John Santic's Sailboat Cruising Page 

I bought my sailboat Sunspot in January 1998 and have lived aboard full-time since mid-1998. Living on a sailboat has some definite advantages. For one thing, my "house" isn't fixed in the ground but instead can travel around on the water. On this page, I'll tell you about my sailboat cruising experiences.

How I Got Started In Sailboat Cruising

[Daysailing on Long Island]  
This is how I learned to sail, on a small daysailer. I'm not actually on the boat, since I'm on shore taking the picture. But I would be doing crew duties, like the guy with the paddle.  

Unlike some people, I haven't had a lifelong involvement with boats. I got started several years out of college when a good friend of mine bought a small centerboard daysailer and invited me along as crew. We used to trailer the boat from Northern Virginia to the Potomac River and sail in the Pohick Bay area. In the summer, the winds would frequently peter out, and I discovered one of the duties of crew: paddling the boat back to the launching ramp. One time we got a tow from a power boat. Another time we had the opposite problem: it was very windy and gusty. We didn't launch the boat right away while we waited for the winds to die down. After we launched and were underway, the winds picked up again and we promptly capsized.

Several years later, this same friend of mine, now living in California, went cruising on a bigger boat in the Sea of Cortez between Baja California and mainland Mexico. I went to visit him for a couple of weeks while he was cruising. This was an eye-opening experience. It reminded me a lot of camping, since we didn't have all the comforts of home and we spent a lot of time outdoors (we also spent a lot of time trying to fix the engine). I liked the adventure of seeing new things every day, of being close to nature, and the challenge of traveling by boat. Living on the boat was a great stress-reducer, and I pretty much forgot about the outside world.

Learning the Ropes (Figuratively and Literally)

After the Baja cruising adventure, I became more interested in sailboat cruising, and started the long slow process of educating myself. I subscribed to magazines and read dozens of books, all to increase my technical knowledge through book learning and vicarious experiences. I also took some sailing courses, starting with a basic sailing course in Annapolis, which I thought was not very useful (poor equipment and not enough time on the water). I then took a liveaboard cruising course from Offshore Sailing School, which was held in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. I though this course was absolutely terrific, and I came away convinced that I wanted to go cruising on my own boat.


A Boat Of My Own

It took a while to disentangle myself from my shoreside existence, but in November 1997 I quit my computer job and started looking at boats. I had (correctly) decided that it would be impractical to try to change from a conventional land-based lifestyle to a liveaboard cruising lifestyle while trying to hold down a full-time computer job. There just wouldn't be enough time to get all the boat work done, which would turn out to be a full-time job in itself.

I looked at several boats in the Annapolis area, using the services of a boat broker. By January 1998, I was a boat owner, having purchased a 1982 Fast Passage 39 cutter which I renamed Sunspot. Although Sunspot was a wonderful boat, it needed some repairs and refitting before I could go cruising. I worked out a schedule that had me doing the repairs and refitting in the spring of 1998, making a shakedown cruise on Chesapeake Bay in the summer, then leaving for Florida in the fall of 1998. Well, I left for Florida in the fall, but it was the fall of 1999 instead. What happened?

Well, there was this never-ending list of boat work, that took up all of my time and lots of my money (even though I did all the work myself to save money). Initially, I thought I would do boat work to the exclusion of everything else until all the boat work was done. But I discovered what every other boat owner has discovered: the boat work is never done. Maintaining and upgrading a cruising sailboat is a never-ending process. I came to realize I couldn't do boat work exclusively—I would get burned-out from too much boat, boat, boat. Now I do a little boat work plus a little something else, from my list of other hobbies.

In mid-1998, I put my house on the market and moved on to the boat, full-time. Now I had achieved the "liveaboard" part, but the "cruising" part was still to come. By the end of the year, my house had sold and now my one and only house was Sunspot. At least now I only had one house to take care of, my floating house.

Cruising at Last! (Oops, just one more thing...)

[Sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean]  
A beautiful sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean, while heading north from Charleston, SC, in late spring 2002.  

After more than a year of intensive (and expensive) boatwork, in late summer 1999 I finally got to go cruising, at last! I had finished enough boat work to begin using the boat for enjoyment. I went on a shakedown cruise around Chesapeake Bay, and guess what I discovered? The boat needed more work (the depth sounder was flaky and the house battery bank was worn out). So I went back to working on the boat, again!

After I completed the last-minute repairs and refitting, I cast off the docklines for Florida in November 1999, taking along one crewperson. We sailed and motored down Chesapeake Bay, then headed south on the Intracoastal Waterway to Beaufort, NC. We then made four separate overnight offshore hops to reach Florida, arriving in early December 1999. I spent the winter and spring in the Daytona Beach and Port Orange area.

In the summer of 2000, I brought the boat back north to Chesapeake Bay by myself, winding up in Solomons, MD. I then worked for two seasons as a Marina Attendant at Town Center Marina in Solomons, then cruised south by myself again in late fall 2001. This time, I spent the winter in Charleston, SC, which I enjoyed very much. In late spring 2002, I cruised north with one crewperson, this time traveling nonstop up the coast and up Chesapeake Bay. After stopping in Solomons to drop off my crew, I cruised up to Baltimore, MD, where I am presently located.


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- John Santic
  Writer/Photographer



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