31 May 2010

10 Questions for Hawk

Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard sailed Hawk, a 47-foot aluminum Van de Stadt Samoa sloop hailing from Annapolis, MD from 1999-2009 for their second circumnavigation through the high latitudes eastabout by way of all the Great Capes. Their first circumnavigation was from 1992-1995 and was a tropical westabout circumnavigation by way of the Panama Canal, Torres Strait and Cape of Good Hope aboard a 37-foot ketch named Silk. You can learn more about them as well as access many of their published works on their website.

Describe your first sailing experience.
Evans doesn’t really remember his first sailing experience. He started sailing small dinghies on small lakes in NH and Vermont during his college years and gradually worked up to being a charter skipper in the Caribbean during the summer until he graduated from graduate school. But Beth has a vivid memory of her first real experience. She had floated around on Sunfish and other small sailboats in flat water and no wind a few times before her father bought a sailboat the summer she graduated from college. He kept the Bristol 24 near his home in Oswego, NY on Lake Ontario. He and Beth, along with Beth’s boyfriend at the time, decided to take it across Lake Ontario to the Thousand Islands. They beat their way into a 30-knot headwind for four hours and made good only 8 miles. They gave up, turned around and surfed back into the harbor a bit over an hour later. That night, they went out to dinner and toasted being safely back where they had started while the room still heaved and swayed around them. Beth had no interest in ever setting foot on a sailboat again. She did end up daysailing that boat with her father and boyfriend on summer weekends and took a few trips of up to a week in length. She did not always enjoy her time on the boat and certainly did not consider herself a sailor.

Why did you decide to cruise?
Evans and Beth were working as management consultants in Europe in 1990 and becoming increasingly disillusioned with corporate life. While their careers were addicting and all consuming, they both felt that they had too little time for the things that really mattered: family, friends, exercise, nature, reading, being together. They had been talking about doing something different but were having trouble coming up with something that would be as exciting, challenging and rewarding as their careers. On a trans-Atlantic flight, Evans read American Promise by Dodge Morgan (about a nonstop, solo circumnavigation of the globe), and he immediately decided he wanted to sail around the world, though not solo and not nonstop. He spent the next two years trying to talk Beth into it. Her lack of sailing experience made it difficult for her to picture what cruising would be like and uncertain of whether she could handle the challenges involved. But Beth had always wanted to be a writer. She decided three years sailing around the world would give her the best opportunity she was ever likely to have to make that dream come true. Both Evans and Beth were in the partnership election window and almost sure to be elected when they walked away from the corporate world. In retrospect, neither have any regrets. What they gave up in financial security, they more than gained in becoming the people they wanted to be when they grew up.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Most voyages do not founder on anything as solid as rocks or shoals, but on the intangibles of human frailties and interpersonal dynamics. The sea finds all weaknesses: in boats, in people and in relationships. You have to be sure you have the skills to sail the boat, to fix it, to navigate, to get along in foreign cultures. But you also have to be prepared to come face to face with yourself, to discover things about yourself that you do not like and to work to change those things. You have to be ready to confront any weaknesses in your relationship and to address those in a situation where you are together 24/7 in sometimes highly stressful situations where your lives depend on one another. Cruising will not fix a broken relationship – it is far more likely to rip it apart along the fault lines. But where a basis of true respect and caring exists, the experience of cruising together can create a real partnership and eventually transform that into the kind of soul-deep bond that most people dream of but only a handful ever achieve. In the toughest times, when you think that you can’t do it or that your relationship cannot survive it, commit and commit again, knowing it will be worth every moment of doubt, pain and discomfort. In the best times, which come far more often, don’t forget to dance on the foredeck under the stars, to make love in the cockpit caressed by the tradewind breezes and to say “It sure beats working,” at least twice a day!

Describe a "typical day" at anchor on your boat
We wake with the sun, which in the high latitudes might mean 4:00 in the morning but in the tropics usually means 7:00. We eat a simple breakfast of cereal and yogurt/milk. We do email and check the weather using our Iridium phone and answer any emails that need an immediate response. Then, our real day begins. Since “sailing around the world means fixing your boat in a series of exotic ports,” Evans always tries to do at least one little maintenance or repair job each day and one major one each week. Morning is chore/work time, so Evans goes to work on whatever he has designated as the task for the day (fixing a sail, cleaning a winch, changing the oil, etc.), and Beth helps if needed. Otherwise, Beth sits down at her computer and writes whatever magazine article she has due. We usually work until lunch when we eat something light. In the tropics, Evans will often lie down for an hour or so while Beth continues to work on the computer. When the heat of the day is past, we exercise. We might go for a walk, a swim, snorkel on a nearby reef, clean the bottom of the boat, or something else. If we need groceries or hardware items, we will go ashore together and find them. In the evening, we often go to other people’s boats or have others over on our boat. We may go out with a bunch of cruisers to a nearby restaurant. We tend to go to bed early, usually not later than 10:00.

When you are offshore, what keeps you awake at night (that is, what worries you most)?
When we are really offshore, 500 miles or more from land and nowhere near shipping channels, not much worries us. We trust the boat and each other, and the biggest excitement usually comes on squally nights when we get caught by a fast-moving squall with too much sail up. We both worry much more when we’re leaving or closing with land or sailing coastally. Then other shipping traffic is the thing that most concerns us. We did not have AIS on our last circumnavigation, but this is something we will add when we leave again for our next voyage.

What is your most common sail combination on passage?
On our tropical circumnavigation aboard a 37-foot ketch, our most common sail combination by far was double headsails – a roller furling 135% jib to leeward and a 110% running sail poled out to windward. In the tradewinds, the winds were aft of 110 degrees apparent more than 80% of the time, and that was by far the best sail combination for running downwind – no chafe on the mainsail, no chance of an accidental jibe, almost perfect balance on the helm. On our high latitude circumnavigation, we had the wind forward of 110 degrees apparent half the time and wind speed varied much more than in the tropics, so we used a much wider range of sail combinations with no one combination dominating. Very roughly, we used double headsails one quarter of the time, the mainsail and blade jib one quarter of the time, the mainsail and a large genoa staysail one quarter of the time and the mainsail and a 1,000 square foot Code Zero reaching sail on a removable furler one quarter of the time. ((Editors note: Their website has details on the sail combinations used on their 37-foot ketch, and their 47-foot sloop and Beth’s book, The Voyager’s Handbook, includes charts showing the average winds speeds and directions they experienced over the course of 110,000 offshore miles and describes the implications for sail inventory on various size boats.))

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
When we reached Durban in South Africa toward the end of our first circumnavigation, we arrived with a three-page list of things to fix only seven months after leaving a boatyard in New Zealand with everything on our to-do list complete. When we fit out our second boat for our second circumnavigation, we decided that anything that was broken in Durban we simply wouldn’t put on the new boat. That meant that our second boat was much simpler than our first, with much less to break. We do not carry many things that other cruisers complain about maintaining and fixing: refrigeration, watermaker, diesel generator, pressure water, hot water, air conditioning. On our second boat, the most problematic piece of equipment has been the instrument system, though it is tremendously more reliable than the one we had on our first boat which we replaced twice over the course of a three-year circumnavigation.

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer?
We spent a bit over a year in the Chilean channels at the beginning of our second circumnavigation and loved it so much that we went back at the end of the same voyage and spent another ten months. This is one of the most remote and beautiful cruising grounds anywhere in the world, but also one of the most challenging.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
After completing our first three-year circumnavigation on a 37-foot fiberglass ketch, we appreciated many of her attributes including: secure U-shaped galley for cooking at sea, excellent sea berths, handholds always within reach above and below decks, well-designed anchoring platform. But those weren’t enough. When we set about looking for a boat for our second voyage, we also wanted:
1. Hard dodger
2. Head or wet locker at the base of the companionway
3. Separate cabin for guests/sea berths
4. Easy access to every part of the engine
5. Workbench and tool room
6. Reefing system that could be managed by one person without leaving the cockpit
7. Extra water/fuel tankage (we carry 200 gallons of each)
8. Aluminum construction to minimize leaks and increase strength
9. No teak on deck
Hawk has all of these attributes, and she has proven a near-perfect vessel for the high latitude voyage we undertook. That said, most of these attributes have more to do with comfort and convenience than safety. We have seen people successfully complete voyages in every type of vessel imaginable. The specific boat matters far less than being determined and resourceful.

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

What’s the hardest thing about cruising?

Transitioning back to shore life. We know many people who have gone through severe depression when they returned ashore. When we returned from our first circumnavigation, it only took us a few months to decide that we had to go again. We had changed too much, and the US had changed too much while we were gone, for us to want to figure out a way to fit in again. It was too difficult to hold onto the things we had most come to value about ourselves ashore. We are once again in the midst of that transition after ten years aboard our second boat, and this time we’re handling it better. We’re not trying to return to who we were, but trying to find a way to bring our cruising values ashore, to live more simply with less consumerism, to do only what we really want to do, to find ways to contribute to a community. Cruising frees you by forcing you to pay off all your debts and then teaching you how little money you really need to be happy. That’s a lesson worth holding onto when you finish your own voyage and decide how to live your life going forward.

27 May 2010

Readers Weigh In - Open Discussion

After having read the first 10 interviews, what follow up questions would you ask?

Or, anything else you would like to add?

- Livia

Reminder of 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.

24 May 2010

10 Questions for Pacific Bliss

Lois and Gunter Hofmann are a married couple who cruised from 2000 until 2008 aboard the catamaran Pacific Bliss, a 43 foot Catana 431 hailing from San Diego, CA. During those years they completed a circumnavigation logging 34,000 nm and visiting 62 countries. They began in France where the boat was built, going back to San Diego over the years during cyclone or hurricane season, or when they needed a break and had the boat in a safe place. They returned back to Canet, France to the very same dock they had left. More on their trip can be found on their website and in their forthcoming book and they can be contacted through their website or email (loisjoyhofmann@yahoo.com, gunterahofmann@yahoo.com). They add: As the saying goes, "every year spent cruising is a year you do not age," and we believe it. After 8 years at sea, we feel younger than ever! So don't let age keep you from circumnavigating!

Why did you decide to cruise?
We had a dream of cruising when we retired. We might not have ordered the catamaran and cast off those bowlines, though, if it were not for some personal circumstances that caused us to want to escape. We yearned for control and freedom over our lives. What we found and learned at sea was much, much more.

Over the time that you have been cruising, has the world of cruising changed?
Yes, the technology really changed over the eight years. GPS is the greatest! As the navigator, Lois began using paper charts, but we ended up relying on mostly electronic charts, with paper as the back-up. We did not have email capability when we began. Then sailmail came on the scene, which allowed us to transmit via our SSB. We did not have a satellite phone initially. In 2002, we purchased an Iridium satellite phone, which allowed us to call our elderly parents, and also our broker to talk us through some technical repairs while at sea.

Over the years, how much time do you think you spend at anchor, sailing and motoring?
We never kept exact records of this, but since we made many inland trips, probably 25% of the time was spent sailing. When at sea though, we sailed whenever we could, which was 90% on ocean crossings such as San Diego-to-Marquesas, Cape Verde-to-St. Lucia, and Thailand-to-Salala, Oman. The longest motoring stretch was "uphill" from the Panama Canal to San Diego.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?
We always used 3 hour watch schedules, with or without additional crew. During passages over one week long, we would usually have one or two crew.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
We liked having all the gear, but could have done with fewer clothes.

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?
Gunter had so many spare parts on Pacific Bliss that one catamaran sailor called her "the supply boat." So much, that sometimes he forgot what we had. Mostly though, these spares came in handy. We even used our spare flux-gate compass, spare computer, etc. The one we did not have to use was our spare hydraulic steering system, the original one lasted 34,000 miles, but we would not have felt comfortable leaving it on the dock.

How much does cruising cost?
We budgeted about $30,000 per year, not counting the cost of the boat, spare parts, repairs and maintenance.

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds?
There are two categories to bring with you: (1) give-aways, the best to bring are sunglasses and prescription glasses, baby and children's used clothing, extra canned foods and staples, and toys/coloring books/crayons. We gave away boxes of glasses and clothing in the Banks Islands of Vanuatu, and even our spare dinghy prop to a village for their lone fishing boat; we gave away canned goods and staples (rice and flour) to families in a cyclone-devasted village in Tonga (2) trading, all batteries, esp D-cell, T-shirts.

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?
If you have not cruised before, take a "basic training" cruising course to see whether it is for you. We took the one offered by John Neal, a 1000-mile sail from Raratonga to American Samoa. Make sure that each of you knows how to navigate, run the SSB, sail, motor, run the dinghy, etc. in case the other is incapacitated. To keep the peace and to make sure each of you feels important, divvy up the responsibilities and take courses increase competence and confidence. In our case, Gunter was the Captain, Lois was the Navigator. Lois also managed the radio communications and did most of the cooking. Gunter did all the mechanical work. Fixing the boat is a major challenge in remote areas; some men who come from occupations such as finance (vs. engineering, for example) give up cruising because of this. Women who feel like an unappreciated "galley slave" cooking and cleaning the boat, also give up. If a couple cannot live together on land 24/7 without getting away from each other part of every day, don't expect to live together confined to a boat for weeks at a time.

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

What lessons in life going forward did you learn at sea?

We learned that one is never totally in control; we are at the mercy of God and nature. Learn how to pray! We learned flexibility, how to go with the flow (in this case, the wind and weather). A cruising boat is not a plane or train or even a cruise ship. Firm shedules are the enemy of safety on board. When friends or crew join you, provide a place or a time, not both.

21 May 2010

Happy Two Months!

Can you believe it? Thank you to all of the interviewees who took the time to share their experience.

The state of the first two months:
- 9 interviews published
- 7 interviews formatted and scheduled for publication through July 5th.
- More than 20 additional boats who have agreed to participate and have their 10 questions in hand.
- The question bank has grown substantially thanks to interviewees and readers.
- And finally, thanks to you readers we've had a lot of good press.

As usual, I can use your help particularly in promoting the site (on forums, local publications, your message board at your marina, your blog, etc) and in finding more cruisers to interview.

Cheers, Livia

17 May 2010

10 Questions for Constellation

Nick sailed from 2007 to 2009 aboard Constellation, a Jeremy Rogers (original UK version) Contessa 26 (26 feet) hailing from Southampton, UK. During those years he sailed in the UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Caribbean, New York, California, Hawaii, South Pacific, and from Europe to Australia. More information can be found on his website. Despite the hailing port, he is Australian, not British, gets seasick, and calls himself a terrible sailor.

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

Prior to departing, I had very little offshore experience. I gained any real tangible offshore experience sailing for several weeks with a friend who had just sailed solo across the Atlantic. We were caught in miserable conditions in the North Sea, and sought refuge in Belgium. I then spent around 6 weeks coastal sailing every day down the coast of Europe, slowly making longer and longer passages, until I did my first overnight passage. I then did a three day solo passage, and progressed to ten days, before jumping to my thirty day solo Atlantic crossing.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

As I was most often alone, I found it rather interesting that I felt most lonely in port, rather than at sea. It wasn't so much that I disliked any one particular thing, however, because I was a solo cruiser, sometimes the loneliness of walking around after making port was awful. Also, because of my age (I was 26-28 during my cruising), it was sometimes hard to find people I could socialise with. More often than not, the 'cruising community' is made up of people who are significantly older. In the south Pacific, I did run into some younger sailors which really made a big difference to my social experience of the voyage. I really enjoyed socialising with older cruisers, especially the highly experienced ones, but sometimes it's nice to mix with your own social group. I guess I found the whole social aspect of cruising quite a surprise.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

I had such a complete and utter LACK of gear, very little really broke. It was the complex things like the engine that gave me the most hassle. However even the Yanmar with regular work seemed to stay alive and run when most needed. I think the fact that my boat was more or less stock standard and built in 1972, is really a testament to simple cruising in a well built boat. That's not to say things didn't break... I tore two sails, broke my boom, and lost my electrical system.

Can you think of a sailing tip (e.g., sail trim, sail combination) specific to offshore passages (e.g., related to swells)?

Don't leave home without a really good set of light wind sails! Unless you're venturing out of the tried and true cruising grounds, the fact is, you will encounter more LIGHT wind that you will HEAVY wind. Carry a nice drifter. For offshore cruising, I would also recommend making a lot of canvas dodgers. Keep yourself and your cockpit dry. Mind you, this may be more specific to me, since my freeboard consisted of about 2ft.

How much does cruising cost?

How much do you want to spend? This is such a general question... I mean, really if you leave with a well found boat, cruising costs as much as food and port fees. It also really depends on how much you can withstand in the name of budgeting. If you don't mind cooking every meal, never drinking, and sometimes dieting on pasta for weeks on end. You can do it for very little. But, that tends to take the enjoyment out of it. I'd estimate $140USD a week with several thousand in the bank for repairs if you're on a small boat. This assumes you do all the work yourself, mostly cook your own food, stay out of expensive marinas, but treat yourself to the odd dinner out and protected slip every month. I tended to live on less than that, and met people who lived on $100 a month with considerable success. Having debt makes things very hard - I would recommend on the topic of money, to leaving on your cruise with no debt - For most, this means a smaller boat and cutting up your credit cards.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette

Just be generous with what you know, and accept the knowledge of others who know better than yourself. Also look after the environment and people you meet along the way, so people behind you can experience the best of us sailors.

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

I found my boat to be exceptional at sea, but miserable in port. I would suggest a boat you can stand up in (I had no standing headroom), and easily cook aboard. It will be your house, so whatever size it is (and really, size means very little), invest some time and effort in making things comfortable for yourself. Invest in quality and forget about size. Buy outright.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?

I left the dock. And I kept going regardless of what people told me I could and could not do. Even when you're tired, broke, and angry, the only way a dream will ever become real is if you just keep going. It cannot be forgotten that my dream was assisted by many very generous and wonderful people around the world too, as are most dreams. They rarely eventuate without others.

How has cruising affected your personal relationships?

It was very hard maintaining any semblance of a personal relationship when I was attempting to sail solo for many years at sea in a small boat. I won't go into details, but, it wasn't easy, and didn't really work.

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

I wish you had asked me about sea monsters. So, if you had of, I would have answered as such:

One night while sailing somewhere in the Pacific, I dreamt of the tentacles of a giant squid squirming through my hatch. This, as you can imagine, is an awful dream to be having, hundreds of miles from anywhere, alone in a small boat. I awoke with much panic, only to find myself sailing briskly along under a full moon, on a near-flat sea, without a single sea monster to be found. There is no moral of the story, but, I do wonder if those tentacles adjusted my windvane, because without any reason or logic, we were in fact, sailing in the wrong direction.

13 May 2010

Other Cruiser Interview Projects

Just wanted to pass along two other excellent sets of interviews:

First, there is a great set of video interviews done by the folks at Get Her Onboard with 4 couples including Pat & Ali of Bumfuzzle who were interviewed on this site. I had an excellent time watching and highly recommend you take a peek.

Second, the women over at Women and Cruising have asked 15 women what they like most about cruising -- a very diverse set of cruisers and consequently responses to the question that I found fascinating.

10 May 2010

10 Questions for So It Goes

Bob & Sheila are currently cruising aboard So It Goes, a Cal 34 which is they describe as a "Classic Plastic temporary boat we bought after losing our last one to a lightning strike. It's a kiss too small but is such a great boat. It just keeps hanging in there!". They moved onto their first cruising boat in 1988 although they had been living on the French canals for a few years prior. Since 1988 they have cruised Europe and the canals, the Mediterranean, Africa and the Carribean. Although their boat hails from Hilo, Hawaii, USA, they have been cruising so long that they no longer consider themselves from anywhere in particular. You can learn more about them at their blog.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
While in the Med we had a group of dolphins swimming with us through the night watch and only when I stuck my head out after hearing the egg timer go off would they do their "thing" jumping the bow wave, showing off and suchlike. When I closed the hatch they would go back to just swimming along with us. Every fifteen minutes it was showtime for them and I was their chosen audience... Just does not get better than that!

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
When we left we went with the less is more mindset and pretty much got it right.

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?
We've mostly been light on systems... Our first two boats only had an outboard and our current boat has Electric propulsion (which works great by the way) and as such we don't really need much in the way of spares. While not spares we'd love to be able to carry more film and boat building tools...

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
A lot of the cruising fleet bring their problems with them...

Over the time that you have been cruising, has the world of cruising changed?
Very much so. When we started it seemed the average boat size was less than 35' and now it is more like 45'+. People these days are a lot less handy and self sufficient so the costs of cruising for a lot of people we run into are out of control which makes for unhappy campers.

Of the changes, choices and compromises you had to make along the way, which were you happiest and most satisfied about, which do you wish you had chosen otherwise and why?
The work/cruising compromise has always been problematic. These days we have adapted our business (film/boat building/charter brokerage) so that we can work from wherever our boat happens to be so no more having to stop to build up cruising chips.

How has cruising affected your personal relationships?
We just had our 30th anniversary and twenty-seven of those years have been afloat... Pretty much says it all!

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising?
Being able to roll with the flow.

What are your impressions of the cruising community?
That's a hard one because there are really a bunch of different communities... But, most of the people we meet on boats are more like us than not so. Generally speaking we tend to get along with everyone.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
Where would you like to cruise now? More off the beaten path... We really miss being the only boat in an anchorage!

06 May 2010

Following up with Esper

I asked Esper if they would be willing to follow up on their transit through pirate infested waters to India which occurred as their IWAC interview was going live. On their website they have a report of a pirate attack they overheard in VHF range, information on their own transit and their experience in a convoy. They just recently published an overview of Pirate Alley. More information in the form of their regular podcasts and gorgeous photos will be appearing on their website.

Here is their response:

We made it through 'Pirate Alley' and safely to India, though not without incident. Pirate attacks were reported around what I call the 'extended pirate corridor', which takes one beyond Salalah and further up the coast of Oman... all around our intended track! None of us could properly relax until we got half way across the Arabian Sea. The rally organiser, Lo Brust, was in daily contact with the UKMTO and one morning he came on the VHF declaring that the UKMTO had officially confirmed that we were out of pirate waters. And to think we started this rally thinking we had just 500 miles through the Gulf of Aden to contend with!

Both Liz and I would like to thank all officials involved, from the UKMTO, MSCHOA, the many coalition warships, the Yemeni and Omani coastguards and specifically HMS Chatham who invited the rally aboard to discuss piracy whilst moored up in Oman. Knowing that this thoroughly tooled-up warship was on our side was quite comforting!

We now continue down the coast of India, joining a local regatta that takes us to Goa, and finish in Cochin before the monsoon season starts.

03 May 2010

10 Questions for Billabong

Chris and KT Myles cruised from 2003 to 2009 on Billabong, their 42 foot Gibsea 126 Master. They cruised through the North and South Pacific, SE Asia, the Indian Ocean, Red Sea & Turkey. They can be reached by email here or here and have a blog and a website. They are both self-professed software/blogging/photography geeks and their son was born in Turkey at the end of their trip.

Describe your first sailing experience
Our first experience together was beating to weather in 25+ knots while everyone else turned around and went home. KT didn't have much sailing experience and we were leaving on our big trip in a couple of months so we had to keep going. The good news was she didn't know any different and didn't complain at all.. she thought that's what cruising was all about.

When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?

I think the scariest moment was when we hit a whale at night under full spinnaker. The collision nearly stopped us and the dramatic change in speed made the boat feel like it was listing bow down. We both ran around in circles trying to figure out what to do next. The confusion probably only lasted 10 sec and we settled into our "routine".. start the engine (to scare away the whale), report our position/situation to our buddy boat, check the bilge and water tight compartment for water.. and breathe! I would have loved to check the keel but a front came through about three hours later and we ended up beating into 30+ knots which extended our simple overnight into a two night trip (KT was not happy).

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?

Kiribati, the Red Sea and the northern/eastern part of Fiji were all amazing. I can't even begin to describe the experiences we enjoyed with the locals, so giving and open yet so "poor". We spent two seasons in Fiji and went north to the Marshall Islands for a safe place during cyclone season. Tuvalu and Kiribati are really off the beaten path and extremely remote but well worth the trip if you are prepared for it!

Is there something from your land life that you weren't sure about bringing and are very happy about having brought now?
Multiple computers are a must. We were both computer geeks so we brought a photo/video computer and a navigation computer. In the end we ended up with spares for each with a complete backup system that would allow us to swap disks on the nav computer in about 20 seconds (we tested it out of necessity in Australia).

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
There are some changes we made along the way but I think it's important to settle into a style and a basic system before you add all the expensive gear. We used two hand held GPS (that could be stowed in the oven) coupled to a charting package (OziExplorer) that supported satellite photos and used Google Earth instead of buying an expensive chart plotter.

Describe a "typical day" on passage on your boat

Early morning usually involved our email transfer via Sat phone to update our blog and download the weather. That was followed by lots of laying around reading books and fishing, I became a fanatic. Ok maybe fishing is a strong word.. more like dropping a lure in the water and then playing with it's action. I have recently tried what land lubbers call fishing with all that casting and stuff.. I'm not a huge fan, I also don't like paying $20 lb for sashimi grade fish!! Some couples had a non-alcoholic happy hour to enjoy each others company and connect every day, it's amazing how quickly the time flies by.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
We didn't have any real breakage issues but I had spares for nearly everything so of course those things didn't break (I was known as "spare man").

How much does cruising cost?
Pretty much whatever you want! We lived relatively cheaply but our costs nearly doubled in countries like NZ and Australia when we drove around to see all the sites. Check out the cost break down and cost information on our FAQ page.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We sold everything and went. Too many people are sitting in harbors with boats that are more than ready to go. Just do it!

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 the most important attribute for successful cruising? After the basics of navigation and anchoring I would consider problem solving and commitment/communication the most critical skills. We spent a lot of time walking through scenarios and potential issues so we were ready before they happened. I also didn't sugar coat what might happen ("when the boat is upside down") and we discussed our fears/concerns openly before we left. With any major change there will always be hiccups in the beginning so we committed to each other that we would give it at least a year no matter how bad it got. There should be only one captain (for critical decision making situations) but cruising is definitely a team sport and both parties should be comfortable.. that often takes effort, openness and introspection.