In The Beginning

Anchored in the Rio Chagres, just around the corner from the Panama Canal with the Howler Monkeys & Sloths

Anchored in the Rio Chagres, just around the corner from the Panama Canal with the Howler Monkeys & Sloths

In the beginning there was a boat … and two people … and a dream.  Since 2001 we’ve been following that dream, cruising for six months a year aboard our 1985 Passport 37 sailboat, sv Winterlude.   15,000 miles, 10 countries, 7 states, all amazing and wonderful.  There are still more cruising locales to explore and we are not giving up our life-aboard – hopefully we’ll be cruising again before this year is out.  Sparkling clear water is beckoning.  Living aboard affords us the luxury of moving our “house” to another neighborhood anytime we want to explore new territory.

So now it’s time to add another dimension to our dream.  Dreams not accessible from a sailboat.

Last summer, we made the “mistake” of agreeing to join friends in their pop-up camper in the North Cascades National Park.  If you’ve never been to the North Cascades National Park, do NOT miss it.  It is fabulous … experience our first day hiking with my post here “What Goes Up, Must Come Down”.

GeezerHeiken at Rainy Pass, North Cascades National Park

GeezerHeiken at Rainy Pass, North Cascades National Park

Before two days were over, I was in love.  In love with camping in a National Park  … in love with the spectacular scenery, the wildlife, the photography possibilities and most of all, in love with staying at our friend’s “house”, aka camper, in the park.

We’ve been debating about what the next phase of our explorations and adventures looks like and suddenly it was crystal clear that at least part of the adventure had to incorporate a travel trailer and it had to culminate in a Grand Canyon/Utah National Parks loop some day … soon.  Click here for: “Surf n Turf:  What’s On Your Bucket List” for more on the dreams and whacky thinking that lead us to the final decision.

Looking forward to hiking is Bryce Canyon National Park, my late Mom's favorite national park... and I've never been.

Looking forward to hiking is Bryce Canyon National Park, my late Mom’s favorite national park… and I’ve never been.

I know some of you may say “this blog isn’t about cruising anymore, it’s about camping and I don’t like camping”.  I decided to start a separate blog about the trailer – for those interested.  There seem to be many similarities between cruising and small trailer camping.  We’re hoping to learn new things that make cruising more fun or easier  from our trailer life as well as vice versa.  We certainly have learned alot over the years cruising aboard sv Winterlude, hopefully some of it will be useful for a travel trailer.  And we don’t plan to quit cruising…. hopefully we’ll be “out there” again soon, after sticking close to my 92 year old Dad here in Florida for the past few years.

When we take delivery, I'll change these photos to photos with OUR Lance 1685.  Until then, this is the trailer.

When we take delivery, I’ll change these photos to photos with OUR Lance 1685. Until then, this is the trailer.

We know absolutely nothing about travel trailers.  At least when we bought sv Winterlude, we were both one design sailors and David had navigation experience via the US Coast Guard.  What we think we know …

1.  We want something small enough to tow with our current vehicle – an 2006 Toyota 4X4 4 Runner.  It was important to us to have a vehicle to explore – like our dinghy adventuring while on the boat.  And we didn’t want to invest the money in a new tow vehicle.  After all, who knows, maybe we’ll hate this lifestyle and decide to sell the trailer.  Our truck will tow 5,000 lbs.  It’s amazing how that limits the number of trailers available.

2.  We needed something small enough for National Parks campgrounds where sometimes limits are 25 feet or less.

3.  We didn’t want to be stuck in “trailer park” campgrounds all the time.  We’ve camped in some wonderful places that were US Forestry Service or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) national forests.  Known in RV lingo as “boondocking” which means you’re camping somewhere that’s allowed, but no campsites or amenities set up – no electricity, no water, totally self sufficient.  Similar to the boat at anchor.  We also knew “dry camping” would play a big part in our adventures since National Park camping is “dry camping” – no electrical hookups.

4.  All this translates into needing sufficient battery and propane power to run the trailer for a few days, preferably a week, without having to seek out a dump station.

5.  And big enough fresh water/black water and gray water tanks to allow us to be away from civilization for a week.

6.  But the biggest challenge was to find a camper that was lightweight enough for our 4 Runner to tow (Toyota says that’s 5,000 lbs), had big enough tanks and enough power to allow us to go “boondocking” for several days at a time and still homey enough that we’d want to live in it for weeks/months.

Our soon to be TT ViewFinder interior.

Our soon to be TT ViewFinder interior.

Hopefully we’ve found it in the Lance 1685 — a small 21 foot travel trailer, dry weight 3400 lbs, although loaded is closer to our 5,000 lb limit.  Tanks are each 45 gallons – the holding tank on the boat is only 20 gallons, so we’ll double plus our holding tank capacity.  But the boat carries 70 gallons of fresh water and has a watermaker.  Hopefully, there will be more places available to fill with fresh water with the trailer.

Here’s a link:  Lance 1685

David’s hoping the trailer will have less maintenance than the boat, although we anticipate some maintenance.  But since it’s towed and doesn’t have it’s own propulsion (and watermaker and SSB/Pactor Modem communicatioins and wind generator and life raft … the list goes on & on), maybe it will be simpler … and systems easier to access – is that an unreasonable dream?  🙂

Alpenglow behind our camper at Teklanika, Denali National Park

Alpenglow behind our camper at Teklanika, Denali National Park

We committed to spend 30 nights camping in the travel trailer by the end of the year – we ended up with more … click here for a post recap of our 2014 Outer Banks/East coast to the boat in Florida adventures.   We leave March 17, 2015 for 3 months out west — Florida to New Orleans to check out the jazz, then to New Mexico and the Chaco Culture National Historical Center, then those national parks with names like Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches … the list just goes on & on…   To follow us:

Any other sailors/cruisers out there that enjoy trailer camping too?  Leave a comment and let us know who you are & your favorite places to camp!  Cheers!  Jan (looking forward to surf n turf!!!)


  1. brian wise says:

    You’ve started me thinking… Among dreams of cruising, are older ones of finishing the AT, seeing Bryce, Yellowstone, the redwoods in northern California etc. Why not escape the heat here and explore inland?
    Have fun. If I return after you leave, see you in the fall and thanks for all of your insights and help.

  2. Hi Jan. Your National Parks often have free campgrounds within them (usually because they have few or no facilities or even running water, etc. – maybe just a picnic table and campfire ring). We camped with Buffalo walking next to our tent in the Badlands National Park for example. As long as the trailer suspension is good, these can be great places to go boondocking. Enjoy your “land yacht”!


  1. […] to transition from one to the next, I’m always depressed.  Even though I’m looking forward to our out west adventures in the travel trailer, I’m bummed to be leaving the boat in a few days.  Really […]

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