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Bay Tripper

Meet the cruising Kelloggs

Meet the cruising Kelloggs

Chris and Marsha Kellogg’s first real boating experience was their seven-day houseboat honeymoon on a small lake in the middle of Iowa. “Sailing was not in our vocabulary then,” says Chris. “Being on the water for me meant water skiing with my small-town Iowa family,” echoes Marsha.

Discovering sailing in 1981 was to change their lives dramatically and has since led to long voyages under sail. Their ongoing offshore adventures have come to absorb their lives in an early semiretirement, returning from time to time to their home off Spa Creek in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis, Md., before the next trip.

In late October, Chris and four men plan to sail his cutter-rigged Tayana 48 to St. Thomas, USVI, with a stop in Bermuda. It will be his second Caribbean passage in Endorphins — a handsome, dark green cruising yacht. His crew will join their wives at a St. Thomas hotel for a few days of R&R and fly home together. Marsha will stay to begin a months-long, down-island cruise with Chris.

“I think I’m smart enough not to sail with five men on an offshore delivery and end up below deck as a galley slave,” she explains, with a laugh.

Their introduction to sailing came about because of an effort to divert the gloom of an old friend undergoing an upsetting divorce. Little did they know their own lives would be diverted by that learn-to-sail weekend, spent on a Hunter 30 out of Havre de Grace, Md., with two other couples.

“I guess we must have caught on quickly, because on the second day our instructor turned the boat over to us and said, ‘OK guys, take off and have a fun weekend,’ ” says Chris.

“For the next 14 years we chartered bareboat off and on, mostly in the Chesapeake but also in the islands,” adds Marsha. “Finally, I said to Chris, ‘I think it’s time we buy a sailboat,’ and we began looking.”

“When a man loves sailing and he finds he’s lucky enough to have a gung-ho wife who says, ‘Let’s buy a sailboat,’ you take advantage of the weakness of the moment and obey her wishes,” says Chris.

Educated as an architect and engineer and a creative, problem-solving stickler for details, Chris got busy with their dream on paper. He and Marsha drew up a detailed list of what they wanted in a boat, focusing on a center cockpit, keel-stepped mast, roller furling sails, a good-size galley, showers separate from the heads, A/C for hot Chesapeake summers, and so on.

The Kelloggs, both 58, bought Endorphins, their first (and only) sailboat, in 1995 and docked her at Port Annapolis Marina while they lived in Pennsylvania. “This is ridiculous,” Chris said to Marsha one revealing day. “We’re driving to the boat every weekend. Let’s buy our own place in Annapolis to dock the boat — and for us, too.”

In 1997 they moved to a contemporary waterfront home on Wells Cove with a puddle (23 inches deep) out front, which obviously wouldn’t accommodate a boat drawing 6 feet, 6 inches. One of the first projects they took on, besides building a dock and deck, was to dredge a trench for the big boat and have the small, shallow and narrow dead-end cove dredged to a 7-foot channel depth.

That first year they cruised the Bay extensively, getting as far south as the Tides Inn off the Rappahannock River in Tidewater, Va. “Our first offshore passage was the 2000 Bermuda Ocean Race, and an uninvited guest named Murphy came aboard,” Chris recalls. “All sorts of strange and goofy things started to go wrong. It would have been discouraging, but we found the cause for each problem and marked up that trip to experience.”

The next year, they voyaged to Nantucket, Mass., and Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, then in 2002 began a cruise to Maine that was cut short in Cuttyhunk, Mass. “At 8:30 at night we hit a rock ledge and nearly tore off the skeg while trying to anchor in 28 knots after the longest of long days when lots of other stuff had gone wrong,” he says. The boat was laid up for 10 months at a Marion, Mass., boatyard. The total bill ran into the low six-figures, almost half of which was covered by insurance.

On two of those hell trips they had departed on a Friday, before they had heard from Annapolis diver Lee Powers of a seafarers’ superstition that one should never begin a long passage on a Friday. “We will absolutely heed that warning from now on,” Marsha says.

They sailed the boat back to the Chesapeake from Marion during the Memorial Day weekend of 2003 and cruised the Bay all that summer and the next year — uneventfully. “But in 2005, on my first Caribbean passage, nature threw another series of curves during the Caribbean 1500,” says Chris. “We had consistent winds from 30 to 45 knots that generated waves of 18 to 25 feet for seven days of the nine-day passage to Tortola. The one casualty was our Simpson-Lawrence windlass, which was underwater because of boarding seas a great deal of the passage and ended up having to be rebuilt in St. Thomas.”

(I dock my sailboat near Chris, and while I was “camping out” in St. John, USVI, in February 2006, who should surprise me at dinner but Chris, shouting: “Jack! What are you doing here?” They were anchored off the campgrounds while waiting for windlass parts from New Zealand.)

After Marsha arrived in Tortola and the all-male crew had flown home, the couple set sail after the rebuilt windlass was installed. Their voyage together would last the next eight months, covering 5,400 miles and stopping at 44 islands.

The one “Murphy” problem they encountered this time around was the failure of their $7,300 Sea Recovery watermaker, designed to produce 400 gallons a day by reverse osmosis. This past August, while the Kelloggs were away on a land adventure, a Sea Recovery technician rebuilt the system at their dock.

So this fall, Chris and an all-male crew will depart Annapolis, but this time their destination will be St. Thomas, after a brief stopover in Bermuda. Husbands will meet their wives at a hotel there for a few days of R&R and return home, leaving Marsha behind with Chris to cruise down-island. They will not spend much time in the U.S. or British Virgins this go-around.

“Those islands really do offer great scuba diving, but we have done them, and now it’s time to see more of the Caribbean,” says Marsha. “We’ll visit Antigua, Guadeloupe, Isles de Saintes, Maria-Gallante, St. Lucia, Bequia, Grenada, and the rest. This time one goal is not to push ourselves.”

In spring 2008 they plan to store the boat in JollyHarbour, Antigua, buried up to the hull bottom in a sandy “keel pit,” and return for an Annapolis visit sans yacht. Endorphins will await them, relatively safe from hurricane worries, and provide a big step up for the next voyage.

“On this trip we’ll try not to be so anal about getting the boat in perfect condition,” says Chris. “Most critical are the engine, because you motorsail a lot more than you expect, and having an absolutely dependable watermaker.”

Also on the crucial to-do list is removing the heavy anchors from the bow while at sea and stowing them in a deck box aft. “On the first trip down, we had lashed them down three times over, but the anchors still chafed through all lines, worked loose, and began slamming into the hull,” he says.

The Kelloggs love to fish under way but will take much heavier fishing line on this voyage. “Our 100-pound-test line was snapped like thread. We stared in amazement at the size of some of the fish that got away,” he says, laughing.

Marsha won’t load up on staples and items that are readily obtainable in the islands. “Wine and liquor are much cheaper down there, with astonishing selections in the French islands,” she says. “We will take good meats and vacuum-bag serving portions. Our dependable freezer works fine.”

Chris has compiled spare Yanmar parts, extra hoses and belts. “We avoid marinas and prefer anchoring. It’s no fun to wait weeks on end in a marina for that one part you don’t have,” he says. They consider their 170-gallon fuel capacity more than ample.

Chris installed a Kiss wind generator on the aft rail before the 2005 voyage, as well as solar panels atop the Bimini — decisions he is glad he made. “I have been told by veteran island cruisers there are three primary management tasks when you cruise down-island: power management, water management and, lastly and most interestingly, alcohol management.”

What’s next after the Caribbean? A passage through Panama to the South Pacific, perhaps? Chris and Marsha look at one another and smile. “Could be,” they say.

Jack Sherwood is writer at large for Soundings.