28 April 2010

Where is IWAC?

Below is a list of all of the places where the Interview With A Cruiser project has been mentioned. Thank you very much to everyone who has been spreading the word.

If I've missed a place, the link I have here no longer features the site, or if I've made any other error, please let me know via the comments section here or by email.

As always, there are many ways you can help including spreading the word and always feel free to shoot me an email (iwac.project@gmail.com) with a suggestion. You can always email an individual interview to a friend by clicking on the envelope icon at the bottom of each post. Also, the Question Bank has really been growing thanks to your feedback.

April 6 - Three Sheets NW
May - Duckworks WebWatch (listed with BoatBits)
June Issue - SSCA Commodore's Bulletin (Around & About section - publication is members only)
((upcoming)) Latitudes & Attitudes (July - Scuttlebutt section)

Featured on Blogs & Websites
2010 May -
6 - Cetus
17 - Women and Cruising
17 - SV Del Viento
2010 - April
6 - Boat Bits
7 - Yoders Afloat
19 - Messing About in Boats
20 - Follow the Boat (Esper)
23 - Bright Eyes
28 - Master of None

26 April 2010

10 Questions for Callipygia

Pat & Bill cruised from 2000-2004 after retiring in their early sixties aboard Callipygia, their Tayana 37 Mark II Cutter, hailing from Red Creek, West Virginia, USA. Bill had practically no experience, Pat had quite a bit and had the captain role. They cruised down the East coast of the US (Maine to Florida), and through the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Windward Islands, Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Tobego, Barbados, & Bermuda. You can read more about their route and trip, contact them, or download a free cruising handbook they created based on their experience on their website. After Pat & Bill finished cruising they began land-cruising for 4 years in a 24' RV through Canada, the US & Mexico. As they put it, "80% of the pleasure with 10% of the work".

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
The absolute importance of having an easy-to-stow-on-deck sufficiently-powered well-made inflatable dinghy. Also, that you really have to fight the tendency to stay too long in one place ? it?s a lot of work upping and offing somewhere else. Especially once you get comfortable in a particular harbor. Also, that you have to be alert 24/7 and this gets quite wearing on the Captain.

Is there a place you visited wish you could have stayed longer?
The Grenadines. In general, we ended up staying at most places longer than we intended and so we didn't go as far as we had thought we would.

Over the time that were been cruising, has the world of cruising changed?
Over the past decade the internet and WiFi have vastly improved communication when in harbor. Also electronic navigation has improved and become more affordable.

Do friends visit and how often?
They visited a few times, not as much as we expected.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
The same as we used in selecting Callipygia (criteria list is on the website)

When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
The only time we felt in danger was twice due to our own and quite a few times due to another boat's stupidity.

((Interviewer asks for elaboration))

We nearly went on a reef one time when I was dozing in the cockpit (daylight) and Bill was "driving" - he didn't notice the surf. Thankfully, I woke up in time to turn on the motor (which thankfully kicked right on) and we headed off.

Another time early on coming down the Chesapeake bay I was below making a snack (we were tired after a long day and it was late and dark) and Bill at the helm got confused by lights and we nearly went ashore at the nuclear plant north of Solomon's. [Note that I was the Captain and had all the experience, when we started Bill was a novice and is partly color blind.]

Another time trying to pick up a mooring line on a windy day and it got wrapped around Bill's wrist and he almost had to jump overboard or have his arm torn off. Remember, never attach a line to yourself.

The last and probably scariest episode: I flew in from a trip home and took the ferry from Trinidad to Tobago where Bill and a friend had taken the boat to Scarborough from Chagauramus. When they anchored they"didn't bother" putting on the snubber (which I insisted should be SOP, but you know what a pain captain/wives are.). Scarborough is a very tight harbor with concrete jetty's and rocks on 3 sides, plus a few other boats. After we'd gone to bed, the wind came up a little and something felt wrong to me so I got up and noticed we had dragged and were heading for the rocks. Again thankfully the motor started immediately (the Black Box was full) and I was able to slowly (so as not to wrap the dragging anchor rode round the prop) move the boat to safety while Bill and our friend pulled in the anchor rode until we got to a spot where we reanchored. Lesson - always put on the snubber even if Pat is a pain in the ass about it.

Other's stupidity - power boat entering harbor failed to give way and almost collided with us - fortunately we had the engine running and were able to get out of it's path. Another time when we were anchored, a boat came in to anchor near us, going way too fast, and it's electric windlass died as it tried to anchor - it was pure luck that the boat didn't ram us. Another time when anchored, another boat had come in later and anchored way too close and as the wind got up we had to rustle to let out almost all our scope so the other boat didn't wham us. Fortunately there was room.

We had friends on two boats who had night-time collisions because they confused lights and didn't interpret the radar properly - one collided with another sailboat, and one with a freighter. Both boats suffered considerable damage.

Notice: none of these had to do with storms, which is what people think of first as the greatest danger. Most of our dangers were in harbor.

That's what comes to mind. Our own stupidity sticks in my mind more than the other stuff.

What do you think is a common cruising myth.
There's no such thing as fair wind and following seas. The wind is almost never in the ideal direction. Also, pirates and hurricanes. If you plan properly there's no need to worry about them.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time?
The Portabote - quickly traded it in for an inflatable. Why? Totally unsuited to cruising.

Can you think of a sailing tip (e.g., sail trim, sail combination) specific to offshore passages (e.g., related to swells)?
We often ended up motor sailing for added stability and/or so we could sail a bit closer to the wind. Also, it's really important to be able to heave to in any kind of weather.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
Start when you're young, don't wait 'til retirement. Also, people ask how much money does it take? It takes whatever you've got, a boat really is a hole in the water. If you don't have much money, you have to be resourceful. But don't let that make you wait. A few other things: the importance of marine radio and radar - expect to spend a great deal of time climbing up those learning curves. Radar is a must for navigation as well as collision/storm avoidance, and you have to learn how to interpret it properly.

21 April 2010

Readers Weigh In - Open Discussion

So, what did you think about the first five interviews?

I struggled a bit initially with my desire to offer readers an opportunity to interact with the material but not wanting to create a situation where interviewees felt reluctant to be interviewed lest they be required to monitor their interviews for comments or defend their responses.

A reader suggested a means of interaction and between us I think we've hashed out a reasonable format. I won't be offering comments on individual interviews but every 5 interviews I will offer an open forum for responses with the following ground rules:

1) I specifically asked the interviewees to respond from their personal experience and to NOT try to address all possible answers to any given question. Interviewers were asked to express how THEY cruise not how others SHOULD cruise. This is not a complete book on how to cruise but rather a sampling of real cruisers' personal experiences. Please keep their instructions in mind when responding.

2) The interviewees are not responsible for answering any questions and readers should not expect that they will see their comments.

3) I will be moderating the first few rounds of comments. If your comment takes a day to appear, this is why. Hopefully I'll stop moderating after a few sessions.

4) Disagreement is great - personal attacks are not.

5) No anonymous posting.

After saying all of that negative sounding stuff, I very much hope you will add your wisdom, your questions, your feelings and your reactions here. The site receives several hundred visits a day and I wonder what those visitors are thinking. Please feel free to weigh in at whatever level of experience you have, on whatever level the interviews resonated for you.

19 April 2010

10 Questions for Annie Laurie

John MacDougall is cruising aboard Annie Laurie his Catalina 470, a 47' sloop with a wing/fin keel and spade rudder. He began cruising as a kid in 1966 and has been cruising on and off since then. Over the last 10-15 years he has been doing more long-range and offshore cruising. His travels have included the Bahamas, Caribbean, North Atlantic and Mediterranean. More details about his various refit projects can be found on his friend's website. He can be contacted via ka4wja@mfi.net or via PM at SSCA's forum. When asked "Is there anything else readers should know?" he replied: "Although, I've made my living in electronics and communications for 25+ years, and have an above average compliment of modern / advanced electronics on-board, I do NOT believe they are "necessary" and I do NOT rely on them, rather just use them as added-information devices...."

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
While good weather dominated most of my cruises and voyages, the bad weather always seems worse than I expected. The truth is that how often you face bad weather depends on "where" you're cruising and "how much you stay in one place, vs. being on the move often". But, in my experience, when offshore at sea or on the move from island to island, bad weather comes along only 3 - 4 days out of a month....NOT really as often as some think. (Actually, in my opinion, you should be just as prepared for "calms" and light air, as you are for bad weather and heavy air.)

Regarding how bad - I've sailed thru many Full Gales in the North Atlantic, usually lasting 1 - 3 days (with winds 35 - 45kts, and seas of 20' +), and even sailed for 3 days, thru a named Tropical Storm in the southern North Atlantic (with winds 40 - 50kts). And while at anchor I've survived 3 direct hits (including all 3 eyes passing over) of Cat 3 Hurricanes (110 - 120 kts). As well as many instances of generic "rough weather", with 20 - 30 kts winds and 12'+ seas, whether in the Med, the N. Atl. or the Caribbean, you can get bad weather anywhere.

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat.
Gosh, what a loaded, soft-ball, question since I like everything :) Like how she sails, how she steers, how well she handles heavy weather but can still perform like lightweight cruiser-racer, etc. etc.

But, if I had to pick my favorite things (which aren't on the proverbial list of "must haves" you see written about everywhere these days) it's a 2-way tie.
a) My cockpit.....I love it!!
It's specifically and strategically designed / constructed with two competing goals in mind....having plenty of room for relaxing/lounging/etc. and being a safe / secure place to sit, lay, steer, navigate, trim, adjust, etc. especially when in heavy weather!!!! It's a marvelous design, which I found only after actually seeing (and using) it. Photos and brochure descriptions didn't do it justice.

b) My Nav Station / Chart Table......mostly (> 95%) designed, laid-out, wired, and installed by me (with some constraints from some things). It allows for use of the entire chart table for charts!!! and allows all systems and electronics to be easily and conveniently used (and serviced) whether in heavy weather or sitting in a calm anchorage.

These two things make my boat a dream to cruise / voyage on, or even just to lounge about and have cold beverage!

Over the time that you have been cruising, has the world of cruising changed?
Most cruisers are wonderful people, and most local people that you meet along the way want to learn about us, just as much as we want to learn about them....
And, that has not changed!!!

But, yes there have been changes over the years. In addition to the inevitability of the world getting "smaller", and more and more people cruising contributing to a "blurring" of local culture in many places, I've found a few surprising trends:
a) Although they themselves may not realize that they're doing it, I find less and less cruisers are striving for independence and actually many cruisers who are relying on technology, as well as bringing on-board with them, much of the complexities of life "back-at-home" and "on-land".
b) A growing emphasis (especially in those long-term cruiser-saturated locales) on the "party-lifestyle", with cruisers seeming to bring the alcohol-laden materialistic attitudes with them to "paradise", and usually unintentionally suppressing, rather than embracing, the local culture in the process. Please don't interpret the above as me ranting about the present, nor raving about the good 'ole days. It's just my description of the changes that I see.

What is your favorite piece of boating related new technology?
a) GPS. Plain and simple, GPS in my opinion has had the single biggest positive impact on boating, sailing, cruising, and voyaging. Understand that this coming from a guy who learned celestial nav as a teenager, and continues to play with my sextant and tables, when on a long passage, etc. But, having a GPS fix 24/7, rain or shine, that you can plot every hour or so, has revolutionized life on board.

b) Although it isn't new technology, the improved cost effectiveness of solar energy, over the past 5 - 10 years, has also made a significant positive effect on cruising / voyaging.

Why did you decide to cruise?
Hmmm, didn't realize I had a choice..... :)
Part time cruising was just what we did when I was a young kid, and then more full-time later and even though I managed only part-time cruising for many years, that lust for adventure never goes away.

So, the short answer is:
The need to voyage to far off places, explore different cultures and share mine with them, and attempt to use mother nature as best as I can along the way, pretty much sums it up.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
In addition to the usual: modern offshore design and construction of hull, deck, keel, rudder, rig, hatches, etc., I'd add two things:

Space and Ventilation
a) Don't go too small, since you'll need space for things to make life easy and fun. While some may think of only storage space....I'd also remember the space needed for solar panels, water tanks (and/or watermaker), etc....as well as cockpit space and other living space. And, the usual storage space for spares, for food, and misc things (for other hobbies, such as SCUBA, photography, music, electronics, etc.)

b) Ventilation - especially if looking to voyage / cruise in the tropics, lots of strong, offshore designed and built, opening ports and hatches (and add lots of 12vdc fans as well).

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?
Yes, both the Azores and Canary Islands. The people were happy and friendly, their cultures were interesting, and the scenery was fantastic. I'm looking forward to spending more time cruising around both, the next chance I get.

And, if you want a older reference, it would be the old Yugoslavia in the 1970's (still Tito's era). The old walled city of Dubrovnik, and the wonderful people there and in Mustar (?).....ah those were simply the nicest people I'd ever met (followed closely by the Bahamians, Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish...all tied for 2nd place.)

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
Well, I never bought into the consumer-driven lifestyle, even when working full-time in my own business, I knew I had a reason for working and it wasn't to buy a fancy new car, but rather to enjoy my family, my friends, and my life voyaging and cruising. So, some landlubber, high-living, baby-boomers may think I sacrificed some things, but I don't think so at all.

I simply "kept my eyes-on-the-prize" and since I'm now only in my late 40's, I've still got places to go (and some to go to again) and people / cultures to enjoy!!!

My advice: Don't buy that new car, or that new Plasma screen TV, etc. Enjoy what you have, especially your friends and family, and don't spend every $ on useless crap that you don't "need", and you'll find your dream within reach in no time at all.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
I have two that come to mind immediately, one serious and heart-warming, and one funny.

a) Hanging onto the wheel with both hands, as the Lavante wind driven spray drenches my glasses, I'm smiling ear to ear. Yes, I'm tired, and we're close hauled, beating hard into steep 6' - 8' seas, with 20 - 25 knots of wind across the deck, but I'm smiling. I haven't slept more than 4 to 6 hours out of every 24 in weeks, and we've been hand steering for the final 300 miles, and I'm still smiling. There are more than a dozen freighters, container ships, and tankers, whizzing by at full cruising speed, in both directions, just a few hundred yards off my starboard side, but this doesn't phase me at all. After more than 4000 miles of sailing, the Rock of Gibraltar is just a few miles ahead and Jebel Meza, the pillar marking the entrance to the continent of Africa, is visible thru my salt stained lenses. And while I excuse most, including my crew of 2 (my sister Laurie and our friend Jordan, who are busy staring in awe through their camera lenses), from misunderstanding my smile, there are 2 people on the planet that do understand my smile, even though they are 4000 miles away, and won't see me for some time, those 2 understanding souls are my Mom and Dad.
b) Freaking out dozens of Europeans, when grilling some "Bubba Burgers" on my gas grill off the stern in Marina Horta (Faial, Azores), in celebration of a 3000+ passage from Florida. Some onlookers were certain we were on fire, and a few even ran down the quay shouting in multiple foreign tongues...but, alas we were just friendly outgoing Americans, "sharing some of our culture"!!!

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
This one here from the question bank: Can you think of a sailing tip specific to offshore passages?
Learn the old school way of doing things, and use it regularly......do NOT rely on high-tech and/or electronics (I'm not saying that you need to go back to the days of canvas and manila!!!! Just remember to not buy into the "hi-tech" ways too much)
To clarify:
a) Rig main boom preventers (on both sides), and USE them (boom vangs and boom brakes are NOT a substitute!!!)
b) I'm of the opinion that chartplotters have their usefulness (I have 2 on-board), but when sailing offshore, and/or on passages, it's a waste of energy, space, and $$$. Plot your course on paper charts and fix/plot your position on them (GPS and celestial / DR) regularly.
c) NEVER be afraid and always remember that while Mother Nature can usually be worked with and/or worked around she cannot be beaten, at least not very often :)

18 April 2010

12 April 2010

10 Questions for Esper

Jamie, Liz and Millie The Cat have been cruising since 2003 on other boats and since 2005 aboard Esper, their Oyster 435 (ketch cutter, coach-roof version) through East and South UK, North Sea, Netherlands, Western Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, Canaries), Atlantic, Caribbean, East Med, Aegean, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea. You can read more about their travels on their website or contact them here.

When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
Right now. At the time of writing we are in Salalah, Oman. Yesterday we overheard a VHF conversation between a coalition warship and a vessel that had just been boarded by pirates. It was stomach churning to hear first hand the duress in the skipper's voice. It happened just 30 miles off the coast of Oman, in the direction we are about to head.

Describe a common cruising myth
That we spend all day at anchor, drinking G&Ts!

What are your impressions of the cruising community?

Many and varied and overall helpful, friendly and resourceful. I do have a real problem with the inherent racism and sexism that pervades the older generation of cruisers though. The biggest joke I heard was when a sailing acquaintance, whilst propping up the bar in Marmaris, Turkey, started ranting about how there were too many foreigners in the UK these days. He'd been living in Turkey, tax-free, for the last five years!

Describe a positive experience you have had with local people somewhere you have visited?
One afternoon whilst photographing Massawa a group of ladies sitting down in a back alley, drinking coffee and combing each other's hair, invited me to join them. I'd been told never to point a camera at certain African women but these ladies were charming, polite and extremely hospitable. We sat and chatted for over an hour, the time it took one of them to roast, grind, brew and serve the coffee. This is just one of the many examples of how people we have met on our travels have treated us. It reignites ones faith in human kind.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?
That's easy: Eritrea! It is supposed to be the second-poorest country in the world and has recently had UN sanctions placed upon it. Our preconceptions went out the window with experiences like the one I described above. It is clean, diverse, culturally rich and everyone wears a genuine smile. In terms of sailing, anchorages and nature I would say Sudan takes a lot of beating.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
Stopped talking about it and just did it.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
My patience. Another cruising myth is that sailing is a bed of roses. It can be hard work at times, especially if you weren't born with a spanner in your hand. When the going gets tough it's easy to lose perspective - and patience - and sometimes we have to sit back and remind ourselves of our privileged position.

Describe a "typical day" at anchor on your boat
Get woken up by the cat licking my head. Tea/coffee and check email if we have internet. A boat maintenance job in the morning before it gets too hot. Then I spend a lot of my day editing my photographs and our podcasts. Liz enjoys jewelery making (silversmithing, not just beading!). If the water permits then a swim and perhaps scraping the prop/hull is in order. If it's a new location then walking boots are donned, or the bikes are put together, and we explore new places, always with the camera and podcast recorder in hand. We invariably end the day with a sundowner and might even treat ourselves to a film on the laptop. Plugged into our six-speaker set-up it's a real cinematic experience, especially under a ceiling of stars.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
There was a crossing we did from Sinai to Hurghada a while back when we broke our fastest speed record and caught a big tuna, all whilst avoiding the many ships and oil wells in an F7 gusting F8. Our senses were on fire and Esper was sailing like a peach. Add to that the fact we had just entered the Red Sea and were about to embark on a huge adventure, that moment will stick with us forever. Other treasured moments would include finding a quiet anchorage in Turkey in Spring or Autumn, the best time to explore that wonderful country, and play tavla (backgammon) with a chilled bottle of red as the sun sets.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
What pieces of kit have been the most useful? AIS transponder, the best bit of electronic kit after GPS. Solar panels for obvious reasons and the wind pilot for giving us a break at the wheel. Plus the rather expensive watermaker. All genius inventions that have made our lives easier and more independent. They cost a lot though, which is why anyone looking to buy a cruiser should always budget for the extras as well as the boat itself. And if you are planning to live aboard don't just consider the things that help you sail faster: most of your time is spent at anchor so don't neglect the things that make life that little bit more comfortable.

06 April 2010

In The News, Update, Thanks & Reader Support

News: The Interview With A Cruiser Project was recently featured on the front page of the online publication Three Sheets NW and on the blog Boat Bits.

Update: Interviews come out on Mondays and I now have completed interviews through May 3 with others in the works. You can check back on Mondays or be notified via email, feed or twitter - see the bottom of the main page here.

Thank you: A big thanks to our readers who have been submitting suggestions for interviewees and also new questions to ask. New reader questions have been added to the Question Bank and have already been sent out to new interviewees.

Reader support: If you enjoy the resource and want to see it grow, there are two main ways you can help:

1) Please continue to suggest people who have been cruising outside of their home country for more than 2 years as potential interviewees. Feel free to suggest yourself! In particular, I will have a difficult time reaching people who do not keep their own blog, or keep a blog but not in English, who hail from outside the US and Canada, who have finished their cruise or who don't frequent the online forums. Email me with your suggestions at iwac.project@gmail.com

2) If you participate in an online sailing forum and enjoy reading the interviews, please do post a link to the site. Or make a post about the project, or add a link, to your own blog/website. For the internet savvy, there is html for a "badge" on the right side of this page.

Cheers, Livia

05 April 2010

10 Questions for Sereia

Peter, Antonia and Silas Murphy have been cruising for 5 years aboard Sereia their 1979 36’ Mariner ketch hailing from Richmond, CA through California, Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, Pacific, and New Zealand. You can read more about their travels on their website.

What is something that you were dreading about cruising, when you were dreaming about cruising, that is as bad or worse than imagined?
Seasickness. I managed to keep this in check with Scopolamine patches, but once I got pregnant, I couldn’t take them. Twenty-seven days across the Pacific is a long time to be throwing up!

Is there something from your land life that you brought cruising and feel silly about bringing now?
I didn’t need 80 different kinds of spices. They have spices overseas. Likewise, beans, pasta, and rice are all readily available to human beings who live in other countries.

Can you think of a sailing tip (e.g., sail trim, sail combination) specific to offshore passages (e.g., related to swells)?
Sorry, can’t give sailing tips, because I don’t sail. I am sailed, by my husband Peter. However I do seem to recall him saying something about steering away from breaking waves.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Don’t get so worked up about bureaucratic regulations. In third world countries, a little patience and a smile go a long way. Also, I wish I’d learned how to fish.

Is there a place you visited wish you could have stayed longer?
The Galapagos islands were fascinating, and we could have spent a good deal of time exploring them. Unfortunately, they are hopelessly corrupt. So unless you enjoy smoking hundred dollar bills, you’ll probably have to limit your stay there.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette
I can think of about twenty, offhand. But the most important one, and the most critical one, is that cruisers help each other out. So if you hear about someone in trouble on the radio—whether they have run out of diesel or parmigiano reggiano—you go out of your way to help them. Besides, this is ultimately selfish. You never know when you’ll be in the same position.

Tell me your least favorite thing about your boat
She has no private submarine. Or maid.

What do you do about mail?
Who uses mail? Everything is electronic. For the IRS and other irritating pests, I just give them my mother’s address.

When you are offshore, what keeps you awake at night (that is, what worries you most)?
Those goddamned whales, always beeping and sighing around my boat. They sound like a New Age self-help CD.

What question should I be asking other cruisers besides the ones in this list and how would you answer it?
The two questions everyone wants to ask, and everyone is reluctant to answer, are: how did you afford to go cruising, and how much did it cost? If you can the cruisers to answer that one, the dreamers will definitely log on.