripted holler from the boys and then Jill down below. Being the experienced sailors they are, they knew it, we were sailing again — and it was awesome!

Yahtzee underway once again!

Yahtzee sails once again!

As we bounded across the Sound, dodging a container ship and tug and barge along the way, I got thinking about how far we’d come. Not in miles necessarily, but in being off the boat over the past three months. Mind you, it was never our intention to spend that long off of Yahtzee, but with travel plans to see friends and family and then the unexpected issues that arose with our skeg and rudder, there was nothing we could do but keep our chins up and move forward. Fortunately, we’re good at that. The boys are adaptable and resilient and we roll as a family from one place to the next in a fluidity that impresses me over and over again. The thing is, though, we’ve come to realize that we do it better on the boat than on land. Continue reading

Yahtzee is back in the water!

After six weeks on the hard and being worked on nearly every day, Yahtzee is finally back where she belongs — in the water. Of course, when we pulled her out in mid-October to address a tiny leak, it turned into a much, much larger, time consuming and expensive job than we ever envisioned. As usual, we’ve made the best of our time off the boat and learned a few things along the way. Fortunately, though, it’s done now. And we know that we did it right.

Without the amazing work done by our fiberglass guy and new friend, Ethan, “doing it right” never would have been possible. His quality craftsmanship is not only something to be admired, but his attention to detail and assurance that he wanted to make it better than when it came out of the factory provides us with a peace of mind that can’t be matched. For an in depth look at how he fixed everything, check out his thread on the project at Cruisers Forum.

The new rudder and repaired skeg ready to hit the water.

The new rudder and repaired skeg ready to hit the water.

The new rudder caused the biggest wait while our home was on the hard, and it was worth it. We don’t know how long the old rudder was cracked and filled with water, but spending the time and money to get a new one now gives us a baseline and a fin that we can be 100% confident in. Thanks also goes out to Al and the rest of the team at Foss Foam Products (newrudders.com) in Florida for a job well done on the rudder.

And I couldn’t write this post without giving a big and sincere thank you to the many friends and family members who supported us along the way. With two children, not being in our home was difficult at times, but we made it work because of the people in our lives. Thanks to Mike and Maurisa, Lief and Kate, Matt and Katy, and Marcus and Ashley for your hospitality while all of this was going on. Opening your homes to us was amazingly generous and hugely helpful — so thank you! And to Darren and Erin for providing us with an open-ended offer of a place to stay. Your house is truly a home away from home for us, and we are forever grateful.

Yahtzee heading for the water.

Yahtzee heading for the water.

After being out of the water for so long, we need to get moved back aboard and wipe off the weeks of boatyard grime that inevitably come with being on the hard. We’ll be back out exploring soon, cruising the Pacific Northwest and sharing our adventures as we go. And for that, we couldn’t be happier.


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5 Favorites | Parks of the Gulf Islands

This is the fourth in an ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics such as memorable anchorages, marina showers, cruise-in breweries, fun things to do, ports, days of sailing, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests” or to rank things, but rather to provide an entertaining and insightful look at what we’ve enjoyed while cruising the Pacific Northwest. And since every boater has their favorites, we invite you to share yours in the comments below. 

British Columbia’s beautiful Gulf Islands are among our favorite places in the Pacific Northwest to drop the hook, tie a line ashore and head out on foot or by kayak to explore trails and beaches. So it was only natural that the many parks scattered among these islands would make a perfect “5 Favorites.”

But one of the things that guides this particular list is that our cruising time in the Gulf Islands has been heavily skewed towards the winter months. Cruising throughout the islands for many weeks at a time during the solitude of winter has been highly rewarding, but also means that very few boats are around. That being the case, we’ve visited all of these as the lone boat there and I’m not sure many of them would make my 5 Favorites had we been there exclusively in the more crowded times of the summer. Also, they are all great spots for kids, with easy hikes and accesible beaches.

Just like my previous “5 Favorites” topics, though, there are so many great ones to choose from that finalizing this list was extremely difficult. Alas, here are my 5 Favorite parks in the Gulf Islands from north to south.

parks Continue reading

A rudder is born

Unswaddled and ready to meet its caretakers, a beautiful rudder is born.

Unswaddled and ready to meet its caretakers, a beautiful rudder is born. And it even came with instructions.

As the FedEx Freight truck rumbled its way into Canal Boatyard yesterday, I was high atop a ladder swirling wax into Yahtzee’s gel coat. When I turned and saw it, I nearly fell down the rungs in excitement. And I was so giddy that my signature was unrecognizable on the receiving papers.

Watching our sweet new baby being lifted from the truck and then unwrapped this morning for its first meeting with its new (to it) boat, I couldn’t actually believe it was happening. I still can’t. After a three week wait, Yahtzee’s new rudder is a thing of beauty, and allows us to finally see the light at the end of a very long, sometimes scarily dark tunnel. We’re closer to being home than we have been in a long long time. And it feels great.

There's still a short adjustment period for the boat and rudder to get through before they can be in the water together.

A short adjustment period for the boat and rudder is yet to come before they can be in the water together.

That said, there is still work to be done and a holiday to contend with. But as far as timelines go — which are never good for a boat in a boatyard — we’ll all be back in the water again fairly soon.

Welcome home!

Welcome home!

Stay tuned, folks, we’re getting there…

Working hard to get back on the boat, but having fun

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The sign above hangs in our friend’s bathroom and every day that we housesit here provides a reminder about what we’re doing to get back aboard Yahtzee.

For us, there certainly is a lot of truth to it, and while “better” is a relative term in this case, different might be more apt. Living on land while we work on Yahtzee is just different, and not what we’re used to. In my last post I laid out why living and cruising the way we do works well for us, and the sense of fulfillment and purpose we find with our nomadic life has only increased as work progresses on Yahtzee. 

So what’s going on with Yahtzee?

The boat basically has two major areas that are being worked on: the rudder and the skeg. In order to work on the skeg, we had to completely drop the rudder from the bottom of the boat, which was fairly straightforward if time consuming. Once it was out, I was moving it and heard water sloshing around so I drilled a hole in the bottom and a large puddle of water proceeded to pour out. Not good. Continue reading

5 Favorites: Cruise-in Breweries

This is the third in an ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics such as memorable anchorages, marina showers, fun things to do, ports, beautiful places, days of sailing, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests” or to rank things, but rather to provide an entertaining and insightful look at what we’ve enjoyed while cruising the Pacific Northwest. And since every boater has their favorites, we invite you to share yours in the comments below. 

One of our favorite parts of cruising Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, among many other things, is stopping in port for a pint beer at one of the many local breweries and taking a full growler home with us.

Our trusty growler adorned in stickers from many breweries.

Our trusty growler adorned in stickers from many breweries.

But because our region is so rich in delicious breweries to visit, this list was quite difficult to put together. How could I choose just five? Do I include breweries in Astoria and other stops during our voyage up the Columbia River? What about Seattle?

Well, I intentionally left out Seattle because from any marina in the city you can walk to five different favorite breweries or more. And I decided to just stick with the greater Puget Sound/Salish Sea basin instead of delving into the Columbia River … yet.

In no particular order, here are five of our favorite walkable breweries from a marina or anchorage.

Tofino Brewing Company — Tofino, British Columbia: Tofino itself is a paradise of sorts. Gateway to beautiful and wild Clayoquot Sound, its beaches are stunning and the backdrop of green mountains is awe-inspiring. We loved our stop there last summer, and between the surfing and ice cream tasting, we didn’t want to leave. But Tofino Brewing also ticked a notch in our belt as a great place to stop for a pint and to fill our growler. Continue reading

On the hard: Lessons from traveling and the boatyard

The wind howls outside as I sit comfortably in a warm house. It’s nice, but I’d rather be anchored somewhere cozy or moving fast with the following breeze. While many boaters hibernate this time of year, we keep moving. But right now, we can’t. Not yet anyway. And it’s painful.

Yahtzee coming out of the water at Canal Boatyard in Seattle.

Yahtzee coming out of the water at Canal Boatyard in Seattle.

With jackstands pressing against her hull, Yahtzee sits high and dry in a concrete boatyard. She’s just as out of place on land as we are not sailing and living on her — and the difficulty, unfortunately, has just begun.

When we left Yahtzee at the end of August, we were excited for an extended visit with family, to deliver a boat on the East Coast and to attend a friend’s wedding. I came back for a short stint to work and do projects on the boat, and now that we’re all here, that’s what we’re up to again. Yahtzee needs some love and it’s quickly becoming one of life’s curveballs that tests our resolve as a family, but also teaches us along the way. As always, we’re rolling with it.

Boatyard Blues

It’s no secret that a lot of miles have passed over Yahtzee’s rudder in the past two years of cruising and racing. But with that many miles come obstacles, and there were some that we couldn’t avoid. We’ve hit a few logs along the way and they’ve taken their toll (including the strike at the end of the Oregon Offshore Race). Continue reading

A wild ride from Maine to Maryland

It was pitch black outside when the anemometer hit 40 knots. Scanning the horizon for lights of passing ships or fishing boats, all I could make out were the faint, white crests of the massive North Atlantic swell — but barely. The coast was miles away and daylight seemed just as far.

This is pretty much what we were looking at for three nights in a row.

This is pretty much what we were looking at for three nights in a row.

We’d been at it for two days already and sleep was coming in fits. With three reefs in the main and just a scrap of staysail out, our speed was relentlessly fast and the Garcia Exploration 45 we’d been tasked with delivering took it all in stride. But the funny thing was, just like the boat, Jill and I felt as though we could go on for days, even weeks on end.

The captivating power of the ocean never ceases to amaze, and on this wild ride, it was breathtaking. Continue reading

5 Favorites: Marina Showers

This is the second in an ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics such as memorable anchorages, breweries, fun things to do, ports, beautiful places, pubs, days of sailing, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests,” but rather to provide an entertaining and insightful look at things we’ve enjoyed while cruising in the Pacific Northwest. 

One of the many frequently asked questions we get about living and cruising on Yahtzee is if we shower aboard. Except for using the sun shower on deck in the summer, we don’t shower on the boat. Instead, we roll it into our routine when stopping in port for provisions, fuel, laundry, etc.

That being the case, we’ve seen our fair share of shoreside facilities over the years, as have many cruisers, which led to a lively discussion the other night about the best and worst marina showers in the area. While laughter ensued, we realized it would make a perfect “5 Favorites”, and though all these places get high marks from us for their cleanliness, there are other factors and memorable stories that help set them apart from the rest.

In no particular order, here are our five favorite marina showers in the Pacific Northwest.

Arabella’s Landing Marina: Gig Harbor, Washington

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It was the day after Thanksgiving and rain was coming down in buckets when we arrived at Arabella’s Landing. Soaked and chilled, we secured the dock lines, hooked up shore power, turned on the space heater, grabbed our towels and toiletries, and made way for the showers. Clean and welcoming, we found a hot, sauna-esq bathing experience that could only be described as heavenly. It was the perfect way to start our time in Gig Harbor; clean, warm, refreshed and ready to head for 7 Seas Brewing. Continue reading

What’s up with Yahtzee?

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for Yahtzee and crew. After finishing our circumnavigation of Vancouver Island and spending time in the San Juan Islands, we made way for Seattle. From there we flew to Michigan to be with family for Labor Day and had an absolute blast. It couldn’t have been a better time and it was wonderful for the boys to play and hang out with their cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles — which they’re still doing.

Seven of ten cousins on the dock where it all began.

Eight of ten cousins on the dock where all the sailing began.

The boys and their cousin George riding big wheels.

The boys and their cousin George riding big wheels.

I ventured back to the boat solo and cruised up to the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, and in between have been working on boat and work projects, and seeing friends. After spending so much time underway over the past two years, we’ve had some upgrades to make and, with the crew off the boat, I’ve been tackling those one by one. Continue reading

5 Favorites: Memorable anchorages

This is the first in an ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics such as anchorages, breweries, fun things to do, ports, beautiful places, pubs, days of sailing, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests”, but rather of things we’ve enjoyed while cruising in the Pacific Northwest.  

Robbers Passage: With so many anchorages visited, choosing five was difficult.

Robbers Passage: With so many anchorages visited, choosing five was difficult.

In this first installment, and in no particular order, I’ll take you to my five favorite anchorages that we visited aboard Yahtzee while rounding Vancouver Island from mid-May to mid-August. During our circumnavigation of the island we spent 62 nights at anchor, which provides me with many potential spots to choose from. Picking just five was extremely difficult and while we enjoyed all the places we visited for one reason or another, these stuck out as favorites.

memorable-anchorages Continue reading

The inspiration for cruising

Sunrise in Watmough Bay.

Sunrise in Watmough Bay.

Sitting on the rocky beach of Watmough Bay on Lopez Island, I stared out on the water in quiet contemplation. Yahtzee bobbed on a mooring and Rosario Strait was calm yet sparkling in the summer sun. I reached down, picked up a small stone and threw it with no care as to where it landed. My mind was far away, searching for an answer to a question posed to me by a fellow cruiser I’d met just moments prior.

“What’s your inspiration for cruising as a family?” she’d asked.

It was a good question, but a heavy one. Of all the queries I get regarding our lifestyle, I’ve never been asked that particular one and in the moment, I couldn’t process it and give it the clear attention it deserved. I’ve thought about it a lot since, talked about it with friends and, sitting in the very spot where my love of sailing stems from, I’ve come to grasp the answer. Continue reading

Vancouver Island Recap: An unforgetable family voyage

Velella sailed neck-and-neck with us in a fresh morning breeze and abundant sunshine while we steered Yahtzee wing and wing through Race Passage. For the first time since mid-May, Victoria soon became visible to the north — and as if to welcome us back to the Garden City from our circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, a pod of orcas broke the surface close on our starboard side while the boys looked on from the rail. It was a fitting end to our incredible family journey around a beautiful, wild and enchanting island.

Yahtzee sails wing and wing through Race Rocks. (Photo courtesy of SV Velella).

Yahtzee sails wing and wing through Race Rocks. (Photo courtesy of SV Velella).

With the sails furled and stowed and the engine on, we motored into Victoria Harbour three months to the day and 1,141 nautical miles after leaving on our counterclockwise loop. Sea planes took off and landed, water taxis buzzed this way and that, and cruisers moved in and out of the bustling harbor, which induced a slight bit of anxiety. It was by far the most people and activity we’d seen in quite some time — way more than Tofino and Ucluelet combined —and we were happy to be greeted at the dock by familiar faces. Our friends aboard Endless Summer IV, who we’d met along the way and live in Victoria, were there to welcome us with smiles, hugs, hospitality and a couple cold beers.

Our counterclockwise track around Vancouver Island had us on the inside for a month and a half and on the outside for a month and a half.

Our counterclockwise track around Vancouver Island had us on the inside for a month and a half and on the outside for a month and a half.

Since closing the loop, we’ve been consistently fielding the question, “How was it?” And after taking a deep breath to attempt an answer, what comes out is a slew of adjectives like amazing, awesome, incredible, inspiring, magical, epic and more, knowing that few can fully understand it. After pausing for a week to absorb the whole voyage, reflect and share stories with friends, here’s a final look at our three months cruising around Vancouver Island. Continue reading

From the Galley: Rockfish Tacos

Who doesn’t love fresh fish tacos? They’ve been a favorite of ours since living in and cruising Florida and the Caribbean, but we haven’t been making them much lately — that is, until venturing into Barkley Sound.

The delicious dish has seemingly grown in popularity over the past few years, and so too have the number of excellent recipes to use when making them. (Including the winning recipe in the Three Sheets NW/Fisheries Supply Cruisers Cook-Off.)

While cruising Barkley Sound recently with our friends aboard Velella, we found that a key component to above average fish tacos is two things: catch the fish yourself and make your own fresh, warm tortillas. Of course, a good recipe goes along way, too, and we found this one to compliment our meal perfectly.

The crews of Velella and Yahtzee feasting on fresh tacos.

The crews of Velella and Yahtzee feasting on fresh tacos.

Continue reading

Buddy-boating in bountiful Barkley Sound

Jill and the boys enjoying a snack after a swim.

Jill and the boys enjoying a snack after a swim.

Standing on top of the waterfall, tiers of glistening, freshwater pools stretched out before us. Carved perfectly in the rock, they were laced together by a series of tumbling rapids, cascading from one deep basin to the next, which, coupled with the warm sun, beckoned us in for a swim.

“This is amazing!” I said to Jill with a beaming smile. “And I can’t believe we’re the only people here!” Double-checking myself, I wheeled back around, looked below us at the creek we’d just paddle up from Yahtzee and at our kayak parked on the rocks. You can only reach this spot by boat and we were the only one around. It truly was amazing, and we had it all to ourselves. Continue reading