15 May 2017

10 Questions for Livin' Life

Captain David Rowland and First Mate Janice Rowland began cruising in 2015 aboard Livin’ Life, a Dean Catamaran 44' hailing from Tampa, FL, USA.
They started from Palmetto Florida around the Keys to Marathon, FL to Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Anguilla, St Martin, down to Grenada all in the first cruising season. Then, up and down the Eastern Caribbean chain including Antigua in the second season. Then Grenada to Martinique to Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Colombia, Panama, and now in San Andres.

You can read more about their voyage on their website or Facebook page.

They say: "We were a computer geek and office nerd with no previous sailing experience. However, once we decided to we earned multiple sailing certifications and chartered in the San Francisco Bay, Vancouver Islands, British Virgin Islands, and Thailand."

Describe a drool-worthy perfect cruising moment

We’ve had several fantastic ideal moments sailing, but the best is when you have the proper weather window and you have 15 knots of wind on the beam and either favorable or not noticeable current. It doesn’t happen often, but it happened crossing from Linton Bay, Panama, to San Andres, Colombia. And we caught a good sized wahoo on the way and celebrated our arrival with fish tacos while our boat settled into the crystal clear water. I was surprised to find many of the islands in the Eastern Caribbean to be desert islands (all the way from Bahamas until Dominica). The San Blas Islands are the picturesque sandy beach islands with coconut palms and turquoise blue water. I’m afraid every place we visit will be compared to the San Blas from here after. No place is without problems, though. (http://www.livin-life.com/guna-yala) Bonaire is definitely drool-worthy. Diving and snorkeling right off the back of your boat along the shore or down the shelf. The water is clear and the sealife is amazing (http://www.livin-life.com/awesome-diving).

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy?

As cruisers, some of us forget that we are guests in the countries we visit. We don’t feel like tourists because we bring our home with us and typically stay longer than a vacationing tourist. However, the locals still see us as tourists, as well they should. It drives me crazy when cruisers complain about the way an island is run or the pace that locals move at. If cruisers disagree with something, they want to change it. The whole reason we left the states was to visit new places and new cultures. Personally, I don’t want to change these places. Maybe they seem backwards to us, but if you want everything to be like it is wherever you are from, then go home! I don’t want our culture taking over the world. It is too invasive as it is. I truly enjoy experiencing the different ways of life and wish some cruisers would just be quiet and stop giving the rest of the cruisers a bad reputation.

Have you ever felt in danger and if so, what was the source?  

We have not truly felt in danger, but we have been afraid or very upset.

1. Our first scary experience was when we sailed from Marcos Island to Key West. There was a small vessel advisory on the VHF from the Coast Guard, but I guess we didn’t considered our catamaran to be a small vessel. Well, we are and we should have heeded the warning. The wind blew 48 knots and we saw 15 foot seas or so and we were sailing on less and less canvas until we were on bare poles and still going 7 knots. That may not sound fast, but it was much faster than we were planning and so we were due to arrive in Key West at 2:00 in the morning. It is a tricky entrance and we had never sailed there before, so we had to sit outside until daybreak. Dave turned the boat sideways to the waves to stop us, which caused the waves to crash over the sides, tossing the boat about. We had been warned so many times while boat shopping that catamarans can flip, so I was very worried. However, the boat did better than the crew. My mom and I were sick and Dave was the last man standing because he took Dramamine early. It was very uncomfortable, but we were never truly in danger.

2. As we sailed around the corner to Cambridge Key in the Bahamas, Dave lost sight of the channel. It was too late in the afternoon, we had never been there before, and the sun glare on the water made it so that we could not see the reefs. Dave missed the channel and drove us hard aground. It was near to low tide and as the waves picked us up and put us back down, I could hear the bottom of our boat going crunch, scrape, crack. It was awful. There was nothing we could do to free the boat but wait for the tide to come back. When it did, we floated off. We dove on it and saw big pieces of fiberglass ripped out of the bottom of our keels. Fortunately, we have sacrificial keels and no water came into the boat as a result. In Compass key, a diver came and filed down the damaged and filled the holes with underwater putty to keep the keels from delaminating. It worked perfectly and we even sailed all the way to Grenada with the putty patches before we hauled to repair the
damage. It was scary because I was imagining awful damage being done, but now I understand about sacrificial keels.

3. Sailing from Bequia to St Lucia we started taking on an immense amount of water in our starboard bilge. The bilge pumps failed and water was nearly over the floor boards. We started manually pumping the water out and kept up enough so that we never had water in the cabins, but we were fast becoming exhausted. It was hot and humid and we St Vincent was not a place we wanted to stop - nor do we know of any marinas that could have hauled us out. So we had to keep going to St Lucia. We trusted the autopilot to keep us out of trouble and looked around every time we dumped water. Finally, Dave found that the water came in through the starboard engine. He wrapped the area with rescue tape (fantastic stuff) and duct tape and stopped or nearly stopped the water from coming in. We kept pumping out the water all the way to St Lucia here we hauled out. This was how we learned what a shaft seal is. (http://www.livin-life.com/we-are-sinking)

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why? 

I’m not sure what type of gear you mean, but Dave’s favorite gear is his kiteboarding gear. He took up kiteboarding in Antigua and hasn’t looked back. Kiting now dictates our cruising to a large degree. I wouldn’t be without fishing gear. We have caught so much delicious mahi mahi, tuna, wahoo, and snapper. Fishing really helps contribute to zero dollar days. Good fenders are important. We were caught in a big blow on the windward side of a dock and sustained damage. We borrowed big fenders to help get us through.

Speaking just about your boat (not gear), what is one thing you wish your boat had that it doesn’t and what is one thing your boat has that you wish it didn’t?

For the boat, the windlass is a deal breaker. We replaced ours before we started cruising and we are very glad we did. Picking up 200 feet of chain by hand just plain sucks! Things we thought we needed/wanted but didn’t: SSB, satellite phone (that may change for the Pacific), and underwater lights (biggest waste of money and energy ever). Things we really need: Good chartplotter and electronic charts, backup GPS, VHF, handheld VHF, and Bluecharts on our iPad. We really like having a watermaker, too, but ours came with the boat and if we had it to do all over again we would not have sunk so much money into repairing our Spectra Watermaker and would have bought one that has more standard parts. We aren’t really missing anything we want, but we definitely overspent upfront because we didn’t really know what we needed or wanted until we started cruising.

In your experience how often do you think cruisers spend sailing vs. motoring, coastally vs. on passage? 

We try to sail as much as possible, even if we are only making 3 knots. There are a lot of times when there just isn’t any wind, though. Following hurricanes or other big storms, the wind is just sucked right out. To move within the next month we had to motor. Most of our travelling has been coastal, island to island and I’d say we average sailing 70% of the time and motoring 30%. Easting to get to the Caribbean chain, though we motored 75% and sailed 25%, if that. On our longer passages, we typically sail most of the way. However, on a notorious passage such as the Mona Passage between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, when a "no wind" weather window opens, take it. We motored the whole way, but it was still great. We caught mahi mahi and filleted it while underway. Not only were we safe, we were very comfortable.

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?

If you just bought your boat, use it before you go crazy installing and replacing things. See what you really need and want before spending unnecessary money. Just get out and do it. Don’t be afraid to take it up a notch or go to the next harbor. Watch the weather, pick your window and go! The worst thing is to be on a schedule, then you make bad decisions and end up going in weather you would prefer not to be in. It’s not always avoidable, but try! Boat time is a great time to learn things you never had time to learn before. My cooking has improved 100-fold. I am now sewing dinghy chaps, fender covers, pillows, and cushion covers. I was not very good at sewing, but I am really improving now. All the hobby stuff I brought onboard that I thought I’d have time for, I haven’t even touched. But when something useful or even necessary becomes your hobby, throw yourself into it and expand your borders. Enjoy the people. I thought the locations would be the best thing about cruising, but it is not. The people are. The other cruisers are amazing people from all walks of life and the locals can be very warm and friendly, especially if you show an interest. The people definitely make the difference!

Share a piece of cruising etiquette  
When showing up for sundowners (cocktails) on someone else’s boat, don’t show up empty-handed. It may not be necessary to bring something, but it is always welcomed and people remember that about you. Bring your own drinks. Brink a snack to share. If you don’t cook, bring chips and salsa. Make it a potluck and bring a dish. Those are some of the best times! Most people do not wear shoes on their boats and prefer that you don’t either. When speaking on a cruiser’s net or just between boats on the VHF, remember that there may be kids listening. Keep it friendly and politics-free. When a place becomes to embroiled in the politics (between cruisers mostly), it is time for us to leave. Life is so much more enjoyable without all the drama. If you see us while you are out and about, come and say hello. We always love to make new friends. That applies to meeting other people as well.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising? 

Have fun. When it’s no longer fun, it is time to sell the boat. Don’t overplan or overschedule. Pick your weather window. Our friends that are not really taking to cruising seem to always choose the worst times to leave an anchorage. It’s not fun bashing into the wind and waves everywhere you go. For couples, you have to become a team. Get over your egos and preconceived notions of who does what. There’s going to be things that each of you is better at than the other, make those your jobs. The best is when you don’t even have to speak a word to each other and you both just know exactly what has to be done and who will take care of what. It takes a while to find that routine, but we feel it came kind of naturally. The first year was the toughest, then it all became so much easier. Sorry, one more. Be careful and be smart. If you wouldn’t go out walking around in your city at 2:00 in the morning, don’t do it in a strange place. If you have to walk at night, do it with a group. But best of all, don’t do it. Take precautions like locking up your dinghy and stowing away gear.

01 May 2017

10 Questions for Domino

JP and Marie have been cruising since 2010 aboard MV DOMINO, a 65' Malcolm Tennant Power Catamaran flagged in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Since 2010, they have cruised from Paraguay to Argentina, Uruguay, the entire East coast of South America, Caribbean Islands, Cuba, Yucatán, the entire East coast of the US and the Chesapeake Bay, Central America (Caribbean side), Panama, Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti and its Islands, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and now New Caledonia.

JP and Marie built DOMINO themselves and they left behind 6 children and 13 grandchildren when they headed out cruising. DOMINO is currently for sale

Read more about their journey on their blog.

Finish this sentence. "Generally when I am provisioning...". 

I look for the freshest produce and canned goods with the least additives, enjoying the opportunity to discover local flavors.  At the town market, I often ask the ladies how to prepare the produce they sell.

What do you enjoy about cruising that you didn't expect to enjoy?  

Doing nothing.  I never thought I would enjoy just sitting, meditating, looking at nature, doing nothing at all.

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?   

Uh... we didn't.  Just hopped on the boat and left.  1 day passage, followed by a 2-day passage, and so on.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette

To guests who come and cruise for a while: don't bring roll-away suitcases.  Backpacks and soft bags do not scratch the decks and are easier to stow away.  To dinner/happy hour guests who kindly bring drinks on board: please, take your rubbish with you as you leave.

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising? 
  • They get on each other's nerves
  • They have gone as far west as they dared
  • They miss family and land possessions
Tell me your favorite thing and your least favorite thing about your boat  

Favorite: Parties 60, dines 8, sleeps 2.

My least favorite thing?   Umm.. no washing machine!  Of course, we have the room for it, all the electrical and plumbing, easy ventilation for the washer/dryer combo, but no machine!  I think JP uses this as leverage... after 10 years of doing my laundry in an oversized sink, spinning it in a high speed spinner and drying it in the sun, I still hope that some day I won't have to depend on the weather to do my laundry!

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?  
  • Refrigerator- I can't imagine cruising without one, and mine is quite large, enough for 6 weeks of fresh produce.
  • Bread machine - We're French, therefore eat a lot of bread!
  • Our big 6' radar array antenna.  We see targets clearly and early... peace of mind.
Where was your favorite place to visit and why?  

The Galapagos.  There is nothing like it, above or below water.  Unique!

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?  

Plenty! Racing the Brazilian Coast Guards entering Rio de Janeiro while ignoring the proper entrance channel, as the coast guards had fun pinning us on the rocks is my favorite!

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?  

How do you not get on each other's nerve when you live in confined quarters 24/7?   

Headphones, private space, yoga, and a sense of humor!

24 April 2017

10 Questions for Pitufa

Birgit, Christian and ship's cat Leeloo have been cruising since 2011 aboard Pitufa, an S&S 41 hailing from Vienna, Austria.

They quickly sailed through the Med, Atlantic, Caribbean, Panama Canal and now have been cruising for 4 years in the South Pacific.

You can read more about their voyage on their website.

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
We had no experience at all before we bought our boat. We simply wanted to travel to remote places and a sailing boat seemed like the perfect means of transport with accommodation attached. We bought the boat in Mallorca and took her through the Med to Croatia. We had plenty of opportunity during these 3 weeks and 1.500 nm to try out our theoretical book-knowledge.

Having been in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, how do they compare?

We didn't spend much time in the Atlantic/Caribbean, but the trades seemed much more stable than in the Pacific.

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?

There's no general recipe, some couples need lots of space and independent activities, we are lucky and just don't grow tired of being/working with each other 24/7.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear?

Many people ask how we pass the time. Potential cruisers shouldn't be worried about getting bored on a boat--there are usually too many things on the ever growing to-do list anyway.

And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should?

We see many boats with insufficient equipment. Don't set out without a proper anchor and alternative energy sources (we kept buying new solar panels during our first years).

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?

We like the sense of companionship, especially in remote places neighbours help each other out with bits and pieces and of course know-how.

We dislike cruisers who think it's cool to 'live off the land' in remote places and hunt everything that's moving. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?

We bought a sturdy, reliable aluminium boat and we're happy with our choice. With Pitufa's classic lines and tumblehome she's usually the prettiest boat in the anchorage (at least for us ;-)), but these features also give her a tendency to roll in anchorages and on downwind passages. Pitufa's heavy and slow, a longer waterline would help with the boat speed.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?

I can't think of anything. We carry way too much gear, but we need all of it.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?   

We're definitely travelers. We don't enjoy sailing (and despise+avoid motoring), but it's a way of getting to a new place.

Finish this sentence “One thing I’ve learned about navigating is…”

... that sailing 'in the wrong direction' (against the prevailing trade winds) isn't as hard as most cruisers think. We sailed from Tonga back to Tahiti last year and it was quite an enjoyable trip.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?

What are the most important pieces of equipment for you?

Our windvane, because the hydrovane steers Pitufa in all conditions without drawing any electricity.

The watermaker, because it gives us the freedom to stay in remote places as long as we want.

Our 'Bügelanker' (similar to a Rocna), because it gives us the piece of mind to sleep without the need of an anchor watch and to leave the boat unattended while exploring ashore.

17 April 2017

10 Questions for Palarran

Tawn and CB Midkiff have been cruising since 2013 aboard SV Palarran, a Hans Christian, 38T (38 feet - 48 with bowsprit) hailing from Seattle, WA, USA.

Over those years they have cruised down the Pacific coast to Panama and out to the South Pacific via Galapagos.

You can read more about their journey on their website.

They say: "We are a bit of the odd ball out here. We are not retired. We have no kids. We are starting our 5th year of cruising. And we are now looking at re-stuffing the cruising kitty for a 6-month on 6-month off cruising schedule."

Have you ever felt in danger and if so, what was the source? 

I am not sure I would classify this as "danger" per se, but more butt puckering fear. We were probably not in danger as the boat was doing its thing; but I was scared out of my pants at a storm we ran into on our way from Palmerston Atoll to Niue. This area of the Pacific Ocean is known for its unpredictable and unforcasted weather. We left in a great weather window, and for the most part, it was accurate. However, toward the end of the 450 mile journey we hit a band of squalls that had been sitting stationary due to a high that was pushing up against a large low to the south. The winds steadily picked up to 35-40 knots with staggering 20-25 foot seas. The waves were so enormous that we had to hand steer as our Hydrovane could not keep up when we rolled off the top of a wave into the trough. We were hitting 11 and 12 knots on a boat with a hull speed of 6! We were rolling off waves scooping up water in our gunnels that kept us heeled over until the water drained just to be swamped by another wave. We thought about heaving to, but the storm was not moving so who knew how long we would be there and the side swell was brutal. We could have headed off the wind, but then we would have to fight our way back. With only 60 nautical miles to go and a good butt clench on the helms seat, we made our way through before heaving too and collapsing in the lee of the island country of Niue. Hindsight, I think we did the right thing; as I said, the boat was in no immediate danger....but holy cow...that was terrifying!

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?

By far, worrying too much about the budget and missing opportunities to travel inland. At some point along the line we were both so stressed out about spending too much that we were not having any fun. We realized that the budget is there as a guide, but some weeks we spend more and for many we spend nothing at all. This was a huge milestone in our cruising. We weren't out here to see how little we could spend, we were here for experiences. We were going places that would be once in a life time spots and if we skipped excursions for budgetary concerns, we were doing a serious disservice to ourselves. If this meant stopping one year earlier, then so be it. But as it stands we made it about as long as we thought we could without even touching our savings. I have experienced more in these last four years than most ever will in a lifetime. I cherish this time we have out here. Money can always be made, but experiences are only to be had for the time you are in that place.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was overrated (not as good as you had heard)? Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?  

Costa Rica was the most overrated, expensive tourist thick country we have ever been to. We traveled inland, overland and by sea and everywhere we went it was the same thing....filled with foreigners who were running businesses stripping you of money while paying and treating the locals horribly. As cruisers who don't have a regular salary coming in every month, we found this place very hard to handle financially; even the grocery stores were overpriced. We spent too much time here and would have rather spent that time in Nicaragua and Western Panama.

Nicaragua, completely skipped over in cruising guides, was one of my favorite stops. The surfing was phenomenal and the bus system provided easy trips inland. The people were great, once you got to know them, and the food was off the hook amazing. As one local guy we knew said, we don't have much money, but we love to eat! The anchorages here are more exposed, but that is why the surf is so good. Western Panama is another place that there are few guide books for. It reminded me of the South Pacific with its islands, bays and coral reefs. The water was so clear here and the local population are all the indigenous peoples of Panama. Language was a problem, as most people spoke their local dialect and Spanish was a second language. The surf in Western Panama was also very good. I would highly suggest spending less time in Costa Rica and more time exploring these surrounding countries.

In your experience how often do you think cruisers spend sailing vs. motoring, coastally vs. on passage?

This was something that totally blew us away. When we left Seattle, we thought we could pretty much throw our engine overboard. We were sailors setting out on a grand voyage around the world and were going to only use the engine in an emergency. We would just wait for the wind to blow us towards our destination. HA! Little did we know, if you leave Washington State at the recommended time of the year, there is no wind on the Pacific coast. We motored 80% of the time...it seemed. And that whole part about being sailors and just waiting for the wind to drift into our lives...yeah right! Turns out we are not that patient; and banging and slatting around in the ocean when a quick push of a button and burning of a few dinosaurs will get us to our destination within hours....yeah, we became a power boat while cruising coastally. Sometimes you have to face the reality...but I guess you don't know what that reality is until you do it!!! That being said, once we crossed to the South Pacific we have sailed almost 100% of the time as the winds become consistent trades and passages are planned around favorable wind.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?

When we first left we followed a very well worn track of cruisers before us...down the Pacific coast to Mexico and beyond. At first we fell in with the other cruisers and enjoyed the many pre-planned activities. But eventually we traveled beyond the Jimmy Buffet Mexican Train crowd and found our own group of like minds to travel with. We were lucky enough, for one season, to find a group of people our age who were all headed in the same direction. We were of varying levels of experience, but all had a love for adventure and fun. We traveled inland together and had beach parties and celebrated birthdays and holidays together. It was great while it lasted. But in Panama everyone goes their separate ways and we lost our beloved group. I would say this is what I liked most about the cruising culture...the camaraderie and almost instant friendships that run deeper than the sea. As of late, we have not found a group like this and I miss it greatly.

The one thing that I do not like about the cruiser community is the perception that some have that the people living in the remote islands and communities of this world are somehow "poor" and "needy". While we were in "the pack", so to speak, of our pacific crossing; we noticed that many cruisers simply gave items to the remote islanders and would refuse trade. Not only does this seem arrogant, but it drastically changes the way a people live and act. Just because the locals don't have an IPad each and every other electronic gizmo know to the western man...doesn't mean that they don't live a culturally rich and fulfilling life. People way out here on the edge of civilization don't need much. They are not hungry, they are not illiterate, they are not poor...they just live a simpler life than us Westerners. We have no problem with trade...I think a bartering society is fabulous...but I would feel I was insulting people if I were to simply giving without getting.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?

Honestly, we did very well here. Everything we have we use regularly. The only item on the boat that I can think of that we have yet to use is a large collapsible propane burner that you can use for crab boils on the beach. We just haven't had the opportunity to use it and the pictures you always see of cruisers on the beach eating fabulous seafood boils just is not the reality.

Speaking just about your boat (not gear), what is one thing you wish your boat had that it doesn’t and what is one thing your boat has that you wish it didn't?

The Hans Christian 38T comes with either a V-berth and a smaller head and shower to port or a Pullman and a head in the V. I wish we had the Pullman. Being in very hot and humid climates, I find the V-berth absolutely stifling to sleep in at night when there is no breeze. We have lots of fans, but throw two hot sweaty humans up there and it is awful! I guess that covers both topics...but I would also add that I wish our refrigerator was not located over our engine...it seems like a pretty big design flaw and has kept us from using our separate freezer due to power consumption.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear? And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should?

The perception of "safety" in foreign ports. This was actually never a real fear of ours, but we had heard from "cruiser lore" how dangerous foreign ports can be and how you will arrive with stuff and by the time you leave all your stuff will have been stolen. This is way over blown and has NEVER been a factor, at least not for us. We have rolled into some sketchy non-cruiser (by this I mean not in any guide) ports in Latin America and have been the only cruising boat around. We found that these places were often friendlier than the "yachtie" hubs because we are a novelty and the locals want you to have a good impression of their town. Basically, people are the same all over the world...generally good in nature and proud of the place they are from. Even the countries that are known to have issues, like El Salvador, don't want foreigners getting harmed as it is bad for their tourism. Be smart and above all else, be respectful of locals and their customs.

As to the other point, I have found that there is a very profound and shocking lack of knowledge out here. Everyone is a novice until they actually cut the lines and go, but that doesn't mean you have to be ignorant. Take the time to read everything you can on the places you want to go before you get there. Use Noonsite as a reference, but not as your only piece of information. Read other cruisers blogs. Learn the foreign language of the place you plan to spend a lot of time. Read, Read, Read!!! Knowledge is the best tool any cruiser can have in their tool kit. Learn about your boat, fix stuff yourself, take a weather course. These are all things that will put you one rung above the rest when you decide to go.

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy?

Absolutely, positively the "lore of the cruiser". We set out on this crazy adventure for just that reason...an adventure. We like to find places ourselves and experience things our way. I can't count how many times we have been chatting with another cruiser couple, talking about places we have been and places we want to go when all of a sudden another couple butts in and states some crazy ass spew of made up BS that they heard from "some other cruiser" about the place you were just talking about. It is always something negative and often I know it to be totally false...because I was there or knew cruiser friends that were there! But once the cruiser lore starts, it is like a wildfire. Noonsite is the worst culprit of this. I can see it coming a hundred miles away and have learned to just nod my head and smile (I have also learned to be very careful of what I say about places). But jeesh it drives me crazy...there you are talking about your accomplishments and dreams of foreign ports and some cruiser decides they will just poop all over your conversation with some gossip they heard second, third or 90th hand....okay, rant over :-)

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?

What gear did you not leave with and wish you had?

A solid mast track rigged telescoping spinnaker pole of appropriate size. Lets face it, once you take off, you are basically going down hill. We have had the wind to aft since leaving Seattle; aside from a few to-weather trips to reach a particular destination. Being able to properly sail down wind requires a pole to keep your head sail from the awful rig shuttering THWAP of the sail collapsing off the wind. We have an undersized pathetic pole that attaches to a ring riveted to the mast. We have blown that baby off of there twice and have had to re-rivet it underway...not a fun task in rolling seas. As soon as we reach a land where rigging this up will not cost a full year of fun tickets...we will put on a mast track rig and get a properly sized telescoping pole. 

12 April 2017

15 March 2017

The IWAC Revival

After a five year hiatus, the Interview With A Cruiser Project is coming out of intermission.

I am toying with different formats, mulling over the question bank, reaching out to my contacts, and thinking through the project from top to bottom.

Here is your chance for input before the project gets up and rolling again!

What did you enjoy about the project? What did you find lacking? Did anything annoy or frustrate you? If you could run the project, what would you do differently? What subjects fascinated you? Which subjects weren't covered enough?

Comment here or on the same topic on our Facebook page.

Cheers, Livia

04 February 2013

10 Questions For Totem

Jamie, Behan, Niall, Mairen, and Siobhan Gifford sail on Totem, an S&S designed Stevens 47 (47’) hailing from Eagle Harbor – Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA. They began cruising in 2008 when their children were 4, 6 and 9. The kids are 8, 10 and 13 at the time of this interview.

They say: Departing Puget Sound in 2008, we hopped down the US west coast to Mexico. We explored much of the Pacific coast of Mexico and a hurricane season up  in the Sea of Cortez. In 2010 we sailed the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Society Islands, Suwarrow in the Cook Islands, Vava’u Group in Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Lifou in the Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia, and on to Australia. After parking in Australia for a bit to recharge the cruising kitty, we sailed north to Papua New Guinea in 2012. Early 2013 finds the Totem crew heading west through Indonesia. We keep our position current and our ruminations semi-current on the blog.

Anything else readers should know about you?

We met sailing. Behan sailed a little growing up, but college dinghy racing got her hooked. Jamie grew up sailing in Mystic, Connecticut, and has broad racing, coastal cruising, and sailmaking experience. In 2002, we began family cruising in Puget Sound with our children, then a 3 year old and a 14 day old. Seasons didn’t matter, family time together on the water did. As our family grew (with a 3rd child), so did our family boating experience - one weekend at a time.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?
I am sure we made many, but the lingering memory was that we believed everything onboard Totem needed to be perfectly prepared by departure day. When our milestone day arrived, project lists remained uncompleted. We were ready enough and cast off without hesitation, but with some trepidation; especially after exhausting months of preparation. Jamie’s  image of being perfectly prepared grew out of calibrating our budget to the right safety gear, the right sailing gear, proper systems with full documentation, generous spares and tools, and common comfort amenities. All of this is well and good, but everything onboard is a compromise in one way or another; and there will always be work onboard fixing things. Even high quality, expertly installed stuff can and does fail prematurely. What we realized is that lots of time spent weekend and vacation sailing is the closest you get to perfect preparation.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?

“Stop and take your own pulse first”: From a physician and friend Curtis Edwards, who taught us wilderness first aid. The context is of a first responder to a medical emergency, but the notion definitely applies to cruising. In a stressful situation, take a little extra time to calm yourself and really assess the situation.

“Be able to fix it yourself, live without it, or don’t bring it”: From Jim Jessie, our cruising mentor, marine surveyor, racing sailor, circumnavigator, and salty dog. As a typical cruiser’s onboard systems continue to increase in both quantity and complexity it may appear that less skill is ok and comfort is easy to come by – but when things break, do you still feel as comfortable and secure?

“Listen to other cruisers, but don’t trust a word of it.” From an unknown fellow customer in Downwind Marine in San Diego. It’s not a paranoid stance, rather a reminder to be open minded. Very often we’ve heard about how awful or great a place is, and yet we found it to be just the opposite. A town or an anchorage or a situation is created by countless variables easily changed; making it different for the next person.

What is a tip or a trick you have learned along the way?

Be prepared, e.g., it may be a picture- perfect, protected, glassy calm anchorage- but put everything away, keep decks clean and be prepared for a 2am squall that throws it all to hell. Be prepared enough to readily get away in the middle of the night so that in the rare even that it occurs, you’re ready.

There are dangerous herds of group-think that form around major passages. When you choose to leave the harbor, remember that it was YOUR choice. Similarly, when you enter an anchorage and see two boats at one side of it, their presence does not indicate “the best spot.” Use your judgment (and give us some room!).

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?

In no particular order:
  • Cabin fans. We’d never go the A/C route and the fans are great for comfort level… probably present at the moment because we’re only about 25 miles from the equator.
  • Cockpit shade. It seems like you can’t get enough.
  • Fish finder, because you not only know where the fish are, but the topography of the bottom- great for spotting bommies in the tropics. Cheaper than depth sounder and doesn’t require putting a hole in the hull.
  • A dinghy with some oomph. We know lots of cruisers love to love their rowing/hard dinghies, but you miss a whole lot of exploring if you don’t have at least 15hp to jam to the outer reef. We also have a 3.5hp to sip fuel when we don’t need the extra zoom, and like the redundancy. It sucked when our 15hp died in French Poly and we finished the Pacific run with a shared 2.5.
  • Cocktail shaker. We don’t even make ice on board but this is an essential part of the Crew Morale Package.
  • Proper plates and glasses, because plastic stinks for many reasons.
  • Rock solid anchor and ground tackle. Too much depends on it.
What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?

We love the camaraderie, the fact that we can know someone we’ve just met in an anchorage better within a day or two than some of our immediate neighbors from land life. We love the bias between cruising boats to offer mutual aid, although it seems to be on the wane as cruising becomes more accessible and a rapid-fire circumnavigation something money can more readily buy.

What we try to distance ourselves from is the group think that tends to occur when a group of cruisers are gathered with a similar goal (e.g.:  at a jump off point before a big passage engaging in weather analysis paralysis, at those ports around the world were cruising boats tend to get stuck to the bottom).

What advice would you give to parents thinking about taking their children cruising?

Tip toe in, and if it’s working, then run with it. Friends, family, and fellow sailors will give you many “great” reasons why you shouldn’t go: safety issues, irresponsible parenting, ruined education, financial doom; your kids are too young or old, etc. It’s true that cruising isn’t financially enriching, but be it a yearlong sabbatical or longer sailing lifestyle choice for some it sure beats the routines of mainstream life.

What we’ve found is that it gives us a strong bond as a family, is providing our children with excellent learning in many more dimensions then a conventional education, and- well, it’s just a lot of fun! We think it provides a tremendously fulfilling childhood. Despite my fears, their education has not suffered. At some point, it won’t work for everyone on board, and then we’ll stop…but for now this is as much a joy to the kids as part of their identity, and we see no sign of stopping soon.

In reality there are a so many individual reasons/dynamics why cruising will work or fail for a family. My optimism about what worked for us may be just as unsuited to your situation as the pessimistic opinions you’ll get. Spend time as a family unit afloat, and find out for yourself.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?

Being shorthanded and with kids, we lean towards the crews’ conditional awareness more than formality. A crews’ rested condition is like the daily balance on a credit card. Sleep is the asset that keeps your balance in check. Or lacking sleep is a liability from which you barrow against and can pay big for with fatigue.

In daylight boat chores are much easier. So we have no daylight watch schedule and a strong emphasis on keeping up with, or catching up on sleep. We have some structure to night watch, worked out to fit our natural sleep tendencies. Behan can stay up late and get up early, but isn’t as happy in the middle. Jamie does fine in the middle and is ok waking early. So we setup for that schedule, though watch change vary somewhat based on conditions. When it’s colder or rougher, watches are shorter – 3 hours or less depending on severity. On nice nights when rested, we’ve done 4, 5, and 6 hours watches.

Our method works well for us because we can each “read” the others conditional state AND neither wants the other person to get fatigued. It also helps that we have trusted Niall, now 13, to stand a short daylight watch since he was 10. Or, if Jamie’s feeling sleepy on a night watch but want to let Behan sleep longer, he’ll wake Niall with the news that we have dolphins around the boat. Sometimes they may not be there by the time he is tethered in cockpit, but his enthusiasm is always energizing!

Describe the compromises (if any) that you have made in your cruising in order to stay on budget.

Cruising seems to cost whatever you have. We scale expenses to work with our budget with an eye on local rates. We could afford to eat out in Mexico and Fiji because it was delicious and cheap. In pretty much the rest of the Pacific, it didn’t fit our budget to go to a restaurant. We try to avoid environments that suck money from you, like posh towns or marinas. There’s a lot of extra gear that we have shunted into the “luxury” column: we’d love to add a lot of discretionary items, from sat phone to SUP board, but we don’t need them. Ultimately, we parked t work when it was time to refill the kitty- but a pause, not an end, to adventuring afloat.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?

This is one of those impossible questions- but that’s the good news, right? Jamie and I both keep coming back to Suwarrow, in the Cook Islands, as a favorite place, for two reasons: partly the wild remoteness and natural beautify of the place, but also because of the great experienced shaped by the rangers who were stationed there during our visit. Their active involvement in helping us really understand the nature of life in an atoll made it truly unforgettable.

We both agreed as well that some kind of special mention has to be given to the Sea of Cortez and to Papua New Guinea. They are all very different places, but like Suwarrow, the affinity draws from a combination of raw beauty and remoteness. It takes work to get there, and to stay there, but if you’re into that kind of thing- the rewards are tremendous.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?

What is it about the cruising life that drives and fulfills you?
  • Meeting other people in the countries we visit: sharing stories, making them as welcome on our floating home as we have been made in theirs ashore
  • Living a leaner, greener life. We tried to live with a light footprint ashore, but it’s impossible to compare with the way we’re able to live on the boat. We reduce, reuse, and reuse again: with limited space, every item is considered before acquisition. With no garbage service or utilities, you think more about unnecessary packaging and what goes overboard
  • The opportunity to raise our children in an environment that helps them internalize from their earliest days the beauty of our planet, and the importance of taking care of it for foreseeable generations

23 April 2012

10 Questions for Happy Monster

hm1 Hans and Dory sail on Happy Monster, a 36 feet Najad made in Sweden. The inside is not original Najad, but made by the first owner. They bought the boat in 2002 and left Holland in May 2005. They crossed the Atlantic and the Pacific and arrived in 2007 in New Zealand. There their plans to sail around the world changed and after a year working in NZ they continued sailing up and down in the Pacific. You can learn more about them on their website.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?

Wendy, our wind vane. She is a Dutch made Bouvaan and steers most of the time. Our new hard dodger we put on in New Zealand, the lights underneath and the solar panels and hand grips on top are very helpful. The Spectra water maker with Z-brain now two years old and never failed. The Z-braine keeps it clean so that we don't have to flush or pickle when we don't use it.

What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free?

An AIS transmitter, so that other ships with AIS will always see you. (if they look) Of course there are some fancy chart plotters with worldwide maps, we really don't need them.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?

Not knowing we had to grease our rudder shaft often.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?

We do a 3 hour watch starts at seven. Every three hours we change, so we have both two time three hours of sleep in the night, on the day we sleep mostly both two times an hour.

hm2 Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?

Start with loving each other very much and you have to like to be together 24/7. Try to do things together as much as possible so that both know how things work.

What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way?

Never be lazy if it comes to prevent accidents, like reefing, taking your shoes out of the dinghy while you still can (next morning they were gone). Learn to be patient if you deal with customs and immigration. It takes often a lot of time and if you plan that it will cost you a day, you are feeling good if it is faster.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?

We like the fact that the cruisers world is one big family, you all do the same and you help each other with whatever problem. We like the freedom we have and the friends we make. We don't like the goodbye's, and we have to say that a lot.

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds?

Before we left we had made many lighters, balloons and t-shirts with our Happy Monster on it and they still are very good give aways. We also ordered some inflatable globes to give away on schools and we point out on these globes the trip we made. For the rest we have the usual pencils, flashlights etc to trade or give away.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?

We have visited many many favorite places. Sometimes it is nature and sometimes it is the people that makes the place special. We are now in Fiji and we think that as well the people as the nature as the climate is so good that we call this our most favorite.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?

What is a good reason to go cruising?

You can sleep in your own bed and cook your own food while you have a new backyard every time after sailing. You have the one million view on a very low budget. If you want it just do it.

23 January 2012

10 Questions for DreamKeeper

dreamkeeper1 Gar Duke and Nicole Friend circumnavigated from the winter of 2006 until the summer of 2011 aboard SV DreamKeeper, a Pacific Seacraft 40 hailing from Sausalito, CA, USA. You can learn more about their journey on their website.

They say:  We started in our home port of Sausalito in the San Francisco Bay, CA, and went south in winter to Mexico then across the South Pacific to New Zealand.  Year 2 took us thru Melanesia to Palau, Micronesia, with a 4 month layover in Palau.  Year 3 we dropped south into West Papua/Raja Ampat around PNG into east Indonesia and all the way to Bali, then up to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.  Year 4 was a big mile year, first crossing the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea, thru the Med, across the Atlantic and to the Caribbean to end the year.  Year 5 started heading west to Bonaire, the Kuna Yala of Panama, then thru the Panama Canal, up the central American coast and Mexican coast, and finally Baja-bashed it back to San Diego with the last leg up the California coast to San Francisco.  4 ½ years total San Francisco to San Francisco.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?

Gar:  there were a lot, but here’s a few:

First mistake we made was day 1 out the gate of San Fran, where we turned left and proceeded to do an overnight passage to Monterey Bay.  We were so fast we had to heave-to in the bay all night in sloppy seas, super cold temps, and pitch black conditions leaving me seasick all night long in sensory deprivation and Nicole needing to deal.  I was a total mess.  In hindsight, we should have planned better and just done a day hop down to Half Moon Bay to finally GO and commit to the journey, but in a much easier way for where we were at then.  Thankfully we had leftover Thanksgiving dinner for brunch the next day in Monterey as I was famished!

Leaving the US without a few spares that we wanted for the South Pacific and thinking they’d be easy to get in Mexico.  Not easy and definitely not easy to ship to Mexico either.  Nicole had to fly back to the US and load up a couple bags full of gear so we had what we wanted for the South Pacific and then still brave the dreaded “green light/red light” at the Mexican aeropuerto customs.  Unlucky you if you get the red light!

FYI, It’s much easier and way cheaper to get everything you think you might need in the US on your boat if you can, but at that time we were still very much “green” on our boat and figuring everything out.  All this being said only because we come from a place of liking to be very self-sufficient and prepared for as much as possible and also our intention to head west quickly across the South Pacific the first season out.  If you stay in Mexico long enough, like most cruisers, you will probably be high-tailing back to good ‘ole USA anyways at some point.

Worrying about and spending time and energy getting a HAM radio license.  So many people told me I should DEFINITELY get this license in Mexico before the SoPac, but, for me, not being a big radio talker, I never really used this with the exception of the services of winlink in the beginning of our journey.  Later, after seeing the advantages and convenience of using the services of UUPLUS email thru our satphone, winlink became only a back-up for us.  

And not to say we never chatted on the SSB with friends or on radio nets, but none of them were ever “Ham only” nets, so my whole ordeal of getting a HAM license was, for me, a waste of time.  If you LOVE to talk on the radio, then by all means, get a HAM, but if not, forget about it and go surfing or do something fun instead.

Nicole: Telling my mom I would call her by a certain date.   My parents bought us a sat phone for emergencies and perhaps more specifically so we could talk while on passage and they wouldn’t worry about us.  I made a bad call and told my mom I would call her by a certain date.  Somehow, we didn’t quite figure the sat phone out while travelling south along the Mexican coast and my phone date was passing.  I knew my mom would be worried sick and start calling anyone she could think of so we had to detour to Abreojos, a tiny fishing village along the Baja Pacific coast, in deteriorating conditions to make that call. We found a phone card and then found the phone. I called to let her know we were fine and then we headed back out through bigger surf and out to our bucking boat.  Note to self, never give anyone a time line you can’t keep.

Describe the compromises (if any) you have made in your cruising to stay on a budget?

Gar/Nicole:  For us, our budget living on the sailboat was a lot cheaper then our budget living on land.  We had just sold our home, cars, and most everything else we owned that wouldn’t come with us and so we axed everything like property expenses, utility expenses, auto expenses, and all the other pieces that add up so quickly living in the US.  In cruising, boat expenses are hands down the most expensive reality.  But…most of the boat expenses can be coined “luxury” expenses like good electronics, a water-maker, a new sail, etc., and you can get by with very little if your boat itself is solid and safe.  

In our opinion you can cruise on almost ANY budget once you own a boat.  It’s all choices and how you tailor your lifestyle and choices around your “wants” in life.   It’s no different then how you choose to live your life on land.  If money is tighter for you cruising, then don’t eat out much or use the engine as much or buy lots of fancy boating gear you don’t really need.  And, lastly, learn how to fix and work on your own boat; that, in itself, will save you lots of money in the long run.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid of that they shouldn’t fear?

Gar/Nicole:  Passage-making. It’s scary at first if you have never been offshore on your own boat with a small number of people and we get that.  But, in reality, this is a great time to actually just “be” with the ocean at all times of the day and night that you will most likely never experience any other way. 

For us the first few days are the most difficult of a passage as we are adapting to a new schedule.  But, if you plan well with the weather, make some pre-prepared meals, have a good book (or 2 or 3) put aside, maybe some podcasts or audiobooks for rougher weather, and have a good watch schedule so you get some rest when you need it, you will most likely really enjoy the experience.   Keep a journal or write a daily blog just to keep notes on the little things you see and feel and hear.  It’s a unique experience, embrace it and don’t fear it.

What is something potential cruisers don’t worry about that perhaps they should?

Gar/Nicole: Being thoughtful about locking your gear and boat up.  Cruisers have a tendency to be very lazy sometimes.  Lock up your dinghy and outboard, put away or lock up any gear on deck that is worth anything to you, and lock up your cabin when you are away from your boat.  It seems so simple, but we have seen boats all over the world complaining in hysterics about how someone stole their laptop from their un-locked cabin or stole their unlocked outboard or dinghy in the middle of the night.  Well, did you lock your cabin? “uhhhh…no, I never do…it’s just so hot.”  Did you lock up or raise your dinghy at night?  “Uhhhh….no, it was windy and rough and rainy out and I thought no one would come out on a night like that” (but that’s when they always do).

Cruisers need to realize that no matter what their budget is or how non-fancy their boat is, they are still looked upon as “rich” in almost any country around the world they travel to.  So many of the cultures you will connect to will be living with almost nothing and there are always people on the look out to make a quick buck the easy way.  Also, it felt important for us to acknowledge some communities don’t have things like private property so ours was even more interesting.  You will still stand out even if you are dirt-bagging it with a half sunk boat and not a penny to your name.  Ask any long-term backpacker traveller you meet, it’s not about being paranoid, it’s just being extra-aware of where you are.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?

Gar:  Electric anchor windlass and oversized anchor, wind generator, and AIS system.

A good solid and reliable electric anchor windlass with an oversized anchor makes a huge difference when you are cruising.  Of course, these are still luxury items, but they do make life much easier and safer when you drop your hook and don’t worry about it dragging and also know you can always get it back up without a hurting your back in any conditions.  I can’t count the times we have needed to move anchorages in inclement weather in the middle of the night because of bad weather or change of wind or swell direction and how thankful we have been that our electric windlass was working well.

We have a KISS and wouldn’t think of having another type of wind generator unless it had the same specs.  It is quiet, simple, and puts out lots of juice.  If you have a noisy wind gen you will absolutely hate it and so will your neighbors, plus they usually don’t make much energy anway.  We try to anchor in places with some wind in the tropics as it cools down the boat and usually keeps us pointing into the prevailing swell so you don’t roll as much.  We cruised without a generator onboard, so a good wind generator makes a huge difference in keeping your batteries up regardless if you have solar or not.

We added an AIS system halfway around on our circumnavigation when we were in Thailand.  It made a huge difference with piece of mind and safety when it came to passages through busy shipping areas and especially at night with just 2 of us onboard.  Radar was still a great tool for us to use, especially for fishing vessels not usually on AIS, but the reality of today is that AIS is used now on ALL big ships and you will wonder how you got by without it once you start using it.  A simple AIS receive unit is not very expensive and will be invaluable if you are choosing a route where you will be in shipping lanes and around shipping traffic often.  Of course, if you are only a coastal cruiser and are one not to be crossing oceans much or ever, then an AIS will be just another ‘not needed much’ luxury piece of gear.

Nicole:  OK I love all three pieces of gear Gar mentioned and would prefer not to go without them.  All three in my mind are fabulous luxury items we were grateful for every day.  The AIS completely changed my stress level on night watch. I, for some reason have always had a hard time with depth perception even with using radar and tracking and all of the tools I could use.  The AIS system changed all of that.  I still kept a thorough watch but I could tell where ships were going and coming and if I needed to make a course change without any guess work.

And another piece of boat gear, our Monitor windvane.  I can’t imagine having left without him.  He has served us well as third crew on all of our passages that had wind.

Also, with regards to food and fishing gear, I loved our fishing hand-lines and squid lures, my “yo-gourmet” yogurt maker (bought in New Zealand), along with our jar sprouter, and Braun hand blender.  Sometimes it’s the little things that mattered like being able to eat fresh things on day 20 of a passage.

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?

Gar/Nicole:  If you are a younger cruiser, then most folks are only out for a short time and need to either stop to work or could just make a season or perhaps 2 work. Retired-from-work aged cruisers usually stop because of health issues or because they are over the novelty of cruising and want to be home again closer to kids and grandkids. 

But there are still many people of all ages that go out for a bit and just realize that it’s not for them for one reason or another.  The reality of the cruising lifestyle is very different from where most people are coming from before jumping on their boat.  I would say that most people have no idea how much work both physically and mentally it is if you are a full-time cruiser and actually moving your boat around.  The romance of margaritas in your cockpit while the sun is setting can definitely ring true sometimes, but the other pieces of constant wear/tear on your boat and body and the need to be constantly ‘on it’ in regards to planning, maintenance, traveling, and safety takes a lot more energy then most non-cruisers or wanna-be cruisers realize until they do it for a while.

The people we met who were out there for a while moved their boat less, and stayed places longer, they over-wintered and spent two summers in the Med, they spent two winters or more in Mexico or the Caribbean, they stayed in Fiji for hurricane season.  Or they tied up their boats and went home or somewhere for a 4-6 month break or to go back to work and then returned to their boats again.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn’t find to be true?

Gar:  I read quite a bit about cruising before we left on this journey and so feel like I had a pretty realistic picture of what it all entailed.  However, that being said, I think I still had an unrealistic perception that the cruising “community” was a pretty adventurous, and mostly open-minded, and just plain open to everything and everyone, group of people.   What we experienced quite a bit, unfortunately, was a lot of people traveling on boats that were more interested in their easy “nationality clicks” and “sundowner” lifestyles then really putting themselves out there to embrace local people, local cultures, and other cruisers from other countries.   We always pictured all these different folks from random countries hanging out together and hanging out with locals onshore (which certainly happened), but we felt like this was really a minority of the people we met cruising around the world.  The boats that were more like this were the ones we really wanted to get to know and spend time with cruising, but were pretty few and far between.

For us, what was very important, was that we really tried to make a conscious effort to get out of the cruising “American-only click” circles and befriend folks from other countries traveling, as well as do our best to meet and embrace the local people in the countries we were visiting.  We feel lucky we made some good friends.  For us, this made a big difference in our experiences and we hopefully feel like it made an impression being more-thoughtful, conscious American ambassadors in the world too…which we feel the world could really use more of right now.

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?

Gar:  First of all, if you don’t know how to communicate with your partner, you are in for a long ride or perhaps a short ride with one of you leaving the boat.  You absolutely have to talk to each other and, more importantly, listen to each other.   And don’t just “listen”, but actually HEAR what they are saying.   Did you say this was just for cruising couples?  J

Next you need to learn to compromise.  You will be sharing a pretty small space, perhaps for years, and it’s not always possible to just leave that space.  For many couples this will be the first time ever in this situation.

You will have different needs/wants/desires for your own experience and to be who YOU want to be while cruising, but you need to also remember that your partner has the same.  Talk talk talk about what you can each do to help support each other with their own personal process’ and what will keep him/her happy, content, and full while living this unique lifestyle.  This will, of course, change over time so you’d better keep communicating so you can do your best to keep understanding where each other are at as time goes by.

And if you need a time-out, you’d better learn to take one.  And if your partner says she/he needs a break from the boat SOON, you’d better listen and make it happen somehow.

Nicole:   Ok, seriously, communication is the key!  In addition, be sure no matter how long your “to do” list is, go have fun regularly.  It was easy for us to get sucked into needing to do all of our jobs and fix everything that needed fixing.  But, truthfully, there will always be something waiting for you to do, so I say, play, do something spontaneous, get exercise, go on walks together, go snorkeling and just have fun whatever it is.

What is your most common sail combination on passage?

dreamkeeper2 Gar:   For us, on a cutter-rigged boat, on passage we always had our mainsail up for stability possibly with a reef or 2 tucked in and the genoa out. Down wind, we always had a preventer on.  Don’t ever get lazy and not rig a preventer.  The last thing you want, especially in the middle of the night, is an accidental gybe.

We have both our jib and our staysail on roller-furlings, which we really like as the reality is that we are usually single-handing while on passage, so we can easily make jib changes and reefs based on the weather by ourselves in the middle of the night.   Having a staysail has been a great option for us when the wind  and seas really pick up and as it allows us to shorten sail while keeping our boat balanced and very stable.

Lastly, I will just add that the reality of cruising around the world on a sailboat is that it’s not always so dreamy with the sailing aspect.  We have been thru so many parts of the world that the wind is just non-existent or non-cooperative or directly on our nose and we did many times choose or have to run the engine.  That being said, this was a conscious choice to travel to places that didn’t always have great sailing potential, like in PNG, eastern Indonesia and the Red Sea, but were high on our list for being really cool travel destinations.   If you were only after good sailing then you would need to stay in the higher latitudes or the Pacific to have the more consistent, but stronger winds.   For us, we feel we have always been more interested in being travelers and adventurers then purist sailors.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

Gar:  What doesn’t break?  Seriously, at one time or another we have had to fix or repair or replace something, or all of, every system on our boat.  If you are pushing your boat hard and making lots of miles each year, then parts wear out.  If you are sitting around a bay in Mexico for months at a time or only moving a few hundred miles a season then you will fare way better then the passage-making sailor crossing oceans.

One of you on your boat should definitely learn how to wrench on a diesel engine, repair a sail, test and repair electrical wiring, and be able to take apart the toilet.  If you don’t know how to do it all, that’s OK, just have a good resource library that will walk you through repairs and if you aren’t too far off the grid, there will usually be another cruiser close-by that can help you out if you get in a bind.  If not, you will learn to live without something.  Most of the stuff that breaks are luxury items anyways.  Toilet broken, use a bucket.  Water-maker broken, catch some rainwater or run jugs to shore.  Generator broken, use less energy or turn off the fridge.

I would say from our experience the pieces of gear that cruisers are wrenching on the most are generators, water-makers, diesel engines, and outboards.   The other pieces of gear that give lots of people trouble are autopilots and laptops, not always possible to fix yourselves.  Please just don’t throw your laptop overboard if it breaks like some cruisers do.  Seriously.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I’ve asked you and how would you answer it?

What are some tricks and tips you’ve learned for being a more thoughtful and conscious cruiser around the world?

Within the cruising community, say hello or wave to your neighbor who anchored next to you who you don’t know, especially if he/she is from a different country.  It has been amazing to us how many boats drop their hook beside us and never even smile or wave when we initiate a greeting.  The other side of that is if you find yourself anchoring in a more remote place, then don’t just drop your hook right next that one boat there already, give them some space and drop your hook some distance away so you can both enjoy the remoteness of that special place.  But, when you do see the other people, don’t ignore them, actually say hello and smile.  It’s the little things in this community that make a big difference.

Regarding the ocean and reefs, if you truly care about the health of the planet, the cleanliness of the water, and enjoy traveling to pristine coral reefs and visiting island communities, then give back, police yourself, and be conscious of your actions.

In small communities find out about the customs and proper protocol before arrival or immediately after arrival.  Following this gains you acceptance, respect, new friends, and the opportunity for unique experiences.

If you catch a big fish or lots of big fish, bring some of them into the village and share with the locals who live there.   This goes a long ways and will immediately open doors for you within that community. 

When you drop your hook on your big boat or your dingy, look where you drop it and do your best not to damage the healthy coral around you.  Seems like a no-brainer, but in our experience, we have seen countless boats in crystal clear water dropping their anchor and chain haphazardly directly over pristine reefs and not even thinking about the reality. 

Don’t just throw your compostable trash overboard where you anchor, but actually put it in a container and take it in your dinghy out into the deeper water hopefully where there is some outgoing current or at least away from the shallower anchorage area where all the eggshells and banana peels pile up in the coral underneath your boat. 

Only fish in areas where there are still an abundance of fish and make sure in an island community that it is allowed to fish a certain area as many of them are locally managed as protected for their sustainable use. 

dreamkeeper3 When you are remote, do not leave your trash on an island as they most likely have a trash problem themselves already.  Separate trash well.  When you are out on passage in the deep water this is where you should sink your cans and glass (if you don’t have enough room to store it) and get rid of other non-plastic trash.  Aluminum can sometimes be recycled on certain islands and some of your trash you will most likely have to burn at times.  Some of it you will probably have to carry with you until you make it to a larger city or port.  Point is, be thoughtful about it and do your best to manage your waste well.

If you feel comfortable with the locals, invite some of them out to your boat for soft drinks/coffee/tea/cookies/dinner or whatever.  They will love it.  We have been to so many communities that always invite cruisers in their homes but many would tell us no one would ever invite them out to their boat.  Reciprocate. 

26 December 2011

10 Questions for Delos

delos3 Christine Myers and Stephan Regulinski are on their second Amel SuperMaramu 2000 (53’ ketch). The first was Delos hailing from San Francisco, CA, USA and now Hanalei, hailing from Kailua, HI, USA. They cruised from 2000-2005 and will begin cruising again in 2012. On their first cruise they visited Turkey, Mediterranean Europe, Atlantic Europe, North Sea, British Isles, Ireland, Scandinavia, Canary Islands, Morocco, Gambia, Cape Verde, Caribbean, Panama, Galapagos, South Pacific, & New Zealand. You can read more about them on their website or at their blog.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?

  • Colleges are going to love that your kids made this trip.
  • Your family will become very close.
  • This is not a vacation; it’s a way of life. Save something for the next trip.
  • It takes six months to adjust.
  • Don’t rely so much on the internet in port or e-mails at sea.
  • Just about every port in Europe has a different kind of plug.
  • What happens at sea does not stay at sea.
  • Tahiti is overrated, overpriced and overcrowded.

What has been the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive?

Turkey was least expensive, along with La Gomera (Canaries) and West Africa.

Norway; Porto Cervo, Sardinia; and French Polynesia were the most expensive.

delos1 Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?

Solar panels.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?

We sort of won the lottery the first time; this time we are selling the house.

What is something you like about the cruising culture and something you dislike?

I love the openness, friendliness and mutual support of the international cruising culture. I dislike the focus on alcohol, especially in the Caribbean and South Pacific.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long-term cruising?

More energy-efficiency. But having said that, we just bought another boat and it’s exactly the same. I would consider length vis-a-vis European dock length pricing.

delos2Describe a ‘typical day’ on passage on your boat.

It takes us about three days to adjust to passage time. Before that we’re all a little spacey while adapting to passage time. Typically I would stand the early morning watch, put out fishing lines, then do roll call on the net at 8. Kids will be up later. They’ll do schoolwork or read, depending on how rough it is. Back to sleep until noon or so, then up for the next watch. Chop vegetables in the afternoon and work on meal prep, check fishing lines. Dinner at 6. Everyone except watchstander goes to bed early, soon after dinner.

How did you gain offshore experience prior to leaving?

We crewed on friends’ boat from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.

What advice would you give to parents thinking about taking their children cruising?


When you meet another compatible kid boat, change your plans and hang out together. They don’t have to be the same age. Social interactions become incredibly important.

Try to get some homeschooling experience before you leave, and at least make sure you have good supportive resources. Don’t get stuck with set curriculum or try to recreate a classroom.

Adapt curriculum to your cruising experience and kids’ learning style.

Be flexible and creative about when ‘school time’ happens.

What question do you wish I had asked you … and how would you answer it?

How did your kids adapt? What were their challenges?

Here I’d point you to the blog because the topic is too big.