Things That Broke


I thought I would do a quick post describing all of the things on Sophie that have broken since we left Seattle. Since boat maintenance at some point will rival home schooling as the on-board activity that takes up the most of our time, you might be interested in how Sophie has fared in her first couple of months.

All I can say at this point is “so far, so good”.

On the sail down from Seattle to San Francisco, we had a couple of issues with our mainsail. Our Lagoon 500 has a 990 square foot, fully-battened main that provides most of Sophie’s power under sail. On the trip, we were in 30 knot winds for a day and a half and sailed with two reefs in the main. The boat was quite comfortable and stable during this time, but we broke two of the bungee cords that hold the mainsail to the mast in between the battens. (See the photo above, that’s what they are supposed to look like.) Dan found a couple of broken bungee cords on the deck while underway, and it took us a while to figure out where they came from. We also developed some significant chafe in the second reef line at the aft reefing block during this run and will replace the line. I think we need to put a chafe guard on the line as well.

Before we left Seattle we had two Spectra preventers rigged that run the length of the boom on each side. This is a setup that Beth Leonard and Evans Stargazer promote. The idea is that if you want to rig a “preventer” line to prevent the main from accidentally gybing, you don’t have to deal with trying to get a line around the end of the boom in heavy air. On Sophie this is pretty much impossible downwind, since the end of the boom can be 10-15 feet away from you. With this rig, you simply grab an end of a preventer at the mast and tie it to a dockline attached to a bow cleat and you are set. Unfortunately for us, the other end of the preventer was attached to a u-bolt running in a slot under the boom, and this pulled out during that double-reefed run. We now have the preventers tied around the boom.

After we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge and were about to celebrate a successful passage, the mainsail got stuck halfway down the mast as we were trying to lower it. It turns out that one of the set screws that holds the mainsail track to the mast had worked its way loose and was blocking some of the batt cars. Fortunately we have a downhaul rigged on the salhead and were able to get the main down with a winch. I subsequently replaced one of the set screws and tightened five or six more.

A few weeks later while anchored in Half Moon Bay, we scraped against another boat at around 2:00 AM. We wound up dragging under anchor, and I am not sure if we started it or if another boat hit us first. It was dark, windy and raining. But we put a scratch on the adhesive covering over one of the large aft stateroom windows along with two little dings in the gelcoat. I have never dragged at anchor before. Never want to again.

The float switch for one of the bilge pumps in the port hull stopped working, and we replaced it. Sophie actually has 3 bilge pumps in each hull: an automatic pump on a float switch, a high speed electric pump, and a manual pump. We also think we have a small freshwater leak on the port side. (I know its freshwater because I tasted it). We have not identified the source yet.

Sophie has Raymarine electronics, and we think we have an issue with some of their networking cables. When we are in decent-sized waves, we get an intermittent  “SeaTalk ™ Connection Lost” message.” We also realized that the Raymarine audio alarm speaker, useful for alerting us to things like approaching ships on radar or AIS along with anchor drift, is not connected to anything. We will fix that before we leave.

Finally, we had a decent outbreak of mildew in Hazel’s cabin after we arrived in San Francisco. Sophie is a dry boat, and for four years in Seattle we never had any issues with this sort of thing. But Sophie also doesn’t have any dorade boxes for ventilation, and in hindsight we realized that we didn’t really air out her cabin for a couple of weeks. Jenna heroically fixed this problem when we got to San Diego, and Hazel’s cabin is now in boat show condition.

So after three months and 1,200 miles, that’s pretty much our list. The engines have run perfectly, we have no issues with our electrical system, and our occasional sailing has been fun and pretty much uneventful. One of our goals before we left Seattle was to make sure we knew our boat and that all of the systems were broken in and working well. As I said before, so far, so good.

Newport Beach to San Diego


While I was up in Seattle for my side trip, Jenna and the kids moved Sophie from a dock at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club to a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club. One of the nice benefits of being members of the Seattle Yacht Club, in addition to friendship with many of the great people there, is that we get reciprocal privileges at hundreds of yacht clubs around the world. In the case of Newport Beach, it meant that we could stay for free for three days at each club. The Balboa club seemed like a cool group with a very active juniors sailing program and a launch that reminded me of the yacht clubs at the other Newport.

But after 5 days of hanging out, including a Christmas parade and Jenna’s field trips with the kids to Disney and California Great Adventure, we knew it was time to complete the US portion of our trip and sail the 65 miles down the coast to San Diego. We left at 6:00 AM Monday and once again had no air. I took the photo above as the sun was coming up the coast.

After 45 minutes of motoring our friends returned …


I’ve joked a few time already on this trip that when thirty dolphins discover your boat and decide to play with each other 12 inches off your bows, and they do it constantly for hours on end, well, after a while it gets kind of boring.

It doesn’t. Ever. I was joking.

We arrived off of Point Loma around 1:00 PM, just in time for the wind to pick up and for us to see a nuclear submarine depart San Diego Bay. Kona Kai Marina is Sophie’s new home for the next couple of months as we visit family back east for the holidays and then get the boat ready for a March departure for the South Pacific. We’ve traveled over 1,200 miles since September, and we have definitely reached the stage where Sophie has become our home. We are very happy with our trip so far.



Seattle side trip


I had to make a quick side trip up to Seattle this week. I had the opportunity to enjoy some rare Northwest December sunshine along with another round of goodbye meals with friends and coworkers. Jenna’s cousin Holly has moved into our house, and the place has never been so spectacularly clean. I even got to buy my friend Randy a genuine Buck Knife as a birthday present from REI, and received some salsa dancing lessons from Javier and a bottle of Enzo’s olive oil from Karl.

But the main reason for my visit was for a cancer screen at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). Five years ago I was diagnosed with a sarcoma in my groin. I had surgery, 6 rounds of in-hospital chemo, and 38 radiation therapy sessions all within a few months of when we took delivery of Sophie and the birth of our daughter Hazel. The good news is that I have been cancer-free for five years, my CT scan and MRI this week were all clear, and I don’t need to have another screen until June 2014. So overall it was a pretty good week.

My return visits to the SCCA are always emotional times for me, though. The photo above is the view of Lake Union from the fourth floor waiting room at the Oncology clinics there. I used to spend a LOT of time in that room in 2008 during my cancer treatment, heading there 3-5 times a week for blood draws, Neulasta shots, and consults with my treatment team. I was really sick. And at the time I could actually see Sophie from that waiting room window. She was at the docks of YachtMasters on Lake Union for a couple of months being outfitted after the delivery from the factory in Bordeaux. I used to sit in that waiting room, look out across Lake Union at this new boat I had just bought, and wonder if I was going to die before I ever had a chance to sail her, before I had a chance to get to know my new baby daughter, before I had a chance to do all of the things I still wanted to do with my life in this world. I’d just sit there in that waiting room, look at the boat and wonder about all of these things.

I still can’t imagine what it was like for Jenna at the time. She was seven months pregnant when I was diagnosed. She had to deal with an infant and a three year-old as I shuttled back and forth to the hospital for my treatment. Most people I know who have had cancer and were in a relationship always said that they if they had a choice between having the disease vs. watching their loved one with the disease, they would pick the disease every time because as painful as the treatments were, it would be much easier dealing with them than watching their partner suffer. I was certainly that way. Jenna had wonderful support, and that helped a lot. But I am glad it was me and not her.

So when I go back to that waiting room 5 years later as a healthy person about to pursue his dreams, and I see the roomful of bald and neutropenic patients in the exact same place I used to be at, I feel like shouting “Look at me. I did it, you can too!” They can get up. Apparently my flavor of cancer had a 50% mortality rate. I ran into Leslie, the receptionist there who scheduled all of my appointments during my treatment, and when we saw each other we both started to cry. She grabbed me by the arm and showed me off to her co-workers, saying “Look, this is James, he used to be a patient here and now he is about to go sail around the world with his beautiful family.” Everyone smiled. Apparently there had been a need for some good news at the cancer clinic lately, and I was more than happy to provide some.

Why am I sharing all of this in a sailing blog? I guess it provides some context to better understand our family and this trip we are about to go on. Life is too short. Bad things do happen. We have a have a chance to do something wonderful and cool and creative, so here we go.



Long Beach to Newport Beach



For our next leg we did the short 14 nautical mile hop from Long Beach to Newport Beach, and for the first time since the Bay Area we could sail. There was a 10-15 knot northerly, and Sophie sailed 7-9+ knots on a reach under main and jib. It was relaxing to be out on the water in the sunshine with the engines turned off, a reminder of why we are doing this trip in the first place. Unfortunately Jenna is not here … she flew up to Oakland to retrieve our car and is driving down to meet us at the dock at Corona del Mar.


After we dropped the sails, Leo and I were motoring up the Newport Beach channel when this guy in a kayak asked if he could draft behind us. “This northerly is killing me.” Of course we said yes, and for 5 minutes he paddled one foot behind Sophie. He said it was just like NASCAR. It was pretty cool.

First Post!


Welcome to the Sailing sophie blog.

Our family has packed our bags and set off on a multi-year adventure that will hopefully take us around the world on our catamaran Sophie. We’ve had a wonderful time with our boat for almost five years now, cruising and racing her with family and friends throughout the waters of the Pacific Northwest. But we have always wanted to do that one big family adventure together, so we have stepped away from our jobs, our house, and our schools to go off and see the world. On a big beautiful sailboat.

Our trip actually started back in September when Jenna and I sailed Sophie from Seattle to San Francisco with the help of our friends Dan Rogers, Karl Riebeling and Becky Hoppins. We did the trip in 3 days, 23 hours and our only stop was at Bonita Bay for fuel during the last day.  During this leg we had sustained northerlies of 25-35 knots for over 24 hours, and Sophie proved to be a very stable platform on a reach. We also caught a tuna. We have a lot of confidence in this boat.

After the delivery to San Francisco, we all returned to Seattle where Jenna and I proceeded to settle our affairs and get ready for the big trip. We drove back down to the Bay Area with our children Leo and Hazel in the beginning of November and have lived on the boat for over a month now. The overall experience continues to be a little scary and a lot of fun for all of us.

From San Francisco we have made our way down the California coast, with stops in Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Morro Bay, Cojo Anchorage, Santa Barbara, and Long Beach. We’ve had either no air or sustained southerlies and have motored the entire way south from San Francisco. Our goal is to get the boat to San Diego in a couple of weeks and then drive east to spend the holidays with family in Michigan and New England. We then plan to return to San Diego to prepare Sophie for an early March departure for the Marquesas and the South Pacific.

We’ve traveled over a thousand miles so far, and Jenna has taken well over two thousand photographs! We already have so many stories from our trip that we want to share with all of you, but we’ve been spending so much time ramping up our home schooling program and transitioning Sophie from a boat that regularly hosted 40 people for the Thursday night Downtown Sailing Series races and parties to a boat that is a suitable long-term home for a family, we simply haven’t had enough time to start this blog. Until today.

So we hope you enjoy what we share with you on these pages. We plan to circle back and publish a lot more detail about the legs of our trip to date, including the best of our photographs. Leo plans to set up a Kids Corner so he can share his perspective on the trip. And we plan to go into a lot more detail on how the boat is holding up to the combined rigors of long distance sailing and daily family life.

So please sit back, enjoy the ride, and wish us luck.

Jamie, Jenna and family.