Outdoor Gear Reviews, Tips & Adventure Stories to Inspire an Outdoor Life

Tag: sailing

Hands-On Review: Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat


tobin sports inflatable boat
The Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat is affordable, well-equipped, and roomy.

The Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat is a versatile inflatable watercraft that has become increasingly popular among outdoor enthusiasts in recent years. It’s designed to be lightweight and portable, making it an excellent option for people who want to enjoy water activities without the hassle of owning a full-sized boat. We picked one up to serve as a tender for our 46ft Sailboat. Our old dinghy was small and in rough shape.  The Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat has been a huge upgrade for us – and we saved quite a bit going with this less-known brand.

In our hands-on review, we’ll outline the features, benefits, and drawbacks of the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat. We’ll examine the boat’s design and construction, ease of use, features and accessories, performance, and maneuverability to help you determine whether it’s the right choice for your water sports needs.

Whether you’re a seasoned boater or are just looking for an inexpensive way to explore nearby waters, hopefully, this review will provide you with valuable insights into the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat and help you make an informed decision.

Buy Now at Costco.com

Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat

Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat

Buy Now at Costco.com



Boat Specs

Length: 11 ft.
Width: 64 in.
Height: 17 in.
Capacity: 5 people
Weight Capacity: 1,411 lbs
Max Motor Power: 15 HP

Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat

Design and Construction

The Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat is made with high-quality materials, designed to provide both durability and functionality. Tobin’s marketing calls the material the boat is made from, “Tritech”, which they claim has been tested against weight, strain, and movement offering superior strength. At the end of the day, Tritech is a PVC material, known for its strength and resistance to wear and tear, but not as durable against UV rays as Hypalon-built equivalents.  While it won’t hold up as long as a Hypalon boat against weather extremes, the PVC-based Tobin Boat is an ideal choice for those looking for a less-expensive option.

The boat features an inflatable floor and sides, which add to its buoyancy and stability. The floor of this boat is also inflatable making it not quite as stable to stand in as a wood or aluminum-bottomed boat, but the inflatable bottom is still surprisingly stable.  The lack of wood or aluminum slats also makes setup easier without having to worry about heavy and bulky solid slats. Overall, the boat sits really well in the water and feels sturdy underfoot.

In terms of design, the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat has a sleek and modern look. We were unsure about the dark navy sections in the design and worried that it would be obvious to our marina neighbors that we went the cheap route. After we inflated it and took it for a test drive, our fears subsided.  This boat is unique in its color styling, but its roominess and performance on the water made us forget about the dark patches on the boat.

Overall, the boat’s design and construction provide a sturdy and reliable watercraft, capable of withstanding different water conditions and serving various purposes. We loved how it felt in the water and having 2 seats was a big plus for us as we could bring along 4 people in comfort.

Features and Accessories

Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat AccessoriesThe Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat comes with several features and accessories that enhance its functionality and make it a versatile boat.

First, the boat includes two aluminum paddles, which are lightweight and easy to use. The paddles are designed to be durable and provide a good grip, making it easier to maneuver the boat through the water. We pulled up the outboard and paddled around the marina to see how it performed under human power.  We were pleased with how the boat tracked and how easy and ergonomic the paddles and oarlocks were to use.  The paddles conveniently clip to the boat sides when not in use.  It’s realistic with this boat to keep them on the boat and still have them “out of the way”.

Second, the boat comes with two aluminum seats, which provide additional comfort and support. The seats lock into the boat well and are really nice to “sit above” the water when underway. The aluminum design ensures they will last and look great for years to come.

The Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat also includes a carry bag, inflation pump, and a repair kit. The bag is designed to be lightweight and compact, making it easy to transport the boat to different locations.

Overall, the features and accessories of the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat provide additional convenience and comfort, making it a great choice for people who want to enjoy the water without the hassle of owning a full-sized boat. It’s affordably priced, yet still being a serious inflatable that is durable enough to last for years of use.

Performance and Maneuverability

Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat Aluminum Seats
The boat’s aluminum seats are a nice upgrade that should last longer than the boat itself.

The performance and maneuverability of the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat are some of its most significant advantages. The boat is designed to be lightweight and easy to maneuver, making it an ideal option for different water activities.

In terms of performance, the boat’s inflatable floor and sides provide excellent buoyancy, making it easier to navigate through the water. The boat is also stable and well-balanced, which makes it possible to stand on without it tipping over.

The boat’s maneuverability is also noteworthy. Its streamlined shape and lightweight design make it easy to navigate through different water conditions, including calm lakes and rivers, as well as rougher ocean waves. The boat is also easy to turn and maneuver, making it an ideal option for fishing, sightseeing, and other activities.

Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat Transom
The transom of the boat fits up to 15HP motor and has convenient attachments for your fuel tank.

We were able to get the boat to plane with our 6HP motor, but this boat is a bit squirrely for our liking when it’s on a plane.  We found ourselves getting off the throttle quickly once we got up on plane as we were worried about dumping ourselves overboard.  For our use, getting between our boat and shore slow speeds are perfectly fine.  We were surprised that our 6HP could even get this boat on plane.  Our old West Marine dinghy had no chance, but the lightweight design of the Tobin Sports boat makes it possible for those with more bravery than us.

Overall, the performance and maneuverability of the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat make it an excellent option for people who want a versatile watercraft that’s easy to use and navigate.

Pros and Cons

Like any product, the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat has its advantages and drawbacks. Here are some of the most noteworthy pros and cons of the boat:

Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat Paddles
The paddles conveniently clip to the side of the boat to stay out of the way when not in use.
  • Lightweight and portable design, making it easy to transport and store.
  • Durable and well-constructed with reinforced PVC material, providing excellent resistance to wear and tear.
  • Easy to inflate and deflate, with an efficient assembly and disassembly process.
  • Comes with several useful features and accessories, including aluminum paddles, aluminum seats, pump and a carry bag.
  • Excellent performance and maneuverability, making it an option for different water activities.
  • Affordable at under $1000
  • May not be suitable for larger groups or families, as the boat is designed for up to five people.
  • Inflatable floor and sides may not provide as much support as a hard-shell boat, making it less suitable for activities that require standing or jumping.
  • Can be affected by wind and currents more than a heavier, traditional boat.
  • Requires regular maintenance, such as cleaning and proper storage, to ensure its longevity.
  • A bit sketchy when its up on plane.  We recommend sticking with slower speeds with this boat.

Overall, the pros of the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat outweigh the cons, making it a great option for people who want an affordable, lightweight, and portable inflatable boat that provides excellent performance and maneuverability.

The Bottom Line

The Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat is a well-designed boat that performs well and is comfortable to use. We are really happy with our purchase of this boat.  For under $1000, it provides ample room and weight-carrying capacity.  It’s well-built and it looks great – despite its strange dark colors.

The boat’s accessories, such as aluminum paddles, inflatable seats, and carry bag, enhance its functionality and provide additional convenience and comfort. It’s streamlined shape and lightweight design make it easy to navigate through different water conditions, though like most inflatables, this boat is meant for calm waters.

While it’s not perfect, the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat is an excellent option for those looking for a solid 4+ person inflatable boat that won’t break the bank. Whether you’re going fishing, sightseeing, or just enjoying a day on the water, the Tobin Sports Inflatable Boat is a great choice that won’t disappoint.

Other Inflatable Boats to Consider:

Sailing Across the Seas: How Many Miles Can a Sailboat Travel in a Day?

how many miles can a sailboat travel in a day

Sailing across the seas has been a dream of adventurers, explorers, and sailors for centuries. There is something undeniably alluring about the idea of setting out into the open water, propelled by the wind, and leaving the cares of the world behind. For many sailors, the question of how many miles can a sailboat travel in a day is both practical and romantic.

The distance a sailboat can cover in a day depends on many factors, including wind speed and direction, sea state and currents, the type of sailboat and its capabilities, and the skill and experience of the crew. While there are no hard and fast rules for calculating a sailboat’s daily distance, understanding these factors can help sailors make informed decisions about trip planning, sail selection, and navigation.

In this article, we will explore the question of how many miles a sailboat can travel in a day. We will look at the factors that affect a sailboat’s daily distance, discuss methods for calculating it, and explore the limits of a sailboat’s speed and range. We will also offer tips and tricks for maximizing the distance you can cover in a day and provide insights for aspiring sailors who want to set out on their own adventure.

Understanding the Factors

To understand how many miles a sailboat can travel in a day, it’s important to consider the various factors that can affect a sailboat’s daily distance. These include wind speed and direction, sea state and currents, the type of sailboat and its capabilities, and the skill and experience of the crew.

sailboat in calm seas
The availability of wind can greatly affect the distance a sailboat can travel in a day.

Wind speed and direction are perhaps the most critical factors in determining how far a sailboat can travel in a day. Sailboats are powered by the wind, and the speed and direction of the wind can make a significant difference in how fast a sailboat can go. A sailboat can typically sail at a speed equal to the true wind speed. The wind direction can also affect a sailboat’s speed, as sailing against the wind (called “beating” or “tacking”) is slower than sailing with the wind (called “running” or “reaching”).

Sea state and currents can also play a role in a sailboat’s daily distance. The state of the sea can affect the speed and stability of a sailboat, especially in rough or choppy conditions. Currents can also affect a sailboat’s speed and direction, and sailors must take them into account when plotting their course.

The type of sailboat and its capabilities are also important factors in determining how many miles a sailboat can travel in a day. Different types of sailboats have different speeds and capabilities, and sailors must consider these when planning their trips. For example, a small dinghy will typically sail at a slower speed than a larger yacht, and a sailboat designed for racing will be faster than one designed for cruising.

Finally, the skill and experience of the crew can make a significant difference in a sailboat’s daily distance. Experienced sailors are better equipped to handle changing conditions, adjust the sail plan for maximum speed, and navigate effectively. Novice sailors may need to learn these skills before attempting longer trips.

In the next section, we will discuss methods for calculating a sailboat’s daily distance, taking these factors into account.

Calculating a Sailboat’s Daily Distance

Calculating how many miles a sailboat can travel in a day can be a complex process, as it involves taking into account a variety of factors. However, there are several methods that sailors can use to estimate their daily distance.

One of the most common ways to measure a sailboat’s speed is with a knotmeter, which measures the speed of the boat through the water. The knotmeter gives the speed in knots, which is equivalent to nautical miles per hour. However, this measurement only gives the speed of the boat relative to the water, and not the distance traveled over ground.

To estimate the distance traveled over ground, sailors must adjust for leeway and current. Leeway is the sideways drift of the sailboat caused by the wind, while current is the movement of water caused by tides, waves, and other factors. These factors can cause a sailboat to travel a shorter or longer distance over ground than through the water, depending on the direction of the wind and current.

Sailors can estimate their distance traveled over ground by using a GPS device. GPS can provide accurate speed and position information, which can be used to calculate the distance traveled. Sailors can also use navigation tools such as charts and compasses to plot their course and estimate their distance.

It’s worth noting that the daily distance a sailboat can travel is not constant, as it depends on the changing conditions of wind, sea state, and currents. Sailors must be prepared to adjust their course and sail plan to maximize their speed and efficiency.

In the next section, we will explore the limits of a sailboat’s speed and range and discuss how sailors can maximize their daily distance.

Exploring the Limits of a Sailboat’s Speed and Range

Every sailboat has its own limits in terms of speed and range. The maximum speed of a sailboat depends on factors such as the sail area, hull shape, and weight. The range of a sailboat depends on factors such as the size of the fuel tank, the capacity of the water tanks, and the amount of food and supplies on board.

Nautical chart for sailing
Planning your route to take advantage of favorable winds and currents in crucial to sailing as efficiently as possible.

In general, sailboats can travel at speeds ranging from 4 to 8 knots, depending on the wind and sea conditions. However, some sailboats are capable of higher speeds, especially in racing conditions. The fastest sailboats in the world, such as hydrofoils and multihulls, can reach speeds of up to 50 knots.

The range of a sailboat varies widely depending on the size and type of the boat, as well as the conditions of the trip. A sailboat’s range can be increased by carrying extra fuel and water, using renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, and conserving resources by minimizing power usage and reducing waste.

To maximize their daily distance, sailors must take into account the limits of their sailboat’s speed and range, as well as the changing conditions of wind and sea. This may involve adjusting their sail plan, navigating around obstacles such as land masses and shipping lanes, and planning their route to take advantage of favorable winds and currents.

Sailors can also use a variety of techniques to increase their speed and efficiency. These include adjusting the angle of the sails, trimming the sails to reduce drag, and using a spinnaker or other specialized sail to catch more wind. Additionally, sailors can use techniques such as heaving to and reefing the sails to maintain control in high winds or heavy seas.

In the next section, we will provide tips and insights for sailors who want to set out on their own adventure and explore the limits of their sailboat’s speed and range.

How many miles can a sailboat travel in a day?

Assuming a sailboat sails all 24 hours, the number of miles a sailboat can travel in a day can be calculated by multiplying its average cruising speed by 24.  Racing sailboats average around 15 knots per hour.  Cruising sailboats average 4-6 knots per hour.

Theoretically, in consistent and perfect conditions, a racing sailboat can travel 360 nautical miles in a day. Under the same theoretical conditions, a cruising sailboat can expect to travel between 96-144 nautical miles in a day.

A nautical mile is equal to 1.15 land miles. by So a racing sailboat can travel 414 “land” miles in a day. A cruising sailboat can travel 110-165 “land” miles per day.

Tips for Maximizing Your Daily Distance

Whether you are a seasoned sailor or just starting out, there are a few key tips that can help you maximize your sailboat’s daily distance.

  1. Sailboat traveling fast through a shipping channel.
    Adjusting your sail plan to navigate around obstacles such as shipping lanes can help to maximize your daily distance.

    Monitor wind and weather conditions: Keep an eye on the forecast and adjust your sail plan accordingly. Sails should be trimmed to catch the wind at the right angle, and reefed in strong winds to reduce the risk of capsizing or losing control. We recommend Predict Wind for wind and weather forecasting.

  2. Use navigation tools: Navigation tools such as GPS devices, charts, and compasses can help you plot your course and estimate your distance traveled. Keep track of your position and course to ensure that you stay on track and avoid hazards such as rocks, shoals, and shipping lanes.
  3. Optimize your sail plan: Experiment with different sail configurations to find the one that works best for your boat and the conditions. Use a spinnaker or other specialized sail to catch more wind when sailing downwind, and adjust the angle of the sails to maintain the right balance of speed and control.
  4. Practice good seamanship: Make sure your boat is well-maintained and equipped with the necessary safety gear, including life jackets, flares, and a first aid kit. Follow best practices for sailing, such as maintaining a lookout, avoiding collisions, and observing the rules of the road.
  5. Plan your route: Plan your route to take advantage of favorable winds and currents, and avoid obstacles such as land masses and shipping lanes. Keep in mind the range of your boat and plan for stops to refuel and restock on supplies.

By following these tips, you can maximize your sailboat’s daily distance and enjoy a safe and rewarding sailing adventure. Remember that sailing is both an art and a science and that there is always more to learn about the factors that influence a sailboat’s speed and range. With practice and experience, you can become a skilled and confident sailor and explore the seas with confidence.


In conclusion, the distance a sailboat can travel in a day depends on a variety of factors, including wind and sea conditions, the size and type of the boat, and the skills and experience of the crew. By understanding these factors and using the right techniques, sailors can maximize their daily distance and enjoy a safe and rewarding sailing adventure.

Whether you are a novice sailor or an experienced skipper, it is important to remember that sailing is a dynamic and constantly changing activity. Wind and sea conditions can vary from hour to hour, and sailors must be prepared to adjust their sail plan and navigate around obstacles as needed.

By following the tips and best practices outlined in this article, you can increase your sailboat’s speed and range, and explore the seas with confidence and skill. Remember to always prioritize safety, maintain your boat and equipment, and practice good seamanship at all times.

We hope that this article has provided you with valuable insights and inspiration for your next sailing adventure. Fair winds and following seas!

Learn more about the roots of sailing and view some of our sailing adventures at Outward Spaces.

Why Outdoor Activities Should be Part of Your Self-Care Routine

gardening as self-care
Tending a garden can be a great stress-reliever.

Self-care has become an increasingly popular term in recent years, and for good reason. Taking time to prioritize your own physical, mental, and emotional well-being is essential for leading a happy and healthy life. While self-care can take many different forms, one often-overlooked aspect is the benefits of outdoors activities.

There are countless benefits to spending time in nature, from improving physical health through exercise to reducing stress and anxiety through exposure to green spaces. Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll through your local park, incorporating outdoor activities into your self-care routine can have a profound impact on your overall well-being.

Michelle Kondo, a research social scientist with the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, had this to say about the effect of the outdoors on health and well-being, “The physiological response to being outside in nature is real, and it’s measurable. There are many physical and psychological benefits of nature that scientists have observed, which can better help us understand how nature supports wellness in the body, mind and community.”

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of outdoors activities and why they should be part of your self-care routine, provide ideas for outdoor self-care activities, and offer tips for overcoming common barriers to getting outside. By the end, you’ll have all the tools you need to prioritize outdoor time as a key part of your self-care routine.

Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Self-Care

mountaintop yoga
Practicing yoga outside can help you feel more connected to nature and improve your flexibility and strength.

There are numerous benefits to spending time in nature, making outdoor activities an ideal addition to your self-care routine. Here are just a few ways that getting outside can boost your physical, mental, and emotional well-being:

Improved physical health

Many outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, or even gardening, provide a great workout. Regular exercise can improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Reduced stress and improved mental health

Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, boost mood, and improve overall mental health. Exposure to green spaces has also been linked to improved cognitive function and reduced symptoms of depression.

Increased mindfulness and focus

Activities like hiking, meditation, or even simply sitting in a park can help you be more present in the moment and improve your ability to focus. This can lead to greater clarity and a more positive outlook on life.

By incorporating more of these activities into your self-care routine, you can reap these and many other benefits of outdoors activities.

Ideas for Outdoor Self-Care Activities

If you’re looking to add more outdoor activities to your self-care routine, there are countless options to choose from. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Hiking: Exploring a local trail or nature reserve is a great way to get some exercise, breathe in fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of nature.
  • Gardening: Tending to a garden, whether it’s a few potted plants on a balcony or a full-fledged vegetable garden, can be a great stress-reliever and provide a sense of accomplishment.
  • Yoga: Practicing yoga outside, whether it’s on a beach or in a park, can help you feel more connected to nature and improve your flexibility and strength.
  • Camping: Spending a night or two under the stars can be a great way to unplug from technology and immerse yourself in the great outdoors.
  • Mindful walking: Take a walk in a park or natural setting and focus on being present in the moment, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells around you.

These are just a few examples, but there are countless other outdoor activities you can try, depending on your interests and location. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you enjoy and that helps you feel more connected to nature and yourself.

Overcoming Barriers to Outdoor Self-Care

hiking as self-care
Exploring a local trail or nature reserve is a great way to get some exercise, breathe in fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of nature.

While spending time outdoors can be incredibly beneficial for your well-being, there are often barriers that can make it difficult to incorporate outdoor activities into your self-care routine. Here are a few common barriers and tips for overcoming them:

Lack of time

With busy schedules and competing priorities, finding time to get outside can be a challenge. One solution is to schedule outdoor activities into your routine, whether it’s a daily walk during lunch or a weekend hike with friends.


Extreme temperatures, rain, or snow can make it challenging to get outside. However, with the right gear and preparation, you can still enjoy outdoor activities in any weather. Consider investing in waterproof or insulated clothing, and always check the forecast before heading out.

Lack of access to nature

Living in a city or urban area can make it challenging to find green spaces. However, there are often local parks, community gardens, or even rooftop gardens that can provide a much-needed dose of nature.

Physical limitations

For those with physical limitations, such as mobility issues, getting outside may require some modifications. Look for wheelchair-accessible trails or consider activities like birdwatching or nature photography that can be enjoyed from a seated position.

By identifying and overcoming these and other barriers, you can make outdoor activities a regular part of your self-care routine and enjoy all the benefits that come with spending time in nature.

camping as self-care
Spending a night or two under the stars can be a great way to unplug from technology.


The benefits of outdoors activities are clear. Incorporating outdoor activities into your self-care routine can have a profound impact on your overall well-being. From improving physical health and reducing stress to increasing mindfulness and focus, spending time in nature offers numerous benefits.

While there may be barriers to getting outside, with a little planning and preparation, anyone can make outdoor activities a regular part of their self-care routine. Whether it’s hiking, gardening, or simply taking a walk in a local park, finding ways to connect with nature can help you feel more grounded, relaxed, and connected to yourself.

So the next time you’re looking for ways to prioritize your self-care, consider heading outdoors. Not only will you be taking care of your physical and mental health, but you’ll be giving yourself the gift of time spent in nature, which is truly priceless.

The Birth of Seafaring: Uncovering the Roots of Sailing

when was sailing invented
While the basic principles of sailing have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years, modern sailboats are to be faster and more efficient than their ancient counterparts.

The history of human civilization is intertwined with the history of sailing. For thousands of years, humans have been using the power of the wind to explore new lands, expand trade networks, and establish empires. From the earliest rafts made of reeds to the sleek racing yachts of today, sailing has undergone many changes and adaptations, yet its basic principles remain the same.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the birth of seafaring and the roots of sailing. We will examine the earliest evidence of human navigation and the development of watercrafts, the invention of the sail, and the spread of sailing technology. We will also explore ancient sailing techniques and their impact on human civilization, as well as the evolution of sailing in modern times. Join us on a journey through time as we uncover the fascinating history of sailing and its enduring legacy.

The Origins of Seafaring

The origins of seafaring can be traced back to the earliest times of human history. While experts are unsure exactly when sailing was invented, archaeological evidence suggests that humans have been using boats to travel across bodies of water for at least 50,000 years. Some of the earliest vessels were simple rafts made of reeds or logs, while others were dugout canoes carved from tree trunks.

As humans became more skilled at making boats, they were able to venture further out to sea and explore new lands. The development of fishing techniques and the discovery of new resources in the water, such as shells and pearls, also played a role in the growth of seafaring.

Seafaring was particularly important in regions with extensive coastlines, such as the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, and the Pacific Islands. In these areas, seafaring became a way of life, enabling humans to travel, trade, and exchange ideas with other cultures.

The significance of seafaring for human civilization cannot be overstated. Without seafaring, many of the world’s greatest empires would not have risen to power, and the exchange of goods and ideas across continents would have been severely limited. The origins of seafaring represent a crucial moment in human history, marking the beginning of a new era of exploration and discovery.

The Birth of Sailing

Greek Trireme Sailboat
The Greeks used triremes to explore the Mediterranean Sea

The invention of the sail revolutionized seafaring and enabled humans to travel further and faster across the seas. The origins of the sail can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where reed boats were equipped with simple sails made of woven flax. These sails were rectangular in shape and were attached to a single mast. The sails were angled to catch the wind, and the boat could be steered by adjusting the sail’s position.

The use of sails spread rapidly throughout the ancient world. In Mesopotamia, ships were equipped with square sails made of woven wool or linen. In the Mediterranean, the Greeks and Phoenicians developed sophisticated triremes and galleys that were equipped with multiple sails and banks of oars.

Sailing technology continued to evolve over time. The development of the lateen sail, which was triangular in shape and allowed boats to sail closer to the wind, was a major innovation. The Vikings, in particular, were skilled sailors who used a combination of square and lateen sails to travel long distances across the North Atlantic.

Ship with lateen sails
The triangular lateen sail allowed ancient boats to sail close to the wind.

The invention of the sail had a profound impact on human civilization. It made long-distance trade and exploration possible, and it allowed cultures to exchange goods and ideas across vast distances. It also enabled the rise of great empires, such as those of the Greeks and the Romans, who used their naval power to expand their territories and influence.

The birth of sailing represents a critical moment in human history, marking the beginning of a new era of maritime exploration and innovation.

Ancient Sailing Techniques

ancient compass
The invention of the compass made it possible to determine a heading when the sky was overcast or foggy, and when landmarks were not in sight.

Ancient sailors developed a range of techniques to navigate the seas and harness the power of the wind. One of the most important techniques was celestial navigation, which involved using the stars to determine the position of the ship. This technique was first developed by the Phoenicians in the Mediterranean and was later refined by the Greeks and the Romans.

Another important technique was the use of the compass. While the first magnetic compasses were invented in China during the Han dynasty, they were not widely used in the West until the Middle Ages. Prior to the invention of the compass, sailors used a variety of other methods to determine their position, including the position of the sun and the stars, the direction of the wind, and the behavior of birds and marine life.

Sailing sextant
A sextant allowed sailors to calculate a position line on a nautical chart by measuring the angular distance between two visible objects.

Sailors also developed a range of tactics for navigating different wind conditions. For example, when sailing upwind, sailors would tack back and forth, zigzagging their way towards their destination. When sailing downwind, sailors would use a technique called running before the wind, where they would steer the ship downwind and adjust the sail to catch as much wind as possible.

In addition to these techniques, ancient sailors also developed a range of tools and instruments to aid in navigation. These included the astrolabe, a device used to measure the altitude of the stars; the sextant, a device used to measure the angle between the horizon and the sun or stars; and the cross-staff, a device used to measure the height of a distant object, such as a landmark or another ship.

The development of these techniques and tools was critical to the success of ancient seafaring. By mastering the art of navigation and harnessing the power of the wind, ancient sailors were able to explore new lands, trade with other cultures, and establish great empires.

The Impact of Sailing on Human Civilization

Human civilization was profoundly impacted by the invention of sailing. It allowed humans to travel further and faster across the seas, opening up new trade routes and enabling the exchange of goods and ideas between different cultures. This had a significant impact on the development of human civilization, facilitating the spread of technology, language, and religion.

Phoenician Alphabet stone
An example of the Phoenician alphabet used to keep records of trade transactions

The development of seafaring also had a major impact on the economy. The ability to transport goods over long distances by sea allowed merchants to trade goods at a much larger scale than was previously possible. This led to the growth of cities and the emergence of powerful trading empires such as the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans.

In addition to facilitating trade and commerce, sailing also played a critical role in the spread of ideas and knowledge. The Phoenicians, for example, are believed to have developed the first alphabet, which they used to keep records of their trade transactions. This alphabet was later adopted by the Greeks and Romans, and became the basis for many modern alphabets.

Sailing also played a significant role in exploration and the expansion of human knowledge. The voyages of explorers such as Marco Polo, Vasco da Gama, and Christopher Columbus opened up new trade routes and led to the discovery of new lands, cultures, and natural resources.

In addition to its economic and cultural impact, sailing also had a significant impact on warfare. Naval power played a critical role in many of the great conflicts of human history, from the battles of ancient Greece and Rome to the naval battles of World War II.

In conclusion, the invention of sailing had a far-reaching impact on human civilization, facilitating the growth of trade and commerce, the spread of ideas and knowledge, and the exploration and expansion of human knowledge. The legacy of sailing can be seen in many aspects of modern society, from the shipping industry to the global economy, and it continues to play a critical role in shaping the course of human history.

Modern Sailing

Modern sailboat
The use of synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, and Kevlar in modern sail construction are stronger, lighter, and more durable than traditional materials such as cotton and canvas.

While the basic principles of sailing have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years, modern sailing has seen a number of important innovations and developments. One of the most significant of these is the use of synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, and Kevlar in sail construction. These materials are stronger, lighter, and more durable than traditional materials such as cotton and canvas, allowing modern sailboats to be faster and more efficient than their ancient counterparts.

Another important development in modern sailing is the use of technology to aid in navigation and communication. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology allows sailors to determine their precise position on the globe, while radio and satellite communications make it possible to stay in touch with shore-based support teams and other sailors on the water.

Modern sailing has also seen the development of a number of specialized sailing classes and events, such as the America’s Cup, which has been held since 1851 and is widely regarded as the oldest and most prestigious sailing race in the world. Other popular sailing events include the Volvo Ocean Race, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, and the Transpacific Yacht Race.

America's Cup Boat "flying"
The America’s Cup AC72 class of boats use foils to sail faster than the speed of the wind.

In addition to these developments, modern sailing has also seen the emergence of a number of environmental and sustainability initiatives. The use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power is becoming increasingly common in modern sailboats, and many sailors are actively working to reduce their environmental impact by using sustainable materials and reducing waste and pollution.

Overall, modern sailing continues to be a popular and important activity, with a rich history and a bright future. Whether for sport, recreation, or commerce, sailing remains a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of human beings and a testament to the enduring power and beauty of the sea.

Sailing is Amazing

The birth of seafaring and the invention of sailing represent a critical turning point in human history, marking the moment when humans first began to explore and exploit the vast resources of the world’s oceans. The origins of sailing are shrouded in mystery and myth, but archaeological evidence suggests that humans have been using boats and rafts to navigate the seas for tens of thousands of years.

Despite its ancient roots, sailing continues to play a vital role in modern society, facilitating trade and commerce, enabling exploration and discovery, and providing a source of recreation and pleasure for millions of people around the world. From the early seafarers who braved the dangers of the open ocean in search of new lands and resources to the modern sailors who use cutting-edge technology and innovative materials to push the limits of what is possible on the water, the legacy of sailing continues to inspire and amaze us.

As we continue to explore and exploit the oceans of the world, it is important that we do so in a responsible and sustainable manner, recognizing the importance of these fragile ecosystems and the critical role they play in maintaining the health and well-being of our planet. Whether as sailors, scientists, or simply concerned citizens, we all have a role to play in protecting and preserving the world’s oceans for future generations.

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Satellite Communicators: How to Stay in Touch While Off the Grid

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator

Everybody’s definition of what is the wild is different.  For some, the wild might be a hike in the hills on the outskirts of town.  For others, the wild is backpacking deep in the mountains far from civilization.

My definition of the wild is somewhere in between. I love exploring spaces off the beaten path, usually right on the edge of cell phone coverage.  On most trips I take into outdoor spaces, I can’t be sure whether I will have a cell signal where I am going or not.  Sure, cellular carriers all have coverage maps, but I find these unuseful for accurately determining whether or not I will be able to make a call in an emergency.

For many, one of the main thrills of exploring the wild is the potential for improvising and displaying self-sufficiency in emergency situations outdoors.  For sure, all explorers of wild spaces should have some basic understanding of how to make it out alive when something goes wrong, but I prefer always having a way to “call home” if things go sideways.

Safety in the outdoors demands an appreciation for redundancy.  Relying on only one way to start a fire or only one source of food can quickly become a mistake when off-grid.  You may be wired differently, but when I’m heading out to enjoy the outdoors, the last thing I am interested in is enacting my own personal survival show.  It’s important to me (and to those who depend on me) to come back safely at the end of my trip.  Exploring wild spaces is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s not worth my life.

The good news is that we no longer have to take unnecessary risks when spending time outside civilization’s bounds.  Cellular coverage in the United States is ever-expanding and you might just find that your favorite spot in the woods has just enough “bars” to get a call out. I’m consistently surprised by where I can manage to find a cell signal these days.

The challenge with relying on cell service is that you never know if you will have it or not when you’re off the beaten path.  You may be able to Facetime your family while camping for a night miles outside of the nearest town, but you may not be able to get a call out over the next hill while hiking the next day. I’ve sailed down the California Coast and been able to answer work emails or stream music without issue.  I’ve also sailed very similar routes and not had cell coverage for most of the day.  The bottom line is that you never know what coverage you will have when you’re exploring remote spaces.  If you’re like me, I want a backup plan when I’m off the grid.

The answer is a satellite communicator – a communications device that utilizes a network of satellites to keep you connected to the outside world, even without cell coverage.  With one of these babies, you’ll never need to worry about being outside of cell range again.  If something goes wrong while you’re off the grid, a satellite communicator will allow you to send a text to family and friends or call emergency services no matter where you find yourself.

Types of Satellite Communicators

Distinct from satellite phones, satellite communicators are primarily designed to communicate via short bursts of data – text messages, location updates, and even weather reports. While there are a number of models of satellite communicators on the market, there are two main types of satellite communicators.

Satellite Communicators that are designed to be used with your cell phone

These devices don’t have an onboard keyboard and thus can’t be used directly to get a message out.  They are meant to be paired with a mobile device with a companion app that handles messaging. These devices are typically cheaper and smaller but do require extra steps to get a message out when far from home.

Devices of this type: Zoleo, Garmin inReach Messenger, ACR Bivy Stick

Satellite Communicators that can be used without a cell phone

These devices can be used on their own to message home but also can connect to a mobile device and companion app for easier messaging. They typically have more features that may include GPS mapping, an altimeter, a compass, and other useful tools.  Some devices of this type include a screen and keyboard (think the old Blackberry format) and others utilize a screen with a number of buttons that can be used to type out a message.

Devices of this type: Garmin inReach Mini 2, Spot X

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Currently Available Satellite Communicators:

Zoleo Satellite Communicator

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is a wallet-sized black and green device that is marketed to extend your messaging capabilities around the globe without coverage gaps.  When paired with its free companion app, the Zoleo uses wifi or a cellular network to send and receive messages when available.  When not in wifi or cellular range, the Zoleo uses the Iridium satellite network to get your messages out. It has a protected SOS button on its front as well as an additional “Check-in” button that allows for sending predetermined check-in messages without using the phone/app. Once activated with a Zoleo plan, the Zoleo includes a dedicated SMS number and email address – a nice feature that makes for easier messaging for friends and family.

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Garmin inReach Messenger

The Garmin inReach Messenger is an all-black, square device that’s about half the size of a cell phone – though thicker. Much like the Zoleo, the inReach Messenger is meant to be paired with a companion app and it has minimal direct functions on the device. Unlike the Zoleo, the inReach Messenger includes a small, black-and-white, display on the front of the device to allow you to see what’s happening on your device without using your phone. The Messenger also takes advantage of your connected phone’s cellular or wifi connectivity (when available) to send messages without tapping into your satellite service plan allowance. With up to 28 days of battery life and a “safety charging” option – allowing you just enough juice to send a message – the inReach Messenger is a great option for those serious about the outdoors, as well as serious about safety.

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Garmin inReach Mini 2

The Garmin inReach Mini 2 is Garmin’s fuller-featured satellite communicator. The Mini 2 is a tiny device with a larger display than the Messenger allowing for some advanced routing and tracking features when hiking.  The larger display gives you the ability to scroll through received messages and easily send preset messages.  Fitting easily in your hand, the biggest selling feature of the Mini 2 is its small size.  Like most of these devices, pairing the Mini 2 with its companion app makes the device infinitely more usable. Overall the Mini 2 is a nicely designed device, but it doesn’t give you a whole lot more than the Messenger.

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ACR Bivy Stick

The ACR Bivy Stick is similar to the Zoleo in that it doesn’t have a display on the device itself. Its rectangular shape includes a large hole through the top of the device to use for hanging.  While most will hang their satellite communicator from a backpack, devices that have easy attachments to hang, like the Bivy Stick, allow you to store it in more places.  Speaking of storing it, the Bivy Stick relies heavily on its companion app to access and complete the typical satellite communicator features: global satellite messaging, weather reports, location sharing and tracking, and check-ins.  Like other similar devices, it does have dedicated check-in and SOS buttons. One plus with the Bivy Stick is that its available service plans do not have activation fees.

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Spot X

For the messaging addicts out there, the Spot X is a satellite Communicator that has a built-in keyboard. With a similar “Blackberry” designed front, half of the Spot X is a display and the other has a small keyboard. Beyond the keyboard, the Spot Z also has dedicated SOS and tracking buttons. With its own dedicated phone number, the Spot X truly is a stand-alone device.  With most of the industry moving to devices that heavily rely on companion apps, some may love the independence of the Spot X.  While it does have its own companion app, the Spot X is the device most capable of being used without the app.  With only one battery to worry about keeping charged and only a single device to worry about, the Spot X may be perfect for the minimalist outdoorsmen types.

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Satellite Communicator Coverage Plans

Satellite Communicators rely on a satellite network to send and receive messages outside of cell phone range. Each company has its own service plans for its satellite communicators.  When choosing a plan, first consider the number of messages you’ll need per month as well as the costs involved to suspend your service in months when you won’t make it off-grid.

Zoleo Plans:

Basic In Touch Unlimited
Monthly Fee $20 $35 $50
# of Satellite Messages 25 250 Unlimited
Additional Messages 50¢/ea 50¢/ea Free (unlimited)

Zoleo Plan Notes:

  • $20 activation fee for all plans
  • Location Share can be added to all plans for $6/mo
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 3 months
  • $4/mo to suspend service

Garmin inReach Plans:

Safety Recreation Expedition
Monthly $14.95 $34.95 $64.95
Annual $11.95/mo $24.95/mo $49.95
# of Satellite Messages 10 40 Unlimited
Additional Messages 50¢/ea 50¢/ea N/A

Garmin inReach Plan Notes:

  • $29.95 activation fee for annual plans
  • $34.95 annual program fee for monthly (freedom accounts)
  • Unlimited Check-in (preset) messages are included in all plans
  • Unlimited Tracking/location points are included in the Recreation and Expedition plans. 10¢ each for Safety Plan
  • Free to suspend service after 30 days (must pay annual fee only)

Bivy Plans:

Basic Plus Unlimited Premium
Monthly $19.99 $34.99 $59.99 $69.99
Annual $14.99/mo $29.99/mo $54.99 $64.99
# of Satellite Messages 20 80 Unlimited Unlimited
Additional Messages 75¢/ea 50¢/ea N/A N/A

Bivy Plan Notes:

  • $0 Activation Fees
  • Unlimited Check-In messages (preset) are included with all plans
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 4 months
  • Free to suspend service after 4 months

Spot Plans:

Basic Advanced Unlimited
Monthly $14.95 $29.95 $39.95
Annual $11.95/mo $19.95/mo $29.95
# of Satellite Messages 20 100 Unlimited
Additional Messages 25¢/ea 25¢/ea N/A

Spot Plan Notes:

  • $29.95 Activation Fee for all plans
  • $34.95 Annual Fee for monthly (Flex) plans
  • Unlimited Check-In messages (preset) are included with all plans
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 4 months
  • Free to suspend service after 30 days for no fee (annual fee still applies)

Our Pick:

Best Satellite Communicator: Zoleo Satellite Communicator

Most of us really don’t need (or want) to stay in touch with those back home while we’re out in the wild. We don’t need to carry on full text conversations when we’re camping, hiking, fishing, sailing, or doing anything else off the grid.  What we need is the safety of being able to communicate with friends, family, and emergency services IF we need to.  The Zoleo gets the messaging and SOS functions done well.  And if you do choose to send a few more messages while outdoors, the Zoleo and its companion app can do that too. But the price of the Zoleo is what sets it apart.  It’s the cheapest device on our list and its service plans are some of the cheapest and most flexible of the bunch. It’s a great device.  It does everything the others do at a much lower price. If you’re looking for a satellite communicator, save your money for other gear and get the Zoleo.

Looking for other satellite communicator options? Read our review on the Garmin Inreach SE+

Review: Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator

Never have to worry about being out of touch while exploring off-the-grid again. With a satellite communicator, you can send text messages and location data to family and friends using a network of satellites to ensure you remain connected no matter where you are at. Our Garmin inReach review details both the device we use, the Garmin inReach SE+, and the Garmin inReach service plans needed for satellite connectivity.

The Verdict:

We like to travel where cell service is unknown – a bit more off the beaten path. With our inReach SE+, we can head off-grid without worry.  Knowing that you are always just a few button pushes away from help if something happens while in the wild, frees you from the anxiety of “what if something happens”. While the SE+ is an investment, the inexpensive service plans and the ability to pause your plan while you’re stuck at home make the inReach SE+ a more than worthwhile investment when we head outdoors. There are newer satellite communicators on the market that bring the initial purchase cost down and that have more developed features, but we like the ease of use and dependability of our inReach SE+ for hiking, camping, and coastal sailing. The SE+ is now an older device and at $400 is probably more money than you need to spend on a quality satellite communicator in 2022.



The build on the Garmin inReach SE+ feels solid and rugged.  Using the form factor of its line of handheld GPS devices, the SE+ is rubberized and waterproof.  With an IPX7 rating, the SE+ can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. It’s relatively lightweight at 7.5 ounces and feels good in your hand while using.  It has a nicely sized 1.4″ by 1.9″ color display for messaging and for navigating its features. The SE+ has 6 buttons plus a directional pad on its front and a protected SOS button on its side for emergencies. On the back, it’s equipped with a removable belt clip that includes a carabiner attachment for hanging.

Battery Life:

Like any electronic safety device, keeping the batteries charged is a crucial element for a satellite communicator. These devices “ping” the nearest satellite on a regular basis to update your location and to check for any new incoming messages. How frequently you set the device to log your location and check for messages is directly related to how much battery life you can expect.

The SE+ is rated to provide up to 100 hours (approx 4 days) of battery life using the default 10-minute tracking mode. As expected, the rated battery life drops as logging intervals are changed.  Using 1-second logging provides up to 75 hours of battery life. The SE+ also has a 30-minute power save mode where the batteries can last up to 30 days.

In our usage, we kept the device set at the default 10-minute logging interval and found that 3-4 days of battery life is realistic.  If you like to check the device regularly powering up the screen each time, expect less time out of the batteries.  In any case, it’s important to consider your ability to recharge the device depending on the length of your trip.  If you’ll be away from power sources your entire trip, it’s recommended to set the logging interval to a less-often setting to ensure you’ll have connectivity when you need it.


Dimensions: 2.7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″
Weight: 7.5 oz
Waterproof Rating: IPX7
Batteries: rechargeable internal lithium-ion
Charging Interface: micro USB


  • Interactive SOS feature
  • Send & Receive Messages vis SMS and Email
  • MapShare compatibility with tracking
  • Virtual keyboard for on-device messaging
  • Send waypoints to MapShare during trip
  • Send route selection to MapShare during trip
  • Connect with the Garmin Earthmate App for messaging, tracking, etc information

Service Plans:

Garmin offers 3 satellite service subscriptions for its inReach devices, all of which can be paid annually at a discounted rate or on a monthly basis (called “Freedom plans”) with an “annual program fee” of $34.95.

Safety Plan ($14.95/monthly or $11.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • 10 Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 10-min + tracking intervals
Recreation Plan ($34.95/monthly or $24.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • 40 Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 10-min + tracking intervals
Expedition Plan ($64.95/monthly or $49.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • Unlimited Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 2-min + tracking intervals

See full feature listings for each plan and compare at the Garmin website.

Since our travels are often sporadic throughout the year, we prefer the monthly “freedom” plans offered by Garmin.  A highlight of these plans is that freedom plans can be suspended at no fee when you won’t be needing service.  While your account is suspended, you won’t be charged a monthly fee, but will still be charged the annual $34.95 fee at the yearly anniversary of your account creation.

Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator for Sailing
Relying on our Garmin inReach SE+ while sailing off the coast of California.

What we like about the SE+:

  1. The ability to message home while far from cell service.  This is why satellite communicators exist.  using a satellite network, you can send messages and contact emergency services from anywhere on the planet.
  2. We love that we can message directly on the device if necessary (ie. our phone battery is dead), but prefer to use the mobile app for normal usage.
  3. We love the unlimited “check-in” messages included on all Garmin service plans.  This allows you to pre-set 3 messages on your Garmin account that can be sent without going against your monthly messaging total.  You can change these often and it makes for the ability to send many more messages back home than your plan typically allows.
  4. We love that we can suspend our Garmin inReach service when we’re not able to get outdoors and can easily be reactivated when we’re headed back out.
  5. We love the MapShare feature which gives us a website to share with friends and family.  Your MapShare page can be password protected for privacy, provides an easy way for loved ones to message you directly through the page, and displays real-time tracking data on your trip progress.
  6. We love the tracking, routing, and waypoint abilities of the SE+.  It’s great to be able to plan trip routes and waypoints ahead of time, sync them to the SE+, and have them in hand while off-grid.
  7. The Earthmate app is really good – giving you the full feature set and data found on the SE+ on your phone.  This allows you to hang the SE+ somewhere with a direct view of the sky and leave it there throughout your trip.
  8. It’s fun to be able to keep those back home updated with the tracking features of the Garmin website.  They know exactly where you are at all times.

What we don’t like about the SE+:

  1. Like other Garmin handheld devices we’ve used in the past, the menu and system interface isn’t great.  It’s clunky to navigate and find the features/data you’re looking for.  After some good usage, you get a feel for how to get around the system, but it’s not super intuitive. using the Earhtmate app for primary usage of this device solves this problem.
  2. The SE+ doesn’t have any maps on the device. Its big brother, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ has mapping capability on the device for an extra $100.  It is awkward to see your tracks and waypoints displayed on a blank screen without map reference behind them, but the EarthMate app allows you to download and use maps to display your data appropriately.  While maps on the device would be nice, we didn’t feel that the extra $100 was worth it – another reason why we prefer to use the EarthMate app with our SE+.


Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator
The design of the Garmin SE+ is solid, rugged, and fits well in hand.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Menu
The SE+ menu isn’t perfect, but with some time, is easy enough.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Tracking without a map
Tracking without a map on the Garmin SE+
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator SOS button
The SOS button can be easily accessed in case of emergencies
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator back
The SE+ has a belt clip and carbiner attachment on the back
Micro USB charging on the Garmin SE+
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Messaging
Messaging on the SE+ is simple using the virtual keyboard.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator for sailing
Using our SE+ while sailing off the coast of California.


Sailing to Avalon – Catalina Island

Sailing is a blast anyway you do it, but sailing to a destination is another level altogether. We recently had the opportunity to sail to Avalon on Catalina Island. The trip was days of enjoying the ocean, exploring Catalina activities, and appreciating the outdoors in a whole new way.

The Trip

Sailing to Avalon Catalina Island
The first to spot Catalina Island wins.

We departed for Avalon from San Diego Harbor and immediately set course for Oceanside Harbor. Avalon is an 80-nautical-mile sail. With an average speed of 7 knots/hour, a straight line from San Diego to Avalon would take us more than 11 hours. We arrived at the boat in San Diego in the morning, too late to make Avalon before nightfall. Instead, we elected to leave that afternoon and head up the coast to Oceanside – 40 nautical miles from San Diego. We stayed the night at an overnight slip in Oceanside Harbor, filled up with diesel first thing in the morning, and headed out toward Avalon.

The 47 nautical mile sail to Avalon took us just under 7 hours and was filled with the quiet peacefulness of the open ocean. Sailing along the shoreline gives you the security of knowing that if something happened you could easily get help, but sailing without land in sight generates an anxiety that is somehow both thrilling and terrifying. With modern technology such as GPS, VHF radios, and satellite communicators, rescue is always a quick call away, but on a trip like this, you hope you don’t need to rely on such help.  With nothing but blue water and rolling swells all around you, you keep the boat pointed in the right direction and knock off any many miles as you can each hour.

The waters between San Diego and Avalon are beautiful and typically filled with sea life.  The last time we completed this trip, we saw multiple whales, sea turtles, and even some sunfish.  This time we weren’t as lucky.  Running across pods of dolphins is almost guaranteed on a trip of this length, but for some reason, we couldn’t get any of the small pods we saw to come close to our boat. Regardless, destination sailing in the open ocean is “gorgeous captivity” – you can’t really do anything but take it all in.  The sea breeze in your hair, the salt spray on your skin, and the gentle rocking of the boat make for some of the best opportunities to just relax I’ve ever experienced.  Sailing is an excuse to do nothing….and to love it.

Mooring at Avalon

Sailing in Catalina
The Mooring Field in Avalon Harbor

After making great time on our sail from Oceanside, we arrived in Avalon Harbor around 3 pm to secure our mooring. Avalon Harbor has a network of moorings available to vessels of all sizes.  The challenge is that these moorings can’t be reserved ahead of time.  It’s first come, first served, and if no moorings are available, the harbor patrol will push you out of Avalon Harbor into a mooring in a nearby bay.  These moorings are fine if that’s all you can get, but you are much further from the action and amenities of Avalon.

Upon arrival at Avalon, you’re told to just hang out in your boat outside the harbor and to wait for a harbor patrol boat.  Almost immediately upon arrival at the entrance of the harbor, a patrol boat will find you.  Once they arrive, you’ll be assigned a mooring and pay them directly.  It’s a pretty smooth process, though passing credit cards and receipts boat to boat can be tricky.

Once you have your mooring assigned, you make your way to it and pick up the mooring buoy – a long stick floating upright at the front of your mooring.  Once the buoy (and stick) are on board, you must quickly tie it off to a front cleat and then pull the aft end of the line up as you walk to the stern of your vessel.  As you pull, you’ll eventually come across another loop on the line that you’ll tie off your stern.  You can learn more about the tie-up process on the City of Avalon’s website here. Having both your bow (front) and your stern (back) of your boat tied to the mooring keeps your boat secure and always pointed in the same direction.  Once you’re tied off and have a chance to look through the myriad of boats in the harbor, you see why it’s important that both bow and stern are tied. If just one boat wasn’t properly secured in strict order, total chaos would ensue.

Snug in your spot in the harbor, you start to get a feel for life in Avalon.  The colorful hillsides spotted with vibrant villas that surround the harbor capture the eyes don’t let go. Tour boats and mainland ferries arrive and depart nonstop. Parties overflow from neighbor boats as they tow whatever will tow (think inflatable docks, kid’s rafts, paddleboards) up and down the fairways. The sights and sounds are unforgettably active in Avalon harbor.

Things to do in Catalina

Once you’ve gotten your bearings in the harbor, it’s time to hop in your dinghy and head into town. While the harbor offers a shore boat to pick you up at your boat and bring you to shore (at a charge per person, each way), you want to have your own dinghy in Avalon.  Having your own transportation gives you the freedom to explore the harbor and to party like the locals while you’re here – all without emptying your pocket.

Whether you prefer lounging the day away on your boat or exploring all that the town of Avalon has to offer, Avalon offers the best of both worlds.  We prefer to do a bit of both, typically chilling on the boat during the heat of the day and retreating to the bars, restaurants, and shops in the afternoon/evening.  In any case, there are a lot of activities in Avalon to keep you busy and entertained.

Hanging on Your Boat

By far my favorite activity to do while in Avalon is just to relax on the back of the boat. Pick the music and your beverage of choice and do a lot of nothing for as long as you want. If doing nothing is not your cup of tea, there’s plenty to do right off your boat.  Go fishing for the small fish that live under your boat.  Float around behind your boat on anything that floats – having a line tied to your boat is a good idea for this one.  Take a dinghy ride around the moorings.  Go paddle boarding.  Swing from your spinnaker halyard. Swim under and around your boat. Tow your friends/family on inflatables around the mooring field. Get some sun. Take a nap. Did I mention hanging on the boat is my favorite activity while in Avalon?

Check out Avalon’s Bars & Restaurants

There’s a lot to explore in this category – plenty more than you’ll be able to visit in a single trip.  Here are some of the spots we visited while on our trip:

The Lobster Trap – this place is ranked #1 on Yelp for good reason.  It has all the seafood you would hope for in an island town AND has a table made from an old boat.  Do your best to get the “boat table” It’s worth it.

El Galleon – while the name and theme fit the “island experience” to a “T”, we were disappointed with our dinner at El Galleon.  Inside, this bar/restaurant misses the opportunity to achieve its potential for the maritime dive bar Hall of Fame.  It’s just ok in every way – well except for the prices.  Like most places in Catalina, prepare to pay higher prices than the quality of food deserves.  It’s just how it goes in a tourist town.

Island Donuts – this place is a little corner hole-in-the-wall, which in my experience usually means “Great”. The donuts are above average, but much better when they are procured by an early morning dinghy ride and brought back to those still sleeping on the boat.

Originals Antonio’s – There are 2 pizza places in Avalon.  Both are named Antonio’s Pizza.  I’m not sure of the history here, but Antonio’s Pizza is on the water’s edge in the middle of town. Original Antonio’s is a much cooler, much better pizza place a block away.  Don’t mess with Antonio’s.  Go with the original and you’ll be happy.  The seating inside Original Antonio’s is tiny and the line can get long.  I recommend phoning in a to-go order to bring it back to your boat.

Catalina Snorkeling

The waters around Catalina Island are much clearer than those near the mainland. They also seem to take on a deeper and more beautiful shade of blue as you get closer to the island. While this may be an illusion caused by the anticipation of reaching your destination, Catalina Island has some good snorkeling. Just remember that this isn’t the Caribbean – the water is colder and the fish are much less colorful. Regardless, if you’re anything like me, you never miss a chance to get in the water to get a closer look at the creatures that call the ocean home.  My favorite creature is the Garibaldi – a bright orange fish also known as “Catalina goldfish”. Garibaldi can be found all around the shoreline of the island and are so bright they can be spotted from docks in the harbor.

The main spot to snorkel in Avalon is at Lover’s Cove, just south of the ferry landing at the south end of the harbor. Lover’s Beach has good visibility, and a decent amount of fish to see, but can get crowded.  The highlight of this spot is the fish food dispenser at the top of the stairs.  Make sure to bring some quarters and pick up some handfuls of fish food on your way down to the beach.  Having the fish swarm you as you dish out pellets of fish food is an experience – especially for kids.  You can snorkel at Lover’s Cove with even the simplest of gear – goggles or a mask will allow you to see the fish clearly and a full snorkel setup will allow you to do it uninterrupted.  This spot is fun for a short snorkeling trip, but it will most likely take you longer to walk there and back than you will be in the water.  Don’t forget to bring some type of water shoes.  The beach is made up of small to medium-sized pebbles which can be painful (but very possible) without something on your feet.

I enjoy snorkeling in Avalon anytime I’m in the water.  While Lover’s Cove is the “snorkeling spot”, it’s just as much find to find fish and explore the underwater realm from the beaches in front of town, the beach club in nearby Descanso Bay, or off the back of your boat at your mooring.

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Catalina Camping

While I’ve never camped on Catalina Island, it’s on my to-do list. How much of an experience it must be to take the ferry to Catalina Island with all of your camping gear, to hike to your campground, and to be fully immersed in the semi-wild that Catalina Island offers!

While there are a number of campgrounds on Catalina Island, the only campground in Avalon is Hermit Gulch Campground.  Hermit Gulch is tucked into scenic Avalon Canyon behind the town of Avalon.  Only 2 miles from downtown shops and restaurants, Hermit Gulch seems to offer the ability to sleep under the stars while being close to all the activities and amenities of Avalon. Reservations for Hermit Gulch can be made at visitcatalina.com.

If you’ve got more time and more adventure in you, consider hiking and camping along the Trans-Catalina Trail – the 37.2-mile trail that covers the majority of the island’s length.  Numerous campgrounds exist along the trail to break up the trip and reservations for these campgrounds can also be made at visitcatalina.com.

Catalina Island camping

The Return Trip

After 5 days of Avalon, we didn’t want to go back to real life.  But we were due for a real shower schedule (our rule in Catalina Island is that a swim in the ocean is equal to a shower) and had to get back to real work.  The pace of life in Avalon is whatever you want it to be.  If you like always being on the go, there’s plenty to occupy your time.  And if you like slowing things down a bit, no one in Avalon will complain.  Alas, we had to head for home.

On our final day, we awoke around 6 am, fired up the engine, and tossed the mooring ties overboard.  As we departed the harbor, the seas were flat, a light fog covered the air, and, though it was summer, the morning air was crisp. Reluctantly, we set a course straight for San Diego and anticipated a long 11-hour trek home.

We found ourselves windless for most of the morning and had to rely on our diesel engine to keep up the pace.  Though noisy, motoring allowed us to fully appreciate the beauty of the calm seas ahead and to keep a keen eye out for aquatic life.  We spotted several flying fish – an amazing sight to see for the first time as these small fish skip over the surface of the water.  We also caught glimpses of a few small pods of dolphins too far away to be tempted to swim in our bow waves. As the day wore on, the wind built and soon we were motor-sailing along at just over 8 knots – speedy for our boat.  Hoping that the wind would fill in enough to drop the engine entirely. Unfortunately, it never did.  With the available breeze, we were able to keep both the sails up and the engine running to get back to San Diego in incredible time.

Sailing between Catalina Island and San Diego is easily the most nerve-racking leg of this trip.  For the majority of this route, you’re sailing about 25 miles off the California Coast.  Something going wrong during this part of the trip would cause the most grief.  When we sail offshore, we always carry our Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator.  In case of emergency and VHF radio issues, it allows us to text friends and family back home using a system of satellites that extend far beyond cell range.  It also has an SOS button that automatically alerts search and rescue authorities and includes our location.  It’s something we hope we’ll never use, but it sure makes us better enjoy the trip more knowing that we have multiple ways to stay in touch if something should happen.

Returning to San Diego from Catalina Island is always bittersweet. Sweet because sailing into port after a long day on the ocean is always calming and secure. Bitter because the responsibilities and schedule of real life are back in play.  I’d recommend that anyone who can take a trip like this.  Enjoy a long “destination sail” on the open ocean.  Fight with the insecurities and anxieties inside yourself as you bob around in a small boat without the sight of land. Take full advantage of the change of pace – of “island time”.  Learn to enjoy doing nothing.  Put your head underwater and see what is staring back at you.  Experience sleeping each night with the gentle rocking of the boat and the waves. Go to Catalina.

Interested in More Sailing Adventures? Check out our “Sea” adventures series for more.

Sailing to Ensenada

Sailing to Ensenada, Mexico from San Diego is a short trip by sailing standards, but it’s a fun and exciting day on the water….if you’re lucky enough to find some wind. The last time I sailed this route about a decade ago, we bobbed around in flat seas having to resort to using the boat’s engine the entire trip.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sail from San Diego to Ensenada on a gorgeous, 46ft sailboat.  The journey, approximately 60 nautical miles, lasted about 8hrs and was filled with dolphins, beautiful landscapes, and just the right amount of “relax”.

This time, we had plenty of wind, but it was blowing the same direction as we were headed.  Without a spinnaker, we utilize a combination of engine and wind to propel us the majority of the way.  Downwind sailing, (sailing with the wind to your back) is typically a blast and a comfortable sail, but without the right gear for the job, this sail wasn’t as exciting as it could have been

I LOVE sailing. Utilizing the wind to propel yourself across the sea wild with potential is a special experience. It’s romantic. It’s ripe with adventure. It’s life-giving. We all gravitate towards the activities that help us disconnect from the stresses of life.  I gravitate towards sailing.

Sailing around the safe confines of a harbor is fun, but sailing to a destination is exhilarating. The weather must be adequately accounted for.  The course needs plotted ahead of time.  Calculations are required to ensure an on-time arrival based on local conditions.  Destination sailing take preparation. But it’s the unknown that creates the adventure.  What sea life will we encounter?  Will we catch some fish for dinner during our travels? What business are the commercial vessels we pass enroute engaged in?  Will weather conditions change and surprise us?  Will rough seas leave us clinging to edge of the boat heaving the contents of our stomach?  Or will a strong breeze carry us swiftly leaving only the sound of the hull piercing through the waves? Once you embark, your fate is the hands of mother nature and with the sturdiness of your vessel.

Sea Life

While most people think of the “wild” as lush forests or desolate deserts, the sea is equally wild.  On a sailboat in the open ocean, you are adventuring where only a small percentage of humans have. The ocean (certainly all that is below the surface) is relatively unfamiliar and untraveled. Lose sight of land and the isolation can be unsettling.

At least until you encounter a pod of dolphins, a whale, or even a school of fish churning the surface in search of food.  In these moments, the aloneness gives way to a certain comfort.

On our sail to Ensenada we were met by a small pod of common dolphins.  As they often do, the dolphins quickly headed toward our boat when they noticed us and playfully cruised in our boat wake for a few moments. No matter how many times you stand on the bow of a boat and watch dolphins play alongside, it’s always magical. It’s something everyone should have the opportunity to experience at least once. They are beautiful and inquisitive creatures and can make even the worst day of sailing a little brighter.

The Quiet of the Sea

My favorite part about sailing is feeling the boat move through the water toward your destination in silence.  Once the boat is in open water and its sails are hoisted, there is nothing quite like the moment the engine is killed and the sounds of the sea take over.

Sailing provides the time and space for reflection that we often struggle to find in our lives. While at sea under the power of only the wind, we are captive to the experience. The myriad of tasks we are compelled to complete in our everyday lives are silenced with only the task of utilizing the available wind to most efficiently make headway toward our destination.  As the world around us quiets, our mind can’t help but follow.

Experiencing the wild is therapy. It disrupts our routines and adapts our perceptions. Sailing connects us with our sea-faring ancestors, nature, and ourselves.

This trip sailing to Ensenada was no exception.  With the journey feeling not long enough, we arrived into the harbor in Ensenada at nightfall, greeted by the twinkling lights of this Mexican city.

Ensenada: A Charming City

Ensenada is a city of more than 500,000 people located in Baja California, Mexico’s west coast. It’s a charming Mexican city with great food and plenty of nightlife, but it’s also a cruise ship destination and a focal point for the Valle de Guadalupe, its nearby wine region.

Having not been to Ensenada for a number of years, I was surprised to see how much the city had changed. The coastline just north of the city has significantly more development than I remember and we stumbled upon some amazing restaurants.

As anyone who’s been to Ensenada will tell you, one of the more memorable sights of the city is the enormous Mexican flag that flies near the harbor.  This giant flag greets cruise ships entering port and tourists alike – welcoming them to a welcoming city. The people of Ensenada are overwhelmingly generous and hospitable.  With a large cruise terminal, a decent amount of the Ensenada economy counts on tourism dollars. Like many Mexican towns, you can find just about anything by asking around for it.  But in Ensenada’s case, you feel less like a tourist target walking around town. You are always invited in to just about every place you pass, but never feel dragged in or pestered.

For those arriving by boat, Ensenada has two main marinas, Marina Coral and Cruiseport Village Marina. While we’ve enjoyed Marina Coral in the past, this time to Ensenada, we chose to stay at Cruiseport Village.  Marina Coral is just north of Ensenada attached to a wonderful hotel with all the amenities of a resort. Cruiseport Village is inside Ensenada’s harbor right in the middle of town.  This central location provides the ability to walk into town and explore the city just a few minutes away from your boat.

Getting Back to the States

The owner of the boat we sailed to Ensenada was leaving his boat in Ensenada leaving us to find an alternative way back home.  Luckily, many of the larger hotels in Ensenada can arrange a shuttle to take you back to the US.  Having ridden one of these shuttles on a previous trip that took us only to the border then dropped us in a 2-hour long line to walk across, I was excited to learn that this time we would be driven all the way to the airport in San Diego. Getting transportation across the border is the way to go.  We arrived at the airport in San Diego in 2 hours – the same amount of time we stood in last at the border last time.

Another option for back to the US border is by bus. ABC buses run from Ensenada to Tijuana every hour and cost about $10 per person. ABC offers nice busses and typically show movies during your travel – a nice mindless distraction to pass the time. There are a couple of places to pick up these busses in Ensenada, so be sure to plan your route to the bus station and give yourself enough time before departure.

The trip back to San Diego is breathtaking.  The drive is along the coast most of the way with endless ocean views from the cliffs above.  Much of this coastline had been heavily developed in recent years. This makes perfect sense once you lose all track of time watching the waves roll endlessly from the deep of the Pacific Ocean.  I could spend some more time in this region.


Sailing to Ensenada is a fun, all-day sail from San Diego.  Conditions are usually good and there’s a good chance you’ll spot some wildlife on your journey.  Ensenada is a beautiful and modern town with plenty to keep you occupied while there. Ground transportation between Ensenada and San Diego is an adventure in itself with beautiful views along the ocean and many options to choose from. I’m looking forward for my next excuse to visit Ensenada.

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