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.