Stalwart Pacific Northwest sailors take an opportunity to change their lifestyle and formulate a plan to hop cross-country to explore the East Coast 

Adventure. The sailor racing their boat around the world, the mountaineer challenging the world’s tallest peaks — that, we all can agree, is adventure! But let’s face it, for the other 99-percent of us, that kind of adventure is simply not in our personality. For us, adventure involves being a weekend warrior. Work, work, work all week to spend two days out sailing, hiking, biking, or whatever you’re into, then back to work and do it repeatedly until that one time a year that you have some adventure for, if you’re lucky, two weeks straight before returning to the grind. 

Until our lives changed, I was fully encompassed in the “Work to Play” adventure group. I believed that I should work to gather enough money to sail as much as I could every weekend and then get on back to work Monday morning. I had a few bills, old college loans to pay, but nothing major—and I had some serious weekend fun. Racing sailboats around the Pacific Northwest, traveling to various regattas up and down the West Coast and cruising Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands—weekends and short holidays of adventure.

Then I met my wife Jennifer, fell in love, sold my then liveaboard sailboat and moved into Jennifer’s house. Over the next few years, we fixed up, sold and purchased a house and a condo, nothing major, small steps forward with each purchase and sale. Thanksgiving 2009 rolls around, our economy is in turmoil and Jennifer is looking at a layoff from the failing company she worked at. All the emotions poured out, everything imaginable was discussed. What should we do? What is expected of us? Should I take some time off? Should I find another job?

Making the Change

Sometimes heated, sometimes educational—through these emotions we came to realize how fortunate we were. We had set ourselves up with basically no bills: no car loans, no boat loans, and no college debt. We had paid off our house two years earlier and had no children. Why are we working? With that epiphany we decided to sell our current cruising boat, buy another more suited to how we sail and set it up for us to liveaboard.

Don’t misunderstand me, this process took over six months to solidify and we must have looked at over 30 different boats; but when we found the right one, things moved forward quickly. We found our perfect boat, a 1985 Wasa 38. Plenty of sail area, a great interior and at a price we could afford. We then rented our house out to live off the rental income and by May of 2010 I had quit my job and, with the two of us now job free, our new adventure began.

The Braden's Wasa 38 on a cruise.
The Bradens’ Wasa 38, Vanadis. Photo by Sean Trew.

We traveled in our Roadtrek van down the California coast, we trailered our Moore 24, More Uff Da, to regattas in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and up to 7,000-feet at Huntington Lake in the High Sierras. We cruised our Wasa around Puget Sound, explored the San Juan Islands, the Gulf Islands and up into Howe Sound. We jumped on an opportunity to sail in a rally race around the desolate and amazing Vancouver Island. We pursued our own little adventures, one month at a time. Each adventure made us look for something more, something different, something that excited us.

The well-sailed and well-traveled Moore 24, More Uff Da.
The well-sailed and well-traveled Moore 24, More Uff Da. Photo by Sean Trew.

A Plethora of GREAT Options

The options for major cruising adventures in the Pacific Northwest are both amazing and daunting. You can spend a season heading north to Alaska and back. Sail with orca whales and avoid getting between grey whales (they have a tendency to get angry if you happen to get between a mom and pup) and amaze yourself with the swimming antics of the porpoises. You can see eagles snatch salmon out of the water right before your eyes and watch bears scavenging for shellfish along the beaches. You can experience glaciers calving into the waters with majestic mountains pulling your attention to the beyond. All this is there just to the north— but it didn’t pull us, not yet.

Another option for us Pacific Northwest adventure sailors is what’s known locally as the Big Left Turn. Take a left at Cape Flattery and the entire west coast of the continental United States opens up before you. It’s not a very welcoming coast, with high winds and big waves being the norm, along with long transits between sheltered ports, if bar conditions even allow you to enter. 

Usually, sailors turn left towards the end of summer and make the run to San Francisco, some 800 miles south, as one leg of their trip. Their plan is to find themselves in San Diego in time for the annual Baha Ha Ha cruisers rally to Mexico. Once across the border into Mexico, PNW sailors cruise the warm southern waters until they find a good weather window to make the 3,000 mile “hop” across the pond to those beautiful islands in the South Pacific. Yet, this didn’t pull us either…

Formulating OUR Plan

Our adventure plan developed during the winter of 2010-11 while helping disabled snowboarders and skiers at Stevens Pass through Outdoors for All. An amazing organization and one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. So there we are sleeping in our van in the cold, dark mountain parking lot after a day of volunteering and are dreaming of warmer climes and summer scenery. “Why don’t we drive across the country, buy a sailboat and cruise the East Coast? Ditch the boat when we are done and come back,” I say. “Something cheap and campy?” Brilliant! I was immediately captured by this idea and couldn’t stop dreaming about it and continually bugged my wife. I wanted to go right then, that spring.

Jennifer, the brains in our splicing (I’m the idea guy), needed time to think about it. “I like the idea,” she said, “but not this year.” Educated as a civil engineer Jennifer’s mind needs time to get itself around the idea—time to look at contingencies and fall back plans, time to develop her own dream. Finally, by sometime mid-summer while cruising the Gulf Islands in our Wasa 38, Vanadis, Jennifer’s mind was around it—the idea had captured her!

She organized another year’s rental of our house, found a place to store our Wasa 38 for the season and, by November, she had prepared an itinerary of people and places we would be visiting as we drove across the country. Eight years of marriage and this was our first “big” adventure together. Planned start date, March 1st, the day after our second anniversary—leap year day 2012. At 40 years of age, I felt as if our lives were starting again. That feeling of the achievable unknown that gets you out of bed to start a new day.

"The brains of our splicing," Jennifer Blaisedell Braden.
“The brains in our splicing,” Jennifer Blaisedell Braden.

Putting a Plan in Motion

Our plan after departure was to drive across the country with all our sailing gear, dinghy, outboard, tools and all the clothing we would need for six months on the east coast. We’d take our time on the drive, visit friends and family, make a three-week trip of it. 

Once on the east coast we’d start looking for a boat near the Chesapeake Bay. Something in the 26- to 32-foot range, easy sail plan, low freeboard or open transom to help get our dog MacIntosh back aboard from the dinghy easily. She should have a basic galley and a head separate from the bunk we’ll sleep in. I don’t want to make my wife roll over in the middle of the night so I can use the head that’s under our mattress! Something that sails well and that we could possibly race a little if we arrived somewhere that a regatta was happening. Maybe something with a forepeak and something in the salon that will turn into a double bunk if some friends show up to cruise with us for a short period. Most importantly, something that is cheap enough that when we finished our cruise, we could sell it quickly, even if it was at a loss. If we bought something for $6,000 and could ditch it quickly for $4,000 at the end of our adventure the $2000 loss would be a cheap investment for an adventure of this sort.

Our cruising plan was to sail the Chesapeake to get to know our boat and make necessary repairs and then follow the temperatures north. Work our way up the coast past New Jersey and New York, through Long Island Sound, out to Block Island and then all the way up into the New England coast. Following the temps as they increased, we hoped to cruise some of what is known as the “Great Circle Route” around the east coast and into the midwest via the Great Lakes, then back to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi or the Tenn-Tom Waterway. A full circle route of 7,500 miles. 

Although achievable, we had no plan for completing the great circle route in one season. We didn’t want to be held to a schedule and have to leave somewhere we want to explore earlier than we are ready to or have to make long passages to stay on schedule. Wherever we were when the cold set in is where we’d decide to either store the boat for next season’s cruising or sell the boat. Who knows, we’d just see how it went…

Next week, check back here at for the story of how Ben and Jennifer found their East Coast adventure vessel…