Previous voyages

This web page will talk about how to get offshore sailing experience.

When PJ discovered he loved sailing singlehanded and started looking at distant horizons he faced a major uphill battle. He was a total newbie, with almost no experience besides sailing on a Merit 25 in the South San Francisco Bay, maybe once a month for a year or so. At the time he did not know yet that he would be embarking on the adventure that this web site is dedicated to. Still, he started building a plan to acquire enough boat handling experience and be safe at sea, regardless of conditions. What follows is the story of how he managed to get meaningful offshore sailing experience, while keeping his day job. In 2018, all this preparation culminated in PJ winning the most prestigious singlehanded race in the US.

Baby steps

At first, books were his main source of information: stories of sailors adrift, survival experiments, techniques to handle severe weather in a small sailboat, singlehanding sailing. These books are only a few of the many he read. With his wife, they did a few weekend trips in a Catalina 27, where navigation in unknow marinas and mooring were practiced, with much chaos and stress. Those were the first nights spent in a small sailboat, moored in Ayala Cove. But all this was still in the protected waters of San Francisco Bay. Thanks to reciprocal privileges between PJ’s sailing school Spinnaker Sailing and the one in Santa Cruz we ventured into the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and into the synoptic winds off Santa Cruz. Coming out of the small yacht harbor in Santa Cruz is possibly when the first thoughts of sailing around the world materialized. The beauty of the everchanging sea, the pure air, the constant movement, all created a beautiful experience of primordial life, which had a lasting effect on PJ.

First step towards building offshore sailing experience: an two days sail in San Francisco Bay.

First passage

Feeling ready for more time on a boat, the family scheduled a vacation in Antigua and chartered a Jeanneau 36i for two weeks in December 2015. The plan was to sail from Antigua to Guadeloupe, all the way down to Les Saintes and back up. This involved a 50 nm passage from Falmouth Harbor to Deshaies. This section is exposed to the winds, swells, and currents from the Atlantic, creating a true mini offshore passage. Everything went well and making landfall in Deshaies was truly empowering, creating beautiful and lasting memories for the whole family.

A wonderful mini offshore passage with the family on a cruising sailboat

What came next?

All that was wonderful sailing and helped build boat handling experience. However some of the key building blocks for successful offshore sailing were still missing: night sailing, multi-day passages, weather analysis, route planning, and more. A bigger plan was required and a search was started for true offshore passage experience. The key criteria were:

  • A true offshore passage;
  • Training: the organizing party would train participants to be 100% ready for the event;
  • Safety: a solid safety record.

The two most interesting opportunities identified back in 2016 were crewing aboard one of the Clipper Round The World boat and the Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race. Ultimately both were selected as the next steps to grow PJ’s experience. Follow the links below for further details on each.

2018 Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht race: this event is managed by the Singlehanded Sailing Society, provides seminars, progressively more difficult races, an informative forum, has a very good safety record, and a supporting race committee.

2017 South Atlantic Crossing with Clipper: this event is very expensive, provides some training, has a very strong social aspect, provides offshore experience, and has a variable safety record.

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