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More Repairs on Willow

More Repairs on Willow

Owning a boat comes with a lot of responsibilities. The biggest one besides not hitting anything is maintenance and repairs. Some say it is a hole in the water which you dump money into. I agree and disagree with that statement. If it is your home than it is no different then home improvement projects or home repairs.

We had a good amount of time to do some maintenance with the mast out for almost a month. With all the rigging removed and out of the way, we took the opportunity to re bed the chain plates and jib car tracks. The chain plates were straightforward. Unbolt, pull them through the deck, apply some 4200, insert and re bolt. The jib car tracks were a different story. We had to pull back the vinyl interior to get to the nuts. Oh yeah, the liner has the original zippers which no longer work and had to be pried open. The hood for the oven also had to be taken off. And after all of that I had to squeeze into small opening and contort my arm to get the aft couple of bolts out. Once that was done, we cleaned the rails, installed butyl tape around the bolts and reversed the process. We now have safety pins instead of zippers, but hey, that is another project for another day.

During last winter we noticed a lot of water running into the head. We re caulked the teak accent piece above the head to no avail. It was time to pull the portlight out and re bed it. This was a lot simpler than I thought it would be. While taking it apart I notice that the frame was not tight and there was clear silicone. After looking carefully, I noticed that a temporary fix had been attempted but the inside ring was put on backwards, so it never got tight. Some more 4200 and the indoor waterfall was fixed.

The deck where the bow pulpit attaches was a concern during the survey. Somewhere along the line Willow had hit a piling with the pulpit and had some minor damage to the deck. This caused a bit of moisture to get into the core. Luckily there was no delamination. After contorting arms once again, we had it off and back on, leaving a day in between for the core to dry. Some of the bolts were bent so replacements were needed. There had to have been a lot of force to do that.

We had a couple of issues when it came to access in the interior of the boat. The mast step was inaccessible, hence the reason it was missed on the survey. We decided to leave access panels in these areas to make sure it could be monitored from here on out. Since the holly floor covered the port side access panel, we installed a hinge to make sure we could get to it and to create more storage under the floor. We also had an issue with a squeaky, bending floor in the companionway. I decided the best thing to do was to cut a hole and inspect because again, there was no access. After looking at the problem, the wood holding the floor was no longer attached to the stringer. A couple of screws fixed that right up. Now what to do with the panel I cut out. I went to the store and bought some two by two cedar and built a frame. Fixed!

Finally, the goofy table. Our main table has leaves on it which were falling off. But the only way to remove the table for fixing was to pull out the mast. Aha! While we had the mast out, we could fix it. I looked towards the previous owner of Willow for help with this. He is very knowledgeable of wood and has a nice woodworking area in his garage. After a week of gluing and cutting to make the table removeable with the mast installed, we got our table back. The whole time we were in the San Juan Islands we did not have a table. Glad to have our workspace back!

Sail On!

What is Life at Six Knots?

What is Life at Six Knots?

We thought long and hard before we picked the name for our blog. We wanted to convey something more than just sailing and living on a boat. Life at Six Knots is about a lifestyle, about choosing to follow our hearts and not what society or our families and friends think we should be doing. It’s about living our best life on our terms and focusing on the things we find important.

It’s about having adventures. Sailing. Hiking. Cooking. Exploring. Trying new things. Meeting new people. To sum it up: its about living life, not just admiring it from afar.

Check out the video below to see what Life at Six Knots really means to us.



Cruising the San Juans: Part 7

Cruising the San Juans: Part 7

Sucia Islands to Poulsbo

In our final episode of our journey we head back home. But before we head back home we take a quick break during to acknowledge my uncle Ken. He was my godfather and loved everything water related. He was the one who got me into fishing and boating as a child. We had some very memorable trips out including one where we got caught some bigger than wanted swell. We had to turn around and go back. As we turned we were hit on the side by a wave which could have overturned the boat. Luckily it didn’t. But at that point we decided we had to go into the swell away from shore before going towards the shore. It was one of the nastiest days I have been out on.

After a night of swell in Echo Bay we left Sucia Islands and headed for an overnight stay in Watmough Harbor. When we got there we did not feel very good about the anchorage, probably just newbie thoughts. We then backtracked to Hunter Bay to spend the night. It was a windy one with the chain going back and forth over the bridle. Not much sleep was had.

The next morning we proceeded back across the Juan de Fuca. Without knowing, there was a small craft advisory in the strait. We noticed a lot more swell than our previous crossing but it was not uncomfortable. It maybe just felt like it was bigger due to the fact there was not any fog. Here was definitely more wind though. We were cruising at 5-6 knots.


We were slated to meet with Peter and Mary in Mystery Bay. Once across the strait, we headed toward Marrowstone Island. If you have never been here before, the entrance can be quite tricky. This was our first time going in so concentration was of the essence. Once in Kilisut Harbor we started motoring toward Mystery Bay. We arrived to a “Please do not anchor” sign. We looked around and saw lots of mooring buoys and a state park dock. We headed out of the bay to look for anchorage but it was too windy for us to get any sleep. Port Ludlow, here we come.

We exited the harbor and made our way down the sound. We anchored in Port Ludlow while the sun was going down and a twelve hour day under our belts. That being said, it is a great harbor to get some well needed sleep. We were still deciding whether to go back to Mystery Bay or just go home.

sailboat at sunset in port ludlow

Waking up the next day with the decision to just go home, we headed off. It was a pretty uneventful rest of the trip. Although as we were motoring into the wind, I saw other boats on a slightly different course sailing. I couldn’t have this. We point Willow out into the sound and threw the sails up.  Tacking back and forth we finally made it into Madison Bay and sailed all of the way up to Agate Pass. Sails went down and motor came on for the remaining time.

After a few informalities, pumping out, we got Willow back into her slip and put away. It was kind of a happy moment knowing that we were going to get a couple of days of much needed sleep but also a sad one. We knew that our summer cruise was over and we would soon be hunkered down for the winter. We do go out in the winter, but with the lack of a diesel/kerosene/propane heater we are limited to mostly day sails.

We hope you enjoyed this first trip of ours with much more to come. We had a great tome sharing it and can’t wait for next season.


Sail On!

Cruising the San Juans: Part 6

Cruising the San Juans: Part 6

Stuart Island to Sucia Island

Stuart Island and Reid Harbor definitely left their mark on our hearts. So much so, in fact, that I am setting part of my NaNoWriMo novel there. We were fascinated that so many people live there, yet the only way to access the island is by boat or small plane. In some ways, it reminded me of my own childhood home. We had roads in and out of the tiny community where I lived, but we had no power (we used a generator) and it took us 30 minutes to drive to the store or to school. I think the seclusion really spoke to me for that reason.

dinghy in reid harbor
Jim checking out our fishing spot at Stuart Island

We decided to leave Reid Harbor and anchor for a night in Roche Harbor. We needed water and to dispose of some trash and the people at Roche said we could do both things if we purchased some fuel, so we made our way to the marina, zig-zagging through multi-million dollar yachts and sailboats that could fit ours inside of them.

sucia island dinghy
Dinghy on Sucia Island

We got ran our errands at the marina and then made our way back out to anchor in the harbor. There were so many boats out there, we had a hard time choosing a spot (though not as hard as we did in Friday Harbor), and with the wind picking up, we were feeling kind of unsure when we left in Brutus.

We walked around Roche Harbor and watched the boats and planes coming in and out for a while. To be honest, we only spent enough time there to see the highlights so we could say we’d been there and then we left. When we got back to Willow, the wind had changed yet again, and we decided we’d rather spend another night in Reid than risk a sleepless night in the wind, so we pulled up the anchor and made our way back to Stuart Island.

sucia island, san juans
View from Fossil Bay, Sucia Island

Our spot was still open when we got back, so we dropped anchor, prepared a nightcap and enjoyed the sunset in the protected harbor.

The next morning we got up and started making our way toward Sucia Islands. Our friend, Pamela, had instructed us to keep our eyes out when we passed by Spieden Island because you can often see exotic non-native animals, such as big horn sheep and Fallow deer left over from the island’s days as a playground for big game hunters. It is now privately owned and a wildlife sanctuary, but it was sure neat to scan the shores and hillsides searching for animals.

tent on shallow bay
Someone’s camp spot on Shallow Bay, Sucia Island

We pulled into Echo Bay just before sunset, set our anchor and grabbed what was left of the 5 pound bag of peanuts we bought at Costco and sat outside to relax. The next morning we loaded Katie and our camera gear into Brutus and motored over to Sucia Island. It was such a beautiful island, and we only saw a small portion of it. Our time is always limited when we bring Katie because she can’t figure out how to behave herself on a leash. We will go back again without her and hike some of the spots we missed.

trail on Sucia Island
Walking through the forest on Sucia Island


Check back next week for the final episode of our trip to the San Juan Islands.







sailing the san juans

Cruising the San Juans: Part 3

Cruising the San Juans: Part 3

Mackaye Harbor to Blind Bay

ferry at Friday Harbor

Our first night in the San Juans was a rough one. We barely slept all night because of rolling waves, so we woke early, got some coffee together and headed to Friday Harbor!

With only two night’s of anchoring behind us, we had a challenging time anchoring in busy Friday Harbor. With so many boats around, it took us over an hour just to choose the right place. We dropped and pulled up and chose a different spot twice before we finally settled down somewhere that felt comfortable to us…only to have a fishing boat show up a few hours later and hook up to the “crab pot” we thought was floating near us. Fortunately, it was a small boat and it wasn’t too close, but its presence kept Jim awake for the second night in a row.

Friday Harbor sunset

We enjoyed exploring Friday Harbor the next morning. We got iced lattes and breakfast sandwiches at Salty Fox Coffee and then meandered through the streets of town, checking out shops and enjoying the beautiful day. Down at the dinghy dock as we were heading back to Willow, we happened to notice a couple in a dinghy struggling with their motor and fending off a piling, so we rode over to see if we could help. They were grateful for the tow back to their boat as they were transporting blocks of ice for their ice box, and were fearful they’d melt by the time they got the motor going again. Things always seem to go wrong at the least convenient moment, don’t they?

After debating staying a second night in Friday Harbor, we decided to move on. Peter (the old owner of our boat) had suggested we check out Blind Bay on Shaw Island. He said it was a quiet anchorage, not too much motion even though the ferries passed by on their way to Orcas Island, and a good place to just relax. It sounded perfect.

Though it seemed to be a more popular spot than he’d remembered, it was still exactly what we were looking for. We found a nice spot, dropped anchor and then took Brutus out to explore. We parked at the Shaw General Store dock and grabbed an ice cream and some of their amazing salted caramels and then brought Katie over to Blind lsland for a little exploring. We finished off the day with a nightcap on deck and watched the sun set over the San Juan Islands. It was perfect.

Stay tuned next week as we explore Shaw Island and head to Westsound!






Mast Step Repair: Part 4

Mast Step Repair: Part 4

We finally have our mast back! It was a long journey and a lot of hard work, but we are finally done with this project, and it feels awesome! Now it’s time for some rest and relaxation in the San Juan Islands!



Sail On!


Mast Step Repair: Part 3

Mast Step Repair: Part 3

The dirty work begins! We didn’t anticipate the mast step would take so many hours to remove, but we finally got it out! Fortunately, only one of our stringers was partly rotted, so we removed the section that needed to be replaced and got to work rebuilding it.

It was a challenge trying to live on a boat where we were also trying to do a massive repair project. Steph spent a lot of time in coffee shops and on Peter’s boat (he’s the one we bought Willow from) editing photos from weddings we’d shot. It was difficult for her to have to uproot her workspace every couple of hours and not know where she’d be working the next day. But we are happy to report, all weddings were delivered on time!

Another challenge was feeding ourselves. For a lot of the time, there was a fine dust covering every surface. Not a good environment for trying to cook a meal in! Aside from the dust, our belongings had all been removed from their hiding spots in the main salon area and moved into different spots. Tools littered every surface and that included the surface of the galley.

And it was hot. So hot. Probably the hottest part of the summer, and we were chugging away at this project that required me, at times, to be in a full white dust suit and mask. It was particularly awful when I had myself and “the hole” covered with plastic to minimize the dust spreading in the boat.  But with time ticking away, we needed to use all the time we had available, no matter what the temperature was.


Next week we get the mast put pack in and the boat back together and go for a shakedown sail! Stay tuned for the final episode!


Sail On!

Mast Step Repair: Part 2

Mast Step Repair: Part 2

With the sails off and the boom stored, our inspection panels cut and the wiring disconnected, we were ready to have the mast pulled. It’s quite an emotional thing…to have your mast pulled. It’s the very lifeblood of your boat. It’s what makes a sailboat a sailboat and not a power boat; without it, you have nothing to attach your sails to. Which means your boat doesn’t move through the water in the way it was intended. It was hard to watch our being wheeled around the back of Sea Marine and set to rest (however temporarily!) in the middle of a mess of masts that looked like they’d been left to die.

But we were glad to get the show on the road. We’d been aware of the problem for over a month before we got to work, and getting the job started was a relief. We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us, but when we finally dug into it, we realized we had no idea!


Stay tuned! Next week we get the dirty work started!


A single moment can change your life: one year since KABLAM!

A single moment can change your life: one year since KABLAM!


One year ago today, our lives changed. In such a huge way that it prompted us to take a hard look at every element of our reality. And then start over from scratch.

Well, not entirely from scratch. Our marriage provided a good foundation. And we weren’t going to get rid of Katie. But that’s about where we drew the line. The three of us, our family, was all we needed from the life we once live.

When most people lose their job (or leave their job), they simply find a new job, cut some corners until income and expenses level back out and proceed forward. Changing jobs is generally a minor blip, a bump in the road. It’s not often a reason to sell your house and all of your belongings and move onto a sailboat in another state.

1500 square foot house

But I’ve never been much like most people. I always take the road less traveled. I zig when everyone else zags and the idea of simply finding a new job and moving forward at the pace we were going was exhausting. For me, leaving (losing) my job was an excuse to try something new, something different, something more adventurous.

So here we are. Fast forward one year, and Jim and I (and Katie) live on a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest. If you had told me a year and one day ago that this is where I’d be right now, I would have laughed in your face.

We spend our time working for ourselves, building our own businesses (Life at Six Knots and our wedding photography business), and sailing whenever we can. We’ve made new friends, created new daily routines, and we are, quite simply, loving life.

living on a sailboat

We weren’t sure living tiny was going to work for us. Can anyone truly be sure of something like that without trying it first? We downsized from 1500 square feet of house to somewhere in the region of 250 square feet of boat. And that space is not only our living quarters, but our office as well.

But tiny living does suit us. I love that we use every square inch of our space. I love that we don’t have cluttered closets and piles of things we need to find homes for. I love that all I really need to do my job is my camera, my laptop and some internet connection. Oh, and a steady stream of coffee, but that’s a different story.

chemex coffee

And though its hard as hell, I love self-employment. I love that I don’t sit at a desk working for someone else. I love that I create my own schedule, that I can start at 10 am and work until 8 pm if I want to. Or I can take a Wednesday off and work on Saturday.  Or stop working at 2 pm and then start again at 6. There’s so much freedom in it, even though I work probably twice as many hours as I did when I worked for someone else. Those hours are all mine.

I used to worry that my life was doomed to be stuck in the rut of working a job I didn’t enjoy, living in a town I didn’t feel a connection to and waiting the days away until I could go on my next vacation. But all it takes is one moment, one sentence, one snap decision to send your life into a completely different, completely awesome new direction. As long as you have the courage to let it.

Have you ever done a complete 180 in life? Tell us about it!




Reflecting on our Six Month Live-Aboard-iversary

Reflecting on our Six Month Live-Aboard-iversary

We’ve spent the last two weeks in California in our old surroundings, visiting with our family and friends. And it has been great. And hard. And trying. And fun. And it has given us a chance to reflect on all of the changes we’ve made in our lives in the past six months.

life at six knots

It’s crazy to think it’s been that long. Six months. Half of a year. And three days. Since we became official liveaboards. Of course, all of the changing came about a bit longer ago than that. Gosh, we’re rounding the ten month mark on that. How has it already been ten months?! But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re talking about the six month mark.

life at six knots

Six months ago. We’d been “sneak aboards” on Willow for just about a month before we got the call from the port to let us know they had a liveaboard spot available. We were out on the boat in Liberty Bay with Jim’s parents who had come to visit us. They knew right away what the call was when my face lit up with a smile I could hardly contain. It was the moment we’d been waiting for and we began celebrating immediately!

I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t been stressing about it. In Washington, you’re allowed to “live” on your boat for 90 days out of the year, and 30 days out of every 45 (I think….we were trying to ignore that one and focusing more on the 90 days). We’d been told not to worry about it, that the port wouldn’t kick us out if it went beyond that. But we are rule followers, so we were concerned about what we’d do and what our options were.

life at six knots
Moving all of our stuff aboard.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry for long, and here we are, six months as legal liveaboards.

I didn’t think much about it until we returned to California. We settled nicely into life on the boat. It feels natural to us, like where we are supposed to be. But now we are in California, cleaning out the rest of our storage unit, selling more stuff, and shooting a wedding. We’ve been living in a regular old house, showering without having to feed a machine quarters or worrying about running out of hot water (despite the port’s fancy new tankless water heater), watching cable television, and preparing meals in a full-sized kitchen.

life at six knots
Signing the paperwork for the purchase of Willow.

But with access to all of these modern luxuries (things most people take completely for granted, by the way), we actually find ourselves missing the boat.

I love our tiny kitchen, our fridge with just enough room for food we’ll eat within the week. Even our tiny three (though you can only use two at a time)-burner stove and tiny oven. It’s the perfect size for just the two of us. Even for four of us if we have friends over.

life at six knots
Cooking risotto for four.
life at six knots
Our first breakfast aboard Willow: muffins from the farmer’s market and coffee from Hot Shots.

We’ve realized that we don’t need the king-sized bed we used to sleep on.

We quite enjoy the smallness of our space. We use all of it, and we don’t need any more.

We miss how so much of our lives occurs outside. Those walks up to the bathrooms to take a shower are inconvenient, but we love that they take us outdoors, give us a little exercise and fresh air.

We love waking up every morning already on the water. Sunrise at the marina is so peaceful and quiet and lovely. Really, it’s wonderful all day, but sunrise is particularly special.

life at six knots

We miss our tiny town, where we can walk almost anywhere we need to go, where we leave our boat and almost inevitably run into someone we know. We miss the sense that we belong to the community and that it belongs to us.

life at six knots
Peter, the old owner of our boat showing Jim how to use Navionics.

Ten months ago, before we began this journey, we never would have guessed that we would be living on a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest. We wouldn’t have imagined we’d be surrounded by so many amazing people or that our lives would feel so full.

And six months ago, when we were granted liveaboard status in Poulsbo, we couldn’t have imagined that it would be exactly where we belong.