Lessons I learned on a boat… (Cruise log #3)

Life is good on a boat’s transom…

Twenty days. 260 nautical miles. Two countries. 

Objects lost at sea: 2 pairs of sunglasses. 1 Fedora hat. 1 flashlight. 1 wrench. 1 winch handle. 

Successful rescues at sea: 1 dinghy. 1 boat hook. 1 fender.

Photos taken: Too many to count. 

Friendly people met: Too many to count.

All in all, a fine Northwest boating vacation, I’d say.

As I take a few minutes to reflect before we go back to our busy routines on land, I realize that one can learn valuable lessons while observing life from a boat transom.

Lesson: Boaters are an endless source of inspiration and entertainment. They are an eclectic, friendly, fun-loving, bunch. Power boaters seem to be the loudest. They are the ones who sit on the docks and yell at each other from a comfortable chair (even if the other guy is sitting a few inches next to them.) Sailors are quieter. They tend to keep to themselves, and when tired of the commotion around them, disappear inside their boats. If we were in France, sailors would be les Parisiens of the boating world. Power boaters would be les Marseillais; jovial, outgoing, loud-spoken. 

Boaters relaxing… 

Beach Boys hits on a hot summer afternoon? Count them in!

Just another fun evening for the merry members
 of the Roche Harbor Yacht Club

Lesson: Boating involves a great deal of resourcefulness. It is one thing to be able to plot a course; read a compass; plan a trip around tides. It is another one entirely to be willing – and able – to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty whenever something on board needs to be tweaked/patched up/replaced. I have a theory that a successful boater is part Indiana Jones and part Carl Griswold. While on board, Le Husband never seems to sit still, constantly tuning up, checking, fixing parts; or, as I like to call it: “puttering around.” The funniest thing is that while he dislikes working on the house or his car, he will jump into action, tools in hand, whenever the boat (his greatest pride and joy) needs attention. And he is not the only one. Boating is the perfect activity for hyperactive personalities.

Getting advice from the “Old timers,” always willing to help…
Boating can be a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it… 

Lesson: As a stress reliever, cruising works better than anti-depressants/therapy/yoga combined. Who can resist the soothing rhythm of a boat bobbing gently in a peaceful bay, as herons fly by and disappear in the sunset? I don’t remember sleeping as soundly as I have over the last three weeks, in a long, long time.

Lesson: Chores remain chores, on a boat or on land. But chores undertaken as a live-aboard seem somewhat lighter… An important skill to learn is mastering the use of quarters (US and Canadian,) and keeping a full supply on board at all times. Life in a marina revolves around quarters!

Typical marina grocery store: Pasta, pasta, or… pasta?

A laundry room with a view

Window cleaning…

Lesson: There are some friendly, helpful people, out there! A simple fact, and one that is easy to forget while watching the daily news on TV. There seems to be a lot of genuinely nice people working or living around marinas, both in the U.S. and in Canadian waters. These guys made the trip even more special (loved the quirky cab driver – and Santa Claus look alike – who took me grocery shopping; waited outside the store and carried my bags back to the boat on Pender Island, BC!) 

All boaters know the importance of friendly, competent deck hands!

A mellow islander greets guests on Orcas Island, WA.

Lesson: Cute and quaint are overused words. Cute- and quaint-averse people should therefore stay away from the Gulf and San Juan islands. Warning: Cute and quaint overdose in an island near you!

Eastsound, Orcas Island, WA
Darvill’s Bookstore, Eastsound, Orcas Island, WA
A resident of Montague Harbor, BC., lives here…
Fire escape ladders,
Hotel de Haro, Roche Harbor, San Juan Island, WA

Lesson: While cruising the Pacific Northwest coastal waters, it is best to keep an open mind and a healthy sense of humor…

That’s John Wayne (aka “The Duke”) greeting boaters
at Port Townsend marina!

A frequent promise in the islands…

… and if all else fails…

A Roche Harbor [boating] tradition: Hiring the Phecal Phreak…
(private joke, for boaters only) 

Lesson: To guarantee a successful cruising vacation, pick the right boat. Pick the right skipper. Pick the right crew. And always, always, pick the best seat in the house. 

A bientôt. 

Sidney Spit, BC

All photos by French Girl in Seattle

Please do not use without permission

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What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)


  • La solidarité des gens de mer n’est pas une légende, et elle est internationale!
    Les bancs sont magnifiques (enfin, leur localisation et leur vue) mais sur ce post , la photo qui me touche le plus, c’est la vitrine de la petite librairie!Je la trouve carrément magique!
    ça va être dur de reprendre la routine terrienne , non ?..Avec des paysages pareils, et de telles rencontres on voudrait que ce voyage n’en finisse pas , autant pour toi que pour nous :o)
    Bises !

    • Eh oui, Marie, mais il faut bien jeter l’ancre tôt ou tard… et toutes les meilleures choses ont une fin. Ne t’inquiète pas: Tu me connais. Il y aura d’autres aventures avant la fin de l’été. Et puis je dois encore trier toutes ces belles photos de Nice qui me donneront certainement matière pour de nouvelles histoires 🙂

  • Oh yay! This was such a lovely post! Those views!!! I would think that such a trip would do a person more good than any fancy beach getaway. Thanks for sharing it with us…

  • Eh bien, Véronique, I have thoroughly enjoyed following along on your wonderful boating adventure and these photos are stunning once again. So much to comment on….. you have obviously met some amazing people and the WildFLOUR (how clever!) bakery is the cutest bakery I have ever seen! I’m sure you will return home completely refreshed and with very fond memories.

  • I’ve been sailing along with you from my arm chair. Looks like a fabulous vacation. We only did lake sailing with over night anchoring in coves. It’s been far too many years to think about taking up this sport again, but I do miss the quiet of cruising across the water. I think you are spot on about sailors and motor boat owners. 😉

    • Dearest Sarah. Lake sailing is fun too, especially if you get to anchor out and spend the night on the boat (my favorite part…) Love our “floating home,” and already looking forward to some fun weekends on board this fall. A bientôt.

  • Dearest Véronique,

    Quite an interesting wrap up about your cruising experience. So glad you made the most out of the entire trip. Funny that you too evaluate things the way our friends and both of us did. Each day together in Italy we would ask at night: ‘What did we learn today?…’
    Hugs and love to you,

    • Bonjour Mariette. Well, traveling is about learning, isn’t it? 🙂 After 15 years + of boating, I still learned a lot during this three-week trip, thank goodness. I am glad I am not the only one who loves to recap at the end of the trip! Hope summer is not too hot in Atlanta.

  • Grand adventure, thanks for taking us along. Here in Arizona where temperatures are 112 and more the water is so appealing. So many great photos and information. Best seat in the house would be hard to choose. Also loved the Goldie greeter.

  • Your part of the world must be really fantastic for boating! However, from your nice pictures, I have a feeling that wind must have been missing? Maybe taken during calm morning and evening hours?

  • Oh my what a pleasure to read the last two posts, you’ve really described it so beautifully in words and images for us Veronique. Sounds like you’ve had so much fun, read so many great books (the view from Darvill’s Bookstore is brilliant), but I think the best thing is all that wonderful quality time spent together as a family. I’m definitely going to be looking for a few of the mentioned books, The Paris Wife looks intriguing. Hope it doesn’t take to long to get your ‘land legs’ back. Catch you soon.

  • Thanks, Bentley. Rosalie and I were (C C) sailors from 1977 thougrh 2004 and cruised extensively on vacations with our 1976 C C 24, and later our 1983 C C 29 MkII that we traded for the new Twilight Zone (2004 36 FBS). The main reason for this was that we simply didn’t want the hassle of a larger sailboat. It struck us that a large number of our fellow Duck Island YC member were switching from sail to steam. I had a few comments and was wondering about how others felt 1. The freedom to hang out in the harbor in the fog for an extra day and then catch up with the cruising itenerary is priceless to us (I have a 100GT Masters Lic. w/Sail endorsement so we can handle fog, just DON’T like it) and2. I’ve found that the cost of fuel simply doesn’t matter to me. I was blown away by how much engine oil I had to buy for an oil change, though We came to view the Twilight Zone as if she were a second home on Cape Cod. I think overall the annualized costs are about the same.All in all, it was a great move for us and we are using the boat more than we ever did before. Comments from others in this situation?Also: Rosalie is asking everyone she knows, has anyone ever gone back to sail? Cheers Steve!

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