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Returning to Cruising 20 Years Later

Mary Kruger

Synchronicity
Fraser 41
November 6th, 2022

Our First Offshore Adventure

It was 1995. We had spent 3 years building our sailboat Synchronicity, a Fraser 41, in our backyard. That day she was delivered by truck to North Vancouver, B.C. and launched in Mosquito Creek Marina. What a day it was! With the girls tucked away sleeping in the v-berth, Dave and I sat on the settee looking at each other. Silently, I thought, “What have we done?”

Launch of Synchronicity, 1995

We had sold all of our possessions, including our house, and now moved onto a sailboat with our two young girls, ages 3 and 8. Were we crazy for doing these things? Neither set of our parents ever voiced disapproval of our plans to sail the world. Not that we needed their endorsement, since we were well into our 30s. But does seeking approval from our elders ever go away? Looking back, we decided to accept their quietness as approval for our own sake.

Fast forward to 1998. We had lived aboard in North Vancouver through three dark, wet winters, and it was finally time to wave goodbye to our friends and family. The emotions I had were excitement mixed with fear and anxiety about not knowing what it would be like to sail offshore.

We decided to do a straight shot to San Diego. We received a decent forecast and went for it. My confidence built as I took my turn on watches with Dave. By the time we arrived in San Diego, 9 days out from Vancouver, I was elated. I had managed my seasickness and been a part of our first sailing voyage from Vancouver to San Diego! That was just the first of many passages that took us all around the world. Four years later we returned to Vancouver, sailing under Lion’s Gate Bridge, feeling elated that we had circumnavigated the globe and curious to see what would be next for our family.

Dave, Jess, Leah and Mary in Mo’orea, French Polynesia

Heading Off Again, Years Later

Time hop once more with me. It’s now 24 years later, and here we are setting sail once again. This time it’s just Dave and me. Our daughters are both married and have their own lives. Leah, age 35 has her own boat (one foot bigger than her parents’, she’ll proudly tell you) and is raising our grandson with her husband aboard. Jess has a thriving baking business and just got married. This time, Dave and I will be doing this trip without them, taking family and friends as crew from time to time.

People ask how it will be different. I ask myself that question too. Now 61, I feel less confident to sail on a big adventure than I did 24 years ago. Even after 37,000 nautical miles and a lifetime of cruising memories, I struggle with those demons: my inner critics. As a life/career coach, I know them only too well. My inner critics have been screaming into my ears: I’m not fit enough, I don’t know how to sail, I’m not strong enough, what if I mess up, what if I can’t do this.  But then I think, “Dave is depending on me,” and work on hushing those inner voices.

As we neared our jump off date in early September, my anxiety was over the top. My cousin Val was coming with us on the first leg to San Diego. She was excited – I just felt dread. I woke up most nights with heightened anxiety. My brain felt scrambled, wondering: can I do this, what will it be like without our girls beside us all the way, am I up for it, can I REALLY do this again, am I too old. The doubts crept in once again.

I sought the advice of my friend and personal coach, Pam. She sent me texts saying, “You’ve got this.” Searching for the confidence, I kept wondering why is it as we get older we lose our confidence? Does everyone go through this? Daughter Leah helped me get in touch with what I liked about cruising – the people, dolphins, sunsets, stars and visiting new places and cultures. I weakly held onto those thoughts.

Dolphins on the bow

Our to-do list was never ending. Dave was busy with boat projects and retiring from a construction career of over 40 years. With help from Val and another friend, I got the boat provisioned. We had set Sept 5, 2022 for leaving and the date was closing in.

Sept 5 arrived. We left amidst tearful goodbyes with our girls, their husbands, our grandson, and a few close friends. The first few days we motored and cleared into the US. That was the easy part.

The first night passage was up the Strait of Juan de Fuca and around Cape Flattery. Val kept watch with me. She struggled with seasickness. The motion was all too familiar. Juan de Fuca (we like to call it Juan de Pukey) didn’t disappoint. Washing machine-like waves coming from all directions, hurtled Synchronicity around. We learned later the cross-swells were the remnants of typhoon Merbok. While Val puked, I maintained my 3 hour watches, looking at the amazing starlit night, remembering one of the reasons I really do like sailing. As we started down the Washington coast, the swells became a little more regular and my body slowly got used to it. Sturgeron was and still is my best friend at sea. The seasick meds worked. Phew!

With the weather not improving and the winds increasing, Captain Dave decided we should stop at Gray’s Harbor in Washington, a small fishing port. We spent a few days there waiting for improved weather.

Back out sailing, a few days passed and my anxiety slowly reduced. Then off the coast of Oregon, the winds once again built. This time both our autopilot and Monitor Windvane self-steering systems failed. The Windvane, which Dave rebuilt, had too much flex in it and would not steer a course. The new, heavy-duty autopilot, which had steered us so far started to make screeching and grinding noises, until it finally quit working altogether. Of course, it was the middle of the night.

If ever there was a time I should fall apart, it was now in the dark of night when I was faced with hand-steering. Our compass light was out as well so we literally had only the stars  to guide us. My tears appeared as Dave woke me for my watch and explained the circumstances. “I don’t know if I can do this,” I said to him, knowing there was no choice but to suck it up and take the watch. Val was still struggling with seasickness, so it was up to me.

Blinking back my tears, I heard the voice of my coach Pam once again, “You’ve got this,” she whispered in my ear. I dug deep that night to steer in winds from 25-30 knots, gusting 35. And then a wonderful thing happened. As the waves crashed, the self-steering sat useless, our crew was immobilized with seasickness, and it all started to get really intense, this Grandma’s confidence came back! Not all of it, but enough to hand steer my two night watches, safely guiding Synchronicity and her crew through until Dave took his watch at 6:00 a.m. Enough to know I was going to be OK. “It’s like riding a bike,” I heard in my head. And indeed, I felt that I could do this again.

First leg: Vancouver, BC to Chula Vista, CA

The rest of the trip to San Diego went without too many glitches. We chose to stop in Bodega Bay, the Channel Islands and Catalina. On Sept 29, 24 years later, we landed once again at Chula Vista Marina, just before light gave way to darkness.

A small sense of warmth came over me, a knowing that I can and will do this. As we prepare for what’s next on our adventure, my inner critics are still there, but quieted by a tiny all-knowing of what I am capable of!

Chula Vista Marina

Comments


  1. Glen and Marilyn Middleton says:

    Powerful, inspiring testimonial. We hope to see you down in warm sunny Mexico this coming season.

    1. Mary Kruger says:

      Thank you so much! Yes I hope we meet up in Mexico.

  2. Diane Cherry says:

    Awesome story! Maybe those doubts keep us on our toes. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Thanks for sharing

    1. Mary Kruger says:

      My pleasure!

  3. Roberta Ellison says:

    What a great read Mary! I felt emotional remembering all those years ago when you and your family left on that first adventure. Your words are so wise and honest. Can’t wait for your next update! Love from your old friend, Roberta

    1. Mary Kruger says:

      Thank you so much Roberta. Hope you are well.

  4. deborah o'connor says:

    Thanks! This was really inspirational!

    1. Mary Kruger says:

      Aww thank you!

  5. Sung han. Chicks boom says:

    This is great story. Thanks… hope to meet you again in Mexico next year…
    We met you in Westport.
    Where are you now ?

    1. Mary Kruger says:

      Yes we remember you! We are in San Diego. Heading south at the end of December.Yes, hope our paths cross again.

  6. Andréanne Blouin says:

    Mary, I thought about you the past few weeks. I am making big changes again in my carrer and at some point I felt the need to get you thoughts, but like Many things in Life I didn’t contact you. And what a pleasant surprise to read this on my Linked. ENJOY, shut those voices and be the best you can be.

    I will follow your Journey With great pleasure.
    If your sails brings you to the Fjord of Saguenay, I will be there to welcome you and show you my paradis.

    Have many great adventure… ne safe! Xx

  7. Trish says:

    You write very well Mary! A very engrossing account of your first leg. I sure hope you’ll be capturing the rest of your and Dave’s journey like this – I’d love to read it!

    May the winds fill your sails!

  8. Frances says:

    I felt I was there with you, you’re a great storyteller cousin 💗
    I spent 2 weeks in Moorea in 1966, when I win the lottery I’ll take my girls, so beautiful.
    Safe travels dear cousins 💗

  9. Richard C says:

    Absolutely awesome totally inspiring & yes beautifully written, safe travels you both definitely have this, take care

  10. Carol Penstock says:

    Wow Mary!!! Of course I heard you tell the story before, but I never get tired of hearing it. You and Dave are quite the brave pair and I wish you joy and safety. I’ve always admired you.
    Carol Penstock

  11. Heidi Romeike says:

    Hello Mary and Dave
    Mar, you are an awesome writer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. You have always been your authentic self..so honest and insightful. I am so glad your confidence is rebuilding as these a really big challenges you and Dave face. Most of us could not do what you are doing..so huge kudos to you both. Stay well and enjoy the rewards and delights pushing yourself brings. Always your admirer.Heidi

  12. Julie says:

    Thank you for sharing!! I am so inspired by your courage and your ability to push past the fear and doubt. I look forward to following the rest of your adventures with dolphins at the bow and a sky of stars 🌟 overhead.

  13. Pam Penner says:

    Mary, you are such an inspiration to all of us who battle with the inner critic. It is such a pleasure to be your friend. I love hearing your sailing stories, of both the joy and challenge. I hope you will continue to write. I look forward reading more about your amazing adventure.

    You Got This!

  14. Jim says:

    Hi Sis, seems just like yesterday. Except your writing is exquisite.
    I hope you keep this up your whole trip. It is a great read! I can’t wait for the next episode. Enjoy and it sounds like you are. Challenge and you are meeting and beating them. Hope to catch up over Christmas.
    Jim

  15. David Cater says:

    Great writing Mary. As my nautical adventures are limited to kayaking in the Gulf Islands (we now live on Salt Spring Island) I vicariously enjoy your ocean travels from the comfort of our (non-pitching) home!

  16. Heather Wideski says:

    Wow Mary this is fantastic, love hearing about your adventures. Can’t wait to hear about the next leg of your trip! Say hi to Dave!!

  17. Jude Snaydon says:

    Mary, it is such a delight to read about your adventures. I will continue to follow and to be inspired.

  18. Adriana Willson says:

    Wow Mary! Such an incredible reading of your journey, adversity and resiliency. Such an inspiration. Can’t wait to read more. So proud of of you and your confidence.. YOU GOT THIS!

  19. Fred says:

    So awesome Mary! I truly look forward to reading on. Best of luck Fred and Dawn

  20. Rae Simpson says:

    Great story. Awesome courage. You got this girl!

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