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The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

What Makes a Cruiser

Greg Yellenik 

1982 Cooper Seabird 37 Pilothouse
December 11th, 2019

On the 15th of May, in the jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool. He was splashing, enjoying the jungles great joys, when Horton the elephant heard  a small noise. 

Dr. Suess 

Some years ago, Laurie saw an ad for the Bluewater Cruising Association’s Ocean Cruising Adventures speakers series in Pacific Yachting magazine, which was a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle. We learned that we could hear more of the same by joining the BCA. So we did.

Our lives were changing; friends suffered set backs; some passed, jobs came and went, so three years ago we made a plan to get married, buy a bigger boat, sell our home of 22 years, get rid of all of our possessions, retire early and become “cruisers”.  We chose a departure of May 15, 2019. Horton Day.

We hunted and searched until we found a fabulous boat in Seattle. A BC built 1982 Cooper Seabird 37 Pilothouse – Galene. More than our budget and requiring quite a lot of work, but we loved her at first sight. We made a plan to leave our jobs in May, head for Gwaii Haanas late June, then off to Glacier Bay, Alaska to make iced tea with burgy bits in July, then Victoria to San Francisco in September, to be followed by the Baja Ha Ha in November and finally Christmas in La Paz Mexico.

This is Galene!

Fast forward to the December 20, 2018 storm. With just four months before departure, we are notified that the 100 km/hr wind had dismasted Galene in the marina. Could we stick to our original plan?  We had already accepted an offer on our house.

At this point, my many years as a successful project manager became useful. Within those four months we sold or gave away everything that we would not be taking on the boat. Repairs to Galene in Steveston dry dock were slow due to winter weather. I completed some re-decking work  in the snow with the use of a cardboard box and electric fan. The insurance adjuster and rigging contractor worked diligently to help keep to our tight schedule. In the end, timing was tight. Galene went into the water on a Thursday. The mast stepped on the following Friday. We moved her from the yard to Shelter Island on the Saturday. We moved out of our house and onto her on the Sunday, then to work Monday like nothing happened.

Putting the mast back on Galene.

As planned, on May 15th in the late afternoon, we pulled away from Shelter Island with many a friend to see us off. Right on time. Not everything ready. Not even fully unpacked. Nowhere near prepared.  There were lots of items not yet installed including AIS, radar, watermaker, shower, lash down hardware and our Bimini was going to be a plastic tarp. But we were confident that we could do it. Confident in us and Galene.

A week later while in Nanaimo, I realized I can’t plan my trip North because I am missing an entire section of charts. From Quadra Island to Cape Caution. I questioned my sanity to be moving forward without even knowing how to get there. We had yet to even try out the satellite phone, modem and wireless printer. How does all that work?  Next day, while bashing up the Strait into 15 knots of wind between Newcastle Island and Rebecca Spit, I realized that this is now what we “do“. Just this, nothing else. We are no longer defined by our paycheque or rushed by our jobs. We chose to challenge ourselves that night. Keep going all the way to Rebecca Spit, even though we would arrive in a gale and in the dark. Midnight it turns out. We did it easily and felt proud of this seemingly small accomplishment. A couple of days later, while anchored in Waiatt Bay in a secluded dead calm cove with not a single boat in sight, I took my first calm breathe. It was so quiet I only heard my blood pumping though my ears. Overcome by the quiet beauty, here is where I realized that Glacier Bay is too far, too fast to be an enjoyable trip. Laurie really wants to spend August with our many friends in Desolation Sound. That sounds more like what we are about. So we amended the original plan with one just as satisfying. We will still see Gwaii Haanas, but we’ll only see Alaska if we can.

We did make it to Alaska!

Now I edit this on my phone at anchor in front of the Sausalito Yacht Club. What a crazy great adventure this has been so far. We did make that iced tea.  We learned so much by trial.  I can say that we are not conquerors, not really explorers, maybe marginal adventurers. What we are is CRUISERS.


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  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Hi Greg and Laurie,
    Thanks for posting in Currents. I am excited for you and enjoyed your article.. I look forward to what comes next for you.

  2. Avatar Michael Yellenik says:

    Hi Bros and Sis-in-law,
    Great article. Sinse you are lounging in La Paz for the winter you should keep writing.
    I will get a copy of this to the kids so they can see what their Aunt & Uncle are upto. From you and Laurie’s Instagram they pretty much know.
    Merry Christmas from the gang in wintery Montreal.

  3. Avatar Beverley Siver says:

    Hey Laurie and Greg,
    Thanks for the great story, its inspiring and good to hear at this point in my life. I’m heading toward a relaxed work schedule, dare I say working toward the ‘R” word and starting to create time to do the creative things I love to do and of course want to do more of.
    Gives me great joy to hear you cruiser’s are out there enjoying a lifestyle that is what you want to do!
    Have a fantastic Christmas in Mexico and here’s wishing you an outstanding 2020.
    Thanks for the Story!

  4. Avatar Jim Forrester says:

    Great storey!! Looking forward to seeing more

  5. Avatar Sue Harte says:

    Fantastic article…very proud of you both for your perseverance and achievements with so much more ahead of you.
    Am very happy too that I, and your Uncle Alan, helped to set this in motion by passing along the ‘sailing bug” to you.
    Who knew!!

  6. Avatar Lynn Saffery says:

    Great to read. More!!

  7. Avatar Donna says:

    Great article! Looking forward to more good reads about your adventures.
    Miss you both very much, but excited that you’re living your dream!!
    Merry Christmas! Love you
    Donna & Mimi

  8. Avatar Alan Harte says:

    Feliz Navidad a los dos

  9. Avatar Ken Wright says:

    hi Greg , enjoyed your article ! and in the byline at the end i see that you owned a Windward 30 for 11 years .
    We may have met during that time. I joined BCA in ’87 , and retired in about 2015 . But more important….
    I was the caretaker-custodian-repairman-billpayer-subject (in the olde English sense) , and raceprovider of the not so famous Northcoast 30 “SURGER ” . i started racing her in ’72, bought her in ’76 from the original owner builder Alex Johnson, who was a WVYC member . , I finally sold her in 2005 in faraway Turkey. Wer crossed the ‘pond’ in her (2-up hand steered ) in ’92 . Great sail ! Your Windy 30 could have done it too. But your 37 is much roomier.
    Next 15 years in a Benny 50 …..not hard to handle in the Med . BUT not as comfy at sea as SURGER.
    Via condios !

    1. Avatar Greg says:

      Awesome. Thanks for the note. I am happy I have a roomier boat now. I especially like the autopilot.

  10. Avatar Yvonne Harwood says:

    A great article. Thank you and I wish you fair winds and following seas for your future adventures.

    1. Avatar Greg says:

      Thanks for the support

  11. Avatar Mike says:

    Hey there! Great to hear your story we basically shadowed you from Neah bay ( met you at the fuel dock) down the coast to Sausalito 🙂 we were bringing our Cutter a Peterson 46 named Arc En Ciel II home to Cali.
    Glad things are moving along and all is going good!
    We Will be continuing down to Peru shortly
    Mike R

    1. Avatar Greg says:

      I remember speaking to you on the radio off the Oregon coast. Glad you are doing well. Fair winds on your next leg.

  12. Avatar Gabriela Praget says:

    Great to hear you are enjoying yourselves! Looking forward to follow your steps.
    Gabriela and Tim

    1. Avatar Greg says:

      Thanks. I hope to find something interesting to write about soon!!