Reflections on Cruising The A to Z Challenge

Z is for Zooming Ahead: What’s Next?

Saturday, April 30, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA


During the month of April, we're participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge where every day (excluding Sundays) we'll be posting to the blog . . . alphabetically. The overall theme we've chosen to tie all the entries together is living aboard a boat and cruising – things we've learned along the way: our thoughts, reflections, and tips for those just starting out or who are interested in this lifestyle.




Cambria sailing up the coast of New Zealand (photo by Eleanor Bates). 
What’s next? It’s a question we ask ourselves often and, until recently, it’s been an easy one to answer thanks to an overall plan for cruising the Inside Passage – biting one section off at a time. And now that we’ve completed our final major season in the Pacific Northwest (the one where we sailed to Southeast Alaska), we need to make some big decisions.

Do we make a run out the Strait of Juan de Fuca and turn left, making our way down the coast to Mexico and across the South Pacific back to New Zealand where we have residency? From there, we could spend six months in the summer and head north to the islands during the winter to explore Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, all places we missed the first time around. I have a strong desire to spend more time offshore and this option would fulfill that longing, but it was a choice we had available to us nine years ago and passed on (mainly because we had a dog aboard and there are strict quarantine regulations in New Zealand).

Or do we make our way through the Panama Canal, to the Caribbean, over to Bermuda, the Azores, and on to the Mediterranean? That was our thinking nine years ago when we had Cambria shipped to the Northern Hemisphere from New Zealand. But after spending so much time cruising in the wilderness, this plan has lost a lot of its appeal. If nothing else, the last eight years have shown us that we prefer dropping our hook in secluded anchorages where it may be several days before we see another boat, if at all. With improvements in technology, the oceans have become more accessible and a larger number of people are living on the water now which means one thing: more crowded anchorages along the sun-belt and prime cruising destinations.


If remote anchorages are what we’re looking for, there’s always the Northwest Passage and every now and then David mentions it as a possibility. It would certainly accomplish moving us east and open up a new world of cruising – Greenland and Northern Europe. There’s no doubt it would be the experience of a lifetime, but the cost involved in preparing Cambria and ourselves for such an expedition would be very high. She’s an ocean-going vessel built to Lloyd’s standards but she wasn’t constructed with high-latitude sailing in mind . . . and honestly, neither was I (not that high anyway).

We could truck Cambria to the Great Lakes and do the Great Loop and Intracoastal Waterway before crossing the Atlantic. Like harbor-hopping up the West Coast of the US (which we did in 2008), it’d be an extraordinary way to see the country. To make it a little more interesting, we could always attack the Great Loop via the Caribbean before crossing the Atlantic, taking the opportunity to see Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama as we do.

If inland waterways and touring countries from a unique perspective are what we’re looking for, then maybe it’s time to try something completely different and buy a canal boat in England. David’s British and still has family there so it’d be a wonderful opportunity for us to spend time with them and to see his homeland, particularly the historical sites. We had the chance to do a short trip on one when we were in England several years ago and fell in love with the experience. It’s easy for me to picture myself walking alongside the boat with a dog by my side as David putters slowly by. And he doesn’t have a problem seeing himself ending the day with a trip to the local pub to taste their wares.


The adventure wouldn’t have to stop there. After England, we could tour the canals of Europe, France in particular. I don’t have a “bucket list” per se, but my major area of study in university was French and for as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of living there and the canals would be one way to accomplish that. Canal boating clearly has something to offer both of us but would mean reconnecting with the outside world on a level I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. But, more importantly, how would it compare to sailing? And would we be able to make the transition from a life where we live independently for months at a time to one where we would be connected to land on a daily basis?

These are all good questions, ones we’ve given a lot of time and consideration to. At the end of the day, the prospect of leaving this place we’ve come to know and love is daunting. After all, where else in the world can we sail deep into spectacular fjords lined with rugged mountains and hanging glaciers? Jump into our kayaks and watch bears forage along the shore? Sail amongst waterfalls? I know other places like this exist, each with its own unique cultural experience, but we’re already here and the idea of turning our backs on what we have isn’t an easy one. 

So, what’s next for us? New Zealand? The Caribbean? The Mediterranean? England? It’s a difficult question and one we’re not quite ready to answer, not publicly anyway. But we do know what we’ll be doing this coming season: Tomorrow, we’ll untie our lines, slide out of our winter slip and slowly make our way north. We have no idea how far we’ll go or what anchorages we’ll visit along the way . . . that depends on the wind and which direction it decides to blow.

Thanks for following along with our first (and hopefully not last) A to Z Challenge. It’s been fun!


Note: A version of this article first appeared online at Three Sheets Northwest.  

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22 comments

  1. Sounds like you have lots of possibilities ... all good! There are no wrong answers here.

    I've enjoyed AtoZ-ing with you and hope to continue to follow your writing in the future, wherever you go.

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    1. Same here, Jaye. It's been a lot of fun and I'll be following along as I can!

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  2. Lots of interesting options to choose from. No matter what you end up doing, it will be a wonderful experience. I can't wait to see where you end up.

    I'm glad to see that this won't be your last challenge!

    Cheers - Ellen

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    1. We're pretty excited about what the future holds for us and feel very fortunate to have options. It's going to be an interesting couple of years, that's for sure.

      Thanks for a great challenge . . . I really good time this month and am sad to see the end of it!

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  3. We've enjoyed your company at our winter home the last 3 winters and wish you both the best no matter what you decide to do or where your travels take you! Take good care!

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    1. Thanks Nancy and Jerry. It won't be the same without you guys!

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  4. So many choices, Stephanie. All truly wonderful and viable options. But, it appears to me that you have made your choice already. Your heart belongs to the PNW! :-) I am curious to see what will be in store next year... if you change tacks. Or not.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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    1. You're right, Liesbet. Our hearts do belong to the PNW. It was really difficult but we did decide to move on. It's going to take us some time to put all of our ducks in a row, so I imagine we'll be based here for another 18 to 24 months (we never seem to be able to do anything fast which is probably why sailing suits us so well). We're both really excited about what's next and I'm looking forward to sharing it with everyone!

      It's been so much doing the A to Z with you and will be stopping by your site whenever I get the chance to catch up!

      Cheers, Stephanie

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  5. I've loved reading your daily posts. Can't wait to see your next adventures x

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    1. Thanks, Viki! Does that mean you might be interested in doing the A to Z next year? It was a lot of work, but so much fun!

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  6. I've enjoyed your A2Z trip too. If you think more about the Northwest Passage, one of my friends found an expedition currently surveying ice retreat in the Arctic which could be interesting for you... http://ciresblogs.colorado.edu/firncover/

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    1. Thanks for the link, Jemima. I would love to do the Northwest Passage just to see the wildlife but it really is way out of my comfort zone (both in temperature and abilities). Thanks for following along this month!

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  7. I don't know what you've chosen, but wonder if you saw this beautiful barge for sale? If I had the money, I'd put Galapagos on the hard for a couple of years, buy this, and go to Europe. http://www.apolloduck.eu/feature.phtml?id=468959 It sounds like you are leaving tomorrow! Soo soon! But fair winds. We will still be here through next spring. So we will get together when you return from your adventures this season.

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    1. Sorry, Melissa. I missed your comment somehow. I did see the barge you linked up . . . they did a great job on it. I wonder why they're selling.

      We'll definitely have to get together after we get back in the fall -- D and I really want to meet you and Mike. Have a great summer!

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  8. We've decided that after our Med tour (and maybe a tour of the Atlantic Islands), we'll "retire" to a small barge boat and wander around the canals of Europe. Come on over and join us ! (You have at least 6 or 7 years to think about it...). Great series and look forward to your next adventures, whatever they may be.

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    1. Six or 7 years sounds just our speed!

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  9. I waited till the end of April, and read your entire A-Z in one sitting. I very much enjoyed your description of your journey. We are just at the very beginning, and it's comforting to know that the slow pace is okay. Seems like we have been moving onboard forever.

    I have ventured into your blog before, and looked at the photos of your boat. (doesn't everyone do that, the first time in) I must say that your vessel is beautiful, and I want countertops exactly like yours! We are not to that stage yet, but a gal can dream right?

    Maybe if you venture into Alaskan waters again, we can share a drink in the cockpit, or dip a paddle with you. Kayaking is one of my passions, and I have a blogpost in the making describing my journey into it.

    Thanks for the great read, and it'll be exciting to see what you're up to next!
    Donna/svdenalirosenc43.blogspot.com

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    1. I don't know how you read all 26 in one sitting, but thanks, Donna!

      I jumped over to Denali Rose (great name!) for a quick look. It wasn't that long ago that we were in your neighbourhood (Anan Wildlife Observatory was a highlight of our season) and now I'm beginning to wish we were on our way back -- Alaska is so beautiful.

      Cheers, Stephanie

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  10. thanks for the terrific and imaginative A-Z posts! We are also thinking of an overland to Lake Superior and then the Atlantic in a few years.

    ~ Chris and Chanda

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  11. Great A-Z! I really enjoyed following you this month, I've picked up some great tips and have been loving the photography. All your possibilities sound amazing. I too, am really drawn to narrow boating through Europe. It would be easy to imagine moving back to the homeland and working and boating. And there's the pub! - Lucy

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    1. It's difficult to beat a proper English pub, isn't it? D and I spent 7 weeks there visiting his family and every day we visited a historical site followed up by a roast dinner and hand-pulled beer. It was great!

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